Monday, August 9, 2010

"We need intimate knowledge of the past" // C. S. Lewis

Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real WorldC. S. Lewis combined abilities to look backward and forward in unusual measure. Most of his readers know he was a literary critic, but he spent little time reviewing authors among his contemporaries. He was, instead, a literary historian, an explorer particularly of medieval and Renaissance literature. He thus was committed to the importance of history to provide us not only with more or less interesting accounts of the past to satisfy our curiosity but also with an accurate understanding of how we got here‒and what "here" actually is. Lewis is, as usual, eloquent on his theme:
We need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age. (Lewis, "Learning in War-Time," 50-51.)
John G. Stackhouse, Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World. Oxford: University Press, 2008,  pp. 71-72.