When Athanasius finished speaking on the Splendor of Tradition we headed right back over to the Seafood Buffet. We were as contented as can be! When someone suggested “Let’s get some more!” the idea was hailed as true genius. Some thought “more” meant more King Crab. The more spiritual types among us figured it was a signal that we should hear more about tradition from Athanasius! After some lively discussion we decided that these were both great ideas! Ath was always agreeable to speaking his mind so he quickly agreed to do another session the very next day. Then we all loaded up on more seafood! Everyone was excited to know that we were going to hear another great talk by Athanasius!
A Mighty Fortress Rocks the House!
It was an unforgettable experience to hear the majestic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” coming over the loudspeakers at our next session. Those magnificent bass notes shook us right down to the bone! It was just like having a huge pipe organ in the room! Pipe organs weren’t even used in churches until the 14th century so that made it even more impressive to us. “A Mighty Fortress” wasn’t written until the 16th century and everyone loved the sense of majesty and awe it inspired. When we found out that it was written by Brother Marty (Luther) that clinched it for us! It would be hard to imagine a more perfect beginning for what was to come.
Moderator: Brethren could it get any better than this!? We have already had some great sessions, we have enjoyed great food and we have even played the strange game called golf! I don’t know about you but I wish this could go on forever.
Audience: Let’s stay here! Let’s refuse to leave! We don’t want it to end! We love Las Vegas!
Chanting: “We won’t go! We won’t go! We won’t go!”
Moderator: I’m afraid God has other plans Brethren! The reunion committee that negotiated with God to get us here says that we have to go right back where we came from as soon as this Reunion ends.
Audience: Bummer! Unfair! Much booing.
Athanasius… Our Doctor of Dogma!
Moderator: It looks like we are stuck with the destinations we earned in our lifetimes but since we still have some Reunion time left we should make the most of it! Here tonight to help us do just that is our Doctor of Dogma and Top Dog of Triune Tradition, Athanasius!
Audience: Enthusiastic applause, clapping, and shouts of welcome back Athanasius!
Athanasius: Greetings dear friends! Let’s dig right into our topic. I plan on covering a lot of ground but don’t worry! We’re going to make it back to that great buffet in plenty of time so you can all relax!
The Kingdom Belongs to God! Tradition Belongs to Us!
Everyone knows that God intends to protect His Kingdom! Many people have learned the hard way that we intend to protect and defend our traditions! First of all, let’s review some of the factors that can make traditions succeed or fail. Just remember that God protects His Kingdom and we protect our traditions! The Kingdom is His but the traditions belong to us!
We have learned some valuable lessons from the flawed traditions that caused Israel so much trouble. You can rest assured that we have wisely avoided those flaws with the traditions we have created. Two good examples of Jewish traditions that ultimately flopped are the prohibition against doing any work at all on the Sabbath and the need for ceremonial handwashing before every meal. Let me explain!
Jesus Openly Challenged Tradition!
Jesus once took His disciples through a field of grain on the Sabbath where they started plucking heads of grain to eat (which was work). To make things even worse they started eating with unwashed hands because it’s so hard to wash your hands out in a field. The religious authorities cried FOUL! but Jesus let them know their traditions didn’t measure up. His disciples were hungry and He cared more about them than about misguided interpretations of the Law. Jesus intentionally broke Jewish tradition again by healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath in a synagogue right in front of God and everybody! Many people realized that Jesus was right and the way they had been observing traditions was wrong. A whole new religion was being established right in front of their eyes when Jesus openly challenged their traditions! Needless to say this really upset the authorities.
Traditions Can be Contrary to God
Jewish traditions were so hard-edged and specific it was easy to see how they resulted in calloused decisions down here on earth. Some of those traditions were totally contrary to what God wanted even though they looked good on paper. Higher quality traditions could have saved the nation of Israel a whole lot of trouble. We Church Fathers have carefully avoided the mistakes that caused Israel so much distress! Tonight I am going to show you the secrets of building traditions that can withstand the test of time! Trinitarian Dogma is without a doubt the greatest religious tradition of them all and is indeed our Mighty Fortress!
Audience: This is good stuff Athanasius! Tell us more!
Good Traditions Intimidate Average People!
Athanasius: One secret of our success is that many of the traditions we built are not easy or even possible to understand. In fact, our trinitarian tradition is so confusing and incomprehensible that we don’t really understand it ourselves and we created it! Average people are so intimidated by our scholarship and intellectualism that they hardly ever challenge us! We easily overwhelm people who question us with arguments they are unable to understand much less resist. Confounding and incomprehensible complexity is a very effective strategy and we are not afraid to use it!
The Greatest Traditions Are Abstract and Mysterious
Another secret of our success is that our trinitarian tradition is not the least bit concrete! It is so abstract that it can’t even be envisioned, which most learned scholars readily admit! Is that great or what! Our teaching is so fuzzy that it’s almost impossible for the average person to see how it could be contrary to God’s wishes. Along with that, the Trinity is an ethereal mystery that has virtually nothing to do with what we say or do down here! Nothing we do will ever make the trinity itself look bad. People will adhere to the tradition we bestowed on them in spite of our behavior! That my friends is one of the hallmarks of a truly great tradition! Israel may have blundered by developing concrete traditions but we got it right!
Behold What We Have Built!
Think about it! We have constructed a secure fortress for ourselves out of next to nothing and it has lasted nearly 1800 years! No one knows how to break down its walls and we are safely surrounded by theological traditions that few dare to challenge or question! We are experts and we are in control! If anyone even thinks about disputing our teaching we laugh them to scorn and call them heretics or simply eliminate them! It is plain to see that we have won the day! Behold what we have built!
From somewhere up above a voice was heard saying, That’s all well and good children but you should have built on something more solid than the sand of your own thoughts. Building on the words of Jesus would have been far better. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” But no one seemed to pay much attention.
Pomp and Rituals and Great Architecture!
Athanasius continued: Yes, yes, I know what some of you are thinking! “What about our pomp and architecture and rituals and hierarchy? Aren’t they important too?” The answer is “Yes! of course they matter!” These are things people get very attached to. They are useful accessories that decorate the walls of our Mighty Fortress and make it look genuinely religious. We like all of these things because they add a certain “Wow factor” to the traditions we have built. As far as all these things are concerned, I say the more the better!
In closing I want to make an honest man of myself and finish my remarks while there is still plenty of time for us to get back to that terrific buffet. Thank you all for paying such respectful attention. I don’t know about you but I’m sure going to miss Las Vegas when we have to leave!
Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes