As Anglican followers of Jesus, we are “classic Christians.” You’ve seen classic cars, heard classic rock, and probably drink classic Coke. These are solid, time-tested, older than yesterday’s fad. They are proven items. We are classic Christians whose worship style, Creeds, and method of reading God’s Word in worship weekly reaches back for centuries.
Similarly, the Prayer Book Society uses the word “classic” to describe the species of Anglicanism that they represent. It’s a peculiar use of the word, hearkening to studies of “the Classics,” or “the Greats” of ancient Western civilization.
The whole concept enshrines a particular period, philosophy or way of life as golden. A classic ’57 Chevy and a classic Coke somehow evoke a power that my Honda Accord and a diet Mountain Dew fail to do.
This use of “classic” is familiar to lots of hackers. The famed Jargon File describes Classic-C like this:
Classic C: /klas�ik C/, n.
[a play on ‘Coke Classic’] The C programming language as defined in the first edition of K&R, with some small additions. It is also known as ‘K&R C’. The name came into use while C was being standardized by the ANSI X3J11 committee. Also ‘C Classic’.
An analogous construction is sometimes applied elsewhere: thus, ‘X Classic’, where X = Star Trek (referring to the original TV series) or X = PC (referring to IBM’s ISA-bus machines as opposed to the PS/2 series). This construction is especially used of product series in which the newer versions are considered serious losers relative to the older ones.
The division of classic and post-classic falls into the hands of the ANSI committee. Before that, and it was two guys, K&R, hacking on their projects at Bell Labs. Nothing but the innocent act of creativity. What could be more pure? What could be more great?
Its fall was the committee. To the Jargon File, the ANSI committee made a “serious loser” of C. Classic Coke was great until the focus groups came. Only a marketing committee would come up with the PS/2. After Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek fell apart at the hands of a committee of writers.
The classic form usually looks to a single inspired person or a small pairing (Roddenberry, K&R, Jobs and Wozniak). Almost out of a necessary narrative, committees and marketing groups come in later to ruin it all, leaving little but hackish nostalgia.
Classic Anglicans, by extension, try to hang their hat on Thomas Cranmer and the Book of Common Prayer. A nearly single-handed creation that was, like Algol-60, “a great improvement on many of its successors.” As soon as liturgy committees enter the picture, the attitude changes.
Certainly these behaviors are not unique to hackers and Christians. Classic Coke and classic cars also exemplify the same. Always looking back, we hope for the unexamined innocence of a golden past.
Theology is founded on the great genius and singlehanded work of Jesus Christ, a unique person if there ever was one. Unfortunately, the committee he entrusted his work to (Judas the Betrayer, Peter the Denier, Thomas the Doubter, etc) managed to muck it up from the year 34 onward. However, hoping for a future cast in the image of an innocent past finds canonical recognition in the New Testament with Jesus Christ as a second Adam, ready to create a new heaven and a new earth after the vision of ancient paradise, the Garden of Eden.
(Perhaps this can be expanded on in terms of the second-system effect.)