Blogger, author and book reviewer Tim Challies urges us to keep in mind that just because a book is published under a Christian label and sold in a Christian bookstore doesn’t mean the book is filled with truth. A large number of so-called Christian books are stuffed full of error. “At a time where truth is easier than ever to access and book reviews abound,” says Challies, “there’s no reason to be taken in by the junk.”
Now listen as Tim Challies offers his view of some of the bestselling “Christian” books of 2017. He writes:
There are lots of ways to qualify what constitutes a “good” Christian book. We might consider the quality of the author’s writing, the originality of the author’s approach, or, most importantly, the faithfulness of the author’s use of Scripture. By those measures, we who speak English and read Christian books here in the twenty-first century are much blessed. We have countless thousands of books to turn to when we want to read something that will shape our lives and strengthen our faith. But, I wouldn’t be writing a blog post about it if that was the end of the story, would I?
Sadly, the qualities that make up good Christian books have little bearing on the quantities of Christian books sold. Just this week the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association released a list of the bestselling Christian books of 2017. Let’s give it a brief gander, shall we?
The number one bestselling book of 2017 was The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This is remarkable in that the book has just arrived at its 25th anniversary. It has been hanging around the top-10 list for many years and has achieved the rare distinction of receiving the ECPA’s Diamond Book Award for topping 10 million sales, one of only seven books to ever earn this distinction. The Five Love Languages is certainly not a terrible book and, in fact, offers some helpful guidance in understanding how different people give and receive love in different ways. Still, the entire premise is troublesome and merits some interpretation, for Chapman fails to distinguish the very nature of our desires and how satisfying our deepest desires may not be the path to last personal or relational joy.
In the second spot we have Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling and, right behind it, the sequel Jesus Always. (And that’s not all: Jesus Calling Deluxe Edition is at spot 26, Jesus Calling Adult Coloring Book at 42, Jesus Calling Devotions for Kids at 56, Jesus Calling Large Print Deluxe Edition at 65, Jesus Always Large Print Deluxe Edition at 72, and then Jesus Calling Deluxe Edition again at 83). Jesus Calling has now surpassed 10 million sales while Jesus Always has surpassed one million. Concerns with Young’s books have been well-documented on this site and many others, but essentially come down to this: Young claims to be doctrinally-sound and within the Reformed theological tradition, yet she also considers herself a “Listener” who hears and writes down messages from Jesus. She never explains how this is consistent with the precious Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (Scripture alone). There’s also the matter of the Jesus of her book speaking in a voice decidedly different from that of the Jesus of the New Testament.
In the fourth spot we have The Magnolia Story by HGTV superstars Chip and Joanna Gaines. Chip’s book Capital Gaines, released late in 2017, comes in at number 8. Capital Gaines is part biography, part business book while The Magnolia Story is a joint biography that recounts their life, marriage, and rise to fame. While the book is full of fun anecdotes, its spirituality never rises higher than this: “We both hope, with all of our hearts, that the people who read this book and watch our show and come to see what we’re working on in Waco will take a chance to go after their dreams too. Because the key to everything Chip and I have learned in our life together so far seems to be pretty simple: Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts. Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner. And in times of doubt or times of joy, listen for that still, small voice. Know that God has been there fore the beginning—and he will be there until … The End.” It may be a book that describes the lives of two Christians (and there’s nothing wrong with that) but it is not a source to learn much Christian truth.