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Christian tradition is a collection of traditions of practices or beliefs associated with Christianity or groups with Christianity. These beliefs have more or less authority based on the nature of the practices or beliefs and on the group in question.

Many churches have traditional practices, such as particular patterns of worship or rites, that developed over time. Deviations from such patterns are sometimes considered unacceptable or heretical. Similarly, traditions can be stories or history that are or were widely accepted without being part of Christian doctrine, e.g., the crucifixion of Saint Peter or the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in India, which are widely believed to have happened but are not recorded in scripture. Similarly the names of the Magi who visited Jesus at his birth are thought to have been invented much later than the events; they are not considered authentic or obligatory, but can be considered a tradition.

Tradition also includes historic teaching of the recognized church authorities, such as Church Councils and ecclesiastical officials (e.g., the Pope, Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop of Canterbury, etc.), and includes the teaching of significant individuals like the Church Fathers, the Protestant Reformers, and founders of movements like John Wesley. Many creeds, confessions of faith, and catechisms generated by these bodies and individuals are also part of the traditions of various bodies.

Tradition and ecclesial traditions[edit]

The Catholic Church distinguishes between what it calls Apostolic Tradition (or Tradition with a capital T) and ecclesial traditions. In the course of time ecclesial traditions develop in theology, discipline, liturgy, and devotions. These the Church may retain, modify or even abandon.[1] Apostolic Tradition, on the other hand, is the teaching that was handed down by the apostles by word of mouth, by their example and "by the institutions they established", among which is the apostolic succession of the bishops: "this living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition".[2] "And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God, which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit."[3]


Among the main groups of Christianity, there are Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. In the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy, Sacred Tradition, but not "ecclesial traditions", is considered official doctrine and of equal authoritative weight to the Bible. Among conservative Protestants, the Bible itself is the only final authority (see sola scriptura and prima scriptura), but tradition still plays an important supporting role. All three groups generally accept the traditional developments on the doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, and set bounds of orthodoxy and heresy based on that tradition. They also have developed creedal and confessional statements which summarize and develop their understanding of biblical teaching.

See also[edit]



  • Baum, Wilhelm; Winkler, Dietmar W. (2003). The Church of the East: a concise history. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-29770-7. 
  • Hotchkiss, Gregory K. The Middle Way: Reflections on Scripture and Tradition, in series, Reformed Episcopal Pamphlets, no. 3. Media, Penn.: Reformed Episcopal Publication Society, 1985. 27 p. N.B.: Place of publication also given as Philadelphia, Penn.; the approach to the issue is from an evangelical Anglican (Reformed Episcopal Church) orientation. Without ISBN

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245 news items

First Things (blog)
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:10:24 -0700

In short, I defended Christianity by helping them swim upstream so that they could discover just how deep and wide Christian Tradition was. Through a confrontation with full-throated Christianity, students had the resources to criticize the stream to ...
Baptist Standard
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 07:29:34 -0700

Dean says, “The National Study of Youth and Religion reveals a theological fault line running underneath American churches: an adherence to a do-good, feel-good spirituality that has little to do with the Triune God of Christian tradition and even less ...

Christian Post

Christian Post
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:55:43 -0700

Instead of tribalism perhaps we should be asking, "Are we being consistent and rightly apply the tools of the Christian tradition?" Are we rightly applying subsidiarity and sphere sovereignty? A lively discourse about the right application of Christian ...

RT (blog)

RT (blog)
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 08:08:55 -0700

Europe ... the Muslim other whose presence and actions are incompatible with Western civilization and alien to the Judeo-Christian tradition which provides the framework for much, if not all, of Europe's culture and identity.” The professor of ...
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:03:45 -0700

We hope to play Shiloh Christian football. We want to compete for championships. We want to compete for conference and state championships. Those are two of our big goals this year,” Conaway said. All goals to keep the Shiloh Christian tradition alive.
New Zealand Herald
Sun, 31 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0700

Focusing on how the Christian tradition teaches us to live mindfully in the present moment; practising the presence of God in all we do and say. An emphasis will be placed on silence and recollection. Bring your own lunch. A small koha would be ...


Tue, 12 Aug 2014 08:16:20 -0700

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is urging Muslim leaders to denounce the "barbarity" of the Islamic State's attacks against Christians and other minorities in Iraq, saying their credibility is on the line. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for ...
Deccan Chronicle
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:56:15 -0700

While SNDP Yogam general secretary Vellapally Natesan said that wine should be prohibited along with liquor, Mr Sudheeran rebuffed him saying wine had always been part of Christian tradition. He also asked whether a centuries-old custom practised by ...

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