I’ve been a pretty avid reader for as long as I can remember. I usually have two or three books on the go at any given time. I typically like to read fiction last thing at night before sleep (my brain is usually too tired to read much else) and non-fiction during my lunch break. I already have too many unread books (of both the dead-tree and the Kindle variety), some of which I probably should never have bought and may end up not reading. So I’m trying to be a little more careful in what I buy now.
Anyway, I had a chunk of birthday money to spend, and couldn’t think what to spend it on, so… yup, you guessed it, I bought a pile of books. Specifically, the ones in the photo above, which arrived today, much to my delight.
As you’ll know if you’ve been reading along on this blog, I’m a big fan of Tom Wright a.k.a. N.T. Wright. His Surprised by Hope was a genuine game-changer for me when I read it a few years ago, and more recently I’ve really enjoyed reading Simply Jesus. So I decided to get When God Became King, which is an examination of what the biblical gospel really is, and two commentaries on Romans which I intend to use as a personal daily devotional. I also decided to take the plunge and get my first N. T. Wright “big book”, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. It’s a little intimidating at over 1,700 pages, but I’m sure it’s going to be a mine of insight and understanding.
As for the other books, I bought the Hauerwas because I’ve loved what I’ve read and heard of him online, I’ve wanted the Forde for a while, and someone recommended the Giertz.
So, should you care to follow along on this humble blog, you will doubtless be exposed to snippets from these books over the coming months.
Now, I’m very aware of the danger of “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake can become as fruitless and ultimately as destructive as any compulsive and self-seeking behaviour. It’s also important to remember that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
In light of the above verses, some say that too much reading and learning distracts and detracts from a real relationship with the Father. Indeed, in some parts of the church there is a kind of anti-intellectualism that positively looks down on those who see fit to apply their intellect to biblical interrogation. I think this is a great shame. Someone once challenged me to ask myself the question “What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all of your mind?” For me, at least part of the answer to that question is that I want to use the mind God gave me to seek to understand and know Him better. Yes, I want to love Him with all of my heart, but I want to love Him with all of my mind as well.
I remind myself that God chose to ordain a written record of His dealings with His creation down the ages – we call it the Bible. It does not carry equal authority with God – far from it – but it’s certainly a primary tool for understanding who God is and what He is like. This alone demonstrates that there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking knowledge and understanding through reading.
In summary, then, my view is that, while it can be the case that much learning distracts from true knowledge of God, it doesn’t have to be the case.
Simply put, I think what it boils down to is this: what are you looking for? Jesus scolded the Pharisees because they immersed themselves in the scriptures yet failed to see the very one to whom those scriptures pointed (John 5:39-40). My purpose in buying and reading books like the ones pictured above is that they sustain and fuel me on a journey that I began a few years ago, and that I’m keen to keep pursuing: the quest to know Jesus as he really is. So my aim as I read is to keep Jesus front and centre, and to trust the Holy Spirit to do His job of guiding me into all truth.