New and Improved


The supermarket mantra of modern man.

The ancients inscribed their credos upon monuments of marble–
Our credo is inscribed upon cardboard boxes of Cornflakes and Pop Tarts.

And who can argue with it? How do you argue with a new and improved Pop Tart?

No doubt about it, our Pop Tarts are getting better and better. It must be so. It must be so because this is the foundational and unassailable doctrine of all things modern: Newer Is Better.

So let’s all chant together:
New and Improved. New and Improved. New and Improved.
Modern Life is New and Improved.

There. Don’t you feel better?…now that we’ve done our liturgy at the altar of the Idolatrous Now.

Newer is better. Could anything be more self-evident?
Newer things are always better than older things.
This is as sure as version 7.0 is always an improvement over version 6.0.
It’s a technological truism that must be believed and must be applied to every facet of life.

New is better.
This is how we know that a strip mall is better than a Gothic cathedral and that modern art is superior to that boring old renaissance stuff.

Newer is better.
The older version of life is never as good as the newest version.
And things that are ancient? Well, they must be positively abysmal.

Because New and Improved is not just a marketing device, it’s a foundational philosophy.

And it’s a load of baloney!

At least the ancients had the dignity to derive their philosophy from sages and philosophers. You have to admit is a lot more dignified to take your controlling ideology from a philosopher in Athens or a prophet in the wilds of the Sinai than from the aisles of your local Wal-Mart. But that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve taken a trite advertising slogan and turned into our dominant philosophy. It is so arrogant, so ignorant, so superficial and so shallow. And we must reject it!

One of errors of arrogant modernity has been to succumb to the seduction of the idolatrous Now. People who under the spell of the idolatrous now have regard only for the present — they cannot be inspired by glories past or glories promised…everything must be Now.

But what is “now” anyway? It’s definition is problematic? When does “now” arrive from the future and how long is “now” now before it slips into the past? In some ways “now” is an illusion. We talk about living in the “now” — but in reality we live in memory and imagination — past and future. This is how we hear a melody. If you lived purely in the “now” you would only hear meaningless individual notes. It’s memory of what you have heard that gives meaning and thus melody. This is true of music and of life. Those who are seduced by the idolatrous Now cannot hear the melody of history. Meaning requires context and context requires memory.

Christians are called to a tension in two directions: both a deep appreciation for the past and a hopeful patience for the future. This past/future tension puts “now” in a more humble perspective. We realize that God’s melody that brings meaning is not all about the present moment — though we do make our contribution — and once we catch the melody we recognize that it causes us to anticipate the ultimate resolution.

The Gospel contains something very offensive to modern man and the cult of the idolatrous Now: The truth that human history reached its dramatic zenith 2,000 years ago and that we are now living in an extended epilogue. In some ways we are living in a prolonged ovation of the Resurrection and waiting for the Star to take His curtain call and appear.

New and Improved.

Not everything works that way.

Improvements is not necessarily the result of something being contemporary or new. Technology does not have a parallel relationship with the more fundamental aspects of humanity.

I say it with conviction: Human improvements (the Elevation from the Fall) is the result of connecting lives and society with the Kingdom of Jesus. Because Jesus is the Christ. The Messiah. The Answer. The Solution. For problems on a global scale and on an individual level.

But Christ is not new and improved.

He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

The Ancient of Days.

Technological improvement is inconsequential to the things that really matter:
Faith, Hope and Love.
Righteousness, Peace and Joy.
Justice, Mercy and Virtue.

Technology is nice. For sure. But not the Solution.
Technology is new and improved. The Solution is ancient.
And ancient solution to contemporary problems offends modern man.
So be it.

And even technology is a mixed bag.
We have a love-hate relationship with it.

Let’s use our imagination to conjure up something truly technologically advanced: A Time Machine.

(I would really like to have one!)

Imagine we hop in our Time Machine, set the dial for a thousand years ago and arrive somewhere in Medieval Europe in the year 1007. We find an unsuspecting peasant and bring him back to 21st century America (ala “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”) where he will spend a month with us. He will learn about our computers and cell phones and televisions and alarms clocks and our around the clock living with factories working three shifts and 24 hour convenient stores. He’ll live in suburban isolation, go through drive-up windows, eat microwave meals and learn to live in a hurry. Hurry up, Peasant! You’re in the 21st century now and you gotta move faster than that! After a month we’ll take him back to the 11th century and drop him off. Now comes the thought experiment: What will our peasant tell his friends and neighbors about his “excellent” adventure? I wonder. I wonder if he might say something like this: I’m not sure, but I think I just spent a month in hell.

Technology is a mixed bag.

Granted I am writing this on a laptop computer while flying on a jet at 500 mph. I’m fully on board (literally!) with 21st century technology. We do live in a technologically advanced age and we will utilize it. We will both enjoy it and endure it. And there are many, many aspects of technology that do make our lives much better. Advances in health care come to mind. I have to admit I’m not interested in going to an 11th century dentist! But to automatically assume that life today is entirely better than life in the past is both arrogant and naive (modern dentistry not withstanding).

Ultimately the question is this: Is life essentially technological or…

Because as Christians we believe that the most important moment in history was 2,000 years ago; and because we believe that the most important revelations concerning God and man were given between 3,500 and 1,900 years ago (when the prophets and apostles were writing scripture) we do not have to kowtow to the nonsense of “the inevitability of progress” or bow down to the altar of the Idolatrous Now and believe the supermarket mantra of New and Improved. Christians should have a much more humble and realistic opinion about the present. The present isn’t everything. There is a past to learn from and a future to hope for.

And so we live in the unresolved and incomplete Now between the two Advents which alone can give us meaning and enable us to hear the melody.



Peri and I are on our way to France. We have ten meetings in Paris. Next week Peri will return home and I’ll fly to Sydney, Australia where I will have six meetings at Hillsong. Over the next 17 days I’ll be spending nearly 60 hours in the air. The flying library, as I call it. Do pray for us.