Is there any reason to read old books? Books hundreds of years old? With archaic language and unusual spellings? Whose authors could never have imagined something as simple as an e-reader? Let alone the printing press?

Well yes! I think there are great reasons, but one in particular stands above the rest. It is simply this: We all think alike.

“What?!” – you might say. There are so many different ways of thinking today that no one I know thinks alike. But please let me give you an example off the top of my head. A few days ago I wrote a post titled, “7 Reasons Why I Don’t Like the Sinner’s Prayer.” Now I realize what I wrote is not the dominate view in American Christianity. It’s not even close! Almost every Christian in this country, including myself, has been encouraged to use the “sinner’s prayer” as the way to do evangelism. Whether it is raking leaves, handing out soup, inviting someone to church, or simply talking with a good friend, each type of evangelism is designed to somewhere along the way move the conversation toward the sinner’s prayer. It is simply how evangelism is being done in America in our time. We might think differently on how the sinner’s prayer should be worded, when it should be presented, how a new Christian should pray it, but in the end we still think the same. We all assume it should be the sinner’s prayer and therefore we all think alike without even recognizing it. So what do we do?

The remedy to this is simple. We need someone to point it out to us. But if everyone is thinking the same way no one able to shows us our common assumptions or to critique our accepted ideas and we are left blind to our errors. Unless…. we can find a person living outside of our time and outside of our mindset, who can show us something new and possibly raze or fortify our thinking,

This is the value of old books! They help us to think new thoughts outside of our time we would not otherwise be able to think.

And if any of this is sounding familiar to you, it might be because these thoughts are not original to me. I’m only borrowing them from C.S. Lewis who penned them in an introduction to, The Incarnation of the Word of God, a very old book by Athanasius, a hero of the Christian faith.

Here C. S. Lewis writes to us:

“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books… This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology.

Now this seems to me to be topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am I writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But it he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old… It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones… We all… need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books… We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century… lies where we have never expected it… None of us can fully escape this blindness… The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through out minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”

I might be completely crazy when I suggest we downplay the role of the sinner’s prayer. But one thing is for sure, if it had not been for old books, I never would have considered that Christians did evangelism differently for the first 1,900+ years of Church history.

Now stop reading my blog and go read an old book! Or better yet, share with me what old book has challenged your thinking about God.