The Democracy of the Dead

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.” - G K Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 4

What does this mean? When we are discussing changes in church practice, particularly when they steer a wide berth of historic church practices, we need to listen to all the voices, especially those not in the room who may have spoken their last many years ago. lex orandi lex credendi - changes in our practice cast a different light on the unchangeable, immutable word of God. And the reverse - the word of God casts light on God-pleasing practice! Our ancestors from the time of Christ have built up rites of worship and their rubrics such that it teaches the orthodox faith, and everything points back to Christ. Minor corrections are made with time and occasionally large corrections are made (Luther's revision of the Mass in 1523 exorcised the Cannon but otherwise kept the medieval mass with minor directives).

We can't simply incorporate "evangelical style" or technology into our worship practice without changing the way we present Christ. Listening to our ancestors is a corrective to keep us steadfast in His word and is obedience to our fathers by way of the fourth commandment.