The past few days I have noticed several friends on Facebook make a statement regarding something they came across in their personal reading. They all involve theology. And they all make similar assessments. One post was wearied with the fact that it contained traces of Calvinism. I have seen others complain about “New Evangelical” authors creeping into “good conservative theology.” There have even been some that find the conservative theology too much for them to bear. Eventually I will write a post on the differences between fundamentalism, New Evangelicalism, liberalism, and such. However, for the sake of the conciseness of this post, we will focus our topic to discussing the ability to read with discernment.
Perhaps the most helpful thing to do prior to reading any work is to become familiar with the author or group of authors. Knowing their specific denomination, religious views, educational background, and other writings will help the reader know exactly what the author is attempting to communicate. Knowing that a certain author subscribes to Calvinistic views will enable the reader to understand his or her use of the words sovereignty, grace, etc. A liberal author may use a term that a conservative reader would think meant what they thought it meant, but the liberal may be using it in a completely different manner. Knowing what that author’s background (educational, religious, etc) will aid the reader to avoid unwanted meetings with theological views they find to be inconsistent with their own views.
Realize that people have different view points and reading those views will help sharpen and refine your own view. Too often we simply skip those books with which we disagree to our own peril. Classical literature is wonderful to read, for both leisure and academic rigor. If you develop the ability to read opposing view points (or even views that you do not believe align with everything you hold dear) you will only enhance your understanding, both in regards to that view point and clarifying what you already believe.
A final thought: If you desire to read literature/theology that only you agree with, you will find yourself reading nothing. I would venture to guess that if you have written material in the past that you would find that you disagree with yourself! I know I would. Our spiritual and intellectual growth is only aided by reading materials with which we do not agree. So learn to read with discernment!