Friday, November 21, 2008

Out with the Old

As a culture, we are not too found of old things. Old books, old ideas, and old things have a distinct impression of decay, being out of touch with reality, and disconnected from our lives. First I must say that any criticisms I am making here are directed at myself as much as anyone else. I see these trends in my own thoughts and values, as well as those around me.

In any case, this can be seen in many ways. One prime example of this is technology. Technology is a defining aspect of our lives, it can point to one’s social or economic status, or be a center badge of trends. For example, college students are the ones walking around with ear buds, a small iPod (or knockoff for those with financial constraints), and probably a sleek new cell phone (iPhone anyone?). But technology is only as cool as its age. Devices that are have been out for 6 months are “standard”, not quite as cool as cutting edge toys. After a piece of tech’s 1st birthday, its only okay. After its 2nd it’s all but retired, left only for the poor and un-cool to endure.

I’m speaking with a bit of hyperbole of course, but I notice this “notion” we have about tech all the time. After a couple of years, its history, no longer able to compete with the cutting edge.

This same trend can be seen in our appreciation of movies. Movies that were cutting edge 10 years ago, even 5 years ago, no longer are appealing for no other reason than their “out of date” visual effects. How many have felt that tinge of hesitation when somebody wants to put on a video from so long ago? (Unless it’s a comedy). It is certainly odd that even the ability to act has improved drastically, (or at least our sense of it), despite the fact that the art of acting has been around for much longer than we conceive.

But even more seriously, this can be seen in the world of thought. In an age of “change”, we pay more attention to “progressive” ideas and cutting edge thought. Nobody is terribly concerned with the fact that there truly are very few new ideas because nobody is willing to study the thoughts of our predecessors and their’s. Again, there is this notion I detect of “foreign”, “disconnected”, “decay”, “out of date”, and so on. We seem to be more concerned with making history than studying history, to the end that we’ll more than likely repeat history.

The end of this is that notions such as "passing the test of time" now mean passing consumer review with flying colors over the last few months, as opposed to standing up against rebuttal and being refined in thinking circles over the course of many years. This certainly is wrong, and dangerous to our minds and the worldviews we come up with. We must be humble to the mistakes and corrections that our predecessors can offer insight into. We don't have access to as much new and life altering data as we may think.

Where this is especially damaging to Christians is our love and appreciation for scripture. A book with a beginning many millennia ago, and an end nearly two millennia ago, is the epitamy of “old”. When we open the text, do we fall in love with the beauty, both its literary beauty, its spiritual truth, and the sheer fact that it reveals God to us? Or do we struggle with how ancient and foreign it is? How often when we open the text do we have that same hesitation (or possibly revolt?) as with an old movie?

I know when I was in High school, the Bible was very hard for me to read. I had a good NIV translation, but the language was still very unlike the language I speak. In a way, even the values were very unlike the values I had and saw around me. This is not a criticism of my family, or the church I was raised in. What I mean is that whatever church tradition we stand in, we tend to have our own set of emphases, and we use our own language to describe scriptural truths. Modenr “hot topics” apply here, but even some of our language of worship and gathering is foreign to scripture. The ideas are certainly based out of scripture, but the language is different, (one big example is our language surrounding our “relationship” with God. The concept is clearly in scripture, but our language is different).

So there are lots of barriers that prevent scripture from penetrating our lives in a transformational way. Barriers that hold us back from falling deeply in love with God’s word, and barriers which make it difficult for us to feed off of it the way Christ talked about in John 6.

I myself have an advantage over many because I had the privilege of over 6 years of biblical training, both at the undergrad and graduate level. This has given me many tools to approach the text exegetically, theologically, philosophically, etc. These are all certainly good, and do help break down some of those barriers. But even with my “advantage”, (even though some would call these a disadvantage), I still struggle in allowing the text speak to my life, allowing God to transform my mind through his Word.

Certainly this is a good example of where our knowledge of a problem can make us aware of prejudices and presuppositions, and hopefully this awareness can begin to help us overcome these barriers. Certainly we must try, because if we really believe the truth of scripture, then allowing God to shape and mold us through his Word is one of our highest priorities. And even more, learning to fall in love with God’s word more can and should be an important part of our relationship with Him.

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