Learning to listen to the tradition faithfully

Steve Holmes’ Listening to the Past: The Place of Tradition in Theology is a most valuable and readable collection of essays. I reckon it’s worth buying just for the essays on ‘Why Can’t we Just Read the Bible’, on Anselm, and on ‘Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Reprobation’ – especially this latter one. There’s also a fascinating essay on Edwards on the will which begins with some helpful observations on the abiding value and challenge of tradition:

‘When we learn to listen to the tradition faithfully, not assuming that we already know what we shall hear, but instead allowing earlier voices their own integrity, we will inevitably be surprised by the strangeness of much what is said. At that point we will be faced with a choice: we might take the modern way of patronising earlier voices by assigning them to their ‘place in history’, and so pretending that they have nothing to say to us; or we might believe that to listen to these voices in all their strangeness, and to regard their positions as serious, and live, options is actually a theological imperative. Perhaps the most two obvious areas where this will be true are sexual ethics and biblical interpretation …’ – Steve Holmes, Listening to the Past: The Place of Tradition in Theology (Carlisle/Grand Rapids: Paternoster/Baker, 2002), 86.

As Ben devotes a week of blogging to questions of sex and marriage, we could do much worse than heed Holmes’ words.

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