Pastors and The Reading of Books

“I don’t read books, I only read the Bible.”

–People who don’t read the Bible either



Pastors get used to hearing sanctimonious talk. Many conversations contain defenses, justifications, and guilt-deflecting statements to impress the pastor. Looking good in front of the pastor apparently means looking good in front of God. I hope that’s not true, because no one looks good to me anymore!

One of the best ways to look good is to prove that you are better than your pastor. I like to read. I read about 80 books a year, mostly non-fiction and about half of those are theology related.

When I tell people I like to read, or that I was reading, I am frequently told, “Oh, I don’t read books; I only read the Bible.”


First of all, I’m not making a comparison. If me simply saying I read books makes you feel guilty, ask yourself why that would be the case. It wasn’t my intent. My enjoyment of reading is not at all contingent upon your enjoyment of it.

Secondly, seriously? You only read the Bible? Of all the people I’ve heard say this, I have never gotten the impression that they are overly familiar with the Bible. In fact, they tend to be some of the most ill-informed Christians I’ve met. People who don’t read, also don’t read the Bible. (I have found zero exceptions to the rule, but I’ve been around long enough to know there are always exceptions. So I shall give your precious grandmother a pass.)

On the flip side, there are those who read books way too much. Not just read them, but take them as Gospel truth.

These folks have their favorite author and probably also read their favorite author’s favorite authors. None of these authors can do any wrong. They are all as close to inspired as a human can get.

When these people disagree with you, and they will, they will tell you what their author says about that verse. They will shove it in your face, “See? This is what my guy says. You didn’t say what my guy says. Therefore, you are wrong and incompetent.”

I have never had one of these people stick in my church for very long. They don’t need the church; they have their author’s books. This is especially easy if the author is dead. Agreeing with a dead guy is easier than being at peace with a living guy. You can make a dead guy say whatever you want. People who inordinately like a dead theologian never get along with a living pastor.

When people argue with me, I try to quote as much Scripture as possible. If they won’t listen to God, I see no reason why they’d listen to me. As I quote scripture and they get more and more riled up as it becomes apparent that I am not bowing before their intellectual weight, they will trot out the, “Well, you should read my author’s book. He’ll set you straight.”

They can’t defend their arguments, but if I just read their Guy, then I’ll get it. They’ll give a little smirk, a little arrogant chuckle, “One day you’ll see it. Just read my guy and you’ll gain my lofty heights too.”

Thanks. I’ll get right on that.

Watch out for people who don’t read books. They typically have no idea what they’re talking about. Watch out for people who read books too much, especially only books from one guy or one theological camp. They become fanatical jerks. Neither one typically has much notion of what the Bible says. They don’t have to, they know everything already.



The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
–Ecclesiastes 12:10-12

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