How to Read

Originally published Wednesday, 21 January 2015.

~~I grew up surrounded by books. My mother worked at our local library and I spent many afternoons, Saturdays, and lazy summer days there. I knew every inch of that library. From the racks of books that the public saw to the dumbwaiter elevator that brought books down to the deep recesses of the musty basement; from the librarian's offices to the employee break room, I knew it all and felt completely at home there.

It was in that library where as an early reader I laughed aloud at the silly remarks made by Amelia Bedelia. It was there where I traveled back in time to when Laura had her first Christmas in the big woods. It was also there where I investigated and followed clues alongside Nancy, George, and Bess.

By junior high I was a regular volunteer and by ninth grade I was a paid employee. As I checked in and restocked books in their proper place on the shelves, I explored the wonder of each and every one. I looked at the photos in travel books and dreamed of places I would one day go. I read the prose of Shakespeare and Browning and Dickenson. I learned from Lewis about the Christian life. By the time I graduated high school, I knew more than the librarians did about where to find specific books.

Yet though my childhood was immersed in books and though I read at least one book every day, it wasn't until I was in college where I truly learned to read. I learned the purpose for reading. I learned about worldviews, my own and that of the authors I read. I learned how much worldviews matter and how to filter everything I read through God's word.

Fact or Fiction?

Long gone are the days of driving to the library to research a topic in the Encyclopedia Britannica or digging through the card catalog. With the internet, information comes at us in the time it takes to type out a question. Now, whatever we want to know can be answered by Siri, Wiki, or About. But the trouble is, with so much information also comes the challenge of knowing whether the information is accurate or altogether false.

And then there are all the blogs, articles, and personal perspective pieces that we read on a daily basis. Anyone can write a post and anyone around the world can read it. We live in a day where truth is defined as what makes sense to a person individually. Ultimate truth is no longer believed to be outside of us but something that varies from person to person. Personal stories and experiences are equated with fact making the myriad of posts and articles we read a patchwork of mismatched and often contradictory beliefs.

The truth is, many of us are not cautious or on guard in our reading. We are passive, soaking in whatever pops up on our screens. If the blogger is popular among our friends, we assume that what they write must be true. If the Christian book store is selling the book, it must be worth reading. If the tweet sounds good, it must be worth retweeting. Sadly, we can be more concerned about the food we eat than what we ingest into our minds.

Reading like Bereans

Instead, we ought to read like the Bereans. They were Jews living in Berea whom Paul met during one of his missionary journeys. "The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:10-11).

The Bereans did what we should do whenever we read something: compare it with Scripture. That's because God's word is our final rule and authority. The Bible is God breathed, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). Everything else in this world has to stand up to it's light. It is His word which flung the stars into the night sky, His word which breathes new life into our dead hearts, and His word which sanctifies us. Only the Bible contains God's word and by it's light, we view everything else.

How to read like a Berean:

1. Know your worldview and that of whom you are reading: Everyone has a worldview, a system by which they make sense of the world. Everyone. Our worldview explains who we are, how we got here, and the purpose for our life. Everyone writes out of their worldview and reads out of their worldview. A person's worldview effects and influences everything they write. It's like the glasses they wear to see the world around them. If their glasses are tinted red, everything they see will have a rosy haze. How they describe the world to their readers will be in that same red hue.

A Biblical worldview sees God as the author and sustainer of all things. Everything exists for him and by him. It also believes that God's word is inerrant and is the source of all truth. When we read through a Biblical worldview, we compare all that we read to the word of God. We need to do this whether we are reading the words of believers and non-believers alike. That's what the Bereans did. They did not know who Paul was. They took everything he said straight to God's word to see if what he said was true.

2. Think before you repost, retweet, and share: Do you agree with the worldview of the person whose words you are sharing? Is what you are posting true and consistent with Scripture or does it just sound pretty? Is it glorifying to God? It's a good practice to pause before we hit publish because what we share will undoubtedly influence someone else. Even the things we share, though they may not be our words personally, they stand for something and represent some kind of worldview. We need to be certain that what we share is something we want to stand behind.

3. Glean while you read: All truth comes from God. One of the things I learned in college was how to read the works of non-Christians. There are common grace insights that can be gleaned from what we read. We learned how to pull the truth out of what we read as well as how to identify what was false. We learned to compare and contrast all that we read with Scripture.

4. Sometimes, trash is just trash: Truthfully, there are some things that are just not worth reading at all. There is nothing redeemable about it. Pray for God to give you wisdom to know how to identify such things. There are some things that only glorify sin and encourage readers to walk in sin. As Paul wrote in Ephesians, "Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret" (5:8-12).

The next time you pick up a book or browse your feed reader, read like a Berean, comparing all that you read with God's word, the ultimate authority and source of all truth.