What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself. In coming to Him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when He will see no one. Neither does He change His mind about anything. Today, this moment, He feels toward His creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind.
A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, Chapter 9: The Immutability of God
Go back and read that quote again, slowly and thoughtfully.
Did you do it?
Good. I hoped you would.
I came across that quote this past Thursday evening, as I was reading in my bedroom. It had been a long time since I’d picked up The Knowledge of the Holy, and I was in the mood to re-read it. After reading through 50 pages or so of Tozer’s theologically astute and worshipful prose, I stumbled upon the gem of a quote above.
How wonderful that God never changes! He “does not keep office hours”! He feels toward you today the same way he felt when he sent Jesus into the world to die. What comfort to the soul!
If you don’t feel the wonder yet, don’t worry. Having spent an entire hour reading by that point, I was in a good frame of mind to be struck by truth.
Oh, to be in Apologetics again! How I would love to include that quote in my card on God’s immutability and speak it to the judges.
I don’t get that chance anymore.
But you do.
So this article is an exhortation: Read great books! Find great quotes! Give great speeches!
First off, let me explain the title of this post. (You have to wait until Reason 2, but it’s worth it.)
Why should I read?
Reason 1: God Writes
God wrote a book.
Do you ever think about that?
God wrote a book.
He could have done something else.
He could have established an oral tradition.
He could have had angels stay on earth to deliver his words.
He could have spoken his words to each person individually.
He wrote a book!
So we should read it.
And that one Book changes all other books. They are not its equal; not even close. But as the glory of the Cullinan Diamond (the largest in the world) lends dignity to even the smallest flawed diamonds, so the glory of this Book makes all other books shine in reflection.
We read because God wrote.
Reason 2: You’re Not Smart Enough to Do Apologetics
Theologizing about books aside, reading will enhance your Apologetics speeches.
Because you’re not that smart.
No offense! I’m not either. That is, I’m not smart enough to figure out all of theology on my own. I need help.
Thankfully, lots of really smart people have written really awesome books. And we can read them for just a few dollars!
Wanting to write a card on miracles? Check out C.S. Lewis’ book Miracles.
Writing about Jesus’ sacrificial death? Try John Stott’s The Cross of Christ.
Need to write a card on the reliability of the Bible? Get Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
More generally, you can read almost any Christian book and find something beneficial for Apologetics. With 100+ topics, you’re bound to run across something relevant.
So don’t limit your reading to only Apologetics-related books. Feel free to read any Christian author, always on the lookout for good quotes and ideas.
As the weeks and months progress, you’ll begin to have books come to your mind when you’re writing a card. “Hey…didn’t I read something about this?” Yes. Yes you did.
And now your card will be more amazing.
You’re not that smart. So get smart and read books.
Objection: “But I don’t like reading!”
Yes you do.
You just don’t know it yet.
Reading is similar to classical music. It is universally enjoyable, but too few people know how to enjoy it.
Check out this 20-minute TED talk to see what I mean. Benjamin Zander plays a typical piece of classical music for the audience, then notes that most everyone zoned out at some point. He then explains some basic principles of classical music and plays the same piece again. And everyone is hooked.
Same principle with reading. You may not now experience reading as a pleasure, but you can.
And I believe you will.
Granted, reading is a difficult pleasure. That’s what Tony Reinke calls it in his excellent book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books.
“Reading is a difficult pleasure because it requires discipline, diligence, and focus. But like in any pleasure, it is a pleasure that can be done for God’s glory.” (p.104)
But aren’t difficult pleasures often the most lasting ones?
Take writing a blog post.
Why do I choose this example?
Because I struggle with it.
I try to post biweekly: two posts a month. Now that doesn’t sound so hard!
You try it.
This post is a month from my last post. Two weeks late. I totally missed the last (self-imposed) article deadline.
I know I should write regularly, but my brain seems to marshal all its resources against me. “Do it some other time! Do it tomorrow! Right now you should go browse the internet and read some interesting articles! It will be hard! Now is the time for ease!”
Yet the joy of seeing a finished article far exceeds the joy of wasting 90 minutes on the internet.
