Why I Do What I Do

Although the following quotation is a sentiment familiar to those acquainted with Chesterton, Lewis, and me, I felt it worth sharing.  Furthermore, I feel that it relates to my work as a Classicist, not simply my devotional life as a Christian:

Why should one bother to read famous books from the past?  Reading books from another age, like travelling to another country or conversing in another language, makes demands.  There is much that is unfamiliar.  Occasionally it is very apparent that the author comes from an alien culture.  Reading older English books requires a certain amount of translation where words have changed their meanings.  All of this is more demanding than reading the latest popular Christian book — but it also offers greater rewards.  If we read only today’s books we are trapped in our own culture, with all of its blind spots and weaknesses.  When we read books from the past we quickly spot the glaring weaknesses of past ages — but we can also be challenged by their strengths in areas where we are weak.  There is no suggestion that the classics selected [in this book] are without their blemishes and errors and in some instances these may be glaring.  It is also doubtless true that there are recent works available which overall are superior to at least some of the classics selected.  But the value of reading good books from the past is that they bring a different perspective from our own and that while they may be weak where we are strong, they may also have significant things to say that are being ignored today.
-Tony Lane, “Introduction” to The Lion Christian Classics Collection


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