No Book is As Important
I had a conversation this week about the importance of the Bible versus the importance of other books. The conversation wasn’t theological or even specifically Christian but it did highlight for me a few things about why Christians revere the Bible, but are also ok with reading other books .. or are we? Here’s some of my conclusions:
The Bible isn’t the same as other books.
By that I mean to say a number of things. Firstly, it’s a completely unjust comparison to say that the Bible is just a book. The Bible is the transmission fo God’s words, will and thoughts from God to us. No other book even comes close to that claim. Look at what Paul wrote about the Bible:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work
The 66 books that we call the Bible is the answer to questions such as: “What is God saying to me?”, “What does God think about …?”, “Is God speaking today?”. The answer is: read the Bible. You won’t get God’s answer to those questions by reading a book other than the Bible.
The second reason that it’s an unfair comparison is because the Bible is inerrant whereas the authors of other books, and their books are not. Inerrancy simply means that the written words are true. It doesn’t mean that the written words are without error. So for example, Psalm 113:3 says:
From the rising of the sun to its setting
now of course we know that the sun doesn’t set or rise. The Sun isn’t moving around us at all, and the earth is not the centre of the solar system. It’s actually the earth that rotates so that the Sun can be seen that causes the “sunrise”. So is the Bible therefore wrong? Well no of course not … it’s not intending to teach us that the earth is the centre of the solar system. It’s using language that is describing “phenomena” as we experience them rather than stating scientific fact.
The point is that the Bible is telling us truth. Even when talking about the rising and setting of the sun .. this is the truth from where the author is standing watching the sun rise and set. It doesn’t affect inerrancy. So, it’s unfair to compare other books to the Bible because the authors are substantially different – one is God and the other is human. Look at some of the words that Peter used to describe the source of the Bible ..
2 Peter 1:20-21 – knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Why this is important is because when we come to read the Bible, if we are reading it correctly, we are reading the truth as presented by God. This means that any conflicting view (perhaps we simply just don’t agree with what we read) requires us to submit to it’s truth, rather than change it to fit our own truth. We don’t do that with any other book. We read other books very differently.
Never a substitute
Reading other books is not a substitute for reading the Bible – for all the reasons stated above. There is a spiritual process that takes place when we are reading the Bible that doesn’t take place when we are reading other books. This is why the writers say things like:
1 Peter 2:2—“As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation.”
1 Timothy 4:6—“Being nourished with the words of the faith.”
The testimonies of people in the Bible, like Jeremiah said
Jeremiah 15:16 – “Your words were found and I ate them.”
God said to the Israelites:
Deuteronomy 8:3 – And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Jesus Himself repeated this claim in Matthew 4:4
“Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
This means that we need to daily read the Words of God (The Bible) so that we can be nourished. No other book does that.
Reading other books is helpful
I have had conversations in the past with those people who say that reading other books, other than the Bible, is dangerous to our faith. I have completely disagreed with this line of argument in the past and continue to. Here’s what they are often saying: “I don’t want to read what other people think, because what I think is less dangerous. I am able to discern truth from error, and since the Bible is without error I’m better off with the Bible”. Now, I hear what they are often trying to articulate .. the Bible IS better, but to imply that their spiritual discernment is better than the spiritual discernment of the author is nothing by spiritual pride. To say that the Holy Spirit speaks to you through the bible in a way that He doesn’t do so to others is nothing but spiritual arrogance that needs repenting of. Now, before I continue .. it MAY be that some books (sadly, many books) are not worth our time or, at worst, heretical. But to paint all books with the same brush, and thereby all authors as spiritual less able to discern than you is sadly prideful.
We have a God who has spoken through the ages to his people through the words of the Bible. These people have written their understanding down on paper. They might be wrong (and sometimes sadly are) but many many authors have added to the Christian faith depth and richness that without them, we would be lacking today. They help our understanding. They are fallible and sometimes erronous (just like us!) so …
Read with discernment
Always always always read books in one hand and your Bible in the other. If what the author is saying doesn’t line up with the bible then disregard it. This itself is a Biblical idea. The writer to the Hebrews says:
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
What the writer means is this … those who are Bible readers and are submitting to the authority of it over their lives (i.e. their lives change to what the Bible says rather than the other way around), this solid food (Bible authority) is for those who have been reading what is wrong (in other books for example), and discerned that it is wrong according to the timeless truths of the Bible. If you are reading something that doesn’t line up with the Bible, and you discern it’s wrong, THIS is solid food!
Three questions to ask when reading other books:
First, there is the concern of content? Is the book you are reading helping you grow spiritually, or is it at least something God would approve of you reading?
Second, there is the concern of time. Is the reading of a particular book the best use of your time as a follower of Christ? Even a good book could be a bad decision if it is keeping you from God’s calling for your life in other areas.
Third, is the reading of other books interfering with reading God’s Book? No book is as important as the Bible, and those who focus on it daily are blessed (Psalm 1).