March 22nd, 2018

Building on the good of the past

By Submitted Article on November 18, 2017.

Old and new

First of three parts

Jacob M. Van Zyl

Humans have conflicts regarding past and present. Some things of the past we like, others we hate. It usually depends on the effect past things have on our self-esteem. Past events we feel proud about, we like; those we regret, we hate.

Likewise, we adore some old cars, homes, paintings, music and song, but some specimens in these categories we denounce as failures.

However, the new is not always a complete success. Some trends in today’s politics, economy, values, pleasures, arts, fashions, law and order many people find appalling. Only terrorists like terrorism.

Despite our conflicts about past and present, we often discard good old things, and replace them with not-so-good new things. Like the Athenians, we want to see, hear and experience something new (Acts 17:21).

We discard the old often and replace it with the new: clothes, hairstyles, cars, homes, furniture, appliances, computers, smartphones, jobs, songs and partners.

However, some old realities stick with us: parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family, memories, experiences, upbringing, country, culture, Bible and faith.

In reality, life is a combination of the old and the new. We received our genes and many values from our ancestors, but we apply this inheritance in new situations. We use old transport routes by maintaining and developing them for new challenges. We renovate old historic buildings, extending their life and usefulness. Some restore old cars to their former glory. Sail ships and steam engines catch attention, making them worthwhile to maintain for future generations.

Many Protestants of today want new gospel songs and music. Melody is replaced with beat and rhythm, the organ with drums and guitars, and congregational song with song leaders over loudspeakers. Sermons are delivered with the help of mini-mikes and presentation projectors.

Despite all the new goodies, Christians can’t discard old things like the Bible, creeds, gospel message, and values. Love for God, people and nature is still the best way to preserve mankind, animals and the planet.

Christians can’t understand the New Testament without the Old, and vice versa. The only creed accepted by all main branches of Christianity (Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) is the creed of Nicea, formulated in AD 325. This old creed brings unity; the newer ones express diversity.

A great statesman said that we must take the good of the past and present, and build on it now to create a better future. That is how farmers improve the quality of their herds and flocks, crops and produce. This is how science grows: by standing on the shoulders of others, we can see farther than they could.

By combining the old and the new, we have continuity, preservation, development and hope for generations to come.

Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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