The local left-liberal newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, recently ran an article on the angst, humanists, atheists, and agnostics were feeling over the Christian faith of Devon Clunis, the chief of the Winnipeg Police Force. Several people wrote to the editor to comment on this. One of the letters printed on November 12th, attributed to the pseudonym “OBSERVER6” asked “Why, in the 21st century, are these practices still around?” The practices in question were those of offering Bibles to police recruits and using material prepared by John C. Maxwell in leadership seminars.
OBSERVER6’s remark is a variation of words that are frequently used by progressive, forward-thinking people as a one-size fits all answer to everything they find objectionable. Those words are “this is the twenty-first century”. The number of situations in which progressives seem to think this is an unanswerable argument is astonishing.
Do you still believe the teachings of the Christian faith? If so, do you allow your Christian faith to affect how you live your life in every aspect, publicly as well as privately, including professionally and politically? “Get with the program”, the progressive says, “This is the twenty-first century” as if the truth of Christianity and the validity of Christ’s claims as Lord over the entirety of the lives of His believers are determined by the date on the calendar.
Do you think that men are men and women are women, that it is more meaningful and more important to be a man or a woman than it is to be an “individual”, that men and women are different and complementary rather than equal and interchangeable, and that men are made by God and nature for women and women for men? If so, you are really out of step with the times and the progressive will say to you “This is the twenty-first century.”
I could go on giving other examples but I think you get the idea.
As an argument “This is the twenty-first century” makes little sense. Whether a person ought to believe the teachings of Christianity or not does not depend upon what year, decade, century or even millennium it is. It depends upon whether or not those teachings are true. Did Jesus of Nazareth, after being crucified by the Romans to appease the Jewish mob, rise from the dead? If so, this validates His claim to be the Christ, the Son of God come down from Heaven to save mankind, which in turn validates everything else He ever said. As it so happens, the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed rise from the dead is very strong – strong enough that more than one, convinced skeptic who set out to disprove it ended up converting. The empty tomb that prevented the account of the Resurrection from being snuffed out by the Romans and Jewish leaders in the first century, the transformation of the Apostles from the men who fled at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion into men who went to their deaths as martyrs for their conviction that He had risen from the tomb, the five hundred plus eyewitnesses that St. Paul could refer to as being still alive when he wrote his first epistle to the Corinthian church, and indeed the conversion of St. Paul himself, from a man hostile to the faith to its foremost proponent due to an encounter with the Risen Christ, provide a very strong case indeed for the truth and historicity of the Resurrection of Christ. The truth and historicity of the Resurrection and of Christianity itself do not diminish the longer in time we are removed from the event. Indeed, the truth that the Son of God came down from heaven, lived among us, was crucified and rose again, cannot help but be the most important truth in human history and will remain that way throughout human history. Indeed, the fact that we are in the twenty-first century since these events took place – note that we date the centuries from these events – makes it more important than ever that we believe these truths and live our lives accordingly because one of the things Jesus said, that is verified by His being the Son of God, which in turn is verified by His having risen from the dead, is that He will come back to judge the living and the dead, and event which inevitably grows nearer the further removed from His Ascension that we get.
When progressives say “this is the twenty-first century” to dismiss Christianity, traditional ethics, private property, the differences between the sexes, monarchy, the survival of Caucasian ethnicity, and everything else from the past that they despise, they are clearly not making a valid argument as far as sound reasoning goes. They are expressing an attitude, an attitude held by all progressives, and by far too many who would not consider themselves to be progressive. Thanks to C. S. Lewis we have a term for that attitude – “chronological snobbery”.
In Surprised by Joy Lewis tells how he himself had held this attitude in his earlier days, how he had dismissed old ideas and customs as belonging to older and therefore outdated periods. He was cured of the attitude by his friend Owen Barfield who demolished all the assumptions it rests upon. Lewis described chronological snobbery as “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”.
Now it is true, to an extent, that we have more knowledge in the sense of accumulated information available to us in the present than was available in the past. I say “to an extent” because information is lost as well as accumulated with the passing of time. This fact, however, calls for a very different attitude than that of chronological snobbery. . The knowledge that we have available today that was not available in the past is knowledge of the past – the knowledge of what has been thought and said, done and accomplished, discovered and accumulated, by all the generations that have preceded us. This ought to command an attitude of respect towards the past – not an attitude of “who cares what they thought in the past, we know so much more today.”
Of course people thought things in the past that are not true. People continue to think things today that are not true. I do not mean the things that have held over from previous ages that are dismissed with “this is the twenty-first century” but ideas that are modern, progressive, and in keeping with the prevalent spirit of the present age. An ideas being new and modern, is no guarantee of its being true, and an ideas being old and unfashionable is no guarantee of its being false.
Indeed, if it were to come down to a question of the presumption of truth, with regards to ideas that cannot be demonstrated to be false, then the presumption of truth ought to go to ideas that are older in the sense of having been held for long periods of time in the past (as opposed to older in the sense of having been thought up millennia ago and discarded in the first generation) rather than to ideas that are new and innovative. Their having endured the passing of ages past, is an argument in their favour, rather than against them.
So the next time some progressive tries to dismiss a timeless truth as being outdated by the fact that it is "the twenty-first century" congratulate him on being able to read the date on the calendar and ask "So what?"
A Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory with a libertarian streak, at the same time a monarchist, indeed a royal absolutist, and a minarchist.
You can e-mail me at gerrytneal(at)hotmail(dot)ca