Reading is an exercise in listening and learning. I hope by God’s grace to spend some time each month listening to and learning from the following dead theologians. I got the idea from Mark Dever. But it was C.S. Lewis who supplied the inspiration:
“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. 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.”
–C.S. Lewis, “Introduction” in St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1944/1993), 4-5.
None of these men were perfect. They all made mistakes. But their writings have withstood the test of time. I hope some of the great books of the past will bear fruit in the present by identifying and correcting some of my own “characteristic mistakes.” I look forward to keeping company with these old friends and having the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through my mind for a little while each month.
My Canon of Theologians
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)
John Owen (1616-1683)
John Bunyan (1628-1688)
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
John Newton (1725-1807)
J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
“A student who does not want his labor wasted must so read and reread some good writer so that the author is changed, as it were, into his flesh and blood. For a great variety of reading confuses and does not teach. It makes the student like a man who dwells everywhere and, therefore, nowhere in particular. Just as we do not daily enjoy the society of every one of our friends but only that of a chosen few, so it should also be in our studying.”
–Martin Luther, What Luther Says: An Anthology, comp. Ewald M. Plass (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), entry no. 344, 112.