In this video, author and Professor of English, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, teaches that Christians should read more widely and not limit themselves to only reading the Bible and theology books. Christians can learn a lot and become better, more empathetic people by reading literature, poetry, and works by non-Christians as well.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
I’ve just written a book, On Reading Well, and one of the tips that I like to give about reading more skillfully is to read more widely.
A lot of us who do read have our favorite things we like to read and our favorite genres. I know a lot of Christians in particular want to stick to the Bible, Bible commentary, maybe some theology.
I think that one of the best things that we can do to improve our skills in reading the Bible and applying the Bible is to read literary art. Read fiction. Read poetry. Read works by writers who aren’t Christians. Read works that challenge Christianity. Read the novels of Thomas Hardy, who grew up in the late Victorian age when Christianity was waning and many people were skeptical and cynical about the Christian faith. And Thomas Hardy’s novels interact greatly with the weaknesses and the failings of Christianity.
These are things that challenge us intellectually and spiritually, and also help us to improve our reading skills.
The 17th century Puritan poet, John Milton, famously argued to his own people, the Puritans, who were engaged in the English Civil War, where having the wrong view could have you beheaded or put in prison. He argued that Christians should read books promiscuously. And by this he meant they should read works of good doctrine, works of false doctrine. They should test and weigh so that their beliefs would become their own and not just the beliefs that they accept because their pastor told them so.
I agree with John Milton, that Christians have an obligation and duty to read widely. But not just so that we can examine our own beliefs and challenge others, but simple because reading widely actually makes us better people. We expand our minds. We expand our empathy. We expand our critical thinking skills. And ultimately, we read the Bible better because we’ve read widely.