I recently started a podcast called Too Many Books, where my brother-in-law and I review books, predominately written by denominational authors, for ministers and other studious Christians. Some have wondered why we read so many books written by those “outside of the church”. The simple answer is that I believe these authors have valuable insights those in the church do not have. The longer, more explained answer is as follows:
I Am Appreciative of Their Perspective
With politics and social media creating increasingly larger echo chambers for everyone I find it more and more necessary to purposefully seek out and attempt to understand the perspective of others.
When addressing those in Athens about God, Paul used perspectives to his advantage by referencing their religious nature (Acts 17:22) and quoting one of their own poets (17:28).
Paul understood the power of perspective and how it can be used both to understand others better and help others to better understand you. Though I do not always agree with their conclusions, knowing where someone else is coming from is invaluable to me.
I Am Interested in Their Bible Discoveries
We have an unfortunate tendency to write-off denominational authors and their teachings because, as I have heard in more than one conversation, “if they can’t get something as simple as baptism right, why should I trust them to get anything right?”. While I understand the sentiment, I believe it to be deeply flawed. You do not have to have everything right in order to get some things right.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible showcases this very thing. The popularity of Jesus skyrockets, as does His infamy, with the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The raising of Lazarus caused more and more Jews to believe in Jesus, but it also caused those losing their power to commit to a murder plot (John 11:45-53). In the course of this planning, the high priest Caiaphas prophesies, unknowingly, about the death of Jesus (11:49-52). Up to this point, Caiaphas had gotten a lot of things about Jesus wrong, but this is one point he got very right.
Some of the best work, especially in the areas of apologetics and exegesis, have been done by authors that many ignore because “they don’t get the easy stuff right.” This is a shame because there is much to be learned from those we disagree with.
I Am Grounded in My Faith
Lastly, I read denominational writers because I am secure in the beliefs I hold. This is not to say that my mind cannot be changed, but rather that my mind does not latch onto and accept every new idea that comes my way.
It is for this reason that I cautiously recommend the books I read to others. When referencing a book while I am preaching, I will often say the author’s name and not the book title or say the book title with the caveat that “I do not agree with everything in it.” Though I believe that comment of not agreeing with everything should be a foregone conclusion, I say it so as not to run the risk of leading someone who is new to Christianity down a path that might cause them to have a false view of Christianity.
No matter what you are reading practice the idiom that has been said to me on many occasions “chew the meat and spit out the bones.” It is certainly not wrong, and I would even argue that it’s vital, that we listen and try to understand those we disagree with. You might be shocked with how many topics you agree on and you may even learn something new.
Follow this link to hear about some of the books I have both enjoyed and not enjoyed reading recently.