I did not say those words. Dr. Dean Wenthe said them. They are wise words from a wise man. How much damage has been done by our failure to know and recall the past and judge all things from the moment? Expediency seems ever so reasonable and beneficial but it is a dark hole without the light of the fathers in the faith and our larger perspective of God and His mighty acts of deliverance that culminate in His Son's incarnation, death, and resurrection.
Henry Ford famously said "history is bunk" and it helped him lose the market dominance Ford once had and the company has been playing catch up ever since. Ford is not without his followers who wonder why we should be concerned with something in our yesterdays when there are so many things (good and bad) to occupy our todays. It is not merely that those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it but those who forget what God has done have no idea whether to trust His wisdom now or to be patient as He unfolds His divine will before them. The world has always been enamored of new things but in the Church we are rightfully wary of those without a long memory.
Nowhere is this epidemic of concern for the new and this amnesia regarding the past more true than in the modern day university. Look at the catalog of nearly all universities and you find shameless pandering to the youthful illusion that nothing old is worthwhile. We have given our children a disability by failing to impart to them both a knowledge of and an appreciation for what went before them. Instead the best we can offer is an encouragement to seize the day and trust their feelings -- hardly more than a recipe for disaster! In our forgetfulness, we have left the world with naked desire to lead them and no vision more clear than what they think or feel in the moment.
This should not be the case in seminaries but it is. Not only have the teachers encouraged skepticism in their students but they have raised doubt that anything real can be known about Jesus or of Him -- so spiritual without being religious has become the ordinary face of the educated and those who teach them. Such is the case in seminaries across America that those once charged with confirming the assurance of what was taught have become incubators of doubt in which the Word of the Lord that endures forever has taken second place to thoughts, feelings, and questions. While this is not the case in the LCMS, we can never presume such orthodoxy. Every generation must learn from the generations that went before, telling the age old stories of God's mighty acts of deliverance that gave way to the revelation of His one and only Son for us and our salvation. Every blossom of youth must learn to revere and honor the legacy of the saints who went before, thus ensuring the faithful confession, witness, and liturgy will not be an orphan nor barren but one of many who pass on to the future the sacred deposit from the past.
Tradition is no mere ornament but one of the many means for the Gospel itself to be sustained and its faithful teaching and preaching ensured for the benefit of those yet to come. For the Gospel itself is at risk when the Church forgets her past, doubts the reliability of what has been passed on to her by those who went before, and becomes preoccupied with the present moment. We must do more than pray, we must also teach so that the saints who went before may raise their voices to guide the saints to come, just as the witness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was passed down to their sons, daughters, and grandchildren. Or we will need new John the Forerunners to arise and call us to repentance and new Luthers to restore a hidden Gospel to prominence again.