This past June I had a delightful time in Greenville, SC, attending the annual PCA General Assembly. This was a great opportunity to do denominational business, renew old ministry acquaintances, and to be rejuvenated for the year to come.
But, there was one thing missing. Books.
Just to be clear, there were some books at GA. The CEP had arranged for a book area in the back of the assembly hall which had an assortment of titles on a variety of topics. And there were a few scattered books tables here and there.
But, it was the very limited amount of books that was noteworthy. Compared to other gatherings around the country—whether it be The Gospel Coalition or the Evangelical Theological Society—there were very few book tables. At these other events, the conference hall is filled with a massive amount of book tables, from all sorts of publishers, offering many different titles, often at a substantial discount.
Of course, one might say that PCA GA is much smaller than these other gatherings, which is true. But, even on a proportional level, if one were to account for the size difference, there seemed to be very few books.
In light of the fact that the Reformed faith (at least historically) has a rich intellectual heritage committed to serious study of biblical, theological, and historical issues, one might expect a gathering of ordained leaders (most of which have at least a Masters degree), from one of the largest conservative Presbyterian bodies in America, would have a plethora of book tables.
Put simply, Reformed folks love to read. Or at least should.
So, then, why so few books? One might surmise that it is just a practical business matter that has never really been addressed (after all, this is not the first GA with few book tables). Or maybe it’s a chicken-or-egg sort of question. Are there few book tables because PCA folks do not buy them? Or do PCA folks not buy them because there are no book tables?
Or maybe PCA folks don’t prefer to buy books at conferences and just shop on Amazon (but why don’t TGC folks do this?). Or maybe they do buy them at conferences, but just at conferences other than GA (but that raises the chicken-or-egg question again).
In the end, I suppose there is no way to know.
While the answers to these questions remain unclear, one thing, I might suggest, is clear. Maintaining the rich intellectual and theological heritage of the Reformed faith is going to require ministers who are thinkers. And thinkers are people who read.
So, I for one would love to see more book tables at GA. Not because the mere presence of books is evidence of a healthy denomination (it is not). But, because the absence of books might be evidence of the opposite.
As Cicero said in his famous maxim: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”