Chronological Snobbery

John Piper:

“I have an abiding fear of what C. S. Lewis called chronological snobbery. Chronological snobbery is the arrogant notion that the ideas of our own day are better than the ideas of a bygone day just because the ideas are in our day. Chronological snobbery feels that things are truer because they are newer. And so it is both irrational and naïve.

“It’s irrational because being new is no guarantee of being true. It’s pure arrogance to think that a thought in my head is better than a thought in the head of Martin Luther just because I live in the twentieth century and he lived in the sixteenth. There is no logical connection between the truth of an insight and the century when God puts it into somebody’s mind.

“And chronological snobbery is not only irrational. It is also naïve. Because there aren’t any really new ideas under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9—10 says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.Is there a thing of which it is said,”See, this is new”? It has been already, in the ages before us.”

“So I try to flee every temptation to be a chronological snob. I don’t want to be irrational or naïve. C. S. Lewis prescribed at least one antidote. He said that every third book you read should be from outside your own century. It was good advice.”