For most, the idea of reading a nonfiction book is, at best, pointless. Books are those things used in school, the instruments of torture used by our teachers to sap the fun and enjoyment out of life. To bring nonfiction books into the realm of “me time” is blasphemous to many adults and students, alike.
I’m the opposite, an odd exception. Ever since I was a child, I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and I equally enjoyed learning. The Lord, in His grace, formed me so that I found delight in gaining knowledge in almost any area. Therefore, it’s easy for me to sit down and read through a work of theology that was written a few hundred years ago. But I know many people don’t share my interests.
I’ll make a confession here. I honestly don’t understand people who lack a love for reading and learning. It’s incomprehensible to me, so if this is you, please enlighten me in the comment section.
Regardless if you delight in reading or not, I believe all Christians should read theology books. I’m not saying that all should labor through the Works of John Owen. Rather, we should all give some of our time and energy to reading books from pastors/theologians on various topics. (“Left Behind” books do not count.) Here’s why you should read theology books:
I believe that the Holy Spirit illumines the mind and changes the heart of every believer who reads Scripture to help us understand and apply it (1 Cor. 1:10-13; Col. 1:9-10). But I believe God also uses other brothers and sisters to transform our thinking about Him. Here is a quote from our Recommended Reading page on the church website:
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Our thinking and behavior are changed when we come in contact with the thoughts and views of others. This is exactly what takes place when we pick up and read a book. Our minds come into a dialogue with godly saints with whom we will most likely never meet on this side of eternity. The Scriptures are by far the most important book a person can read, but it is also important to have our minds sharpened by godly men and women who experience the same trials and tribulations that we face.
By reading the works of other believers, it helps us to sharpen our own views about God. There have been many times that I’ve been reading some theological book, and the author called into question one of my beliefs that I had never previously questioned. Of course, I went to check it according to Scripture, our ultimate authority, but the Lord used that book to bring my thoughts more in line with His.
I’ll give you one more reason why you should read theology, and it’s related to the first.
Have you ever tried expressing your views to someone, only you couldn’t put your thoughts into words, and then someone summarized your view in one beautifully concise statement? That’s what reading good theologians can do for you. God has not only given some the gift of great oratory skills, but He has also given others great literary skills who can boil the most confusing doctrines into understandable paragraphs or even sentences. In turn, by reading good works of theology, we are better equipped to explain the God who has revealed Himself to us through His Word.
I’ll close with one warning about this. A commitment to read theology should not mean that you go down to the bookstore and pick up the first work of theology that you see. Theological books, especially for the young believer, can be dangerous because there is so much awful theology that is printed. So if you want a good place to start, you can check out our Recommended Reading page or talk to your pastor.
Reading is not torture. It’s a grace from God that allows us to change our minds more into the image of Christ. Don’t miss out.
What are some books that have fundamentally shaped your theology?
6 thoughts on “Why You Should Read Theology Books”
It’s my opinion that Christians MUST enjoy reading at some level. Our God reveals himself through a book. You cannot know or love your God without reading that Book.
Likely, Desiring God by John Piper had the largest, instant impact on my theology. It may seem odd to mention the two so closely together, but N. T. Wright’s Justification brought a significant impact on my thinking as well.
You’re absolutely right; we must be a people of the Book and books.
For those who may be wading into the waters of theology for the first time, I would recommend Desiring God, or one of Piper’s shorter works, before I would N.T. Wright’s Justification. Wright is a great writer, but that justification debate is difficult. Seasoned scholars like yourself can handle that stuff though.
I’m not so sure. Actually, I would like to see a new believer understand justification for the first time in Wright’s terms (i.e., Christ’s faithfulness, participation in Christ’s resurrection, new creation, etc.) I think it may be easier to grasp the broad perspective of redemption first and then move to individual application. (i.e., propitiation, expiation, substitution, etc.) for the same reason we teach pre-schoolers Genesis before Leviticus.
Regardless if you want a new believer to understand justification or redemption in Wright’s term, would you send them to Justification? I just see a person who has little or no experience in the realm of theology getting overwhelmed in Wright’s discussion of first-century Judaism and the other important aspects of his argument. That book would be quite a ways down my list to recommend to those “just getting their feet wet.”
Two for me were: “The Ever Loving Truth” by Voddie Baucham and “Dominion and Dynasty” by Stephen Dempster.
This blog really resonates with me because I can honestly say that by the grace of the Lord I have been changed from someone who hated reading before I was a Christian into someone who loves it now that I believe the Gospel.