Wednesday, July 8, 2009

from the archives: theological reading for mums and other busy people

A reminder that theological reading is within the reach of all us us. Really!

I believe many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand. (C.S.Lewis, introduction to Athanasius' On the incarnation.)
"Ok, Dr. Lewis, I agree with everything you say (apart from the pipe). I was moved to joy and praise more often during the hard theological slog of my PhD, than by any light devotional reading since.

"But I'm a mum. I lost my brain to hormones, I can't sit down without a child climbing over me, and my eyes are grainy with exhaustion. I'm happy if I can read 4 consecutive verses of the Bible, let alone a book of theology."

Or so I would have said just a year ago.

Bookworm that I am, I read virtually no Christian books - besides ones on parenting - during my years with very young children. That's starting to change as they grow older. But here's a secret I wish I knew 9 years ago: regular theological reading is possible for mothers of young children.

There are theological books tailor made for mums and other busy people. Not light devotional books, but real theology by real theologians. I discovered this in a moment of divine serendipity, when I thought I'd ordered one book by John Piper, and a different one arrived in the post.

Here it is: John Piper's A Godward Life: Savouring the Supremacy of God in all of Life, a collection of short daily readings. It only takes 5 minutes a day, so it hasn't been any great stretch to add it to my morning routine! But it lifts my eyes to God and fills my mind with his truth.

And here's another one: Philip Jensen's By God's Word: 60 Reflections for Living in God's World. A friend of mine was given this collection of thoughtful essays by one of the best Bible teachers I've heard. I've dipped into it, and it looks excellent.

I did a quick search on Amazon, and here's some collections of short excerpts from theological giants: John Calvin, Day by Day with John Calvin; William Gurnell, The Christian in Complete Armour; J.C.Ryle, Day by Day with J.C.Ryle; Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening; Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Walking with God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotional Selections; C.S.Lewis, A Year with Lewis: Daily Readings from his Classic Works and C.S.Lewis: Readings for Meditation and Reflection.

Or you could take a great Christian classic and read a few pages each day: perhaps a book about the character of God like J.I. Packer's Knowing God or John Piper's The Pleasures of God, or a book on Christian living like J.C. Ryle's Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots or Jerry Bridges' The Pursuit of Holiness.

John Piper says if you read slowly for 15 minutes a day, you'll get through 10 Christian books in a year. To mothers with babies, 15 minutes of reading probably sounds like a dream of a different life. But even 5 minutes a day will get you through 3 books a year. That's 3 more than I've read most years since being pregnant with my first child.

Light devotional reading is fast food, quickly digested and unsatisfying. Good theology is low GI food, slowly and steadily nourishing mind and heart throughout the day.

Why should mums and other busy people live without it?


1 comment:

Rachach said...

Hey Jean! I can relate to the low GI metaphor. Maybe I should treat my theological reading like I treat my diet!
A thoughtful friend gave a book by JI Packer called '18 words'. It's 18 theological reflections. My friend gave it to me because she thought I'd be able to sit down for 5 minutes and read it! I haven't tried it because I keep making excuses. Perhaps I'll try again!