THE VINDICATION OF TRADITION by Jaroslav Pelikan

THE VINDICATION OF TRADITION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

For Yale historian Pelikan, the vindication of tradition is the vindication of a life's work, since he is the author of the monumental study, The Christian Tradition (four volumes so far). Delivered as the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, this focuses, naturally enough, on the recovery and transmission of religious tradition, understood here not solely as a written tradition but as a body of practices. A case study is made of John Henry Newman, whose study of early Church history led ultimately to his conversion to Catholicism; having recovered Christian tradition, Newman felt he had to act on that recovery and convert. This case study is the essence of what Pelikan means by tradition: an icon, as he calls it, that ""does not present itself as coextensive with the truth it teaches, but does present itself as the way that we who are its heirs must follow if we are to go beyond it--through it, but beyond it--to a universal truth that is available only in a particular embodiment."" Pelikan observes that the development of historical methods in the 19th century undermined what Jefferson and Emerson called traditions; but he also distinguishes between traditionalism, the blind faith in accepted truths, and tradition, which is an active process. It is traditionalism, he says, that gives tradition a bad name. With scholars like Pelikan, history and tradition are reconciled. A small work with big themes, handled expertly.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press