Tim Challies recently posted an excellent article about why it is important for Christians to read mainstream literature. He made an argument for why it is important for Christians not to confine themselves to reading Christian books. It’s an excellent article; I would highly recommend it.
I also believe reading is important. Here are ten reasons why I think reading is important and beneficial.
- Reading books allows me to gain access to the thoughts of great men and women. I can learn from the experts in any given field. Because there are books on every subject, it’s possible to learn about anything without having a physical teacher present. A book takes the place of the teacher. This allows greater access to a vast wealth of knowledge. The books I read in philosophy classes allowed me to learn from great thinkers…not always biblical thinkers, but great thinkers none-the-less. Reading Republic by Plato showed me ideas I disagreed with and yet challenged me to understand politics in a more biblical way.
- Reading allows me to be a student of the Word of God. As a Christian, I should be a reader. The Bible contains the written word of God; I must be able to read in order to learn God’s wisdom. Similar to reason #1, I can also learn from great biblical scholars through the books and articles they have written. A great example of an author who challenges me to think biblically about the world is Ravi Zacharias. Almost anything he has written is valuable in better understanding the world in which we live in light of God’s Word.
- Books allow me to have life experiences I otherwise would miss. I can’t take advantage of every life experience that presents itself. When I make one choice, I say “no” to others. Additionally, I am limited by the time period in which I live. Without books, I wouldn’t be able to experience life in different countries or in different time periods. The book series by Chuck Black (The Kingdom series and the Knights of Arrethtrae) allowed me to be a courageous knight (Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue) in service of the king.
- Books allow me to experience things that would be dangerous. This is a corollary to #3. Through books, I can experience an author’s life in a dangerous country or through life-threatening adventures. I appreciated the look at life as a Christian in a Muslim country presented by Brother Andrew in Secret Believers. Similarly, Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (not for young readers) allowed me to experience vicariously what it would have been like to grow up in a Muslim country.
- Books allow me to travel the world. I can live in other countries through the lives of others. One book that stands out in my memory is The Lost City of Z. This book took me as an explorer through the Amazon.
- Reading widely allows me to appreciate other literature allusions. Various pieces of classic literature or even modern literature are alluded to frequently in other books. Being widely read allows me to understand and appreciate these allusions. Nancy Pearcey in Saving Leonardo references all kinds of other authors.
- Books are a great way to relax. Just walking into the library typically gives me a feeling of relaxation. Books lined up on shelves provide one of the most relaxing atmospheres.
- Books provide a way to escape from the troubles of life…even for a few minutes. When I read, it gives me a break from the responsibilities or challenges of life. Even for a few moments, the frustrations of life can lift for a few minutes in the words of a book. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is a well-written book that is easy to get lost in.
- Books expand the way I think. I enjoy being challenged by those who are smarter than me. I like books that expand my understanding of a topic and teach me a new or better way to think or live. Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa challenged the way I view movies. He taught me to think about everything I watch in light of the biblical worldview that I hold.
10. Finally, reading provides the pleasure of hearing beautifully crafted sentences. Some authors simply know how to put words together in a pleasing way. Beautiful word pictures bring pleasure and joy to my life.
I believe reading is important for everyone. Reading provides a great form of entertainment and education, of relaxation and of stimulation. Books are worth the time and money it takes to invest in them.