What Are You Reading?

Theological anemia, and off-the-chart rates of biblical illiteracy in the American church have created a situation in which the common Christian lacks the needed discernment with which to evaluate what they read. The result is that they're left exposed to material that, at best, is lacking in its discipleship quality, and at worst, is flatly heretical, and therefore dangerous to their growth in Christ-likeness. 

Examples of this include the popularity and influence of works that have so-called "Christian" themes, yet are works of complete and utter fiction. It's a matter of spiritual depression when a Christian's understanding of the Holy Spirit is informed by a book written about a shed in someone's backyard. Or, when their understanding of the Christian life is based upon reveling in the creation, rather than the Creator.

Why is this issue significant to counseling, and what can we do about it?

What we read matters because all books convey a particular worldview, especially those that are promoted as being "Christian." And counseling, especially biblical counseling, seeks to bring shape and clarity to how we understand ourselves, the circumstances we face, and how we ought to respond. Too often, the books we find on the best-seller list at the bookstore are in direct conflict with sound biblical instruction, and are written by authors who, quite frankly, are espousing "good ideas," as opposed to "sound doctrine" (Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 6:3-4; Titus 2:1).

When considering your next book purchase, think about the following issues, and consider it a privilege for the author to speak into your sanctification. Set the standard high, and do not assume that a book is valuable just because everyone else is reading it. Remember, even Christian publishers have a bottom line, and that bottom line is: will it sell?

Here's how I evaluate a book prior to reading:
  1. Who's the author, and what are their qualifications for writing on their given topic?
  2. Where did the author go to school? Christian authors have often attended bible college or seminary. Their education will likely influence their writing, and not all schools are cut from the same mold. For example, the graduate of a liberal seminary may not affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. This would be a significant red flag for me.
  3. Who is the books publisher, and what kind of books are they known for publishing? Does the book I'm considering fit their publishing history?
  4. As I'm reading the book, does the essence of the book point to what I do, or what Christ has done?
  5. Does the essence of the book's focus seem creation or Christ centered?
  6. Has the author cherry-picked a verse or word from Scripture, and unnecessarily or unwisely crafted an entire theology? The way an author uses a particular passage may sound logical, but does it square with the whole of Scripture?
All of this may seem cumbersome, when all we want is a good read. But unfortunately, we live in an era that requires theological fastidiousness. 

Those are some of my concerns when book buying.

What are some of yours?