A Historical Poem to help us understand the rightful place and priority of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience and Feelings in the Christian life.
In the ancient world there were characters three
Who worked together in sweet harmony
Each had their order, their purpose and seat,
Yet throughout time, each seemed to vote with his feet.
Yet nay I say more without further adieu
You must meet these characters true
I first introduce Scripture to you
The forefront! The center! The main character of the story!
The true source of light, wisdom, the revealer of God’s glory!
The lamp unto our feet and the light to our paths,
This character, the ancients held fast
That a man would find true knowledge that would last.
If you drink of the word that reveals the Son,
You drink deeply, and never thirst again.
Because Scripture was so very important and dear
Our second character comes on the stage near.
Yet let this be said loud and forthrightly,
Scripture can fend for itself quite nicely.
But with a steady voice and confidence in Scripture alone,
I introduce to you TRADITION, our Chaperone!
Scripture and Tradition liked each other a lot
Tradition supported Scripture and there was conflict not.
Creeds provided the great lens to read the very words of God
To understand them rightly, not to stray or to interpret odd.
Other Traditions held God’s people tried and true
A way to help us love God and obey him too.
Thank you Tradition for being #2!
The next character that was on the scene
His name was Reason, his order number three.
Reason certainly was welcomed with open arms to have a role
For God Himself made our mind and reasons to know!
During the early Church, Reason was a humble man
He knew His place and supported the plan.
He was kind and gentle, asked great questions and spoke
But to eclipse Scripture and Tradition to Him was no joke.
But as time went on and man began to stray
These three characters battled for the stage.
Man was at a loss and was just seeming to cope
“Tradition is equal to Scripture” said the Pope.
Oh! What damage! What loss. How sad.
To elevate Tradition over Scripture makes God mad.
But all of the happenings were in God’s plan,
He raised up men like Luther, Knox and Calvin the Man.
“Sola Scriptura” was the Reformers cry
Christ, Faith, Grace, Bible and “to God be the Glory” was the tie.
The 95 theses, the councils, the writings,
The gospel was protected and God showed mightily.
Tradition, our beloved became the scary and restrictive type
So the Reformers asked him (Tradition) to “take a hike”
While there was much in the Reformation that happened good
Without Tradition, a vacancy on the stage now stood
Reason! This is your big shot!
Step up, step in fill the spot!
And so he did, He took the part.
He was helped by the French thinker Descartes.
The infamous “I think therefore I am” was the cry of the Modern Age
Sadly Reason asked Scripture to get off the stage.
Reason! What is it that you have to offer?
Where is your source? You fool! You Scoffer!
To think that you could survive solely your knowledge acute
And now your son is saying there are no absolutes.
With you, Reason, you said that absolute cannot be known
But now Post-Modernity has sent you home!
“What’s true for you may not be true for me”
“We all have our own truths” and that’s find and dandy.
Now there is no one on the stage
By far, these are the saddest epistemological days.
In these days, the same needs and desires are there,
But now nothing is left but thin air.
Thus how does one move and make decisions?
He is guided by his own tastes, preferences and self-made visions.
Thus a final plea is due
We must not agree to post-modernism pew
Let’s call back Scripture! “O Scripture! Come forth!
Let it be preached in our pulpits. Let it set our course!
Let the words dwell richly among us
And be in our hearts and homes and chorus.
Allow the words of life to pour out the gates
To our neighbors, to the lost, let it reverberate!
Scripture, take your seat. You are main stage.
But let us also call Tradition from the ancient days.
The early church deemed you of great value
Come back! Watch us closely as we read words “not new”.
Let us hold you carefully, and stand on the shoulders of men gone before us
And keep you in your place, yet keep you! Please forgive us.
And yes, let’s bring our gentle friend back, number three
Reason, which leads to great humility.
Yet, we must say there is more characters than three
Now we must speak of EXPERIENCE and FEELINGS.
Yes you two! Come on the stage!
Don’t be scared and don’t be afraid.
Give them a hand and shout out loud!
Clap your hands and show them around.
For God made you too, it’s ok to cry,
Emotions are from God and are not a lie.
Yet let me talk to you like a Dad so you believe,
EXPERIENCE and FEELINGS, if not in the right place can deceive.
You must always align what you have experienced with the Bible
Test the spirits to see if it is reliable.
Strange things can happen out there, and I’m not teasin’
So get in your place behind Scripture, Tradition and Reason.
By Michael Newman | My thanks to Dr. Jeffery Bingham’s class on Historical Theology at Dallas Seminary