Today, according to the BBC, “There are currently around three to four million podcasts internationally, but just over half of those have more than three episodes, with only 720,000 podcasts comprising more than 10 episodes.”
Well, not to brag, but the podcast you are listening to has 70 episodes and is today two years old!
Hi, my name is Terence and I’m your host of Reading and Readers, a podcast where I review Christian books for you. But not today. Today we take a Behind the Scenes look at the world’s number one podcast dedicated to Christian book reviews.
A Developing Relationship
I still remember the first year of podcasting. It was like jumping off a cliff. Exhilarating. Scary. Fun. I juggled with web hosting, podcast hosting, microphones, headphones, figuring out a workflow that worked and flowed with my already busy, busy, life.
Now that I’ve just passed the second year, 70 episodes in, the feeling is different. It’s like how the first year of romance drives boys and girls crazy, puppy love. It’s when the first year goes on to the second year, that the relationship is challenged. This podcast, Reading and Readers, is it a Covid-induced fling or a long term, life-long, serving?
I’ve lasted years and still going strong. I still love to read and I still love to share what I read.
I’ve even got an idea for a special 100th episode. I have a special personal book in mind. And I can’t wait to review it for the 100th episode. My only fear is that my review doesn’t do the book justice. At the pace I’m going, the 100th episode will be in 2024. I don’t want to say anything beyond the 100th but I’m thankful I still love what I’m doing in Reading and Readers.
Wisdom For 2 Year Olds
For today’s special episode, I’ll do something simple. I’ll read a portion of Proverbs 2. Then I will use what I just read to reflect on podcasts and book reviews. What better way to celebrate the podcast’s second anniversary than to do a reading first, followed by thoughts from the reader.
Before I begin, a trigger warning. If you are one of those poor souls who throws a fit whenever someone takes a passage of Scripture and starts talking about it or applying it without first expounding on it, then be warned.
I’m not expounding, or preaching or even teaching here. So I don’t intend to connect the dots. This is a devotional reflection. And I think this is a perfectly acceptable way to grow as a Christian, which is to read Scripture and ponder how Scripture relates to work, family, ministry, technology, society, all things in all creation including a podcast where I review Christian books for you.
So let us open the Good Book.
Proverbs 2:1–15 (ESV)
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
The passage is entirely about God’s words and God’s commandments. There are conditions with rewards, if you do this, you will gain, you will know every good path. Take heed, it is God who gives knowledge and wisdom. Beware of falling in with evil people their paths are crooked.
One Book Man
A man calls out, “I am a one-book man. I only read the Bible because that is all a person needs to be wise.”
And he quotes Scripture in support. The final chapter, final sections of Ecclesiastes, 12:11-12 reads:
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Does that mean that the man was right. It is good to be a one-book man? Sounds like false piety to me. It sounds praise-worthy but it is not. How can I reconcile Proverbs 2, Ecclesiastes 12, with Reading and Readers, the podcast and its goals?
Spurgeon To The Party
I’d like to invite a dear old friend to speak on this issue. He is Charles Spurgeon. Let me read from his “Lectures to My Students”. He has a chapter on commentaries. What he says on commentaries I will later extend to Christian books. But first let’s hear from Charles Spurgeon on commentaries:
In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt.
Did you get all that? Commentators are a glorious army. People who have laboured before us in the field of exposition. The problem in Spurgeon’s time, more than a hundred years ago, was for people to follow novelty of sentiment rather than accepted guides. How is it that what he says then is so applicable to us today?
Anyways, I skip a bit and Spurgeon continues:
who will deny the preeminent value of such expositions as those of Calvin, Ness, Henry, Trapp, Poole, and Bengel, which are as deep as they are broad? and yet further, who can pretend to biblical learning who has not made himself familiar with the great writers who spent a life in explaining some one sacred book? Caryl on Job will not exhaust the patience of a student who loves every letter of the Word; even Collinges, with his nine hundred and nine pages upon one chapter of the Song, will not be too full for the preacher’s use; nor will Manton’s long-metre edition of the hundred and nineteenth Psalm be too profuse. No stranger could imagine the vast amount of real learning to be found in old commentaries like the following:—Durham on Solomon’s Song, Wilcocks on Psalms and Proverbs, Jermin on Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, Green-hill on Ezekiel, Burroughs on Hosea, Ainsworth on the Pentateuch, King on Jonah, Hutcheson on John, Peter Martyr on Romans, etc., and in Willett, Sibbes, Bayne, Elton, Byfield, Daillé, Adams, Taylor, Barlow, Goodwin, and others on the various epistles.
As I have said before, more than once, how privileged we are that there are top minds, spiritual giants, who give their life to study, in some cases, one book. How privileged we are to be able to tap on a life-time of learning. And do you recognise the illustrious authors that Spurgeon casually throws about? I don’t. Because God has blessed not just one generation with gifted writers. God has seen fit to bless every generation with gifted writers to equip the church in its own time and setting. We have Dale Ralph Davis, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., D. A. Carson, just to name a few of the authors I have read and reviewed.
One Friend Man?
To the one-book man I ask, “Are you also a one-friend man?” Do you only need one friend, and one friend alone, whose name is Jesus? Well, Jesus calls his disciples his friends and we sing what a friend we have in Jesus.
We can have many friends but only one friend has authority over us. He is God. Similarly, we can have many books but only one book has authority over us. That is the Bible. So this helps to explain the making of many books in Ecclesiastes.
What about Proverbs 2 which clearly says wisdom and knowledge come through God’s Word. So why waste time reading other books?
I suggest to you that the making of many books within Christians is a physical manifestation of Proverbs 2. If we were to pile up all the Christian books, books written by believers to glorify God, the pile would tower to the heavens, demonstrating how seriously, how fervently, we treasure God’s Word that we would spill so much ink and give so much time to wisdom and knowledge that ultimately stems from God.
As Spurgeon says, these books do not have authority over us, but they offer great value. Faithful books are friends of the faith.
All Books Not Just Commentaries
And not just commentaries.
Whether it’s a comic book Action Bible or a funny novel of a soul-searching pastor or a systematic analysis on the theology of Lord of the Rings. A good Christian book in some way lead us to wisdom, righteousness and justice and equity, to every good path.
When a community of believers come together, receiving and treasuring God’s Word and commandment, isn’t it the most natural thing, having received wisdom and knowledge to sing it, draw it study it, and write it to share with fellow seekers? Doesn’t this holy activity deliver us from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, men whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways?
So I reflect on Proverbs 2.
As a reader, I read to the glory of God. Reading and interpreting what I read with a Christian worldview.
As a podcaster, I create to the glory of God. I use the technology and reach that God has given to the people of my generation to be blessed and be a blessing.
As a book reviewer, I review to the glory of God. I serve the community of believers, the authors, publishers and readers. My hope is in some small way my podcast can lead you to times of refreshing through a good book found.
It’s only two years. I hope you will join me in seeking, treasuring and sharing the wisdom, knowledge and understanding God gives.
A heartfelt thanks from me to all who listen to Reading and Readers. I hope the podcast and the book reviews are as profitable to you as they have been to me. God bless you. Bye bye.