Connecting to the Past

I was at a concert at our Seminary tonight where a group performed that plays the classic rock oldies from the 50’s and 60’s. Our Seminary president asked me if I was familiar with that music. I told him that my Dad raised me on it. When he and I went driving anywhere, he always had that music on and I have come to know it better than modern music. (Though I hesitate to use the term. I think much that is labelled as music today disgraces the muses.)

I recalled later on how I used to watch the Super Mario Brothers Super Show everyday. My Dad would record it and I’d watch it when I got home. In each episode, they’d also play an old song from that period normally and I’d ask my Dad what it was every day when he got home and much of those songs still remain with me. When I hear the music, I can often recall the episode that the song was played in.

I love this kind of concert also because it connects me with the past. It reminds me of something. Those old songs are still good. We have a lot of new stuff today and while I’m hard on much today, there is a degree of modern stuff I do like. I like to listen to Evanescence. I’m a huge RPG fan and Final Fantasy music drives me wild. As a Smallville fan, I love listening to Remy Zero sing “Save Me.” My crazy side also likes Weird Al Yankovic.

All modern musicians though are in debt to the musicians of the past. It was through trial and error that much of music was improved and the introduction of new ideas. Consider harmony. It was considered a scandal when it first came and today, most of us can’t even imagine the thought of music without harmony. While much has improved, there are still great old classics. How many of us in the Christian community love the great old hymns still?

But surely there’s more to this than music. Right?

We need to connect with our past. Christianity did not just pop up in the 20th century. Science did not just suddenly show up one day. Philosophy did not begin with Descartes. Many studies have been going on for a long time. While we may not have had some of the advances we have today, particularly in science, let us not lose sight of the fact that science was going on.

My roommate was once shown about someone who apostasized who is a young man who apparently also reads a lot and asked if my library could compare to his. He said it did and noted something very important about this young man’s library. There were no works in it by the ancients. Plato and Plutarch were nowhere to be found. 

I was talking to a good friend of mine today and was thinking about a lot of things he’s going through. As I was at that event of our Seminary’s tonight, I was thinking about this connection and it occurred to me that it seems my friend could have a good dose of modernism. Modern thinking is good in many ways, but it needs to be tempered by ancient thinking.

The ancients thought in ways that we didn’t. A lot of the questions that they raised have yet to be answered by us. When one reads Plato and/or Aristotle, one sees a totally different style of thinking than in our modern and contemporary philosophers. I’m not saying that all Plato and Aristotle said was right. It wasn’t. It was a different way of thinking though and they did get a lot of things right.

So, if you want to study philosophy, you need to go back and read the ancients. If you want to study science, you need to read Aristotle also with works like “Physics” and “De Caelo” as well as scientists like Kepler, Galileo, Newton, etc. If you want to study history, read Plutarch, Josephus, and Tacitus. If you want to study theology, read Aquinas, Augustine, the Reformers, and the church fathers. I could go on.

In doing so, you develop new categories and allow not just one time period to tilt your perspective. Each of us to a degree is also a product of our times and the way to cure that is to go outside our times. Read the giants that came before us. They have much to say to us and we only hurt ourselves if we refuse to listen.

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