Saturday, May 17, 2008

on historical arrogance

I went to a party today. The hostess told me, "We LOVE Rob Bell!" I haven't read enough of Bell to make an extended critique - nor do I intend to as he makes my teeth hurt. What I have read is all sentiment and little content, sort of like cotton candy. This whole Emergent thingy strikes me as being one more neoEvangelical fad - and we'll find its effectiveness in making genuine disciples rather than mere sycophants is on a par with Willow Creek's (per their recent admission). The problem is, it takes us far too long to admit these failures. Do you really think there are enough Purpose-driven lives out there to justify Warren's sales figures? Remember the Prayer of Jabez?

And now we'll have to endure endless genuflections at the altar of emergence - until the next fad comes along.

To quote a wise man who lived not so very long ago, "I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid."

He also said this, "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around."


We really ought to read more Chesterton and less Bell.

Kamilla

9 comments:

Fr. Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr. Bill said...

You don't have to read much of Chesterton to get this eerie notion that he's psychic, reading with shocking accuracy the follies of the future. I had this sensation for the first time reading his What's Wrong With the World. He's not just sort of prescient; rather, you'd think he were a time-traveler or something.

The real explanation, I think, is offered by Solomon:

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.


10 Whatever exists has already been named,
and what man is has been known;

Just A Berean said...

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around."

Great quote. Probably 90% of the time, traditions are useless. However, some can be emotionally uplifting. They are just not the end all that people sometimes make them out to be.

Fr. Bill said...

Hi, Berean,

I've read enough Chesterton, recently enough, to be sure that he'd claim 95 percent of tradition is true, and that all of it is both wholesome and flamboyantly useful.

Solomon had another name for tradition: wisdom, that store of moxey about living in the world, usually acquired by pain and suffering, and passed along to future generations to their profit, who receive it as good stuff handed down to them.

Indeed, 99 percent of what a fiveyear old knows is pure tradition, undiluted by any experience (since the experience which would dilute it is beyond is ability to ... well, experience).

Wasn't there a book published a few years ago entitled something like "Everything Important I Know I learned in Kindergarten?"

Stacy McDonald said...

Good post - and congrats on your blog, Kamilla! I'll look forward to visiting regularly!

Just A Berean said...

Hello, fr.bill. I guess that depends on what kinds, types and quantities of traditions one is thinking of. Great beard BTW. Is the fr. for Friar as in a priest?

If so, I can understand somewhat of where you are thinking in types of traditions. Most traditions are not a matter of true or false, but simply favored routines. At least not the kind I'm thinking of. And favored routines are often basically useless in the grand scheme of life.

However, in our family even useless traditions such as a ceremonial putting of the Star on top of the tree, had its perks. I guess traditions have their perks or they wouldn't become traditions, would they. :) Its good to change traditions and make new ones before the old ones just become some outmoded duty that has lost its flavor.

Kamilla said...

Berean,

Thanks for stopping by.

Have you read Chesterton? Since he was an adult convert to Roman Catholicism, I think we can hardly read him as advocating changing for the sake of change, as you seem to.

You can read quite a bit of Chesterton in bits and pieces here:

www.chesterton.org

I hope Fr. Bill won't mind answering for him - It is Father, not "friar". He is an Anglican, as am I.

Kamilla

Fr. Bill said...

Thanks, Kamilla, for explicating "fr." It's an abbreviation for Father, which is the usual term of address used by those in my ecclesial community, or by those who respect its customs.

"Customs," Berean, is another term that catches some of what Chesterton was talking about. Yes, some of what he intends by "tradition" amount to "things we customarily do," and its possible to name some of these whose rationale is lost in the misty fog of the past. But, not all tradition lurks in the mist; and even when it does, its links to the universe are still there, and they still function, even if we can't see them.

The key idea in tradition, as Chesterton defended it, was this: it was handed down. Today, that is the sufficient reason for rejecting it; in his mind, it waqs the sufficient reason to credit it, unless powerful reasons suggest otherwise.

I'd recommend reading the entire work in which this comment from Chesterton is embedded: Orthodoxy. You can find it at this URL:

http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/ortho14.txt

And this is from a much wider collection whose list is found here:

http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/

Michael said...

> "I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid."

Fantastic quotes, Kamilla!

Qualifying as an old man, I suppose, I'm standing by my stupid customs, come what may. Those young whippersnappers can think they're smarter of they want to.

> "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around."

There's definitely a lot of that going around. They've not only trashed tradition, but also forgotten what the traditions were. They're totally adrift, making things up as they go along, and calling it progress, anticipating the next empty fad. Things are upside down -- we have a youth-driven society.

Feminism is just one subset of the pervasive, default "reject-whatever-our-ancestors-thought" crowd.

--Michael