Posted by cc on Thursday, March 17, 2016
In 1620, when the Pilgrims fled England for America they left behind one of the bright stars of the Puritan movement. That man was Pastor John Robinson who had guided them through years of political and religious turmoil. With others, he had battled tradition’s unrelenting grip in the Church of England. It was in the abandonment of that hope for change in Britain that the Pilgrims finally sailed for the new world. The day of their departure Pastor Robinson preached a farewell address which is still a challenge to the church today. He said: "I charge you before God and before his blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his (another minister), be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry: for I am verily persuaded, I am very confident, the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of his holy Word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a full stop in religion and will go at present, no further than the instruments of their first reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw: whatever part of his will our good God has imparted and revealed unto Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it. And the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God; who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented; for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God: but were they now living, they would be as willing to embrace further light, as that which they first received." (John Fletcher's History of Independency, Vol 3, page 69.)
Robinson’s challenge for the Pilgrims to break with theological tradition is astounding. Some of the radical concepts of truth and liberty which were later birthed in Colonial America and became the cornerstone of democracy owe their conception to the principles of this man. Pastor Robinson clearly saw the hazard of religious and political tradition. But are there not benefits to tradition? Yes, and that is the reason we love it. There are many wonderful, legitimate expressions of tradition. It can be very beautiful. Tradition is familiar, comfortable, predictable. Because of that, religious tradition usually pushes itself deeper into places where it does not belong. Tradition, like habit, removes the necessity of decision-making. Making decisions requires mental energy; life is simpler if we do things by predetermined routine. At the same time: Tradition can only turn its eyes on the past. If it looks to the future, it ceases to be tradition.
The full Kingdom-message of the Holy Spirit’s miracles, signs, and wonders, is desperately needed by the modern church. Religious tradition has stripped us of their benefit. Those power-enduing parts of Scripture have been emasculated and demoted to nothingness in many modern pulpits. (Mark 16:17,18, Acts 1:8. I Corinthians 12-14.) Something really is lost “behind the ranges! Go and find! Go and find!” The discovery awaiting you is phenomenal. Matthew 15:3. Mark 7:3. Colossians 2:8. I Peter 1:18.