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Reading Books Outside of Scripture

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Chance Sumner

One short-term goal the elders have at CBC is to set up a book stand—a place where we would recommend and offer gospel-centered resources—on Sunday mornings. The purpose of the stand would be “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). We believe that it is important for Christians to read books outside of Scripture for their sanctification.

One potential objection to this idea is that Scripture is fully sufficient for our knowledge of God. Thus, books outside of Scripture are not necessary for Christian growth. Scripture is all we need “for life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). Non-biblical books, it is thought, can even draw us away from Scripture. Why consult them? This is a common mindset within conservative evangelical circles.

This potential objection has some bite to it. Would it not be a defamation to Scripture to state that other sources are needed to understand Scripture? Is not the Bible “perfect” (Ps 19:7)? That which is perfect needs no assistance, right? Notwithstanding the initial bite, I do believe this is a misguided idea.

Ephesians 4:11–16 is an important passage regarding this issue. Verses 11 and 12 state that Jesus gave specific church offices to the church in order that the church may be built up. That is, Jesus has equipped the church with teachers so that the church can come to know Christ better.

Jesus has not left the church with Scripture alone. On the contrary, he has provided the church with Bible teachers for their edification. We see the book stand as a way of facilitating an encounter between CBCers and the “evangelists, shepherds, and teachers,” both dead and alive, that Jesus has equipped the church with. Without these teachers, the church does not fully possess what Jesus has given her.

Any view of scriptural sufficiency must interact with Scripture. The view of sufficiency expressed above—“Christians should only read Scripture!”—does not account for Eph 4:11–16. A view taken from
Eph 4:11–16 suggests that Christians should read the “evangelists, shepherds, and teachers” Jesus has blessed the church with. We hope to do this by means of the book stand.

Pastor Chance

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