Why Read Old Books & How Often

This Saturday our Oxford Club for Men dives into the introduction and first chapter of A Practical View of Christianity by William Wilberforce. For information on the meeting click here.

I confess I am eager to tackle such a challenging manuscript by someone long since gone to his heavenly reward for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is this counsel from another voice from the past, C. S. Lewis:

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books…. Now this seems topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old…. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light…. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between…. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books (“Introduction” in On the Incarnation by Athanasisus, 3-5).

I can smell the salt air already. Hope to see many of the brothers on Saturday at 7.

One response

  1. Thank you for this reminder that we avoid Chronological snobbery. There is definite merit in making sure that we don’t become blinded by our own culture and centurial norms. I am so glad that we have leadership that not only encourages us to stay historically educated but is also having a class on church history in general.

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