27 July 2006

Tribute to Jaroslav Pelikan

In yesterday's mail was my issue of First Things. The last piece in the "Opinion" section is what I deem a fine tribute to Jaroslav Pelikan by Robert Louis Wilken. Both grew up in the LCMS. Pelikan died in the Orthodox communion, and Wilken is Roman Catholic.

Wilken's tribute begins with a scene from the vigil at the Three Heirarchs' Chapel of St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary prior to the "Divine Service for the Funeral of a Layman During the Forty Days of Pascha." It concludes with a reminiscence of his last converastion with Pelikan while listening to Bach's B-Minor Mass. In between is a fond eulogy commenting on the major highlights of Pelikan's contributions to church history.

Two sentences in that eulogy stand out for me.

[Pelikan's] historical study had convinced him that the most faithful bearer of the apostolic faith was the great tradition of thought and practice as expounded by the orthodox Church Fathers.

Pelikan knew, and his scholarship demonstrated, what many Christian theologians and Church leaders have forgotten, that over the Church's long history, the orthodox and catholic form of Christian faith, what the Church "believes, teaches and confessions on the basis of the Word of God" [from Pelikan's introduction to The Christian Tradition] has been the most biblical, the most coherent, the most enduring, the most adaptable, and, yes, the most true.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide a link to this tribute. But I commend you to get the August/September 2006 issue and read the whole thing for yourself.

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