Read or Die

A reading Christian is a growing Christian. A non-reading Christian is a shrinking one. The reason this is true is that the Christian life is never static. We are always moving in one direction or the other. Our mind is a muscle needing continual exercise or it becomes lazy and degenerates. The mind is also an incredible gift from God, which, as part of what the Bible refers to as the heart, is intricately involved in our fellowship with Him. If we do not feed our mind then our soul will shrivel up and die.  Therefore, it is our privilege and responsibility to stimulate the mind well. We must discipline ourselves to think, in order to slow down the speed of the progressive atrophy that is naturally taking place as a result of the Fall, and to renew our minds with God’s truth. And nothing comes close in value to helping us become better thinkers than becoming better readers. Therefore, I draw your attention to one of the best books I’ve read this year, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, by Tony Reinke.

The back-cover blurb describes it well: “Learn how to better read, what to read, when to read, and why you should read with this helpful guide from accomplished reader Tony Reinke. Offered here is a theology for reading and practical suggestions for reading wisely, reading well, and for making it all worthwhile.” With my pen and highlighter in hand, here are some of my most valuable takeaway thoughts.

The Unique Perspective of the Christian Reader
“Christian readers can now see and treasure the truth, goodness, and beauty that flicker in the pages of books.”
“The day God ran his fingertip over the stone tablets was the day that he forever shaped the world of book publishing.”
“As Christians, we read all of our books illuminated by God and in communion with him….We tap into the eternal value of literature when we read in the presence of God, unveiled to the glory of our Savior.”

The Value of Actively Reading Books over Passively Observing Images
“Entertainment is passive and easy; books require an active mind and diligence.”
“Language is the basis of our relationship with God, and a deeply personal means to experience him.”
“Words are a more precise way of communicating the meaning behind the images of our world.”
“Images do capture stunning scenes and events, but words take you by the hand down to the depths of the human soul and up to the heights of an unseen eternity.”
“The Internet encourages superficial browsing, not concentration. Book reading, on the other hand, cannot happen without disciplined and sustained linear concentration. Instead of browsing for fragments of information, we must learn to become deep thinkers who work hard to comprehend (2 Tim. 2:7). Success in life demands that we cultivate the skill of sustained linear reasoning. This is true of reading books; and it’s true of learning mathematics, playing music, solving complex personal problems, and making important decisions. Reading is a way to preserve and cultivate the sustained linear concentration we need for life.”

The Infinite Value of Reading the Bible Illumined by the Spirit
“It is possible to have a photographic memory and the capacity to remember everything you read with flawless recollection. But if the Spirit of God has not reached down and uwrapped the black veil from over your heart, eternal truth will be pitch darkness to you. You may see words on a cold page of paper, but you will not feel the warm brightness of Christ’s glory. And you will not experience eternal life.”
“By reading Scripture under the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit, we develop biblical convictions that make us competent to discern truth from lies, goodness from evil, and beauty from ugliness. Before we can be discerning, we must be informed by a direct study of Scripture.”
“Truth not only exists, truth lives and breathes and speaks and dies and rises and saves and reigns eternally.”
“If we neglect Scripture in order to read only other books, we not only cut ourselves from the divine umbilical cord that feeds our souls, we also cut ourselves from the truth that makes it possible for us to benefit from the truth, goodness, and beauty in the books that we read.”
“The bottom line is that no single book should receive more attention in our lives than Scripture. The Bible is the greatest book and our highest priority–it ignites us with spiritual light and life, it fuels us with eternal hope and grace, and it stokes us with inexhaustible pleasure and delight.”
“The only book you should read entirely is the Bible. All other books must prove their value along the way.”

The Temporal Value of Reading Other Books
“Every book that has ascended and descended from the New York Times bestseller list is as temporary in value as the green grass under the sweltering summer sun.”
“Mount Sinai demands that we distinguish between temporary books and the eternal Book, between a decomposing paperback from the pen of a sinner and a smoking stone tablet from the finger of God. If we fail to make this distinction, if we fail to prioritize the eternal Word over temporary books, our reading will never be distinctly Christian.”
“Revealed truth does not answer all the questions in life, but it does provide a framework for understanding everything else.” [This is a good explanation of the sufficiency of Scripture.]
“…books that honestly reveal sin can stir our hearts for the lost. Too often we find ourselves insulated in a Christian bubble that makes it hard to recall the despair we experienced outside of Christ.”

The Need to Always Read with Discernment
“To discern is the authenticate something.” [a good definition]
“Novelists animate a worldview by placing it within a depiction of life. Literature gives a worldview arms, legs, ears, hands, and mouths. Novels activate a particular worldview.”
“Spiritual dangers are more venomous in a so-called ‘Christian’ book.”

Other Quotables
“God does not plug in to recharge. He does not eat. God draws his life from himself (John 5:26).”
“The gospel weaves together a genealogy of dodgy characters into an unlikely ancestry for the Savior.”
“The best Christian novels grow out of the manure of this fallen world.”
“Christian literature uses the sin-stained world as the soil where the green sprout of grace grows.”

My recommendation is this: Order a copy of Lit! When it arrives, set aside whatever books you are currently reading until you complete this immensely helpful guide.

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