Chronological Snobbery and the Spirit of Our Age | Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor|8:29 pm CT

Chronological Snobbery and the Spirit of Our Age

J. I. Packer describing the heretical spirit of our age, which holds that:

the newer is the truer,

only what is recent is decent,

every shift of ground is a step forward,

and every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject.

This is what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” (a lesson he learned from his friend Owen Barfield. Lewis defined it like this:

the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.

Lewis explains what’s wrong with this approach:

You must find out why it went out of date.

Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, 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.

Sources:

J. I. Packer, “Is Systematic Theology a Mirage? An Introductory Discussion,” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, ed. John D. Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1991), 21.

C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1966) ch. 13, pp. 207-8

John Owen has been dead for over 300 years. So what?

Can a man who has been dead over 300 years have any relevance or significance to us now? Can anything in his life hold our interest? Although we know little of his life, we have many of his Biblical studies and theological works. These remain as some of the finest theology ever written. But one thing about his life, which stands out, we do know:

He was married 31 years. In that time, his wife bore 11 children, all but one of whom died as a child. The one who lived to adulthood herself died young and childless. In 31 years, John Owen saw the loss of 11 children and his wife. That is an average of one child’s death every three years through 31 years of his life.

His faithfulness as a Christian and as a minister of Christ, through a life of suffering makes him much more “relevant” to me than the “rock star” preachers making the circuit today. God still mightily uses his works today; will anyone a generation from now even know who Jakes, Meyers, Olsteen, Hagee, Crouch, Robertson, et al and ad nauseum were? Will they be found “relevant?”

I challenge anyone reading this to find John Owen’s works, abridged or unabridged, ebook or print, and dig in for some real soul-food. J. I. Packer (someone who will be remembered) credits Owen with saving his spiritual life. God might use Owen’s works for you, too.

QOTD

William Tyndale

TRANSLATOR OF THE FIRST ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT

“Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, or that it is made breaking of the king’s peace, or treason unto his highness, to read the Word of thy soul’s health—for if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes.”

 Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 348.