Chronological Snobbery

“Chronological Snobbery” is a term C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield came up with to describe people’s assumptions that what’s new is better than what’s new, especially regarding philosophy and religion.  We see this all the time, especially when people say things like, “The Bible was written thousands of years ago.  Back then they believed Apollo brought the sun up in a chariot and that the earth was flat!  Clearly, the Bible has nothing to do with us today.”

But why?  Can’t we look at what people throughout history have accomplished and see the brilliance they displayed?  Consider the Egyptian architects who designed the pyramids.  Consider the people who “invented” paper… seriously!

Today, we build on what has already been built for us.  How arrogant and prideful to assume that we’re always right whenever we come across with something “old” that we disagree with.

C.S. Lewis suggested in one of his books that we read two old books for every new book.  I’ve always really liked that suggestion, even though I haven’t done a great job in seeing it through.

As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:10, ” Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”

A few questions this forces me to ask:

  • How does this relate to children listening to their parents (and their parents listening to their parents, too!)?
  • What would our country look like if we really learned from history?
  • What would the Church and Christians look like if we studied the lives of men and women throughout the centuries?
  • Are we even aware of the extent of our own pride in thinking that we “know better” than all the generations before us?

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