02 October, 2010

Bibliophelia: Confessions of an Unrepentant Addict

I love books. I love receiving books as gifts; I love ordering books online; I love the smell of a used bookshop; I love being surrounded with books in my study. They are friends; they are teachers; they are voices from the past; they are treasures. I assume most pastors feel the same way- at least pastors in the Reformed & Presbyterian tradition.

Recently I have been re-reading a biography of William Symington (19th century Reformed Presbyterian pastor) and I found this tongue-in-cheek section to describe my addiction to the written word:

"The love of books is with me a perfect mania. When I see anything particularly advertised, I immediately conceive a wish to have it- I persuade myself that really I ought to have it- and between the desire to have it and the reluctance to pay for it I am on the fidgets day and night. Then some demon or other whispers, 'Your credit is good, it is a good while to the month of May, before then you will have had your purse replenished with next half year's stipend- the temptation succeeds; and off goes a post letter for the desired article, all objections, financial as well as others, being unceremoniously sent about their business. In this way I have nearly ruined myself- and the worst of it is that I am nearly incorrigible. Unlike other sinners, misery does not lead me to repent- or if I do repent, I do not at all events reform. Can you tell me what is to become of me? The jail I suppose."

Will the bibliophile ever mend his ways? "Of making of books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:12)." Basically, no, the bibliophile is unable to be changed. The weariness of the flesh is to (gladly) continue through all his days. And that's okay- God chose to reveal himself in the written word; and his Son takes on the name Word (John 1). It seems that the addiction to the written word- bibliophelia- is a reflection of who God is. God is a God of words. And who doesn't love that?

1 comment:

Joel said...

I guess it's OK to keep buying books as long as you're buying them because you really wish to read them. I personally know some people who seem to use books like trophies. There are those who line their shelves with titles by well known theologians but when you inspect the pages, there's hardly any sign of the book having been read. I have more appreciation for those who, although they don't have a great number in their collection, they have plundered the treasures of the books that are in their possession.