Friday, September 4, 2009
Repristination VS Faithfulness
Often people like me are accused of repristination (dictionary defines that as restoring to the original state). Those interested in what the Church has believed and taught from the beginning (tradition), in the confessions of the Church that have been normative for doctrine and practice, and the liturgy in which that confession and tradition expresses its life are denigrated as people out of touch with today. In contrast to this are the people who are trying to be faithful to the content of what is believed but creative in its application and life within the Church (these are the missional folks for whom outreach is the primary purpose of the Church).
It strikes me odd that I am accused of repristination. I have no desire to restore the Church to her original state (about 40 AD or so). I welcome and delight in those things which have been added to the faith and life of the Church through the wisdom and faithfulness of the fathers (early and late).
I welcome the creeds and do not want to go back to fighting the battles of the Trinity -- battles which the Church settled through the use of the creeds (Nicene and Athanasian, in particular). I believe we are the richer for these faithful statements of what Scripture teaches and what has been believed by the orthodox in faith from the beginning.
I welcome the development of the liturgy -- the slow, even methodical development of a form and specific words that have left us with the western rite. Not all the accretions were salutary and some downright dangerous but, with any development, the Church must square the new with the old, judge the addition through the lens of her confession to determine what will stay and what will not.
I welcome the addition of the pipe organ and polyphonic music, Gregorian chant, hymn singing, etc. I think that the Church has done a credible job in sifting through the musical forms to discern what is appropriate and beneficial to the life of the Church and the individual Christians within the Body.
I do not want to go backward to some scholarly ideal or sentimental golden age. BUT I also want faithfulness. I want the new to be judged by the faithfulness proven within the old. Truly we are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition and each age will add to this living body of confession, liturgy, and life... but within the parameters of Scripture and slowly, even deliberately, and not willy nilly.
I do not believe in repristinating some past era but I do believe in faithfulness. Like Pelikan, I believe that the tradition is the living faith of the dead and traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. I also believe that in this way the dead are given voice and vote within the Church today, though not an arbitrary one.
I am not in favor of repristination but I am in favor of faithfulness, honest faithfulness that takes what has been received and tends it faithfully and passes it on faithfully to those who come after us.