Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book buying series, part 1: Bibliolatry - a Caution.

While I was in seminary I spent much of my time seeking out the mentorship and advice of my professors and other wise peers on many practical topics.  On this blog I will relay much of what I learned because of its value to my development as a student and scholar.  One of the most helpful areas I sought to be schooled in was the art of book buying and building a personal library that will serve in good research and sermon prep.  One peer said to me that he felt, "one of the jobs of a seminarian is to begin building a library".  I started following his opinion but needed to seek more wisdom on how to go about doing that.  But, its true, you can't buy every book!  Nor should you.  And, of course cannot read 'em all.  So where do we start?  That's what I want to discuss in these following posts.

Today, I start with a few needed cautions:

As John Calvin is famous for saying, "Our hearts are idol factories".  Bibliolatry is, as The Oxford English Dictionary defines it, "to deify a book".  This seem to be an extreme, even a silly, warning.  I mean, really, who will deify a book?  Well, maybe, no one.  But who will become more devoted to their books than to their study? Their ministry? Their family?  Many.  There is a lot you can potentially do to build and maintain a nice personal library.  And these things can turn, yes, into devoted worship.  So, we need to keep our book buying and library building in a focus of the larger scope of our ministry, and submitted to the Lord and accountable to others.


Next, it has been a bit ironic watching America become so fixated on the mental imbalance that causes hoarding, and American's responding with awe and pity for "the way those people live, and how they have such a hard time purging what they don't need".  The reality check here is, you do not have to be on one of those shows to be a hoarder.  Actually, the irony is that most American's are hoarders (and not just Americans!).  I have been around the rich in Northwest Columbus, Ohio and around the poor in Appalachia; they all "collect".  Because they are "holding on to something"; an heirloom, maybe - there are always very reasonable rationales.  So what does this have to do with book buying?  Everything!  Books are material things that have the same power over individuals as glassware, paintings, and other nik-naks. We need to keep in focus why we are buying books otherwise we can begin to hoard them- buying whatever we see with less than worthy rationale - and become hoarders ourselves.  We are no different than those people on those documentaries.  We can get a little 'happy feeling' when we click the button on Amazon.  Be careful, this is where a hoarder finds him/herself; that is, finding simple pleasures in another purchase, then finding security in their stuff, etc.  Our security and pleasure is always to be found in the Lord, not our mammon.

Finally, do not be deceived, having a library of any size does not make you a faithful follower of Jesus, a better preacher, nor a great scholar.  This does not need much explanation.  A couple of ordained ministers/scholars/professors I was most influenced by at Covenant actually possessed libraries that did not match, in my estimation, their achievements, abilities and godliness.  Or maybe it did?  And the great thing is that one of these men was looking to get rid of some of his books!  The last time I checked, putting a book under one's pillow at night and gaining knowledge "through osmosis" (as my old band director would say) did not work, neither did sitting in the midst of them.  It is the seeking of the Kingdom of God, the mentorship/friendship of godly men, and the diligent labor that makes a man, not his books.

I think that will suffice for cautions.  I don't want to be a buzz-kill!  I will follow this post soon with other topics such as buying commentaries, 'to buy or not to buy monographs', to buy or use a library', and some other specialized studies.


Others Book buying posts:
Book Buying series, special edition: Dead Sea Scrolls

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