Of making many books there is no end


Why are there so many books?! Do you ever feel that you can’t cope with the vast numbers of new books pouring out from the minds of authors month by month, on top of the vast numbers that already exist, so many of them already forgotten by just about everybody?

More specifically, I get that feeling when I read the notices of all the new ‘Christian books’: for example, listed in the back of Together magazine, or in the publisher’s catalogues that come with it. Surely our faith is not so complex that it needs to be written about over and over again? Surely even the complicated bits have all been thoroughly explored by now? Surely the application of it to life has been covered, with so many books out there? And even the multifarious ways in which those applications can be made, even all of them must have been discussed over and over again by now? Those excruciatingly fine theological and liturgical distinctions must have been restated numerous times?

So, what possible justification can there be for ‘Christian books’ still pouring off the presses, or at least the laptops, after two millennia?

When I was a younger Christian, I kept on reading more and more ‘Christian books’, not for entertainment, of course, but because I thought that in this one or the next one I would find the key to the Christian life. The Christian life did not seem to work the way the writing on the original evangelistic tin said it would, and I was out to find the remedy for this apparent shortcoming. So, in a sense, by imbibing the words of each ‘Christian writer’ I was kind of trying to become that writer, in the sense that I was trying to catch his or her vision or variety of faith and conform myself to it. I was trying to become a replica C. S. Lewis, or John Stott, or C. T. Studd, or Corrie ten Boom (these names betray my age).

Then one day in 2000, on a visit to Burrswood, it dawned on me that my experience of God’s grace had to be completely my own. It could not come from anyone else. I couldn’t implant a ‘Christian writer’s’ experience into myself and live their Christian life. I had to receive and develop my own special version, because I am, like you, a specially created individual with my own unique characteristics, not one of those paper chain people that children cut out of folded paper.

So then of what use are all those ‘Christian books’ if you can’t ‘catch’ your Christian experience from them? Each one is a testimony to the way its author has experienced God. So they give you an insight into the Christians who wrote them and an inkling of the multifarious grace of God that is never precisely replicated. Because each of us is unique, every one of those writers has found his or her personal key to the mystery of God, and each wants to celebrate this experience and to share it with the rest of us. A Christian book, however drily theological, is actually witness and worship more than anything else.

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