Just this week we received a message with some questions. These were such good questions that we asked permission from the reader to answer them publicly. It’s possible some of you have been wondering these things, too.
Both of us here at Truth in Word will do our best to answer each question individually.
1) Do you think Christians should completely avoid the authors you warn against?
If one’s desire is to have a close, growing relationship with our Creator God, the short answer in my opinion is “yes”. The subtle trap in some of these books is that one can start depending on the emotional boost (feeling) they provide or attempt to clone the authors relationship with the Lord instead developing one’s own. We of course do not believe it is sin to read these authors – however if we’ve taken the time to research and find serious biblical problems, we will point them out as we do our best to be Bereans. The spiritual truths that may be found in these books are only restatements from God’s Word anyway.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4
The truth is that every person must decide for themselves. For myself, if I already know that there are errors in the author’s teaching, I simply don’t want to waste my time trying to sift out the bad in order to get what little good might be there. I also know that even though I think I am strong enough to discern and resist the lies, if I get much of my spiritual sustenance from them – they will eventually deceive me more than I realize.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. I Corinthians 10:12
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
We had a reader contact us a few years ago about a Mennonite church that was following the teachings of Bill Johnson. Now how do we suppose they got from plain people with Anabaptist doctrine to following a person who teaches that you can lay on a person’s grave to receive the mantle or anointing that the dead person had? I can almost guarantee you it began by reading one of his books.
So do I wish people had researched more into what he taught and then completely avoided him? Yep, sure do. But again, that is a personal decision. I’m not saying we never read stuff written by authors we don’t agree with. What usually happens is we pick up a book and begin reading. Maybe we then come across doctrine that is wrong or we find out what direction this person is headed. You will then rarely see us pick up a second book by that author.
I honestly don’t have the time to read what I know I will have to constantly sift through. And humanly speaking, I don’t have the strength to continually resist deception when I am constantly feeding on it. But I can avoid it and lessen that chance of being deceived in the end.
2) What do you recommend instead? People are reading those authors because it meets a felt need.
If the purpose is real spiritual growth and a relationship with our Lord……….the Bible, sincere prayer, Holy Spirit guidance and some commentaries are more than sufficient. If a need is “felt” for spiritual guidance that the above recipe doesn’t supply, I would question the intentions and study habits of the person. Take inventory over the past years since you’ve become a christian. Do you find yourself spending more and more time reading another man or woman’s ideas about God or less and less? Do you find reading these books gives you the desire to spend more time in the Bible or less? Will a sincere desire for God’s Truth lead to more and more direct Bible study……….or less and less? The christian life is a journey, which direction is your journey taking you?
I would have to ask this question: for the readers with needs, do they sincerely and completely believe that all healing for these needs are met and fulfilled in Jesus Christ our Savior?
I would challenge anyone who says they have had a need met in a book, could they also say it was something that Jesus could not meet – through prayer, a relationship with Him, and by immersing themselves in His Word.
What do I recommend instead? I love this question. I won’t say that you just simply need to read the Bible. Many people have an archaic view of it, that it cannot meet the needs of our hearts in today’s world. And to just simply read the Bible may not help you. Even the devil can read. The Bible will lead you to the truth, but the Savior is the One who will redeem your soul and heal your heart.
You need a vibrant relationship with our Lord before the Bible will mean much to you. This is a relationship full of falling on your face before Him, choosing to lay down every single personal right you hold to bitterness and unforgiveness toward those who have hurt you, and seeking salvation and healing in Him alone. Do I believe He can heal a heart completely? Absolutely, with everything I have in me!
Once you’ve recognized you truly want a vibrant relationship with Him and have repented of any sin that stands between you two, then ask Him to reveal Himself to you through His Word. Again, do I believe He can do this? You bet I do! Because I have seen it in my own heart and life. Not until I was willing to lay down every single thing that hindered me from Him, was I then able to see how alive and pulsing with life is the Word of God.
After you have repented, asked Him to reveal Himself to you, then open your Bible with the intent of learning all you can about the Lord you love. You have taken steps towards Him . . . now the Spirit will come to you and enlighten the Word so that it can speak into your heart.
3) Do you feel like it’s preferable to be exposed to the errors of legalism in many conservative books over the subtle messages leaning more toward emergent Christianity?
Without knowing of which books you speak it’s hard to be sure. However it is safe to say if we are depending on man’s words for our spiritual needs, either extreme will get us into trouble and distract from a vibrant, growing, lively relationship with our Lord! If what I am reading (for spiritual benefit) is not God’s inspired Word………….it must be compared against God’s Word! This to me eventually gets tiresome and I find myself putting the books down and going back to the Bible.
Frankly, neither are preferable. We are all shaped by our upbringings, whether it is in a liberal church or a legalistic one. The task as we get older is to realize there is error in both ditches and then to also fully accept that the Bible alone holds the truth. No church will be perfect, no author will be perfect. So as believers who want to live out the Bible the way Jesus intended it, we must take each practice and doctrine back to the Bible. God and His Word are what we pledge our allegiance to.
4) Do you feel like the Bible alone is suitable for speaking to the heart needs people feel?
I think there are biographies and true stories that can be uplifting and very edifying reads, however if the “heart needs” you speak of are of spiritual nature “yes”. I actually believe it is preferable to read something we know is complete fiction over the watered down “humanistic bibles” and devotional/spiritual books that are not thoroughly vetted. For my spiritual needs, I know I am much safer reading an instruction manual divinely inspired by the Creator versus one written by the created.
Like I said above, even the devil can read the Bible.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26
It is the Spirit that convicts us of sin that is separating us from God, and He also enlightens the Bible to our human hearts.
But let’s say I am a Christian with the Spirit living inside of me, yet my heart is messed up through abuse or divorce or the death of a close friend. Do I think that I would need a dozen Christian self-help books to heal my wounded heart? Actually, I don’t.
I believe Jesus alone holds the power to heal any heart. People may be getting solid, biblical help from some books for there are many good ones out there – and we read some of these as well. But I also believe that those same teachings which helped them could have been found in the Bible, had they taken the time to dig into it.
So do I believe the Bible could stand on its own in meeting the heart needs of people who also have the Spirit to enlighten the Word to them? Yes, I do.
There was a point in my Christian life where I realized that the Bible was looking archaic to me, and I was faced with a shocking question: do I really believe every single word in the Bible? Every word about healing, about sin, about redemption . . every word that described the condition of my own heart? I decided then and there I would believe it. I would read it this way. I would pray this way.
And ever since then my loyalty to my sweet Savior and His Word has only grown stronger. You won’t get me to walk away from it now!
I believe the Word of God without a complicated interpretation
. . . and out of this belief, I speak.
~ Conrad Grebel
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
May God fill our hearts first with repentance and then with His Spirit that leads in the way of truth.