This post begins an Apologetics Toolkit series on: Tips for Lifelong Learning. The goal here is to provide a sort of “apologetics toolkit” — habits, tips, and tools the Christian apologist can use to continue to grow, learn, and develop.
Tool #01: Use Topical Reading
The Problem: Good books are imperative for learning and growing. However, many people read their good books at random. Sporadic or scattered reading may have the small benefit of keeping you interested as you jump from topic to topic — but one problem can be that often the information hasn’t saturated your mind long enough for you to think deeply on that particular subject over an extended period of time. You haven’t let it simmer in your mind. You haven’t developed your own thoughts on the topic. You quickly moved on to another topic when you could have gone deeper.
The Tool: The idea behind topical reading is to explore a subject deeply by using a number of books. Think about delving into a variety of books on one subject — say, half dozen to a dozen — and letting your mind be immersed in that subject. Throughout the process, which will last a few months, start to do a few things: 1) look for the answers to your own questions; 2) look for patterns and principles; 3) take notes and highlight meaningful passages; and 4) develop your own ideas on the subject.
The Benefit: The reward of topical reading is a deeper understanding of an area of interest that goes far beyond a piecemeal reading method. For the Christian apologist, this means gaining a better grasp on a challenging issue, developing mastery in a subject of particular interest, and going beyond the superficial knowledge that often results from scattered, non goal-directed reading. So try it — pick a subject of interest and really delve in.
What are your tips for reading? What methods work best for you?
For the book on learning through reading, Apologetics 315 recommends How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren. You won’t approach reading the same again.
What was last year’s post? It’s audio from Dan Wallace.