Pilgrim's Progress--part 2 old description & illustrationOne of xenophobia’s ugliest cousins is chronological arrogance. Those of us who fear anyone different from us have at least something in common with those who hold in disdain anything from generations or centuries earlier than us. Both have what may be an over attachment to their own image and a strong bias against that which they cannot easily relate to. Although I have a book on this topic all outlined and ready to write when I retire, I will share only two thoughts here – plus a challenge.

Here are the thoughts. Upon Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus says to him,

“Blessed are you… and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:17-18).

Thought number one is simply that the church has not been overcome by hell itself for two thousand years. For two thousand years, in a dizzying array of cultures and contexts, the church has sustained a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and all that he accomplished for his church. Thought two is simply that the things that Jesus has done in and through his church by his Spirit in every age are important. It is especially important for our theology – how we think about our biblical faith. In the fifth century, Vincent of Lerins, a Gallic monk, offered us an intriguing definition of orthodoxy: “That which has been believed by the Church everywhere, always, and by everyone.” While this could be pressed too far, it nonetheless contains a critical element of truth: Christian truth does not change. Christian circumstances do change, however, and it is manifestly the case that due to our own cultural blinders we often need voices from without our cultural and historical parameters to correct and redirect our thinking about what the Scriptures say to us today.

Here is the challenge: read an old book. C.S. Lewis once wrote that, “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.”

So, let’s start the New Year with an old book! Here are some of my favorites that are still in print and aren’t too long.

St Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit (c.360)

St Augustine, Confessions (c.400)

St Anselm, Why God Became Man (1098)

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (1418)

John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life (1550)

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)

Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (1746)

Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer (1895)

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (1923)

Your Pastor,
Bob Bjerkaas

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