Really Long Theology Books Are Not Written to be Read

Marketers have many tricks to fool people into buying their product. One of them is to blow you away with a plethora of information. Advertisements and salesmen will go on and on with statistics, jargon, detailed descriptions, and lengthy explanations.

Marketers have figured out that lengthy verbiage is a great way to make yourself sound authoritative. People will trust you’ve done your homework, you know what you’re talking about, and can be trusted.

Here’s the thing though: No one actually reads or hears the lengthy stuff!

From a book analyzing marketing comes this sentence, “The more information you’re given, the more impressive it seems, and so the less carefully you evaluate its merits.”

To put it another way, “Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.”

I wonder if this doesn’t hold true for theology as well?

We trust guys who wrote really long theology books. Anyone who can use that many words on a subject must know his stuff. We don’t bother to check if he does by reading his words, we just assume he must by the length of his book.

An added benefit is that if I have these large volumes on my shelf, I now look authoritative! Wow, Jeff has really big books on his shelf. Big books are written by people who know everything. People who have those books must know everything too.

Calvinists respect John Calvin for his writings. People respect Augustine for his volumes. People respect Luther and all his works. I wonder how many Calvinists, Augustinians, and Lutherans have read the books written by their guys?

I’m pretty sure it’s a minority. Yet they think they agree with them because some guy who also didn’t read them told you what they said, because some guy who told them knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who actually read the books once.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Some people do read long books and some of those long books are good. But this is a rare thing.

You can take my word for it, I just wrote a really long blog post about it.


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