“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.” ― Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities
Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 (CEB)
People need tradition. We need them to navigate our way in the world. It lays the foundation for the future but it doesn’t dictate it. But there is a darker side to tradition that often can lead to death, especially with institutions.
Jaroslav Pelikan, scholar of the history of Christianity at Yale defines “traditionalism” as a way of life that kills the vibrant faith of believers. It takes itself too seriously And says there is only one way to do things even if the reason for it is now unknown. “But we’ve always done it that way” is a narrow point of view. Its followers turn inward and become insular with one another.
While tradition gives us a place to stand, it doesn’t anchor us to it. Tradition serves as a starting point. Tradition is constantly evolving as the generations following it add their flavor and understanding to it.
Let our faith be a living, growing faith! Let it be founded on the hope and dreams of those who have gone before us but always ready to expand its boundaries to do the work God has called us to do today.
Dear God, we are in need to a fresh anointing upon our traditions and faith. We want a living faith of the dead, not a dead faith of the living. As John Wesley wrote, “I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.”* Lord hear our prayer! Amen.