The Library’s Place Within the Greater Christian Community
Where does a library fit in the Christian life? Is it solely a place of information and resources in an academic setting or is there more to it than that? A recent blog by Betty Dekens and the book by Vishal Magalwadi The Book that Made Your World, reminded me that the Library in a setting such as Prairie Bible Institute plays a vital role in the life of the community. Not just as resources to be loaned out but as a bridge between academia and the Christian life within this community.
As we all know by now, no dichotomy exists between the academic world and the Christian life. All we need to do is to look back at the church fathers who wrote and did theology for the Church to answer the question, “how are we now to live in light of the Gospel?” and desire those around them to live the Christian life as well.
Scripture clearly tells us to “love the Lord with all your soul, heart and mind.” The Library plays an important role in that. Vishal Mgalwadi mentions the early Chinese libraries and their invention of rotating book cases, very impressive. While walking through the monasteries, one could hear the whirling of the rotating shelves. They were not rotating because the Chinese monks were studying the content of the bookshelves, but they were meditating using the sound of the rotating book cases to empty their minds. Christians on the other hand are to use their minds and fill their minds with the knowledge of God. And this is where the Library plays a crucial role. According to blogger Betsy Dekens, additionally, the library plays a crucial role in cultivating relationships, not only with God but with each other. In her words, “the library reflects God’s creational order in that it is an open space for the cultivating and celebrating of relationships in the midst of creation.” How does she propose that happens? The resources that the library provides, allow individuals to study, learn and explore him through his works. The Library is a sanctuary of learning, as quiet places for self-reflection and study but, as it is the case in T.S Rendall Library, a place for theological debates and reflections, where students can express their views and feel free enough to do so. Again, I quote Dekens, because I think she got it right, “The library provides a space that promotes and responds to creativity and curiosity more holistically. Google and Wikipedia are convenient, but the shelves of the internet don’t prod our curiosity, don’t invite us to sit, wait, curiously page through, and find more than we came looking for. Libraries, and I count our library here at Prairie among those, encourage curiosity and provide contextualized information.”
The Christian Library complements the Library (the sixty six books of the Bible) with sources from men and women who have grappled and are still grappling with the text and in living out the Christian life in light of Scripture. Students have an amazing privilege to study and research the resources of those who creatively wrote down their ideas and findings. Standing on the shoulders of those long gone, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Barth and others who are still with us and who desire to live the Christian life and use their creative minds to encourage us to use our minds as we are intended to do as image bearers of the Creative God.