Most Christians read only one old book: the bible. And must of us struggle with that. Our failure to read old dead people is also a failure to fulfill Paul’s command in Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” However, I know this is a hard struggle, so I want to respond to the three most common reasons why people avoid old books.
1. Those books are way too hard. If you’re in college, then you are capable of reading most old dead people. Luckily there’s nearly two centuries of writing for you to chose from, so don’t give up and try some new authors.You can do a few things to help yourself out though: be sure that you’re reading modern translations of foreign authors; read modern adaptations of older English writers; start easy and read authors from only a few generations away, like Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, Francis Schaeffer, and C.S. Lewis.
2. Those books are so boring I can’t stay awake. If that’s really the case, then you’re probably reading the wrong old dead guy. Also, if you only read Dan-Brown-ish novels and need plot twists and short sentences to keep your interest, then you may just need to ask God for the required attention to sit down and read. Honestly, we all have different gifts, so don’t feel embarrassed to ask for strength in an area of weakness. I’m not great at service, but that doesn’t excuse me from serving, so I need to ask God for help .
3. Let’s be honest, the new stuff is just more relevant to my faith today. Well, yes and no. There are some things that dead authors discuss for which we have apparent use. However such passages, in my experience, are few and far between. In fact, dead authors tend to diagnose the sins and idols of our culture that we easily miss because of our proximity to modern issues.
According to Hebrews, we all need to contemplate the leaders of the past. They speak through their books, and by their quiet words our hearts are chastened and made to love Jesus more. Find heroes from the past, read them, learn about them, imitate them, and shape your life’s ministry after theirs, to the benefit of yourself, for the sake of Christ’s glory, and out of love for others.