Discerning What You're Reading

Discerning What You're Reading
Discern…discerning…discernment. You hear these words tossed around in church and read them in the Bible. What does it mean to be discerning, and how does it apply to literature? If you are discerning, you are perceptive, have keen insight, and can detect subtleties. When spoken of in the Bible and the Church, it means that you can apply Godly-principles to what you are seeing, hearing, and reading. To be discerning in literature means that you do not blindly accept facts just because the book was written by an alleged biblical scholar. People who are new to Christianity or who have yet to develop a strong biblical foundation might be tempted to accept what they are reading or hearing as fact, especially if the author or lecturer is widely acclaimed as an expert.

Let’s use Remembering The Parables: Using The Art of Memory to Remember Jesus’ Parables as an example of what to look for when you are discerning whether or not the book is based on a solid biblical foundation. When I was approached to review the book, the only information I knew was the publisher, the authors’ names and a brief description. I’ll admit, I didn’t really check it out prior to saying I’d review it. So, if you found the book in your local bookstore, what would raise red flags?

First, the back cover quotes Giordano Bruno. Bruno was a Dominican Friar who left the order to lecture against basic church beliefs, to declare Christianity irrational, and to proclaim anyone who believed the Bible was illiterate. He was sentenced as a heretic and burned at the stake. What if you didn’t know all of this? If you are unfamiliar with the authors and people quoted on the back of the book, what should you look for?

Read the table of contents. If everything still looks ok, read the introduction. In this case, I again recognized a name. Turn to the back of the book and look at the names of the people who were quoted. Remembering the Parables relies heavily on Dominic O’Brien, a British memory champion who peddles his program online and promises his quantum memory system will provide you with a limitless memory (hence the ability to know everything). The majority of the alleged experts, though claiming to have religious backgrounds, spent many years teaching religion at secular institutions. Several were members of the Jesus Seminar. Adolph Julicher, a German scholar of the late 1800’s—early 1900s, taught that the Gospel of Mark contained a hidden message and that Jesus was a historical figure who never claimed to be the Messiah.

We are going to presuppose; however, that you are not familiar with any of the names referred to or quoted in the book. If you still haven’t seen anything that sends up red flags, flip to the back of the book and read the appendices. Read the first chapter.

By doing this, you would have found Remembering the Parables included the Gnostic gospel of Thomas. Gnosticism is one of the original heresies of the church. Alleged experts have declared that it precedes the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospel of Thomas is not accepted by the Catholic Church or by Protestant Denominations and the majority of biblical scholars have declared it a collection of sayings which are based on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It contains statements that cannot be attributable to Jesus. (apologeticsindex dot org has more information on the gospel of Thomas and the Jesus Seminar. Perform a site search by clicking on how to use and scrolling down toward the bottom of their page.) You would have also found that the book only included 30 parables that “experts” had agreed were valid. A book with a strong, biblical foundation would not question the legitimacy of any text contained within the Bible.

While the memory techniques presented in the book are helpful—teaches how to use imagery to remember facts—the theology employed strays too far from Biblical Christianity to be acceptable.

When in doubt, don’t purchase a book until you have had a chance to research the authors, quoted experts, and read some book reviews online. .

If you have additional questions, drop by the forum and join the discussion on “safe publishers” or send an email to me.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair review

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