Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Country singer John Conlee has produced some great songs. I don't like all country music just like I don't like all gospel music. The lyrics and beat have a lot to do with whether I like a song regardless of the genre.

"The Old School" is a Conlee song that tells the story of high school love that is lost as she goes for a career after graduation and marries for money while he drives a truck and raises a family. Her marriage fails. His thrives. Reunion time comes. She asks for a dance. As they glide across the floor an exchange is sung this way by Conlee...

"It could be like old times__
you ask if I understand you__
well yes__ I'm afraid I do__
you say everyone does it__ 
I don't care if they do__
"I'm of the old school."

In that sense the "old school" is the old-fashioned way of viewing immorality and the keeping of marriage vows. I say 'hooray' for the old school and for John Conley. [Although he's just singing about it at the moment.]

But if you move the "old school" idea out of the realm of morality and placed it along side the "new school" comparing it to new ways of thinking about things that are merely cultural or things the bible doesn't speak with total clarity on, it isn't that simple. The "old school" isn't always right because it's old and the "new school" isn't always wrong because it's new.

Also, in the issues where the scriptures do speak, often new insight into the meaning of Greek words, a better understanding of the context of a passage or better understanding of the historical situation may enable one to move from an old school of thought and embrace a new school of thought and be honest, biblical and correct in doing so. [And it not be heretical at all]

With that in mind, I want to look at what I perceive to be "old school" "new school" ways of thinking about several issues and try to track why I personally may have moved from one school to the other or, in fact, stayed with the "old school." It's a given for me! The "old school" is not always right because it's old and the "new school" is not always wrong because it's new. And vice-versa!

Take a simple thing like manners. The "old school" of thought has caused me to open doors for women, rise when a woman joins us at a table or our group and remove my baseball cap inside a building such a restaurant or church facility.

The "new school" of thought is different. At a Starbucks recently I held the door open for a young woman and she glared at me as she said "I can do it for myself." It was obvious to me she had felt the indignity of in-equality heaped upon her by our culture in the home or workplace and certain actions shouted out to her that she was considered less as a person, helpless and feminine in gender to boot.

Add it all together and what she was hearing me say by what I was doing was, "That sweet little helpless thing needs a man to help her." But she was not having any of that. My response to her was literally an embarrassed "Sorry, I'm of the old school." I don't think she cared where I went to school or how long ago it might have been, she neither needed nor wanted my help. The fact that my gesture had a different purpose and intention behind it was fine for me to know, but it didn't help my moment of interaction with her.

Now. I could argue that I was right [old school] and her new way of thinking was wrong [new school] and her thinking was destroying manners in our society. The truth is, it was a cultural moment and no right or wrong way of doing or thinking was involved at all. Just different ways of doing and thinking. If I had gotten angry or had shown my displeasure with her or projected myself to the head of the table [above her] in my assessment of character based on that exchange, I would have effectively declared war on her and her culture of new thought and that declaration of war would be known by all because my attitude would leak...profusely. For me to ever impact her and her culture with the gospel would be practically impossible were I to persist in that attitude of war.

One more example. Removing your baseball cap. I'm of the "old school." I still find it difficult to wear one inside a cafe, I do...but it has taken a while to experience freedom in doing so. I still can't keep it on in a church building. I think it shows respect to remove it in a church gathering and there may even be some sense of a respectful atmosphere in it's removal although there is certainly no clearly stated command to do so that I can find. But it just feels right to me. It's my generation I'm sure. We're "old school" you see.

Young people today are of a "new school" of thinking. A baseball cap to a young man today is a bit like his pants, no matter how dirty, they are NEVER to be removed except at night in order to stand them in the corner until the next day. When a young man leaves his cap on in church I could tell him to "take it off in the house of God," as one deacon did that I heard about. But it's said that the teen-ager responded, "Sir, this cap is ON the House of God." [While hoping he didn't mean to be disrespectful, I'm thinking the kid had better theology than the deacon don't you?]

In elevating an "old school" of thought on manners as that deacon did about the hat on in church to an ought/should/must, may be seen as another declaration of war to our culture [new school/cultural thinking] and a door can be heard slamming shut to the gospel being effectively shared with a young man and much of his generation.

