Tradition is Our Mighty Fortress

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. 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. 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!  “A Mighty Fortress” wasn’t written until the 16th century and everyone loved the sense of majesty and awe it inspired. Finding out that it was written by Brother Marty (Luther) 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:  What a bummer! Booing. That’s not fair!

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 working on the Sabbath and the need for ceremonial handwashing before every meal. Let me explain!

Jesus Openly Challenged Tradition!

Jesus took His disciples through a field of grain on the Sabbath and they started plucking heads of grain (which was work). They started eating it with unwashed hands (because it’s hard to wash your hands in a cornfield). 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 a few rules. Jesus intentionally broke their tradition again by healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath! He did it in a synagogue right in front of God and everybody! Many people realized that Jesus was right and the way they observed traditions was wrong. A whole new religion was being established right in front of their eyes! Jesus had openly challenged their traditions!

Traditions Can be Contrary to God

Jewish traditions were so concrete it was easy to see how they resulted in calloused decisions down here on earth. Sometimes those traditions were totally contrary to what God wanted!  Higher quality traditions could have saved the nation of Israel a whole lot of trouble. We have carefully avoided the mistakes that caused Israel so much distress! I am about 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 the tradition we built was not easy or even possible to understand! In fact, it is so 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 our ally, our strategy and our friend!

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 even though learned scholars say otherwise! Is that great or what! It is almost impossible for people to see how our theological tradition could be contrary to God’s wishes. The Trinity is an ethereal mystery that has virtually nothing to do with what we say or do down here! Nothing we do will never 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 the hallmark of a truly great tradition! Israel may have blundered by developing concrete traditions but we got it right!Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

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 challenge or question! We are experts and we are in the majority! If anyone even thinks about disputing our teaching we laugh them to scorn, call them heretics or 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 them because they add a certain “Wow factor” to the tradition we have built. As far as all these other things are concerned, I say the more the better!

Now I want to make an honest man of myself and finish my remarks while there is still plenty of time to get back to that terrific buffet. Thank you all for your respectful attention! I’m sure going to miss these meetings when we have to leave this town.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

 

The Splendor of Tradition

We all knew the Reunion would have to come to an end someday. Soon the glorious buffets and shows at Caesar’s New Palace would be closed to us forever!  Our grand Las Vegas adventure was about to end and this added an air of urgency to everything we did! An unwelcome gate crasher had showed up and even spoke against our most cherished traditions! We decided that an impassioned talk about the glory and beauty of our traditions was in order! We also wanted to make it known that anyone who did not honor our traditions would be in serious trouble!

People Create Religious Traditions!

The thing traditions have going for them (and why we like them so much) is because we make them ourselves! All you have to do is think of traditions as “do it yourself” religious projects and everything makes perfect sense. That’s why people react so violently when anyone questions their tradition because they take it as a personal attack! “Hey! That’s MY tradition you’re messing with!” And they are absolutely right… it IS their tradition.  People create traditions and people keep them going. God doesn’t generally have much to do with it. Jesus said a lot of harsh things about traditions because they are usually so contrary to God’s ways!

Religious Traditions are Serious Business!

Religious customs are no laughing matter! Traditions are way too important to question. Sometimes traditions are even more important than scripture! No kidding! This is hard for some people to figure out and there are always some who just don’t get it! The question on everyone’s mind was, “What should we do about rebels who won’t treat our dogma with the proper respect?” Our first choice was to smite them with the jawbone of an ass like Samson, but finding a good jawbone from a suitable ass isn’t easy.  Besides, most of the church fathers knew that talking an issue to death is nearly as effective. The next challenge was to figure out who was up to the job!

Jesus Didn’t Love the Traditions of Men

We thought about trying to book one of the Apostles but none of them were trinitarians so that idea fizzled out pretty quickly. No one even considered trying to get Jesus to show up to defend tradition.  He wasn’t a trinitarian either and His stand against Jewish traditions had a lot to do with getting Him crucified.

Athanasius Was the Champion of Tradition!

