500th Anniversary of the Reformation
Tomorrow is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous act: the nailing of his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenburg.
Now, of course, the seeds of the Protestant Reformation had already been planted (*coughs* Jan Huss, John Wycliffe, etc.) and the Lord used many other believers to help reform his church. But a date is convenient and gives us an excuse to celebrate!
The Five Solas
There are five Latin phrases that are associated with the Reformers: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Scripture, and Sola Deo Gloria. Essentially, they remind us what the essentials of the Christian faith are, and these are neatly summed up in Ephesians 2:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)
Grace alone. Faith alone. Christ alone. Scripture alone. And only for God’s glory.
Books Don’t Save
You know what this means? BOOKS DON’T SAVE. The primary reason Christians teach their children to read is so that they can read God’s Word. People died so that we could have the freedom to read God’s Word in our own language in our own homes (many in the world still don’t have this privilege).
When we at Redeemed Reader talk about reading discerningly, about reading great books and discussing them with your children, or about recommendations and cautions, we know that all of it is less important than actually reading God’s Word. Books are a tool that can help us learn about the human condition, the tremendous narrative thread of Scripture (Creation-Fall-Redemption), the marvelous created order around us, and much more. But they are no substitute for the Bible itself.
Aside from the Bible, there is no required book for a Christian to read. Nowhere in Scripture does it say you must read Pilgrim’s Progress, the works of Shakespeare, Charlotte’s Web, Jane Austen, or any “excellent” literature to be saved from sin and be made alive until God. Nowhere.
Certainly, there are standards for what we should think about (Philippians 4:7-8), standards for God’s people’s behavior (Exodus 20), and reminders about being on our guard (Ephesians 6). But there is no biblically mandated reading list.
Remember, people were godly, devout believers long before Dante wrote his Divine Comedy, Milton his Paradise Lost, Dostoevsky The Brothers Karamazov, or Lewis The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be praising the Lord in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10); most of these people will never have read an English book.
Do seek to take every thought captive. Discuss books with your children. Model a healthy approach to reading and literary media by also reading Scripture with them. Hold the Bible and the Lord in high esteem. When a book is contrary to Scripture and one your family shouldn’t read, be upfront with your kids about why the book is not a good choice. Or about the particular element that does not honor God. Look at why the author included it and branch out into discussing how the Lord redeems us out of our sin. Seek to love God in and with your reading.
Love Your Neighbor
But we can love our neighbor in our reading, too. When our friends and fellow believers read books that are different from our own standards, our response should be a teachable, encouraging, and humble spirit. We Christians are so good at making everything into “law” while forgetting the gospel. Do not read “excellent” or “living” books thinking they will save your children. Do not look down on those who read different books just because those books are different (read: newer, older, multicultural, TV-based, fill-in-the-blank difference!). The Holy Spirit can work through a number of books even if we think they are not as good as our own preferred titles; he works best, though, through Scripture.
My friends, let us remember that books don’t save. Only Christ saves. And the only “required reading” is the Bible. Sola Scriptura.