Caution don’t read that book! Say What?

I was over at Parchment & Pen (Michael Patton’s blog) and the comments got slightly off track I being part of the reason.  I don’t like doing that or when it happens so I wanted to move the discussion here.

They started talking about Grudem’s book being fair and balance, well I objected and said:

I find his position on Salvation highly Calvinistic, and barely makes a good argument for Arminism.

If I were new to the topic I would have walked away from his book thinking that Calvinism was the correct position, one would not walk away thinking otherwise. I don’t think that is being fair and balance of divergent positions.

I then stated that if you want to read a book that is fair and balance on various divergent books read Gregory Boyd’s book “Across the Spectrum, understanding issues in Evangelical Theology“.

Then a person responds to my post and says:

The only problem with Boyd’s book is that he is an admitted Open Theist. So I would urge caution in that respect alone.  (emphasis mine)

My partial response was: ..That is one of the most narrow minded remarks I have read at this blog in a long time…

First of all he thinks it’s a problem that Boyd is an open theist, and the second part which is what really bugged me, that one should take caution in not reading Boyd’s book just because he is an Open Theist.  I have had other reasons why I haven’t read much Boyd (I have read extensively at his blog/website), and none of them being because he is an Open Theist.

He continues with his line of reasoning:

I would just say that If you have not read Dr. Boyd’s books on Open Theism, I would suggest you do before recommending any of his other works.

Really?  The book that I recommended has no merit on it’s own?  Do I need to read every single book an author wrote before I can recommend one?  I was not recommending any of his other books I was recommending the one book I have read.  Why would I recommend books I have not read by any author?  Would I recommend Dr. Boyd’s books to others?  Sure I would.  Would I caution them?  No I would not.

Then someone else comments as says:

To me it only seems reasonable that when a book is recommended that is written by someone that it is not considered orthodox to “urge caution”.

Say what?  Does that seems reasonable?  Do these sorts of statements bother anyone else?  If they do share why, if they don’t then please help me out because I really have a hard time with these sorts of statements.

If you want to read the postings check them out here.  Scroll to the bottom and work your way up to you see my first post.

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28 thoughts on “Caution don’t read that book! Say What?

  1. Robert: I’m not a big fan of ‘warning’ people before reading something, at least not like you’ve described. I made a similar complaint a while back with regard to Bill Mounce warning people about the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

  2. Nick, me either. I mean I might mention what position a person holds, but that would not be in the form of a warning. Honestly if people wanted to know what Open Theist believe I would highly recommend Boyd, as he is a really good writer.

  3. Hi,

    I am the person that made the second comment quoted above. I have a very busy day ahead, so probably won’t have time for any long discussions here.

    However, it is because of Scriptures like the ones I have quoted below that I believe caution should be urged when recommending a book by someone that it is not believed to be orthodox by many:

    I Timothy 4:2-3 “preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires”

    I Timothy 4:16 “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”

    Titus 1:9 “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”

    The Scripture writer’s made it very clear over and over that correct doctrine is very important. I could of gone on and quoted more verses above. That being the case, do we not have an obligation to others when recommending a book, to urge them to be cautious if we know that the author of that book holds to beliefs that many people do not believe to be orthodox? To do any less is, in my opinion, not being true to the Scriptures warnings of the importance of correct doctrine.

    The particular book in question may be alright on it’s own. I haven’t read it so I don’t know. However, it is also often the case than when a person reads one book by an author and finds it good and helpful, that he will go on to read other books by the same author. Those books, if written by one that has unorthodox beliefs, could very easily lead someone astray if those beliefs are expressed.

    We do, as Christians, have an obligation to each other to keep from putting up stumbling blocks to faith. Some times books can be great stumbling blocks if they contain unorthdox beliefs.

  4. Hi Cheryl,

    thanks for stopping by. I really do want to have a conversation on why “caution” is necessary. I understand the point you make, but I just think that is an over reaction to Boyd’s position. It just feels like the caution is driven more out of fear and a biases of a different point of view.

    It does not bug me one bit to mention one’s position, but to warn others, that sounds like you are scaring them away. I just don’t think that Boyd is that scary, nor does he merit any warnings.

    How are we going to advance what ever position we hold or grow in our understanding if we do not read what the opposing views are? I try really hard to understand different positions, and I have a great deal of blogger friends that are Open Theist, and they love Boyd’s writings. These folks love and serve the same Jesus that we do.

    I guess I am just not as threaten by Boyd’s position, nor do I feel the scriptures you quoted apply in his case, or his position.

  5. Robert,

    A person that is mature and has discernment should be able to read differing opinions to understand them. However, we can not assume that everyone who takes a book recommendation to heart has that maturity and discernment. Someone else commented on Parchment and Pen regarding this issue, “On the other hand, Cheryl and Mbaker have a point in that promoting a book might be construed as promoting the position. For a person with insufficient discernment, that could be problematic.” That is my concern.

