And now for something completely different…
One of my original purposes for creating this site was to introduce and recommend books that I believe every Christian should read. My lists of non-fiction, fiction, history and biographies are works in progress to which I add as I discover new books that I feel are worthy to be included. On the other hand, there are some books that are not worth anyone’s time and energy to read, regardless of personal taste and preference, and that includes, unfortunately, books that are written by and for Christians. In this three-part series I would like to focus on eight such books, and believe me, I know there are many more where these came from! (One writer states, “A dump truck would not be large enough to haul all of the heresy out of a typical Christian Booksellers Convention.” I’m afraid I might agree.)
For the most part, I strive to make my site and articles positive, so this article may be taken as being negative and critical. But sometimes critiques can be useful. My intent is not to judge the character, motives or the spiritual status of any of these writers, but merely to bring attention to the problems, concerns, and in some cases dangers found within these works. My hope is that Christians will read with their Bibles open, their minds engaged, and their hearts guarded whenever they read anything written by a fallible human being. I have no doubt that what I submit here may raise objections and push-back from some, but I hope it will challenge many to be wise and careful readers and to use the Word of God as their ultimate resource for life and doctrine.
To clarify, I am not saying that everything found in each of these books is bad/wrong/evil. In fact, isn’t it true that the most insidious thing about false teachings is that they always contain some good or truth in them? However, the Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to be alert and to preach the word faithfully,
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (II Timothy 4:3-4).
If there’s ever been a time when people sought to have their ears tickled, it’s now. Some people defend books like those I am about to discuss by stating that as a result of reading them people have been saved, brought closer to the Lord, or challenged to take their relationship or walk with Him more seriously. In her memoir book Girl Meets God, Lauren Winner describes how she was converted to Christianity as a result of reading Jan Karon‘s Mitford books. She comments, “I feel annoyed that in His wisdom, [God] chose to reel me in with middle-brow Christian fiction. It could be worse, I suppose. I could have come to faith while reading Left Behind.“ The truth is, Yes, God can use anything to change hearts and lives; as my pastor often reminds us, He even used the mouth of a donkey in one case that we know of (see the story of Balaam in Numbers 22:21-35). But that doesn’t justify the use of bad doctrine, self-serving motives, or worldly methods to instruct or encourage people in their faith. Sorry, folks, the ends do NOT justify the means.
One disclaimer: I have not personally read most of these books. Some people may say: How can you judge or criticize a book if you haven’t read it? Well, I don’t believe the teachings of The Koran, The Book of Mormon, or The Communist Manifesto, but I admit I haven’t taken the time to read those. I can read about them and talk to others who have read them and learn enough from credible sources to know that I don’t agree with what they teach and don’t want to waste my time reading them.
To be honest, my virtual pile of “tbr” (to-be-read) books is constantly growing, so whenever I read several well-written reviews by reliable sources of a popular book that helps me to remove it from that list, I am relieved and happy to do so. I actually have labelled one of my Goodreads bookshelves “Books I have no intention of reading.” Because life is too short…
So rather than taking the time to read and write a review of each these books, I will give a very brief statement about each one, include a few selected passages and/or a bit of commentary on some of them, and then provide links to complete reviews for you to investigate. Finally, in the spirit of Eat This, Not That!, I will offer some alternative reading options for your consideration.
So without further ado, I present the following books, listed from earliest to most recently published, that I would suggest every Christian is better off skipping:
Two reasons not to read this book series: Bad literature. Bad theology. Of course everyone is familiar with this series, set after the (supposed) Rapture has taken place. After the Rapture of Christians happens, a group of individuals who is left behind unites their efforts to fight the evil and powerful Anti-Christ character. The problem with this book is that the authors have made a mockery of the truth by taking a serious Biblical topic and combining it with their own interpretation and ideas of it (although the publisher guarantees that the story is theologically sound) and turning into a poorly written thriller.
Jerry Falwell is quoted as saying, “In terms of its impact on Christianity, it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible.” If this is true, it’s concerning. Some people have taken these books way too seriously and literally, and come away thinking, “Oh, this is what it’s going to be like.” Um, no, this is called FICTION, and comes purely out of the mind and imagination of the writers. One reviewer commented that he had known people who actually prayed for the characters in the book!
If you don’t hold to the pre-tribulation view of the end times (which I don’t), you will probably find this book intolerable and ridiculous. It seems to me that LB does more to expose the holes and problems of the pre-trib view than help it. Where in Scripture does it teach that after Christ’s return unbelievers will have a second chance and more people will be saved? The Bible indicates that when Christ returns, the faithful ones will be raised, followed by the judgment of the wicked – there is no second chance for them at that point. But eschatological views aside, even if you are a pre-trib rapture-believing Dispensationalist there are other problems to be found in this series, which is supposed to present Christian ideas. It doesn’t appear that the gospel message of salvation – how one becomes a Christian and the role of faith, repentance, and obedience to Christ – comes through in these books either. From what I’ve read, the emphasis is more on doing what one must to survive and save oneself, and on punishing the Enemy.
