Why do Protestants NOT follow Tradition?

Why do Protestants claim to go by scripture alone when we read in the Bible itself that we are to follow tradition and scripture? For example, in 2 Thessalonian 2:15, St Paul commands us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” So why not follow St Paul’s command?

Protestants often hang their hat on a couple of strong verses of warning in Scripture:

Matthew 15:1-9

“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to [his] father or [his] mother, [It is] a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, [he shall be free]. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. [Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:1-9 KJV)

Colossians 2:4-8

“And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:4-8 KJV)

Most Protestants believe that Catholics have faulty doctrine, and that their traditions emulate that untruth. I don’t think most are against tradition, and in fact, many practice their own traditions in their own churches. However, when many Protestant believers criticize the Traditions of Catholicism, I think they are actually addressing the false doctrines that the Tradition hides in its pageantry and beauty.

So, instead of confronting the differences of belief, searching Scripture and finding common ground, some old-fogey Protestants attack the tradition and avoid the real issues that separate our fellowship. I think that many Protestants attack Catholic Traditions because, underneath the traditions lies doctrine that is false. If Protestants attack Catholic Traditions, then the area of their contention remains unaddressed; specifically, the conflicts concerning the Truth of God and the apparent misinterpretations that these Traditions reflect. On the other hand, many Catholics defend their Traditions, and are completely unaware of the confused doctrines that their traditions represent.

It goes both ways! and that’s what is wrong with tradition. When the focus is solely upon Tradition (whether it possesses Roman Catholic nature or Protestant nature), and the Word of God is neglected, misused and misinterpreted, both Protestants and Catholics get it wrong. However, if any Protestant thinks that tradition has no place in the worship of God, I personally believe they are missing out and subverting the expression of the holiness of God. On the other hand again, if any Catholic thinks that tradition is the complete worship of God, I personally believe they also are missing out by subverting His teachings and their ability to grow stronger toward Him.

If Tradition is based upon the Truth, IT’S VERY GOOD! If Tradition is based upon false teachings, IT’s VERY BAD! Our job, as Christians, is to make sure that everything we do is based and conforms upon His Word and glorifies Him!

Now to the crux of your question and its suggestion that all Protestants arbitrarily deem Catholic traditions as traditions of men, while not addressing the actual difference themselves. The answer is “Yes, sometimes.” There are SOME Protestants that do just that. I can only offer you that explanation for those Protestants that attack Tradition without explanation of the real reason for their disdain.

Some Protestants are like some Catholics; yearning to have a growing relationship with the LORD God through Jesus Christ, and experiencing life with as much flavor as God places in their life. Regrettably, others, on both sides of Christian belief, aren’t like that at all.

I don’t think that most Protestants are convinced that the present-day Roman Catholic Church is the established Church of Jesus Christ. Please recognize I am not a spokesman for all Protestants; however, I think this reflects their views somewhat. Protestants believe that the Roman Catholic Church was established to replace the falling Roman Empire; that this group became just as corrupted as the government it replaced, and as a result the spiritual things of God were corrupted within it.

Interestingly, the father of Protestantism, Martin Luther, accepted Roman-ruled religion, and tried to change the corruption from the inside-out. Apparently that was NOT the Will of God, because, instead, Luther was moved away from the established Roman rule, and started a movement that put Bibles in the people’s hand, gave them a right to approach the LORD God through Jesus Christ, and allowed them to walk with Him. Since then, regrettably, Protestants splintered off into so many different groups, some corrupted, some not. Many Protestant churches are now approaching the same levels of corruption that have been perpetrated upon believers by the powers that lead within the Roman Church.

So what do we, as believers, do?

We must first look to our God and our Savior. We must trust that Christ will Shepherd us and lead us through the complicated mess that religion has made. We have one guidebook, and that is His Word. For me personally, life is too complicated and religion too corrupted for me to be led by anyone but Him. I have personally chosen to use the Bible as the final authority on all things that I do, with the moving of the Holy Spirit as my guide.

For instance, I say that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is blessed among all women, because that is in the Bible. In my studies and worship, I have gone further in meeting Mary on a more personal contemplation, through the moving of the Holy Spirit. However, I cannot take it that next step and place her upon a pedestal equal with Christ, and as co-ruler of Heaven, because the Word of God does not reflect this as Truth, even though the Roman Catholic Traditions reflect this in their practices.

At some point, every Christian must decide where their line is. My line is resting firmly on the Word of God, and looking greatly forward to the day when I can participate fully in the pomp and circumstance in celebration of my Lord. But in these times, and in my life, I have no other choice but to draw my line between tradition and the Bible; the Bible is the only thing I know to be Truth completely. If I’m wrong, then when I meet my Lord, I imagine He will point out some of the areas in my life that could have received comfort from the “Tradition” that was given; however, he will not find fault with my belief because it is based upon God’s Truth.

Now you didn’t write me to hear my personal views, however, I don’t think you can understand a Protestant’s belief, unless it is personalized. While a Catholic believer practices his faith corporately, Protestant’s practice their faith personally. That’s why the nature of the arguments always escalate to ugliness among the uneducated and the impassioned. One side is talking from a supposed elevated position representing a big world of believers, while the other side speaks generally of one personal belief that usually becomes offended to just discuss these issues. In the end, we all lose out.

I’ve enjoyed our conversation. If you have any more Protestant questions, you can find this middle-of-the-road Protestant Catholic right here, ready to figure it out with you.

Thanks for sharing.