Discernment and Christian Books

Discernment and Christian Books - Parenting Like HannahWithout a doubt, the best book you and your children can read is the Bible. You don’t have to worry about whether or not the authors are accurately communicating God’s will for your life. As the inspired word of God, you can rest assured the Bible has everything you need to support you and your kids in your efforts to live a Christian life.

Even if your teens read their Bibles daily though, they will be reading lots of other books during their high school and college years. Some will be written by people who make no claim to try and communicate any sort of values or will admit their books have no intrinsic value other than entertainment.

The books that scare me are the ones my daughter might read that are written by Christian authors. There is a tendency to assume that since most of the authors are famous ministers or are well known in their ministry area, the things they write should carry just about as much weight and value as scripture. Unfortunately, sometimes Christians would be better off had they not purchased the book at all.

Recently, I decided to read a Christian book written by a New York Times best selling author, Steven Furtick. The book, Crash the Chatterbox is currently the number one book on Amazon under Christian Discipleship and that, in my opinion, is unfortunate. Not only is the book stylisticly mediocre, but its content also leads people down a path I am not sure is exactly where God would want them to be.

This weekend, I was discussing with a teacher the amount of misinformation available to teens today. She said she teaches her students to look for four basic things and then to discern whether or not the information is really something upon which they wish to base their decisions. If you apply the list to this book, it doesn’t come out very well in my opinion.

  • Who is the author and what do you know about him or her? I generally do this before purchasing or reading any book, especially Christian books. It helps me understand if the author may be pre-disposed to a particular bias (Every author has a bias. I just want to know what it is.) or has past experiences which may make me question or trust their integrity and reliability as an informed source. I intentionally did not do that for this book until I began to be uncomfortable with some of the things I was reading. Once I did a little research on the author, I made sure to be more vigilant in comparing what he was writing to the Bible and what God has to say. It doesn’t mean the author still does not have good, godly points to make, it just increases the odds that he may also write things that are slightly or entirely off base.
  • What is the author’s purpose? One would hope a Christian author’s primary purpose is to help others get to Heaven. While that may have been one of Mr. Furtick’s purposes, he mentioned one too many times that he was a best selling author feeling pressure to write another best seller when writing this book. Not only did it make the writing feel forced in many places, but it made me feel the readers’ money was the primary goal of the book.
  • Is the author credible? I will tell you a secret litmus test to give preachers and Bible teachers. It is not perfect, but I have found it to be extremely helpful. If the person quotes people, psychologists and psychology more than actual scriptures, there is almost always an issue. Mr. Furtick opens every chapter with a quote. The quotes ranged from Jay Z to Dickens and only one scripture. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but he also makes numerous awkward pop references, often in the midst of a somewhat serious train of thought. The references feel as forced as a parent trying to be “cool” around teens. Furtick seems to have gotten at least several of his insights from psychologists. Once again, that is not necessarily bad, but in spite of referring to several people in the Bible to prove his points, it seemed like his inspirations and influences were more secular in nature.
  • Is the information reliable? Here lies the biggest problem I had with this book. I agree Christians should accept God’s grace and not constantly beat themselves up in their internal dialogue. My issue is that the entire book seemed to encourage what my dad calls “navel gazing”. Furtick spends way too much time encouraging people to listen to, analyze, replace and basically focus on their inner thoughts. What I see in the scriptures, when taken as a whole, is encouragement to focus outside of ourselves on worship, living godly lives, relating to God through Bible study and prayer, service to God and others and sharing our faith. I find when I am focused on those things, my mind is not filled with negative thoughts. I am either too busy, too tired or too focused on godly things to have time to ruminate on negative self-talk. When I do hear negative self talk, I find I need it because I have gotten off track – either because I have sin I need to address or I have let my priorities get shifted.

If you decide to read this book, please carefully compare what is written to the scriptures as a whole. Consider spending time thinking about and doing godly things instead of trying to hear and analyze an inner dialogue that may not deserve your attention. If you struggle, some of his ideas may help you, but personally I would suggest other books before this one.

Christian books can be great and add some modern examples to what we find in the Bible. Some may encourage you to do what you have already encountered in scripture. Just make sure you and your kids know how to evaluate anything you read and hear by the tests above and choose carefully what you read. If you are looking for the best book to read, the Bible is definitely it!

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. Frankly, it reminded me how important it is to have the Bible as the book we read for religious guidance.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)