I have been listening to a lot of podcasts lately as I am trying to get ready for a marathon. One that has been particularly encouraging is the series by Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) entitled Preaching the Word. In the series Sinclair Ferguson gives his reflections on ministry at the age of 60. I have greatly benefited from Dr Ferguson’s ministry and was intrigued by his talks.

One comment hit a chord. Ferguson encouraged people to not try to keep up with the new books and the new topics. Instead, said Ferguson, keep up with the books that have lasted the test of time. With particular emphasis upon theology and church life, go and read the greats from 1,2 or 300 (or more) years ago.

This led Ferguson to the 2 Johns (after John the Apostle), as he said. John Calvin and John Owen. He infers that these authors have done more for him than any contemporary book could do.

As someone who likes to read and follows the new books, I enjoyed this exhortation from a guy who is closer to the finish line. I can be all about reading the new stuff and neglect the great stuff. His exhortation was well-timed and helpful for me.

Check out the audio here at iTunes if you like.


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2 thoughts on “Ferguson: Read the Old Books that have lasted vs Whatever is new”

  1. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

    C. S. Lewis wrote, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” (“Introduction” to “Athanasius: On the Incarnation, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei”, trans. Penelope Lawson, on Phil Johnson’s “Hall of Church History” at [accessed 21 JAN 2011].

    Perhaps this would be a good proportion for a theological library. Either include an equal proportion of classics to modern works, or at a minimum one classic for every three modern works. I would use classic in the sense of something not written after 1900 and still being published. Lewis would probably object to this, and point to the plural “centuries” as a requirement for the ripening into a true classic, but he includes no such stipulation in the “Introduction” cited above.

  2. Ryan says:

    WOW Jack! The link that you posted is exactly the link that I was going to post in response! You hit the nail on the head.
    This introduction by C.S. Lewis was like a blow to the head when I first read it (which was actually very recently). One thing he says that really reached out and grabbed me was this:

    “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.”

    Good Post Erik. It’s so easy to walk into a Christian bookstore and gravitate towards all of the modern books with the catchy titles. I noticed myself falling into this trend on more than one occasion. Thanks for sharing Ferguson’s wisdom with the rest of us!

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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