I am in the midst of trying to get the first chapter of my thesis done. I want to have it completed before we leave for the States next month. There are times that it is going well and then there are times when getting words down on paper is a little like pulling teeth. However, I think I am in a good place and the chapter will be finished on time. This process has reminded me once again of the importance of reading well.
Part of my chapter is laying out a way to read Bavinck. It isn't a large part of the chapter and it isn't even the main focus, but it gives a theory for reading Bavinck. The suggestion I make (following other scholars), is that Bavinck is complicated. He has a lot of influences that can seem contradictory. The careful reader will note these influences, and instead of trying to flatten out problematic statements with simplistic narratives, the reader will try to see how they fit into a larger whole.
Bavinck is a good example of having to read well. However, Bavinck is just an example. The best writers, the writers most worth reading, are the ones that we have to read slowly. Often they have a lot more going on in the background than a surface reading would initially indicate. Reading well requires slow reading. It requires having the background information on writers. Where did they study? When did they live? With whom did they study? What was their cultural milieu? When we read slowly, when we read well, we frequently see that the people we thought were simple or easy to understand are complicated. Reading slowly allows us to see that flattening a writer's thought is not nearly as satisfying as realizing they are complicated.