Christian books are popular, millions being sold not only in the local Bible and book shop, but at Targets and airports around the globe. While the word heresy is a strong word, all it means is a divergence from the authoritative belief system. Merriam-Webster says it means “a belief or opinion that does not agree with the official belief or opinion of a particular religion.” In this case, “official” means Christian history and biblical authority. Basically, if a Christian author is clearly outside of what has been historically Christian and is not backed up by the Bible as their authority, it can be called heresy.
10 Ways to Judge Popular Christian Books for Heresy!
Are you just buying the popular Christian books, or are you using discernment? This post can help Click To Tweet
Baptism is a good theology to mention, albeit briefly since we could have a theological war here over it. Plainly put, Christians baptize. While some choose not to baptize infants or call it an ordinance versus a sacrament, the orthodoxy is consistent with Christian history—even if belief is splintered or a minority view presented. Orthodoxy means what is accepted as true. In other words, I should not call my Christian friend a heretic if he or she sprinkles and I dunk fully under water. But, if there is no belief in baptism whatsoever, then that is a complete divergence—not just a minority or differing view.
If only finding unorthodoxy would be as easy when talking about popular Christian books. Heresy, in this sense is a subtlety packaged foe. We all know our denominational or biblical view on baptism—or, at least we should! But, when it comes to living out our faith in a more ordinary way, the voices out there will sell us everything from helpful devotional readings to slick self-help journals. Popular psychology mixed with christianese jumps off of store shelves. But, do we think critically about what we read? Do we read with a filter that puts the thoughts of the author and our own in proper perspective?
For example, there is a very popular book, Jesus Calling, that has sold millions. Some have spoken out about it, even condemning it. Others claim it is a literally a Godsend to them. Perhaps the book is not a dangerous heresy as some say, but maybe it is good to apply our mind a bit to what we read. Christian, God gave you a mind. If you don’t use it, are you really listening to the Holy Spirit? Are you really putting God’s Word as authority? You can and should read books that will be against orthodoxy–at times. But, do you personally know the difference?
Here are 10 questions to ask before and as you read a popular Christian book. Like Socrates, we should ask, inquire and form a judgement. Critical thinking can only strengthen our faith. Our faith is not one of blind following. So, let’s not read blindly!
1. Why did I buy this book? My motivation reveals my bias and the context of how I will look at this book. Are my biases and emotions in check?
2. Who is the author and his or her story? Every writer is biased, and that is not a bad thing. Google the story of the author. Find out who they are!
3. What credentials in theology and education does the author hold? Besides the personal and professional story, the resume and credentials help you know where the author speaks from.
4. What is the purpose of the book? In the forward you can discover why the book was written and why. Why read a book all they way without reading this first? Don’t ever skip this!
5. What kind of book is this? If this is a devotional book, then you know its simply there to inspire. If it is a Bible study book, then you expect something else.
6. What do reputable people say about the book? Reading another author’s endorsement or critique saves you time and informs you further.
7. Does the author raise personal experience as authority? We learn from the experience of Christians—from ancient to modern—but, is experience universal? No. Maybe that’s why we have four Gospels!
8. Can I explain the point of view of the author? After reading, do I know the parts and whole of the author’s point of view and intent?
9. What ramifications to real life does this book have? Does this book’s point work in real life?
10. Form your well-informed view of this book. You checked your emotions and bias, that of the authors and looked to history and the scriptures. Now, you can speak with authority.
As a follower of Christ, your critical thinking will allow you to help lead yourself to have a stronger faith. Ephesians 4 talks about being tossed about by every wind of doctrine and uses that as a contrast to maturity. You can match the Bible as authority to the well-intentioned-but-erroneous claims of pop Christian books. Maturity means you are not at the whim of whatever the latest books says out there. Happy reading!