Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Why I (You) Need to Read What Dead Guys Said

Looking back on the nearly fifty books I read this year, I am seeing how important it is to read dead guys. While there is something appealing about the latest, greatest, brightest author, I sometimes ask myself, "Will this book pass the 100-year test?" When the author is dead and this computer is in the electronics graveyard, will this book still hold the same worth? 

How many books have you read that are at least 100 years old? Yep, it's harder reading. Our language has changed. Street lingo has replaced the more stiff and proper English that's ten decades old or more. I'm not saying that we need to go back to that kind of writing and speaking--just acknowledging that it is more difficult to read, takes more concentration and may require a dictionary at your fingertips. But it's worth it. And if you're like me and find that English almost too pithy to understand, get a modern translation of the ancient work and you'll still get the benefit of reading an author who has outlived his life.

Take this quote from Augustine of Hippo from somewhere around the 5th century: For I was not yet lowly enough to hold the lowly Jesus as my God, nor did I know what lesson His embracing of our weakness was to teach. For Your Word, the eternal Truth, towering above the highest parts of Your creation, lifts up to Himself those that were cast down.
Augustine, Saint. The Confessions: A New Translation (2017) (Kindle Locations 1914-1916). UNKNOWN. Kindle Edition. 

Here, Augustine speaks of his pre-conversion thinking. Augustine, trained in rhetoric, a brilliant student of philosophy, could match the wits of most any know-it-all of his day. Yet on reflection, he realizes his pride prevented him from embracing the One who made Himself nothing. 

I need to hear this and you do too. If you're intrigued by information like I am, by the clever, brilliant minds of the 21 century, try steeping yourself in the thought-life of Augustine, Paul Bunyan, John Owen, or even a younger dead guy like C.S. Lewis. No, not exclusively. But now and then we need to read something that is older than we are. 

1 comment:

Brad Pollina said...

That was very thought provoking. My wife Lori loves to read Augustine and even I like some C.S. Lewis now and then. I wonder how many know he has other books other than the Narnia series? Screwtape Letters is one of my favorites.