The phrase “books on theology” scares some people. Okay, a few years ago it scared me!
I thought of the hundreds of books lining the shelves of my dad’s library and all the weighty volumes and non-fiction theology books he read and I knew I couldn’t read them.
They were for the spiritually elite, the pastors, and professors.
They were too above my head; I wasn’t old enough or mature enough to read them.
I thought that I actually preferred fiction much more.
And, to be perfectly honest, I thought they’d be boring.
But over the last few years, my thinking has changed radically.
Now I love books on theology, not always because they’re easy or because they satisfy my pure entertainment craving, but for reasons much more important.
So how did this change come about? Well, it wasn’t fast. It came over time, as my thinking changed, developed, and, I believe, matured.
I finally began reading books on theology because of five reasons, and it is these five reasons that cause me to believe that every Christian should read books on theology.
1. Theology books move past entertainment to education.
A book on theology’s primary purpose is not to entertain you but to teach you more about the character of God. Now, as much as I appreciate theology books, I have to offer the (very important) caveat that theology books are not the Bible. We can learn from books written by others and they can be a helpful resource for us, but what our souls need the most is very Word of God. If we read a bunch of theology books and never read our Bibles, we won’t grow and we won’t have discernment. These books should be a helpful supplement, not a replacement of Scripture in our lives.
“Knowing God” by J.I. Packer is not meant to be a feel-good read that leaves you with warm and fuzzies, but rather an intellectual primer that sharpens your mind and invites you to move past reading for pure pleasure to reading to gain knowledge.
You will not, cannot, learn the same things about God in a novel or a sitcom, no matter how good it might be.
2. Theology books move past brain candy to a meat dish.
Our brains can only take so much fluffy fiction, so much Disney Channel, so many weightless songs before they crave more than candy; they want meat.
And books on theology give that where other mediums of entertainment are lacking.
“True Spirituality” by Francis Schaeffer is not an easy read, but no one will argue that it won’t stimulate your mind to think about the concept of theology.
It’s one of those books that makes your brain hurt from reading too much, but it’s a good hurt, like when you exercise and your muscles ache because of their usage. Thus you know that it is a good book.
3. Theology books spiritually mature you.
The more you read books on theology, the more mature you will become in the faith, and the more your spiritual knowledge will increase.
Starting with books that introduce you to the gospel, like “What is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert, forces you to reckon with what you believe and shapes your faith as it increases. You will grow, and that is the mark of a true Christian.
4. Theology books teach you about sin.
Books that teach you more about God will necessarily teach you more about your sin.
“The Holiness of God” by R.C. Sproul is all about God and His righteous character, but as you see God’s holiness manifested, you see your own painfully obvious sinfulness. You are then drawn to repentance.
5. Theology books encourage you.
Piggybacking off of the last way, though theology books can convict you and bring you grief over your sin, they can also encourage you.
Books like “Desiring God” by John Piper fill you with joy as you look at God’s glory and His character, and they encourage you in your walk with God!
I remember the joy that bubbled up in my heart as I read about the Christian’s mandate to “enjoy God by glorifying Him forever,” as Piper wrote, and I thought, “I want more of this. I want to know God.”
That is what theology books should make you say.
Both a duty and a delight, theological books should not scare us.
They should beckon us, their truths pulling us in, warming and washing us in the glow of a great, great God. That is the purpose of reading.
Editor’s Note: this article was originally published on July 25th, 2014.