Thinking Out Loud

September 24, 2008

Delving into Classic Christian Authors

This week my kids and I are “binge reading” a number of devotionals from a collection by A. W. Tozer, one of the pioneers in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination.   His final pastorate was at the Avenue Road* Church in Toronto, Canada, which continues to this day as Bayview Glen Alliance.   Tozer is one of a number of classic reads, in a list that includes D. L. Moody, George Whitfield, Watchman Nee, Jonathan Edwards, E. M. Bounds and others.

What is it that’s different about reading classic authors like these?

Language
– Right away you notice that they speak with a different voice, and having studied the Philosophy of Language, I know that our use of words shapes our understanding.   There is also a greater economy of words on some points, but there is laborious repetition on others, so that we don’t miss something profound.  Clearly, the did understand some concepts somewhat differently than many of do today; and the “spin” on some Bible passages is distinctive by our standards.

Intensity – These classic writers endure because they were passionate about living the Christian life to the nth degree.  There is an urgency about their writings that is sorely lacking in some modern Christian literature.   Were they preaching to the choir, or were they voices crying in the wilderness?   Probably both, and with the same message for both.

Response – They wrote in response to the issues of their day, some of which are unknown to us now, but some of which are strikingly similar to the issues of our day.   There was a concern for a general apostasy, a watering-down of the gospel and of Christian ethics.   Is this just preacher rhetoric, or are things truly deteriorating with each successive generation?  Or do Bible teachers and preachers just get so “set apart” that they start to view both the church and the world less charitably?

Wisdom – These books represent the cultivation of much wisdom in an era that wasn’t full of the distractions of our era.  While we will inevitably turn back to our modern writers; there is much to be gained from seeing how scripture was interpreted in a previous century.  They did their homework so to speak, and interacted with others who were on the same path of study; and some of them were simply a few hundred years “closer to the story” than we are today.

============

What classic authors do you enjoy?

What about material that pre-dates this, what we call “early Christian writings?”

Why did I not mention Charles Spurgeon?

*Gotta love the redundancy of the name, “Avenue Road.”   Still exists, running parallel to Toronto’s main drag, Yonge Street.   (Pronounced “young street.”)

5 Comments »

  1. Forgive me (again) for posting a comment to my own article, but this turned up later today in the comments section of a Christianity Today online story:

    “Not only do I believe we should listen to preachers today, I believe we should listen to the preachers of Antiquity. I know that is problematic for contemporary Christianity because if you listen to those sermons you find a faith very different than the modern American Christian faith. I challenge you to read sermons from the Golden Mouthed preacher John (John Chrysostom). C.S. Lewis recommended that for every modern work you read you should read an ancient work. It will transform and strengthen your faith…”

    I liked the C. S. Lewis quotation especially.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 24, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

  2. I wish the allaince Church would practise what they preach

    http://wordpress.com/tag/christian-missionary-alliance

    Comment by thenonconformer — December 23, 2008 @ 8:47 am

  3. I’m sorry that your experience with the C&MA has not been satisfactory. For what it’s worth, here in Canada, the Alliance takes a “middle ground theology” position on many issues, and allows local churches to work out their own priorities. So whatever you experience at one C&MA church may not necessarily play out the same at another.

    The greatest challenge of churches “not practicing what they preach” is not limited to any one denomination, however; it seems to be part of the human condition.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 23, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  4. >>This week my kids and I are “binge reading” a number of devotionals from a collection by A. W. Tozer, one of the pioneers in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination. His final pastorate was at the Avenue Road* Church in Toronto, Canada, which continues to this day as Bayview Glen Alliance. Tozer is one of a number of classic reads, in a list that includes D. L. Moody, George Whitfield, Watchman Nee, Jonathan Edwards, E. M. Bounds and others.

    My Free Christian Devotional books.. http://wittnessed.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/hello-world/

    Comment by thenonconformer — December 23, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

  5. PK:

    I’m sorry. I just can’t print your last comment. I went to your website and read some of your material. This is all so very sad, really.

    About 20 years ago, somebody told me, “I don’t know how you could have seen the things you’ve seen and heard the things you’ve heard and still remain a Christian.”

    But here I am.

    25 years ago, I wrote an exposé on a national Christian ministry for Macleans magazine in Canada.

    But I never submitted the final draft.

    14 years ago I was badly hurt by a pastor in a local church, and four years ago my wife was badly hurt by his successor in the same church.

    But a few weeks ago we attended worship there together and enjoyed visiting with old friends.

    PK, I know you’re hurtin’ but it’s time to move on.

    Oh and yes, we’re ALL hypocrites and liars. That’s why we need a Savior.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 23, 2008 @ 10:34 pm


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