Remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done.

Isaiah 46:9-10a (NRSV)

It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to his Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. … I find no salvation in my life history but only in the history of Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

The nations of the world make history and think what they do matters. But [biblical] Israel knows that it is God who makes history, and it is the reality formed in response to God's will which is history.

Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity

The real business of tradition is not the securing of the past, but the ensuring of a future. Only when we know how the story has run to this point can we responsibly decide how the plot might now unfold.

Luke Timothy Johnson, Scripture & Discernment

Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, Vol. 1

Every tradition is a collective memory.

Peter L. Berger, The Heretical Imperative

Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Breaking with the past is part of our past. Leaving tradition behind runs all the way through our [American] tradition. But how is such a separate self to be shaped and grounded?. … In the absence of any objectifiable criteria of right and wrong, good or evil, the self and its feelings become our only moral guide. … "Being good" becomes "feeling good."

Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart

In the present [20th] century, there have been many prominent intellectual figures who have thought that what we have inherited is as bad as can be but that a society without blemishes is at hand for the making. … Change has become coterminous with progress; innovation has become coterminous with improvement. The notion of doing well what has been done before is not rejected; it is not thought of.

Edward Shils, Tradition

What you have as heritage, take now as task; for thus you will make it your own.

Goethe, Faust

Related Elsewhere:

Christianity Today's sister publication, Christian History, has a section devoted to Movements and Traditions.

Past Reflections columns include:

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