Archive for the ‘Christian reading’ Category

It’s going to be a busy weekend of ministry for me with our annual church clean up on Saturday while on Sunday I’m also preaching at another church after I’m done with my local church’s own church service.  In the middle of it all that I need to finish my sermon preparation.  So this is a quick post.


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It was officially the first day of summer Tuesday on June 20th, 2017.

College kids would go on summer break.  People go on vacation.

But don’t waste your summer away doing nothing.  Read!


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I thought this paragraph in which Spurgeon commented on minsters reading outside the Bible was thoughtful:

Having given precedence to the inspired writings, neglect no field of knowledge. The presence of Jesus on the earth has sanctified the realms of nature, and what He has cleansed call not you common. All that your Father has made is yours, and you should learn from it. You may read a naturalist’s journal, or a traveller’s voyage, and find profit in it. Yes, and even an old herbal, or a manual of alchemy may, like Samson’s dead lion, yield you honey. There are pearls in oyster shells, and fruits on thorny boughs. The paths of true science, especially natural history and botany, drop fatness. Geology, so far as it is fact, and not fiction, is full of treasures.

History–wonderful are the visions which it makes to pass before you–is eminently instructive; indeed, every portion of God’s dominion in nature teems with precious teachings. Follow the trails of knowledge, according as you have the time, the opportunity, and the peculiar faculty; and do not hesitate to do so because of any apprehension that you will educate yourselves up to too high a point. When grace abounds, learning will not puff you up, or injure your simplicity in the gospel. Serve God with such education as you have, and thank Him for blowing through you if you are a ram’s horn, but if there be a possibility of your becoming a silver trumpet, choose it rather.

This is from Lectures to My Students, chapter 15.


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For Christians its important to read.  To read the Bible. To read books on the Bible.  To read books that would help with Christian living.  To read books to know more about God.  Many Christians get this.  Many Christians might feel guilty.  Sometimes one’s life is also very busy.  How does one read more books when life is busy?  This post is meant to be pastoral, practical and encouraging.  I admit I haven’t arrived so if you have other ideas and advice please share.  So here’s my thoughts.


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Last month I reviewed a book that argues for why Christians should study history.  In light of all the good reasons for Christians to be intersted in history I try to read something historical from time to time as a good break from theology.  The following are collections of non-Christian books that touch on history that I read this Spring.

A History of the English People

A History of the English People

I started reading this book because of the name of the author was recommended to me by others.  This is the first book work by Paul Johnson that I read.  It covered a long history of the people in England (don’t let the title mistaken you to think it refer to English people as a whole, such as in America, Canada and Australia, etc).  It is a helpful narrative history.  One certainly get the sense that Johnson is very proud of England.  One thing that raised my eyebrows is his constant reference to Pelagius, and I think he’s overstretching Pelagian contribution to English history.

Get “History of the English People” over at Amazon

American Lion

American Lion

My first biography on Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States and I absolutely loved it.  I will be planning to read more biographies of Andrew Jackson as a result of reading this.  The book does a good job painting a portrait of Jackson and his colorful personality.  What I appreciate about this book is that it shows the president was more than just a bad temper old General—he was also a shrewd politician who was calculating and maneuvered accordingly.  Jackson was also a man who knew who to capitalize his reputation and his personality for political ends.  The part of the book that I enjoyed was the discussion of his family life and also what drove him concerning his policies against national banking and the Indian policies that he pursued.  Jackson’s Indian policies was probably the lowest point in his administration, filled with broken promises and forced removal.

Get “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” over at Amazon

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South

Politically Incorrect Guide to the South

Our worst stereotypes are of those whom we think we know but we don’t.  Removing such prejudices is hard because we have very little incentive to find out more information since we are a “state of rest” when it comes to interests of knowing more about the particular group we think we know.  I believe that Southern people and culture is one such example for many non-Southerners.  I say this as someone from the West Coast who was exposed to Southern ways for the first time when I was in the Marines.

This is a book about the South.  Of course the topic of racism is in the back of the readers mind and early in the book the author is frank to disavow any support of racism and even said that not everything about the South is right when it comes to the topic of racism.  This helps for an outsider to hear this.  But like anything in life there are other complexity to account for and also other things of Southern culture and society that is good.

The author goes on in the book to show how the South is not all backward as some may assume.  For instance, currently Southern states have increasing rate of minorities moving in versus the decrease of minority population in the rest of region of the United States and in particular the more liberal Northeastern part of the country.   This was something I have never heard of before, being only familiar with the flight of African Americans from the Southern in certain era of American history.  The book also talks about how the South has grown as an economic powerhouse and certain part of its subculture have become a part of what defines America.

Besides food, sports, patriotism (Southerners historically contribute a lot to our military and still do), the part that interests me the most in the book is the topic of history.  While the section on religion was interesting to me as a Pastor, it’s the history that the book devotes the most time to.

The book discussion of the Civil War is excellent as it reveal the complexity of the origin of the war.  I think this book and other literature I have read demonstrate that the North wasn’t necessarily going to war to free the slaves as our popular narrative likes to tell it.  The North was as equally racist during that time as the South is.  One should also point out that the North’s treatment of those in their industry wasn’t necessarily better than the South with their slaves and at times could be worst than those in the South with their Patriarchal ways (observing this is not to condone it).  Today people celebrate and remember African American’s contribution in the Northern Army but we can easily forget that there were minorities in the Confederate army as well.  The book discusses Jews and blacks in the Confederate army.  “Black Southerners in Grey” is a wonderful chapter.  Sometimes people forget that people can fight in a war for various reasons and that just because one support one reason (for states rights for instance) doesn’t necessarily mean they fought for another reason.

