From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 2 – What is the Bible? How did it come to be written and why should we believe it?
I am going to urge you throughout this book always to focus on what the Bible says, not on what men say and not on what your denomination says either. If you form a view or believe something, let it be solely because the Bible says it. Do not believe anything merely because it is customary, traditional or cultural, or even because it is what your church leader or denomination says. Jesus had this to say to those who ignore the Bible and, instead, follow man-made traditions:
6And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.7‘But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ 8“Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” 9He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”Mark 7:6-9(NASB)
Many of us can easily see how the Pharisees of Jesus’ day got things badly wrong by ignoring the Bible and instead focusing on men’s ideas, customs and traditions. Yet, that is exactly what we do, even today. In fact, we probably do it more than the Pharisees did. Ask yourself in relation to any belief or opinion you hold, “Where did I get this idea from? Was it from the Bible or from tradition?” The answers may surprise you.
It is amazing how many things we say, do and think that we imagine to be biblical but which are, in fact, just man-made traditions adopted at various points in the history of the church. The most obvious example of that is the Roman Catholic Church. It has countless non-biblical traditions, such as penance, purgatory, saints, the Virgin Mary, confession, mass, priests, nuns, bishops, cardinals, popes, images, relics, rosary beads, holy days of obligation, sacraments, etc, etc. None of those things are in the Bible. Yet, millions believe and practice them and are quite unaware that they actually contradict what the Bible says.
In case anyone thinks that I am singling out the Roman Catholic Church for criticism, let me say that I have also found that same tendency to form non-biblical traditions and customs in every denomination I have ever come across, albeit on a lesser scale. And I have found it in myself too.
Every unbiblical idea or tradition has to be resisted and rejected. The best way to do that is to insist that every proposition be proved from the Bible, and not from any other authority, however eminent or famous. It doesn’t matter what the church is or who the person is; if what is being said or done has no biblical basis, then reject it.