Monday, January 07, 2008

2008 Puritan Reading Challenge

Timmy Brister has come up with a reading challenge for all of us. His challenge is to read one Puritan book per month during 2008. These are not just any Puritan books, but a specific list. This list can be viewed at Reformation Heritage Books.

I know what you are thinking, that's if you are thinking like I used to think about 10+ years ago. "These are all old books written by a bunch of dead guys!"

C.S. Lewis, wrote a very insightful introduction to the book of one of those old dead guys. He wrote this forward to Athanasius' On the Incarnation.

This is what he wrote:
"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire."

He also wrote:
"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. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o'clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. 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."

So, I would like to challenge my readers to take up
Timmy Brister's challenge to read the Puritans.

If you are from South Africa like I am, you might try Augustine Bookroom for all those books. I have checked their catalogue, and they indeed have it in their catalogue.


Teri said...

NICE Blog :)

rees said...

Hi Dicks,

I am from Zambia and on the Puritan Challenge as well. I hope we can share some views also, those that are in this part of the world. There appear to be at least two people from SA.

God day.

William Dicks said...

Excellent Rees!

BTW, Dicks is my surname and William is my name. I prefer to be called by my name.

Enjoy the books. I had to start reading the second book since the first one was not available and I had to order it first.

rees said...

Hi Williams,

How is the PRC going with you? I am making strides and enjoying every moment of it. I am in the seventh chapter of the "Mystery", which I am sure you read last month. Have you linked up with anyone in SA who is on the challenge?

William Dicks said...

Hi Rees,

Nice hearing from you again.

I am still on the challenge, but due to evnts in my life, I will definitely go slower than the rest. I have ordered books 1 & 4, since the Reformed Book store I support did not have them, so I only bought books 2 & 3. I am still waiting for 1 & 4.

I started with "Mystery of Providence" by Flavel first, but then I kind of got side tracked by events here in my church. Needless to say, I had to put the PRC on hold for a while to do research in other areas which led to other reading.

When this phase is finished, I will get back to the PRC.

Blessings to you,

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