“How do you write your book reviews?”
This question came to me last fall from a pastor’s wife who was putting together material for a class she was teaching. I had never even thought about it really. Though, as I sat and pondered it I was able to formulate some of my process. However, I also had to admit that my earlier reviews had no rhyme or reason to them, but were based on getting free books (gasp…I am as embarrassed by the thought as I’m sure you think I should be). I am a lot more discerning now and, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t done very many reviews over the past 6+ months. And the ones I did do, I had to be honest about.
From that simple question I have enjoyed countless hours of discussion with this wonderful lady and I was so happy when she agreed to post her thoughts from the class this month. It fits in so well with our theme of “Seeking to Know the Lord…” These are great points to think about when looking at devotional material.
I hope you all enjoy Brenda Ruse and her wisdom in:
Reading with Discernment
What’s your use for a wire-mesh kitchen strainer? I use mine to refine broth, get lumps out of gravy, keep pulp out of juice, and more.
Colossians 2:8-9 warns us to guard against the quest for wisdom and principles of those who don’t know God. Sadly, we allow the viewpoints of those contrary to biblical philosophy shape our thinking and behaviour in many areas. These might include daily living, marriage, childrearing, Christian ethics, and the list goes on. It seems that the trend of late is to adopt what a certain author says as gospel truth.
As a biblicist (one who uses the Bible as my standard for living), I use God’s Word as a “strainer,” so to speak, to sift and strain what I read. This helps me discern or figure out if what I read is correct biblically (in line with what Scripture teaches). If the material passes the strainer test, then I can endorse it and use it in my life. If the material fails the strainer test, then I should not adopt it as life-changing philosophy.
Reading with discernment does not mean authors we do not agree with 100% can not be read or gleaned from. There might be things that an author says that are true and useful. Likewise, from the same author, there might be ideas and philosophies shared that are contrary to biblical standards. It is important that these works are read with a filter or standard of measurement to help us to discern what is true or false.
For example, I was given a book by a contemporary female author. The first couple of pages were relatively good, so I dug for information about the author. When I discovered that she needed more than God’s Word to help her through life, a red flag went up, and I discontinued reading her book. I didn’t want to be exposed to writings by a woman who needed extra personal messages (in some cases, visions) from God. Likewise, my homeopath can write about the benefits of BodyTalk, yet I will not allow him to use that technique on me since it is linked to new-age philosophy. I can, however, follow the dietary guide he has outlined for me when I have specific health issues.
Below are some things to think about when reading books, blog entries, and other written material. These points will seem tedious at first, yet with practice and guidance by the Holy Spirit, they in time will become second nature.
1. Where does the author stand Scripturally and theologically?
- – Do a background search – source of education, ministry, etc.
- What is the author’s belief concerning basic biblical doctrines?
2. Who/what is the final authority for the author?
- God and His Word, other revelation, or self?
- Does he/she say phrases such as, “I found God through,” “God showed me in a vision,” or other new-age links?
- Is the appeal to emotions or truth? There is a trend by a few of the “pink cult- leaders” to write in a poetical, “touchy-feely” genre. Some of the writings almost have a seductive tone and would be more appropriate in a love letter between a husband and wife.
- Am I becoming a follower of or am I fully endorsing the author? If so, why?
Published item – hard copy or online –
- What are the weaknesses and strengths? What is the author trying to tell me, and is it in line with Scripture?
Primary source – does the work agree that
- The primary source of spiritual guidance is the Word of God.
- God’s primary source of edification on the human level is my local church – not blogs, youtube, or social media
First Thessalonians 5:21-22 encourages us to prove (examine, check out, scrutinize, see if something is true) all things and hold fast (keep a firm possession of) things that are true (genuine). Likewise, we are to abstain (keep ourselves back) from those things that are evil or opposite to God’s ways. These biblical principles certainly apply to what we read and then adopt in our lives.
Are we being wise in using the Bible as our primary source? Who are we following: the latest author or God?
Brenda has been a pastor’s wife in the Maritimes for many years. She currently teaches at a local Bible Institute and is involved in women’s ministries in her church.