How to Read like a Theologian
I read a lot of books. Let me be specific, I read a lot of theological books. I don’t read to make myself look smarter than I am or in an attempt to impress anyone else, although this was not always the case. I read theology for me. I read theology because I need it. I’m a flawed human being who needs to constantly be growing in the grace and knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. Reading good and helpful theological works is one way that the Lord does this in my life. I think that all Christians should become theology readers. Maybe they don’t need to read stacks of books, but they can work their way through one or two in a year, along with their daily reading in God’s Word of course.
Yet, that’s not what I experience amongst Christians. Most Christians do not read anything. This isn’t because they don’t like reading, but the vast majority of people I talk with are more intimidated by reading theological works and don’t know where to begin. So here are five tips to help you be blessed by reading more theology:
Find worthwhile Readings
Perhaps the greatest reason why Christians do not read theology is because either they do not know who to read books from or they do not understand what they should be reading. There are so many authors to choose from and so many of their works would be helpful to read but where should one start? I think you should take an honest evaluation of yourself in order to know where you need to grow and what level of reading would be best. If someone is wondering about the authority of God’s Word certainly Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics Vol. One would cover the topic, but perhaps Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God at His Word would be more helpful for the reader at the moment. Don't take a bigger bite then you can chew. Start small and pursue a topic by a well-trusted teacher that would help you in your walk with Christ or give you more insight into a topic you've been wondering about.
Remember the Goal
I remember reading books for Bible college and I’ll admit that I often would hurry through in order to be finished. Many Christians do their theological reading in this way. Often they want to finish the book in order to put a another checkmark on their to-do list, but the goal of reading theological works is not to read a certain amount of books, but to learn and grow. Don’t fall into the trap of staring at a page for a certain amount of time and then flipping the page, read the content! Get all the benefits of that page. Don’t miss out on something important.
Give Yourself a Deadline
I do well under pressure. I also have a tendency to procrastinate, these two characteristics lead me to waiting till the last minute when I function with better precision. I often set a deadline for myself in my reading. Finish this book or this chapter by a certain day, that kind of thing. A deadline might be helpful for you as well. Set a date and tell yourself I need to finish this section or this book by then. You might be surprised to see those deadlines become closer together as you read more.
Find a Reading Rhythm
How often do you read? Where do you read? What are some of the rhythms that help you in your reading? For me I read in a certain chair while I drink Starbucks coffee while listening to film scores with a Pilot G-2 pen for taking notes. This habitual practice has led to more consistent and deeper reading. You can think of it like how you fall asleep, you have a ritual right? A certain way of laying down that helsp you achieve that deep REM state. Having a rhythm in your reading can help you to read more but also go deeper in your reading by clearing your mind of distractions. Don’t just copy mine though, you need to find a reading rhythm that fits best for you.
Redeem the Time
Sometimes you won’t be able to get into your reading rhythm. Some days are filled with uncertainty and busyness. How do you find time to read on those days? By taking advantage of the dead spots. Those moments when you are waiting and have nothing to do, those moments you waste playing a game on your phone or scrolling Facebook for the 8th time. Keep a book on you and use that wasted time to do something productive.
I hope that these 5 pieces of advice will help you in reading more about our great God. But, remember what Spurgeon said, "Visit many good books, but live in the Bible." Reading theology is to be in addition to reading God's Word, not in replacement of it.