With all due respect to the long-dead king, he did not live in 2019. He didn’t see self-driving cars and streaming video and Amazon drones. He didn’t have the 24-hour news cycle or blue-tooth or even microwave popcorn. If he had experienced those wonders of the present day, he wouldn’t have said this:
I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him. Whatever is, has already been, and whatever will be, already is. However, God seeks justice for the persecuted.Ecclesiastes 3:14-15
Honestly, “whatever is, has already been”? That might have been true a thousand years before Christ, when the big changes were new ways to use olives or the development of a new metal alloy every thousand years or so, but we live in the age of technological wonders.
Of course we could go back in time to 1919 when people could say that Solomon “didn’t have automobiles, didn’t have radio, and didn’t have electricity.” It seems that one of the things that has already been is the sense that we’re living in a time when things are brand new.
Opposition to the New
When we reach certain ages, our attitudes toward those perceived new things change. Douglas Adams might not have the precise details right, but there’s insight in what he observed:
“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
I’m over 35, so I’m not sure how I’m supposed to reconcile myself to Teslas and Tweets. But Solomon says they’ve already been around. While we did not have people making snarky and ill-founded comments through their phones before 2006, the spirit of Twitter has been around since well before Solomon’s day.
Don’t Be a Curmudgeon
There’s an advantage we have as Christians who are old enough to remember the 1900s–that’s the whole century, not the first decade! That advantage is that we have perspective. We can see that the changes that are trumpeted as revolutionary and world-changing often simply echo what came before.
Yes, streaming video is a big deal, but the video it streams is similar to what was on cable, which was similar to what was on broadcast, which was similar to what was on movie screens, which was similar to what was on the stage, which was similar to what was shared around campfires long before recorded history.
To make use of that advantage we possess, we need to put the lie to Douglas Adams’ comments. When we find ourselves in opposition to innovations, we need to be sure that we have an actual reason for it. We need to understand those innovations well enough to have a meaningful opinion.
Otherwise, we wind up like the old folks in the church, wagging our heads and complaining that “They don’t sing any of the good-old gospel hymns any more.” Of course that just means that the church doesn’t sing the songs that were popular when they were young and thought everything was new and exciting.
Getting in Tune
In Revelation 13:8 we hear Jesus described as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Alpha and Omega. Yes, humans cleverly “invent” things that the creative powers of God have made possible, but try inventing matter or gravity. The sooner we recognize that God is more significant than the most riveting season of Fortnite, the more we will recognize the true place of innovation in this world.