Read widely to avoid tunnel-vision

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My last post on taking periodic breaks from apologetics got me thinking more broadly about all the stuff we study. Be purposeful in widening the scope of your study.

The fastest way to get caught up to speed on a particular subject is to read up on that one subject exclusively. Unfortunately, it’s also a fast way to develop a parochial, close-minded point of view. Think about this…

Exercising your left leg will cause you to be lop-sided.

And reading one author or publisher exclusively will do the same thing to your mind by branding you with only one person’s point-of-view. You’ll become a lop-sided “mini-me” version of the author you have a crush on, limping because you have no voice of your own. A stenciled replica with no critical insight.

For example…

  • If all I read is polemics and theological debate, I may have a hard time separating myself from the need to argue and reason, since that would become my only lens to view other people’s opinions.
  • If all I read is Reformed theology, I might grow less interested in some of the things that are sometimes downplayed by Reformed publishers, like say…spiritual gifts, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and affectionate worship (I realize not all reformed circles run this way. Adrian Warnock is a great example, as are Sam Storms, and Wayne Grudem).
  • On the flip side of that, if all I read is Charismatic writings, I may miss the heavy emphasis given by Reformers on treasured doctrines like Substitutionary Atonement (again, I realize that there are many people within the movement who enjoy the charasmata of God without compromising their firm embrace on sound doctrine. For example, Tope Koleoso and D.Martyn Lloyd Jones)

Another problem with reading only select authors or publishers is that an accelerated burst of expertise in one area of learning seems to have a strange affect on young people: we get a little drunk with our own expertise after reading a few books. So read a couple books on the same subject by someone you disagree with. Pastor and friend, Dave Lomas, once told me,

If you listen to one person, you’ll copy them. If you listen to two people, you’ll be confused. If you listen to ten people, you’ll find your own voice (source?)

Reading from a wide scope not only pulls from a variety of worthwhile insights, but it also serves to protect us from hibernating in the close-mindedness, arrogance, and comfort of that one author or tribe to which we subscribe. Tim Challies wrote a blog dealing more broadly with this issue, where he strongly encourages Christians to branch out from exclusively Christian reading every now and then in order “to engage with people who think differently and who approach very similar issues from a radically different worldview.” In a nutshell, it’s what you want to do when you are being exposed to a dying trend:  you like it while it lasted, but you aren’t infatuated enough to go down with it in flames.

Read widely!

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB. He is committed to spreading the value of our union with Christ in Santa Barbara, through the expository preaching of God's Word. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting People, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on April 11, 2011, in reading and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. It was mentioned to me that we don’t typically gravitate towards reading people who we disagree with. That’s the point! Not that every book that has an opposite viewpoint as you do is going to be good–assuming that we do have worthwhile, well-formed opinions–some contrary opinions are going to be wrong. But this is also assuming that we DO have biases that are formed when we read. It helps tremendously to read contrary viewpoints, if at least to stretch our own opinions.

  1. Pingback: Reading as idolatry « ChristopherLazo

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