On the Reading and Reviewing of “Secular” Books

A friend has asked me why I read and review secular books.  It’s a fair enough question and one that I think warrants an answer.

Maybe it’s best if I just present my answer in the form of bullet points:

  • I think it is a question of balance. Falling into culture with no discernment and safeguards is dangerous. We should think on things that are above. On the other hand, retreating into the Christian ghetto is dangerous as well.
  • I think we need a more holistic view of Christian culture. At present, we have a stunted understanding, in my opinion.
  • I do not think that all aspects of non-Christian culture are inherently wicked. Think of great art from non-Christian painters, great literature from non-Christian writers, great music from non-Christian musicians, and great films from non-Christian directors and actors.
  • I daresay that non-Christians can often shine the limited light they do have in ways that are powerful, poignant, and constructive. I see it as the light of “general revelation” shining through cultural forms.
  • In Acts 17:28, Paul quotes, in his sermon to the Athenians, some words from pagan Greek poetry. That reveals (a) familiarity with literature and (b) likely appreciation for aspects of it as well.
  • I do not believe that taking pleasure in art that is not explicitly Christian is wrong. “All truth is God’s truth,” as they all saying goes.
  • I sometimes think we are quick to call somebody a “non-Christian” because they do not explicitly present Christian verities in a propositional format. I’ll grant that Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God is not a book we should linger over (thus, my review to that effect), but McCarthy’s The Road is, in my opinion, a profound Christian statement. I think we should celebrate Christian truths told in popular works.

Just a few thoughts. There is, again, a danger in reading secular works, but there is a joy in it as well…a joy we need not be ashamed of as Christians.

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