“Don’t read other theological book; only read the Bible”.
If you grew up, attended, or currently attending in a Fundamentalist Christian Church, whether by affiliation or by practice, those words or similar to those words are mentioned behind the pulpit. Depending on the extent, a speaker or a pastor advocating this is reminding the congregants to read their Bible both in the church and at their respective homes and minimize, if not avoid, books on theology. I understand Pastors for doing this kind of control measures, at least its positive intention. The church where I am a member experienced the effects of misguided study and zealousness towards particular Biblical doctrines. It almost divided the brethren. Hence, pastors and church elders are using that first sentence to protect the body of Christ.
As I grew up, this has been the mantra of leaders who grew up experiencing the “almost division” event. There is even one pastor who stated that authors of theology books are just advocating their doctrines just to earn money. Funny thing though, he is a graduate of a seminary, top of his class, and benefited one way or another to these books (that’s another story, and I understand him for that).
What makes that first sentence problematic is the Bible, in order for people to understand, must at least be read or listened. Speaking of listening, in order to “listen” to the Bible, one must have a speaker of God’s Word. Read Romans 10:14-17. They are called preachers, pastors, and elders. Human as they also are, these speakers speak based on the reflections on specific Bible passages. Typical of public speakers, they incorporate personal experiences in relation to their reflection of the passages. Now, during this sermon, some members are TAKING NOTES. If these same pastors, preachers, elders, and leaders discourage members and listeners to read theological books, two problems come into picture: they imply that they are the only right speakers of the Word of God AND they will be subjected for further scrutiny because they discourage members to read. Think about it. When you, as a preacher or speaker, discourage the members or your listeners from reading a particular theologian, AND THEY ARE LISTENING TO YOU WHILE THEY’RE TAKING NOTES, whose knowledge, reflection, and discourse are in their possession? Partly, it’s your reflection and their discourse in their possession, not other’s view. The only difference with you as a speaker from these authors is they published a book, you didn’t, BUT both are STILL written materials through the notes of the listening congregants. As a consequence, because you have made that kind of practice, chances are, your version will definitely be put under scrutiny. Why? To answer their question, “what made us wrong, and you the only right person in this room?”
I didn’t mention those words because I fully disagree with this type of control measure. In fact I understand the rationale. Church leaders are just acting like a Mom in the kitchen who tells which one is nutritious which one is not. However, it’s a brotherly reminder not to become the monster that we despise or worse than the monsters that we despise.