Hey, kids, gather ’round. Let me be prophetic for a moment and tell you something about yourself. Yea, verily, a day is coming when you will not like change. Write that down. You know how your grandparent shuffles around the house, grousing about all these changes? Why can’t things stay the same? Why can’t they leave well enough alone?
That’s going to be you one day. So get prepared.
Kids, students, and most young adults generally prefer something new to something old. “New” carries the idea that it is improved, so of course, why wouldn’t it be better?
On the other hand, older adults prefer things that have been around awhile, things tried and true. You’ve likely heard a senior say, “They don’t make ’em like they used to.”
Somewhere along life’s timeline—moving from childhood to adulthood to senior elder—our thinking shifts. At first, we move from one “new and improved” thing to the next, but then we land on one that we stick with for awhile; it gradually becomes the standard by which we judge all others. Suddenly, we don’t like the new iteration; the previous version was better. Thirty, forty, fifty years later, we’re still judging everything by that once-new-but-now-old standard.
Exactly what “thing” am I talking about? It could be anything. Computers, cars, slang, fashion, magazines, quality of toilet paper. Anything that has the potential of being changed.
The most obvious example is music. I was a teenager in the 70s, which was of course, the best decade ever for music, right? I have friends who mistakenly disagree. They were teenagers in the 80s, which to them was the best decade for music. Or worse, they prefer the 90s. Poor kids.
We see this way of thinking in the church. Young people think the old things in the church are just that: old and antiquated. They want to chunk it all for the new and improved ways of doing church. Meanwhile, the older adults contend that the things they grew up with—the things that are now considered traditional—are better. After all, they’ve stood the test of time.
Regardless of what our age is, we naturally assume our way of doing things is the better way. Our way of viewing the world is the way everyone should view the world.
Francis Bacon (no relation to Kevin), an English philosopher in the early 17th century, called this Idola Specus. I assume he did this to impress his high school Latin teacher, because on any other day, he would’ve called this the Idol of the Cave. He pictured your mind as a cavern where all your thoughts flew around like a colony of bats. These thoughts are colored by your education, temperament, environment, and so forth. Every new bat … er, idea that comes into your cave … er mind is viewed in light of everything else in the your mind.
So what’s the idol in the cave? The idol is your way of viewing things. You “worship” your way of viewing the world because you assume your way of viewing things is the best (or only) way of viewing things. I’m right and you’re misinformed.
- This is why a Republican sees everything through a conservative lens. They can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would think like a Democrat (and vice versa).
- This may explain why conspiracy theorists think the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax. They see conspiracy in everything. .
We see everything through the lens of what we assume is right. According to Bacon the philosopher (not Bacon the breakfast delicacy), that is just the way we are wired—and that is unfortunate. By assuming our way is better, we miss out on a lot of rich experiences.
When it comes to church life, we would all benefit from making the intentional effort to see worship and the Christian life through the viewpoint of other believers. For example, when it comes to music in the church, disregard the tune for a moment and reflect on the theology of the song or the hymn you’re asked to sing. In every aspect of church where things are different from your preference, be open to how God could be speaking to you. If we can’t get past our preferences—the way the Idol of our Caves tell us it should be—we can miss an incredible blessing. We can miss seeing God at work in others. We can miss what God is wanting to do in us.
So which is better: the old tried-and-true ways or the new and improved ways? Neither one way is better than the other. God is a big God, and He can work through it all. Let’s crawl out of our caves and watch Him work.
And, of course, I’m right on that.
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