Reading Difficult Books

What are you reading lately?

Are you reading through the average devotional book? The kind you can buy at the average Christian books store with a half a page a day and a verse.

Have you tried the harder and more deep books and given up in failure to understand?

Reading Difficult Books: A Personal Reminiscence by Rev. Steven Dilday

Shortly after my conversion to Christ, I became a regular listener to the radio broadcast of Dr. R.C. Sproul. Through Dr. Sproul I was exposed to Reformed theology for the first time, and, from the first, I was captivated. I was quite interested, of course, when he mentioned that he thought that Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will was the most important, most theologically formative, book that he had ever read. I ordered it immediately from Soli Deo Gloria and waited anxiously for its arrival. When the book arrived, I could not get the wrapping off fast enough. I started into it immediately, but was more than a little surprised by what I found. I discovered that I was not able to read it. Well, I was able to read and pronounce all the words, but I had never before seen a single sentence continue for a page and a half. By the time I reached the end of a sentence, I could not remember how it started. Moreover, he spent the first quarter of the book simply discussing the definition of the terms that he would be using (not the most exciting reading), definitions which were formulated through a sophisticated interaction with Puritan theology and early eighteenth century European philosophy (of which I knew nothing). Difficulties crowded in on every side, but my determination was roused. I had Dr. Sproul’s testimony that the reading of this volume would be profitable, so I prepared myself for the labor. It was hard work; sometimes I would spend a whole afternoon just trying to understand a single page. If memory serves, it took me the better part of a year to work through the whole. And what profit had I for my effort? Much in every way. First, I really learned to read; I have not since had that difficulty in reading. Second, I developed a love for the literature of the Puritans which has consumed most of my waking hours since that time. Third, the book did more to shape my general theological method than anything else that I have read. Fourth, I never forgot the contents of the book, Edwards’ striking harmonization of divine sovereignty and human freedom. In the final evaluation, the hours spent in the reading of that difficult book were among the most well-spent of my entire life. … Continue

Try plowing through a theologically rich book and see what it will do for your studies.

If you have never read it start with Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It will give you practice with the older English and even your children will enjoy it. After a reading through go back though the book and really read for the depth of theology.

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