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Milton Acosta, PhD
Like pira corn, here we see grow all sorts of groups called "Christians". We say "called" because they do not know tradition or affiliation. They rise because of "supposed" calls that God makes to certain individuals. And we say "assumptions" because there is no way to check what numbers God calls. So many quotations become odious and confusing, like the situation in our continent with so much "Christian" newborn group.
The problem is not so much the garage where a church is born, but whether that garage is connected to a house and if it has access to the large and wide roads of Christian traditions. Even if one does not believe in apostolic succession as the Catholic or Orthodox Church, every Christian has to recognize the traditions. The Christian faith and its content are received from others, not directly from the Bible, as many think. The traditions range from the form of prayer and baptism, to theological methodologies. It is an absolute deception to think that the Christian faith can exist without traditions. The question is how old they are and who watches over them.
Recognizing traditions means teaching what has been received and questioning the church when traditions deviate from Scripture, as Jesus did. Little or nothing can be spoken to those who do not know all this because they believe that God speaks to them separately.
It is true that there is no single Christian tradition, but we know that some traditions and beliefs are new and old; that some come from the rigorous study of the Bible and others arise from isolated texts; that some use Sacred Scripture to serve others and others to serve themselves; that some churches have internal controls and other manipulators.
When a scandal arises in a church, many want to send all the churches to the devil; some do not know where to send them. Others say that if someone calls himself a Christian, he should be Christian, because whoever says no, he is accused of being intolerant. However, there are differences.
Pierre Bastian maintains that many of the "Christian" groups in Latin America are not really descendants of Protestantism, but mutations of popular Catholic religiosity. Their theology, organization and ethos have little or nothing to do with any Reformer. (1) We should not fall into the game of disqualifying someone because he disqualified another. You have to understand the arguments. Just as doctors accredit each other (and engineers, lawyers and others), so we Christians accredit ourselves and recognize ourselves among ourselves for the beliefs and traditions we receive, preserve and disclose. It is not the Bible alone without tradition. In this we must know better what the Reformers said and practiced. That there is diversity, there is; that sounds like Catholic theology, it sounds. It is not a question of whether it sounds or not but of reality.
The constant appearance of individuals who, disconnected from more than two thousand years of the history of Christianity, self-proclaim ministers, apostles, prophets, patriarchs and others, is a logical and irremediable consequence of the contempt of many evangelical Christians for tradition. Leaving aside tradition and pretending to maintain order in the churches is like preaching sexual freedom on behalf of the development of the personality and hope that there is no teenage pregnancy.
The frequent cases of abuses in churches show what happens when fundamental Christian traditions are underestimated and the body of Christ, which is the universal church. In conclusion, one of the great tasks that evangelical Christians in Latin America have before them is to discover the great riches of Christian traditions, which have the potential to enrich theology, piety, liturgy and praxis. You will tell me that others cling to traditions and also abuse. I will tell him that he is right and that it is also a topic that deserves discussion. Some Christians suffer from some things and others from others.
(1) More details of this can be read in Milton Acosta, "Power Pentecostalisms," Christianity Today 53, no. 8 (2009): 40-42.
Author: Milton Acosta
Professor of Old Testament in the Biblical Seminary University Foundation of Colombia (www.unisbc.edu.co); Old Testament Editor for the Contemporary Biblical Commentary; M.A. Wheaton College Graduate School- Ph.D. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Old Testament).
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