Saturday, April 28, 2012

How I Decide Which Books to Read: Or The Necessity of Reading What is True Alongside What is Tender

If you have followed this blog for any time you know that I am an avid reader.  I read (sometimes simply skim read) a decent amount of books every year.  Yet as one person has said, “my appetite for books does not match my ability to consume them”.  There are more books that I would like to read than any human being would ever have time for. 

Because of this I am becoming increasingly selective in what I will read.  I break up my books in a few different categories.  At any given time I am reading about 15-20 different books.  Usually a few from each of these five categories

  1. Ministry Helps—Anything that is designed to assist me in becoming a better preacher, teacher, writer, etc. 
  2. History—Biographies, Classic Books, Books like Mark Noll’s History of Evangelicalism
  3. Theology—Anything that is more doctrinal or theological than practical.  Ecclesiology, Soteriology, etc.  
  4. Life—Anything that helps me be a better Christian, man, husband, father, friend. 
  5. Stuff I Have To—This includes books for seminary and books that I have agreed to review.  Thankfully my “stuff I have to” category often intersects with the other four.
  6. Fiction—I usually try to read one fiction book at a time

These do not include Scripture reading or commentaries.  These are simply books that I am reading in addition to personal Scripture reading or preparing for sermons. 

I am convinced that it is absolutely vital that we read both what is true and what is tender.  If I look at a guys books shelf and all I see are theology books you can be pretty sure that he will be doctrinally savvy but will be pretty rough around the edges in his presentation of it.  He needs to start reading and being around the tender. 

The same goes for the guy whose bookshelf is littered with the practical, the tender, and the touching.  He’ll be really fun to chat with, he’ll have lots of friends, but chances are he isn’t going to be able to really dig deep and think theologically about issues.  He needs to make it a habit to also read the true alongside the tender.

If you aren’t a dedicated reader then I would just suggest to be sure you read 3 things at once.  First, Scripture.  Make sure you are reading God’s Word.  Second and Third, read something true and something tender.  (Of course the truth can be tender, and the tender can be true—I’m talking about emphasis). 

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