Theologian Jaroslav Pelikan said: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
Let me explain.
Tradition is the “living faith of the dead.” It’s a reference to the dynamic and life-changing Christian faith of those who have gone on before us, and which we remember through certain meaningful traditions.
Traditionalism, on the other hand, is the “dead faith of the living.” It’s a reference to people just going through the motions of certain traditions without (a) knowing the meaning behind what they’re doing, or (b) demonstrating any significant life-changing faith.
In light of this, we’re entering Advent. Put it together with Christmas and it’s a season thick with traditions.
But do our traditions mean anything? Are they dead traditionalism? Or are they living tradition?
Today I want to encourage you to make your traditions meaningful and alive. The way you do that is to:
(a) Talk about the meaning behind what you’re doing
(b) Live differently as a result
-Do you set up an advent wreath but don’t talk about what it means?
-Do you set up a nativity scene but don’t talk about the characters?
-Do you talk about God’s love for the world but don’t provide for the poor?
Speaking to the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Matthew 15:3, Jesus said, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” Knowing that traditions can be powerful forces which distract us from what’s truly important, Jesus offered a warning not to blindly buy into traditions while neglecting God’s commands.
We don’t worship traditions. We worship God. So make your traditions meaningful by (a) talking about what they mean, and (b) living differently as a result.
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
By Matthew Ruttan
-Bible quotes are from the New International Version.