Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Do not overlook the value of older books

In Ecclesiastes 12:12 Solomon reminded us "Of making many books there is no end...." That is certainly true today! Those of us who enjoy reading are glad about that, but it does present a dilemma when we have to choose what to read. Just because there are many books does not mean that all of them deserve to be read. Books are also expensive so if we buy ones that we find are not helpful or enjoyable to read we can waste a lot of money.

Most of us have our favorite authors. These are men and women whose writings we have found helpful in the past. We know their books will usually be a safe investment and will provide us with enjoyable reading.

Unfortunately, many of us overlook some valuable books that need to be read and re-read. They are written by what one person called "dead authors." These are older books written by persons who have passed away. We seem to think that these books have little to say to us in our postmodern era. Such thinking is wrong.

In my devotional reading I am currently re-reading The Company of the Committed: A Bold and Imaginative Re-thinking of the Strategy of the Church in Contemporary Life by Elton Trueblood. It's been years since I read this book. While searching my bookshelves for something to read I ran across it. I've been amazed at how this book, published in 1961, speaks to the issues still facing the church today.

This morning I began reading the chapter on "The Vocation of Witness." The Great Commandment calls us to go into all the world and be a witness of what God has done for us. However, we know that few Christians ever share their testimony with others. Trueblood challenges this failure on the part of believers reminding us that our failure in this area is directly counter to God's command to us.

He shares some thoughts on the matter that came out of an even older book written by a French existentialist, Gabriel Marcel, that addressed the sharing of testimony. There's not room in this post to include all that was said on this matter, but I will share one quote from Marcel, "Conversion...is the act by which man is called to be a witness." That line jumped off the page as I read it.

Trueblood went on to write, "The call to witness is a call which men can answer affirmatively or negatively, but one who answers it negatively, however kind and pious he may be, is not in the Company of Jesus."

Will that preach today? It did in 1961 and it still does in 2016. If we read only the latest and newest books we will miss out on reading some of the greatest thinkers from the past. I encourage you to go to your back shelves, blow the dust off the covers of some of those older books you read years ago, and re-read them. I bet you'll find some nuggets you didn't notice the first time. Besides, you've already paid for that book!

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