I love reading books. Science Fiction, biographies, fantasy, theology, sociology, blogs, articles, maps, how-to books; I will read the whole gamut of fiction and non-fiction books. One of my enduring memories from my childhood is the first time I read The Hobbit, blitzed through Brian Jacques’ Redwall Series, and reading Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park when I was in 5th grade. I’ll never forget how those stories and characters fueled my imagination and made story and narrative important in how I view the world and culture.
Books have not just shaped and molded me, but they have radically altered my life. The Bible, God’s very words written down and passed down from generation to generation, allowed the Spirit to stir in my heart and give me a radically new life in Christ. John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life made me see what a life lived for Christ can look like and set me on a trajectory of following Christ with everything I had. It was the power of these words, and the work of the Holy Spirit, that changed me and made me who I am today.
I especially love books of theology (surprise, surprise). I devour these books sometimes like a breakfast cereal; with passion, fervor, and abandon. As passionate and zealous as I am to inhale these books, I am learning that I need to slow down, process what I am reading, make some notes, highlight some material, and pause a little more before moving on to the next chapter or section. Some nice people who read slower than me have pointed out how silly fast reading can be. Unfortunately, I don’t always heed my and others advice and find myself moving too fast, trying too hard just to hold on to the main idea, and skipping over references and footnotes that could help shed light on what I just read.
More than the footnotes and end notes, I think the biggest mistake I make is passing by the Scripture references. Often after sentences or an especially compelling point, authors will include references to Scripture to further ground their point, but not always will they put the actual written out verse there. Very rarely do I stop and actually take the time to look up or analyze what Scripture verse they are referring to.
Why is that? Why do I take for granted that what the author is saying lines up with the Scripture they are referencing? Does it express the inherent trust that you have in the author to be thoroughly biblical with all of his/her conclusions and premises? Do I really think that every piece of Scripture that is referenced is solid gold proof of what the author just said? Have you ever actually looked up a Scripture reference in a book and asked, “What is he talking about?”
Sometimes that is the case, that I trust the author, but most of the time I’m just lazy and don’t really care what the Bible has to say about what the author said or that it confirms what was just concluded. Too often I find myself allowing the authority and clout of the author and his/her conclusions drive my convictions over a given theological matter more than what the Bible has to say about it.
Ask yourself, when the author says something that you resonate with and makes sense to you, do you take it back to their Scripture references? Do you care enough about where your theology comes from to take it all the way back to the Bible and allow it to stand against the authority of Scripture? I know that often I fail to do this, and I humbly need to repent. Not of reading theological books and having theological conclusions, but of trusting something else more than I trust the Father and what he has graciously given us in His authoritative, written word. Certainly the Spirit can speak through the books we read (i.e. Piper’s book that I mentioned before), but the Spirit has divinely inspired the words of Scripture and His Word helps us steel our theological convictions and correct us where we are wrong (1 Timothy 3:16-17).
Did you look up the Scripture verse I just referenced? Or did you assume I knew what I was talking about?