I love to read.
That’s one of the main reasons that when my family wants to give me a gift, they immediately think of giving me books or money to buy books. Some of you have been in my office and are thinking: ‘you have too many books already!’
Regardless of the truth of that, I still love reading books, books, and more books.
Many times, my mind is captured by what’s new or fresh on the shelf. I love to read over the most recent offerings of contemporary authors like Tim Keller, Donald Miller or Andy Crouch. These, and others like them, speak the language of our day. They help me to grapple with the issues in our current milieu and engage with others in our current time. Many times, they challenge me to think freshly.
But I have also found the importance of reading authors outside of our current time period. This helps me to combat the contemporary fascination with what is new. Just as we always long for the newest gadget, we also tend to seek after the newest idea. Too often, we naively think that the new idea is better than the old idea.
C. S. Lewis once wrote:
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. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.
So, based on that advice, I’ve been adding some old, dusty books to my reading list. Some of the authors’ names sound funny. I’m finding their ideas and way of speaking both harder to engage, more challenging to my worldview, and still very refreshing.
Not long ago, I was reading an anonymous letter from a 1st century disciple of Jesus to someone named Diognetus. The richness of thought that I found within these few pages overwhelmed me. (You can access this in the writings of the early church fathers found online at www.ccel.org/fathers2).
I thought to myself: ‘why have I never looked into these sorts of writings before?’ The answer is found in my contemporary snobbery. If the new is better, then the old is often viewed as unimportant. If the new is to be held up as ultimately worthy, then the old may be discarded as unworthy.
So, I ask all of us this question: are we snobs of the contemporary, or are we letting the voices of the past speak depth into our lives?