Being popular doesn’t make something right. (I can think of a lot of popular ideas that aren’t right. Can’t you?) Yet, Women’s Bible Study groups often delve into the latest Christian Best Seller. How do we know if these books are theologically sound? C.S. Lewis wrote a profound passage about this very thing.
“This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology.“
CS Lewis (1898 – 1963)
Lewis explains why this preference for the new books is a mistake. His words are even more applicable today than when they were written.
I found this passage, when reading Pam Larson’s excellent blog, Knowing God Through His Word … Day by Day. I found it so applicable to today’s Christian woman, I was compelled to repost it. It is definitely something we should think about.
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. Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light.
Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.
This is from CS Lewis’ Introduction to the book, Athanasius’ On the Incarnation. You can read the entire introduction here.
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” Philippians 1:9-10 ESV