In liturgical questions, Luther was eonser’atie. He advocatedrna Cleruian Iass for those who needed it, but he also wantedrnto retain the Latin Mass as the highest expression of Christianrnliturg’. He did not do away with altars or clerical vestments,rnand he expressed resentment that the “de il” in Rome shouldrnget all the good music. Over a hundred ‘ears after Luther’srndcadi. Bach was composing sacred music to Latin texts. Quiternapart from the Magnificat and the B-Minor Mass, his Latin outputrnfills two CDs.rnIf I .uther and Bach were dragged down to the contemporaryrnUnited States, riie’ woidd probabh^ run in panic from the makeit-rnup-as-T)u-go-along, honky-tonk hootenannies that are put onrnin so man churches that invoke Luther’s name. No, it is notrnLuther but IjUther’s nemesis, Zwingli, who stripped the altars,rndemolished the ancient liturgies, and, anticipating Descartes byrn100 cars, infected f.uropean ChristianiK’ with a purely intellectualistrnrebellion against die traditions of the Church and ofrnChristian eiili/.ation.rnWhile Luther was content to accept an- practice not posihrnel’ prohibited in Scripture, Zwingli went to the extreme ofrnrejcehng anvthing that was not prescribed in the Bible, hi dieon’,rnthis athtude leads to the totalitarian dead end of the Amish,rnbut few people have the courage and self-discipline rec[uired forrnthe plain life, and in practice Zwingli’s scriptural test puts thernburden entireh on the frail himian intellect. Not “Scripturernalone” becomes the rule, but what I can conclude b’ applyingrnm’ own reason to Scripture, which means my reason as formedrnb’ \’h<)eer is in charge of m’ edueahon. Before too long, wernarc joining Archbishop Temple in consigning most Christianrndoctrines to the librar’ basement where dangerous books arernhidden from inquiring minds.rnZwingli could not have been so naive as to diink fiiat ordinarrnpeo])le woidd be able, on their own, to make coherentrnsense out of Scriptures written in Hebrew and Creek and addressedrnto people living in eirciunstanees almost completelyrnforeign to die Swiss peasants of his day or the American softwarerndesigners of our own. Considering die ignorance, laziness, andrnstupidih’ of most people, most of die time, I might as well turnrnQuaker and uait for lightning to strike my alread addled brainrnas trust m- own intelligence to interpret the Bible.rnThe arguments are so old and well worn I blush to repeatrnthem: If Scripture is the only audiorih’, then who decidesrnwhat Scri]3ture is? Do not try to cheat and sav “God” or diernBible, because no passage in the Old or New Testament pro-rn’ides a list of authenfic Scriptures, hi the ancient world, therernwere arguments pro and con regarding “apostolic” writingsrnsuch as the first F.pisde of Clement and serious opposition tornthe inclusion of the book ot Revelation, which is still not includedrnin the lechonar’ of die Creek Cliureh. In the West, thernprobabK’ forged Epistle to the Laodiceann was not formallv excludedrnuntil die Council of Florence in die 1 5di cciitun.rnThcu who or what did decide to include Revelation but notrnClement? The simple answer is a series of Church councils,rnbut a more inelusi’c answer would be Hiat the councils ratifiedrndie growing consensus of the apostolic churches. In a word, tradition.rnNo tradition, no Scriptures. Cabin thought diat, inrnsome imsterious fashion, an individual Christian could percei’rne not only die meaning of Scripture but even die audienheihrnof disputed books. But in introducing hvo variables—anrnopen canon and freedom of interpretation —into the questionrnof interpretation. Calvin seta task diat was inhumanly difficultrneven for a man of his learning, and the best example of a Christianrnwho exercised his freedom to decide upon die canon hernv’as going to misinterpret is Marcion, die Gnostic heretic whornreduced the entire corpus to St. Luke and St. Paul, to whom herngave an antisemitie interpretation.rnYou may find it convenient to lie to yourself about this for thernrest of your life, and in keeping up the pretense that ou have escapedrnfrom tradition, you are showing an entirely laudable respectrnfor the Zwinglian or Anabaptist traditions in which yournwere reared or to which you have converted. But for Christiansrnwho wish to be honest about what they know, diere is no way tornbypass the questions of authorit)’ and tradifion.rnOprah Winfre- asked George W. Bush if he knew ain filingrnfor certain, and Goernor Bush answered that he knew thatrnGod exists. But that is exaed what George W. Bush does notrnknow. It is a rationalist cop-out on the same leel with his statementrnthat the philosopher he most admires is )esus Christ. Irnshould like to hear his answer to the tough questions: First, whorndoes he admire most after Jesus Christ? And second, on whatrnauthority does he know there is a God?rnThe Oxford Seven concluded that all religions worship diernsame god. Wlien a similar question was put to C.S. Lewis, hernsaid he agreed but wanted to know which one. It makes a differencernwhether the one deih’ is Manitou or Sliia, /Vstarte orrnZeus, Allah or die Christian God. Wliieh is true, which the imperfectrnimitators? If von take refuge in die answ er diat all ofrnthese gods are tendencies toward a perfect godhead, then oursrnis prohablv die god of Newton and Voltaire, die deist projectionrnof Eulighteument intellectuals who were as nierciless and uncompassionaterntoward frail human nature as the windup toyrneloekmaker diey made in dieir own image. It is die who createdrndie tradition of antitraditionalism.rnAll healthy societies respect their traditions, not only in religionrnbut in poetr’ and music, table manners and marriage cu.stonis.rn’Fhe laws of Athens that Socrates could not violate byrnbreaking jail (and diat he famously defended) were not specificrndecrees enacted b’ the Athenian assembly; die- were nonioi,rnthe customs fiiat had been handed down from one generationrnto another. Tradifion means, quite literally, a giving across fromrnone hand to another, something like the process of one runnerrnhanding off die baton to another in a rela- race.rnTextual scholars speak of manuscript traditions, die readingsrndiat have been copied generation after generation by scribes.rnThere are errors, it goes widiout saying, that are committed andrnperpetuated in die tradifion, but without the tradition there isrnno text. Scribal fidelity extends to the smallest details. Inrnmanuscripts of Greek tragedy, die choral lyric passages are dividedrninto variously shaped short lines called “cola” diat werernignored by even die most brilliant scholars on tiie grounds tiiatrndiere was no consistent tradifion, and, even if there were, itrnwould tell us nodiing. They were wrong, as it turns out: A consistentrntradition is easiK- constructed out of die sliglifi arvingrnlaoids in different groups of manuscripts, and that traditionrngoes back, most certainlv, to Alexandrian scholars w ho knew farrnmore of Greek poetry and music than anyone has known sincernthat time. To appreciate the poefie technique of Aeschvlus andrnSophocles, scholars have to reenter the tradition diat they, asrnheirs of the Enlightenment, have rejected out of hand.rnI have spoken of die manuscript tradifion in the eonvenfionalrnsense of scribes blindly copying the mistakes of their predecessorsrnwhile introducing a few of their own, but not all scribesrnare dunces. Some recognize a superior reading in anotherrnDECEMBER 2000,’nrnrnrn