We should stop writing so many books. I am only semi-serious, but I think that I am wasting a good deal of valuable time. Joe Thorn alluded to this over at his blog in this post . I want to expound upon the theme.
One of the things that we pride ourselves on is creative thought. Creative thought is good. I promote creative thought. I am, after all, a Blogger. But when it comes to theology, I certainly do not spend my time attempting to come up with ‘innovative’ concepts. If I did, I would worry about what I had come up with.
I am afraid that many of us spend our time re-inventing the wheel. As I surf the blogs, I find common themes popping up again and again. Law/ Grace, anyone? How about a good tussle over Calvinism? I’ve got one! How about credo-baptism versus paedo-baptism?
There is truly nothing new under the sun, as the Preacher so astutely points out in Ecclesiastes. The Auburn Avenue controversy is nothing new. The baptism controversy is nothing new. The Law/Grace discussion is nothing new. The doctrine of election and predestination is nothing new. You get the point.
So why, then, do we think that the only place to get answers are out of “new” books? Old books are like beautiful antiques. Truly, they just don’t make them like they used to. Currently, I am reading Samuel Bolton’s (1606-1654) The True Bounds of Christian Freedom. What a fantastic book! Do you want a challenging book on Pastoral ministry? Don’t just go and grab MacArthur’s latest. Grab The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (1615-1691). He’ll let you know what a lazy Cretan you are far better than MacArthur does. How about a systematic theology? Try Calvin’s Institutes. Want a “meaty” devotional book? How about The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded by John Owen (1616-1683)? It will do for your soul what a personal trainer will do for your body. Everything that was ever written that was any good was written in the 1500’s and 1600’s. I’m kidding.
Pastors should already know what I am talking about. People in the pew are, in my experience, almost completely ignorant of these classics. Yes, we ought to read contemporary books. I have a few living heroes. (Though I must say that I am far more charitable towards people who are already dead.) Each generation has to find its voice, and they have to express themselves in order to defend areas of orthodoxy that may be under attack. But they don’t have to build a wagon to race to the arena: our forefathers have already outfitted tanks for our disposal. They had no cell phones, no regular phones, no internet, no cars, no radio, no TV, and apparently government was perfect back in those days. They had far fewer distractions, and they spent their time wisely. They examined doctrines like one would examine a diamond; they checked every facet and detail. They were doctrinal artists.
Sometimes, they are flat boring. But don’t let that deter you. Read a classic. It’ll be worth it.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.