Before buying the next inspirational bestseller, ask this question . . .

Chris —  March 28, 2011 — 7 Comments

Before being shaped by a book, movie, or sermon, ask yourself this question, “To what source of authority does this work appeal?”

Tim Challies posted today about another inspirational book selling like Cabbage Patch Dolls in 1982. I don’t think Tim was a good mood when he wrote the review, and I’m right there with him on this one. It’s Monday and I am grumpy, though I would point out that I just loaded the dishwasher and have now violated Matthew 6:1 by mentioning it here.  (I read this and it helped a little).

Anyway, the book Tim reviewed is about a 4 year old’s recollection of a visit to heaven. Tim more than adequately points out the problems with teaching based on the experience of a toddler.  I won’t rehash his arguments and I haven’t read the book.

But I think it is worth reminding our church family and other readers that a very basic question we should ask when considering an inspirational or Christian book is this, “To what source of authority does this book appeal?” Does the authority to which the author appeals reside in the Bible?

The question is not:

  • Can the author construct a hypothetical scenario that seems compelling to me? For instance, if an author says, “If God sends x number of people to hell, then we have problems,” the author is not appealing to any biblical authority.  Rather, he is appealing to what resonates with people’s culturally conditioned sensibilities.
  • Do I like how the story makes me feel? All kinds of fiction make people feel good during the duration of a movie or a book.  Audiences felt good when they watched the movie Pretty Woman.  But do we really think that the way to redemption for a prostitute and a selfish materialist would be an extended business relationship?
  • Does the story involve me? There are all sorts of stories that draw an audience in so that they want to know the outcome or resolution of the plot.  However, this doesn’t mean that we should allow them to shape our worldview.
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7 responses to Before buying the next inspirational bestseller, ask this question . . .

  1. Good and wise words here, Chris. Thank you.

  2. i have to ask myself, “is there a reason i want to — or don’t want to — like this book?” i haven’t figured out what it is or why it’s there, but there’s something in me that wants to dislike certain authors and like others.

    i really wanted to dislike ‘the shack’ and ‘love wins.’ i haven’t read either. i really wanted to like don miller’s books — and have liked about half the ones i’ve read. i want to like walter brueggemann; and i’ve found that, after rereading every paragraph three times, i both understand and like him.

  3. Excellent insight into a topic all Christians seriously need to consider. The most important book for us to read is the Bible….all others are secondary in importance. Thanks for sharing such wisdom. This is my first visit but I shall return. Pat (Pollywog Creek) left a link and I am delighted she did. Great topic!

  4. I agree. Far too many people place the experience of “dreams and visions” above Scripture–especially those found in movies in books.

  5. Truth Unites… and Divides March 29, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Do I like how the story makes me feel?

    I think, therefore I am.

    I feel strongly, therefore it is.

  6. Re: But do we really think that the way to redemption for a prostitute and a selfish materialist would be an extended business relationship?

    -Believing this premise explains a lot of Charlie Sheen’s behavior.

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