Why I Won’t Tell You What I Read

Cal Jernigan – Senior Pastor

In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul is found debating with a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. These are bright people and he is attempting to bring them to faith in God. in Acts 17:28 he quoted to them the Cretan poet Epimenides, and then he followed it by quoting the poet Arastus. Understand something: these guys he quoted did not believe in the God he believed in. Why would he quote them? How did he even know to quote them?

For years now, I’ve had a goal of reading a hundred books annually. Sometimes I exceed this number; sometimes I fall a bit short, but I’m always in the ballpark. Obviously about two books a week is the pace it takes to get there…but consistency is the key. I am not interested or motivated in reading books to reach some numerical goal, I read them to increase my learning and understanding. This is the simply the pace that works best for me and keeps me pressing forward in my own growth. Books that speak about things I know nothing of tend to take me longer to begin to comprehend. I can blow quickly through books that talk about ideas I’ve already processed.

I read books in the form of the printed page, in digital format on a Kindle, or listen to them on Audible. I prefer different formats based upon the content and nature of what I’m reading. If it’s more of a narrative or read by the author, I’ll generally want to listen to it. If it’s of a more technical and quotable nature, I prefer to use print or digital so I can mark it up with highlights and locate these sections later. I love how technology has provided these different forms, giving us greater freedom and expression. This is a great age to be alive!

But here’s something I’ve long ago stopped doing. I no longer release the names of the books I read. You need to realize, I get asked for this list often, usually around the end of the year. But these days, I just politely decline. While I am quick to reference and endorse a book I think is good and useful to someone who asks, I simply won’t release the whole list. Why not?

Sadly, I’ve come to realize that people who don’t tend to read much themselves don’t know how to respond to someone who does.

Non-readers tend to reach conclusions based on titles and names of authors they recognize or have heard of. This is often as far as they often get in their knowledge of reading and learning. They’ve heard something about that guy or heard a comment about that book and that’s all the deeper their curiosity goes. They are content to form their opinion based on what they already think or what someone else has already told them.

This is what I never want to do. I simply don’t want to be threatened by titles, authors, ideas, or concepts.

Let me be clear: I believe that God is true. I believe that all truth has its origin in Him. Falsehood is not from God. He is never the author of lies. Therefore, when I read, I go mining into the depths of ideas and concepts. Sometimes I find truth there; sometimes I find folly. I have learned the more time you spend mining, the quicker you are to distinguish which vein you’ve struck.

But here’s where the problem occurs. People think if you read from an author who is a non-believer, it means that you are or soon will lose your faith. Yes, that could happen. After all, what if that author is a noted atheist? At the risk of totally contradicting what I’m saying, let me use one book and one author as an example. Richard Dawkins is a noted atheist who has no use for God and thinks all who do are foolish. Further, he thinks that belief in God has actually harmed humanity. In other words, he and I couldn’t be further apart. I have no use for him right? Wrong! A few years back I read his book The God Delusion and thought it was very challenging, thoughtful, insightful, and yes, disturbing. This book helped me immeasurably to understand the thinking of atheists. He said some incredibly profound things. But… and here’s the point…were I to quote him, many Christians would assume I believe as he does. Clearly, I do not! But I do now understand what he believes! I can now more intelligently converse with someone who thinks like he thinks or believes like he believes.

Could Dawkins be right about a whole lot of things and yet reach the wrong conclusions about God? Hmmm??? Think about this… even a broken clock is absolutely right twice a day. If you know when you look at it, it can and will give you the accurate time. In other words, it’s not always wrong, it’s usually wrong. Please know that I am in no way referring to Richard Dawkins as a broken clock…I’m simply making the point that there is truth to be found all around us!

It is astounding to me that whenever I quote Mother Teresa, or Gandhi or a preacher of another denomination (like say, Rick Warren) some people are quick to offer up words of condemnation. Did I not know that Mother Teresa was a Catholic and Gandhi was a Hindu? Do I really believe everything found in A Purpose Driven Life? Am I really being asked this?

Here’s the point. I want to encourage you to read, and read widely. Don’t be afraid of ideas and concepts. Think them through. I am confident the reason many of us are fearful in our faith is that we have allowed our fear of the unknown to have free reign. Lastly, understand this: there is no author or other living human being whom you will agree with all they say or believe. Do not let this stop you from mining the nuggets of wisdom they are trying to give you!

Just because I believe something someone once said is true doesn’t mean I believe everything they’ve ever said is true!

Learn to discern for yourself!

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Why I Won’t Tell You What I Read

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