On the Merits of Re-reading Books

Monday marked the end of my “scorched-earth” policy regarding books.  You see, for the past several years I had not re-read a single book.  Nope, not a single one–excepting the Bible of course.  Well that ended Monday when I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the second timeWhy the sudden change in reading philosophy?  Well, I read a biography of C.S. Lewis recently (this one, if you’re interested) and the author noted that Lewis was a great believer in the merits of re-reading books.

Though a little skeptical, I decided to experiment and see what would happen if I took Lewis’s advice and re-read a book.  What better choice than one of Lewis’s own book–The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?  There were several things I noticed this time around that I missed the first time.  For instance, when the professor is talking to Peter and Susan, who are concerned about Lucy’s sanity, the professor points out that either Lucy is lying, or she’s crazy, or she’s telling the truth.

This stuck out to me because it’s an oft-used argument for the divinity of Christ.  People may not rationally claim that Jesus was “just a good teacher,” because what good teacher also claims to be God?  Jesus certainly claimed to be God (John 8:58, Matt. 16:13-20, etc.), so people must make the same decision about Him as Peter and Susan had to make about Lucy–either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or…He was telling the truth.  Interestingly enough, C.S. Lewis uses this very argument for the authenticity of Jesus in his apologetic work Mere Christianity.

All in all this experiment seems to be a very good success so far.  I should qualify that I don’t believe that the only benefit of re-reading is the opportunity to catch stuff that one missed the first time.  That would be a very studied and…callous…way to view literature–as something to be drained until there’s not a drop of insight left, and then thrown away.

On the contrary, good literature can stand on its own two feet and continue to re-delight readers with every reading–new insights or not–at least that has been true in my limited experience.  Very interesting stuff, and with this success I’m now re-reading my second book in several years–Prince Caspian.

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