Book Controversy and Nasty Back-and-Forths

There's a more helpful way to approach controversial books.

What do you know? There's another book controversy.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of it. Well-known leaders read—or simply read about—a book, post something on their blog, and others—having read or not read the book themselves—fight over their opinions. It's exhausting just thinking about it! And it shows a lot of disunity to the rest of the world.

Recently, I came across a well-written blog post on Out of Ur that reminded me of an important role small-group leaders can play in helping avoid these back-and-forths. Instead of banning a certain book, telling everyone they shouldn't read it, or, on the flip side, condoning everything in a book, perhaps we can help group members understand how to biblically interact with books—whatever their message may be.

This is a key skill that disciples need to develop. Think about it: We work through tough passages in the Bible that we may not agree with at first glance, but we don't tell people to stop reading them. Instead, we teach them to inductively study the passage, weighing different scholarly opinions. Why can't it be the same for books?

In the Out of Ur post, Matt Mikalatos writes that, "the best way to protect our people from dangerous ideas or books is not to prevent them from interacting with them, but to teach them to interact with them well." He suggests we learn to "read with our Bibles and our minds open."

I believe that it's rare that we'll read a book and completely agree or disagree with everything in it. Instead, we'll find certain views that we agree with, and others that rub us the wrong way—all in the same book. And there's value in that: I've learned so much from books that represent views I greatly disagree with because it's helped me better understand the issues and better love the people who hold those views.

Teach your group members to read with open Bibles and open minds, comparing an author's views with those in the Bible. Help them consider all possibilities, and come to their own conclusions, not simply taking the author's words as fact. Jesus calls us to be thinking people who live out his teachings in our place and time, not robots who simply do as programmed.

How do you help group members determine what is true, right, and pure? How do you help them to articulate their own beliefs?

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