Christians have debated the idea of whether or not they can read books outside of Christian novels for some time. Some legalistic Christians believe Christians should only read the Bible; whereas other Christians may believe it is within their Christian freedom to read whatever they want to read. The Bible gives guidance into all of these matters and the Holy Spirit will help direct you as an individual.
A Novel Idea
Christian novels have grown in popularity over the years with series such as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of The Rings, and The Wingfeather Saga. All of these Christian novels are good to read, and most believers would agree that these novels are great for any person to read.
In fact, many Christians may encourage other believers and nonbelievers to read Christian novels in order to introduce the idea of Christ to them. Christian novels are great to read, but what about other novels? Many best-selling novels cause a raise of concern for believers.
When a Christian chooses to read a piece of literature outside of the Bible or Christian novels, they need to exercise caution, wisdom, and discernment. It is within each believer’s freedom in Christ to read the novels and books they desire; however, simply because a person can do something does not mean it is beneficial.
I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).
Before reading a novel, Christians should run the content of the novel through Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
We should only read things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. There are many secular books that do not contain anything sinful in them. Believers should never read novels that contain graphic materials, sexual concepts, or novels that promote an anti-biblical agenda.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Would Jesus read this book? Will God be glorified through me reading this book?” Reading is a great gift that believers have received from our Heavenly Father.
Not everyone in the world has the privilege of being able to read, which is why we use our privilege with wisdom. God does not want His children reading novels about sins or novels promoting unethical behaviors.
Reading can help people relax, learn, as well as grow into better readers and writers. There are advantages of being familiar with secular novels as Paul gives us this example by being knowledgeable about the popular secular writers during his ministry.
Paul was able to quote the philosophers, which actually helped the lost become interested in his message (Acts 17:22-28).
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So, you are ignorant of the very thing you worship — and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands (Acts 17:22-24).
It is good to be familiar with secular novels, but believers should never read a novel that they believe will cause them to sin. We all have our own temptations, and it is wise for you to be aware of your own triggers.
If a book causes you to feel bad feelings or encourages you to sin, it is best to close the book, put it down, and return the book to the bookstore. Christians can read novels outside of strictly Christian novels; however, they need to be cautious and really know their own limitations.
- Reading for Education
There are going to be times when a believer will have to read secular books, such as in the event of high school, college, or work training. There is nothing wrong with reading a math textbook, an English workbook, or an employee handbook for training.
Within secular high schools and colleges, it is highly plausible Christians will encounter many evolutionary ideas and professors will teach evolution as the truth. Secular universities downplay creationism as an old wives’ tale.
In the event of a Christian having to read these textbooks, it can cause the believer to doubt their belief in creationism and even cause them to express doubt in God. Rather than allowing these books to cause the believer to doubt, the believer should view it as an opportunity to grow, strengthen, and increase their faith.
There are many creationists scientists who have written science textbooks to prove creationism, such as Ken Ham. If you are not enrolled in a Christian school or university, you most likely will not see Ken Ham’s books; however, his books would be worthwhile to read in the argument for creationism. Thus, there are books outside of Christian novels that are beneficial to believers.
- Reading for Fun
Despite popular belief, God does want His children to have fun. God does not want His children to have fun in the way the world views fun, such as drunkenness, sexual immorality, and drugs. These things are not true fun. In the same way, God wants His children to have fun with reading, but it has to be good, wholesome fun.
It is not fun to read about temptations that will cause you to sin against God nor is it fun to read novels in which the main character participates in unethical behaviors. As believers, we can read for fun, but we have to run the book through Philippians 4:8 as mentioned above.
God has given us each a brain and He wants us to use it. If we know the novel is not good for our spiritual growth, do not read it. If we know the novel will lead us into sin, we should not read it. We can read any book, whether Christian-focused or not, as long as the content glorifies the Lord.
Why Does Reading Matter?
As believers, we should want to do the right thing and only engage in activities that will honor God. If the novel does not glorify God and has questionable content, it is best to abstain from reading that specific book.
There are many great secular books out there that do have good morals to them — the Christian just has to discover them. We are all given freedom in Christ, but we must not misuse our freedom as Peter tells us “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16).
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