Original Research

Between tradition and renewal: Some considerations about the use of tradition in reformed theology

Willem van Vlastuin
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 47, No 1 | a111 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v47i1.111 | © 2013 Willem van Vlastuin | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 July 2012 | Published: 29 August 2013

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Willem van Vlastuin, Jonathan Edwards Centre, Benelux at Vrije Universiteit, the Netherlands and Jonathan Edwards Centre, University of the Free State, South Africa


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Abstract

In the theology and practice of the Christian church a tension between tradition and renewal exists. This essay focuses on this tension to provide a first step of methodological reflection to deal with it. Firstly, this tension is illustrated from the reformed perspective of sola scriptura that led to criticism of the tradition on the one hand, whilst understanding the reformed movement as part of the tradition on the other hand. A danger of unqualified sola scriptura is subjectivity. Subsequently, the importance of tradition is elaborated from the perspective of the church as the body of Christ across all ages. This implies that Christians should study and love the traditional theology because of the fundamental unity of the church that transcends cultural diversity. Rejecting tradition will cut the church from its historical and spiritual roots. Thirdly, this raises the question whether the church is imprisoned by tradition, as well as the problem of the relation between tradition and renewal. In response, it is argued that the doctrine of incarnation guarantees openness to history. With the help of the philosophical and Christian view on structural contingency, the belief that tradition is principally open to renewal is defended. Some examples are given as illustrations of how classic theological concepts can be reframed in our postmodern context. The last part of this essay concludes with the insight of Cyprian that only the conveyed tradition can be renewed, implying that renewal is in essence not a new theology, but a new application of apostolic theology.

Hierdie artikel fokus op die spanning tussen tradisie en vernuwing in die praktyk van die Christelike kerk. Eerstens word die probleem vanuit die reformatoriese perspektief van die sola scriptura geïllustreer, wat aan die een kant tot kritiek op die tradisie gelei het, maar terselfdertyd word die reformatoriese beweging as deel van die tradisie verstaan. Die gevaar van ’n ongekwalifiseerde handhawing van die solascriptura-oortuiging is subjektiwiteit. Vervolgens word die belangrikheid van die tradisie uitgebrei vanuit die perspektief van die kerk as liggaam van Christus oor alle eeue. Dit impliseer dat Christene tradisionele teologie behoort te bestudeer, omdat die fundamentele eenheid van die kerk kulturele diversiteit oorkom. Die verwerping van die tradisie sal gevolglik die kerk van sy geestelike wortels afsny. Derdens bring dit die vraag na vore of die kerk deur tradisie gevange gehou word. In hierdie verband wys die artikel daarop dat die leer van die inkarnasie openheid ten opsigte van die geskiedenis waarborg. Met behulp van die Christelike siening van strukturele gebeurlikheid, word die oortuiging dat die tradisie prinsipieel vir vernuwing oop is, verdedig. ’n Paar voorbeelde word gegee om te illustreer hoe klassieke teologiese konsepte in ons postmoderne tyd benut kan word. Die artikel sluit af met ’n verwysing na die insig van Siprianus, naamlik dat net die oorgelewerde tradisie vernuwe kan word. Dit impliseer dat vernuwing essensieel nie ’n nuwe teologie is nie, maar ’n nuwe toepassing van die klassieke teologie.


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