How Do Dusty Traditions Become Dusty Traditions?

Recently a sixteen-year-old visited another PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church. Occasionally he will watch a live stream of his uncle preaching and several times he has been at weddings in which his grandfather officiated. As a result of his most recent visit to another church, he posed a question to his father. “Why does Pastor __________ Uncle _____________ and grandfather wear a rob to preach?

His father shared his answer to this question. It was something like this. That is a tradition that even precedes the Reformation. But I am not entirely sure I have a full answer. The father then made this observation, “The PCA has not done a good job of teaching the meaning of our traditions like this and the order of a worship service. Hence, we do not pass it on because we do not know and after while we do not do it because it has no meaning.”

This discussion reminded me of my seminary days at a seminary of Reformed tradition. We were taught how to build an orderly service, but there was neither biblical nor theological rationale for the order. It was, unfortunately, cultural tradition. Cultural traditions get mutilated when there is no structural rationale for them. Just watch the morning worship service online of multiple Presbyterian churches and this will become self-evident.

How Did I Lose Honoring the Constitution?

The same reality is observed on the political front. My wife and I were recently discussing the contemporary ignorance of traditional American civics at both the educator level and the general populace level. I recalled my freshman Social Studies class at what was then consider the third best school system in PA. I can remember asking this question, “Why should we care about a dusty document?” The document in question was the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the teacher’s response was this. “It is our form of government.” My not so smart response was, “Ok, so what makes it better than any other country?”

My point is simply this. That teacher was not much of a teacher, and she missed a grand opportunity. Oh, how I wish her response would have been, “Howard, that is a great question! I am not sure you will get that question completely answered in this one question, but we are going to make some good progress. I am going to give you several things to read, and I am going to count on you to help me help the rest of the class get a good grasp on the answer. Will you help me?”

How Did I Came to Value the Constitution?

It was four years later, after I became a Christian, that the question was fully answered for me. As a Christian, because we had a great lay leader of our Teenage Club, a Christian group started by this fellow and his wife, I learned that the Bible was the Constitution of Jesus’ kingdom. Suddenly, that translated to the American Constitution. And then, my freshman year in college in History of Western Civilization, I realized that the American Constitution was informed by the Bible.

How Can We Characterize the Current Disposition?

In a WORLD Opinions essay, Erin Hawley poses a question revealing what’s at stake: “Do the Constitution’s structural protections disappear in the face of a public emergency?” In posing this question, Hawley, gave me the words for a crisp summary of my response to the current Supreme Court case regarding vaccinations.

I am sure you have heard snippets of the liberal arguments. The completely avoid the issue and they play off emotions. The psychological sift in the American mindset underway since the turn of the 20th century from rationale to emotional driven construing of life has now reach full bloom. The left’s argument before the court is “this will save lives” with implication that you judges should ignore law and do what feels right. AKA, abandon this dusty old document and engage in progressive law.

Does the Important Take Precedence Over the Foundation?

Now, saving lives is important. No one can or will argue against that value. However, you don’t do that by abandoning law or the foundation of the law. Nonetheless, the argument appeal to millennials and younger by a great percentage. The question is why? The answer is simple. We have allowed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to become dusty old documents. That attitude has led to ignorance. This ignorance coupled, with the socialization of the populace trained to think with their emotions rather than with a rationale well informed by historical factual knowledge, has generated a citizenry that parallels the church constituency.

What Is the Rescue Plan?

The question now is what is the rescue plan? Unfortunately, there is not just one simply answer, but there are answers both in the church and in the country. Here are some recommendations. They will need two things from each of us. First, repentance for abandoning truth (yes, there is truth) coupled with commitment to changing direction. Second, it will require each of us becoming fully involved in the rescue.

  • Commit to and engage in evangelism
  • Commit to and engage in aggressive discipleship
  • Commit to and engage in learning Christian history and teaching it
  • Commit to and engage in learning real American history
  • Commit to and engage in the local political process
  • Commit to and engage in disseminating truth in everyday life.


All the above should be bathed in two Christian disciplines that honor God and tend keep our minds set on thing above. They are illustrated many places in the Bible. I will point out just one. Writing in the letter to the Colossians Paul lays out fundamental Christian doctrine in chapters 1-4:1. He then bids them:

  • Devote yourselves to prayer
  • Keeping alert, devote yourselves to thanksgiving
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