“A Concise Theology of Voluntary, Principled Book Purging”


As a lover of books and coming from a family of avid book collectors (our respective homes are filled to overflowing with books of all kinds and genres) this article by Mark Nenadov made me laugh out loud. And yes, I will send it on to my beloved family members!

A Concise Theology of Voluntary, Principled Book Purging

I. Whereas God hath created books as a good gift and ordained from eternity past that they should be opened and that personal libraries should be full of them, books as such are made to be possessed, enjoyed, consumed, and stored, both for practical purposes and the pleasure such activities provide in and of themselves. (Revelation 20:12; Daniel 7:10;)

II. The pursuit of the knowledge contained in books is a good end, to be honoured and pursued. (Proverbs 18:15;)

III. Books are not created equally, some having lesser value, utility, sentimentality, accuracy, and usefulness. These variations appear both along objective and subjective lines and may wax and wane both in the lifecycle of the book and its owner also.

IV. The relationship between books and their owners since the fall, hath become like unto the relationship between the gardener and his garden. Libraries give many pleasures as well as many pains, thorns as well as fruits, and tares amongst the wheat so that book lovers labour by the sweat of their brow. Books, like mankind, are like grass and the flowers of the field, quickly passing away, getting lost, stolen, damaged, and otherwise brought to seasons of unfruitfulness. (Ecclesiastes 12:12; 2 Timothy 4:13; Psalm 103:15–16; Isaiah 40:6–7;)

V. Books, like all other possessions ought to be held with a loose hand. Due to the finitude of mankind, all libraries are inherently limited, with their proper bounds ordained by God beforehand, a state wherein they should be kept to. Due to these limitations and the tumultuous relations between books and their owners since the fall, like a garden, libraries must be pruned and maintained in order to attain unto a healthy and happy existence thereof.  Such tending will, at times, including book purging. Some branches must be broken so the wild olives can be grafted in. (Matthew 6:19-21; Romans 11:17)

VI.  Book purging is not meritorious, in and of itself, and hath no value if pursued on along the lines of a worldly asceticism, a desire to show off with acts of self-flagellation, and other fleshly motivations.  If, however, it be pursued with faith and a sense of duty towards God, ones self, or ones neighbour, it is a most honourable and useful pursuit. It is to be carried out solemnly and yet with a cheer, knowing the joy that is set before us if we tend our library well. (Colossians 2:16-23l Psalm 126:5)

VII. There be many honorable reasons for book purging, all under the overarching heading of dealing wisely with ones charge, including but not limited to: making room for other books or other needful things, focusing ones collection, sharing with others who may have need of a particular volume, selling to collect funds for other good and necessary purposes, eliminating them due to their lack of utility or purpose, realizing that one will never realistically read half the books one owns, teaching oneself to hold loosely to ones possessions. (Proverbs 17:2; II Corinthians 9:7; Luke 3:11; Hebrews 13:16)

VIII. In purging ones library, one ought to never give away book of which it could be justly said that, it will be useful, of immense interest, or otherwise valuable to, ones self, ones spouse, or ones progeny. In the like manner, one must never lightly throw away or destroy a book, but rather seek, as far as lieth within you, to find a new owner. (Luke 15:12)

IX. Every man stands or falls before his own master, and no man ought to pass judgement on your book purging, and neither ought you to fear men when you have determined that a book ought to be purged. (Colossians 2:16)

X. Book purging, when justifiable, like all other activities of the believer done in faith to the glory of God, ought to be done heartily, as unto God and not men. (Colossians 3:23)

XI. If you tire of your labours in purging, and such is common among fallen men, remember that the hard-working tender of books ought to have a first share of his crop. Do not be anxious about it, but proceed in faith and prayer. Much pain and travail is caused by getting rid of books, even those which are not valuable or useful, and yet, you will have your reward if you persevere. We are often reminded that our life is but a mist. However, your lack created by getting rid of a book, will be restored to you many fold, if not in this life, certainly in the life to come. (2 Timothy 2:6; Philippians 4:6–7; James 4:14; Philippians 4:19;)

(photo from Internet)

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