So that’s why I’m writing this article. It’s a difficult pleasure—not an easy pleasure—but it is a deeper, more profound pleasure than I could find on YouTube or Wikipedia. (Or any of the other black holes the Internet endlessly generates.)
One Help for Those Who Don’t (Yet) Like Reading
Read the right books.
If you don’t read much currently, you may want to start with some fairly easy books. Now, easy doesn’t mean simple or recent or unimportant. It just means that some books require extra effort to enjoy, and you may want to wait on those.
For instance, if an inexperienced reader wanted to learn about prayer, I wouldn’t recommend Don Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation. It’s a solid book, but a bit heady at times. Try Donald Whitney’s Praying the Bible or something similar.
(Side note: Searching on Amazon, I saw that A Call to Spiritual Reformation has now been updated into a 2nd edition with a new-ish title: Praying with Paul. It’s a great book in either edition, well worth checking out, and this new edition might make it easier to read.)
Get some coffee.
If you have trouble reading, grab some coffee before you settle into the easy chair. Caffeine helps, but even more so, there’s something about the aroma and experience of coffee that helps me focus.
Now, I’m only an occasional coffee drinker. I don’t chug gallons a day—more like a cup of it 2-3 times a week. But earlier today I read some more of Tozer with a mug of coffee in hand, and it was wonderful. So try it!
Side note: Real men drink their coffee black. None of this fru-fru not-really-coffee-but-actually-pure-sugar stuff while reading books. Black and strong.
Okay, now that I’ve got you all mad at me, let’s move on.
(All those comments are partly tongue-in-cheek. If you like cream and sugar, that’s cool. And if you’re a tea drinker, that’s cool too—I actually drink more tea than coffee. We okay now? Good.)
What should I read?
Read the classics.
In chapter 10 of Lit!, Tony Reinke gives six tips for finding enough time to read books. One of his tips is Read Great Books. Why? Because you’re more likely to love reading if you read really good books instead of mediocre ones. And we all find time to do what we love to do!
Confession: I don’t read as many great classics as I should. I’ve read some from C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce. I’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.
But there are far more classics that I haven’t read. At the top of my list:
- The Cross of Christ by John Stott
- Knowing God by J.I. Packer
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I’m trying to improve, at least. I recently read St. Athanasius’ book On the Incarnation, which is a really old classic. Like, it-was-originally-written-in-Greek classic. He lived in the 4th century A.D.
And it was a good book! Just as good as the book itself was the introduction, written by none other than our good friend C.S. Lewis. If you want to feel inspired to read the classics, go read Lewis’ introduction here. It’s fabulous.
Read good recent books.
Recent books are good too! Last year I read Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity, a marvelous exploration of why God’s three-in-oneness is a beautiful truth. I highly recommend it. Plus he’s British, so you get some of that quirky British humor.
ChristianAudio.com gives away a free audiobook each month, and all you have to do is sign up for their newsletter. I download the book every month and listen to most of them. The book for this month (February) is Frank Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist, and I am really looking forward to listening to it.
Read great Apologetics books.
I know I recommend this all the time, but Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is really the second book any Apologist should own. (The first being the Bible.)
Have question? Grudem has answer.
The other book I recommend all the time is the one I was reading last Thursday: A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. It’s a readable, devotional, short theology book about God’s attributes. Truly wonderful.
Objection: “I don’t own any good books!”
First off, your parents probably do. Go look at their bookshelves. In fact, my copy of Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy originally belonged to my parents. Somehow it migrated to my shelves. Thankfully they’re okay with that.
If you don’t own any good books, buy some!
How much money do you spend on Starbucks?
How much enjoyment do you get from those drinks, and how long does it last?
How much enjoyment could you get from a great book, and how long would that enjoyment last?
Hey, I like Frappuccinos as much as the next guy, but I don’t sit around discussing how amazing my drink was. I do sit around talking about truths that I learned from books, though!
If you don’t have any good books, stop making excuses and start making purchases. Get Systematic Theology and The Knowledge of the Holy and get to reading!
The End…sort of
Okay, this article has covered enough for one day. Part 2 is coming soon:
How on earth can you find time to read all the books you just ordered?