Often times you hear Christians telling off fellow Christians, that they should not spend time in reading other books, but should only focus on reading the ‘Scriptures’ which is the word of God. They are against acquiring knowledge from any sources other than Bible, claiming it to be useless or not enriching our spiritual growth. Some of them would be kind enough to tell it to your face while others would deal in ‘taunts’ to demotivate or demoralize you. How true are these statements? Are we, who read Scriptures as well as other books, wrong in doing so? Let’s find out.
First of all, let me make it crystal clear that I am not against reading Bible, and whoever considers it so, would be misconstruing my intentions. For me Scripture is of utmost importance, as it is the written and inspired word of God. It has shown the beauty of this life that I have usually thought of as miserable. It has made me feel the presence of God, talking to me through them. When I struggled with my faith, Apologetics helped me to understand the scriptures better and made me realise that it is more precious than gold or silver. It taught me about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection on which the truth of Christianity hinges. It has been close to my heart and will always be. That being said, let’s get back to the issue of reading other books.
Reading other books
We read a lot of stuffs other than the scriptures in our day-to-day lives. For example, we read newspapers, magazines, tour guides, manuals, devotions, etc. It is difficult to imagine a world where we’d buy a machine without a manual to actually help us learn how to operate. This is just absolutely absurd! It is good to have such information written in a manual or a book to be better or effective in what we are doing. These are all ‘good books’ that we have at our disposal.
If one wants to be a missionary doctor, he has to read books on medicine. A youth pastor would need training in dealing with youth and would have to read those relevant books. A Christian counsellor would take formal training in counselling and would spend time reading books on counselling. As much as they are in service of the Lord and reading Scriptures, they are reading other books to be efficient in the particular field they choose to serve the Almighty God. One can’t be a missionary doctor unless he is qualified as one and to be qualified as one, he has to read OTHER books.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in reading other books, but wait, the evangelical Christians don’t have problem with that! They have a problem when you read books on Apologetics or Philosophy or Theology! They are offended that we read other books to get the knowledge of God and don’t focus on scriptures. But they forget that in order to become a Philosopher one has to read books on Philosophy. Philosophy might not give you all the knowledge but it definitely serves as the handmaid of theology. The same way, one has to read books on Apologetics to be one. All these books are written with one purpose, which is to help us get better understanding of God and to sharpen us in making a defence for His gospel. Are they helpful in our spiritual growth? Yes indeed!
I read about big bang and realized how perfectly it fits with the Biblical creation. It amazed me. If I wouldn’t have read books explaining the cosmological argument, I would have been oblivious to this fact. Similarly I read about Intelligent Design and it left me mesmerized. It made me love my designer like never before. There are a lot of such examples that I could share, but then it would become a really lengthy article.
The first and the foremost erroneous assumption, that our fellow Christians make to build their argument, is that we don’t read Scriptures. I know of no such Apologist, Philosopher, or Theologian who undermines Scriptures. In fact their whole worldview is built upon the strong foundation of Scriptures and the time they have spent with the Lord.
Second assumption, is that we are not keen in becoming disciple of Christ, but want to use our knowledge in proving ourselves better than others. Again, as I said, I haven’t seen any Apologist or Philosopher, or Theologian who isn’t a disciple of Christ. To tell the truth, I am sure all of them would agree that they are still far removed from achieving all the knowledge and they would always hold on to this belief. Because the more you try to acquire knowledge, the more you will be hit with the reality that you have still a lot to learn!
Third, they assume that they are not inspired by God. They forget that those writers have spent their lives on knees, praying for wisdom and asking God to guide them in their journey of writing some insightful books that might help in the betterment of His kingdom.
I have seen preachers preaching from the pulpit about how important it is to focus on the word of God and not the devotional books or other kind of books, but the irony is that they themselves are quoting 4-5 verses from the Bible and rest of the sermon is mostly what he thinks of those verses and the allegories he brings about in light of the verses! If the preacher is speaking by the help of the Holy Spirit, why can’t the Holy Spirit speak to us through the ‘OTHER’ book? There’s no difference as such in his ‘Speech’ and the ‘Written’ book. Let this thought sink in. It is the narrow-mindedness of our culture that gives rise to such notions. If the books that we read leads us astray or throws us in the realm of heresies then we need to raise red signals. But if the books are aiding in our pursuit of the knowledge of God, it should be encouraged. The purpose of this life is to know God and if a book helps us to do so, we should go for it.
Contemporary Scholars on reading other Books
John Mark Reynolds writes in The GREAT BOOKS READER,
“Some time-pressed soul might question why Christians should bother reading these books at all. Why not just read the Bible? Well, there are solid reasons we should read great books. Again, we are a people of a Great Book and so should have a vested interest in literature in general. Real love may be exclusive in its devotion, but any particular love creates the possibilities of other loves. In my experience, loving my wife better helps me love my friends better. Higher loves empower lower loves, and lower loves are practices for higher loves. If I love my neighbour as myself, then loving my country, an accumulation of neighbours, generally will follow. Growing up loving the Bible made me apt to love other books. I don’t love them in the same way I love the Bible, but a lesser love came easily. The splendour of sunlight does not take away the glory of the stars.”
Similarly, Nancy Pearcey, while talking about how Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Restoration movement, who was asking believers to remove the coloured glasses and start reading the scriptures as though no one has ever read them, explains that,
“It means the church loses the wisdom of the luminous intellects that have appeared throughout church history – Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin. By adopting the Baconian method, many American evangelists lost the intellectual riches of two millennia of theological reflection. The idea that a single generation can reject wholesale all of Christian history and start over again is doomed to theological shallowness. The very language and concepts in currency today like Trinity or Justification were defined and developed over centuries of controversy and heresy-fighting, and unless we know something of that history we don’t really know the meaning of the terms we are using.” 
Bible is the word of God and we should meditate on it, there is no other book on planet earth which is so fascinating. We also find in the scripture that, “ Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Philippians 4:8 (ESV), therefore we should read those books that enhances our knowledge of God.
 Reynolds, John M. 2011. The GREAT BOOKS READER. Minneapolis, MN: BethanyHouse., pp. 10-11
 Pearcey, Nancy. 2004,2005. TOTAL TRUTH LIBERATING CHRISTIANITY from ITS CULTURAL CAPTIVITY. Weaton, IL:Crossway., pp. 301-302