"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Chronological snobbery

Canon Kendall Harmon has an interesting post here that highlights one of the chief reasons ECUSA is in the mess it is now. The ECUSA bishop of Bethlehem, PA, after he rejected the Windsor Report's suggested moratorium on consecrating practicing gays to the episcopate on the grounds that it would be "a moratorium on justice," recently said on the House of Bishops' Listserv:

"...We must be clear that we cannot understand the Bible the way our ancestors did, and that there is as much for the world to learn from western biblical study as there is from any other western technology. This is not to claim the corner on all biblical truth, but it is to say that we have learned what we have learned, and that we have much to share."

These comments are a prime example of what C.S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery." According to Lewis, this is "the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to your own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited” (Surprised by Joy).

The sudden changes in American sexual morality in the last few decades are simply a manifestation of an urge (stronger in our country than in some others) to race forward into a brave new world of our own making. The morality of past ages--even if thoroughly Biblical--need hold us back no more than Ptolemaic cosmology or Aristotlean medical theory held back the scientific advances of the modern age. Hollywood gave us a major motion picture this year, Kinsey, in which the scientist hero is devoted to nothing less than a revolution. The limits of religiously-based sexual morality only hold back human potential, Kinsey believed. The new world will dawn if only we can throw off these old-fashioned restrictions. But why do we have this never-ending urge to throw off the past and make the world anew?

G.K. Chesterton felt this discrediting of the past was motivated by a fear of the past. We lunge forward into the future because the past makes our present feel small and weak in comparison. "The future is a refuge from the fierce competition of our forefathers. The older generation, not the younger, is knocking at the door. It is agreeable to escape, as Henley said, into the Street of By-and-Bye, where stands the Hostelry of Never. It is pleasant to play with children, especially unborn children. The future is a blank wall on which every man can write his own name as large as he likes; the past I find already covered with illegible scribbles, such as Plato, Isaiah, Shakespeare, Michael Angelo, Napoleon. I can make the future as narrow as myself; the past is obliged to be as broad and turbulent as humanity. And the upshot of this modern attitude is really this; that men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back." (What's Wrong with the World, p. 30)


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