Looking for novelty

This is a translation of a scriptural meditation from the Russian book, “Day by Day”:

Scripture: “For me it is no trouble to write the same things to you again, but for you it is a firm foundation.” (Phil: 1, 3)


"St. Paul does not mind repeating the same instructions since he is convinced that this repetition is useful for those to whom they are addressed. People seek and love everything new. In vain do old people suggest to the young those books which nourished them in their youth. The young are not satisfied with them and for that reason that education presents so many difficulties. A child gets tired of listening to the same things; not having understood the basics, he hurries to comprehend those spheres of knowledge which are not yet accessible to him.

"In the spiritual world we meet the same thing, and we often hear complaints that in sermons the same things are repeated. But would we really want those who preach, for the sake of novelty, to omit the only thing needful, the only thing which is changeless and eternal?

"The truth is one, as God is One and Redemption is one. For that reason it cannot be burdensome for a Christian to read and re-read the Word of God. Upon constant reading of the Holy Scriptures he will be amazed to see with greater clarity what initially went unnoticed by him. Isn’t our reluctance to re-read the same things an indication of our indifference and superficial attitude to that truth which speaks to us about our salvation and promises eternal bliss? The desire for novelty usually leads to wandering along our own paths.

“A person is cut off from the ancient root and is thrown in all directions. Very soon he loses his way and, not finding firm ground, either becomes more and more frivolous and empty, or becomes disillusioned with everything and becomes bitter. There is only one Divine path which has been laid out for man from the beginning of time, – the path on which all of God’s blessings are concentrated, the path which follows Him and leads directly to Him. This path is old, and yet always “new and living” (Heb:10, 20). The path is firm because its foundation from beginning to end is the Word of God. At the same time, it is a path where one encounters the most diverse experiences, wonderful discoveries, living springs and unfading light. Jesus said: “I am the door: whoever enters through Me will be saved” (John: 10, 9)”

Lewis expresses a similar thought in the first chapter of “Letters to Malcolm”:

"There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.

"I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.

"To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgments, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain – many give up churchgoing altogether – merely endure.

"Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service. or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repeat, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best – if you like, it “works” best – when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but merely learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

"But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshiping. The important question about the Grail was ‘for what does it serve’ ‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god’.

"A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question ‘What on earth is he up to now’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, ‘I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks’.

'‘Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit – *habito dell’arte’ ".


“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

1 Like

Thanks! Something just now struck me about this. At first I thought it was funny that Lewis said he had little interest in sport. But you know what I just thought in re this!!?? The same thing he says about liturgy is true of sports. Esp. the idea of having little or no change. OK, let’s apply this to baseball. Imagine how frustrated it would be to try to watch a baseball game if they kept on changing the rules. Suppose tomorrow you would go to a baseball game where there were five bases instead of four. Then suppose they would change the batting rules to “Two Strikes And You Are Out”. Then suppose they would say there are only five innings in a game instead of nine.



The American evangelical church is sadly (and, I fear, terminally) infected with this need for novelty. I suspect much of it dates back to the 19th Century evangelists, particularly Charles Finney, who saw their task as presenting the most effective emotional appeal to manipulate their targets into professing a decision, without regard to whether the people concerned ever continued in the faith. Today, it manifests itself in the “seeker sensitive” mindset where, rather than ask how God wants to be worshiped and conduct services that way (they assume he’ll be pleased with whatever table scraps we throw his way), they instead ask what the unbelieving world wants a church service to look like and do that (well, try to do that).

With that backdrop, the story about Grove United Methodist Church in Cottage Grove, MN isn’t really that surprising:

Just ask the old people to go away, so the young people won’t feel out of place (and there won’t be anyone left to complain about the music). Maybe after a year or two they’ll be allowed to come back. In the meantime, they’ve brought in their church growth consultant, and this is what he says has to be done, so get out of the way of progress.