Desert Wisdom: A Very Good Place to Start

In the movie, The Sound of Music, the song “Do-Re-Mi” contains this phrase:  “Let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start.”

The apostle John agreed when, much earlier, he began his first letter with these words,”That which was from the beginning….”  (1 John 1:1).

Bunge uses this idea in the opening pages of his book (p. 18), but rightly noting that it depends upon what we mean by “beginning.”

The Christian answer is found in the word “tradition.”  We use it to mean a beginning that has its origin in God—a very good place to start.

The ultimate value of tradition is not that it has been around a long time, but that it is rooted in an originating revelation.  The history of the church includes “beginnings” that were not good, because they were aberrations of the original story.  Just because something has been around for a while doesn’t mean it’s okay.

With all the spiritualities swirling around today—many of them even older than Christianity—it’s important in spiritual formation to realize that the shaping nature of a tradition is not in relation to its age, but in relation to its authenticity.  We do not look to the early Christians because they were simply “closer to the time of Jesus.”  We look to them because their intent was to be faithful to him.

Bunge puts it this way, “Genuine tradition means having and preserving fellowship with the ‘eyewitnesses and ministers of the word’ and through them , with him about whom they testify” (p. 19).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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