The Image of God and Tradition

The New Testament says a fair amount about the traditions of men, but never in a positive light, for the traditions of men tend to distract us away from God’s purposes, and often lead us astray. Churches have traditions too, and these are by and large, also traditions of men. That is not to say that all church traditions are bad in some kind a blanket statement, for surely that is not true. Our traditions take many forms, they are reflected in our teaching, doctrine and theologies, they often deal with the way we worship or the way we speak or the type of music we sing, or the way we organize ourselves or reach out to the community, or in the way we don’t reach out. Most church traditions I know of were good in their time, back before they were traditions, when they were “contemporary” and controversial. Yet quite often, by the time a contemporary practice becomes a tradition, they have outlived their usefulness, for while the message of Christ may not have changed, the people who are hearing that message have changed, and the message doesn’t come through in the same way. When this happens people stop growing spiritually resulting in problems cropping up that their parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with. When that happens following Christ becomes just a matter of habit and forms rather than of growing in relationship with the Living Word of God.

I mentioned a few posts back that 150 years ago, there was no particular confusion about sexual immorality, and that by contrast, there is a great deal of confusion today. With these changes that have come upon our society and churches whether we like it or not, we have new challenges that our parents and grandparents did not have in brining the message of Jesus Christ to our communities, and the old traditional ways of doing this are no longer useful instruments of the Kingdom. This is not a value judgment of mine against anything old, it’s simply a fact; it’s neutral in that sense.

The old ways of looking at the image of God are obsolete; they are in some cases, doing more harm than good for the Kingdom. They way we have traditionally taught matters relating to the human body haven’t been effective in quite some time, and today they leave our pastors and teachers with nothing to bring to the market[lace of ideas in the larger community; nobody is listening to us anymore on these subjects, not even weekly attending members.

And why should they listen? We have allowed ourselves, in many cases, to think and teach that the body is a bad thing full of lusts and urges that drive inescapably into evil and wickedness, and yet already in this short and very informal little exploration of ours, we have seen that way of thinking simply is not so. Instead we have seen that we, male and female, have been created in the image of God in body, soul and spirit, that our bodies are not inherently unclean, shameful or evil, and that God’s very purpose for creating humanity is demonstrated in the physical union of man and woman in marriage. We have seen that relationship with our Lord is our highest priority, that it is within this relationship that we grow toward full maturity in Christ and that this whole process brings glory to God.

We’ve also seen something else that is really interesting; it’s in the comments. If you look closely at the comments and likes, you will find that just about any Christian background, tradition and church affiliation that you can think of has either commented positively or liked these posts, and how often do you see that?

Would you like to know the sad part?

I can’t find anybody teaching this, and I’ve been looking for quite some time now. I can find one part here and another part there, but I haven’t found the whole thing anywhere. I have found academics debating about these things, but that usually means something along these lines will come into common circulation in 10 or 20 years with the next generation of preachers and clerics of whatever background, and we need to think differently a lot sooner than that.

As always, I look forward to your comments!

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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24 Responses to The Image of God and Tradition

  1. pipermac5 says:

    We need to honestly assess whether our traditions are serving us and God’s kingdom, or whether we are serving our traditions. We are called to be salt and light, not spouters of religious-rhetoric, but we can’t be salt and light unless we know and embrace the one true Light who came that we might have life and can bring the truth that sets us free if we allow Him to do His work. The church needs to get its own house in order before it can be a beacon of truth to the world. There ARE many good resources on Biblical sexuality, and they all start with a Biblical understanding of mankind being created in God’s image.

    Blessings!

    Steve

  2. pipermac5 says:

    There are several good books which every pastor should read and have in his library.

    Meeting At The River – Rev. David Hatton, RN

    The God of Sex – Dr. Peter Jones

    The Act of Marriage – Tim & Beverly LaHaye

    Sheet Music – Dr. Kevin Leman

    A Celebration of Sex – Dr. Douglas Rosenau

    The Marriage Builder – Dr. Larry Crabb

    Making Love Last Forever – Gary Smalley

    Love Life For Every Married Couple – Ed Wheat, M.D. & Gloria Okes Perkins

    And every man should own:

    Private Parts: A Doctor’s Guide To Male Anatomy – Yosh Taguchi, M.D. (urologist)

  3. pipermac5 says:

    For pastors dealing with sexual addiction, their own, or counselling others:

    An Affair of the Mind – Laurie Hall

    Don’t Call It Love – Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.

