The first thing that needs to be cleared up here is that not all (and, in fact, very little) "little 't' tradition" is "bad" as Rhology's question seems to assume. Using Mark 7 as our point of reference, Christ is not even condemning all "traditions of men." He's condemning specifically those "traditions of men" which "make the word of God of no effect." And certainly not all "traditions of men" "make the word of God of no effect." National holidays like Independence Day and Thanksgiving are "traditions of men" but I doubt that Rhology would submit that they somehow violate the commandments of God.
I think that what we're really looking for here is a way to set apart what is Apostolic Tradition, that is, Tradition which bears Apostolic authority and carries divine inspiration and/or origin, from non-Apostolic traditions, which are not necessarily "bad" but are certainly secondary and subordinated to Apostolic Tradition. And, lucky for me, the Fathers handled this very question many hundreds of years before Rhology or I ever thought to ask it.
St. Vincent of Lerins, in The Commonitory, written in AD 434, states that our rule of faith is to be "that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all." In saying this, he restates the criteria which had been used since the times of the Apostolic Fathers of the 2nd century to separate truth from falsehood. In order to be recognized as Apostolic, a given tradition had to be ancient (that is, dating from the time of the Apostles and not a recent innovation), catholic (meaning "universal;" the tradition had to be something practiced in the whole Church, not just some custom in a local area), and it had to be orthodox (that is, it couldn't contradict those beliefs and practices which the Church already held to be true).
To let St. Vincent speak in his words:
We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.Rhology is essentially cutting off his own legs in this debate with this question because these same criteria were used by the Fathers in deciding what belonged in the canon of Scripture! Scripture is a part of Tradition -- in fact, it is the very heart and center of Tradition. And it has a common history of codification and definition along with the rest of Tradition, and cannot be separated from the remainder of Tradition without doing serious harm to its message. Rhology seems to forget that Scripture didn't appear in a vacuum -- it was subject to the same test as the rest of Tradition: is it something that "has been believed everywhere, always, and by all?"
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