I have recently decided that I would like to start a project that will likely take me several years. In fact, I’ve been purchasing what I’ll need for said project for the past few months. I’m now very close to being ready to start, and I would like to share my mad idea with you, as you’ll be seeing quite a bit of it on my website in the future.
I’ve been a reader ever since I was a wee Lucas. My reading has been omnivorous; I love novels, savor poetry, delight over Shakespeare’s works (as you’ve likely noticed), learn from history, salivate over syllogisms, wonder at science and mathematics… I even read shaving cream labels and toothpaste tubes. But, of all the reading I do, nothing takes up more of my time – indeed, it is my life’s work – than studying the Scriptures and the works of the great commentators and theologians throughout Christian history.
Of course, as a Pastor and Teaching Elder in God’s church, much of my work is precisely that – pastoring and teaching, pastoring by teaching, and teaching by pastoring, as though the two could ever really be separate. My writing work is predominantly taken up in sermons and lessons; but, I’ve also been posting a lot of meditations, poetry, and the like on here.
The project, which would be additional to my regular sermons, studies, and writings on Scripture, is to study in more detail the great theological works of Christianity, beginning with the Apostolic Fathers (if you don’t know who they are, stay tuned!) and ending somewhere around Kuyper and Bavinck. My hope is to begin regularly sharing with you the insights I find there in short posts that will be accessible to a modern reader. That being said, these posts won’t be summaries, or merely sharing quotes from the works I’m reading. They’ll be more like my own personal meditations – gleanings, if you will – from portions of what I’m studying, along with applications.
Obviously, you can see why this project will take years. I see it not only as a way to introduce modern Christians to some of the major influential personages in our history, but also as a means of continuing my own development as a Pastor-Theologian. I’ve read a great deal of the Church Fathers, Medieval theologians, Reformers, Puritans, etc.; but the only library greater than the one I have read is the one I haven’t.
It’s important also to state that while I will be also reading some connected material, especially in helping me understand historical contexts, etc., my main focus will be on the works themselves. The reason for this is something akin to what C.S. Lewis stated so well in his introduction to On the Incarnation by Athanasius:
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about ‘isms’ and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said.
The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.
The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.“
In other words, I won’t just be reading books about Basil of Caesarea, etc.; no, I’ll be reading the works written by Basil of Caesarea, Tertullian, Augustine, Origen, Calvin, etc. And I hope that my posts about these great theologians will also inspire you to read works by them.
Clearly, I won’t be able to read every theologian, nor will I be able to read everything written by the theologians I do read. But, my hope is to read at least their major works (along with some of the minor ones). Also, many of the works I’ll be reading, I’ll actually be re-reading. But that’s a good thing, as I’ve learned recently in my re-reading of Augustine’s Confessions; I think I can comprehend that work better now than when I first read it many moons ago – and what a rich feast it has been to my soul!
I’m excited about beginning; like I said, I’m almost there. I have a few books to finish before I begin my project. I’m excited about studying these works, yes; but I’m also very excited about opening up the treasure box of our Christian heritage and sharing it with others.
As always, I desire your prayers that the LORD will give me strength and wisdom and a deeper love for Him and for His people. Pray also that this project would truly be helpful – for me, for you, and for anyone else who reads my future posts!