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the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.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You must find out why it went out of date.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