Who can you read? Who can you learn from?
Have you ever had someone tell you who you may not read or learn from? Several groups within Christianity might have some strong suggestions, but as being an Independent Baptist myself, I have seen this attitude up close and personal. Some, as an imagined agent akin to the KGB, would like to scour your library for you.
Some say you can’t read from this group or that. For example, I have heard some say you can’t read after a Calvinist. So a John Piper would be out of the question according to them. Although I am not a Calvinist myself, I have been incredibly enriched by several Calvinistic writings. Some go even farther and say you should only read after Baptists. Others narrow it even farther to only those they fully agree with among Baptists. I once read a man brag that he only had books by John R. Rice and Jack Hyles in his library. Are these constraints valid?
First of all, it reminds me of a joke we used to tell in my college days at the University of Tennessee. Alabama was our most hated rival and we used to say “Did you hear about the fire in Alabama’s library last night? …yes, both books were lost.” Such pressure to not have unapproved authors makes for rather small libraries.
It is not the size of our libraries, however, that is the problem. Rather it is the breadth of our knowledge. Back in those same college days I heard several PhD students talk about where they would like to teach. They told me that they could not get their degree where they actually wanted to teach. When I asked why they explained that that was considered academic inbreeding. Bringing in professors from various business schools gave a greater breadth and made for a better all-around business school. You can see the logic.
You don’t want ideas to always come from the same small pool. Over time the good will be warped, the style be a caricature, and everyone will be a bizarre clone of each other. In such settings the abnormal becomes indistinguishable from the normal, and finally becomes the norm. That may describe the stranger anomalies in our Independent Baptist world better than anything else.
Because reading opens up our minds to clearer thinking, it often leads to those abnormalities finally being seen as what they are and changes take place. Those still caught up in it see the changes as dangerous and ungodly and so criticize. This is how book banning is born. Isn’t it repulsive when you see Muslims, Communists, or Nazis practice it? I say it is just as bad when we do it.
Every book must be weighed by the Bible. No thinking reader ever imagines that every line must be accepted as true, but it must be tested, sifted, and refined, the good extracted while the bad is tossed on the trash heap.
Academic inbreeding has as bad of deformed children as any other inbreeding, only the stakes are spiritual.
Find all articles in the series here.