3 Reasons to Read Old Dead Guys

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Thinkers from previous generations don’t try to simplify their thoughts to something that can be tweeted or communicated in a hashtag. This stretches our modern brains in good ways.

I hate to be bossy, but mind if I make two suggestions?

1. Make a reading list.

2. Make sure at least two books written by old, dead guys (or gals) make the list.

If you’re like me, the classics aren’t your go-to genre. Perhaps you prefer mysteries or current bestsellers. I still love an easy read, but recently I’ve been challenged to pick up books that take a little effort to get through. So far this year I’ve read:

-- All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon

-- Heretics by G.K. Chesterton

-- Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

-- “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” a sermon by Jonathan Edwards

-- “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” a sermon by Jonathan Edwards.

(Confession: I read all of those for a work project, but when you read for school it still counts, right?)

All of these works were written between 100 and 200 years ago. I didn’t expect to love reading them, but I did. In fact, I’ve been inspired to try to read at least three more classic works in the year ahead. Here are three reasons why I’ll be reading books by old dead guys this year. Join me?

1. We are standing on their shoulders.

The Church has been built one brick at at time, one life at a time, year after year after year. Your physical church building is the result of the effort of the generations before you. In the same way, the freedom we enjoy as Christians today was fought for by the Christians we will never meet this side of glory.

Proclaiming Christ until He comes is a marathon run through the ages. The starting pistol was fired when Jesus declared, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20) and “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The race continues until Christ’s return when all believers will cross the finish line together. The baton of faith gets passed from person to person and from generation to generation.

Here on the blog we love to encourage you to seek out the wisdom of older women in your church, but I also want you to dig deeper. Listen to the voices of those who followed Christ fifty years ago, one hundred years ago, two hundred years ago . . . Living in the information age offers us many benefits unavailable to previous generations, including access to writers and thinkers whose paths we will never cross. Let their stories inspire you to run your own race well.

2. They help us play the long game.

On of my favorite questions to ask people my grandparents age is, “Tell me about that time the Lord let you down . . .”

I’ve never met anyone with an answer. They all rush to tell me how faithful He’s been through wars and loss and disappointment and heartache. When life hits a speed bump, it’s easy to lose perspective. Forcing ourselves to listen to the stories of those who have walked with Christ longer than we have reminds us that in every season and every generation God. Is. Faithful.

-- We see His hand in the life of Corrie ten Boom as she suffered in a concentration camp.

-- We see His faithfulness in the life of Elisabeth Elliot as she grieved the loss of her murdered husband.

-- We see Him keep His promises to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as he sacrificed his life to stand up to the evil agenda of the Nazis.

Much like Ruth, David, and Paul inspire us from God’s Word, these writers and thinkers from generations before us show us that God works slowly, patiently, and faithfully in the lives of His people. They snap us out of our temporary frustration and doubt and preach this truth with their lives:

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:5).

When we are able to trace God’s hand through decades instead of moments, our faith is strengthened.

3. They don’t know about meme theology.

Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him (Spurgeon, All of Grace).

Sometimes I get a little weary of meme theology. The great mysteries of God can’t always be reduced to a few, pinnable sentences. Thinkers from previous generations don’t try to simplify their thoughts to something that can be tweeted or communicated in a hashtag. This stretches our modern brains in good ways. We are tempted to race past the things of God and avoid deep thinking because of the pace of our lives. Classic writers help us go deep. Sometimes we are forced to read and re-read their words in order to grasp them. This is a good discipline.

By Erin Davis

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