The Traditions of Men

Mark 7:

5 The Pharisees and the experts in the law asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with unwashed hands?"

6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:

'This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me.

7 They worship me in vain,

teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.'

8 Having no regard for the command of God, you hold fast to human tradition."

9 He also said to them, "You neatly reject the commandment of God in order to set up your tradition.

(NET Bible®)

Passages such as the one above often invite Christian smugness, or even outright anti-Semitism. Jesus was critical of many of the Jews of his day, and many of those critiques still hold for modern Jews. But these critiques were not just for Judaism, per se, but for the practice of piling traditions of earthly authorities between people and the word of God. These words of criticism to the Pharisees were also warnings to future Christians. There are some passages that point to very specific future Christian practices. Consider:

Luke 11:

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd spoke out to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!"

28 But he replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"

(NET Bible®)

Wow! We have a specific warning against the Cult of the Virgin Mary. Or consider:

Matthew 6:

7 When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard.

8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

(NET Bible®)

So much for praying a rosary, or even having a prayer book. Or finally:

Matthew 5:

17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.

18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.

(NET Bible®)

in combination with:

Matthew 7:

15 "Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.

16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they?

17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit.

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.

21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven — only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

22 On that day, many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?'

23 Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!'

(NET Bible®)

How many preachers of many denominations teach that the Law has been done away with?

Errors happen. People are fallible. The Bible is not an easy read. But when a leader is elevated on the pulpit week after week, without time for debate afterwards, the same errors get hammered in and magnified. Even worse, when a denomination rests its authority on the writings and rulings of its previous leaders, then more layers of human authority get in between the Bible and the laity. Errors accumulate over the centuries.

An analogous process has happened to the U.S. Constitution. Today’s federal government far exceeds the bounds written in the Constitution. To have the modern welfare state should have required multiple amendments. However, the defense of the Constitution, and its interpretation, has been left to a small group of authorities, the Supreme Court, and these authorities are tasked with building on precedent instead of looking at the actual words of the Constitution with fresh eyes. Thus, errors accumulate.

If each church were to allow multiple speakers, and questioned each, then each church would look at the word of God with fresh eyes. Mistakes would be made, but different churches would make different mistakes at different times. These mistakes would not be enshrined as coming from great authorities, so future discussion could allow correction.