Is Reading Literature Important for Christians?
Before the school year started, I traded my iPhone 7 for a bigger, better version: the iPhone 8 Plus. Considering that Apple is likely announcing their iPhone 11 this fall, I’m still behind the technological times. But whether you have the latest device or not, it’s safe to assume that you’re not immune to the entertainment culture that our phones help mediate. Between social media apps, streaming services, podcasts, games, and music, our phones have us hooked.
In Lit: A Christian Guide to Reading Books, Tony Reinke points out that “the immediate appeal of visual entertainment is at odds with the gradual unveiling of literary treasure. Entertainment is passive and easy; books require an active mind and diligence. Books typically get ignored” (40).
The way we are accustomed to taking in information on our phones, tablets, and computers has impacted how we approach reading books, too. Reinke wonders if Christians “will be patient enough to find meaning embedded in words” (43) instead of surrendering to the idleness that entertainment affords.
But Christians of all people should absolutely be patient enough. Not only is patience a fruit of the Spirit, but Christians are a reading people.
God has revealed himself, not only through the Son, but also through Scripture—written Scripture. And though we no longer read the Bible on stone or clay tablets, this written revelation is one way we commune with God. Additionally, we can also gain great insight from the many books that have been written by Christians.
In light of those truths, here are three reasons to reach for a Christian book instead of your phone or TV remote:
1. Spiritual Growth
At the end of his second epistle, Peter exhorts his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in order to combat “the error of lawless people” (2 Pet. 3:18).
Obviously, God’s Word is our primary way of knowing Jesus and our primary weapon against error. Reading Christian books is not a replacement for the regular reading of God’s Word. Yet, they can help us grow in faith when we read them with with an aim to grow in the knowledge and love of God . As J. I. Packer warns, pursuing theological knowledge as an end in itself is “the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception” (Knowing God 22). Instead, we should read books that lead us into deeper spiritual maturity, recognizing that God’s love in Christ toward us should produce humility. The goal is godliness, not self-righteousness.
2. Discipling Others
As a parent of three young children, I feel the weight of Paul’s command to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Reading Christian books is an excellent way to support my duty to herald the gospel in my home.
But this isn’t just true for parents. No matter your age or stage of life, Jesus calls all of his followers to make disciples. In his book Discipling, Mark Dever notes that “Discipling involves transmitting the knowledge of God and his Word through every moment of life” (28). So read the Bible and Christian books while passing on your knowledge of God to others in your life.
The defense of our faith has a two-pronged approach. Apologetics is for both believers and unbelievers. Christians who encounter apologists’ arguments are encouraged by sound reasons to continue believing while non-Christians are confronted with answers to their objections and must decide whether to accept them or continue in unbelief.
As Voddie Baucham points out, “Apologetics is necessary today because of issues such as biblical illiteracy, postmodern/post-Christian thinking, open opposition to biblical truth, and the growing presence of opposing religions” (Expository Apologetics 24). Reading Christian books helps us articulate the reason for the hope that is in us when engaging with unbelievers (1 Pet. 3:15). The purpose of apologetics is not to win arguments but to winsomely persuade people to trust Jesus.
The glare of a bright, electronic screen is enticing; but choosing to read—Christian literature in particular—will reap rewards for years to come. Reading the Word and Christian books can help you better know and love Christ, and share his love with others.