    Personally, I do not believe that open theism is a correct understanding of Scripture. It is all well and good to know what is taught by those that believe it, but again, to promote books written by one that believes in it with no qualifications can be a problem, IMO.

    (By the way, she also believed that you made a good point.)

  6. Hello Cheryl,

    I do understand what you are saying, we just seem to have a difference of opinion as to what merits caution. I don’t think Boyd merits any caution at all.

    I really can’t think of any books that would merit caution, well maybe writings by Larry Flint might (sarcasm alert). I only wish my students would branch out and read more diverse views. Two things always happen to me when I read other positions. It either strengthen what I hold to be true, or it causes me to rethink my position. We should all read what Boyd has to say, unless one is just not at all interested in understanding the subject of Omniscience.

  7. Thanks Robert. I am glad we understand each other better even if we may not agree wholeheartedly. I have to leave the house now. Will probably check by later to see what else may have been said here.

  8. I should restate this “I really can’t think of any books that would merit caution”. I suppose there are books that I might caution about, but I can’t think of any that I would at the moment.

    Also I am thinking along the lines of prolific Christian authors of various persuasion and it is these that I would never caution anyone before reading (N.T. Wright, Gordon Fee, Roger Olson, John Piper, Bruce Demarest, John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, Stanley Grenz to name a few). I seriously doubt that I would caution any of them or others that are not mentioned here. The list would be way too long.

  9. Hello Cheryl,

    I really do appreciate you taking the time and discussing this further. It gives us a better opportunity to explain ourselves and to better understand each other as well.

    And the most important part, making new friends in Christ!

  10. I have no problem telling people whether or not I think a book is good, or well-written, or horrible and terribly written, or boring, or whatever (that’s why I review books, well, that and because I get em’ for free!). What I have a problem with is telling people not to read something because it’s different or doesn’t agree with my position. I say read it and decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth your time and attention.

  11. I think the fear is that someone will be duped into believing the more questionable aspects of someone’s theology. Maybe there’s a fear that if they don’t recognize the potentially heretical views of an author that they may actually agree with them and hold to those things as well. It kind of comes off as thinking people are too dumb or ignorant to decide for themselves what’s worth reading and believing.

    However I might issue a warning to someone about reading Boyd’s books but it would come from the perspective that if I thought they might read something they found offensive and potentially be turned off to the rest of the book then I would give them a heads up but still encourage them to read it even if they happen to disagree with that view point.

    Bryan L

  12. Bryan L,

    I would like to comment on this quote, “It kind of comes off as thinking people are too dumb or ignorant to decide for themselves what’s worth reading and believing.”

    Don’t you believe that there are people in this world that are, for whatever reason, immature in the faith, whether they have been Christians for a long time or for a very short time? After all, Paul talked about growing up so we are not tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine that comes along. See Ephesians 4.

    And, I may not be understanding what you are saying correctly, but isn’t it all about deciding what the Bible acually means and not just deciding “for themselves what’s worth reading and believing”?

    Doesn’t it make sence then to caution those that may not have the discernment or Biblical knowledge,for whatever reason, that someone’s theology is not considered to be orthodox by very many people?

  13. I would qualify warnings myself. For example, I would not give a brand new Christian a copy of “Better Life Now.” If they were reading it I would warn them about Osteen’s appraoch. I don’t think warning people about deceptive issues or material is wrong. If they read it afterwords, then they will be better.

    The “warning” system would, however assume, some type of reliable orthodoxy concerning the particular issues.

    Whether or not this particular book of Boyd needs a warning, I don’t know. Personally, I don’t think so. If you have read it, my personal opinion is that he does a much better job of defending classical theism than he does his own! In fact, I walked away from that wondering why he would be an open theist.

    I would inform people about “God at War” before they read it, informing them that it is open theist. Depending on who, I may “warn” or “inform.”

    God bless. Thans Robert for taking things over here and continuing this interesting topic that is normally not thought through.

  14. 1.) Sure there are people who are immature in their faith. So what? Are you suggesting that it would be better for them to beleive something without having good reason to (because that is what they are taught to believe because the pastor said so)? Or is there a better way?

    2.) The same process is taking place. Both are all about someone taking responsibility for their learning. In both scenarios (deciding what the Bible actually says and deciding what’s worth reading and believing) someone is making that decision for themselves instead of having it forced on them.

    3.) Why don’t we caution them to learn to have better discernment (by that I mean learn to evaluate everything critically) and stop having everything spoon fed to them? If the theology they have is true then they should be able to recognize it right? Faith is scary and they’re gonna have to step out of the boat sometime and risk the fact that they might sink. That’s what them learning to take responsibility for their own faith and learning is all about.

