Old vs New
This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul- or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.
I love to read. I have books scattered about my house much to my wife’s dismay but I cannot help myself. There are voices calling from within the covers that I cannot close out or quiet. Some of their thoughts are strange or alien to me while others are like the touch of my own skin.
There are times that I wish I were brighter in order to grasp the meaning of the secrets that lie behind the words scattered across the page. What were the author’s thoughts and emotions as they laid those words on the paper to be read by distant readers in time and space? I am finite and the knowledge found in books is vastly beyond my ability to ever fully appreciate, and yet, it does not touch the magnitude of the knowledge of Christ.
How can this be?
That is the mystery that so many of our predecessors have written about and longed to know deeper. Yesterday I put a question to myself after hearing the quote, “we can become so busy with God’s work that we forget about God”. The question was this – how do we recognize when that has happened?
Part of the answer for me is in the chase for modern ideas on religiosity. There are so many to read about and they all speak to certain truths that bear witness to the restlessness in my soul. But I can’t bring them together, at least, not in each one’s entirety. I would have to cherry-pick the morsels from each book and bind a new volume out of the pieces.
But in the midst of this modern storm, I find a bay of tranquility rising from the past. There are writers long dead that speak such simple, time-tested truths in the books that were birthed from their lives of learning. Today we hail the newest book for its novel approach to an old problem. We do this while completely ignoring some simple solutions that are captured between covers of a book long forgotten or viewed as unapproachable in language and culture.
I quoted St. Athanasius in my quote of the day section today. That quote is from the first paragraph of a book that he wrote almost 1700 years ago. He elegantly starts off with a simple truth – a truth that does not cause turmoil to the believer, but rather pulls them into a more thorough reading like an old friend stopping by for a chat.
I would encourage you to pick up a book from one of the Christian classics and experience the character of the author who wrote it. If you have done so already, share your favorite with us.