I love Tim Challies. That is, as a Christian brother. In fact, I hope to say hello to him this month at the G3 Conference as he travels to my neck of the woods. Last time I saw him was at the 2010 Band of Bloggers gathering. We stood next to each other talking to different people and did not get to meet.
Anyway, Challies is a good guy. He has even been gracious enough to help me get votes the last two years for the Blogging Scholarship. I’m letting you know up front that I have nothing against him. However, he recently wrote an interesting post titled When a Good Guy Writes a Bad Book.1 I enjoyed the post. I do not think it was a bad post, but I do think his reasoning was inconsistent; hence, the title of this post.
We bloggers are easy targets. We share our lives and thoughts online. Challies is an easier target than I due to his popularity. He is also much more influential than I due to his popularity. My goal is not to paint a target on his forehead, but I want to point out an inconsistency that I hope some will consider.
Challies is a discerning guy. His first book was on discernment. In the post I am responding to he is answering some of his critics. He explains the discernment process he used for why he offered additional concerns about James MacDonald when reviewing his book Vertical Church while not including similar concerns over Mark Driscoll when reviewing Who Do You Think You Are?
The following paragraph is the heart of the issue and explanation for why Challies did not consistently offer concerns about both authors.
Vertical Church is a book for pastors and church leaders and it is being marketed to that crowd. The people who are mostly likely to type “Vertical Church Review” into Google are those pastors and church leaders. As I wrote my review, I was considering them and thinking about what would be helpful to say to them. This would include reference to some of those wider concerns such as The Elephant Room and the association with T.D. Jakes. I trust that these readers will largely be mature Christians who have a pretty good knowledge of the Bible and who can engage on that level. Meanwhile, Who Do You Think You Are? is a book that may appeal largely to new Christians and that will be marketed to them and even to unbelievers. It has a wider audience and one with less knowledge of the Bible, and for that reason I was very happy to commend it as a book that is solidly biblical and genuinely helpful. I am glad to have this kind of person read the book and I don’t want to dissuade them by expressing those wider concerns. A review, like a book itself, has both content and an audience, and can be tailored in a way that is appropriate.
Both Driscoll and MacDonald are Elephant Room hosts and share equal accountability in that department. Therefore, taken at face value, there is no reason to be less concerned about one author’s Elephant Room associations than the other author’s.
Church leaders and pastors should be more discerning than new Christians and unbelievers since they teach and lead others. One of a pastors qualifications per Titus 1:9 is that they be able to discern sound teaching and refute false teaching. Therefore, church leaders and pastors should need less of a warning about an author’s associations such as T.D. Jakes and Elephant Room.
Concerning new Christians and unbelievers (seekers), my contention is that they would be hungry for doctrinal information. This hunger would press them to eventually find those T.D. Jakes-type associations the author of a recommended book may have. Finding such associations is especially easy with the internet. (Granted, those seeking information may also find solid discernment which warns against said associations.) Therefore, it is a good idea to include some of the wider concerns about an author’s associations with books for new believers while encouraging them to go to their pastor for further counsel.
Finally, I appreciate Challies taking the time to explain his reasons for offering additional concerns over MacDonald yet not for Driscoll; I just disagree. Biblically, a church leader or pastor should need less help than a new believer in the area of discernment. I understand the desire to protect the new believer, but ignoring that which he may need protecting from may not be the best approach today. Remember, the information is just a Google search away.
If there are concerns about a Christian author which one feels should not be mentioned in order to protect new believers who may read their book, maybe it’s time to recommend another author.