More full reviews of this book:
- 20 Years Later: Left Behind Leftovers (www.imallbooked.com)
- Review of the Left Behind series (www.rapidnet.com)
- LB Series Description and Critique (ljohns.ambs.edu)
A lot of secular post-Apocalyptic literature has been written, including The Road
by Cormac McCarthy, The Stand by Stephen King, and recently The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins — books that at the very least are better works of literature and have more developed characters. Folks, if you really feel the need to read Christian fiction, there’s better stuff out there.
What to read instead:
- C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy
- The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
- Ted Dekker’s Circle Series, Black, Red, and White
- Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
In I Chronicles 4:10 we read, “Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!’ And God granted him what he requested.” This is the verse that Wilkinson builds on in this short work. Wilkinson introduces his book as follows:
I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief—only one sentence with four parts—and tucked away in the Bible, but I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God. This petition has radically changed what I expect from God and what I experience every day by His power. In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.
So the book is basically about how to use your prayers to manipulate God into giving you what you want, and not to take No as an answer. According to Wilkinson, God wants to bless everyone, we just have to invite Him and give Him permission to do so.
Wilkinson says, “I don’t want to go to heaven and hear God say: “Let’s look at your life, Bruce. Let me show you what I wanted for you and tried repeatedly to accomplish through you. but you wouldn’t let me.”
So apparently if I don’t pray for what I want God to do in my life, if I’m not persistent, then God is limited in what He can or will do. Wow, pretty pathetic picture of a Sovereign God, don’t you think?
We do know that, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).” But the focus of our prayer shouldn’t be on the prayer itself, but on the One to whom we are praying. We don’t use prayer to channel God’s power or to win God’s favor. Prayer is how we express our dependence on Him and our trust in His sovereign will in our life. And it’s an expression of our relationship to God, not a formula to be followed.
More full reviews of this book:
- The Bestsellers: The Prayer of Jabez (www.challies.com)
- Book Review: The Prayer of Jabez (cicministry.org)
- Another Review of The Prayer of Jabez (banneroftruth.org)
- Two Easy-to-Spot Problems with The Prayer of Jabez (steakandabible.com)
- Praying Like Jabez? (www.letusreason.org)
- And yet one more review of The Prayer of Jabez (www.inplainsite.org)
What to read instead:
- A Guide to Fervent Prayer by A. W. Pink
- A Method for Prayer: Freedom in the Face of God by Matthew Henry
- The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life by Charles H. Spurgeon
- Answers To Prayer by George Mueller
In the Introduction to her book, Sarah Young says, “I knew that God communicated with me in the Bible, but I yearned for more.” She explained the concept of her book to CBN this way:
My journey began with a devotional book (God Calling) written in the 1930’s by two women who practiced waiting in God’s Presence, writing the messages they received as they “listened.” About a year after I started reading this book, I began to wonder if I too could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but this was one-way communication: “monologue.” I knew that God communicates through the Bible (and I treasure His Word), but I wondered what He might say to me personally on a given day. So I decided to “listen” to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I sensed He was saying. Of course, I wasn’t listening for an audible voice; I was seeking the “still, small voice” of God in my mind/heart.
She recorded the thoughts that came to her and published them in a book, claiming they are direct, divine revelations from God, not only for her, but for the reader. She explains, “I have written from Jesus’ point of view; that is, the first person singular (‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘Mine’) always refers to Christ. ‘You’ refers to you, the reader, so the perspective is that of Jesus speaking to you.” Besides supposedly speaking for Jesus, Young’s book smacks of mysticism and New Age concepts such as channeling, visualization, and automatic writing. Proceed, if you must, with caution.
More full reviews of this book:
- 10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling (www.challies.com)
- Toxic Devotion (cicministry.org)
- “Writing Under the Influence” (www.solasisters.com)
- Is Deception Calling? (steakandabible.com)
- One Woman’s story about Jesus Calling (www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com)
What to read instead:
- Morning and Evening:Daily Readings by Charles Spurgeon
- The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
Next time we will consider three more books that I believe every Christian would be better off not reading.If you’ve read any of these books, what was your take on them? Did you find them to be biblical and profitable?
- The novels of Jan Karon (banneroftruth.org)
- The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology: Book Review (www.godandscience.org)
- What is the Abomination of Desolation? (thegospelcoalition.org)
- Left Behind 2014 movie review, Part 1 (gospelspam.com)
- Problems with The Prayer of Jabez (www.crossroad.to)
- Warning about Jesus Calling (www.solasisters.com)
- A First Person Defense of writing in Jesus’ Voice (www.nytimes.com)
- Tim Challies’ Bestsellers series of reviews (www.challies.com)