The Importance (Urgency?) of Reading

From a blog entry by Andy Farmer of Covenant Fellowship Church Family Life Ministry :

Reading quality Christian books will never replace the reading of God’s word or the preaching of your pastor, but it will help you hear and understand with greater maturity. A good book will challenge your thinking and motivate your heart. It will dislodge error and give you an appetite for truth. Good books humble us by reminding us that, to paraphrase an old Irish proverb, ‘good ideas often aren’t new, and new ideas often aren’t good’.

This excellent quote, which I found while searching for a good blog on Family Life Education (FLE for short), gives a superb answer to the question, “Why read?” Of course I agree with his idea that “quality Christian books” can be a tremendous force for good in our lives, and would extend the claim to all good literature. While the above quote is my favorite part of the entry – particularly where it talks about good books dislodging error, which has more and more often been my grateful experience – the author also offers what I consider valuable insights on determining whether something is worth our time. Andy’s entry is a short, worthwhile one; I heartily recommend it to you. And of course it is no surprise that Scripture passes all his criteria with flying colors.

He ends with a quote from C. S. Lewis: “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. (C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis p.233), which reminds me of one of Wayne Booth‘s most widely recognized contribution to the field of literary theory: the concept of “the company we keep.” From UC Press:

In The Company We Keep, Wayne C. Booth argues for the relocation of ethics to the center of our engagement with literature…While not ignoring the consequences for conduct of engaging with powerful stories, it will attend to that more immediate topic, What happens to us as we read? Who am I, during the hours of reading or listening? What is the quality of the life I lead in the company of these would-be friends?

The page also provides some comments by critics: “[An] almost indecently satisfying book,” from Anatole Broyard, New York Times Book Review. I’m somewhat familiar with Booth’s theory, and I like what I’ve learned about it, and by using it, so far. No matter how much teenagers (and those stuck in the teenager stage of life) protest, we are undoubtedly affected by “the company we keep,” whether speaking of individuals or groups, or of anything they may create.

So, we’ve gone full-circle: Andy Farmer reminds us of the primacy of Scripture, and Booth gives us another reason for that primacy – as we become more familiar with the life and teachings of Christ and those whom He has set apart to represent Him, we become more like Him. It has become clear to me (though nonetheless astounding) that this is by design.