So the history of the church and the tradition that forms us are mixed.
There are some really good things, but even these are deeply flawed and require ongoing discernment as we seek to retrieve and adapt them for our own time.
Something important to remember: there is no way to get the good stuff pure and unalloyed, once and for all.
The Pharisees tried this by following the law to the letter, but they failed to notice how the project was underwritten by their own self-righteousness.
Can we hear Jesus speaking to us? The tares grow with the wheat, and it's not always easy to tell the one from the other ...
The fact is we are up against something bigger than a faulty ethic. All of us are in need of new birth--ongoing spiritual renovation and renewal, funded richly by scripture and ballasted by the long tradition that's formed us, for good and ill.
It's true--even the imperfections of the tradition are helpful for coming alive to God's grace and his enduring call to mission.
I worry that we'd think we can get it perfectly right if only for paring everything down to an essential kernel of teaching--whatever that may be.
That seems like a moralistic short cut--one that's been tried many times throughout the history of the church, often with disappointing results.
Let's draw widely and deeply, while discerning everything, as we are able. There are all kinds of hidden gems in the tradition that can help guide us to Jesus in our own time. Not simply for practicing an ethic that's been neglected but for discovering ourselves transformed by his grace, through and through.