Saturday, August 21, 2010

James Kalb on Tradition

"We follow the tradition of our community because tradition and community are basic to being human," says the traditionalist conservative thinker — What is it to Accept Tradition? An excerpt:
    People who live by a tradition normally respond to imperfections and changes that become troublesome by trying to maintain the tradition's substance. They focus on the understandings and practices that seem most important, and change less important ones that seem at odds with the basic goods the tradition points toward. A tradition is not at bottom a collection of rules, all equal to each other, but an understanding of the world and how to live in it. Some parts are more important than others, the tradition is always directed to goods that trump particular practices, and there's always some flexibility in how to reconcile practice and goal.

    Religious reformers provide an example. They may complain about popular traditions but do so in the name of older and more authoritative traditions. They appeal from the practices of the Pharisees to the law of Moses and the prophets. Even evangelists appeal to the traditions of those they are addressing. Justin Martyr saw the seeds of the Logos in Greek tradition. Paul didn't tell the Athenians to give up Athenian culture, he quoted their poets and said he was there to tell them about the God their altars pointed toward. And in our own time Benedict annoyed some people by saying that "Christ was the savior for whom [the American Indians] were silently longing."

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Anonymous Pints in NYC said...

I think C. S. Lewis sums it up perfectly when he says:

"I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole word is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest one, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic- there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others."

- Mere Christianity

11:37 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I read the book years ago and happy to be reminded of such a great quote.

1:46 AM  

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