St. Andrews, Tradition, and the Bible

The Monday feature of the Worldly Saints blog focuses on a story from the sports world – current or historic. The point is to recognize athletes who are using their sports and athletic abilities to further the kingdom of God or to show how some athletes or teams are wasting their days by not giving God the glory.


This week, in Scotland, the 3rd major of the 2015 PGA season will commence. It will be the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews.

For non-golf fans and non-sports historians, St. Andrews (or more specifically the Old Course) is said to be the “home of golf,” due to the sport being played there in the 1400’s. Yes, you read that right … the 1400’s!

Golf was the local favorite sporting choice in Scotland until 1457 when James II of Scotland thought it was disrupting men from practicing their archery; so he banned it for a short time until he himself became a fan of the game of golf and then re-instituted in 45 years later.

The Old Course has history, but from a golfing perspective that is all it has. The course itself is ugly, worn out, unimaginative, etc. In fact, I dare day, that the only reason St. Andrews gets the Open Championship every year is because of the history (I think). It is a stark contrast to August National, the site of The Master’s, which is one of the most gorgeous and perfectly manicured course in the world.

But what I appreciate about the PGA, and their decision to keep a major tournament at St. Andrews, is that they have always made a place for tradition. They are committed to honoring their past. Players revel in the opportunity to play there because of the rich history that it maintains.

Tradition is not an enemy to the PGA and nor should it be to us.

St AndrewsYou see, often times in a church context, one of the 1st things to be tossed out is tradition. Tradition tends to get replaced by the “up-and-coming” or the “trendy” or the “relevant.” Too many Protestants are fearful of becoming Catholic or Judaic with a reverence for tradition, so they go to the opposite extreme and just toss all of it out. Their concerns can often be valid in that they don’t want to elevate tradition to a role of authority alongside of tradition.

But if there isn’t a danger in that, traditions are commended in the Scripture. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you” (I Cor 11:1-2). “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (II Thess 2:15). “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us” (II Thess 3:6).

It would seem from Scriptures like those that traditions, according to the Bible, weren’t always practices but could more likely be sets of beliefs or doctrines. Either way, the Bible does give a place for tradition.

There is nothing inherently good or bad about traditions. One thing they do accomplish is a reverence for the things of the past.

Thus, as long as we are able to use tradition as a means to honor the past, it can be a wonderful servant. But if we ever elevate it to the level of truth, than it can be a terrible master.


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