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The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities Paperback – Sep 10 1986


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (Sept. 10 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300036388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300036381
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.9 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #483,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By matt on Sept. 5 2003
Format: Paperback
Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, stated that tradtion is the democracy of the dead. Pelikan comes to a similar conclusion when he writes that it is the living faith of the dead. Giving your ancestors a vote is something that modern culture, as well as in academia no less, finds a bit untrustworthy. After all, is not progress, that dogma of the modern era, the antithesis of tradition? Not quite, writes Pelikan. Only within the context of a tradtion that has as its hallmark the ability to both hold the person within its embrace while at the same time pointing beyond itself can true progress be both understood as such and achieved, connected to the past and yet living within the potential of new growth. The modern error, and that of so many of the greatest heresies, is that it fails to maintain a connection with the whole. This is the modern iconoclastic temptation- to break the image of the past in the hopes of inventing it anew. It is destined to fall short.
Theologically, for Pelikan, his whole notion of tradition reflects the view of one of his own mentors, Georges Florovsky. For Florovsky, the tradition is nothing less than the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church (see his "Bible, Church and Tradition"). To rebel against tradition properly understood is akin to reinventing the theological wheel, which is the tendancy in Zwinglian American Protestantism.
A fantastic read. You will find it as a key to the underlying stream of thought in all of Pelikan's works.
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Format: Paperback
In the midst of writing his five volume magnum opus The Christian Tradition, noted Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan was invited by the National Endowment for the humanities to deliver the Jefferson Lectures for 1983. The strange juxtaposition of having the noted custodian of tradition deliver lectures named after a famous opponent of tradition was not lost on Pelikan who incorporated this tension in his presentation. The result of those four lectures is compiled in The Vindication of Tradition and gives a clear exposition of the role tradition plays in Western culture - even when it has been explicitly denied.
The four lectures cover different aspects of tradition: rediscovery of tradition, recovery of tradition, tradition as history, and tradition as heritage. Pelikan surveys the insights historical research has given us to the development of tradition and makes clear the fracture with the past that has resulted in its modern rejection.
Pelikan at one point makes a statement designed to shock both those who reject and those who adhere to tradition without proper reflection. Classifying any acceptance of tradition for tradition's sake as "traditionalism", he bluntly states: "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." It is his best known quote, and deservedly so. In one sentence, he has crystallized both the strengths and weaknesses of traditional movements. As a vehicle to explore deeper truths, it is an essential component of the culture. As an end in itself, it is little more than an albatross. When men like Luther, Jefferson, or Emerson rejected tradition as a source of knowledge, they were really rejecting a stifling traditionalism that had taken hold of their cultural environment.
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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
The living faith of the dead! May 18 2000
By Stephen M. Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
That is what proper tradition is, according to Jaroslav Pelikan, and I agree! In many circles, especially evangelical ones, tradition gets a bad rap. Pelikan lays out in easy prose the reasons why tradition is not only proper, but necessary!
It is important to note that the discussion in the book is not focused necessarily on religious tradition, and can be applied to many areas of life. One could successfully argue that many of the problems in today's society is a breakdown in respect for tradition - and it is tradition that binds us with the past and preserves our heritage for the future.
As Pelikan points out, tradition need not be dead in fact, tradition ties us to the beliefs of those who have gone before us in a way that cannot be done without it.
In the end, I would call this a philosophy book, not a theology book, and that gives it, I think, a broader audience. All in all, an excellent little book to help anyone understand the importance of tradition in any community.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Living Faith of the Dead vs. Dead Faith of the Living May 29 2003
By Labarum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the midst of writing his five volume magnum opus The Christian Tradition, noted Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan was invited by the National Endowment for the humanities to deliver the Jefferson Lectures for 1983. The strange juxtaposition of having the noted custodian of tradition deliver lectures named after a famous opponent of tradition was not lost on Pelikan who incorporated this tension in his presentation. The result of those four lectures is compiled in The Vindication of Tradition and gives a clear exposition of the role tradition plays in Western culture - even when it has been explicitly denied.
The four lectures cover different aspects of tradition: rediscovery of tradition, recovery of tradition, tradition as history, and tradition as heritage. Pelikan surveys the insights historical research has given us to the development of tradition and makes clear the fracture with the past that has resulted in its modern rejection.
Pelikan at one point makes a statement designed to shock both those who reject and those who adhere to tradition without proper reflection. Classifying any acceptance of tradition for tradition's sake as "traditionalism", he bluntly states: "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living." It is his best known quote, and deservedly so. In one sentence, he has crystallized both the strengths and weaknesses of traditional movements. As a vehicle to explore deeper truths, it is an essential component of the culture. As an end in itself, it is little more than an albatross. When men like Luther, Jefferson, or Emerson rejected tradition as a source of knowledge, they were really rejecting a stifling traditionalism that had taken hold of their cultural environment. Any living tradition embodies the best of its cultural heritage. Dead traditionalism holds its culture hostage.
These lectures are a brilliant apologia for the role of tradition in society. Although here it is considered in a more general cultural context and not the specific case of the Tradition of the Church, the principles also apply to the Church and examples are explored. For any Christian trying to understand how knowledge is handed down through tradition, The Vindication of Tradition is indispensable.
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
the democracy of the dead Sept. 5 2003
By matt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It was with a mixture of sadness and joy that I received the news last week that Dr. Pelikan had passed away from cancer. Being the father of modern theological history, Pelikan won his readers over with a direct, if not often dry, style that nonetheless gave strong opinions. The main thrust of his writing is contained in this little gem of a book, namely, that we have to understand the meaning and value of tradition if we are to understand our present context and our future course of action. And it is with a hope in this tradition of the Church that I wish Dr. Pelikan rest in the presence of the Fathers and "may his memory be eternal," now that his own voice has been added to the democracy of the dead.

Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, stated that tradtion is the democracy of the dead. Pelikan comes to a similar conclusion when he writes that it is the living faith of the dead. Giving your ancestors a vote is something that modern culture, as well as in academia no less, finds a bit untrustworthy. After all, is not progress, that dogma of the modern era, the antithesis of tradition? Not quite, writes Pelikan. Only within the context of a tradtion that has as its hallmark the ability to both hold the person within its embrace while at the same time pointing beyond itself can true progress be both understood as such and achieved, connected to the past and yet living within the potential of new growth. The modern error, and that of so many of the greatest heresies, is that it fails to maintain a connection with the whole. This is the modern iconoclastic temptation- to break the image of the past in the hopes of inventing it anew. It is destined to fall short.

Theologically, for Pelikan, his whole notion of tradition reflects the view of one of his own mentors, Georges Florovsky. For Florovsky, the tradition is nothing less than the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church (see his "Bible, Church and Tradition"). To rebel against tradition properly understood is akin to reinventing the theological wheel, which is the tendancy in Zwinglian American Protestantism.

A fantastic read. You will find it as a key to the underlying stream of thought in all of Pelikan's works.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Great Read April 20 2012
By Thankful - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This little volume is well crafted. Pelikan always seems to reward the time we spend pursuing his line of thought. Scholarship is often soulless. But Pelikan was a true seeker. His pursuit became more and more personal. This makes him a resource, and a friend, that deserves our respect and attention. As I age and my time for reading becomes more precious, his works remain among those worth consulting.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tradition not Traditionalism Feb. 17 2013
By BlueJay590 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jaroslav Pelikan seeks to preserve the value of Christian tradition as a means of understanding the diverse historical, cultural and philosphical sources, both canonical and non-canonical, that have contributed to modern-day Christianity as revealed through the varied belief structures of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the numerous Protestant denominations. Pelikan simply wants people to know about those traditions and how they have shaped Christianity over the past centuries; he neither promotes nor condones "traditionalism" or, tradition for the sake of tradition - he simply wishes to show the significant impact that the various religious traditions have had on Christianity in a theological and historical sense and why Christian doctrine, dogma, and ritual are what they have become today as a result of those traditions.


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