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February 29, 2020

On the Reading of Old Books

Filed under: Spiritualty,Theology — William Witt @ 9:30 pm
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Heron

C.S. Lewis’s essay “On the Reading of Old Books” has had a tremendous influence on me since I first read it in my 20’s. (By “old,” Lewis meant “chronologically old,” not a book I’ve owned for a long time.) Lewis recommends reading at least one old book every time one had read a new one. I have not been able to abide by this rule, and the meaning of “old” necessarily changes with time. What Lewis meant by “contemporary” would now mean “old.” I do find it a helpful exercise regularly to learn from previous generations.

The following is a list of “old” (at least not contemporary) books I’ve been reading recently with some comments:

E.L. Mascall, Corpus Christi: Essays on the Church and the Eucharist. Longmans, 1953.This book superbly addresses issues of disagreement in eucharistic theology that are still with us. Too often we presume that “no one has thought of this before.”

Mascall’s book led me to this one, which should be a classic in the biblical and historical foundations of eucharistic theology, with very helpful discussion of issues dividing Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics:

Charles Gore. The Body of Christ: An Inquiry into the Institution and Doctrine of Holy Communion. John Murray, 1901, 1909.

J. B. Mozley. A Review of the Baptismal Controversy. E. P. Dutton, 1862.

Mozley was Newman’s brother in law, and wrote the definitive critique of Newman’s notion of development of doctrine. This book is a balanced discussion of the baptismal regeneration controversy in light of Scripture and the church’s tradition. Although Anglo-Catholic in his leanings, he makes the case that the Gorham controversy was rightly decided, and that the issue is not so straightforward as either nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics or Evangelicals tried to make it. (Both sides played fast and loose with the biblical and historical data.) (more…)

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