Behind the Times

G.K. Chesterton once remarked that the Catholic Church is the only thing that can save a person from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

I think of that as I read this breathtaking insight from St. Augustine:

Bad times, hard times—this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: such as we are, such are the times.

We are the times. Wow. That’s one responsibility-takin’ quote right there.

And yet, for the past 100 years or so, we moderns have engaged in an absolutely inexplicable bit of split-brain thinking in which we have severed ourselves from “the times” and talked as though a mere spot on the calendar—not reason, not revelation, and certainly not our choices—is what determines the truth or falsehood of particular idea. We’ve gotten used to accepting utterly ridiculous statements like “People used to believe in miracles, but this is the 21st century!” as though that constituted a rational argument. We’ve accepted the utterly preposterous notion that if something was believed during the so-called “Age of Faith” it is ipso facto ridiculous, while simultaneously accepting the notion that if a guy in a lab coat says something, it is a scientific fact.

All you need to see how utterly silly such an argument is, is to replace it with an appeal to any other unit of time than a century. “A miraculous healing? But this is Monday, September 12!” “People used to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ when it was 1:00 PM. But, honestly! It’s 2:00 PM! Who believes such things now?”

Answer: Lots of people. And they do it because they are not the sort of people who think that pointing at a watch or calendar establishes the truth or falsity of a claim. Indeed, until this peculiarly modern superstition erupted, nobody talked as though “This is the Thus and So Century” was a clincher rebuttal to a historical, philosophical or theological claim. Only in this Age of Credulous Faith could people believe such things—but that is due, not to the age, but to us. For we are the times, and we are going backward. Large parts of our civilization are now centuries behind Plato, let alone St. Paul or St. Thomas.