Each New Year brings with it a blessing and a curse. The blessing is a new opportunity to examine the course of our lives and make much needed adjustments. The curse, however, is the yearly reminder of how weak we are at making those adjustments. We’ve all bought the latest exercise machine with the intention of losing weight, but weeks later the machine is nothing more than an expensive clothes hanger. We probably could all stand to lose a few pounds, but this year we should be reminded not to neglect our inner life.
Our culture is superficial. Its main focus is on appearances, images–the external. It’s rare to find a person with inner weight, a person of character, who can discern the True, the Beautiful, and the Good. You certainly won’t find such a person on popular television, though you might occasionally find one on C-Span, PBS, or other similar programs. But, even though we might find examples on television, it’s a given that the internally weighty person didn’t become weighty by watching T.V.; he became a person of character and discernment by wrestling with the big ideas of life.
A common denominator among internally weighty people is that they are readers. They don’t act as if the world began on their birthdays and will end at their deaths. They have a good sense of history and a profound respect for the intellectual giants of the past. One would think that because our society is so driven by education, we would find no lack of these great minds in our midst. But let’s face it; our society wants more education because we want to make more money, not because we love to learn. A study conducted in the 1970’s found that college graduates, on average, only read one book per year. I’m sure that number is much lower today.
Out of all people that should be internally weighty and not just externally superficial (i.e. readers), Christians should head the list, for several reasons. First, we believe that God has communicated to us through a book. This is why Christians have been interested in education; everyone should be able to read and understand God’s Word. Second, Christianity has a long, rich, intellectual history. I’m grateful for the World Thought classes at USAO that first introduced me to the great giants of the faith; I’m just sorry I didn’t hear about them at church. Finally, books from past and present authors can help us understand our faith better, defend it in the marketplace of ideas, and help us grow intellectually and spiritually. This is why I’m convinced that Christians must be readers.
My hope this year is that more Christians will turn off the T.V. for a little bit and pick up a book. Not a fluffy, cotton candy, self-help, your best life now kind of book, but books that will make you think, that are a little hard to read, and a little over your head–maybe even a book by a person who’s been dead a while!
If you’re like me and would like to become a better reader—to know what to read and how to read—I recommend, “How To Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler, “How to Read a Christian Book” by David L. McKenna, and “A Theology of Reading” by Alan Jacobs (You might want to cover these titles as you read them to escape the incessant laughter and mocking of family and friends). Happy New Year! Happy reading! And happy learning!
Article by Pastor Billy Elkins.