Chronological Snobbery


     “I have called…”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the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date.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 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.”
     – C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (207-208)


    “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.””


     “…But how does [Hillary Clinton] know what “history” will do? And what makes her think that “history” never makes mistakes? … The spirit of the age is in any case notoriously fickle. You might as well, walking in the mist, take a compass bearing on a mountain goat. What is more, the Church’s foundation documents (to say nothing of its Founder himself) were notoriously on the wrong side of history. The Gospel was foolishness to the Greeks, said St Paul, and a scandal to Jews.”


     “…The youth-centred spirit of the age, in which freshness is more fashionable than faithfulness, innovating inspires people more than imitating, technology trumps tradition, and novelty is confused with creativity. Many still think that the Dylanesque call to change everything your parents stood for is iconoclastic, without noticing that true iconoclasm is to be found when people challenge the deepest convictions of a culture, and (say) teach that children should obey their parents rather than tell them to move over because they don’t understand the world no more. When you add to that the modernist metanarrative of progress (which is not completely dead yet), and the wider social obsession with the possibilities brought by technology, it is easy to see why the view could creep into the church that changing things was Good and conserving things was Bad.”


     “If it’s true, it’s not new; new truth is an oxymoron.”
          – Anonymous


     “And, as the inner life of the Believer thus endures, so, thank God, the outward truth also passes not away. There is not a single Truth of God that is revealed in this blessed Book that shall ever become a lie. There is not one promise there that shall ever be revoked. What God has revealed in His Word is not for yesterday nor for today, alone, but for tomor- row, and until the world’s end and throughout eternity! I know that there are those who would like to see a new Bible, or a revised version of it. I mean a revised version of the original Scriptures to suit their depraved taste! They would gladly have what they call “new developments” and “fresh light” worthy of this “advanced” generation! But, beloved Friends, there is nothing new in theology but that which is false—only the old is true—for the Truth of God must be old, as old as God Himself! So let us rejoice that whatever may happen, and although the fashion of this world shall surely pass away, there is not a single text between the covers of this Book that shall ever lose an atom of its Divine Truth and force. Oh, no! The old Book is not effete and the Revelation it has brought to us will never grow stale! The promises well up with as rich consolation to us today as they did to the first of the martyr-band! The solemn oaths and Covenant of God stand as firm and fast today as when He first gave them to our fathers! So let us cling to the Holy Word and to the doctrines of God’s Grace, for these are among the things that are to abide forever!—
     “Engraved as in eternal brass, the mighty promise shines,
          Nor can the powers of darkness erase, those everlasting lines!
          He that can dash whole worlds to death, and make them when He please—
          He speaks and that almighty breath, fulfils His great decrees!
          His very Word of Grace is strong as that which built the skies.
          The voice that rolls the stars along speaks all the promises!”
     – Charles Spurgeon, The Fashion of This World
     – Isaac Watts, Begin, My Tongue, Some Heav’nly Theme


     “But what else can this [the problematic “critical study of history”] mean but that it was in the eighteenth century that man began to axiomatically to credit himself with being superior to the past, and assumed a standpoint in relation to it whence he found it possible to set himself up as a judge over past events according to fixed principles, as well as to describe its deeds and to substantiate history’s own report? And the yardstick of these principles, at least as applied by the typical observer of history living at that age, has the inevitable effect of turning that judgment of the past into an extremely radical one. For the yardstick is quite simply the man of the present with his complete trust in his own powers of discernment and judgment, with his feeling for freedom, his desire for intellectual conquest, his urge to form and his supreme moral self-confidence.
     What historical facts, even, can be true except those which to the man of the age seem psychologically and physiologically probable, or at any rate not improbable? How, in face of such firm certainty about what was psychologically and physiologically probable and improbably could eighteenth century man conceive of the existence of historical riddles and secrets?”
     – Karl Barth, Protestant Thought: from Rousseau to Ritschl (36)


1. Everything in the Bible is either cultural or timeless.
2. There is a cultural reason for a particular biblical statement, X.
3. Therefore, X is not timeless, and we don’t have to live by it any more.”
     – Andrew Wilson, The Cultural/Timeless Fallacy


The form of the chronological snobbery fallacy can be expressed as follows:
     1) It is argued that A.
     2) A is an old argument, dating back to the times when people also believed B.
     3) B is clearly false.
     4) Therefore, A is false.
          – Wikipedia, Chronological snobbery


     “And people say I talk about the same ol’ thang; reason that I sound the same cause the truth don’t change.”
          – Lecrae Moore, Gimme a Second


     “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, which are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me.”
     – Charles Spurgeon, Election


     “The appeal to history is thus a nifty little piece of rhetorical violence, a ‘performative utterance’ that seeks to bring about the fate that it announces and to excuse the opposition’s loss of agency as the inevitable triumph of justice.”


     “Upon inspection, “X is on the right side of history” turns out to be a lazy, hectoring way to declare, “X is a good idea,” by those evading any responsibility to prove it so.”
     – William Voegeli, The Redskins and the Wrong Side of History


     “We invoke the future’s verdict of guilt precisely because we’d like to smuggle back into our politics the moral force of Divine judgment. But our appeals to progress are a pathetic substitute for the concept of Providence. The former stifles critical reflection about the past. The latter is at least flexible enough to account for the sudden flowering of great evil, even in an age as advanced as ours.
     What we do know from history is that the future often rejects the past. Political ideals are often abandoned, rarely refuted.
     And so we are thrown back on ourselves. If your cause is just and good, argue that it is just and good, not just inevitable.”
     – Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Most Bullying Argument in Politics


     – Relevant Magazine, Suffering from Chronological Snobbery

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