I’m a sucker for books, especially free books. If you are too, here is a link to a promotional giveaway from Banner of Truth, including the Puritan Paperbacks set, Romans commentary series from MLJ, and Lectures to my Students from Spurgeon.
Before I publish my next book review, I want to give some insight into why I even bother with doing book reviews. In Evangelical Christianity, we see a plethora of new books added to the stockpile of literature every year. Some excellent titles are brought forth from publishers (even from within publishers we would not expect). However, some really bad books are also put to print.
Many have a tendency to read books without much of a filter. They take in everything they can from a piece of literature without thinking of the source, the theological statements, the added principles between those statements, or the philosophy of this age that is present within it. In other words, some will ingest and mimic an author’s poor hermeneutic and presuppositions in their own personal studies of God’s Word.
As a seminarian, my explicit goal is to weed through as many books as I am able and share not only my recommendations, but also the books I would stay far away from. This is why I am so keen to review books of all different genres within the sphere of Christian lit. By leaving the selection process as open as I have, I am given more opportunity to review books from various authors (some I have heard of, some I have not).
A vitally important part of this process, that I embark on in every book I read, is to do some research on the author. I try to find out their history. I ask questions like: what other publications, be it articles or books or blogs, do they have? What is their bible study method (liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between; allegorical or literal)? What is the quality of their character (do they exhibit godliness and a desire to please God)? Whom do they associate with?
Now this last question is asking in whom they would align themselves within the field of teachers. In clearer candor – do they call heretics “brothers”; are they part of the Emergent Church; etc.? In finding out whom they rub elbows with, I can get a fragmented, but useful bit of information on what they believe about the bible. The rest I glean from their writings to either confirm or disprove my speculations.
To be clear: this part of the process does not start until about halfway through the book. I want the book to be able to speak for itself. I desire to give it a chance to be removed from the author and examined on it’s own merit. Truthfully, that doesn’t really happen, as the author’s presuppositions will always carry into the text (just as mine do in these reviews).
However, I still do this in the hopes that I don’t let my opinion of the author carry over into their writing. The author’s writing will form more of an opinion to me than any other thing that I spend research time on. This is really where we find out what they believe. If their theology is lacking, it will present itself in the text. If they are lazy writers, have an unbiblical agenda, misquote or twist scripture, have liberal or conservative theology, have a legitimate love for God’s Word and His people; it will be present in the text.
It is through this whole process that I hope to build a library of resources I can confidently give to other people and know that it will be a profitable read for them. I would rather take time out of my own life to sift through some books in order to help others who may not have that same time. I am a fast reader; I love to read; I can consume a 300-page book in a few days and I know how to mine it for gold. That being said, I also know how to identify if it is just good kindling.
Some people don’t have those skills or simply have not developed them yet. It is my hope that they can choose a recommendation from me that is thoroughly biblical and enjoyable to read. What is more of a hope for me though is that they will see a bad review and understand that some things are simply not worth wasting your time to read. Choose a book that you know will be profitable for you and bring edification to the church. Choose a book that you know will be biblical.
There are so many bad books out there – especially within the field of Christian authors. I am amazed how many actually get published. But – there are some excellent authors who dive into the text, adequately handle the Word, and give us the fruit of their labors.
I can promise you – I have an agenda. It is to find books worthy of your time. It is to find books that proselytize a pure, unadulterated message.