The Lord has blessed His church with gifted teachers (Ephesians 4:11) many of whom skillfully exercise their gifts through writing. We desire to learn from God’s servants, both past and present, who have labored diligently to explain and to apply the Scriptures in print. We humbly acknowledge that we are not self-sufficient in all matters pertaining to the knowledge of God, that we are in need of being taught by those more wise than ourselves, and that we have much to gain spiritually by ‘listening’ to those uniquely gifted to instruct God’s people through their writings.
We also believe that God, by His wise providence, expands the teaching ministries of some through their writings for the common good of the church. One needs only to consider how the treatises, commentaries, sermons, and hymns of Anselm, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley and Spurgeon continue to enrich the church long after their voices have gone silent. Though years separate us from some of the church’s most able teachers, yet they remain with us to exhort, challenge, comfort and impart understanding through what they have written. We gratefully give thanks to God for their ongoing ministry to us.
Someone may object that we should not substitute the Word of God with the words of mere men, nor should we give the public or private reading of Scripture second place to the reading of Christian literature. We stand in full agreement with these judgments. Christian literature is useful for spiritual growth only to the degree that it accurately teaches the Word of God. Thus, we do not commend the indiscriminate reading of Christian literature. Discernment should be exercised in both its selection and use. As we read, we should imitate the Bereans who were commended because they searched the Scriptures daily ‘to see whether these things were so’ (Acts 17:11). Moreover, we affirm that in Scripture alone is the wisdom that leads us to salvation and that equips us for every good work (1 Timothy 3:15-17). Thus, the neglect of public and personal Bible reading is done at the expense of one’s own spiritual vitality.
Nevertheless, we affirm the spiritual benefit of reading good Christian literature that opens our minds to the truth of Scripture and encourages us to walk in the way of love (1 Timothy 1:5). We applaud the publishing, advertising, distributing and reading of Christian literature that promotes the true knowledge of God that leads to holiness. We affirm the use of printed materials of this kind in the church’s instructional ministry when such use is deemed appropriate. We aim to inform the church of sound Christian literature and to make it available as we are able. The elders do not desire to infringe upon the liberty of the individual believer, yet they recognize their responsibility to protect the church from literature that promotes erroneous teaching. Thus, instructional material used for church sanctioned ministry typically needs to be approved by the elders.