On the Accretion of Tradition in Christianity

On my fitness blog I wrote about the process that leads to Bro Science.

In it, I quoted Nicholas Taleb. That same quote is useful for understanding how traditions gather in Christian churches:

Consider the role of heuristic (rule-of-thumb) knowledge embedded in traditions. Simply, just as evolution operates on individuals, so does it act on these tacit, unexplainable rules of thumb transmitted through generations— what Karl Popper has called evolutionary epistemology. But let me change Popper’s idea ever so slightly (actually quite a bit): my take is that this evolution is not a competition between ideas, but between humans and systems based on such ideas. An idea does not survive because it is better than the competition, but rather because the person who holds it has survived! Accordingly, wisdom you learn from your grandmother should be vastly superior (empirically, hence scientifically) to what you get from a class in business school (and, of course, considerably cheaper). My sadness is that we have been moving farther and farther away from grandmothers.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2012-11-27). Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Kindle Locations 3841-3847). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Now, in Christianity tradition includes, but is not limited to Scripture. The idea is that Scripture should be the measuring rod against which other traditions should be judged. Scripture takes pride of place whether the church is examining practices, beliefs, or ways of speaking about God. But this does not mean that traditions are always wrong. While I endorse Socrates’ notion of questioning everything, I do not endorse the hipster-idiot notion that questioning everything should be done in order to destroy it. Instead, I think that things should be questioned in order to understand them and once they are understood rejected or accepted based on their truth or practicality.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a Protestant say that fasting is a “Roman Catholic thing,” I’d probably have several dozen, if not 100 dollars. The tradition of regular fasting is actually in Scripture and still practiced by many Protestants! Anyhow, I thought that Taleb’s understanding of how traditions accrue over time could be helpful for people trying to understand how Christianity has developed over time.


1 Comment

  1. Pingback: The Tao of Bro Science | Perspectives on Exercise and Well-being

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