The book also talks about the North’s atrocities against blacks as well by the Northern Army.  I admit this was a harder part for me to read but we must let history speak instead of conforming history to our expectations.  The book also discussed the tryanical ways of the North such as Lincoln jailing Maryland legislature, and the President issuing warrants against the Chief Justice (fortunately no Marshall agreed to carry out the warrants).  The North also forced a lot of immigrants to fight in a war that they didn’t know about.  The author also discussed the horrific ways the North fought against the South and how the North introduced total warfare by attacking civilians and the land rather than just the Southern Army.  Think “Sherman’s march to sea,” and other policies like it.  Most people may not realize it, but the Northern generals Sherman and Grant were against Emancipation Proclamation.
There is so much more that I learned in the book and I recommend it.

Get “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South (and Why It Will Rise Again)” over at Amazon

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Last month we posted resources on a Christian theology of reading featuring a PDF syllabus and 9 part audio series in MP3 that I encourage you to check out.  Apparently the Reformed Baptist Preacher Al Martin also a have series on Christians and reading.

Al Martin preacher

Here are the messages on Sermon Audio:

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 1 of 4: 7 Broad Biblical Principles 1/2

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 2 of 4: 7 Broad Biblical Principles 2/2

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 3 of 4: Specific Book Recommendations

The Healthy Christian and His Reading Habits 4 of 4: Specific Book Recommendations PS

As I said before, I believe the church needs to teach, encourage and cultivate its members to read in order to develop their Christian worldview, their faith and love for God.  This include reading the Bible and books outside the Bible.  We need to disciple God’s people with Biblical truths of everything since every inch on earth belongs to God and we ought to practice biblical dominion over every sphere.  There is no neutrality–we need to live out the Lordship of Christ.

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Admont Benedictine Monastery Big photo

Do you struggle with Christian reading?  Reading is an important component in Christian discipleship–and not just for “devotional” flavor but the development of a Christian worldview and being equipped for apologetics, evangelism and Lordship of Christ in all spheres.  In light of this a Christian theology on reading is foundational for the Christian life of the mind and practice.  Here is a series by a Calvinistic Alliance Church on “A Christian Theology on Reading” covering the reading of Canonical and Non-canonical books.  A good Christian theology of reading is the basis to properly motivate Christians to pursue spiritual reading, how to get the most out of their reading and discernment when reading non-canonical books.

The syllablus is available in PDF if you click on the following: Christian theology of Reading Syllabus (Property of TCAC)

Here are the 9 part audio messages in MP3s for this series:

Session 1: Why Read the Bible (Pages 2-4 of Syllabus)

Session 2: Why Read Other Books Part 1 of 2 (Pages 5-6 of Syllabus)

Session 3: Why Read Other Books Part 2 of 2 (Pages 5-10 of Syllabus)

Session 4: Historical Theology Case Study: Strong Christians Read (Pages 11-15 of Syllabus)

Session 5: Selecting Biblical Passages to Read (Pages 16-18 of Syllabus)

Session 6:Discernment in Selecting Books Wisely (Pages 19-21 of Syllabus)

Session 7: Discernment in reading Non-Canonical Books (Pages 22-25 of Syllabus)

Session 8: Twenty Five Recommended Christian books for the Christian (Pages 25)

Session 9: Christian Discipline of Reading (Pages 26-28)

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Note: The book is available online for free in Html format if you click HERE for the table of content.

A helpful book on the Christian discipline of reading filled with practical advice. The author was a president of a Christian college and an avid reader and he even shared how his interviews with potential faculty members include the question of what they read to gauge where they are at spiritually. As the first chapter points out in why Christian read, I agree with the author that a Christian who reads spiritually is also a strong Christian spiritually (and I might add, holistically). I thought his chapter on a three year reading plan was helpful even if I don’t adopt his plan at least it gets me thinking about a longer and purposeful reading plan. Besides the practical advice throughout the book, the author’s Wesleyan background does show up slightly in the book and some of his suggestions of the suggested books would not be books I would recommend. The books he recommend include works that are authored by Philip Yancey, Rick Warren, Tony Campolo, Richard Mouw, Ronald Sider, Mark Noll and Gregory Boyd. Some of these authors I have serious theological concerns with (Campolo, Mouw, Boyd), others for lack of theological depth (Hayford, Eugene Peterson, Yancey) still others their philosophy of ministry (Warren and Mouw) and while others I have reservation with the political views being advanced (Sider and Campolo). For the discerning Christian, this book still has something to offer to help believers read better. I still recommend Lit! by Tony Reinke as the top Christian book on reading. Below are helpful quotes and tips from the book:

“The highest level of Christian reading is to read for integration, or as Adler and Van Doren say, “to see things whole.” They also refer to this stage of reading as “synoptical,” the idea of looking through a lens and seeing things come together in one picture. Immature readers of Christian books will take one book and view it as the summation of whole truth. More mature readers, however, will hold one book in abeyance until they have a chance to read other sources on the same subject. Then, always looking through the lens of the God-breathed Word, they put different viewpoints into the perspective of the whole, relate the viewpoints one to another, and draw them together into a composit conclusion without sacrificing the truth” (60-61).

“A passive reader is like a catcher who never returns the ball, while an active reader is one who fires the ball back in the form of questions that keep the game going and make the event exciting” (58).

“For another thing, unless speed-reading results in better comprehension, we will be no better off than the hare in the well-known fable. Like the speedy hare, we may have superior reading speed, but those who take their time like the tortoise will win the race of comprehension. Of course, if we have the discipline to master both speed and comprehension, we will become world-class readers” (68).

“If we can improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of our reading, we will get more from all the books we read. Christian books, in particular, deserve a quality read if they are to serve the purpose of helping us to understand the Christian faith and grow spiritually” (57).

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