Of the Making of Books

A friend send me this email, and he’s given me permission to post it here. It’s a good rant, and I’d be curious to hear your reaction.

In any case your comment about reading it got me thinking about my own reading plans. I have been finding it very difficult to get into any book lately. This may in part be due to fatigue and a longing to get some rest. I fear it may be my brain frying. But I also think it may be that the evangelical community, especially the reformed types, are cranking out books at a frightening pace. (And the shameless self-promotion that accompanies it makes me to want to read them even less.) I find them all rather mundane and have been wondering how to get myself back into getting excited about reading. “Of making many books there is no end” and I think I have been too susceptible to the pressure to read them all. I have succumbed to the blogosphere’s subtle suggestions that quantity is necessary regardless of its depth, that just because something is “reformed” it must be good, and that just because someone has written a book means that we should pay money to hear him answer questions on a panel at a conference.
It is a rare book that is not saying the same things said better by someone else in years gone by. Books are, I think, like worship songs. The good ones survive the test of time, but most of them are, deservedly (mercifully) soon forgotten. The trouble is, of course that we cannot look into the future and see which ones are going to last, so we have to slug our way through all the nonsense.
I think the reformed community is in danger of measuring their sanctification by books read, conferences attended, attitudes promoted and people offended. I think I need to read less of the stuff that is being pushed on us and more of stuff of substance.  Your comment has led me to think that maybe I need to get back to the classics. I have the works of Richard Baxter on my shelf untouched for years now, as well as the works of Flavel, the Institutes, sermons of Matthew Henry … . I haven’t read Pilgrim’s Progress in years and there are biographies that would be a much better way to spend my time than in persevering through yet another book on God’s will simply because a man with good theology wrote it. (Do I really need to read it because of some nuanced approach that hasn’t occurred to me before?) I have fallen prey to a certain degree to the promotions that imply, if not outrightly state, that one cannot be a good (reformed) Christian if one is not up to snuff on the latest offerings of our all stars.
If my brain is fried it is because I have willingly put it on the griddle and allowed it to be cooked by the expert chefs of a movement that may be in danger of saying “you need another cook book”. Well, maybe. But maybe not. Go read the Institutes. Share the good stuff with us. Maybe we’ll hear it and stop being enamoured with the novel, even the novel dressed up to be looking like the faithful of the past.

What do you think?

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada