Last time, I wrote briefly on what spiritual warfare really entails: our minds. To clarify, I’m referring to our minds as the instrument we use to think, discern, evaluate, ponder, contemplate, believe, and even know. It is the vehicle which we contains our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. It is not diametrically opposed to the heart, which (in biblical terms) encompasses the mind, will, and affections.
In light of this view of the mind and its importance in spiritual warfare, I would argue, then, that reading is a significant part of being a faithful spiritual warrior. Certainly, when we think of spiritual warriors, we think of those saints who are always on their knees praying. But let me suggest that reading is also a spiritual activity. Reading is one of the main ways that we renew and develop our minds (along with listening), and I consider it to be necessary for spiritual development and growth.
Without getting into an apologetic for reading (I’m simply assuming you agree with me here), let me suggest that we should have various types of books/articles that we are reading simultaneously. I know, it’s hard enough to read just one book at a time (and to finish it), let alone three to five. But let me challenge you to have at least three types of books (other than the Bible) in your rotation. Obviously, we must be reading the Bible itself. There are many Bible reading plans out there (see my previous post on this), and there is no excuse anymore not to be regularly reading it!
But one of these types of books might be considered more of a devotional or practical book, a book that is directly applicable to Christian living. Maybe it’s something on marriage and family or dealing with hardship and trials in your life (usually these are found in the “Christian living” section of your local Christian bookstore). Usually, these books are written by pastors and are more sermonic. I think academics may tend to shy away from these books, since they may not be as intellectually “challenging” as the type of literature they’re used to, but there are plenty of “devotional” books out there that certainly stimulate the mind while at the same time a challenge to one’s life.
The second type of book I would suggest keeping in your repertoire would be a theological or academic type book, one that expounds an issue of theology that you are curious about or one that you aren’t as familiar with. Depending on your level of reading, this might include going through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, J. I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, or maybe tackling one of Cornelius Van Til’s works. These are usually (but not always) written by college, university, or seminary professors. Non-academics tend to shy away from these type of books because they’re either “too difficult” to understand or not practical enough. But this genre of books is also important because it informs your knowledge of God and his truth (directly or indirectly), which in turn ends up affecting your practical life. My last post being an illustration of this, having a clear and sober understanding of what spiritual warfare actually is will help us to engage correctly in spiritual warfare and not do weird things. Having a right view of soteriology helps us to evangelize properly as well. Your view of the New Perspective on Paul also has some clear implications on how you might evangelize to someone. Certainly, there are many practical implications from engaging in theological and biblical studies.
The third type of book I would recommend having in your queue is not related directly to biblical or theological subjects. This might be something in the area of philosophy, psychology, science, literature, linguistics, other religions, even fiction. I think, as Christians, it’s important to be well-rounded individuals and be aware of what’s going on in the world around us–even if we should disagree with certain things. We should be able to intelligently dialogue with all sorts of people, especially if we want to share the gospel with all sorts of people.
So I encourage you to have at least three books in your repertoire: one the Bible, one practical, and one academic. Well, now you know how to engage in spiritual warfare. And (to end with a cheesy ’80s cartoon quote) “knowing is half the battle.”