Evangelicals can sometimes be understandably nervous about ‘tradition’. But J.I. Packer reminds us of a number of benefits of Christian tradition:-
1. Roots. Just as a individual can gain inspiration and identity from learning about the family from which he sprang; just as a solider learns standards and ideals from learning about his regiment’s illustrious past; so conscious solidarity with the story of God’s family on earth over the past two thousand years can be strengthening and enriching.
2. Realism. Knowledge of the past gives a vantage point for assessing the present and an opportunity for escaping imprisonment in the mind-set and culture of one’s own age. Testing our present presuppositions by those of the past can give us a more realistic view of our aims and goals.
3. Resources. By knowing the past the Christian acquires resources. We walk with giants and gain from the past deeper wisdom than our contemporary peers can offer. No age has a monopoly on the truth, but a knowledge of tradition opens up the wisdom of the ages. Many of the errors of today have occurred and have been confronted in the past.
4. Reminders. God’s people in the OT often failed to live up to their covenant commitments because they failed to remember God past mercies and judgements. Such reminders are in order today. To know how the past the church has lost or found God’s blessing is most salutary. Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
J.I. Packer, ‘The comfort of conservatism’ in Power Religion, 291-2.