IS OLD BAD?

In answer to a question from an interviewer, author John Goldingay responded, “When we talk about something being ‘old’ in our culture, we typically mean that it’s out of date. It goes along with the idea that what’s new is what counts.” The context of the exchange was about a new translation of the Old Testament by Goldingay entitled The First Testament and Glenn Paauw was asking about the title. Goldingay thinks Old Testament “inhibits people from reading it” and he hopes “that changing the name can get people’s attention.”

I don’t know if he is right or not about the Old Testament versus The First Testament, but I am interested in his general observation about old and new in our culture. And I think most of us would agree with his assessment about our culture (even if we don’t agree with our culture).

When I take cheese out of our refrigerator when making a sandwich I check the expiration date. I no longer can play 8-track or cassette tapes in my car. Very few people wear bell bottom pants like we did when I was in high school and college. And don’t you want to laugh when you see the short pants on basketball players when watching videos from years ago?

There is much that is old and out of date in our culture. However, just because something is old does not make it out of date. Neither is something bad just because it is old.

Flipping through the channels on our TV a few weeks ago I discovered we had the MeTV channel. They were advertising a summer series of John Wayne movies and since then I have watched and enjoyed four old movies. I’ve also been watching and enjoying old Andy Griffith, Bonanza, and Columbo shows. (Most of us would say the same thing about music.)

What about the idea that in our culture “what’s new is what counts?” With some things it’s true, especially with regard to technology and medical advancements; but it’s not always true with everything for everyone. In my experience, understandably and in general, the older among us are less enthusiastic about the new and the younger among us are more enthusiastic.

A lot of what is new is what counts. Yet, just because something is new does not necessarily make it better or good.

I hope it is obvious why I take interest in Goldingay’s stimulating comment about something being old in our culture and what’s new. It opens the door for a lot of meaningful and passionate discussion about many things–especially with Christians and the church. I encourage such discussion, but challenge those who engage in it to keep in mind that there is much more to it than just something being old or new. I also hope the discussion would be carried out with openness and mutual respect.

By the way, I like the idea of calling the Old Testament the First Testament, but I don’t need another translation, nor do I think the new name will gain a great deal of traction.

What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.

 

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IS OLD BAD?

That’s a good question, isn’t it? Is old bad? The answers depends on what you are referring to as old and what you mean by old.

I’m thinking about the question because age wise I am right now halfway between 65 and 66. Is that old? It all depends. Some people in their mid-sixties are a lot older than others in the same age range. From my perspective I don’t really feel or act old—very often.

My reading the past few weeks has provoked my thinking about wondering if old is bad. As regular readers of my blog posts know, I have been doing a lot of reading lately about getting older, retirement, old age, and dying. I have listed and commented on a variety of books about these subjects in two posts: https://bobmmink.com/2016/07/13/getting-older-retirement-and-aging/ and https://bobmmink.com/2016/08/09/more-on-getting-older-and-aging/

Every book I read refers to other books about the subjects by either quoting them in the text or listing them in a bibliography. I then order one or two recommended books, read them, and go through the process again. What got my attention the last couple of weeks is that in some ways the older books have been better than the newer ones.

Here’s what I’m thinking about the question “Is old bad?” Not necessarily. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it is no longer useful. That’s certainly true of books; and it’s true of a lot of other things as well—including people.

It is certainly true that some things get old, worn out, and outdated. I’m going to have to replace my cell phone pretty soon because of that. I’m sure we all can think of similar examples. I just think we need to be cautious about concluding something is bad just because it is old.

Here’s a corollary: just because something is new does not mean it is good. Going back to the subject of books, I buy and read a lot of new books only to realize that some of them are not nearly as good as some of my old ones. Again, I’m sure we all can think of similar examples.

Just because something is old does not make it either bad or good; and just because something is new does not make it either good or bad. The challenge for us is to be discerning as we consider both things that are old as well as things that are new.

For those who are interested, my most recent older book is The Reality of Retirement: The Inner Experience of Becoming a Retired Person by Jules Z. Willing and published in 1981. It’s not written from a Christian viewpoint, and has no footnotes or bibliography, but for me it was a great read.

For example, the author suggests we are all familiar with the dictum: No one is indispensable. “But what is incredible, unthinkable, is the realization at retirement that we are actually being dispensed with” (p. 29).

Dispensed with or not, old or not, I don’t think being old is bad. What do you think?

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