POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Christian Bestsellers

Kairos Journal has an interesting little article about what people in evangelical churches are reading today...not encouraging stuff:

What Do the Christian Bestsellers Say about Christians? Christians have always supplemented their reading of Scripture with helpful books. The earliest believers, for example, read Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp; authors who wrote about the importance of the gospel, the value of piety, and the danger of heresy. They presented, according to one historian, the “great saving truths of the Faith . . . as vital realities, urgent in their relevance to life, and not as an academic exercise.” However imperfect, their writings provide a window into the values of a young Church. If the Church fathers could read contemporary Christian literature, what would they learn? An examination of Christian bestsellers leads one to several, disturbing, conclusions.
Theology has nothing to teach us.
Looking, for example, at the fifty top bestsellers in June of 2005, it is easy to infer that Christianity is a mile wide but only an inch deep. Christians are interested in marriage, depression, politics, and pornography but are not inclined to read about the character of God or explore the contours of theology. Simply put, believers do not buy works that plumb the depths of doctrine. Only Randy Alcorn’s Heaven (13) is a purely theological work. As it stands, the evangelical world is anxious to read The Purpose Driven Life (1) by Rick Warren. His book introduces Christians to the most basic elements of the faith: worship, discipleship, fellowship, etc. These elements are more than important, they are essential. But they are only a start. The Christian should seek more than to understand the Christian life; he ought to pursue the Christian God! Unfortunately, millions of believers are content to drink spiritual milk—unaware of the feasts that will probably never make the bestseller lists.
Self-denial has nothing to teach us.
Ignatius wrote, “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.” How foreign this statement is in today’s Church. The bestseller lists promote self-reference not self-denial. In Approval Addiction (9), Joyce Meyer wants to help readers accept their faults. In Come Thirsty (10), Max Lucado writes to believers feeling ineffective. In Your Best Life Now (4), Osteen teaches the masses how to have daily satisfaction and victory. “It’s all about ‘me’” is the unspoken mantra of evangelicalism. Personal growth is a worthy goal; every believer ought to strive for sanctification. Still, these bestsellers (and their readers) are missing the main point. Jesus called His disciples to deny themselves, carry their cross, and follow Him (Matt. 16:24). Where is self-denial today? Absent without leave.
The past has nothing to teach us.
One looks in vain for a word from Christian history on the bestseller list. There is more interest in a fictionalized future like The Rising (14) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins than knowing how the Spirit has grown the Church in the past. The only biography (a great way to learn history) on the bestseller list is Broken on the Back Row (31), Sandi Patty’s account of her divorce. There is no virtue in romanticizing the past. Still, there is no wisdom in ignoring it either. A Church that forgets the past runs the risk of forgetting the Lord (Judges 3:7). Much more could be said.
Thankfully, the bestseller list is not without its bright spots. Three apologetics works, for example, made the list, proving that readers are anxious to defend the faith. Nonetheless, overall, the books Christians read indicate that they believe the Bible is there to teach us how to live well-ordered, peaceful, meaningful lives. This is a shallow half-truth. The pious mind knows that every Christian ought to have a higher priority: “to observe His authority in all things, reverence His majesty, take care to advance His glory, and obey His commandments.” Books that carry these weighty themes and promote these worthy goals are out there, but one has to walk to the back of the bookstore to find them.
To do my part, I have a reading list on this site...both a short and long list of books...Continuing my crusade in favor of reading!  Also, my post, A protest in favor of books, might be worth checking out.