Friday, May 5, 2006


The other evening, a young lady, a visitor in our home, strolled into my study and was gazing at the books on my shelves. After looking them over for a while she asked me, “What book has had the greatest impact on your thinking?”

I sat down opposite this wall of books and looked them over. I know the location of nearly every book and the categories of books on every area of the wall. I stared at my books on theology, Bible commentaries, biographies, books of history, philosophy and ethics. I really couldn’t honestly answer her question.

I finally hesitatingly answered that, next to the Bible, probably the works of Francis Schaeffer have had the greatest influence, or maybe C. S. Lewis. After I thought a bit longer I told her that nearly every book I’ve read has had some impact on my thinking; that when I finally lay down a book, I am in some way changed.

I read a lot, over a broad range of topics. I believe that as a Christian, especially as an educator and a minister, I need to be informed. I do not feel that the Bible-believing Christian needs to fear the interchange of ideas. This has biblical precedent. Paul could quote the Greek poets and philosophers (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). Jesus may or may not have been familiar with the secular writers of His day, but He did seem to understand the subtleties of current religious thinking, and He kept up with the news (Luke 13:1-5).

The question that I’m usually asked by first-time visitors to my library is, “Have you read all of these books?”, to which I answer, “Not all, but most.” The next question is usually something like, “Do you agree with all of these books?”

Of course not. I don’t read only books that I agree with. That would be redundant. I don’t fear reading someone with whom I disagree. After all, they may be right and I may be wrong. And if they’re wrong, I’ll be better able to understand their arguments and strengthen my own convictions.

I read somewhere of a graffiti slogan sprayed on a wall. “Jesus is the answer!” Below it was sprayed in a different hand: “What was the question?” We who proclaim that Jesus is the answer need to know the questions others are asking so that we can demonstrate how He is the answer.

“There is only one Book I read to believe; all others I read only to consider.”
-- Norman Geisler

Bill Ball

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