Literature is a perennially divisive topic within Christianity. Whether you think literature is the Devil, the path to Heaven, or merely escapist entertainment, you doubtless have an opinion about books and reading. According to Tony Reinke, the problem is that most of the time our attitudes toward literature are often shaped by opinion and feeling rather than the Word of God.
This isn't an appeal to read books simply because they're there, to read classics "because they're classics," or to read every book you can get your hands on. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books is both a defense of reading books, and a guide to doing so from a thoroughly Christian perspective.
Of course, the core of our reading diet ought to be the Bible. As Christians, we learn about God through His written revelation of Himself, and it is this that informs and allows us to interpret every other book we read. Reinke doesn't limit "literature" to fiction and novels; instead, he includes under the one term everything from theology to history to fantasy stories.
What's the point of reading all these books? To be sure, there's plenty out there we shouldn't read, and Reinke devotes time to that discussion as well. But there's plenty we should read, and the author spends much more time explaining what kinds of books we ought to read, and what we can hope to find in their pages.
One of the reasons we should read widely is to better understand the shared experiences and predicaments of humanity, in order to better empathize with and minister to others. Other reasons include reading for self-improvement, for vocational excellence, or for spiritual advancement.
While there are plenty of extremely helpful practical tips throughout Reinke's book, one of the best sections is chapter three (titled "Reading Is Believing") in which he sets out a theology of reading. In an age of images, Reinke makes an unassailable case for the essentiality of words, and shows how images are much more easily translated into idolatry than are words.
Lit! is equally valuable for those who read, and for those who don't. Hopefully the latter group will be driven to expand their minds through careful reading, and the former will be reminded of the true importance of books, and the preeminent importance of God's Word. Both practical and theological, this is an indispensible manual for Christians in an age when visual stimulation reigns supreme and the words of Scripture are often forgotten or lost.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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