Traditions

Religious authority is a complex and ever-contested issue. Historical studies of religion demonstrate that religions are always changing; nevertheless, most religions anchor themselves in the concept that there is an unchanging truth to which they are always loyal. Between this ideal of unchanging truth and the reality of historical contingency, issues of religious authority are played out. Some factions of a religious community push for change; others pull against the tide of new ideas, social practices, or technology. Balance or synthesis among these competing factions may be temporarily achieved, but changing circumstances will again challenge that consensus. Just as often, no consensus is possible and religious communities split, giving rise to new denominations and even to new religions. Thus, the existence of religious diversity is closely linked to conflicts about appropriate and reliable religious authority and the inability of religious communities to agree upon the same sources of authority.

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