    Out Of The Shadows – Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.

    Contrary To Love – Partick Carnes, Ph.D.

    My Chains Are Gone – MCAG.org

  4. Russ P. says:

    For me personally I think it’s the old message of “hell fire and brimstone” that turns people off. We preach that if you screw up you’ve sinned, your lost and you need to ask forgiveness and repent. Nothing is said that we are still loved by God in spite of our sin. Nothing is said that He will continue to love us to the very end. Nothing is said that we can depend on, without hesitation, that His word is true. Yes, it’s important to let people know they’ve sinned but more importantly, I believe, is to emphasize God’s love for us.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Russ I think you have hit the nail right on the head. I find that it isn’t usually necessary to tell someone they’ve sinned; they usually know they’ve messed up, but what they may not be so clear about is that God loves them anyway, and most of the time when they get that point, they repent and/or ask for forgiveness without any prompting from me. The truth is, for a Christian, their sin was already forgiven, before they asked, and all of the guilt and shame and crap was not necessary.

  5. Tom says:

    I believe there needs to be a balance in everything. Often it is either hell fire and damnation preaching or only God’s grace. Both miss what God’s Word says. If all that is taught is hell fire then there is no grace, mercy and love shown. If all that is shown is grace, then the need for grace is never really shown. Churches tend to swing back and forth on this as in traditions. From Genesis to Revelation there is both being spoken of.
    I like how you pointed out that most traditions started out for the good but later became not so good because they just become tradition. The church is to be alive, which means constantly changing for the better not staying only in a tradition.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thank you Tom, I quite agree with both points, in fact as I type this, it strikes me that your point about balance applies equally to both hell v. grace, and tradition v. change. I usually don’t advocate change for change’s sake because balance is needed in that area as well. Thanks again Tom!

  6. Roos Ruse says:

    Job 31:6. Seek God for balance in all things.

  7. Pingback: The Image of God and Tradition | A disciple's study

  8. choosejoy says:

    I have witnessed so much discord among the church because of traditions and the thought that if a church is doing something different than they are doing it wrong. Last year I took some time to visit different churches in the area and it was an eye opening experience because I realized that not every church does things the same way but they all had one thing in common: they loved Jesus. And I believe we can have unity with each other on that.

  9. “all of the guilt and shame and crap was not necessary.” Amen, Don. Once we realize we are loved unconditionally, the Holy Spirit generally does prompt us to change, prompt us to recognize our own hunger and thirst for doing and saying the right things. We just need to get out of the way.

  10. Paul Stevens has an excellent book “The Other Six Days” that speaks about engaging the Church in His word and living the Truth seven days a week – I think this is where we really need to go…taking Church out of Church. Regent College’s “Reframe” program is pretty spectacular in this field too.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I’m sure that some would be horrified by this, but I think that what we do on Sunday morning is probably the least important part of the week for . That’s not to say it isn’t important, but what happens when our church friends aren’t looking tells a lot more about where we are in Christ, than what we say or do when everyone is seeing and hearing us.

      • Yes! It is true that we must know our Bible and understand the Scripture but then the works that emerge from a true faith need to happen! What i dislike about our church is that it is “pastor speaks; congregation listens; bible study during the week when maybe two people say anything; and no one mentions the challenges of living your faith during the week…and how to do that..” Plus, I was rather upset this week to have our pastor post a picture of himself and a friend on Facebook, posing with AK47’s in a “spoof photo”. I just don’t think that’s how we live out our faith during the week!

        • Don Merritt says:

          The good nes is that your pastor has a sense of humor; that’s a good thing (most of the time). Of course the bad part about that is… well you said it already. It strikes me that if you are seeing this, about living our lives in faith throughout the week, and nobody is seeing it yet or talking about it yet, maybe God is calling you to bring it up in a loving and positive way in those studies… (Just a thought)

  11. Yes, I agree. I actually wrote to the pastor yesterday about his post; he apologised and yet felt what he did was not wrong and there was some theology…blah blah blah! I wasn’t impressed. I’ve also brought up “Reframe” which is a small group study about living your faith out in the world. His response “I don’t think that’s really for our church.” I’ve decided to move on. I need a new church.

  12. God is a God of love and God is also God of anger. It is only a matter of common sense for preachers to preach this way. One goes with the other. If it is not preached that way then something is terribly wrong.

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