Sunday, June 14, 2009

Six Principles on Reading

Here are some principles for Christians on reading:

  1. Read the Bible. And pray that the Word of God would dwell richly amongst us as we "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the scriptures.
  2. Read theology. I despair sometimes at people who simply refuse to read theology. Whilst no substitute for scriptural reading, good books provide a grounding in Christian knowledge and living. And reading these books introduces to a language that you would otherwise be excluded from.
  3. Read widely. Their is a treasure trove of wealth out there...sitting here in my lounge room I'm surrounded by some pure gold on my bookshelves. But it can be very easy to fall into a pattern of reading books only from a select few publishers or authors. I know, I've done it myself (and if I was still doing it I would never of read some of these books). It is important to read books that come from a variety of traditions and ideas. Because we don't read books so that we can tick them off as confirming to our theology. No way. We read books to grow in our love and knowledge and service of Jesus, his people and his world. Which means that we even read book by authors that we strongly disagree with, taking the ideas that are good and right whilst rejecting what's wrong.
  4. Related to this, we need to make sure we read books written by dead people. Right now is an exciting time to be alive as a Christian, with such a globally vivid Christian publishing world. But there are many good books written decades, centuries and millennia ago. To not read the writing of Ryle, Wesley, Calvin, Anselm, Augustine, Athanasis, Ireneaus etc. not only drowns out the voice of the church down the centuries, it silences our brothers and sisters through time. And ultimately you're robbing yourself of the wisdom they have to offer. The advice C.S. Lewis gave was to read one contemporary book, followed by an older book written by some now dead.
  5. Don't stop reading fiction. Being culturally engaged means reading great novels, because it is through fiction that society spreads an ideas and thinks through concepts. According to Kim Fabricius over at Ben Myer's blog, a great novel is a "resource for moral and spiritual formation...with its enchantment of the everyday, whether tragic or comic; its discernment of the sacred in the secular; its disinterested rather than pragmatic take on human existence; its purposive narrative structure and focus on character, virtuous and vicious. You might say that if literature without theology is empty, theology without literature is blind."
  6. Remember, keep feeding your heart and imagination as well as your head. These are not distinct, but neither are they identical. (h/t Byron)

Is there anything I've missed? What would you add? I don't think that this is a principal, but something that I've found really helpful over the years is to read in community (i.e. book clubs, reading groups). They've been really insightful and formative for me.

1 comment:

Mike Bull said...

Great stuff.

Beside the major points, I think a lot of theologians could do with a more "literary" approach to the Bible. Theology seems to attract the technicians. They analyse the symphony by watching sine waves on little screens.