Don't hear me saying we can't establish boundaries and even request young men to remove their hats in church, but it might be wise to do so on a cultural or personal basis rather than a right/wrong moral basis. If we're angry, judgmental, or condemning of their actions...it leaks...as I said.

I might request that for the worship hour hats be removed out of respect for our gathering unless there is a personal reason or conviction against removing it which would be understood and respected as well. In such a case, feel free to not remove it.

Were I to do this, I probably would do it regularly as a teaching moment when someone's hat isn't an issue, much as I do with my statement "crying babies are like good intentions, it would be a help to everyone if they are carried out immediately." I DON'T declare that in the middle of a crying session. Or I might choose to NOT make a big deal about it at all. But, as I say, it's hard for me not to. "Old school" remember.

Someone may be wondering why I even mention such mundane matters as manners. It is to establish a principle of relating to people who are different in cultural attitudes. They are not the enemy. If I consider them to be, that carries over into major things rather quickly.

People are important and my view of a lot of things is not the right view because it's mine and is of the "old school." It has to pass muster with whether or not my view is, in fact, something clearly biblical or whether it is my "old school" cultural thinking and is still just that.. cultural.

If it is JUST cultural, things have a way of changing culturally and it may be legitimate to move from the "old school" to the "new school" of thought and know you would NOT be bankrupting your Christianity at all.

Baseball caps on in church is mundane perhaps. But styles of worship? Marriage? The pulpit and politics? Preaching exegetically or topically? Do we tend toward making sacred certain things that are not__in fact__sacred at all? May it not be just cultural? [Just a different one than the present.]

We may be unnecessarily declaring war on our culture if we are not careful and hinder the gospel because we wind up being more committed to an old school of thought than we are to Jesus and His message.

In other words, I could be Baptist with a certain view of things and think of it as Christianity and it not be biblical at all. Just some of my "old school" Baptist thinking that is, in fact, only cultural. Old culture. MY old culture.

Bottomline? I would say this.......

One__People are important. Maybe MORE important than my old Baptist culture even.

Two__We're NOT at war with people and their ideas automatically even if they AREN'T Christian.

Three__It is POSSIBLE to be "old school' and more cultural than Christian and not even know it.

While accusing others [splinter in the eye] of embracing culture into their Christianity, some of us may have a 2 by 4 in ours. More later..

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


You're Old Timer status is showing, and as one, I do appreciate your words.

Haven't heard the "Old School" terminology for some time so it brought back a few memories, some quite funny, others not so.

The "House of God" comment was particularly relevant to my years in ministry. If I had a dollar for every time someone complained about something happening in "the house of God".

As a young pastor I could see that the pews were placed in such a way that some folk had the pulpit so close they got a neck ache, with others too far away, so in my young naivety I got to work and moved the pews into a much better configuration (I thought).

A founding matriarch was the first to arrive, and I heard this loud stage whisper, "Look what he's done to God's House". Even funnier was the fact that no one could find their traditional seat.

Well, I had to see it as funny, otherwise I would have cried at the theology of the thoughts expressed.

Your last three points raise the question: In what rests an individual's (or even a congregation's) security, and understanding of their function in God's House (1 Peter 2:4-5)?

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Superb comment and a funny illustration as well. Thanks.

Paul Burleson said...


I'm thinking we are all aware that the Christian who tries to live by doing "good things" [moral behavior] as opposed to doing "bad things" [immoral behavior] is doing nothing but religion. Christian Religion is really no different than the other religions when thought of in that manner.

Christianity, Christian living, is the life of Jesus Christ lived out through us. Such is antithetical to all morality. To the extent that we accept, advocate or try to observe morality, and try to live and "be good" based on precepts or principles, rules or regulations, Christian living is excluded, the Christ-life is not being expressed at all.

Ian Thomas writes, "Seeking to be godly by submitting yourself to external rules and regulations, and by conformity to behavior patterns [morals] imposed upon you by the particular Christian society which you have "chosen," and in which you hope to be found "acceptable," is foolishness as you will, in this way, perpetuate the pagan habit of practicing religion in the energy of the 'flesh,' and in the very pursuit of righteousness commit idolatry in honoring 'Christianity' more than Christ."