Into the life eternal the Holy Scriptures lead us, which teach us through divine words. But so long as our immaturity forbids our understanding their deep thought, we exercise our spiritual perceptions upon profane writings, which are not altogether different, and in which we perceive the truth as it were in shadows and in mirrors. . . . Consequently we must be conversant with poets, with historians, with orators, indeed with all men who may further our soul’s salvation. . . . Now, then, altogether after the manner of bees must we use these writings, for the bees do not visit all the flowers without discrimination, nor indeed do they seek to carry away entire those upon which they light, but rather, having taken so much as is adapted to their needs, they let the rest go. So we, if wise, shall take from heathen books whatever befits us and is allied to the truth, and shall pass over the rest. . . . Since we must needs attain to the life to come through virtue, our attention is to be chiefly fastened upon those many passages from the poets, from the historians, and especially from the philosophers, in which virtue itself is praised. 
This text is crucial in my mind to all that I have to say about literature and philosophy. All the great classics of world literature and philosophy have something useful to our soul’s salvation and to the acquisition of virtue. But, naturally, if they are not inspired by God there is always the admixture of man’s fallen nature. We must be cautious in reading them, practicing critical thinking shaped by a Christian worldview. That this reading is good and necessary, however, must not be in doubt. As St Gregory the Theologian says in his Funeral Oration on the Great St Basil:
11. I take it as admitted by men of sense, that the first of our advantages is education [paideusis]; and not only this our more noble form of it, which disregards rhetorical ornaments and glory, and holds to salvation, and beauty in the objects of our contemplation: but even that external culture which many Christians ill-judgingly abhor, as treacherous and dangerous, and keeping us afar from God. For as we ought not to neglect the heavens, and earth, and air, and all such things, because some have wrongly seized upon them, and honour God’s works instead of God: but to reap what advantage we can from them for our life and enjoyment, while we avoid their dangers; not raising creation, as foolish men do, in revolt against the Creator, but from the works of nature apprehending the Worker (Rom. i. 20, 25), and, as the divine apostle says, bringing into captivity every thought to Christ: (2 Cor. x. 5) and again, as we know that neither fire, nor food, nor iron, nor any other of the elements, is of itself most useful, or most harmful, except according to the will of those who use it; and as we have compounded healthful drugs from certain of the reptiles; so from secular literature we have received principles of enquiry and speculation, while we have rejected their idolatry, terror, and pit of destruction. Nay, even these have aided us in our religion, by our perception of the contrast between what is worse and what is better, and by gaining strength for our doctrine from the weakness of theirs. We must not then dishonour education, because some men are pleased to do so, but rather suppose such men to be boorish and uneducated, desiring all men to be as they themselves are, in order to hide themselves in the general, and escape the detection of their want of culture. 
I cannot help but think that many Orthodox Christians of a traditional bent, overreacting to the evils of the modern world and the pitfalls of heresy and worldliness, have in our day become the very boors that St Gregory mentions here. Many seem not to realise the extent to which the Holy Fathers of the Church were conversant in the learning of their day, and not just conversant, but even enthusiastic for it. Concerning St Gregory himself, for example, Werner Jaeger has observed, ‘His homilies are full of classical allusions; he has a full command of Homer, Hesiod, the tragic poets, Pindar, Aristophanes, the Attic orators, the Alexandrian modernists, but also of Plutarch and Lucian and the writers of the Second Sophistic movement, who are the direct models of his style.’ 
The irony of course is that many of these Orthodox boors, while they are ignorant of or care little for the great classical poets and writers, have not remained unaffected by the worthless ‘culture’ of the modern West. In other words, they have been spiritually stunted simply by virtue of having been brought up in an era strikingly empty of truth, goodness, and beauty. Yet they intend to proceed straight to the depths of Orthodoxy without the kind of paideia of which the Cappadocian Fathers speak. In our own day, such a stalwart traditionalist as Fr Seraphim (Rose), who can hardly be accused of being too fond of secular culture, has for this reason observed:
In general, the person who is well acquainted with the best products of secular culture—which in the West almost always have definite religious and Christian overtones—has a much better chance of leading a normal, fruitful Orthodox life than someone who knows only the popular culture of today. . . . The world’s best culture, properly received, refines and develops the soul; today’s popular culture cripples and deforms the soul and hinders it from having a full and normal response to the message of Orthodoxy.
Therefore, in our battle against the spirit of this world, we can use the best things the world has to offer in order to go beyond them; everything good in the world, if we are only wise enough to see it, points to God, and to Orthodoxy, and we have to make use
of it. 
Thus, Fr Damascene talks about how Archbishop Andrei of Novo-Diveevo would turn ‘the topic of conversation to some character or idea in the works of Dostoevsky, Goncharev, etc.’ when the young Gleb Podmoshensky would prematurely try to discuss ‘spirituality’ with him. 
This is how I view much of the talk about literature, philosophy, and books generally here on Logismoi. Of course I also offer stories about and teachings of the Saints and Fathers, who are the embodiment of the Orthodox Tradition, but apart from this I don’t devote all of my attention to strictly ‘spiritual’ or ‘theological’ matters. I try to talk about what interests me in and what I find good about ‘the best products of secular culture’—keeping in mind that this good is not undiluted—in a way that may often subtly point toward Orthodoxy, but may simply be a reasonable way to pass my time. If secular culture is, as St Basil explicitly says, a preparation for the Gospel, then the study of it, even at a basic level, must at the very least be a respectable hobby. I have quoted before—but the time has surely come to do so again—the thirteenth saying of St Anthony in the Gerontikon:
13. A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, ‘Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.’ So he did. The old man then said, ‘Shoot another,’ and he did so. Then the old man said, ‘Shoot yet again,’ and the hunter replied ‘If I bend my bow so much I will break it.’ Then the old man said to him, ‘It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.’ When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened. 
I take this to mean those of us who have not attained to St Anthony’s height are not able to maintain his level of focus on spiritual endeavour. As C.S. Lewis says in his apology for culture, ‘we must rest and play’, and ‘where can we do so better than here—in the suburbs of Jerusalem?’ 
In conclusion, my adherence to this approach is non-negotiable. Unless I am ordered by my spiritual father or my bishop to cease and desist, I will continue on this blog to seek out, discuss, and recommend ‘the best products of secular culture’, and I see no need constantly to go out of my way to qualify myself with pronouncements about how un-Orthodox these things are. Those who share my views or are at least sympathetic to them, are welcome to comment on specific issues in my posts on ‘the best products of secular culture’, but I do not wish this to be a forum for debating this approach itself. Logismoi is, as a quick glance at the top of the page reveals, a ‘refuge’ for those tired of the worst of secular culture and a ‘treasury’ of the best of secular and Christian culture, not a modern college classroom where everything is up for grabs. Those who insist on wasting my time by trying to provoke such debates will find their comments summarily deleted, and will make things less enjoyable for everyone by causing comments on specific posts to be closed.
 St Basil the Great, Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature 2, 4, & 5; from the translation by Frederick Morgan Padelford (here).
 St Gregory the Theologian, Funeral Oration for the Great S. Basil (here).
 Werner Jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1961), p. 78.
 Qtd. in Hieromonk Damascene (Christensen), Father Seraphim (Rose): His Life & Works (Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2003), pp. 964-5.
 Fr Damascene, p. 960.
 Benedicta Ward, trans., The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection, rev. ed. (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1984), pp. 3-4.
 C.S. Lewis, ‘Christianity & Culture’, The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis (NY: Inspirational, 1996), p. 189.