Of the Reading of Big Books There is No Hope…Or is There?

At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes we find these words:

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.

No kidding. The volume of books that already exist and are published each year is astonishing. With only a finite amount of time, deciding what books to read is no easy task, especially as not all books pertain to godly wisdom, as the writer of Ecclesiastes warns. With the sheer number of books as they are, my knee-jerk reaction is to get through as many as possible.

This doesn’t bode well for big books. They are the neglected member of the book family, at least in my collection. They look good on the shelf but they don’t get driven much. This is really too bad because many of those books contain the kind of wisdom the teacher of Ecclesiastes might recommend. But I think things are starting to look up for those mighty tomes.

 

A Journey with Calvin (not the comic strip)

 

Earlier this year Pastor Caleb told me that he was planning to read through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I once purchased a copy of this book with the full intention of reading it, but at 988 pages I was a bit daunted. When Caleb told me how he was going to read the Institutes I thought, “Great idea, I can totally do that!”

The plan was to follow a 5 day a week reading schedule that would get you through the book in a year. With 2017 marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this seemed like a good time to sink my teeth into the book.

Eleven months later I’m over 700 pages in (yeah yeah I’m a little behind), which would never have happened without breaking the book up into daily chunks that I could actually swallow and digest. Now I can begin to understand why so many preachers and authors I respect recommend the reading of this work by Calvin.

 

What’s next?

 

This experience got me thinking: what am I going to read in in 2018? I’ve bought other big books with equally good intentions, and they too have mostly gathered dust while glaring at me intimidatingly from the shelf. But if I keep up this whole one big book a year reading schedule, I’ll actually get through some of them, which is solid justification for buying more books, as if much was ever needed anyway. Now not everyone in my marriage will agree with that last sentiment, so we’ll move swiftly along.

Rather than flying solo for 2018, I decided to invite any other brave souls to venture with me into this 365 day goal, which I think will create a theologically edifying, albeit nerdy sort of community that will help us keep each other on track. So, here’s what I’m asking: who wants to read all “one thousand pages and more than half a million words” of Joel R. Beeke’s and Mark Jones’ A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life with me? Yeah, I can see you need more convincing.

Here’s what Carl Trueman says about the volume:

The Puritans are undoubtedly one of the most significant sources for theology that is both doctrinal and practical in equal measure. This massive volume of Joel Beeke and Mark Jones provides the reader with a comprehensive introduction to Puritan thought. It is a notable work of historical-theological synthesis and a book to which I will be returning again and again, both for scholarly reference and personal devotion. Simply an amazing achievement.”

Sinclair Ferguson writes in the foreword:

“If you share the concern of the Puritans to think biblically in order to live to the glory of God, these pages will prove to be a goldmine and an example of what Paul termed “the acknowledging of the truth which is after [i.e., accords with] godliness” (Titus 1:1).”

As for the authors themselves:

“We trust that this book on Puritan theology will appeal to many types of people…The target audience for this book is not primarily academic. Rather, we hope this book will also appeal to Christian laypersons, students of theology, seminarians, and ordained church leaders, such as pastors, ruling elders, and deacons. Reaching these varied groups is not easy, but we have done our best to put together a book that allows – to quote a well-known phrase – “an elephant to swim and children to play in the water.””

I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of this book, and when I read material like this, it makes me wonder: why do I ever read anything else? ┬áThere are chapters on justification that will stir you to praise the Lord Jesus, there is a chapter on walking godly in the home that will challenge and edify, there is a chapter on the conscience that will wonderfully train your own, and I could go on.

 

You can do it too

 

Now that your interest is undoubtedly piqued, here’s what you need to join in. First, you need a copy of the book. They are available for an amazing price here. You can buy a two pack at a great deal and split the cost with someone else whose is coming along for the ride. You’ll need to get on that so you have it by January 1st. If you prefer, the Kindle price is decent, but you won’t get ripped muscles as you alternate arms as while carrying it around. The best option would be to shamelessly ask someone to buy it for you for Christmas. Just don’t ask me.

Second, download this free reading schedule that will help you stay on track through the year. The average reading is 3-4 pages a day, which is not too much, even for a busy mom. The schedule is only 5 days a week, allowing 2 days for catch up. Let’s be honest, we know we’re going to need those extra days.

Third, let me know (sean@hespelerbaptist.ca) that you’re joining in so I can set up a way for us to share what’s jumping out to us as we read.

Sure, of the writing of books there is no end, but A Puritan Theology is a book I’m glad exists, and trust me, will prove no weariness to the flesh, or the soul.

So, who’s in?