Books play an important role in my life. For a good number of years I was employed by the church as editor, translator and publisher of books and magazines. And over time I wrote in excess of twenty books—some in English and some in Dutch and some in both languages (like my most recent book). My wife Aafje also has a lot of affinity with books. She usually reads the manuscripts of my books before I submit them to the publisher. Her excellent sense of language has been an important factor in getting my writings ready for publication. As a translator she herself translated over one hundred books from English or German into Dutch for a number of Dutch publishers.
But in our home also a lot of reading takes place. That has long been the case and continues to be so. Most of the time I am reading two or three books at the same time, as I like to read more serious stuff as well as books that provide entertainment and suspense. Currently among the books I am reading is a recent biography of J.N. Loughborough (1832-1924)—the last of the so-called ‘pioneers’ of the Adventist Church. This book is written by Brian E. Strayer and was published in 2013 by the Reviews and Herald Publishing Association. Loughborough wrote hundreds of articles as well as a few books. He managed to do so in addition to a load of many other duties. Reading about all the assignments he carried makes you wonder how in the world he could find any time to write.
Loughborogh was also an avid reader and built a considerable personal library with books on religion and theology, church history, secular history and many other subjects. Those who have studied the lives of early Adventist leaders know that these men were indeed book lovers. Books that were written by men like James White, Uriah Smith and J.N. Andrews provide ample proof that they spent a lot of time reading and learning from what others wrote.
This is also true of Ellen White. She was a keen reader of books in many different areas. When writing some of her most important books (as e.g. The Great Controversy and The Desire of Ages) she continuously used different sources. Shortly after she moved to Australia in 1891, she sent a request to the US that a number of her books would be shipped to her, as for instance one of her favorite Bible commentaries. When she died in 1915 she left a personal library behind with some 1200 books. By far the most of these were written by non-SDA authors.
When today some of our church leaders pride themselves that they only read the Bible and the books of Ellen White, I find this (to put it mildly) rather worrying. It shows that in this respect they certainly did not follow in the footsteps of the leaders who estasblished and built the Adventist Church. For sure, reading the Bible is of prime importance and every Adventist should at least read some of mrs. White’s books. These books are part of our heritage. But those who do not read more widely, shortchange themselves and will not develop a broad and balanced view of things.
For me personally, Bible reading remains of paramount importance. This morning I read Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. There was much that applied directly to my own spiritual life and to my everyday existence. Also a number of topics for future sermons jumped at me. However, I also need to be nourished and inspired by the knowledge, wisdom and experience of others. (And at times I simply need some time with a good book in order to relax!)