Teach the Old / Assume the New
I wonder how many songs were written the same year that “Amazing Grace” was written but have fallen into complete oblivion through the years. Time has a wondrous way of refining. In so many cases, the gold remains; and the dross vanishes. I suppose hundreds of thousands of mindless novels have been written and have thankfully passed into total obscurity. That is a sharp contrast to books like the Bible that have amazing staying power.
It seems that most people have an endless fascination with all that is new, even if it is not high quality. This certainly seemed to be the case when, in Acts 17:19, the philosophers on Mars Hill seemed wildly curious and asked, “May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?” One amusing incident from the Renaissance is when the learned Johann Tinctoris (1435-1511) said, “Further, although it seems beyond belief, there does not exist a single piece of music, not composed within the last forty years, that is regarded by the learned as worth hearing.”
Generally speaking, then, people have little need of being shown all the latest song and book titles. The advertising departments of major publishing corporations do a splendid job of notifying the public of its new wares—whether they are worthy or not.
But people do have a need to remember the songs of their heritage. It is important for them to know something about the great books of the past. It is a sad situation when an American citizen knows the latest song to top the charts, but does not know traditional American folk songs like “Yankee Doodle” or “Dixie.” It is a sad situation when an American citizen knows the issues discussed in today’s newspapers, but does not know the content of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Likewise, it is unfortunate when regular churchgoers do know some of the latest Christian “hits,” but they have lost touch with the hymns and gospel songs of our heritage.
Parents and teachers should realize that there is little need for us to offer instruction in all the latest items, but it is vitally important for us to teach important items from our heritage. If we do not make a conscious effort to do so, the next generation will be left with mere fragments; and once a treasure is lost, it is much more likely that it will not ever be recovered again. We should make an effort to teach that which is old, that which is part of our heritage; and in most cases, we may assume that our children and our students will learn that which is new all by themselves.