On Reading Christian Authors

In 2014 I read 30 theological books, plus about 60 other kinds of books.

Some of these books are written by academic theologians (professors), while others are written by pastors, and some just by general Christians.

I like to read professors of theology because they really do some thinking. They will take a word or phrase and write a whole book on it and come up with stuff my brain would never come up with. They also have a way of quoting other smart guys, opening up new thoughts and resources.

I like to read pastors because I am one and can relate to much of what they say. They tend to be heavy on application, showing how these scriptural truths can be put into action, something most professors never touch.

I like to read “laymen” because they tend to have fresh approaches, new angles and insights, often related to other subjects that shine new light on oft rehashed verses. Hearing a voice from outside the walls can be very enlightening.

I do not like reading professors because in all their genius, they are some of the most clueless people I’ve ever met. They have spent so much time thinking in their heads and so little in the actual world of people that much of what they come up with is asinine. Much of the rest of what they write is so thick and jargoned it’s hard to tell what the point is. Plus end-notes. I hate end-notes.

I do not like reading pastors because they are often one issue people. Everything has to do with that one thing they like talking about. This often keeps them from seeing what the actual point of a verse is. There emphasis on application often leads to incredibly ridiculous applications. Many pastors are hyper-sensitive and defensive resulting in pages written to prove some point that has nothing to do with anything. There is also a disturbing trend among pastors to be trendy and hip, which I hate.

I do not like reading laymen because they frequently have no clue. They probably have a fresh insight, which is then ruined by 50 more pages of very odd usages of Scripture, twisted to bolster their theory. Frequently they rely upon visions, dreams, special messages, and other hooey that gives me the creeps. They lack peer review of ideas so often come up with the strangest theological ideas ever.

In the end, the reason I read from all three categories is because they each have something to offer and, at the same time, have faults that make you leery to become a disciple.

Read widely. Don’t be a fan of one author who has Everything Figured Out. I guarantee you they don’t.

Learn to discern truth and error, which is only done by reading stuff that has truth and error. Read the Bible a lot so you can better detect which is which.

I recommend reading the Bible as a tithe (10%) amount to other books. In other words, if a guy reads 20,000 pages a year, make 2,000 of those pages the Bible. This is not unreasonable (20,000 pages might be, but not the 10% Bible for other reading).

There is nothing finer than a good theology book. One that gives you new insight into God and the work of the Spirit. Find these books, but also know you’ll read lots of drivel to find those few gems.

Do not ask me what the gems are! My gems will be different from yours. Do the work and find your own! It makes them that more gemmish.