"Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." - Jaroslave Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities
I am a traditionalist. Like the early church of the 1st century and the church that developed throughout history, I traditionally believe that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Because of this love, and God’s love for us, I believe that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. I believe in the historic tradition of the church that confesses that the God incarnate who revealed Himself to us, demonstrated such love with His life to save us as we give Him our lives in faith. THAT is tradition. The rest is just man’s rules.
What do I mean by “the rest?”
Jesus taught things that are timeless truths… His teachings are devoid of anything dictating whether or not we have stained glass windows, acolytes, liturgies, music, organs, guitars, pews, coffee, candles, multimedia and light shows, or even church buildings. I’m not against such things. They are certainly good expressions of our faith. But so is the use of multimedia, worship bands and church coffee bars. But the expression, whether old or new, is not the Word.
It seems to me that if these methods or techniques are old, people call them tradition and hold on to them. Those same people often eschew them if they are modern. And at the same time, there are those that hold on to the modern, having a mindset that newer is always better, while eschewing the old, with the same level of dogmatism.
What I’m calling for is a ‘naked Christianity’. If Christ didn’t teach it, if the Word doesn’t prescribe it, then maybe I can still believe it but I cannot make that belief my dogma.
Christ taught us that we should build upon a rock so that when the storms of life come, our house will withstand the onslaught.
When a storm hits the natural world, trees with shallow roots are uprooted while those with deeper roots are left standing. Just as a storm ‘shakes’ up a tree to determine whether or not it has what it takes, Christians should test everything we believe and practice against Christ’s teachings. If anything doesn’t pass the test, do we have the courage to abandon our dogmas?
Think for a moment of an image of a beautiful sanctuary. Do you have that picture in your mind? That picture is not found in my religious traditions or dogmas…. My tradition is not to be reduced to something physical that I believe in. No, my tradition is rather a place that I live in…. it is within my soul, the true temple of the living God.