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Older is Better: A Comment on Pop Theology

13 October, 2009

IMG_1294Recently our old vending machines were replaced with new ones, because they were not functioning proOldperly.  There were a few of us among the seminary community who were disgruntled by the change–mainly because the new vending machines brought with them higher prices. This switchover made me think that generally people think that the new is better, but I actually miss the old machines and would have rather had them repaired than replaced (The new one sounds like a diesel and was out-of-order the first day it was on campus). The same thing happens often in theology,  though vending machines are trivial in comparison to theology. Nevertheless,  I am using this image as an occasion to comment on the general disdain of older New Soda Machineways of thinking in both Reformed and broadly evangelical circles. The motto–“Out with the old and in with new”–has permeated all spheres of our theological reflection, and I think this mentality, like the vending machines, comes with a higher price.

This frame of mind manifests itself in our negative orientation towards history and it threatens biblical and Reformed orthodoxy. Carl Trueman highlights my concern poignantly:

The aspect of modern life which I wish to highlight as presenting one of the most significant threats to the Reformed Faith is that of the tendency of the modern world to be anti-historical. By this, I mean the aversion of modern men and women to tradition and history as a source of wisdom and even authority. In a world, where the very language that is used reflects the deep-seated suspicion of all things old and an adulation of most things new, this is hardly a contentious claim (p. 12, The Wages of Spin).

Of all the subjects studied at seminaries, history seems to be the least appreciated. Often the complaint among seminarians is that history is irrelevant to everyday life. The way ahead for many of these students is to avoid history altogether, to use new methods uninformed by the tried and true. However, instead of looking back to see how we got here and how we lost our way, students want to replace history with relevance instead of recovering the old and making it functional again.  The old is functional, if we are willing to invest the cost it takes to revive it. I am willing to wager that in the end, the older is better for everyone.

~Joshua

For an interview with Carl Trueman at White Horse Inn, click here and then go to the ‘”Listen Now” section and click on The Wages of Spin.

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