On Reading

This week I’m not posting a reading digest so that I can compile my books of 2008 and my top-10 list. The list is about done and I will share it with you soon. Since we’re talking books, though, I will take this week to share some thoughts on reading. In the coming posts I will share with you two secrets for efficient and effective reading.

First, a few thoughts.

Reading can be spiritually liberating. God has given us books are a means of grace to expose our souls to what is hidden behind the black veil of personal ignorance. Like faithful friends and good churches, reading good books will help protect us from self-deception. The late Oscar Levant said he stopped reading because, he chided, “I find it takes my mind off myself.” I’m thinking in a different direction. Books save us from ourselves.

And books inform us of truth. Obviously not all books enlighten, but many books do. Through disciplined reading we discover the reality of our condition. Through reading, we can see the depth to which our sin is rooted in our hearts and reflected in our attitudes and activities. It’s through reading that we come to appreciate the deep glories of Calvary.

And reading is deeply enjoyable. The pleasure of literature—those existential moments when the reader falls into the page and becomes oblivious of this world—is one of the great blessings we can never take for granted. This imaginative quality is possible only because we have been made in the image of God.

Not surprisingly the life that we experience through reading is a glimpse into the experience of what we call “eternal life.” God reveals Himself to us that we may commune with Him. It’s in this communion we experience the bliss of eternal life (John 17:3). Think of that: Eternal life is the indefatigable and unending communion with God as He reveals Himself.

This pursuit was depicted by Jonathan Edwards in an image I can best describe as a pair of figure skaters facing each other and spinning in the same circle, yet caught in the upward and tightening spiral of an inverted tornado.

Hang on with me there for a moment.

For Edwards, eternity included an opportunity for us to grow closer to God as He reveals His infinite character to us. As He discloses Himself, we better come to understand His infinite character. As we come to know Him more completely, we grow closer and tighter to Him, and spinning ever faster towards Him, we rise to an infinite and inexhaustible height–yet never fully understanding God in His fullness. This spiraling attraction in the inverted tornado is a picture that never ends in a perfect point. We never arrive at a full comprehension of God, and therefore the process of revelation and communion never ends.


The centrifugal force has already begun for those who treasure the gospel. God has revealed Himself in Scripture, and we learn and grow through the Holy Spirit as we read Scripture. And other books can be used by God to enlighten Scripture.

We now see God reflected dimly as in a polished metal mirror, but there we will learn “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). One day our library will be replaced by the Incarnate Word Himself.

I love reading for many reasons, but especially for the eternal bliss it foreshadows.

Next time I’ll answer a common question: How do you read so much?

4 thoughts on “On Reading

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