Developing Discernment in Choices for Reading: Why it Matters

“I think I will just read dead people,” I remarked as the penned words (freshly planted in my memory) hit the trash can. Confirmation of early morning news revealed the deplorable acts committed by a popular author, grandson of an evangelical icon. Yet, the flow of his work, piercing words camouflaged as wisdom, lurked in the crevices of my mind. Developing discernment in choices for reading is vital.

Reading Christian authors can help guide us into growth-producing habits fostering well being. Although, when lacking theological wisdom, they can distort readers’ understanding of the gospel and encourage practices that foster spiritual ill being. Sadly, reliance on a best seller’s list or label is not helpful – Popularity is no indicator of solidity. How can Christians learn to discern which books are worth reading and which to avoid?

TIP ONE: Never judge a book by its cover.

Do your homework. Jackets are marketing ploys using catchy titles and trendy graphics. Drawing the reader’s eye, they rarely offer hints to an unbiblical worldview promoted by some well-intentioned Christian authors. Today’s publishers meet responsible Christians with a need to do research beyond summaries and endorsements: At the very least, Google the author’s church membership and education. Remember, guard your heart and mind: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

TIP TWO: Question modern-day writings. They are not the Gospel.

Today’s authors often prey on emotions and vulnerability of women. Mysticism and felt-needs psychology are woven into writings, subtly leading the reader to a spirituality more about experiences than beliefs. Publications undermining Scripture (masked in “I feel” and “I think” and not what God’s Word says) warrant rejection. These unhealthy core teachings of a writer’s work spill over into the reader’s thinking. Stand guard against the enemy: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” – Romans 1:21

We’ve become reckless and lazy in our choices, reading memes of positivity and superficial devotionals. Despite their use of biblical language, the voice of many authors is not the Gospel. Whitewashing our sin and desperation for forgiveness diminishes the central message of the Christian faith. The uniqueness of salvation and our identity in Jesus Christ is at the heart of spiritual growth.

Above all, any book distorting the gospel has no place in the hands of a Christian reader. Quite the contrary, works on the attributes of God, apologetics, and spiritual disciplines of the Christian life are faith building! When coupled with Scripture, Christ-centered reading inspires awe and prompts change. Seeking God-honoring life enrichment, rooted in biblical truth, acknowledges He has spoken amidst the pages of Scripture. Period. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8


Return to the classics. Pick up a novel. Read for sheer pleasure and have a heart of gratitude for all of God’s good gifts to us! That is to say, not all books at our bedside must bear the name of Christ. In the event they do, His name deserves being represented rightly.

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