Chronological snobbery was one of the obstacles that CS Lewis had to overcome on his road to believing in Christianity. According to him, chronological snobbery is “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”
In essence, then, it’s the assumption that a 2,000 year old religion had nothing to say to a 20th century man. That kind of faith was a relic; it’s gone out of style as men have progressed in their thinking, knowledge and attitudes. Underlying chronological snobbery is the idea that old is bad. New is good. Because we are always evolving and discovering and becoming more and more sophisticated.
I would imagine Lewis would look around in the 21st century and still see the effect of chronological snobbery. It’s underlying our short attention spans. Our fascination with technology. Our apparent inability to step back and ask, “But should we?” when we are presented with a positive answer to the question, “Can we?” We – all of us to one degree or another – worship at the idol of the flashy and new, and as we bow down, we are simultaneously and subconsciously claiming that if something is old, it is not as good as something that is new.
This kind of snobbery is destructive in a host of ways to our faith:
- We hold to an old, and unchanging, source of truth.
- We worship a God that is not evolving but is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
- Though considered outdated and antiquated by our culture, we believe and practice the same morals and virtues that centuries of believers have before us.
The list could go on. It’s worth considering, as we think about that list, that there is a danger to discipleship that comes with chronological snobbery. In our condescension, we look for some new methodology or quick fix to spiritual growth, but there’s not one. Growth in Christ is slow. Steady. Incremental. It’s not built primarily on flashy experiences, but rather on the more seemingly mundane choices of the day. This is how Paul described growing in Christ – not as something exciting, but as a methodical process akin to that of athletic training:
Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Despite what the training montages in the Rocky movies might lead you to believe, being an athlete is hard work. It’s not accomplished in 5 minutes and it’s not usually done to the soundtrack of Survivor. Staying in top shape requires waking up at 4 a.m. every morning and going to bed early every night; having a plan for what you eat and how you spend your time; making sure that all the small choices in life point to the one goal. That’s the metaphor Paul chose for growing in Christ – it’s an athletic contest, not a magic show where doves come flying out of a hat.
As much as we might long for something new and different, something more exciting and fresh, God is still vitally concerned that we make the everyday, run of the mill choices of faithfulness because we desire the same thing that He does – to more and more resemble His Son. Further, these are the same choices, though in a different context, that people have been making (or not making) for thousands of years.
Many of us, in an effort to spice things up a little bit, have abandoned thinking deeply about and struggling with these choices. Similarly, we have abandoned the everyday practices of saints of the past, looking for something a little bit more modern and progressive. So we find ourselves as chronological snobs, bowing down to the idol of excitement all while claiming to be seeking after the living God.
We don’t need something new. We need something old. We need to do the same things that saints of old have been doing in order to deepen our understanding and apprehension of the greatness of God. We need to see that it’s not some kind of secret formula or latest methodology that exposes the myth of the ordinary. Instead it’s through these means of grace that many of us have cast aside as outdated and legalistic that God has chosen to deepen our relationship and experience with Him.