Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Fad-Driven Church

Reading some great posts by Joe Carter and Pyromaniac have inspired me. Joe and Pyro have pinpointed a nasty problem in evangelicalism today, and have skillfully played the role of critic. Here is an insightful quote from Pyromaniac lamenting the ubiquity of Christian fads :

Not one of those movements or programs even existed 35 years ago. Most of them would not have been dreamed of by evangelicals merely a generation ago. And, frankly, most of them will not last another generation. Some will last a few short months (like the Jabez phenomenon did); others may seem to dominate for several years but then die lingering deaths (like Bill Gothard's movement is doing). But they will all eventually fade and fall from significance. And some poor wholesale distributor will be left with warehouses full of Jabez junk, Weigh-Down Workshop paraphernalia, "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets, Purpose-DrivenĀ® merchandise, and stacks and stacks of "emerging church" resources. . . Most of the stuff you are currently being told you must read and implement will soon seem as hopelessly out of date as it currently seems well-suited to the fashions of the day.

Amen. But, when the diatribe is done and the dust clouds have settled, what do we do?

Read old books.
Read old books?
Yup.
That's it?
Yup. If you want to fortify yourself from the onslaught and allure of Christian fads, then read old books.
You mean like from the 80's?
The 1780's, maybe.
Oh. But those are hard to read.
Steak takes more work to eat than twinkies, too.

This is not original to me. Here are some choice nuggets from C.S. Lewis' essay "On the Reading of Old Books":

"A new book [or fad] 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."

"Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that
will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."

"None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern [current] books. . . The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books."


Lewis even recommends that for every new book you read, you should read one old book. I think that prescription is expired. I recommend two old for every new book. That's what I usually try to do. Don't worry about staying "current." There are more "Christian" books published each month than there are people to read them. Ignore them. If you must read a new book, look for authors who have nourished themselves on the classics -- Dallas Willard, J.P. Moreland, Peter Kreeft, Os Guiness, R.C. Sproul, D.A. Carson, etc.

Maybe I'll post a "recommended reading" list sometime. Anyone interested?

("On the Reading of Old Books" is found in God in the Dock, 1970.)

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm interested in a reading list, definitely.

12:45 AM  
Blogger c.t. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous "lee n. field" said...

Maybe I'll post a "recommended reading" list sometime. Anyone interested?

I hope the list includes the English translation of Athanaseus, _On the Incarnation_, which Lewis' essay on old books is an introduction to. Interesting read. Sometimes he's very "4th century", sometimes he reads like a modern. It's that "timeless classic" thing.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

Amen and ditto. What an excellent and much needed post! Not only will the reading of old books anchor modern day evangelicals in the traditional ideologies of the faith, it will also enhance their ability to be critical thinkers (especially the puritans). I think that one of the primary reason that many modern christians are so put-off by older christian literature is the dramatic difference in writing style. Our microwave/pop-tart society "doesn't have time" to sit down with a book that requires active mental participation. We want action, humor, and plenty of illlustrations without all that bothersome theology and philosophy to weigh things down.

5:49 PM  

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