So, if you're a Protestant, you probably think this

Referring to one of the four historical sources of theology (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience). Relates to questions that ask about practices that have historically been the norm, and typically looking for an origin explanation

is a pretty spot-on definition for tradition, in the context of Christianity.

But, if you're Catholic, you might think this

Referring to one of the three sources of theological truth (Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Magisterial Teaching). Relates to questions that ask about doctrine that are unchangeable and typically looking for an origin explanation.

is a good explanation (for big 'T' tradition); but you might also think this

common and historical Christian practices

is an pretty good explanation (for little 't' tradition).

I just asked a question about tradition and I took a look at the other questions labeled tradition and they were all over the board on this. I'd just like to solicit ideas as to whether this needs to be fixed or we just need to know that + means Sacred Tradition (like the Perpetual Virginity of Mary) and tradition (like not eating meat on fridays).

  • As the author of that definition, I plead guilty of not having known that! Mar 27, 2013 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


In this case we need to have the tag wiki summary be position neutral and the tag wiki to have information regarding the uses for each of the movements that will use the tag.

So the tag wiki summary should read:

Historical teachings and practices. This tag is used differently in the catholic and protestant churches, see the full wiki for the differences.

And then the actual tag wiki should make it clear the different uses in protestantism and Catholicism.

  • 1
    Would it be appropriate to have separate tags for these?
    – Caleb
    Mar 27, 2013 at 19:07
  • I don't think so.
    – wax eagle
    Mar 27, 2013 at 19:14

I suggest separate tags for "custom" and "tradition".

Custom should be for established habitual practices, which may at times be elevated to some higher formal status, but don't inherently carry authority. They may be an important part of culture, but are not essential to faith.

Tradition should be for the part of the "deposit of faith" not otherwise recorded in the Bible, a body of teaching held to derive from Christ and the Apostles, which does carry authority.

The term "custom" is established in the law of many churches, in addition to its ordinary English meaning, so I think it's as accurate a term as we could have, for this set of topics. Additionally, we have had some trouble in the past with ultra-sola-scripturalists taking the term "tradition" to mean Catholic/Orthodox-style "Tradition", in a context when "custom" was what was meant. I think "custom" is a less objectionable term for this crowd, because unlike Tradition there's no imputation of authority.

The main rationale for separating them is the issue of authority, which Tradition has but custom doesn't. The questions and answers involved are quite different. For Tradition we would expect them to involve lots of Latin and Greek quotations from official Church documents and the teachings of the Fathers. For custom, we're dealing with topics that are more culturally bound, perhaps more subjective/contextual; less to do with doctrine and more to do with praxis; supporting documents look more like scholarly historical works, or have references on liturgy, architecture, music, etc.

  • I agree with separate tags. "Tradition" is a heavily overloaded word in Christianity (I often use it as a near-synonym of "denomination") and we need to have an unambiguous tag for Sacred Tradition. Mar 27, 2013 at 21:10
  • 2
    What you and I think about what the tage should be may not necessarily line up with how people tag their questions. While I agree this is correct, I doubt anyone who hasn't been here for a long time will ever apply them correctly Mar 28, 2013 at 0:24

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