Baptist journal promotes reading in an electronic age

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – A newly released edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology encourages Christians from an electronic age to read broadly, not only from Scripture, but also from theological, biographical and literary volumes.
“Since the Reformation, Protestants of different stripes have championed the clarion call, ‘sola Scriptura,’” Mark Leeds, assistant professor of systematic theology, writes in his article, “The Virtue of Reading.” Introducing his article, he affirms the doctrine of sola Scriptura and the necessity and benefit of reading the Bible frequently.
“Over time, this dedication to the Scriptures,” he adds, “became for some an abandonment of everything except the Scriptures and a distinction between sola Scriptura and nuda Scriptura became necessary.”
Southwestern Seminary promotes “sola Scriptura over nuda Scriptura,” valuing the work of Christian theologians and authors of the past, while also placing Scripture as the supreme authority in faith and doctrine. After clarifying this distinction, Leeds explains why Christians should read broadly outside of Scripture and what they should read.
By reading widely, Christians can gain a better understanding of Scripture, of their own culture, and of the way that believers throughout history have struggled to interpret the Bible correctly. They should also recognize that “all truth is God’s truth,” without forgetting that Scripture alone is inerrant.
“The great writings of the Western world are worthy of critical consumption by the Christian mind for the many places where they contain philosophical, historical, mathematical, scientific, and other truths,” Leeds writes.
By reading broadly, Christians also improve their ability to communicate and defend the Gospel in “a diverse and rapidly changing world.” Finally, Leeds notes that Scripture “esteems education.”
Leeds then encourages Christians to interact with authors with whom they disagree, as well as those with whom they agree. They should also read from various genres, including autobiographies or biographies like Augustine’s Confessions and fiction works like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
“It is hoped,” Leeds writes, “that some who read this article will be encouraged not only to read in these different genres but also to write in them. … Perhaps some who read this article will take up the mantle left behind by Aquinas the academician, Augustine the autobiographer, and Bunyan the storyteller, and join those who through reading and writing become all things to all men so that they may by all means save some.”
In another article, titled “Finding Friends,” seminary president Paige Patterson explains why he insists that all students build a library of 1,500 volumes before graduation. While he believes the number of volumes in a student’s library is important, he underscores more the need for students to build a library of their own, even though they live in an electronic age.
The volumes in a minister’s library, Patterson writes, “constitute, in fact, the invaluable tools of the prophet of God who wants to satiate himself with every understanding of God and the world that He created.”
Patterson, who owns and uses a Kindle as well as a physical library with nearly 22,000 volumes, admits, “Even those who continue to be critics of the coming e-book age must face the fact that eventually most of the problems with digital books will be resolved.” He argues, however, that owning and reading printed books still has advantages for believers despite technological advances in recent years.
The final portion of this Southwestern Journal of Theology contains more than 100 pages of book reviews and review essays. Southwestern professors and students, as well as Baptist pastors, review books published in the fields of biblical studies, theological studies, historical studies, philosophy and ethics, preaching and pastoral studies, and missions and evangelism.
“Our hope … is that (the reviewers’) constructively critical, keen, and appreciative minds will inform your own reading practices,” writes Malcolm Yarnell, managing editor of the journal and associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary.
“It is an established conviction for many of us,” he writes in his editorial, “that reading widely, consistently, and deeply is a theologically virtuous exercise.”
The Southwestern Journal of Theology is a publication of Southwestern Seminary. To order a copy of this spring 2010 edition of the journal, contact the editorial assistant at P.O. Box 22608, Fort Worth, Texas 76122, or by e-mail at journal@swbts.edu. The editorial and Leeds’ article may be viewed on www.baptisttheology.org, a website of Southwestern’s Center for Theological Research.

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