Foundation for Reformed Theology


The church of Jesus Christ lives between the twin dangers, among others, of ignoring the past and ignoring the present. That is to say, it is important for us both to remember the faith that we have received and also to believe it and to live it in our own day.

One of the ways we have understood this has been in terms of both receiving the tradition of the faith and also passing along the tradition of the faith. Here is what Dr. John H. Leith has to say about both aspects of this.
On Traditioning the Faith

The church lives, not by organization and techniques, but by the passionate conviction that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, that in his death on the cross our sins are forgiven, that God raised him from the dead for our salvation. No technique, skill, or wisdom can substitute for that passionate conviction. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit, who cannot be programmed by any technique or ritual, confirms faith in the heart. The faith is therefore traditioned on a level beyond observation and beyond the power of techniques. The traditioning of the faith is finally the work of the Holy Spirit.


The act of traditioning at its best enlarges the human understanding of that which is traditioned. The Christian witness cannot simply go back to the sources, cannot merely read the Bible, cannot just repeat what a previous generation has said. There is inescapably the translation of the tradition into the language and idiom of the time. The task of translation not only enhances the understanding of the tradition but also entails the possibility of the distortion, dilution, or corruption of the tradition. Ideally every Christian recapitulates the church's witness to and reflection upon Jesus Christ as the rite of passage into full membership in the community. Traditioning the faith is an awesome responsibility on the one hand to incorporate each new person and generation into the community of faith and on the other hand to do so in a self-critical manner which maintains the faith without distortion, dilution, or corruption.


John H. Leith, From Generation to Generation: The Renewal of the Church According to Its Own Faith and Practice (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 1990), pp. 34, 36.

Dr. James C. Goodloe IVSome are tempted to abandon the historic faith of the church. Others of us are tempted to exult in it without adequate translation into the present.

Let us gladly take up the twin tasks both of recovering and receiving the faith of the centuries before us and also of explicating and applying it in and for our own day.

Grace and Peace,

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV,
Executive Director
Foundation for Reformed Theology
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