Why Do We Think New Is Better?

Why Do We Think New Is Better?

The fact of the matter is that the Christian faith is very old, and that is what the Church has been called to preserve and transmit to future generations. Let us not get caught up in the cultural frenzy of “newness” in our Christian ministry.

New and improved! Fresh! The latest! Exciting!

You don’t have to go far in our society today to witness claims of having the newest, latest product. One would not think of buying something old, stale, and “so yesterday.”

This applies to commercial products that are marketed by clever advertisers, but, unfortunately, it also often applies to church ministry, theology, and worship. Old is bad, and new is good. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard otherwise conservative people tell me, “We just need some fresh, new music in our worship.”

Why is it that we automatically assume new is better, anyway?

C.S. Lewis addressed this question in his 1954 De Descriptione Temporum on the occasion of his appointment to the Chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University:

Between Jane Austen and us, but not between her and Shakespeare, Chaucer, Alfred, Virgil, Homer, or the Pharaohs, comes the birth of the machines. This lifts us at once into a region of change far above all that we have hitherto considered. For this is parallel to the great changes by which we divide epochs of pre-history. This is on a level with the change from stone to bronze, or from a pastoral to an agricultural economy. It alters Man’s place in nature. The theme has been celebrated till we are all sick of it, so I will here say nothing about its economic and social consequences, immeasurable though they are. What concerns us more is its psychological effect.

How has it come about that we use the highly emotive word “stagnation,” with all its malodorous and malarial overtones, for what other ages would have called “permanence”? Why does the word at once suggest to us clumsiness, inefficiency, barbarity? When our ancestors talked of the primitive church or the primitive purity of our constitution they meant nothing of that sort. . . .

Why does “latest” in advertisements mean “best”? Well, let us admit that these semantic developments owe something to the nineteenth-century belief in spontaneous progress which itself owes something either to Darwin’s theorem of biological evolution or to that myth of universal evolutionism which is really so different from it, and earlier…

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