“Some one said: ‘The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.’ Precisely, and they are that which we know.”
-T.S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual
This is an interesting quote, as I’m not familiar with much of Eliot’s writing. It reminds me of what C.S. Lewis said regarding the past in his introduction to Athanasius: On the Incarnation.
I’m curious, what promoted you to post this? Are you studying Eliot, or does this idea apply to something along the lines of what Lewis was implying in his introduction?
Thanks Ryan. I’m not studying Eliot, though I do enjoy his poetry. I stumbled across this essay, and found it wonderful.
Eliot’s point is that innovation in poetry is overrated, and building upon the foundation of your tradition is a necessity. That tradition is what makes poetry and literature meaningful, and we should study it in order to better understand ourselves and create richer literature. Lewis’ point is similar, but goes in a different direction. His is that the past is worth studying because it is presumptuous (and wrong) to suppose that the present has all/most/the best answers and insights.
Thank you for your answer, Cameron. A seminary professor once told me something along the same lines of what Eliot said about poetry. He said if you’ve come to a theological conclusion that is non-existent throughout the history of the Church (i.e. trying to be innovative), you could be right, but you’re most likely very wrong. Although the shade of meaning for Eliot’s quote is different than the context of theology, it is still beneficial for reflection. In other words, it has been helpful to think about the foundation we are built on; the church throughout the centuries, the apostles, the prophets, and Christ himself being the cornerstone. All of these things, although weighted differently, give meaning to theological study. Tradition (history) completely removed from “doing theology” robs theology of its full meaningfulness.
Sorry for my ramblings. This is all to say that your post proved helpful, so thank you!
You’re welcome Ryan. Out of curiosity, seeing as you’re a fellow Michigander, how did you end up on my blog?
I found your blog by searching Google for more information on elder Andrew Brunson. I wanted to read something that was not written by someone in mass media. In my google search your website came up with a brief description, so I decided to open your page. I also realized that we are practically neighbors—after reading your about section—and decided to read some more of your posts.
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Bible Presbyterian Church
Split from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1937, one year after its founding, over the issues of abstinence from alcohol and premillennialism.
Doctrine: Westminster Standards (Premillenial edit)
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Formed by the Scottish immigrants of the Seceder tradition in 1753, the majority merged with the Covenanters in 1782, and then as the United Presbyterian Church of North America merged with the PCUSA in 1956. The remaining Associate Presbyterians form the ARPC of today.
Doctrine: Westminster Standards
North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
World Reformed Fellowship