    Bryan L

    • Regarding # 3:

      Yes, we do need to tell people to learn to have better discernment. However, immature or new Christians with very little Biblical knowledge may not be at the place where that is possible yet. To use an analogy, you don’t just turn a 2 year old loose in a grocery store, tell them to “discern” what is good for them, and expect them to make wise choices do you?

      Therefore, a blanket endorsement of something or someone when you know there are problems with their theolgy can be deadly.

      For the record, I well know the pain of having believed and based years of my life on things in the Christian world on things that I know now are false. Having to back up and rework your theology and in my case, a lot of my Christian experience and practice based on it, is not an easy or pleasant thing to have to do. If someone would of convincingly warned me about what I was getting into, I may not have had to deal with all of that.

  15. Michael, I can’t even remember when was the last time I cautioned or warned somebody not to read it, unless I was being sarcastic (Caution, when reading John Piper). I don’t have a problem informing people, sometimes I even ask for recommendations for various author’s who hold certain positions.

    I do like your approach warn or inform depending on the crowd, but then again in my church we are Charismatic and Arminian. So should I warn or inform them when reading books by Calvinist writers? I just feel that would taint them and not very fair of me. I make it clear when I teach what is the doctrinal position of our church but that does not stop me from teaching them the various opposing positions.

    If I were to agree that Boyd merits caution, then I would have to concede and say so does Piper, Carson, Demarest, etc because they all hold to a different position than we do regarding salvation. Again, I just don’t think that Boyd merits any caution, nor any of the above mentioned writers. But one will argue they are orthodox, well so what? It is still vastly different enough that if I followed the warning system advised I would have no choice but to give caution.

    I just thought of one writer I would caution – Hank Hanegraaff 😉 JK – I would not recommend any of his books to anybody.

  16. Honestly Cheryl I’m just being a bit rhetorical. I think it’s fine for leaders in social groups to warn people within their group whenever they think something (like a book) or someone may potentially lead them outside the confines of the group (beliefs, practices, etc). I just think people in general should learn to think for themselves and make their beliefs their own instead of just accepting whatever is fed to them.

    Bryan L

  17. Robert, sometimes too, the whole warning a person thing often has a opposite effect and may actually advertize a book then detract from it! I want to read that book by boyd you mentioned now! HA!

    Bruce Waltke essentially calls Walter Brueggemann a heretic in his approach to the OT, now I will want to check out Bruegge’s OT Theology for myself!

    Know what I mean?

    WARNING: becareful how you warn people about books, it could have the opposite effect!

  18. Robert –

    I’m sorry I haven’t commented – I’ve been laughing hysterically though! Now who’s the troublemaker? 🙂

  19. I kinda do get it to be honest. Definitely nothing to do with across the spectrum as that book has nothing to do with Boyd’s beliefs, but in relation to his other books, why wouldn’t a calvinist warn someone about reading it?
    Someone who appreciates Greg Boyd’s theology isn’t going to encourage someone to read a John Piper book on suffering. They’d rather recommend ‘is God to blame?’ by Greg Boyd knowing that it encapsulates better the reality of God’s position on suffering (in their opinion).
    A non-believing friend just e-mailed me asking me about why God allows suffering etc. If I was an open theist and she told me she got a John Piper or Don Carson book on suffering I probably would caution her about it as I wouldn’t want her to automatically assume that a book written by a notable christian scholar is the truth about the matter. I’d want her to get a different perspective too (preferably the one I think is true).
    Does that make sense? I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but if we believe a certain theology of course we think that is the one that gives most glory to God and therefore we would want others to believe it too.
    I should add that I generally think it’s a really good thing for people to read different view points on theological issues to help them come to a good understanding.

  20. Ferg, you make sense to me at least. But I do feel that caution is over the top. I would not recommend the books you used as an example to anyone at my church. But would I caution them not to read John Piper? I don’t think that I would. I would inform them that he holds to a totally different position than we do.

  21. I just happened to run across this thread here. As the co-author (with Boyd) of _Across the Spectrum_, I thought I would mention that, since I am not an open theist, at least 1/2 of the book should be able to be recommended without a “caution” label attached. 😉

  22. Paul, I do apologize for not mentioning your name as co-author of the book. I am really blessed to have you stop by and visit. I did mention you in my short mention about your book at Across the Spectrum

    lol – Well that even gives me more reason not to give this book a caution label. Which I wouldn’t anyhow. I think it is one of the best books out there on the subject matter. Used it the other day on a blog that was against women in ministry.

  23. Robert,

    I appreciate your willingness to point out that our book should not be judged on the basis of Greg’s other writings. We went out of our way to keep our personal views out of _Spectrum_, and to date the vast majority of reviewers have concurred that we did a fair job on that score. I’m pleased to hear that you have found the book helpful. FYI, the second edition will be released this September.

    Blessings,

    Paul

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