If you are like me, you like books. I have always loved reading, but I easily get overwhelmed with all that’s out there. Recently, I was talking with a friend about a few books that seem to have swept readers, especially women, off their feet. These books, I fear, are dangerous. I’m not talking “50 Shades of Gray” dangerous but “Christian” books on Christian books store shelves that are troubling. As Christians, I think we should be avid readers, but we should always read with discernment. I wanted to share a few tips I have learned when it comes to discerning a good Christian book from a bad Christian book.
1. Know Yourself
Know what you can handle. I am a sensitive reader and am easily affected by what I read, so I have to be careful what I pick up. For example, if you are struggling in the area of biblical womanhood, I wouldn’t recommend reading a book promoting “Christian feminism”. This would cause confusion rather than clarity. Instead I might lead you to Elizabeth Elliot’s book Let Me Be a Woman. It’s important to read books that will encourage you on a topic and keep you grounded.
2. Know the Author and Their Intent
Recently, I read an introduction to a devotional book by Sarah Young called Jesus Calling. I had previously read a review about her book that made me a little nervous. And when I read her introduction for the book in her own words, I was convinced that the book might be undermining the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Read author bios, book introductions and forwards, and check out their credentials.
3. Know Reviews
Most likely you aren’t going to sit through a movie you know nothing about, so why read a book you know little about? This is why it’s a good idea to read book reviews. I think it’s also wise to read a range of reviews, both positive and negative before you make a strong judgement. I would definitely stick with trustworthy sources as your main “go-to’s” (see sidebar for examples). But, next time you are on Amazon looking at a book, read a few reviews that praise the book and read a few that don’t. Then make up your own mind.
4. Know Supporters
Know who is giving the book good PR. Who endorses a book can tell you a lot about what an author stands for. I’m not saying that all are “guilty by association”, but if there is someone questionable supporting a new book, I want to know why. This may take a little digging but it will help you be more discerning as you begin to see patterns between authors and supporters.
5. Read “Bad” Books
If you are well versed in the Bible and know where you stand theologically and doctrinally, I think it is wise to read a broad range of authors, even those you might disagree with. Notice I gave a caveat here. If you are going to read a controversial book, go in with your thinking cap on. Reading books we disagree with can at times help us correct wrong thinking as well as help us converse smartly on controversial subjects.
6. Know your Bible and theology
You can’t think critically and with discernment about Christian books if you don’t know your Bible. And I’m not talking about a few memory verses. Know what you comprehensively believe about God, the doctrine of salvation, the creation of the world, the God ordained order within the Church and the home, and so on. Know theology. That might be a big sounding word but all it means is the study of God and the things of God. We should all be diligent in this endeavor. A lot of authors claim to know and love God and the Bible, and many of them do, but not all of what they write is biblical.
7. Read old Books
Old books are usually a sign that they have stood the test of time. I am currently reading some original sources for my History of Christianity class at Southern and I have been so blessed by my reading. I have often wondered why I haven’t read these things before. Don’t limit yourself to what’s hot off the press. Pick up a book that’s a hundred years old. Maybe read the great Puritan writer, Richard Baxter who wrote, The Godly Home. I can guarantee that you will be blessed by reading things of the past. Often these writings help us keep our grounding and find our bearings in a world that can go really crazy really fast at the click of the print button.
I hope this is helpful in making you think a little more about what it is that we are putting into our minds. May we never read aimlessly but instead voraciously with consideration and discernment.
Check out my sidebar for great websites and blogs that post great book reviews!