Why Young Christians Need Old Books

My dad went to seminary deep in the South with old roots, a rich legacy, and stunning architecture. I remember walking around campus as a nine year old, in awe of the enormous, ornate buildings. But one building stood out to me more than any other – the president’s house.

It wasn’t because it was the biggest or flashiest building. It was because there was one room in this building that stood out to me the most – the president’s library. It was the biggest personal library I’d ever seen.

I wandered around it in silence. Not only were there so many books, but there were so many old books. Thousands and thousands of weathered spines and faded fabric covers looked back at me.

That’s because this seminary president who invested so powerfully in the lives of young Christians knew one thing:

Young Christians need to learn from old books.

Young Christians Don’t Need Anything New

At times, the church can be guilty of thinking that young Christians need something new.

A new app, new Bible translation, new style, or new truth for modern times. But what young Christians need is tremendously and radically old. We need faithful wisdom from ages past.

Instead of newer, cooler, faster, edgier, we need simple, beautiful gospel.

Growing young Christians need mature old Christians to help guide, curb, and correct. And in God’s mighty providence, he has given us hundreds of mothers and fathers in the faith who help us through their writings. Authors like Augustine, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, Fanny Crosby, J.C. Ryle, Amy Carmichael, and Corrie ten Boom still teach, admonish, convict, and encourage through their written words.

Wisdom from the past has been preserved for the present, and we lack sorely when we don’t learn from it.

3 Reasons Young Christians Need Old Books

But are these books actually relevant for modern young Christians? How and what can Christians from different times with different experiences and different vocabularies teach Christians today?

Here are three specific things old books teach young Christians:

1.  How to engage with culture

It’s tempting to believe we live in unique times – that no one from the past can speak into our present culture. But that’s just not true. People have been dealing with the same sin and suffering since Eden. Sure, it’s manifested in different ways, but old Christians from the past can be startlingly relevant.

J.C. Ryle’s Thoughts for Young Men provides a winsome and compelling case for young Christians (both men and women!) standing up for truth in the midst of a shifting cultural landscape.

2.  How to handle romance

Despite the vicious caricatures and stereotypes, not all Christians from the past were prudes. Many wrote freely about sexual purity, romance, marriage, and love.

Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon were both young once. They were teenagers, twentysomethings, and thirtysomethings who dealt with the same struggles, pressures, and emotions you face.

They’re not writing detached from your experience but instead are writing with the wisdom of that experience under their belts – especially when it comes to romance and sexual purity.

For example, Augustine’s Confessions is filled with practical reflections on his transition from a life of sexual hedonism to God-focused purity (including how he endured a brutal break-up).

3.  How to fight temptation

We live in a world where temptation constantly surrounds us. But that’s how it’s always been. Christians from the past have been writing about how to deal with temptation for millennia.

From fighting sin to pursuing holiness, they’ve been there and done that, and now they offer you the wisdom only an older mentor in the faith can give.

For example, Amy Carmichael’s If is a powerful and practical meditation on fighting temptation by remembering the love of Christ.

The Best Old Book

Yet even as we read and learn from godly, human-authored books, we can’t forget the best old book: the Bible.

C.H. Spurgeon famously said, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” Recognize that God’s Word is the only perfect book and the book we must prize above every other.

But also recognize that this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read other old books.

Rather, it should actually fuel our desire to read and learn from old Christians who faithfully loved and taught from this book.

Young Christian, God has given you the blessing and opportunity to learn from old books.

Don’t minimize it. Don’t reject it. And don’t waste it.

Jaquelle Crowe is the 20-year-old editor-in-chief of TheRebelution.com. She's the author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years and a contributor to Desiring God, Unlocking the Bible, and The Gospel Coalition. Check out her website at https://www.jaquellecrowe.com.