Formed in the Tradition

Thinking of raising Christian children (in the light of St. Silouan’s family experience), I offer these few thoughts. The Nativity season offers many opportunities for families to be guided by Holy Tradition – just as we are also swamped by the distorting demands of commercial culture. May God guard our children and keep us all by His grace.


Sometime back, I watched a group of linguistic-psychologists (of varying sorts) in a panel discussion (CSPAN). All of them were involved in advising political campaigns. What they know about the science of language and how people actually make decisions versus how we would like to think we make decisions was staggering. Among the most staggering of agreed pieces of data was that 98% of the process of so-called rational decisions are actually unconscious. That is to say, that most of what goes into a rational decision is something that is far deeper than rationality (rationality turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg and not a very big tip at that.)

Thus, it would seem when it comes to reading Scripture, it is likely the case that most of what we think of as “interpretation” is also beneath the surface of rationality (and thus beneath the surface of “literalism” or the “plain sense”). All of this knowledge has a frightening aspect when considering politics – but a confirming aspect when considering our religious world. It argues all the more strongly for the role of Tradition, Liturgy, the many things that we engage in that are not strictly “Scripture interpretation.” It is not until the heart itself is reformed (that place where some very large percentage of our thoughts and decisions are made) that our reading will actually be changed. If the heart is not being rather consciously (on the part of the Church) formed by the pracatices we have been given (prayer, fasting, almsgiving, veneration of icons, crossing oneself, etc.) then it is likely being formed by something else. It seems that we will either be formed by the Tradition of the Christian Church or by the traditions of modern mammon. Thus I will gladly entrust myself to the Church.

Apparently Romans 12:1-2 does not have any middle ground.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





9 responses to “Formed in the Tradition”

  1. […] Visit link: Formed in the Tradition « Glory to God for All Things […]

  2. mike Avatar

    ..interesting post Father stephen…the use of NLP techniques employed in the ‘persuasion” businesss is not widely known by the public in general but are utilized daily in business practices as well as political and government propaganda efforts..neural linguistic programming is just one of the many psych ops in use…As far as the influence of the unconscious mind on decision making is concerned an excellent book titled:”Strangers to ourselves”/discovering the adaptive unconscious: by Timothy D. Wilson offers some valuable insights on the subject…i understand your view of how relying on the traditions of the church could save us from falling into many modern errors but as a former protestant and seeker im faced with the dilemna of WHOSE ancient tradition to follow..Catholic or Orthodox of which both espouse their “rightness”…..

  3. Ibn Battenti Avatar
    Ibn Battenti

    Excellent point mike. I would without hesitation say that the answer to this thorny issue (as it may sometimes appear) is found through prayer (individual and communal) but also in wisdom — and she, without a doubt, is justified by her children…

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    “Tradition” functions very differently within Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Modernity plays a major role within contemporary Catholicism – in a manner unlike anything I know within Orthodoxy. Varying reforms have had a way of creating “many versions” of Catholicism. I’m not sure how that experience is accounted for by them.

    Orthodoxy, by its very ecclesiology, requires that Tradition be a continuing, lived experience. It is primarily to be found within the liturgical tradition of the Church. The breakdown of liturgical tradition in the West – both in Protestantism and Rome – would (from an Orthodox perspective) make “tradition” far more academic.

    Thus, there is a real “apples and oranges” issue when it comes to comparison. Those are my (brief) thoughts on the matter.

  5. Lina Avatar

    Mike, I preface this remark by saying that I have only been Orthodox for less than a year. Things I love the best so far are the sense of holiness, confession and forgiveness, the call to holiness, the sense of being part of the whole cloud of witnesses and the timelessness of the liturgy. No fast food services but a lingering banquet that I often don’t want to end.

  6. jjamesd Avatar


    I would offer my lowly “ditto” to Fr. Stephen’s reply, as well as Ibn’s. I would only add that as a former Protestant minister who struggled for over 10 years in that no man’s land of deciding which way to finally go (Rome or Orthodoxy), and having a certain deep appreciation for both, part of the final discernment process for me had to do with an answer to the question, “Which tradition can I trust with my heart, my soul, my life?” in that there comes a point after all the study, prayer, reflection, reading, conversation, and what not (all very necessary, by the way, at least for most) – a point at which one has in a very real sense to get out of the “driver’s seat” of one’s life and yield to the witness and direction of another, or in this case to that of a particular Tradition (without, of course, surrendering one’s personal accountability for the decision, and for continuing discernment).

    When I finally was compelled to stop avoiding that question, the answer became obvious (not at all easy for me, but obvious).

    I was Chrismated in the Orthodox Church this past Holy Saturday.

  7. Cheryl/Miriam Avatar

    I just read a book on this the other day, specifically in how the idea of “liturgy” shapes us (not just liturgies in Church, but “liturgies” in other areas of life as well). The book was called Desiring the Kingdom, by Jamie Smith.

  8. The Dubliner Avatar

    I agree, Fr. Stephen–“Orthodoxy, by its very ecclesiology, requires that Tradition be a continuing, lived experience.”

    Tradition in all sense is returning to start, the setting stones I would say, not a changeable pattern or consistently altering word like “advancement;” by any means, advancement means progress by human standards, which is the anti-history.

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