Chronological Snobbery
(And The Sin Of Pride)

Dateline: 2 January 2017, AD

In My Previous Blog Post, David Smith posted a comment that I think is well worth considering a bit more closely. Here's what David wrote (I have taken the liberty of highlighting some key thoughts in red) ...

My parents grew up here in rural Middle TN during the Depression. To some extent, the lyrics from Alabama's song, "Song of the South," applied: "Somebody told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor, we couldn't tell!" Since 1865, much of the South has known poverty, so that hadn't changed much, but at least folks mostly still owned their own farms, had gardens, and livestock, and as a result, had enough to eat.
Now, I look at my family's little hometown, and like much of rural America, it went from a bustling center of commerce, where the local farm economy supported the shops in town, and the shops and services in town, in turn, supported the local farm family. Sadly, especially since the takeover by government/Big Agra post-WWII of much of the farm economy, the little town now struggles.
Most folks choose to forget the past, and, as a variation on what C.S. Lewis termed "chronological snobbery," every generation deep down considers itself a little more enlightened, a little smarter and progressive than the preceding ones.
However, just like the young man who, thinking of his ol' man as a pretty dim bulb when he's 18 or 19, grows to understand his dad gets a lot smarter as time goes on and life and Reality "happens" to him; this pattern does fortunately serve as a correcting influence. Sadly, though, starting with us Baby Boomers, successive generations seem increasingly self-satisfied in their arrogant folly, not understanding that the artificial prosperity we have enjoyed for a long time now, is not the norm, but is in fact a mere blip in history.
If we're going to have Depression 2.0, there's a part of me that would like to go ahead, hold my nose, and get it over with. Break this damnable crony-capitalist system along with the arrogance of the pampered elites. I then realize that when that occurs, it won't be just the arrogant who suffer; it'll be good people as well!
I pray we in the church especially will awaken to Reality, and not stay caught up in this corrupt system. We need to be there to be reflections of God's mercy and wisdom in those times, and not mere victims, addicted to the goodies from the corrupt, collapsing system.
I like what David wrote because I share his sentiments, and I've often thought that I should blog on the subject of "chronological snobbery." Unfortunately, I don't feel like I have the time to properly address the subject, but just understanding and acknowledging the existence of chronological snobbery in modern thought is probably enough. 

The Wikipedia page for chronological snobbery is insightful. There we find a quote from C.S. Lewis in which he defines his own "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."

Lewis expands on the concept further, and this is important to keep in mind... 

"You must find 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."

For those who might not know, C.S. Lewis was an intellectual and a settled atheist who came to embrace Christianity later in his life. He not only personally embraced Christianity, he defended it from an intellectual perspective. Every self-assured, modern-day atheist who considers himself too smart to believe in the Bible with all its "Christian myths" would do well to read some of C.S. Lewis's apologetic writings. Mere Christianity would be a good start. But be forewarned—Lewis wrote for people who had the ability to read, think, and reason logically, and I fear that is an alarming minority in this day and age. But I digress.

The Bible actually addresses this matter of chronological snobbery. The most "famous" verse on the subject being Jeremiah 6:16...

"Thus saith the LORD, stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."

Jeremiah was a prophet who lived around 600 BC. He spoke for God. His message to the nation of Israel was to repent of it's sins and return to "the old paths" of following God's laws. Jeremiah warned the people that if they did not repent (turn away from) their individual and national sins, God would send judgement on the nation. 

As you  might imagine, Jeremiah was not a popular person in his day, what with telling everyone that they were acting in ways that displeased God. And the chronological snobbery of their day prevented that civilization from heeding the advice of Jeremiah. This is evidenced in the last part of the Jeremiah 6:16 verse where it says: 

"But they said, we will not walk therein." 

And so it was that, in God's time, the Jewish kingdom of Judah and the great city of Jerusalem was invaded by the Babylonians and utterly destroyed. The nation was taken into captivity. You can read about it in Jeremiah Chapter 39. It's not a pretty picture.

All of which is to say that God doesn't think very highly of chronological snobbery, especially in the realm of morality. And a nation's moral integrity is always intimately connected to its civil laws, it's politics, it's science, it's technology. Moral beliefs are the common thread that runs through and binds all aspects of a culture together. 

There is so much more that can be said about this but I want to finish here by making it clear that chronological snobbery comes from a spirit of pride. 

Pride is, of course, the Leviathan "mother sin." Pick a sin, any sin, and you'll find it was born from pride and draws its sustenance from pride. And the Bible makes it clear that God hates pride. Yes, God is love, but make no mistake about it... God hates pride.

Now, here's the funny thing about pride: it is so ridiculously easy to see pride in others, and so amazingly hard to see it in ourselves. Which brings me to an important point that I'd like to make, and I'll leave it at that...

One of the most serious problems I see with modern American Christianity (especially among the evangelicals, which I'm most familiar with) is that they are so adept at self-righteously pointing out the sins of society at large, but they are surprisingly blind and unconcerned about dealing with their own sins.

I'm not necessarily referring to the "big bad" sins like homosexuality, drunkenness, adultery, pornography and so forth. I'm talking about the subtle sins like anger, unforgiveness, selfishness, greed, covetousness, gossip, and so many other manifestations of pride... including cultural snobbishness.  

To be a Christian is to be continually at war, and the primary enemy is not the sin in other people, but the sins that so easily beset ourselves.


This has been a meandering thread of thoughts put together rather quickly. But these thoughts (especially in the end) reflect my own personal thinking, and my own personal concerns as we head into this new year. My thanks to David Smith for prompting these ruminations.


