Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? One of the most common resolutions (according to people who analyze such random things) is the goal of reading more. A noble pursuit, indeed. I was encouraged to read more in school but never guided. Reading is FUNdamental, they said. Tolle lege, they cried. But rather than pointing me in the right direction, I grabbed books about football from the library and called it a day. Reading bad books could be much worse than not reading at all, but how do you know if the book you are reading is good or bad?
What you need is discernment – the ability to distinguish between good and bad. In Hebrews 5:14, we see that knowing the Scriptures and using the Scriptures as our standard for good and evil will increase our ability to discern between good and evil. You will grow in your skill in looking at a situation, and judge (rightly) if it is good or wicked, according to God’s standard. Step one in discerning: read your Bible.
A book is just when someone has the gumption to write down what they think about something. They wrote down their thoughts, and someone from a publishing house read it, then put their stamp of approval on it, bankrolled the process, and published the book. Now it is out in the big wide world, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good book, or even true! Book publishers are businesses trying to make a dollar. Even “Christian” publishers will sell you a whole lot of nothing for a buck. One such publisher continued selling a book about a boy going to Heaven, even after the boy said it was all a fabrication because it was a bestseller. Their job is to sell you a book. Your job is to decide whether to buy it and if you buy it and read it, you need to decide whether you buy what the author is saying. Step two: remember books are written by men, and some are heirs of the Cretians (Titus 1:12).
The author might be right; he might be wrong. He might be spot on in chapters 1-3 but goes off the rails in the fourth. Discernment is eating the meat of the book and tossing the bones away. But if you have a skeleton on your plate, just go on to something better. As a Christian, you must judge them. Not based on how you feel when you read it, or how well he puts his sentences together, but on the truth of what he is saying. I’ve read books by men who made me envy their ability to write The sentences were so well crafted, with nouns, verbs, and adjectives all living together in perfect harmony. But the substance was unbiblical, therefore, it was bad. Step three: Know that only the Bible is pure and perfect and that even the most well-intentioned men are sometimes wrong (Romans 3:4).