4 Books from the Past That Saw into Our Future

The Gospel Coalition | 3/22/2019 | Staff
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When you read old books, you’re blessed with a vision from outside your own time and place. Most of us cannot see the assumptions, stemming from our particularities, that blind us and distort how we view reality.

When C. S. Lewis wrote an introduction to an old book, Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, he explained:

Age - Outlook - Truths - Mistakes - Books

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.

As a professor of great books, I am weekly faced with the blind spots in my outlook. I find Lewis is right; old books often illuminate the errors of our time better than we who are swimming in it can. And it’s astounding how often these old books don’t even sound old. Rather, they sound like the author has been reading our headlines and is remarking presciently on the latest news.

Books - Mistakes - Period - Books

We all need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.

Although I could discuss the terrifying similarities between Oedipus Rexor Richard III with our current political landscape, we need not go back that far in time to garner the “old book” insights Lewis describes. Even novels from the last century have enough distance to offer us helpful perspectives on today. High-school literature go-tos are Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984, yet there are a handful of less-read titles that have prophetic, powerful resonance with our current situation.

Christians - Age

Here are four that Christians should read and learn from as we seek to wisely navigate our present age.

In the finale to his sci-fi Space Trilogy, Lewis explores what happens when language becomes trivialized and worn out, when “love”...
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