Controversial Reading: Why?
What is the point of reading things that I disagree with? Why should I subject myself to alternate philosophies and ideas? Is there a benefit?
"Even a blind squirrel finds a healthy acorn once in a while, and almost any scholar from any ideological point on the spectrum will have some valuable things to say about the Bible."
---Ben Witherington III
People occasionally ask me why I read books that I don't agree with philosophically or practically. And many who don't ask give me that look when I tell them what I am reading. I've had friends, colleagues, and fellow students look puzzled when I tell them that I am reading Plato, or Confucius, or "Love Wins;" and that I soon want to read Nietzsche, Darwin, Gandhi, etc.
But I hold to the belief that I can learn from anyone. Most authors have found some aspect of truth that many others miss, even if the rest of their ideas are trash. And even if they don't have anything good to say, it is valuable to understand why they think the way they do, why the believe what they believe, and what the people who follow them really are following.
It is also a good mental exercise. For one cannot just know that what he is reading is wrong, but he must be able to know why what he is reading is wrong. And if he doesn't know why, than he is obligated to find out why or to change his position. It helps to keep a person intellectually honest while training him to think logically, to spot logical fallacies, to detect biases and false presuppositions that affects ones determination (while studying himself to be sure that he is not falling into these same traps in his own reasoning).
I came across this quote today and found it a perfect voice for my sentiment. Though not all controversial books I read are directly about the Bible, they are about truth. And almost any scholar comes across some aspect of truth amidst his multitude of flaws.