Is Church Tradition Really Important?

Dr. Bruce Ashford of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary explains why studying church history and historical theology is important:

Church history and historical theology assist the theologian in his task in several ways. First, the historical disciplines help us to recognize the ways in which inherited theological traditions have shaped the questions we ask and the answers we give. We recognize why certain issues occupy a central place in our structure of thought, and other issues occupy only a peripheral place. We notice how certain conceptual categories and forms of thought have been bequeathed to us by theologians of a different era. We realize that we do not come to the text of Scripture with virgin eyes; we come to the text having been influenced by the past. Second, the historical disciplines help us to preserve the integrity of tradition, while at the same time not allowing tradition to control us. Third, the historical disciplines allow us, in humility, to transcend our own era and location by learning from the great theologians and church traditions of the past. Indeed, as we will see in a later section of this chapter, theologians must continually beware of how their theological formulations may be contaminated by the idolatry of their own cultural context; historical theology helps to break free from being beholden to our own era and culture.

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