On Eating Books

A couple days ago,  a friend emailed to ask my opinion about several Christian books and their critiques. She heard they had questionable messages, and didn’t want her  family or her concept of Jesus to be destroyed by the books’ messages.

The question touched a nerve for me, and I fired back a reply. This is the edited form of what I answered, without names or titles, because those aren’t the point of this post:

I think it’s fair to say that some book isn’t my style, or that it doesn’t speak into this season of  my life. But being a writer who has been treated respectfully but also criticized, I am reeeeeeally slow to say that someone shouldn’t read another Christian’s book. My premise is Jesus’ words: “He that is not with me is against me.” Anything can be taken out of context, misunderstood, applied in wrong ways. There ARE wolves in sheep’s clothing. The enemy IS out to seek, kill, and destroy. But  books that focus on Jesus and how to get to know Him better have to be a good thing.

I don’t think we have to be scared of these books. The Spirit is a communicator. He will tell us if the fruit of the books are wrong or bad. Has the fruit/result of the book benefited you and your family? Then thank God for sharing His truth and light. No one produces light/truth on their own–it all comes from God and the praise should go back to Him and be spread to our world.
There’s going to be error in any book we read. That’s a given. Parents should protect their children; families definitely need to be a safe place to shelter children because there is evil out there. But somewhere, somehow (don’t ask me how parents should do this–it’s not my job!) children should grow to be adults who can DISCERN–key word here–what’s good and what’s not. Reading should be like eating fish–get the goodness out of it and spit out the bones.
I believe in universal truth and beauty, which means that non-believers can say and do things that are true and beautiful, mirroring God’s image in them, and testifying to the fact that satan cannot bring anything original, or create anything. Everything that comes from him is deception in some way, a twisting/perverting/distorting of the original stamp of beauty and truth that God gives to every person.
Christians have a higher call than only to mirror universal truth, because we are to be light in darkness and salt for insipidness. We are to teach and disciple and equip. Writing books is one way of doing that. It is ill-fitting for Christians to throw rocks or try to debunk other Christians who are sincerely trying to be voices that teach and equip and encourage. It is really dangerous to judge another Christian’s motivation or level of sincerity.
Where there is obvious sinful teaching that is not repented of, there is cause for caution and concern. (And ironically here, the internet is not the most reliable source of truth.) Where there is blatant falsehood or open defiance of God’s word or where good is called evil and evil is called good–these are reasons for not buying a book or not encouraging others to read it. There are spiritual powers and battles around us that we easily forget, and we should know that what we read and say has direct influence on the spirit world, for good or evil. BUT we should not be paranoid or flailing at bookshelves to make sure that no evil thing is in any book.
Is our faith in our expertise/wisdom/discernment, or is our faith in the Lord and His spirit and His endless faithfulness?
Will He or won’t He let us stray?
Are we or aren’t we safe in His hand?
Does a Christian author really have the power to take our faith away and turn us and our family off the narrow path of life?
If we ask God to guide us, and if our hearts are clear before Him, He will not accuse us. Satan is the accuser. The Spirit is faithful to convict. The peace of God is our umpire and can call the shots and tell us if something is wrong or dangerous. If our hearts are soft and sensitive to His gentle, loving voice, we don’t have to be scared that He will let us slip and swallow poison. His heart toward us is to keep us faultless, not to catch us making a mistake and jump on us!
I think _________’s book is a powerful message to this generation. I believe strongly that her wisdom is from God and echoes His heart. I think she is an anointed woman for this time in history, and I think she and her family have special temptations and attacks that no one else knows about because satan hates her kind of message, and her kind of family and marriage.
It is really wrong for Christians to attack each other.  Even when there is obvious error, we should be the ones who can speak honestly about it while handing out equal amounts of grace and forbearance.   Christians fail each other, and some Christian writers fail terribly. They carry a great responsibility (to whom much is given, much is required) but it is not a fellow Christian’s place to accuse and debunk. We should be known for our love and wisdom and grace, not our rigidity and harshness.
People liked spending time with Jesus, and I’m sure it was because of how much He lived in grace and truth. He is my hero and I want to live and read like that too.

Related post: Comments on The Jesus I Never Knew

12 thoughts on “On Eating Books

  1. Thank you for this, Anita! I especially agree with your point on discernment. I believe we must learn to hear God on what is and what isn’t good and appropriate for our lives and the lives of our children. It’s a fine balance. We don’t need, as my dad likes to put it, to “root in the garbage” for the sake of exposure, but neither are we interested in raising “tomato heads” (thanks for that picturesque term, Mike Pearl) incapable of thinking on their own. Walk in the Spirit!
    Good thoughts here! 🙂 Hugs and blessings!

  2. I couldn’t get done head-nodding. I love this line (among many): “His heart toward us is to keep us faultless, not to catch us making a mistake and jump on us!”
    And the part about eating fish…and the Christian’s higher calling being more than to mirror universal truth.
    So much great insight here.

  3. I’m going to take a guess that my post is probably the one you were talking about, since I see you wrote a comment on there. A woman gave me your link on fb and here is my reply to her: “If I know there is a cliff ahead and fail to warn the person next to me, won’t God hold me accountable? Frankly, posting articles like I did is not my cup of tea. But when I fight the conviction of the Holy Spirit for months, I finally realize it must be done God’s way, even when it’s unpopular.”

    I say all this respectfully because you are definitely entitled to your opinion. But I do believe we need to know how the New Age is creeping into our lives, and our churches. It’s something that our generation is beginning to face. And if I don’t know what it is and how to spot it, and teach my children so, it could very well be what sucks them into the devil’s trap, the world, and eventually to hell.

    There is a time to have grace and show love. There is also a time to point out what is truth and what is error. Jesus did both in eating with the sinners and also calling the Pharisees “white-washed sepulchres”. And we know He is never wrong.

    God bless.

    ~ Kendra

    • Kendra, while I enjoy a hearty discussion, I don’t want to argue either here in a public place, or in my living room if we could drink coffee together and talk– which I would welcome! Maybe we would end up agreeing to disagree, I don’t know. If your conscience doesn’t let you read that book, you need to honor that. Everyone brings their own story to the book at hand. If someone can’t accept a book’s message for the sake of their conscience, that’s fair.

      But I don’t think it’s fair to publicly judge an author’s intentions or to say that following their message could take one to hell. God is way bigger than one book or one evil force (such as the New Age as you mention), and He is eager to guide us when our feet stray. My confidence is in HIM and not my smarts.

      Also, “the New Age” means many different things to many different people, and I think it’s a mistake to focus on this one aspect of the enemy and be all scared about it while there are a myriad other ways with which he wants to defeat us. His forces are great, but darkness will never overcome light!

  4. Thank you. This is brilliant and discerning. But a mostly misunderstood position. Grateful for God’s grace in your life. The easy way is to label this book, that book, this practice, that practice as evil and thus avoid it. At times that may be necessary for certain people and at certain times in their walk. But to label something as wholly evil and beyond the reaches of God’s work and influence is to give the evil too much power.

  5. I loved this Anita–have been rolling some of this stuff around in my head for months. You have articulated so well what my heart was pondering. 🙂 I so agree with Tamar’s comment too! Jesus is so so much greater than evil, and love so much stronger!

  6. One of my favorite things to do in reading class, story time, or anytime we’re reading a text is to ask my students to figure out what the author thinks about ideas that are mentioned or even alluded to. The Holy Spirit should be our guide, but there’s also a skill set to be taught in recognizing the goals of an author.

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