What does it profit a Christian to read secular material? I considered this question for the umpteenth time when a Facebook friend of mine pointed out that a well-known business book I had posted a link for was not something he would have considered to be in balance with a Christian world view. My friend meant no slight to my recommendation. He was merely pointing out something that I’ve heard others over the years point out; that is that many books (and other media for that matter) that are considered top notch by many literary professionals might not be suitable or profitable for a Christian audience.
While I would agree that not everything that is written by business, financial, and personal self-help “experts” is beneficial in total, I would argue that many of the principles espoused by these authors can be mined for great benefit by Christians and non-Christians alike. Christian Author Terry Glaspey, in his excellent reading recommendation guide “Book Lover’s Guide to Great Reading” points this out when he says “Their books, though founded on other worldviews, nonetheless have a great deal to say to the discerning Christian reader.” (p. 65).
The argument for many is that in encouraging the reading of such books, our Christian faith might be weakened or even dismissed. I counter by saying that in reading these types of books with proper discernment, not only can we as Christians learn more about our culture but we can also strengthen our apologetic. If we are not allowing ourselves to be challenged by brilliant thinkers outside the Christian culture, we are doomed to stunted personal and spiritual growth. Our witness will also be marginal at best because we cannot argue against things we are not educated on.
For me, reading the classic words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Marcus Aurelius, Napoleon Hill, and William James (just to name a few) and putting them within the context of my Christian faith has added a dimension to my appreciation of God that I would not have been able to achieve had I limited myself to merely the gifted writings of Christians alone.
What books would you recommend to a fellow bibliophile in 2011?