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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Chronological Snobbery and Rootless Christianity

"Chronological snobbery is the presumption, fueled by the modern conception of progress, that all thinking, all art, and all science of an earlier time are inherently inferior, indeed childlike or even imbecilic, compared to that of the present." Owen Barfield in Worlds Apart, p. 148 "Chronological snobbery is the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to your own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited." C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy ch. XIII "Chronological snobbery is the arrogant notion that the ideas of our own day are better than the ideas of a bygone day just because they are ideas in our day. It feels that things are truer because they are newer. And so it is both irrational and naive." John Piper, in a sermon dated Sept. 8, 1985. "Chronological snobbery", I believe, is a serious problem today. The idea that whatever is new is right and what is old is irrelevant is totally fallacious. Since when did dating determine whether something was right or wrong? Yet this seems to be the case today, and the consequence to this snobbery has produced a rootless Christianity. Christianity becomes rootless for several reasons. For instance, many Christians today could not explain the pilgrimage of the Church throughout the ages, especially the high points (Patristics, Reformation, Great Awakening, etc.). If the only thing we know of Christianity is what is going on today, then we are the greatest snobs of all. Because we live in the 21st century does not entitle us to greater inclination to the truth nor alleviate the responsibility to testify to the truth as others have done before. Another contribution to rootless Christianity is the hype of the trend and the dismissal of trans-generational literature that has influenced folks for ages. For example, why does Bruce Wilkinson sell 6 million books in The Prayer of Jabez and Rick Warren set the record for most hardcover books sold with over 20 million in The Purpose Driven Life? Yet I dare say that they will not remain and longer than the trend does. What about Bunyan's Pilgrim Progress or Augustine's Confessions or Pascal's Pensees? These you won't find on the front shelf of the local Christian bookstore, because we mark what is the latest, greatest fad, not what is rooted in historical greatness. C.S. Lewis offers a (not the only) remedy to chronological snobbery, and that is, every third book your read, let is be a book over a century old. For instance, if I read Piper's Desiring God and Packer's Knowing God, then I will read Calvin's Institutes. And so on. Another help would be to buy a book on church history. I good buy that is easy to read is Justo Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity (two volumes in one by Prince Press). As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "there is nothing new under the sun." For someone to think that there is an "original thought", beware: for he is either ignorant of historical thought or has an idea that for thousands of years the greatest minds didn't think of. Sure, you can come up with your own recipe, but don't think for a second that you came up with the ingredients. Much of the modern-day fascination and glimmering gold-dust will blow away in the breath of time, and we will look back and think, "Why were we so foolish to go along with what seemed to be so right, so 'emergent', so relevant?" In order to bear fruit in our day, we must have well-established roots not only in the Scriptures, but also placing our feet on the paths of those who have pioneered the way, thinking the thoughts that have endured throughout centuries, and read of the lives whose legacy transcended their generation, their modern-day trends to make a mark with which we all are affected. That is one reason why I love biographies. If you compare yourself with those around you or the "norm" of Christianity today, then it would be easy to think you are running the race hard. But check out the lives of William Carey, David Livingstone, Adonirum Judson, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John G. Paton, Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther, David Brainerd, Jim Elliot, etc. These are the folks who are our pace-setters, or at least should be. I look at the paths we are on today, and I fear that American Christianity could be taking the path of least resistance, the path of popular culture, the path of appeasement and capitulation, and this causes me great concern. If we but rid ourselves of the chronological snobbery and see what price has been paid, what blood has been shed, what sacrifices have been made for us to be where we are today, then maybe, just maybe we will repent and turn back to the ways of the Lord, the path of life. A rootless Christianity is as strong as a tumbleweed in the winds of ideological storms and cultural tornadoes. We are left to be swept away. Yet there are giant redwoods who roots are miles deep and forever strong that can and have withstood nature and the passing of time and will survive even us. And there we can find shade and learn the lesson of finitude and brevity of life and leave our snobbishness to truly be 'grounded' in what lasts. We must get past the fluff and see beyond the trends. We must live with more gravity than to be swept away with novelty and niceties. We must know where we have been to have an orientation to know where we are going. We must live our lives with an apprecation of what God has done and long for him to do even more with us as we continue in their train. I leave you with four verses in conclusion: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12) "You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)


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