Chronological Snobbery

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

  • Luke 24:40-49

“’Why – damn it – it’s medieval,’ I exclaimed; for I still had all the chronological snobbery of my period and used the names of earlier periods as terms of abuse… Barfield made short work of what I have called my ‘chronological snobbery,’ the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.  You must find why it went out of date.  Was it refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do?  If the later, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood.  From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also ‘a period,’ and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions.  They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them…  We had been, in the technical sense of the term, ‘realists;’ that is, we accepted as rock-bottom reality the universe revealed by the senses… We maintained that abstract thought (if obedient to logical rules) gave indisputable truth.”

  • C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

From the Scripture, we get a slight difference in Jesus’ last instructions than we do in Matthew with the Great Commission.  The instructions are there to preach the Gospel to the world, but Luke’s focus in the beginning of his version of Jesus’ parting words is that He did not come to destroy the Old Testament (to borrow our term for it), but to fulfill it, giving several key points that could be found in the Old Testament.

But, like C. S. Lewis in his confession, quoted above, we have far too many people who say that they do not believe in the Old Testament or even the ‘God of the Old Testament.’  God, in the Old Testament is angry all the time.  No, they have to cherry pick Biblical stories to believe that.  There is war and death in the Old Testament.  True, but the Old Testament stretches hundreds and hundreds of years, while the New Testament story stretches maybe 70 years from the birth of Jesus to the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul.  The Apostle John may not have added his writings by that point, but 70 years encompasses the historical period, a time of peace under armed oppression.  Yet, war immediately followed the narrative.  Many people feel that John’s Revelation was made a reality, in part at least, by the Jewish rebellion starting in 66AD with the temple destruction in 70AD.  Also, Jesus speaks of war and that war will continue.  In fact, Jesus establishes the battle lines within families.  Christianity has always been in conflict with the present world view, although the present world view continues to change.

Just look at the C. S. Lewis quote.  Surprised by Joy was published in 1955 and is Lewis’ testimony of becoming a Christian.  He says something insightful in this quote that bears repeating.  Lewis characterizes his chronological snobbery as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”  He uses ‘medieval’ as an epithet, but with the difference in attention spans from 1955 to the present day, an equal epithet could be ‘that was so yesterday.’  We simply do not reason anymore; we simply accept what we hear.

While I can get upset with calling Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all time, the GOAT if you will, when I grew up in the age of Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, and my favorite Johnny Unitas, my elder might say I was off base, forgetting Otto Graham or ‘Slinging’ Sammy Baugh or even older greats.  I was impressed the other day that someone had written an article on Pete Maravich being the greatest point guard of all time in basketball.  There were earlier ones of note, but Pistol Pete has been gone for some time, dying much too early.  I wrote earlier this week about the ’30 Greatest Comedians of all time’ as written by a modern columnist with a coarse, crude, edgy agenda.  In my rant, I left out Groucho Marx and Abbott and Costello, and more.  Forget the greatest of all time lists, if you limit your field of vision and buy into the idea that today and today’s values are all that matter and yesterday doesn’t count.

It seems in this day of instant news over the Internet and short attention spans that we have lost our ability to do as Lewis warns above.  We have lost our ability for critical thinking.  We have become tumbleweeds, blowing as the media directs.  At some point, when we have lived out our value as entertainment, these media moguls will come from the shadows and discard us, just as they do the tumbleweeds.

But how does Jesus handle this issue?  How did Jesus prove that He was the Messiah when asked by John the Baptist’s messengers?  In Luke 7:22, He tells them that the blind see and the deaf hear.  Jesus is not bragging here.  He is doing what He often did, quoting Scripture, in this case, Isaiah 29:18.

Is it at all possible that in those “lost years” between Jesus’ birth and the start of His ministry that He and His cousin, John, could have studied the Scriptures together at a family reunion?  Could it be that these two young boys created a secret code between each other?  Not much of a code if you know Scriptures, but when you are talking about being the Messiah, you do not come along and ignore the Old Testament – at the time, the Scriptures.  It would be impossible to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies by totally ignoring them.

No, the Old Testament is important to study in great detail.  We need to find those glimpses of Jesus throughout.  We need to see the stumbles of the Biblical greats from Moses striking a rock and exclaiming that he and Aaron were tired of dealing with you people (thus ignoring the fact that God was in control) to David having a fling with Bathsheba.  We need to note the “Don’t do that” moments of the Old Testament or we’ll be doomed to do that ourselves.

In reading Think Big by Ben Carson, he said that he daily reads a bit of Proverbs.  If there was ever a wise man who became wiser after he had ‘royally’ screwed up, it was Solomon.  I agree with Carson.  We can learn a lot at the feet of such people – the flawed heroes of the Old Testament.

And the ‘good’ in people can also be learned in the Old Testament.  I have listened to sermons and read Bible studies about the screw ups of David.  I have even made the same statement.  “David screwed up royally, but he was ‘the man after God’s own heart.’”  Okay, if that is so, dig into the Scriptures and figure out why he was a man after God’s own heart.  If we could do that, we would probably grow in faith by leaps and bounds.  We would learn how to be a lot more like Jesus.

Forget the epithets of ‘that is so yesterday, or so 90s.’  What does the modern world view have against yesterday or the 90s?  I fear that it is much as Lewis surmised, that the issue revolves around outdated fashion rather than sound reasoning.  Call me a Neanderthal if you wish.  I will take that as a compliment if it means that I can learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others and from that grow to be more like Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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