August 2, 2012

Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books

I discovered so much great stuff in this book. It's made my post a bit long today, but I hope you get a chance to read it through. : )

At least don't miss out on what the book has to say about women and theology, which I share at the end of my post. 

This book is divided into two sections:  

Part 1: A Theology of Books and Reading
  
Part 2: Some Practical Advice on Book Reading


I admit I enjoyed the first part of this book a bit more than the second. I felt I learnt a lot more from the first six chapters.

But as a reader, I did relate to the practical advice in the second half and especially loved that he reads books with a pen too!

I loved what he said here:

"...the markings in a book's margin's are the evidence of a thinking reader. We don't read to read; we read to think."

I couldn't agree more. He goes on to say: 

"I mark phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages that I think articulate a point very well. I call them gold."

I loved that. "I call them gold" When I read, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, and come across a sentence or phrase that stirs me I underline it or write it down. I love that I now have a name for these great words of wisdom. Gold!

So here's some gold from this book. : )

In the first half, 'a theology of books and reading', he emphasizes the importance of the Christian reader to know the Word of God. He encourages us to study and meditate on it day and night. He says here of Scripture:

"Scripture is the ultimate grid by which we read every book. Scripture is perfect, sufficient, and eternal. All other books, to some degree, are imperfect, deficient, and temporary. That means that when we pick books from the bookstore shelves, we read those imperfect books in light of the perfect Book, the deficient books in light of the sufficient Book, and the temporary books in the light of the eternal Book. 


Man-made literature may be inspiring, but it is not divinely inspired - not in the way Scripture is inspired. Man-made literature may be empowered by the Holy Spirit to embody biblical truth, but it's not breathed out by God...We could say that in contrast to God's Word all other books are temporary." 

"All flesh is like grass and all it's glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever..." 1 Peter 1:24-25

Knowing God and His Word will help us discern when we choose to read all kinds of books. He says here:

"Faith in Jesus brings with it a critically important benefit for the Christian reader - discernment...

Christian discernment begins when the veil is removed and we behold the glory of Christ. When this happens, we truly become 'spiritual' and thus possess 'the mind of Christ'

"But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor. 2:15-16

We now read, think, and live our lives by the light of the spiritual truths of the gospel....

We can test every book that we read - to treasure what is true, good, and pure in God's eyes, and to reject what is evil."

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 

It's so important for Christians to be discerning, especially with so-called 'christian' books. He says here:

"Spiritual dangers are more venomous in a so-called 'Christian' book. 

'For no heresy has ever sprung from pagan belief, from Aristotle, and from books of other heathen,' wrote Martin Luther. 'No, these necessarily emerge from the church.' He takes it a step further when he writes 'heresy and false doctrine are taken and adduced from no other source than Scripture.' 

Luther is quick to affirm here that Scripture is pure and unadulterated in itself. But when a truth of Scripture is pulled out and wrapped in the hands of someone within the church, heresy is born.

Heresy is dangerous because it camouflages itself as the truth, it resembles the truth, it emerges from within the church as a mistreatment of Scripture." 

Here's a bit of 'gold' I've saved over the years on discernment that can help keep us away from heresy:

Charles Spurgeon:

"Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right."

Augustine of Hippo:

"If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."

Oswald Chambers:

"Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the cross of Jesus will lead astray."


The author, Tony Reinke, then encourages us to read more than just Christian books. And reminds us that everything that is good comes from God and not to dismiss non-christian books which may contain good in them.

He says here:

"God is behind all truth, even the truth that is expressed in non-christian literature. Truth cannot be fabricated."

He then quotes John Calvin:

"All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and , therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose?" 

Throughout the second half of the book the author encourages us to read all kinds of literature, business books, history books and so on. I really liked the chapter on fictional literature, since I really do enjoy reading it, especially classics. He quotes Leland Ryken here:

"Literature is a form of discovery, perception, intensification, expression, interpretation, creativity, beauty, and understanding. These are ennobling activities and qualities. For a Christian, they can be God-glorifying, a gift from God to the human race to be accepted with zest."

Reinke goes on to say:

"By appreciating the beauty of literature, we honor God, the giver of all beauty."

There is a great debate on what is acceptable literature for Christians to read. I myself are not comfortable reading to many sorted details in a novel, but when done in a respectable and God-honoring way it can be life-changing for the reader.

