It started with Jane Austen. I don't remember how old I was when I first read Pride and Prejudice, but I was a goner after that. Suddenly, the, um, junk I was reading was totally unappealing. Good books will ruin you for bad ones.
Fast forward a few years to my conversion. A people-pleasing personality, a reading addiction, and an immature faith make a dangerous cocktail. I was easily prey to the temptations of emotionalism that were sweeping across the evangelical church at that time (and still, for that matter). I was the woman Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3:6-7: For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
By the grace of God, someone - and I believe it was our very own Lisa - recommended Paul Miller's A Praying Life. That lead to a Bible study written by Nancy Guthrie, which lead to books written by Mark Dever, Michael Horton, and Martin Lloyd-Jones. The list continues to this day. Good books will ruin you for bad ones.
In the last five years, my theological reading - and my understanding of God - has grown much deeper than I ever would have imagined. As I've grown, so has my passion for women to read sound theological books. When I learn a friend is reading the latest "Christian" best seller, I am saddened. The same is true when I hear a friend say she's never heard of Nancy Guthrie. It seems quite often the most doctrinally sound writers and publishers are the least concerned with marketing ploys. Many deep, rich, and gospel-centered books remain unheard of, unread. (I recognize this is not always the case.)
The evangelical publishing landscape is fraught with sinkholes. Bad books abound, and they're selling like hotcakes. Perhaps, as Kim suggests, it's because we're looking to books instead of living, breathing godly counsel. I believe the explosion of social media also plays a part. Everyone has an opinion on everything, and we're supposed to consider them all to be equally valid. Suddenly, we are bombarded with any number of people who are authorities on any number of subjects. Links, site hits, and retweets - not truth - are the standard. The celebrity culture - to which evangelicalism is certainly not immune - has invaded our thought processes. As Mike Leake points out in his wonderful article, When A Christian Buys a Bad Book Who is to Blame?, "...try pastoring in a church of 200 people and telling your starry-eyed congregant that Pastor Joel with his 43000 member church is wrong."
I was recently lamenting the bad book dilema to my pastor's wife. She reminded me that bringing women to good books is a process. A slow process. She is so often a model of graciousness to me, so I mulled over her words carefully. I began pondering a gracious, God-glorifying approach to this problem.
While I believe there's a time for calling out false teachers, I wonder if the Don't read this! tactic is always helpful and effective. By and large, the women who read the latest Christian best-seller love the Lord; they want to know Him and serve Him. I know, because I walked in their shoes. My husband's attempts to warn me against a particular false teacher were met with disdain; my emotional attachment to her was so strong that I immediately rose to her defense without a thought. It wasn't until a wise and discerning friend brought a different sort of book to my attention that my eyes were opened to the solid teaching I had been missing.
I know each of my cohorts here at Out of the Ordinary wants to encourage women to read theologically sound books. If you are a regular visitor to our corner of the internet, I imagine you want the same. Maybe you've got a friend who's reading the latest Christian best-seller. You're unsure how to address it, or if you even should. There's a more gracious way than making her feel she's chosen a book you wouldn't be caught dead reading. Instead, acknowledge her interest in the subject and present her with a suggestion for supplemental reading. Don't try to be the Holy Spirit; he does the job quite well on his own. Please know I'm not casting stones. This is something I desperately need to put into practice in my own life.
However, being an avid reader doesn't guarantee that I will have a solid recommendation for a friend. I have a perpetual stack of unread books and an Amazon wish list a mile long. I will not read every book I'd like to; there will be many, many good books I'll never even lay eyes on.
And so I have a new undertaking. My aim is to not so much to encourage you to read good books, but rather to equip you to offer theologically sound choices. There will be no name-calling or judgments. In fact, there will be no criticism of any sort. I don't have the qualifications nor the desire to be a discernment blogger. Likewise, there will be no you're not a serious Christian if you don't read this. I don't want to create a must read frenzy. I will simply offer summaries of books I've read or am currently reading, with the hope that I'm giving you a helpful tool to disciple others. And since we can't conceivably read every book out there, I'll be inviting you to suggest other resources.
Yes, teaching women to read good books is a process, but perhaps by joining together it won't be as slow as we might think.