Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Vindication of Tradition

The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities

Copyright Date: 1984
Published by: Yale University Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Vindication of Tradition
    Book Description:

    In this carefully reasoned book, noted historian and theologian Jaroslav Pelikan offers a moving and spirited defense of the importance of tradition."Magisterial…. Ought not to be missed."-M.D. Aeschliman,National Review"A soulstirring selfanalysis, no less than a distillation of the lifework of the living historian best qualified to provide solutions to those 'Tradition versus BibleOnly' controversies that have plagued Christianity since the Reformation."-L.K. Shook,Canadian Catholic Review"Admirably concise and penetrating."-Merle Rubin,The Christian Science Monitor"It takes a scholar thoroughly steeped in a subject to be able to write with lucidity and charm about its traditions. When the scholar is Dr. Pelikan, the result is a kind of classic, something sure to become a standard text for an interested public."-Northrop Frye"Wit, grace, style, and wisdom vie with knowledge. A rare combination, delightful to mind and memory. Recommended broadly for scholarly and general use on many levels, and especially among theology students, undergraduate and graduate."-Choice"Pelikan's customary erudition, wit, and gracious style are evident throughout this stimulating volume."-Harold E. Remus,Religious Studies Review"The book clearly constitutes a unified plea that modern society finds ways and means to recapture the resources of the past and to overcome its fear of the tyranny of the dead."-Heiko A. Oberman,Times Literary SupplementJaroslav Pelikan is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. Among his many books areJesus Through the Centuriesand the multivolume workThe Christian Tradition.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15816-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ONE The Rediscovery of Tradition: A Progress Report
    (pp. 3-20)

    Perhaps as appropriate a way as any to identify the theme of these Jefferson Lectures would be to begin with an anecdote from Richard Altman’s story of howFiddler on the Roofevolved from the stories of Sholom Aleichem into the Broadway musical and worldwide success it eventually became:

    I don’t know who finally made the discovery that the show was really about the disintegration of a whole way of life, but I do remember that it was a surprise to all of us. And once we found that out—which was pretty exciting—[Jerome] Robbins said,“Well, if it’s...

  5. TWO The Recovery of Tradition: A Case Study
    (pp. 23-40)

    Throughout the discussion of tradition in my first lecture I have been careful to speak aboutrediscovery, not aboutrecovery, for the two are by no means the same. There have been many, particularly in the nineteenth century and since, for whom the rediscovery and the critical study of a tradition that they had been affirming uncritically has led to the repudiation of that tradition, when for the first time they have recognized, with a shock, just what they had been reciting and doing. I recall staying at a Benedictine monastery shortly after the repeal of the law requiring that...

  6. THREE Tradition as History: An Apologia
    (pp. 43-62)

    I am not altogether certain that Thomas Jefferson would have approved of a series of lectures in his honor that bore the title “The Vindication of Tradition”—which is a nice way of saying that I am altogether certain that Mr. Jefferson would have disapproved. For tradition was to him chiefly a hindrance, not a help, in the enhancement of life, the protection of liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As our premier historian of the American experience has observed,

    The Jeffersonian was not confined by any particular tradition: he had sought to reform the Christian tradition, he had disavowed...

  7. FOUR Tradition as Heritage: A Vindication
    (pp. 65-82)

    Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name. The reformers of every age, whether political or religious or literary, have protested against the tyranny of the dead, and in doing so have called for innovation and insight in place of tradition. In his first book,Nature, published in 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson put their protest and their call into one question: “Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition?”...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 83-93)