Would God forbid good things?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by StephenMartyr, Aug 11, 2019.

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  1. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    This might sound like a dumb question. But it’s been something I’ve been anxious about.

    Someone on the board in the Sermons forum posted this great sermon: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?m=t&s=82618117166 and while I really enjoyed it it was pretty convicting.

    As I’ve gotten to read more books on theology I’ve become more interested in it. As one goes into the past there are such deep, rich things people have written.

    I haven’t been as thankful as I should have been that I’m reading these things. But in terms of the above message, is wanting to learn and read other things greedy? Maybe it can be. I’ve just been praying about it and have seen God’s Word itself as the eternal fountain of wisdom and understanding seeing that any other good book written has come from a person deeply in the Word of God. All other books are not only fallible but are kiddie pools compared the infinite and infallible depths of the Bible.

    Where my question comes up is in an area of discernment. At the very start of my reading I came across an article that I could buy on my phone by Machen. I ended up getting it but felt a “You shouldn’t read this.” at the time before I bought it. Some time later I was interested in reading (and getting the books of) Murray. At that time I was convicted in such a way that the garden scene in Genesis applied to that situation with those books. Basically it’s come down to “God has given you every tree to eat from (the Bible) but this one tree (theology books) you are not allowed to eat from”.

    Sounds super silly but even when the pastor in the above message talked about that garden scene, there that struggle came up again.

    Would God forbid a good thing to one person where He might allow it to another?

    I really like reading Thomas Brooks (has been awhile though!), but here is a guy not only expounding scripture but bringing up history and philosophy! “A Christian can’t read philosophy!” one will say. But he did. He was able to quote from various philosophers. And you can’t quote unless you read them. Maybe it’s within one’s own understanding of their limits / abilities in how they feel they’re capable of handling various ideas?

    Anyways, just something I’m going through. I’m scared of being deceived:
    1Pe 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:...”.

    Is it just the evil one trying to derail me and have me not be encouraged by older books or could God saying no to them?

    Ps. For those interested, it was I think Pilgrim’s Progress that was my first book that started me off.
  2. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    If you have a desire to study theology out of a sinful motive, the thing to do is to repent of the sinful motive, and study theology anyway. God requires that we learn about him (i.e., that we study theology).

    As an example, perhaps a man has a prideful attitude about reading Calvin. Does that mean he should stop reading Calvin? No, it means he should stuff his pride and read Calvin to help him grow in humility.
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  3. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for your reply. This thread might sound like it contradicts my other thread looking for more information but it’s just this inner struggle. I want to learn and grow and help others in some way.
  4. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Reading sound Christian books is a very worthwhile thing to do and helps ground our theology within the community of believers. But reading such books should never be a substitute for reading the Bible.

    As for secular writings. I understand the desire to read such books, especially philosophy/writings on culture but, ultimately, I think it best to give such things a miss. For me, anyway, it takes so long to read any book that I should be devoting my time to Chrisitian books. The old writers who read such works were often men who were able to read a lot. These were often exceptional men in terms of learning and discipline and they had the time. Sadly we are not, generally speaking, those men.
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I have just read this quotation, which might be relevant to the OP:

    Oh, the pure, the overflowing, the incomparably sweet fountain of Scripture! … whereas the springs of philosophy in human affairs are not very clear, and in Divine, they are quite turbid and muddy.

    Robert Leighton, Meditations, Critical and Practical on Psalms IV, XXXII, and CXXX, trans. Philip Doddridge in The Whole Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, Robert Leighton, D.D., Archbishop of Glasgow (2 vols, London: James Duncan, 1828), 1: 625.
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    God forbade bacon for thousands of years!
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

  8. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks all for your input! The main question wasn't, 'Should someone read philosophy?' as much as 'Are all Christians granted reading theology?' For instance I had feelings / thoughts of, 'This is going to end bad' before looking into Machen. If I obeyed every hindrance to not move ahead, I wouldn't grow would I? Staying ignorant so as not to get 'attacked' would be like a soldier not wanting to get out of the ditch because he's scared to get hurt. He can stay there but be no good soldier. Maybe this should have been in the Spiritual Warfare forum. Sorry about that guys.

    This was a good post for me to read. Indeed, no book should get in the way of the Bible! I agree with that.

  9. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    Q.E.D.? I'm not a "got to have bacon 3 times a day!" kind of guy but it is yummy!
  10. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    So are you talking about how much Christian writings a Christian should read? If so I would say be careful. Stick to solid works, especially the older (and by old I don't mean 1930s) works. There is so much Christian writing which, even if coming from generally solid sources, is not as careful as it should be.

    Perhaps you are also talking about reading works which promote points of view different to your own/your church's as a means to strengthen you in your convictions? I don't think that's necessarily a good idea. If you are Reformed then any reading about the opposing camps, for example, should be works written by Reformed writers interacting with those views to refute them. We cannot be too careful when handling error.
  11. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    My :2cents:

    I think it is useful to read books from Cristian authors (or even listen to talks/sermons), that help explain scripture and theology. There are people who are smarter and/or more versed in scripture than myself, and I can use their knowledge to help me, which ultimately helps me better read scripture.

    Also, it helps me catch when someone says something that is off. For instance, having listened to several podcasts addressing Eternal Subordination of the Son, my ear is better tuned now to catch when someone espouses something that supports it.

    Now, each person has different aptitudes, time, money, etc and can only do so much.
    So you'll need to figure out what you personally should do. And perhaps that means consulting with those who know you, if you are having difficulty.

    I agree with @alexandermsmith, and limit myself to reformed since my time is limited and want to avoid taking in some error that I did not recognize.
  12. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    I hope I'm not drifting off topic when I mention that people I know who ONLY read theology wind up lopsided. A preacher I know who was basically illiterate before his conversion (he COULD read--he just never did), and who has only read theology since then, has a huge imbalance in his store of knowledge, and it has stunted his understanding of the world, of people in it, and of how to relate. Reading literature (good stuff--Walter Scott, Kipling, Ransome, Forester, etc) is good for language skills (let's face it--theology isn't always written pleasingly, that not being its purpose), and gives you a broader picture of the world and of how we got here.
    Also, for those writing theology books, a solid foundation in good writing, which can be achieved only by reading lots of good writing, is invaluable. Knowing how to put sentences together, how to briefly elucidate thoughts, how to communicate well, is not something that can be learned by reading only one sort of writing.
    So I would urge you to balance your reading. You don't eat only starch or only protein--you eat balanced and varied amounts of each, with perhaps something light and sweet afterwards. Do the same with your reading, and you will benefit all the more. And don't feel guilty about reading. As long as you're not neglecting your duties, it's one of the most valuable things you can do with your time.
  13. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    This thread has confused me to be honest. The sermon you linked is to my pastor’s. He would never say that you couldn’t read Christian books or even secular books. We give him a book allowance each month. He doesn’t buy new Bibles each month he buys books each month to fill his library.

    Think of all the futile labor John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and the like would have engaged in if people were not allowed to read books. I know your OP stated something like maybe others are allowed but you aren’t. Where do you get this from? I’m not trying to be hard, but you sound unreasonable in your thinking. A bit legalistic to the point of self punishing that you’re confusing with sanctification. The Reformers have very good information to impart to all of us. You do need to study your Bible but bringing them along side your studying can help keep you from falling into some weird interpretations you might mistakenly make if you’re only read is the Bible. I’m not saying that their work is level to that of the Bible. I’m saying that our understanding of the Bible might not be comprehensive to that of the whole body of work of reformed writers. Take a breath of liberty and read a good reformed book.
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