  1. Excellent ruminations, brother! Many follow-on questions and ruminations in turn occur! Here's one: How do we continue to engage our world and especially our fellow believers, winsomely, without needless rancour, and without being considered mere Luddite curmudgeons? Further - and more vitally - how do I do so without coming off as myself prideful in my own "enlightenment"?

    Nonetheless, I can't help feeling that too much of the current Evangelical - increasingly urban/suburban - "leadership" is clueless, struggling to remain "relevant" (as others have commented on), or contenting itself to simply hold on until we're all raptured . . . or something, since it's all gonna burn anyway, right? Do I really understand that this world system, as you've indicated, resides in me and needs purging through God's sanctifying process? One of the problems here is that I tend to think of those problems in all too limited terms! I may condemn it, but AGAIN, like it or not, it's in me too!

    My sense is that if/when there is an economic collapse, we may not get much in the way of leadership from the likes of the current strain, but it may in fact come down to folks like yourself, quietly but firmly seeking to live consistently with what they say they believe.

    Maybe that's not so surprising, after all!

    In the meantime, looks like we have work to do!

    David Smith

    1. Hi David,

      First question.... Short answer: I don't know. It may not be possible.

      But one thought is to loan people the new Beyond Off Grid video that is finally coming out this month. I watched the movie online the other day and it struck me as an excellent film for introducing Christians to the whole concept of Christian-agrarianism. It's sort of a tool for leading horses to water. Whether they drink (see the wisdom and act on it) or not is out of our hands.

      2nd question... Uh, yes. Purging is a good word. Last week in church the discussion was about New Year's resolutions. My pastor asked the congregation if anyone had resolutions. I mentioned the importance of pursuing holiness. Unfortunately, I think he interpreted that as me promoting some sort of legalism. (I had been listening to some sermons by Jerry Bridges, author of "The Pursuit of Holiness" on YouTube and was feeling a powerful conviction about the subject). Amazingly, I don't recall ever hearing a sermon in a Baptist church on the subject of sanctification. I've gone to Baptist churches for a very long time and I've been listening close for any discussion on the subject for the past few years. The way it looks to me, the New Testament has a great deal more to say on the subject of sanctification than it does on evangelism.

      When the economic collapse comes, significant decentralization and more localization makes sense. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. We might find out in our lifetime.

      Thanks again for your thought-provoking comments here, and over the years.

    2. Hey again, Herrick:

      I suppose that's one of the reasons I keep returning here: to confirm that what I'm seeing is indeed observable to others - sort of pinching myself to be sure it's all real! You're right, all we can do is our best to communicate these things; results are up to God!

      As to the matter of holiness you brought up at your church and here, again, I think you're spot-on! It calls to mind a devotional book of Eugene Peterson's I have returned to time and again for thirty years now: "A Long Obedience In The Same Direction: Discipleship In An Instant Society." In it, the author goes through each of the "Songs of Ascent," Psalms 120 - 134. Dr. Peterson wrote the book back in the eighties, but he remains prescient after all these years. Among other things, he deals with holiness as something made up of the commonplace, everyday stuff of our lives, and not just the dramatic events or even primarily the things we abstain from.

      For me, gardening, along with other things agrarian, then, help me to remain "grounded," both literally and spiritually. Among the many things holiness is, I have to believe it is down-to-earth, entirely focused on Reality itself!

      I think it's safe to say, we need a good many more folks with that sort of holiness, especially when rough times come along!

      As ever . . . .

      Gratitude and blessings,
      David Smith

    3. Oh wow. I just went to Amazon and checked out "A long Obedience...," and I listened to the audio excerpt, and I did not hesitate to order an inexpensive used copy. I'm very excited to read it.

      I am so often blessed by the perspectives, ideas, and recommendations of those, like yourself, who read my blog writings. And I'm truly thankful for such blessings.

  2. And pride, of course, was what Lewis identified as the major sin in Mere Christianity. Good observation on the sins of society versus personal sin. This is one of the largest challenges to modern Christianity.

    Thanks Herrick!

  3. What you call “subtle sin” is what Dr. Laura calls “everyday evil”. (Or at least she did 20+ years ago when I still listened to talk radio.)

    I think both are appropriate terms.

    1. Interesting. I used to listen to Dr. Laura years ago too. Most of the time I thought she was great. Only a couple of times did I think she was off base. I haven't thought about her in some time. I'll have to Google her. :-)

  4. the serpent hissed in Eden....the tree was to be desired to make one wise. As St John puts it - the pride of life.

    1. Right on. John gives us an excellent definition of "the world" that Christians are called to have no part of.... Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

      1 John 2:16: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

  5. A little addendum to this that caught my eye. As I noted above, Jeremiah chapter 39 tells the story of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The surviving jews of the city were taken captive to Babylon as slaves. But not all the people were killed or taken captive.... In verse 10 it says: "But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time." I've been pondering that verse for a few days now.

  6. Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
    Wow, "...the poor...and gave them vineyards and fields..." Amazing!! Excellent observation!

  7. You might also be interested in these verses that I have pondered for several years: Zeph.3:12 "I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord." And Zech.11:10&11 "And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord."

  8. This is the type of post that keeps me coming back to this blog. I'm curious, is there such thing as chronological humility? Or perhaps, reverse-chronological snobbery? Sometimes I am guilty of automatically thinking new is bad and old is good... Regardless, keep up the good work!