I absolutely love to read. I cannot even begin to describe the importance of reading excellent books from great men of God. God has given us incredible wise teachers and we should take advantage of that. Millions of people have walked this earth before us. While here, they have learned powerful lessons. Here's the cool part: some wrote about those lessons.
Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Men can sharpen one another. Books are from men. Books can sharpen us.
I have read countless Christian books over the past several years. God has used those books to edify and grow me in ways that I cannot even begin to describe. However, a couple of months ago I needed a break. No, I did not need a break from edification and spiritual growth. God help me if I ever need a break from that. Rather, I needed a break from Christian books.
Let me explain so as not to be misunderstood. Since coming to college, I realized that I love to learn. I love it. In fact, it pleases God for us to learn. I believe we are disobedient when we are not learning. God gave us a brain for a specific reason. He gave us a brain so that we could glorify Him with that brain. Mark 12:29-30 tells us that one of the ways we love the Lord our God is with our minds. I think it is unfortunate that Christians do not realize that one of the ways in which we love God is by learning. Donald Whitney says, "God is glorified when we use the mind he made to learn of Him, His ways, His Word, and His world."
In our culture, we have unfortunately overemphasized experience, heart, and emotions and deemphasized learning. Think about it. The smart students in school have been thought of as "nerds." They are unpopular because they are intelligent. It's the underachievers and class clowns that get the attention.
This sort of thinking has played well with the postmodern church. Often the most popular Churches are the ones where the preacher has humor, stories, and "personality" (whatever that means). Rob Bell is the favorite among my generation. Because of his theology? No, it's because he dresses cool and his sermons tickle the ears. Miller's Blue Like Jazz is adored by many young emergent's, Young's The Shack tells a great story. The theology it teaches is adored because it is shallow and doesn't hurt anyone's feeligns. Grudem's Systematic Theology, though, is too rigid. I don't think I would compare Rob Bell to Joel Osteen, but he fits into this category as well. Joel Osteen certainly does not have good theology. He can tell a good joke at the beginning of his sermons and make you feel happy though.
Theology and doctrine are just not relevant to American "Christians." Do you really go to Church to learn? Even among those who would not follow Rob Bell's Postmodernism or Joel Osteen's Prosperity Gospel, many Church goers simply do not go to actually learn. They go to make sure the Pastor doesn't say anything that will upset them. They go to mark it off their check lists. They go because they have always gone. Richard Foster says: "[Christians] may be faithful in church attendance and earnest in fulfilling their religious duties and still they are not changed…. Why? Because they have never taken up one of the central ways God uses to change us: study."
What is the point I am making? Recall the quote I used from Whitney earlier. He also says, "A biblically balanced Christian has both a full head and a full heart, radiating both spiritual light and heat." In other words, heart is absolutely important within Christianity. But without the head, it is often dangerous and ignorant. If we want to be faithful followers of Christ, we must use the head that God has given us and learn. We need to learn about theology. We need to study the Bible. We need to know the proper way of interpreting it. We must understand the context in which it was written. We need to know how to fight off heresies and false teachers. Proverbs 18:15 says, "The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out." If we want to be discerning, we must have knowledge and we must be wise.
I believe with all my heart that Christians should be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). As a Christian, I want to read much about God, the Gospel, and the Bible. I want to read the Bible and know it with all my heart. It is, after all, God's Word. But I also want to know more about the World and history and science. I want to be able to have intelligent conversations with a wide range of people on a wide range of subjects. As a Christian, I view the world through a very specific lens. Everything- politics, history, science, math, ect.- I view through my Christian, Biblical worldview. I want to learn and apply my worldview to my newfound knowledge and see what God can teach me through that.
It is with that attitude that I took a few months off of reading Christian books in order to read secular books. I wanted to see what spiritual applications I could draw from a wide range of topics. A few days ago, I began reading Christian books again. I thoroughly missed them and have been devouring pages from Christian books since I took them up again. But I have a new desire to implement scheduled times within my calendar to read through various secular books. I just want to learn.
With all of that said, I want to show how spiritual applications can be drawn from secular books. I would like to demonstrate how to read various books from a specific worldview. One of the books I read was a true story called, Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough. The book is about America's Greatest crime wave and the birth of the FBI in the early 1930's. Stay tuned for my next blog post to see how it will work.