You might be willing to go along with me so far that the Western Canon is important, and there are even some non-Christian sources that are worth reading. However, there are some classics of Western culture that make people a little bit uncomfortable yet have been highly influential in modern times. When I think specifically of the works of Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin or Friedrich Nietzsche, they do propose some ideas that might make some Christians very uncomfortable.
What do I think about even reading these classics of the Western world? No doubt they belong as part of the greater Western Canon.
I would suggest that these books are similarly very important, and even though you will not find any of them in my 50 Books That Every Christian Ought to Read (which you can get for free for subscribing to my newsletter), you might find their works if I was pressured to expand that work to 100 books or 150 books.
Often times, I think that we fall into the habit as Christians of building bubbles. I can understand that on some level. Christianity is very important, and a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of eternal significance. We want to be very careful that we don’t fall away from those important beliefs, and one way to make sure we don’t fall away from those beliefs is to never see anything that challenges us.
However, the real world is a challenging place. We can try our best to build bubbles, but especially with the advent of social media, those bubbles are far from perfect. It is not hard to come across contrary ideas, and because of that, we need to be prepared when those challenges come.
We need to be ready to engage with ideas that are not Christian. We simply do not have the luxury of living in a society that is united around a Christian worldview. In fact, if you want to see the opposite of a Christian bubble, you probably should look at most of the things that many of my connections on Facebook post about religion.
I’m about to say something that I hope does not come across as insulting to anyone, but very few of the people I come in contact with are nearly as smart as Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin or Friedrich Nietzsche. Men like these are the foundation of atheism, but many of the derivatives that we see in the world today are not nearly as compelling as their original forefathers.
I think that atheism in this example is bankrupt, and I do not think that it provides a comprehensive worldview for understanding reality. However, there is a reason that there are plenty of atheist books published every year but modern-day atheists still read and cite Nietzsche. It is just like how there’s plenty of Christian texts published every year, but we still talk about Martin Luther and John Calvin.
If we as Christians engage with the classics that atheists continually cite presumably because they contain some of the best arguments that atheism has to offer, we will be prepared when our bubble is burst. We will be prepared to talk about that new pop atheism book because the arguments that it probably contains are nothing compared to the classics. Of course, there could potentially be the rise of a new classic, but generally speaking, the books that have been utilized by a group of people themselves are the ones that they believe present the best case for their position.
Consequently, I entirely understand that there are parts of the traditional Western Canon that might be uncomfortable. I understand that there are parts that seem to attack Christianity. However, I think that those parts are important to interact with as well so that we are prepared to live outside our bubble in a world that very well might be hostile to our intellectual assent of Christianity.