I have always loved to read. I have fond memories of going to the public library with my dad on Saturday mornings. I loved (and still do) stories, and I read my favourites over and over. Once I was converted to Christ, I liked to read the bible, but I had been a Christian quite a while before I began reading theology.
A number of few years ago I went through a spiritually dry period. I felt very far from God, and I had a lot of questions; questions that seemed to surprise and irritate those around me. I had been a Christian for about fifteen years at the time, and I did really not know why I believed what I did. I had basically taken everything I was told without much question, and when I began confronting different doctrines, I did not know how to handle them. I thought it meant my faith was slipping. There were contradictions, like the sneaking suspicion that "No Creed But the Bible!" was actually a creed.
When I began homeschooling, I got to know some Christian women who were Reformed. One of them told me about Ligonier, and I got a copy of their catalogue (back in the olden days, when catalogues were made of glossy paper). I wanted to begin with understanding grace, because I knew deep down, I wasn't showing much to people. A title caught my eye: Grace Unknown. I ordered it. That title today is called What is Reformed Theology? After reading that, I discovered in our book collection at home, a book that my husband had picked up somewhere: The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul. How providential was that? After I discovered Ligonier I was introduced to Monergism. It was, as the saying goes, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
I have always tried to be a constructive reader, but reading theology helped me to become a more critical reader. And by critical, I mean reading with a purpose. When I began reading to understand doctrine and theology, it was with a purpose: to know God. I knew a lot about what I was supposed to do, but I didn't know a lot about God's character. I chose reading material that talked less about what I was supposed to look like and more what Christ looked like.
Reading Reformed theology led me to the Reformers, of course, but also to Augustine, the Puritans, and the Great Awakening. I remember being absolutely blown away the first time I ever read anything by B.B. Warfield. Reading these great works revealed to me how much I don't know. That is one of the reasons I read theology: I need to be reminded that I do not, and cannot know it all, but the pursuit is valuable. Knowing God is a lifelong pursuit.
Reading theology does not give me faith. I already possess that by the grace of God. But it helps me to seek it more earnestly. It helps me to see what a precious gift our redemption is, how wonderful the God who grants it to us. Reading has introduced me to books that have helped me with reading Scripture more effectively. Books have been my tutors. It has been like having a host of scholars and pastors right at my finger tips.
Reading books doesn't replace the preaching at my local church or my participation in it, but I think it has helped me become a more active listener, and a more faithful member of the church. It has given me a venue for discovery of the wonderful attributes of God, and the preciousness of my redemption. I'm so thankful God for these tutors.