Monday, January 22, 2007

Old books

I recently read "Prophetic Untimeliness" by Os Guiness. I would recommend it. In it, the author echos the advise from C.S. Lewis to mix up your reading a bit. Throughout history, the "whatever's now" modern perspective usually carries with it the idea that if an idea isn't new, then it's not valuable. So Lewis advises, if you read a new book, choose an old book next time. It's a good idea to gain perspective from more vantage points than a modern one.

My friend Aaron tells me about the concept in G.K. Chesterton's writing around the "democracy of the dead" as a great voice to look to as we form ideas and world views. Chesterton said, "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about." They have left behind their writings for us read and we should let them help us. And that is our problem, isn't it? Admitting we need help.

Well we do. We would do well to listen to older people and read older writings. G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis have both entered into that democracy and their writings are a great help to us now. We are not re-inventing the church. We don't get to do that. The church wasn't thought was born. And we, surrounded by a very real "great cloud of witnesses" would do well to not presume our ideas are new and/or better.

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