Some time ago, a friend once told me how he thought the “Christian Living” section in book stores or the theme in general was a complete waste. He said that only a good foundation within the Bible is needed to be a Jesus-following Christian. What I received as an implication was that any of the “Christian Living” books were pointless and shouldn’t even be read. I have a very big problem with this idea. Though I didn’t say so at the time, I think it would be impervious of me to ignore what my fellow Christians have to say. I agree the teachings within Scripture and the words of Jesus are immensely important for a solid foundation, but I don’t agree that they’re the only things helpful for Jesus-following Christians. The perspectives of others often bring refreshing and constructive criticism in a way that perhaps the Bible does not.
Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz awoke something within me that has seen the products of two blog sites, 63 Facebook notes, a 410-page computer journal, and countless other blogs and stories that are under revision. If the CL section wasn’t there, I might not be writing. But it’s not just inspiration that I’ve gained from the CL section. There are many other books categorized into the section that occasionally challenge main-stream ideas and beliefs. Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo has had a huge impact in the way I study Scripture. Another of Campolo’s works is Red Letter Christians and though I haven’t finished it, it has brought an enormous amount of insight from someone whose life is surrounded by politics, sociology, and Christianity. And I should not even begin to discuss what I’ve learned from C.S. Lewis; that might take several blogs.
The point I’m merely making is that there would be knowledge, perspective, good criticism, and maybe even a little bit of wisdom lost if we were to ignore the Christian books being written and published and merely open our Bibles. I have no doubt that we could all be sufficient Christians with just our Bibles in hand, but I think we could be efficient Christians if we utilized the culture we’re surrounded in to send the message Jesus wants us to send. If we’re simply stuck in our own fundamental camps sitting around a bon-fire with our Bibles and ignoring the voices of others, I think we’re doing more harm than good to the gospel. What non-believer would want to be a part of a group that ignores what anyone else has to say and narrows their minds down to one book?
I do, however, agree with my friend that there is a problem within the CL section. Tonight I walked through it and counted four different books by one author with either “you” or “your” in the title. Christian Living should never become synonymous with Self Help. There is no possible way for the sick man to cure himself; he needs the Physician to do the work. Also, searching through the Scriptures, one will notice that when our lives are turned over to Christ, they are no longer about us. Our lives then become about Jesus. This is rapidly becoming a critical flaw within the CL section. But the very fact that there are different themes within this section ought to awaken our minds to sift through the bad books down to the gems. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect,” (emphasis added). We have to exercise our brains a little bit to find the “good and acceptable and perfect.”
Thus is my dislike for ignoring the books written by fellow Christians. Granted I haven’t stopped learning from Scripture (and I hope I never do), but there is so much more to be learned from doing a little work. C.S. Lewis says, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers,” (Mere Christianity, 78). This means we cannot be lazy about our intellectual understanding of our faith. After all, Jesus said all your mind, didn’t He?