Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Alternative to Tradition: Bad Tradition

It’s funny. At least from my observation it seems that some of the most vocal opponents of religion are quick to establish their own. They may not call it religion, but we routinely make religions. We find ourselves frustrated with religion so we launch out and do our own thing, establishing our own ways and orders of things and styles… and before we know it we’re religious again.

It puts me in mind of one of my favorite quotes: “The only alternative to tradition is bad tradition.” I heard Jaroslav Pelikan say that in an interview a few years before he died. Dr. Pelikan was a professor at Yale, a historical theologian who has written the definitive academic volumes on the development of Christian creeds.

He said “tradition” but he could have said “religion” just as easily; he was speaking of Christian tradition/religion through the centuries.

His point goes to what I said before, we are wired to make traditions and religions. There is really no such thing as no tradition or no religion… just inferior versions of tradition and religion.

While we are on Pelikan, here’s another famous quote:

"Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition."

So if you agree with me that there is good religion and bad religion, good tradition and bad tradition, tradition and traditionalism (as I think Isaiah did)… then we could look to Isaiah 58 for an understanding of the difference. We can look to Isaiah in pursuit of good religion and tradition. Check out what I had to say along these lines, from Isaiah 58 here:

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