To the extent that I received any feedback from the previous post, the remarks were rather disappointing. Rather than comment on the profundity of my classic rock analogy, friends mocked me for failing to realize that the likes of Green Day are already 20+ years old.
But my snarky interlocutors only further my point.
To label music from the 80s & 90s “classic rock” assumes that what makes the song (or the band) classic is mere age. On this reckoning the only thing preventing the Twilight saga from joining the ranks of The Iliad and The Odyssey is the time it takes for Team Edward to begin hormone replacement therapy.
The “classics” analogy highlights the unfortunate habit of defining certain works by copyright date (how old is it?) and/or sales (was/is it popular?). Christianity, on the other hand, requires far more precision and discrimination to define her doctrine and institutions. Tinker with the classics if you will but tread lightly with the faith. Better aesthetically impoverished than spiritually bankrupt.
In a sane world Bon Jovi and Green Day would never be considered classic rock. But our culture jettisoned any pretense of sanity some time ago so now I must endure the aforementioned along with Bush, Poison, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers whenever I tune in to our classic rock station. The apocalypse is surely upon us.
But as one obscure pastor has said: Don’t waste your sorrows. Even the heart-breaking heterodoxy of 105.5 will prove redemptive as it further convinces me of an unalterable truth: definitions matter.
Now certainly some definitions are more important than others. Stretching the boundaries of classic rock so that Nirvana makes the playlist is delusional but in the long run it’s of little consequence. [even so, I’m considering a petition to the FCC]
Still, if a radio station’s misnomer can ruin your ride home (Pearl Jam?!?) it’s worth considering that a greater ruin hangs in the balance when the terms of our faith become too elastic.
On this point a passage from Chesterton is particularly poignant:
Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word.
. . . if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe.
. . . A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined with strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless. [Orthodoxy]
Mind those definitions.