If not reading, then what?

If you’ve followed the discussions on Twitter (I, frankly, don’t blame you if you haven’t), you will have seen that I’ve dared to suggest two things that haven’t been universally well received. First, I suggested Bavinck probably wasn’t your go-to text for new and young believers. I thought that one fairly uncontroversial, to be honest, but apparently not! The second, which I understood would be a bit more controversial (but I nonetheless believe is true), is that Christian books really are not vital for your Christian life. Helpful they may be, but essential they are not.

On that second point, I knew it might ruffle a few feathers. But, in all honesty, I didn’t think it that outlandish. I mean, most of us have statements of faith that say as much for our churches. We all acknowledge the final authority of the scriptures in matters of faith and practice. Most of us also acknowledge something to the effect that no further revelation, nothing beyond the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, is required for us to live lives that are pleasing to God nor to grow in Christ-likeness. So, it is a little surprising to have people who affirm those truths start going a bit mad at the thought that we might not need Christian books (that aren’t the Bible) in order to grow or live full Christian lives that glorify God.

I am grateful that Andrew Roycroft shared the following on Twitter in the aftermath of all that:

But I guess there follows an inevitable question. If people hate reading, and we are of the view that the Bible doesn’t insist that they must, then what? How do we help people who don’t get on with reading to grow when we’re happy for them not to bury their heads in Christian books?

In the first instance, I would encourage us to stick closely to what the Bible does tell us is vital for Christian growth. Clearly, the Bible would encourage us to meditate on the Word and to not forsake the meeting together of ourselves. There are lots of other one another commands too. These things add up to a sense in which we are to dwell on the Word in community whereby we are encouraged to be both hearers and doers of it. In terms of the things that are necessary for your Christian growth (as opposed to potentially helpful), you can read this.

In many ways, we don’t need to worry too much about anything else. Lots of things might be beneficial or helpful to our growth, but none of that is demanded by scripture. You might find blogs and podcasts helpful, other people might not. You might find conferences and camps helpful, others not so much. You might find Christian music and art helpful, others may not. Frankly, even reading if you want! All of that you are free to enjoy and welcome to benefit from. But none of it is Biblically mandated nor is it required for your growth. It is stuff you can tap into if you want, if you find it beneficial. Whatever is not sinful, if you find it helpful and valuable so far as growth goes, have at it. Just don’t insist everybody else must find it helpful too when Jesus doesn’t.