C.S. Lewis coined the phrase "Chronological snobbery" to describe a phenomenon that is perhaps, in some degree, common to all ages, but one that he found significantly heightened within the modern mind around him. To be chronologically snobbish is to walk with "the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age," while carrying with it "the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited." It is to hold that we not only know more, and know more accurately, but that the thoughts and knowledge of those before us don't fully matter as a result. Like a fashion that has faded out of style, they have simply been deemed "out of date."
It is this attitude that moves many to scoff at the Bible because it was written by "pre-scientific" persons who would have no way of knowing how to address the modern mind. But what makes us conclude that we are not, as previous generations have been, blinded to our own intellectual flaws, susceptible to our own characteristic illusions? Is it not an incredibly arrogant gamble to assume that we are any different? Moreover, what makes us conclude that enhanced knowledge of human DNA or the human reproduction system makes us more capable of discerning the meaning and purpose of life itself?
Joseph knew enough about the laws of nature to at first conclude the infidelity of his betrothed wife. The disciples knew enough about the laws of physics to be completely terrified by the man walking on the water toward their boat. The crowd of mourners knew enough about death to laugh at Jesus when he insisted that the girl was only sleeping, and to walk away astonished when she came back to life.
Could our perception of superiority be hanging on the false hope that our own thoughts and progresses are somehow more impervious to decay than other generations? All of the ages that have passed, all of the knowledge and works of men and women in generations before us, like branches that whither, all have moved away. Like the times themselves, always moving on, we too will fade with the very theories we have long dismissed. In all of this withering, is there anything that survives? It is a question every person from every age must answer with every resource of history and science and philosophy available to them, past and present.
It was also a question that led C.S. Lewis to conclude that all that is not eternal is eternally out of date. As we quickly approach the holiday season, we will hear rumblings of an old story, though perhaps given to skepticism or blanketed in sentimentalism.
Yet the story of Christ has endured for innumerable reasons: because there is something astonishing and unprecedented about God being born an infant; because there is something believable about humanity calling for the death of a man whose ways scare us; because the circumstantial evidence supports the likelihood that something really happened after his body was laid in the tomb; because the apostles and others continued to testify of the events they saw; and because ancient and modern communities long thereafter have been transformed by the same God-man Jesus. In a world where the new often replaces the old without a fair hearing, could it be that the story of Christ has endured because it is true?
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.