Do not read a book for YOUR argument

I am finishing Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright and my oldest son was looking at it briefly. He mentioned a guy he knows doesn’t call himself a Christian but says the Apostle Paul is the one that is relevant. Not even Jesus, who was to the Jews only.

I advised my son to put the book down and not read it if he was looking for a way to refute the other guy.

Which has me thinking about WHY I read books. There are a couple of things that grate on me when I encounter others who read books, especially on Christianity or “apologetics.” More than once I have heard, “Oh, I know someone who should read that book.”

This causes me to internally scream: “NOOOOOO!!!!”

If a book has an “argument,” then I read the book for the author’s argument. I can then consider it. But if I am in a conversation with someone else and I come across a book to read only for the sake of that argument, I am on a fool’s errand. I am reading the book not for the sake of the book, but for the sake of my argument.

I read to learn. I read to absorb. I read to experience.

Wright’s biography on Paul is refreshing and challenging and helps reframe my view of Paul and opens up my reading in the New Testament in a refreshingly new way.

I am reading (listening) to some short stories by Ernest Hemingway so I can learn more about his brevity of writing. I saw a PBS documentary on his life and it helps set me in his time period more and reading him now is taking me on a new journey.

When I read I am trying NOT to be “utilitarian.” I certainly take more pleasure in reading history, biography, and theology, but it’s not strictly in a “utilitarian” way where it serves only one particular purpose. I absorb to learn more and challenge my own way of thinking. I don’t mind having blind spots revealed.

My invitation to reading is to expand thinking. Reading something “new” doesn’t always change my thinking, but it does expand my thinking. This is what Wright’s book on Paul has done for me, which is what much of Wright’s writing will do for me.

I am toward the end of the book and am once again reminded of how I need to expand my thinking on “heaven” and “earth.” My old concept of “heaven” was “up there.” Wright challenges me to realize that heaven is the throne of God and just simply EXISTS. It’s not some magical place in the sky that is revealed when I’m dead. It’s now. And here. It is a matter of dimension, not some forced “location.”

Please don’t read in a “utilitarian” way to on reinforce your own thinking or to try and pick up “ammo” for your argument with someone else.

Read to absorb. Read to be challenged. Read to be encouraged.


person reading book white sitting
Photo Credit: Lilly Rum, Unsplash

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