A fixation on the past – repristination

By Dave Henning / December 21, 2020

“A fixation on the past, attempts to reestablish it, and constant comparisons to  . . . present ministry [make] new initiatives and new energy impossible.  The attempts at repristination — seeking to restore a lost, golden, and more pristine era — [cause] . . . a fall into Janus-like idolatry.”- Rev. Jeffrey Leininger

“The grass withers, the flower faces, but the word of our God will stand forever.”- Isaiah 40:8 (ESV)

As Rev. Jeffrey Leininger moves on in Chapter 2 of Callings for Life, he tells the story of a ‘fictional’ Lutheran church and school with a less than healthy fixation on the past golden days.  As a result, this church’s view of the past through rose-colored glasses serves as a detriment to present and future ministry.

Rev. Leininger refers to this process as repristination.  In addition, such attempts give birth to three problems:

  1. The past is never as good as you remember it.  Therefore, trying to restore the past fails the good idea test.  Because when you look back with affection and nostalgia, that skews how your perceive of the past.
  2. Even if you wanted to restore the past, it’s an impossible task.  Everything changes – the world, culture, people.  Thus, you can’t reproduce any one specific moment.  Even if you desired to do so.  In the end, only God’s Word endures forever.  Thus, your mission involves reaching out to our quickly changing world with the unchanging nature of Christ’s Gospel.
  3. Any attempt to return to a certain glorious past borders on, if not turns into, idolatry.  The unattainable past turns into an idol when when you glorify the past at the expense of Christ.  Certainly, at times it’s good to look back at the past with wisdom, reflection, and thanksgiving.  That’s normal – and even necessary.  Yet, the author explains: “Staring Janus-like at the past, however, becomes a false god when the past or the attempt to retrieve, reproduce, or replicate it becomes more important than Christ and the work He’s given us today.”

Today’s question: Do you find yourself with a longing for past glory?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The false god of the future – equally dangerous”

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Dave Henning

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