Newer is Not Always Better
It’s easy to think that newer is always better. That’s because, in thousands of different ways, newer certainly is better than older.
Think, for example, of medical care today compared to medical care 100 years ago, let alone 1,000 years ago. Think of what’s done today with advanced heart surgery, something that would have been completely unthinkable in the past. And that’s just one example out of countless thousands when it comes to health care.
Or think of dentistry. Getting your tooth pulled in the days before Novocain was not fun, and when the tooth was gone, it was gone. Now, you can get a whole new set of teeth, just about pain free (aside from the pain in your wallet).
Or think of transportation. You can fly from New York to England in 6 hours. By boat, it would take you closer to two weeks, and that’s with today’s boats. How long would it take to make the trip in the year 1500?
And what about ambulatory services for people needing critical care? A car is surely faster than a horse and buggy. And speaking of cars, a Model T reached a maximum speed of 45 mph, about 100 miles less than a fast car today.
What about communication? In the old days, you would have to write a letter, bring it to the post office, wait for it to be delivered, then wait for a reply to be written and sent back to you. And the farther away you were, the longer that communication would take, running into weeks and even months. Today, you can communicate virtually instantly via email, let alone face to face via video technology.
What about lifespan? For many centuries, up until fairly recent times, the average lifespan for males was about 40 years and for females about 42. Today, it has almost doubled to 70 for men and 75 for women, while in many countries it is even longer.
And how about living in comfort? Think of life without electricity. Or heating. Or air conditioning. Or even refrigeration.
What About the Arts and Morality?
But newer is certainly not better when it comes to the arts.
Which painter today has surpassed the masters of old? Or which poet is writing better poetry than Shakespeare or Milton?
Or think of something as simple as this: how often does the remake of an old classic movie surpass the original?
When it comes to morality, modern man can hardly boast, as the 20th century was the bloodiest of all and the pollution of porn has covered the planet like never before.
No, newer is not always better.
As I wrote in a 2018 article, “That’s why we must reject what C. S. Lewis termed ‘chronological snobbery.’ As explained by Owen Barfield, Lewis was referring to ‘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.’
“Or as J. I. Packer put it so well, with biting sarcasm (and not just in terms of morality but also theology), ‘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.’”
That’s why this word spoken by God to the prophet Jeremiah more than 2,500 years ago remains deeply relevant to this moment: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, “We will not walk in it.”’” (Jeremiah 6:16)
The fact is, when it comes to spirituality and morality, nothing has ever surpassed (or ever will surpass) the depth and power and beauty and wisdom of the spirituality and morality of the Bible. (When I speak of “the morality of the Bible,” I mean the moral ideals that are set forth, not the moral behavior of the people who lived in Bible days.)
God Tells Us in the Bible What is Good
Who has ever laid things out more clearly than the prophet Micah? He wrote, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Who has ever given a more comforting picture of the Lord than David, when he wrote Psalm 23, beginning with those words, “The LORD is my shepherd”?
Who has ever described the majesty of God more powerfully than the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40–48?
What sermon ever preached in any religion at any time can lay a finger on the most famous message of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)?
And who has ever described true love better than Paul in 1 Corinthians 13?
He wrote there:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:1–8a)
Without a doubt, newer is not always better. And that means, if we want to understand God rightly and if we want to understand how to live productive, blessed, and moral lives, we had better look back before we look ahead.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Revival Or We Die: A Great Awakening Is Our Only Hope. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.