Chronological Snobbery

“Stand at the crossroads and look…”

It’s not uncommon to hear people say, “That’s old fashioned,” “We don’t want old ideas, we want new ideas,” or “That’s old school.” Such comments reveal our inclination to believe that old ideas are outdated and nearly useless.

The great Christian thinker and writer C. S. Lewis struggled for years before coming to belief in the Christian faith. Arthur W. Lindsley, Senior Fellow at the C. S. Lewis Institute, writes that Lewis wondered, “How could this ancient religion be relevant to my present setting?” Lindsley also writes, “This was one of the obstacles that C. S. Lewis had to overcome in order to come to faith in Christ. He dubs the problem as one of ‘chronological snobbery.’”

“That Old-Time Religion” was a gospel song that appeared around 1873. The lyrics, “Give me that old-time religion… it’s good enough for me,” have been sung by countless people and by such artists as Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. But the fact that it’s an “old-time” religion seems to make the historic Christian faith less appealing to many, as it did at first for C. S. Lewis.

When you really think about it, though, there are many old ideas and ways of doing things that still hold up with the passing of time. Who hasn’t pondered the ancient pyramids of Egypt and asked, “How in the world did they build them?” Do we really think we are smarter than people generations ago? We’d be hard pressed to prove it.

C. S. Lewis, a scholar who taught English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge, eventually came to the conclusion that ancient writings were worth taking seriously, particularly the ancient Biblical texts. He became convinced that the Biblical texts taught ultimate truth.

As a preacher for about 40 years, I’m so glad I didn’t have to come up with a new idea each week for a sermon. In fact, I better NOT have come up with a new idea! I believe, along with countless millions, that the old idea, a message preached for over 2,000 years, is as true now as ever, and that it can’t be improved on! The best I tried to do as a preacher was proclaim this wonderful old message in a fresh way.

It’s like C. S. Lewis said, it’s snobbery to think that something old is not worth taking seriously today. It’s a relief to know that we don’t have to try and come up with some new truth by which to live. The truth has been there all along. We just have to make it relevant for our lives today!

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” Jeremiah 6:16a


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