Large sections of the institutional “church” long ago pushed the bible aside as the standard of truth and now rarely teach scripture. They teach their church’s doctrines (traditions) as passed from one generation of teachers to the next. They don’t even interpret the bible through their traditions; they just use select parts of the bible to justify those traditions.
Sadly the majority of Christians don’t even notice because they don’t really engage with scripture for themselves with the Holy Spirit’s help, but prefer to turn to Commentaries, study Bibles, and other “Christian” books.
As an example, when I first became a believer in the 1970s, my (then) views on end times were formed through Hal Lindsay’s Late Great Planet Earth. A book recommended to me by other Christians who’d had their views shaped by the same book. It took several years later to see a problem with that view. When I eventually turned to scripture alone – my WHOLE understanding of the matter was changed.
Only a few days ago I had the opportunity to look at a MacArthur study bible and found there was roughly 2/3 of a page of John MacArthur’s notes to 1/3 page of scriptural text. Two or three days after that I read a blogger writing about his encounter with a church that claimed to experience the Spiritual gifts described in 1 Cor 12-14. He was unsure whether what he was observing was biblical or not – so he went home and took out his MacArthur Study Bible and after much study decided that church was in error. Now did he come to that conclusion from the 1/3 bible text or the 2/3 MacArthur notes – considering in the notes MacArthur make it clear that (despite what Paul wrote) the gifts are no longer available and we shouldn’t desire them?
What needs to be considered is whether it is possible to gain understanding from scripture that isn’t tainted to a serious degree by human tradition. But in considering that question we should first ask ourselves whether we believe that God wants us to understand His truth (the only truth) and whether He is capable of imparting that understanding to those who desire it?
To what extent do we limit God? And to what extent does that limitation make us more dependent on men’s traditional teachings and ideas than on God and His Spirit?
I’d be one of the last to say I have never been influenced by man’s traditions. I spent decades either following teachings I hadn’t adequately tested or trying to recover from the damage those teachings had caused to me.
But over the last 8 or 9 years (maybe more) I’ve recognised the importance of trusting the Holy Spirit to give understanding of the scriptures He inspired.
For too long we believers have been conditioned to accept that we need someone to explain scripture to us, that it either takes special academic training or someone with a special “anointing” to understand it. That has made the majority of church-goers passive, dependant and vulnerable.
Men’s traditions will only influence our understanding to the degree that we rely on men FOR our understanding of scripture. The more we involve ourselves with scripture, and the more we trust the Holy Spirit to give understanding, the less influenced by tradition we’ll be.