As I write this I'm thinking of Francine Rivers 'The Mark of the Lion' series, which has some very uncomfortable scenes, but are none-the less powerful to the story and God honoring. The Bible itself has horrible stories of lust and greed and murder, all for the reader to see their need for God's grace and mercy. The author says here:

"God's 'amazing grace' is especially displayed when it 'saves a wretch.' To some degree, the author must paint a picture of the wretchedness of sin in order for grace to emerge in its brilliance. Thus, grace-filled literature is often not 'clean' literature. In fact, God's redemptive grace is hard to capture in 'clean' fiction. This is especially true of conversion stories, because conversion is about contrast."

Again we must use discernment when reading fiction as well as non-fiction and that only comes with the help of the Holy Spirit.



Woman and Theology:

Theology: the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God's attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity; the systematic study of Christian revelation concerning God's nature and purpose.

Finally, I thought I'd leave you with these quotes from the book about women and theology. This really struck me because many women today tend to shy away from books on theology:

"Theologically weighty books about Christ are essential for the soul - for men and women. And although women purchase the majority of books released by Christian publishers, women are far less likely to read theological books..."

He goes on to quote Elyse Fitzpatrick:

"Many women are intimidated by the thought of studying something that is 'theological' in nature. They are afraid of being bored, looking foolish, becoming unattractive to men, or becoming divisive...

She then offers this challenge: 'Let's become known as a generation of women who delight in, tremble before, receive counsel from, drink, devour, digest, muse upon, and absolutely cherish God and the truth that He's revealed about Himself and about ourselves. Let's not worry about whether we look dumb or too smart."

Tony Reinke concludes:

"If women commit to reading books of solid theology, their knowledge of Christ will grow, because 'theology (of the right sort) is about knowing God and His Son intimately. Knowledge of Him (not just about Him) feeds, transforms, and vivifies the soul. This is the most delightful pursuit any woman could ever know."

I would encourage all my female readers to read outside your comfort zone and get to know God better with the help of some great theologians.

I never thought I'd be able to read Augustine, Lewis, Tozer or Spurgeon and understand what they were talking about. But I realized all I needed was one thing in common with them and that was our love for God and a thirst for the Truth. Ok that's two things, but if you have them, theology can come alive for you. :) 

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Buy it HERE on Amazon




12 comments:

  1. What a challenge to end with - I have to admit I'm in the group that doesn't pick up the more challenging theology books because I don't want to come across as a know-it-all girl- sort of like a backwards way to show submissiveness- which I know is wrong... Thanks for the challenge.

    If you get a chance this would be perfect for my book hop! http://forfunreadinglist.blogspot.com/2012/08/go-dog-go-and-cozy-book-hop.html

    Marissa

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    1. Thanks for the opportunity to link up at your blog! I've added your link to my side bar of blog hops. :)

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  2. Such a fabulous find! I LOVE that quote about reading to think because that is true! I have friends who read things that are not within the limits of the admonition that Paul gave saying that it's "just fiction" but what you put into your head, you think about. Thank you for this post! :)

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  3. "Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the cross of Jesus will lead astray."

    AMEN.

    Also, I read with a pen in my hand as well. I have learned that is simply how I "Listen." this is why I also take sermon notes! I simply focus better on ideas when I am involved in note-taking or at least underlining :)

    Emily
    www.weakandloved.com

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  4. I have this book but haven't gotten to read it yet. Now that I've read your review, I can't wait to read it. I have a passion for women understanding theology. It's true that many shy away from it and leave it for men to study. But we can! Love this post and the name of your blog:)

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  5. Hi Cathy - I often highlight words and sentences in books that stand out to me. I love that he referred to them as gold. You present a great challenge at the end - I, for one, need to branch out to read some from these great theologians.

    Blessings,
    Joan

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  6. This sounds like a great book, very thought provoking. This was my favorite quote you mentioned, "...the markings in a book's margin's are the evidence of a thinking reader. We don't read to read; we read to think." I love to do this as well. It helps me to understand the book better and remember what I've read. Thanks for linking up at Leaving A Legacy. I hope you have a wonderful week.

    Blessings~
    Shari

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  7. Wow- thank you so much for such a thorough review. The book looks great and I confess that I too, always read with a pen (sometimes a few and a hilighter!). SO much richness in the quotes you also added and shared. Thank you - new to you through Getting Down With Jesus and following you now! Beautiful place you have here, Cathy!

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  8. Thank-you all for stopping by! I appreciate all your wonderful comments and glad to see I'm not the only one who writes in her books! :)

    Also welcome to any new followers. Glad to have you here!

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Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )

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