This is a question I have received from several people in the last week, and a question I receive several times a year. My answer to this question varies depending on the motivation of the reader, the maturity level of the reader, or the position the leader serves in (especially within the church). So let give you 3 reasons or scenarios in which I would encourage someone to read books they know they are going to disagree with and then I will share 3 reasons or scenarios in which I would discourage such a practice.
Yes, read a book you know you might not agree with …
- If you need to have a better understanding of an author’s thinking process, worldview, and conclusions. I will give you an example. A few years ago I read God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. I knew this author took a position that allows for the practice of homosexuality. And I was 100% I knew that the Scripture teaches otherwise. However, his views are presented exegetically, using the same types of hermeneutics many of us use. Therefore, I realized this would be an important book to consider because his arguments were not cultural or social but the author would say his case was a biblical case. Also, his ministry is based in Wichita, KS (where I live), but he got the attention of men like Albert Mohler and John MacArthur. Thus, I needed to read it to be able to better counteract so-called biblical arguments coming from those who condone this view.
- If you are a church leader, because you are called to protect the flock (Act 20:28). There are blogs and books and preachers that will speak into the members of your congregation and some of them shouldn’t be. Now, you can’t police every person’s intake, but when you hear of a book, for example, gaining the curiosity of a number of members and it is not biblically accurate and it is circulating through your church, you need to know it and read it best as you can to be able to present a biblical case that counters false views. We did this at our church a few years ago when the “heaven tourism” books were popular and one in particular, Heaven is For Real, had piqued the interest of some. We considered the book, and then taught through a series on what the Bible teaches regarding heaven and hell.
- If you want to challenge your own theology. Perhaps you are a pre-millennialist and you want to consider arguments against this view in eschatology in order better “shore up” your own position. Maybe you believe in predestination, but need to think about the Scriptural arguments some have that counter God choosing some to salvation. Whatever the case may be, I find that reading books that I know I will disagree with doctrinally, can give me a firmer foundation in my own theology.
No, DO NOT read a book you know you might not agree with …
- If you are an immature believer and not grounded in the truth. New believers who have not yet been grounded can be tossed to and fro like children (Eph 4:14). Immature believers need discernment and wisdom in choosing reading material, and until they are further along in their walk with the Lord, they should read books that are accurate biblically and from authors they can trust. I read David’s Platt’s book Radical some years ago and benefitted greatly from his challenges to be more outwardly sacrificial to others in the Christian life, but I came away also thinking, “A young believer who lacks wisdom might think in order to please Christ, they need to quit their job tomorrow, sell their house and all their possession, and start living on the street ‘for Jesus.’” Thus, I would commend this book, but not to immature believers who don’t know the whole of Scripture’s teaching on sacrifice, responsibility, work, etc.
- If you read to many “bad books” to begin with. Someone who only reads the bad theology of others, and finds their intake out of balance, is in violation of celebrating what is good (I Cor 13:6). Paul tells us that love won’t rejoice when error is propagated, but loves the good in people and focuses of that. Too many Christians spend countless hours reading heretical books and their terrible interpretations of Scripture. Focus your reading on what is true (Phil 4:7-8).
- If you don’t have much money to spend on books. Just be wise with what God has given you. If you have a budget for books, focus on buying reading material that will build you up (Eph 4:12). God will not praise you for having books shelves filled with bad theology, but He will praise you for being a faithful servant. And one way to become a better servant of God is to understand what service looks like. And one way you can understand what service looks like is by reading about it from God’s servants who write good books.
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