Read Old Books


C.S. Lewis popularized the words "chronological snobbery" in criticizing the tendency, especially among scholars, to prefer the new to the old.  Yet, Lewis pushed back demanding to know why a work is "out of date."  Was it ever clearly refuted? 

In seminary, I encountered scholarly tomes that were rarely referred to but, as many of my professors admitted, had never been refuted but simply shrugged off because it didn't fit the controlling paradigm of the age.  For example. A.T. Robertson argued that most, if not all, of the books of the New Testament were penned before the fall of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70 and Morna Hooker asserted that there was not A heresy at Colossae that Paul was addressing but many.  Neither of these propositions have been widely accepted but they have never been shown to be flawed either!

I have the strange tendency to look up current syllabi and reading lists for seminaries.  I see that chronological snobbery is indeed king.  In fact, after attending a handful of Society of Biblical Literature ("SBL") meetings and having formerly subscribed to its journal (the flagship of "scholars" publications among "prestigious seminaries", I have noticed that the easiest way to get published (and one must publish or perish in academia) is to say something new and, somewhat shocking.  Unfortunately, a scholar today could carefully research and exquisitely write an article on say the atonement from a historically orthodox position and it most certainly would be rejected by the publishing wing of the SBL.  

 Before I attended seminary, a wise Bible college professor warned me, "Beware of catching every new theological disease!"  Scholarship, even among theologians, has a tendency to latch on to any new "groundbreaking" idea that comes along--"the open view of God," "The new perspective on Paul," "hermeneutical trajectories", etc.  Yet, the history of theology is replete with "new ideas" wrecking the faith of many and grounding denominations on the rocks.  

Recently, preparing for a sermon on sanctification, I have read J.C. Ryle's "Holiness" and John Owen's "The Mortification of Sin."  The former was written in 1877 and the latter penned in 1656.  Yet, both works are by far the best I have ever read on the subject. 

In "Holiness," Ryle often admits he is captive to the "old ways."  I am convinced that if the church at large had continued to follow that "old way" it would be much better off than it is today.  The scars and troubles that befell the church leaders who wrote so many classic works molded them into wiser and deeper theologians.  They are worth your time and attention.