When choosing which books to read, which authors to allow to invest in my intellectual and spiritual development…
It is an easy temptation to limit myself to current bestselling authors, those that generate buzz on Amazon, that have displays at the Christian bookstore or that get pushed through the big conferences. I definitely read to stay current, engaging the ideas and idea-generators that are impacting our culture. There is nothing wrong with this.
But there is nothing new under the sun. The Jesus I know and love today is the same Jesus believers have known and loved for centuries. He doesn’t change. And while Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, the culture and circumstances through which we experience Him do.
So I regularly read from authors of other time periods and other nationalities:
Those who had to lean on Him through the middle ages where famine and disease and unbelievable uncertainty reigned were privileged to see facets of His character that are all but invisible to me in modern 21st century America. Those who had to work through the ethical dilemmas of the World War II era in Europe, where there were no easy options to escalating evil that snuck in the backdoor. They learned things about making decisions that could cost their lives that I may never be forced to learn. The desert fathers of the first millennium who left civilization, embracing chastity and devoting their intellect and vitality to the study the scriptures and contemplative prayer in the wilderness were privy to a quietness of soul I can hardly imagine. They were able to explore the depths of their hearts in ways that invited God to speak to them deeply, personally and tenderly.
These are all people I want to learn from. Yet they are not of my generation, century or culture.
These are not writing today’s bestsellers. Their books are not always easy to find. These are the authors and texts I must seek out if I am to read them – like buried treasure, tucked away on someone else’s bookshelves or hidden in the recesses of Amazon’s warehouses. Their works are timeless and filled with insights that are almost impossible to find in modern pages. And because they have already passed, I know how their lives ended. I am assured that they actually lived all they believed till their last day – and that they finished their race well. As such, I have more confidence that they really knew what they were writing about.
So I read authors from the past generations. From different centuries and nationalities. Here, my goal is to read to grow deep, not just to stay current.