Sometimes it’s very easy to have excessive allegiance to a mundane endeavor, and lose focus on God. Being the bookworm I am, sometimes the topics I read can cause a big drift from the appreciation of the omnipresent (yet transcendent) pervasiveness of God and his mark on everything that is created. Let’s turn to our old friend Ecclesiastes, a book with some irony, inasmuch as Solomon was very godly yet had so many burdens, but he explained all things in a “twisted” – yet God-inspired perspective. Without further ado, let’s turn to Eccl 12:12 (ESV).
” My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.“
Wow! Consider these three truisms! Let’s delve into them.
- We are to use good, critical judgement in our choices of reading and study, save perhaps Scripture (which all Christians are expected to read). Obviously, because of the brevity of life (cf. Ps 90), it may not be worth your time to bother with certain subjects, whether because they are not interesting to you, or may present a poor influence. Most of my scientific interest is in biology. Therefore, most of my in-depth study, whether scholastic or personal, would lean to that. In short, both quantity and quality are important in your nonfictional investigations.
2. In Solomon’s time, books were handwritten and therefore arduous to write, centuries later we have Gutenberg’s printing press, and now we have not only books but Kindles and Nooks, websites (including this very blog you are reading), and all different sources. Information can now be conveyed by photos, diagrams, video, audio, animations, etc.; in other words, “multimedia.” Of course, technology moves on and some things are nearly extinct, such as library card catalogs. Nonetheless, there is an explosion of information in the 20th and 21st centuries, and books (and all their modern kin) will flourish. Rumor has it that books (as they are typically conceived) will have their own demise sooner or later. As for Scripture, no problem; since its durability is in heaven (and not earth), it will follow the technology.
3. Remember, like all things, study should be done in moderation. In excess, you may become obsessed with retaining the entire coverage of the material read (or at least its majority), often to a sharper level of detail than needed. Conversely, if your focus is on concepts and understanding, then you can more easily move on to other topics. Keep in mind that true learning is reflected not in testing your memory, but in candid, spontaneous moments when something is applied or mentioned — and you know what they are talking about.
Two Tidbits of Advice
- For most of you, I tend to recommend popular level books and websites (and yes, the popular press is a spectrum of various complexities). I don’t typically recommend getting a true collegiate textbook unless you seriously want to pay its high price with the assurance you are poised that you will understand it. After all, they’re meant for scholastic use, and they can often bring up questions, which can only be brought up duly with a professor that teaches such a class.
- As long as it’s private, maybe a quick prayer can help you appreciate God’s work and wisdom in areas studied more thoroughly. Remembering God’s omniscience (knowing all things, which we take a share of, or at least an approximation of such), omnipotence (his creation of the world by whatever method and sustenance of such), and omnipresence (pervading the cosmos through and through) should really power your endeavors to be God-glorifying.
In faith, make the Lord a “heavenly study buddy.”