Someone would have to speak up for tradition and the honor eventually fell to, who else but Athanasius! He once overturned three centuries of church teaching (ie. tradition) with his own radical ideas but he was still a perennial crowd favorite. Athanasius was one of the main architects of the trinitarian dogma that had ruled Christianity for nearly two thousand years! He also knew a thing or two about building and maintaining human traditions!  He was eloquent and bold and not the least bit afraid to promote his own religious ideas in spite of the teachings of Jesus! The jawbone of everyone’s favorite Ath, Athanasius of Alexandria, won speaking honors by a landslide!

Athanasius Was the Defender of Trinitarian Dogma

Master of Ceremonies:  Good evening everyone! We are in for a special treat again tonight! You all know we have had to cope with some unpleasant interruptions in the past few days. We don’t have a lot of time left and we sure don’t want to spend it listening to things we disagree with! Here to silence the voices we don’t want to hear is our theological heavy hitter and the defender of trinitarian dogma!  Brethren I give you Athanasius! Let’s hear it for the Jawbone of Alexandria one more time!

Audience:  Thunderous applause! Stomping of feet! Whistling and shouting aplenty!

Athanasius:  Thank you, thank you! I know we don’t have a lot of time left at this fine Las Vegas Reunion and we all just want to enjoy ourselves while we’re still here. I think we have heard  enough unpleasantness from our critics and as far as I’m concerned it’s time to put an end to it!

Audience:  Amen! Amen!

Take Your Pick! Scripture or Tradition

Athanasius:  Brothers we live in two worlds! The first is the world of “it is written” in the holy scriptures. The other world and the one we wish to exalt tonight is the sphere of tradition which is no less important! We know that some people think Jesus condemned tradition saying “by your traditions you have made God’s laws of none effect…you worship God in vain, for the doctrines you teach are the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15). The Apostle Paul wrote, See to it that no one carries you off as spoil or makes you captive by philosophy and vain deceit (fine sounding arguments) according to the traditions of men.” (Colossians 2) We should just dispense with these scriptural objections right now! Those verses are not talking about us! They are about other people who are not as right about things as we are! There you have it!

Our Traditions Have a Seal of Approval!

You may be wondering; how can we know which traditions are legit and which are merely human? All you have to do is listen to the certified religious authorities we call the Magisterium! In other words, WE will tell you which traditions are humanly generated and which ones are approved by God. It’s just that simple! Fortunately, our traditions have all been approved by specially trained religious experts! 

Our Traditions Are of the Highest Quality!

We have an official document called a Nihil Obstat that certifies in writing that our traditions are the best available anywhere! They have our own special Seal of Approval and are published and approved under our own Imprimatur (license)!  This confirms we have official permission to publish this stuff! These very fine Latin words are your assurance that the traditions we want you to observe are all of the highest quality. Our theology and creeds have passed all these rigorous requirements with flying colors!

We Only Use Violence When Necessary

Yes, we have used force at times to convince people who wouldn’t yield to us but that’s just how it is sometimes.  Burning at the stake, massacres and torture may seem harsh to some but that’s just what it took for us to finally establish our authority. We mostly only killed adversaries who called themselves Christians. In hindsight we probably should have killed everyone who didn’t believe what we wanted them to! We tried to do just that but things didn’t work out so well in spite of our best efforts. Sadly, the days when we could use lethal force are just a fond memory. Religious violence is frowned upon these days so we are inclined to be much more gentle!

The Trinity is Our Greatest Tradition!

Today I am here to assure you that our trinitarian tradition is undoubtedly the majority opinion. If you want to go with a winner you will go with us! Just consider our Magisterium, Imprimatur and Nihil Obstats.  It is little wonder that our traditions are at least equal to, if not greater in importance than what is written in the scriptures. Traditions and scripture are both important but since our traditions give us the sole authority to interpret scripture we can confidently say that tradition has won!  In spite of what some reckless heretics may say, highly qualified religious professionals like us are the only people who are able determine exactly what you should believe!

In closing I trust that this short explanation has answered all your questions, calmed all your doubts and settled this issue once and for all. Now let’s head to that great seafood buffet!

Pragmatticus was up in the rafters and although he didn’t start cussing he could not keep from laughing.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes