Social media is full of debates and opposing opinions. Timelines can be filled with discussions and arguments on a variety of topics; history, current issues, politics and so on. But social media is also full of Christian discussions and debates. I tend to stay away from them as much as o can because I know my own sinfulness and I think my time is best spent elsewhere. But there’s been a recent discussion surrounding the accessibility of books. Now that is a discussion I can talk about…
But I didn’t engage with it, why? Well, the whole discussion kicked off initially surround Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Whether you like the book or not is pretty irrelevant, the way I saw some Christians dragging Grudem through the mud is simply outrageous. Too many Christians take their opinions to the extreme and start slinging mud. That has truly been disheartening.
But on the other side of that there have been those who also find issue with Grudem’s book and suggest Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics as a substitute. To that I simply respond “Nah!”. But this post is not about that.
This whole discussion/debate brought some questions to mind that people are throwing out there, or that they need to consider…
1. Do all Christians have to read books?
This may surprise you, but my answer is “No!”.
Are books beneficial for Christians? Can they grow through them? Absolutely! But are they essential to the Christian faith? No! I’ve met many godly men and women who haven’t read any other book than the Bible, not out of principle but simply because they don’t like to read. A Christian does not have to read, but I think it’s a good idea for Christians to read.
Reading is a hobby of mine. I used to hate reading but I realised the benefit of it, had the time for it and worked hard to grow in the discipline of reading. And I’ve been equipped through it, but it’s not the only way to learn! There are plenty of people in the world who do their best learning outside of the pages of a book. We need to understand the differences in learning types and cater for everyone.
This doesn’t mean that we never pick up a book and try, it simply means that we need to realise that not everyone is best suited to learn by reading.
2. Should we make books accessible?
One of the interesting roads this discussion has gone down is the old accessibility/intellectual topic.
There are some who would argue and bemoan that the church is being pulled away from intellectual discussion and informative sermons. The argument is that people need to listen to intellectual discussion and have all of the information hey need to make an informed decision about a given topic. Therefore, in a church setting, we must equip people to engage with the Bible and the world properly. Sadly, this has sometimes led to very high level sermons/books that spend so much time on the minute detail of a topic rather than helping people see why it’s important for them to wrestle with! An example of this was a few months back I listen to an introductory ‘Bible study’ on Exodus 1 that lasted for 55 minutes. The speaker spent the first 43 minutes talking about Genesis, Isaiah, Matthew and Revelation before even diving into the book of Exodus.
I think that many sermons and books can become a simple download of information and a theological discussion rather than a simple expounding of God’s Word. Have some sermon and books become to intellectual and academic? In my opinion, yes!
But the danger also goes the other way. Too often we can simplify a message and forget that people can be stretched. It is not a bad thing for people to engage with material that is a little bit over their heads, in fact I think that it can be a good thing. For some that might mean that they read Bavinck’s 4 volume set of ‘Reformed Dogmatics’ for other it means thinking thematically about becoming like Jesus (sanctification).
I’ve seen people almost be labelled as smart or stupid Christians and that cannot be the case! Should books be accessible? Yes! But that accessibility depends on the individual. We must have books that tailor to the academic and books the are accessible for the ‘average Christian’.
3. Do books equal discipleship?
The answer is no! If I have offended you, I’m sorry, but simply passing someone a book doesn’t mean that you’re discipling them. Books are great tools that can be used in the process of discipleship, to stretch and to train believers to grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord. But they are only a tool they are not the thing itself!
I recommend a lot of books a months, I mean A LOT! Some on this blog, but the majority of them I recommend in person or because someone has asked me for a specific recommendation. Too often I’ve seen people raise a question or a concern about a topic just to have a book thrown at them. A book may help someone work through an issues but it is not the silver bullet to living the Christian life.
If you’re a reader, please promote and recommend good books that are deep and accessible, that will spur people on in their faith and encourage them to grow in Christ. But don’t stop there. Meet up with people, talk through the Bible, life, books, questions, concerns and objections they have and help people grow as disciples. Simply throwing a book in someones direction is not the same as discipling them.