Monday, April 26, 2010

Do You Recommend Books You Disagree With?

Do you ever recommend books you disagree with? (Please forgive my ending that question with a preposition, but it seems to work best that way.)

It is easy for us to fall into a dual-trap. First, we only read books we agree with. Second, if we happen to read something we disagree with, we then don't recommend it to other people. In fact, we often tell them not to read it.

For example, it would be easy for me to only read books that are "Reformed." This would, I'm sure, make me feel very good about my beliefs in God's sovereignty over salvation. However, if I never read anything by anyone who isn't Reformed, then I'll never be challenged in what I believe. Am I so scared that I don't dare read anything that I might disagree with?

What this amounts to is a strange form of self-censorship. It's kind of like hiding in a cave and hoping no one finds us.

When we tell others not to read a certain book, we are trying to pull others into the cave with us.

I'm suggesting that it is healthy to both read books with which we disagree and to recommend these to others. For example, I just recently read and reviewed Why We Love the Church (read the reviews first here and then here). I found this book to be disappointing. I disagree with much of it. However, I'm glad I read it and encourage you to do the same.

I recently recommended a website for book reviews named Discerning Reader. Although I like the site, the one problem is that the contributors do not seem to recommend books they disagree with. Why? I don't know.

There are, of course, situations where we would all not recommend a book. If a book is full of obscenities, for example, then it would not be proper to read.

In this post, I'm mostly referring to theological works. We all tend to like to read what most interests us. This is understandable. The problem begins when we only read those things to the absolute exclusion of others. Even worse, we then try to keep others from reading those books.

My suggestion is that we all make more of an effort to read books (maybe one out of every ten?) we think we may disagree with (or at least part of). Let us also shy away from not recommending books just because they don't fit our particular theological likings. In fact, let's recommend them if they seem worthwhile. Remember, a book can be worthwhile even if we disagree with it.

We in the evangelical church suffer from too much theological myopia. We rarely look outside whatever our particular bubbles are. This is not healthy.

Let's read, read well, and read widely. Let us also recommend the same.


Aussie John said...


"We in the evangelical church suffer from too much theological myopia. We rarely look outside whatever our particular bubbles are. This is not healthy."

How very true!

To answer your heading question: Yes, but try to be discerning about what books and to whom.

Eric said...


I agree that discernment is a key. My problem is usually less an issue of discernment than wanting to just recommend books that I really like.

Bad Catholic said...

Great Post!

A friend of mine walked into my personal library one day and upon perusing the books and seeing a volume by an atheist was incredulous and said "Why do you read books by people you disagree with?"

I said "If you don't educate yourself about things that your against, how do you know that you're against them?"

In fact, sometimes, I really enjoy reading arguments that I totally disagree with. Remember, Saint Paul said that he was able to win converts by being "all things to all men." That means being able to understand another person's point of view.

Pax Et Bonum!

Eric said...

Bad Catholic,

Thanks for your comment.

It really is so easy to just read what we believe. This indicates a fear that someone might actually have a better argument than what we believe.

I agree that reading atheists, while challenging, is a good exercise.