The American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson is quotable if he is anything at all. His poems, reflections and sheer good sense, mixed with the truly odd at times, are still worth consideration.

I reflected a great deal this past week upon one of his greatest and most commonly cited lines:

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

I find a "foolish consistency" all too common among conservative Christians who would remove the mystery of divine revelation in order to protect what they have come to think of as essential. Usually this fear is rooted in the ignorance of the Christian tradition, not in real knowledge of the truly important matters. Knowing the Christian tradition will actually allow you to know what truly matters and what doesn’t. It will also provide for you a North Pole to which your life’s compass will return time and time again.

It is best that you learn to resist foolish consistency sooner than later. It will definitely free you to worship and ponder the impenetrable mysteries of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

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  1. Andy November 9, 2005 at 5:17 pm

    Great thought John. Now, one question. What would be a great source for someone to learn about Christian history and tradition in a limited time frame?

  2. Paul Whiting November 10, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    Andy, to answer your question:
    I suggest Jaroslav Pelikan’s five-volume ‘The Christian Tradition’ is still as good a source as any for learning about “Christian history and tradition in a limited time frame.”

  3. John Armstrong November 10, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    I agree with Paul about Pelikan, though it is not always elegantly written. It remains the gold standard.

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