Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Reading As Discipleship

Woven into my reading several months ago was an article valuing books and the roles they play in our lives. In that regard, it was an article that met with my approval for proclaiming a similar message. Tangled within the words, ideas, and premises was a sentence that should arouse attention: Books disciple us. Those three words offer a bold statement about the role of books in any person’s life but elevate books to an untenable duty.

Advancements have brought us into a fortuitous era in which individuals should be grateful for the access to resources. The ability to produce books granted the capacity to place books into the hands of individuals and since that initial printing technology has lowered costs, increased production, and made books available to people in an indiscriminate way. Because they propagate ideas, teach facts, and indoctrinate ideology, books add a unique dimension to the personal growth of individuals. Furthermore, because of the method of imparting information and the ability of readers to interact with a questions and gradually absorb the information, authors are given a unique level of influence.  Therefore, books serve a crucial role not only in the development of our culture, but also in the lives of individuals. The leverage books have still does not raise them to the level of individual discipleship.

Discipleship is a particular concept that is distinctively Christian by its prominence in Scripture. It provided a prominent role in the early development of the church and today provides a prominent role in the development of individual Christians. While books can be a resource used in discipleship, they cannot be defined as discipleship because they lack distinctive features. First, books lack specificity. While they can talk in generalities and give overarching principles, books are unable to speak with specificity into particular circumstances that an individual is attending to in his/her own life, whereas discipleship allows individuals to address the specific conditions impacting him/her. Second, books lack authority. Books are subject to human sin and thus error and must be read in light of the truth found in Scripture. Admittedly, people should also be tested against the authority of Scripture as well. Yet, books are written usually by people who do not intimately know the authors, whereas discipleship exists between known individuals who have developed a level of trust. While those individuals still are subject to the same biblical criteria, the pattern of relationship sets a foundational level of integrity from which they operate. Finally, as seen in the first two lacking features of books, books lack affinity. Discipleship cannot be detached from relationship. It exists as two individuals carry one another’s burdens, seeking to guide, help, and encourage others in their life situations while cultivating a level of growth towards Christlikeness. While books can provide insights, they lack both emotion and accountability that come with relationship.

There is no doubt that books fill a unique role within any life, especially the Christian life. For their capacity their usage should be employed and their function be valued. Caution is necessary though, so that something good is not supplanting something perfect. In this case, while flawed because of human involvement, God’s design for discipleship is a perfect gift and books alone would serve as a very poor substitute.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

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