Should Christians read non-Christian books?


Should Christians read non-Christian books? I would say yes, but I’m young and you probably shouldn’t heed too much of what I say. However, there are several old, and very much dead church leaders who have said the same thing. Perhaps you should listen to them. (Please do note that when Calvin says “profane authors” he does not mean raunchy romance writers, but merely thoughtful non-Christian writers.)

“Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insults to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising gifts, we insult the giver.” ~ John Calvin

“All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just,  we ought not reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and, therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose.” ~ John Calvin

“All branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which every one of us, when going out under the leadership of Christ from the fellowship of the heathen, ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them.” ~ Augustine of Hippo

“Heathen learning is not unprofitable for the soul…”~ Basil of Caesarea

“For the journey of this life eternal I would advise you to husband resources, leaving no stone unturned, as the proverb has it, whence you might derive aid.” ~ Basil of Caesarea


11 responses to “Should Christians read non-Christian books?

  • R. H. Culp

    One of the things I love about Christ is that he calls us to engage with culture, not avoid it. It’s one of the things that sets Christianity apart. There isn’t (or at Biblically shouldn’t be) a “Christian” culture. Rather, just as in your Calvin quote, we are called to redeem and see truth in the world around us, whether it comes from Christians or non-Christians. Easter is one great example of this. It was a pagan festival celebrating new life, but Christians recognized the Truth in it as it applied to Christ and redemption and adopted it for themselves rather than forcing converts to abandon their culture and tradition.

    I think it’s important to read “non-Christian” books, not only because there is truth to be found there, but also–and perhaps more importantly–so that we can engage with the world around us, not sequestering ourselves. If we strive to avoid “worldly” things, we as Christians will inevitable lose touch with the world.

    Great post. It’s an important thing to think about not just as it applies to reading but also to music, movies, video games, and just about everything else.

  • Adam

    I’ll readily admit that I am not deeply religious in any way shape or form. However, quite a few of the books that I’ve read have had to deal with religion in one form or another.

    I would encourage everyone to read widely, regardless of your beliefs. If your beliefs aren’t strong enough to stand up to being challenged, then I would question if they are strong enough to be relied on in times of need.

  • Mal

    I think it really depends what non Christian book your are reading and why you are reading it. I think as a Christian you have to be very discerning as to what you read, look at and speak. There are obvious uses in some non Christian literature but it should never overtake your commitment to reading the Scriptures and good sound Christian books.

    • Chase

      Yes, discernment is always an important part in a Christian’s life. If your Christan world-view is not strong and you are still young in your faith I would discourage you from reading many non-Christian books for a while. I would also say that personal conviction also plays a part in what you read. But I would certainly agree that the Bible and solid Christian books on theology and such should be first in your reading diet.

  • CanaryTheFirst

    Well, in a sense, isn’t this the same thing as asking, ‘Should non-Christians read Christian literature?’

    I’m also someone who has not read widely in the Christian Fiction section (I get most of my books from the public library, and there, all fiction is Fiction, with the exception of Fantasy/Sci-fi, Detective, and YA/Junior), when I think of Christian literature, I think of the non-fiction spirituality and religion sections. For me, everything else is fiction, and in that fiction we find truth.

    If a fictional account speaks to something inside us, it doesn’t need a label.

    • R. H. Culp

      I feel the same way about fiction in general. What makes fiction “Christian”? Is it as simple as having a Christian author? Or does it have to do with themes? If it is the former than a large percentage of literature could be considered “Christian.” If it’s concerned with themes, then arguably even more literature could be described as Christian because most fiction tells stories of sacrifice, good conquering evil, redemption, selflessness, etc.

  • Renny

    I agree, Chase. All truth is God’s truth and there are many good things to be gleaned from ‘some’ non-Christian writings. God can reveal His perspective through the unsaved even though they are unaware.

  • Nitoy Gonzales

    love the article….its like saying should i follow non Christians on twitter…

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