Tips for the reading ministerial student

This is about ten years worth of reflections about reading books, managing time, etc.  Most of it is drawn from studying other ministers and scholars.

Pick a Thinker and Make him your hero

John Piper said to do this.  He took Edwards.   If approached correctly, it can pay dividends.  However, it can also be very dangerous at worse, and pay relatively little dividends at best.   While Jonathan Edwards had a tremendous impact on American culture, even from a Calvinist standpoint his theology, if not suspect, was often confusing.  This has also played over into Piper’s own theology.  The point is this:  if said character has some bizarre ideas, you will also have some bizarre ideas. Now, if by it Piper means pick a great thinker whose thought has stood the test of time and read all of his works, then yes, that is a fine idea.

Pick a modern, balanced scholar and read everything he wrote

Historians are especially useful in this regard.   In college I picked George Marsden.  If a thinker has accurately and competently discussed a field of issues, odds are he isn’t saying it in just one book.   I’ve also tried to read everything Iain Murray has written.  This regimen will also keep you read the latest pop fluff from Christianity Today.

Get a few books on how to read

This seems counter-intuitive, but most moderns don’t know how to read an expositional book.   The one book that saved my thinking was J. P. Moreland’s Love your God with all your Mind.  In it he taught me how to annotate and follow an argument.  He also taught the basics of logic in that book.  The truth is, most people don’t know how to analyze an argument, much less a book.    Moreland’s book, not endorsing his later ideas, is pure gold on this point.  In connection with Marsden, the most important class I ever took was “Religion and American Culture” at Louisiana College under Dr Thomas Howell.  He required regular book reviews evaluating a peer-reviewed work.  In connection with Moreland and Marsden, whom I was reading at the time, it really made an impression on me.