Sunday, August 12, 2007

The importance of a balanced diet

Man cannot live by broccoli alone.

A diet of nothing but broccoli would lead to malnutrition. A healthy body requires a variety of foods to get the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats that the body needs to operate properly.

A healthy mind and soul needs a variety as well.

Reading nothing but fiction might be compared to a junk food diet; reading nothing but apologetics might be akin to living off nothing but spinach. A healthy, well-balanced Christian will feed his mind some theology and apologetics while feeding his heart and soul some “Christian living” or devotional material – maybe some biography too.

I looked up a little while back and realized I had, because of school, lived off nothing but biblical studies books for a good year and a half. My mind and heart showed it, too. I’m now making a conscious effort to vary my reading, and I recommend that you do so too.

When you read a theology book, follow it up with a biography. Then maybe an apologetic work followed by something more devotional. If you have a need or special interest, that’s fine, focus on that, but still stick in something else every other book or two.

My interests and the nature of the people I interact with on a daily basis require me to read a lot of apologetics and theology, so I focus there, but I’m going to make sure I include more pastoral works (not how to teach/preach but healing my soul).

I just finished The Problem of Pain (my
review). I’m now reading Precious Remedies Against Satan's Deviceswhich will be followed by A Grief Observed and then Not For Sale. I’m studying the problem of evil right now, so I’ll probably bring in another book on that topic next, but after that, I’ll probably need to take a break, so my next apologetic book would probably be something about Islam or the reliability of the Bible. I’m going to throw some fiction in there somewhere too.

I’m not advocating being legalistic; I’m advocating being self-aware and attentive to your own soul. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?

Now, what about students – especially those in seminary? I understand that you can’t always control what you read, and time is short and precious. I’d suggest that you make a serious effort to read some very different material between semesters – maybe even something “light.”

And to those who say, “I’d rather burn out than rust out,” I’d like to offer this: those aren’t the only two choices.

(See also "You are what you eat...")


Jon said...

Some thoughts from a (fellow?) seminary student:

I usually devour a stack of books between semesters, varying between light reads (the latest Crichton novel, perhaps) and other heavier tomes that interest me (I have recently read some cool books on quantum physics--I said read, not understood). The main thing is they're books I want to read and over which I won't be tested!

My seminary emphasizes three parts of life: Knowing, being and doing. That is, we go beyond the academic and the practical to spend time on our character. While I still successfully burned out last May (only to return again in a few weeks), that balance may have kept me going longer than otherwise.

It's hard for me to find fiction books I am interested in reading. Apart from Michael Crichton's books, the fiction I am drawn to is usually written by people long since deceased, which I would not call "light".

Anyway, I don't really have much of a point, other than I understand and agree with you, though I just am not that attracted to light books, which you probably picked up reading my Harry Potter blog a few days ago.

ChrisB said...

Hi, Jon,

"Light" is a relative term. Crichton generally qualifies. Does Shakespear? Well, I think it depends partially on what you're doing with it (reading to write a paper vs just reading to enjoy) and partly what you usually read.

I think what's most important is just reading something different. I'm more concerned about the over-achiever who's reading Grudem over Christmas break than about a seminary student reading Einstein. Mostly, though, I'd say make sure you attend to spiritual growth between semesters if you aren't able to during classes.

(Incidentally, I dabbled with the notion of "seminary" -- for lack of a better word -- not because I need to but just for edification, and so I was just doing an online thing. But my life just wouldn't support it. Two kids, long commute, full time job, wasn't doable.

My BS, by the way, is in physics.)

Jon said...

God help me if I ever read a systematic theology over break.