This book came across my shelf because of Jean’s high recommendation a few years ago. I read it and loved it. I chose it as the book I would go through with a Ministry Trainee group in an annual seminar. Then I turned it into a “Reading as a Christian” seminar and gave it to two different groups of women, one through a bible study group and one through a conference.
So it’s fair to say I am a big fan of this book. As you know, I am a reader - an avid, keen reader. But this books appeals to me as much as it will to someone for whom reading does not come so naturally - because it encourages you to read, gives you good reasons to read and helps you to think about how to read through the lens of your faith, using wisdom and discernment as tools to assess books and what we can learn from them.
This review is not so much a detailed review of the book, but a collection of thoughts as a result and the basis of my seminar.
My overall question is: If our lives are to be lived to the glory of God, how does that shape our reading?
Firstly, we start with a Christian view of reading:
1. The bible is in a category all of its own - it is the Word of God
2. Christians value words - we value the Word of God, his Son is the Word, we know words give meaning in a way that images cannot.
3. Being a Christian brings wisdom and gives discernment
“Faith in Jesus brings with it a critically important benefit for the Christian reader – discernment. Discernment is the ability to do three things: the ability to “test everything”, to “hold fast to what is good,” and to “abstain from every form of evil (1 Thess 5:21-22)” (p35)
“Christians can read a broad array of books for our personal benefit, but only if we read with discernment. And we will only read with discernment if the biblical convictions are firmly settled in our minds and hearts. Once they are, we have a touchstone to determine what is pure gold and what is worthless.” (p59)
4. There are great benefits to reading Christian books - both fiction and non-fiction
5. There are great benefits to reading non-Christian books - both fiction and non-fiction
‘In non-Christian works we discover what is so close, and yet so far away, from what we read in the Bible. The challenge is to make use of the “so close” for our edification and for the glory of God while being aware of the “yet so far away”.’ (p77)
Following on from this, there are some practical suggestions:
- Examine your heart - what do you read, why do you read, do you read widely but with discretion or is your reading divorced from your faith and godly living?
- Dwell in the word of God - as first priority read your bible.
- Have a balanced reading diet - include Christian growth and understanding, life stage and professional development reading and reading for pleasure/enjoyment.
- Guard your heart in your reading - be aware if there are some types of books you should avoid
- Be active in your reading - take notes, put aside time for reading, be willing to stop reading a book
- Read with others - in a bible study, with children, in a book group
- Consider whether reading can be a problem - when, what, how much, etc
- Be a mature reader:
“1. Mature readers prize wisdom
2. Mature readers cherish old books
3. Mature readers keep literature in its place
4. Mature readers avoid making books into idols
5. Mature readers cling to the Saviour” (p177)
In the end, I really enjoyed Reinke’s conclusion:
“Regardless of how many books we read, we cling to the old rugged cross. When books overwhelm us, and our intellectual limitations discourage us, we recall the gospel. In the good news of Jesus Christ, overwhelmed readers find peace, and joy, and the courage to keep reading.” (p185)