Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Should We Read Old Books?

Here's a good quote by Bruce Ashford at "Between the Times" on Why Should We Read Old Books

...We rarely read old books. We tend to limit ourselves by era, tribe, and category-we read books written in our day, but people just like us, and that can be placed in one or two limited genres. But this sort of epistolary reductionism is to our detriment-the older books are precisely the ones that will help us to escape the limitations of our current era, learn from those who are not a part of our local tribe, and transcend the categories to which we have become accustomed.

We benefit from reading great authors from eras past more than from reading a great number of books. In Christian theology and related fields, this means that we want to pick a handful of theologians who have influenced the church and make sure that we have read at least a little bit of what they wrote. If you are a seminarian, you want to read Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth, the towering figures in church history. (Frank Peretti is not a towering figure in church history.) In fact, you may want to choose one or two of these authors and read everything they’ve written, and read some of their books multiple times.
I will admit some weakness in this area. I have read some Irenaeus, Augustine, Luther, Edwards, etc, to my benefits. But I must confess that the older writing styles with long and complicated sentence structrue (especially Edwards!) have made it difficult for me.

Got to keep trying.