Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Christians: It’s Time to Read Grown-up Books

If we know how to read, we have been given a precious gift that only gets better the more we use it. Seaside Story, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I read very few designated “Christian” books.

As a lover of thoughtful, well-written literature, I read for entertainment as well as for enlightenment, and find fiction to be a sublime means of conveying truth. It’s no accident that Jesus used stories to teach: good stories, told by a master, captivate the audience, and leave them much upon which to reflect.


This isn’t to say that well-written non-fiction (there’s that “well-written” term again) does not teach as well. But within both the Christian and non-Christian publishing camps, there’s a bit too much feel-good, self-help smarm, much of it with the author’s name far more prominent than the title.

Are There Only 50 Christian Authors?

The 31 years that I have been a Christian are long enough to notice changes, trends, and messages, and one thing I observe is that many of the authors who were writing books 31 years ago, are still writing them today.

Which is fine: when you have something to say, you keep saying it, in greater depth as wisdom is acquired. The problem is, many of these authors are saying the same things they said 10, 20, 31, years ago, and it’s not as if it were that splendidly profound the first time around.


By the time I eliminate the smarm (“You have POWER in His Name!” “Affirm the Promises with Authenticity!”) and the charm: (“Sweet, sweet Sister – Jesus sooooooo loves you”), there’s not much left that I can’t pick up myself from reading the Bible, meditating upon what it says, and communing with God in prayer. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need workbooks to teach.

A Story within a Story

The other day I picked up a little volume — by a man who’s been writing for 10, 20, 31–plus years — and gave him another try because 1) his Magnum Opus truly deserves the name and 2) the latest volume made promises about “critical thinking,” “analysis,” “truth,” and “investigative inquiry.”


I was immediately chary because the book is a frame narrative, or story within a story, a literary device that works with The Arabian Nights or The Canterbury Tales, but not as often as it is used. You see, when you wrap information around a fictional story, both the information you present and the fictional story have to be very, very good, and in the increasing number of Christian books — and movies — that employ this device, the fictional story is very, very bad.


As was the one in this book. The characters were shallow, trite, unengaging and one-dimensional, uttering dialogue like,

“Well gosh, Persephone, what does it mean to be a follower of Christ?”

Thank You, God, for Libraries

As a mature reader, however, I knew what I was getting into (which didn’t involve spending money, thank God for libraries), but skimmed through the pathetic story to grasp the scant, salient material that there was. After awhile, I began to think,

Good, well written books transport us to places of beauty, mystery, intrigue, and intellectualism. She Danced by the Light of the Moon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.


“I’ve read this, somewhere, before.”

And I had. In the author’s Magnum Opus, of 30-some years ago. No new wisdom, no additional insight, just a poorly written frame story loosely presenting the same information regurgitated in new and uninspiring ways.

“But he’s making it more accessible to today’s reader!”

If today’s reader, today’s Christian, is a witless, cerebrally-starved insensate who cannot grasp words of more than two syllables, then this is the book — and the type of book — for him. But I refuse to believe that the vast majority of people in society, and especially its Christians, are this intellectually shallow.

Let’s Raise Our Standards


As a society, we have been dumbed down for years through our educational system, our media, and sadly, our religious organizations, to the point that too many people won’t touch Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (it was a book long before there were movies), Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, because “the sentences are too long and the words are too big.”


Okay, so go read Hemingway. Or Pearl S. Buck.

If you absolutely can’t read fiction, then advance beyond helping yourself all the time, and seek out thoughtful history, commentary, philosophy, and religion (which you won’t necessarily find in the “Christian” section, so check out different aisles in the library).

But seek out quality, books written with more than sales — based upon the author’s name — in mind and grow in your ability to analyze, investigate, scrutinize, interpret, and think. If you’ll give fiction — good fiction — a chance, you’ll find that it probes truth in ways that force you to ask questions and meditate, the very purpose of Jesus’ parables.


But whatever you do, reach up, intellectually, and demand food for the mind that nourishes, not Cheezy Wheezies that are easy to pop mindlessly into your mouth. We all know what a diet of Cheezy Wheezies looks like on our bodies, and in our lives.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I seek out, and encourage readers who want a real, deeper relationship with Christ than what they are finding in today’s pop evangelical culture.

I’m not famous; I’m not particularly well known, but I pray before I publish each article that the people who need to read the article, will. So if you’re with me on this page today, you are an answer to prayer. Believe — that God is real, that He is Who He says He is, and that He cares about you. By seeking Him earnestly — and not relying upon others to do this for you — you will grow closer to Him and find the joy we all seek.


“Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” (James 4: 8)

Posts similar to this one are

Reading Through the Bible in a Year (YAWN)

Who’s Your Guru?

Seminar Christianity

Sham Christians: Don’t Be Fooled by Them

People Call Us Stupid, You Know


  • Carolyn Henderson

    Knowledge is a fascinating thing, because we can either spurn it, as you note in your “anointed” acquaintances above, or we can worship it, as there is a tendency to do when the phrase, “Scientist say . . . ” is the end-all to the argument (as I said in another comment to another reader, we tend to lump all scientists together as if they all said, and believed the same thing; much as we lump Christians). It’s certainly nothing to be afraid of, and there is much in this world — as you mention, mathematics, logic, computer science, art, language, history — that opens our minds to the incredible beauty of knowledge and wisdom.

    The more we read, the more we question, the more we know – the greater our pleasure and joy in learning more, and questioning more, and living in this amazing world that God made. And logical thinking — YES. There is nothing wrong with asking logical questions and looking for reasonable answers, but when we shun this, we look to God as this random, irritable, illogical being who acts in ways that are so at variance with the way we think, and it’s no wonder we can’t get close to Him.

    Whether we are talking in religious or non-religious circles, the best way to silence someone is to do what was done to you — to blast you for daring to ask questions. Sometimes, we’re told we can’t because we don’t hold the necessary degrees; other times, we’re told we can’t because we don’t have the necessary anointing. Either way, the desired result is that we quiet down and accept what we are told. I’m glad you didn’t.

    Can you imagine how different this world would be if more people would simply question what they’re told?

  • Carolyn Henderson

    It is a sad thing that within the publishing industry today — both in the religious and non-religious genre — that authors are encouraged to “churn it out.” We have found more than one author whose second, third, fourth, and fifth books include large swatches of the same material — sometimes quoted verbatim — and it isn’t until you read more than one book that you realize how much recycled material there is.

  • Lara P.

    Another I’d like to add is that it seems as though the lower quality is ok because it’s Chrisitian and it’s for the Lord. He can use anything they say. I’m not even going to traipse across that minefield.

    I find that alot of persons who are in positions of leadership in christendom are not true intellectuals and this is reflected in the quality of their writing and work. Intellectualism is often scorned and spurned as encouraging doubt and unbelief. I was chastised verbally for asking questions and being analytical by someone who supposedly was walking in a higher level of anointing and spiritual gifting. I was actually told it was the reason I couldn’t understand the bible. My intellect was blocking revelation from God. The person who said this by the way didn’t even have what would be the equivalent of high school diploma or if they did it was the furthest they had gone education wise. Yet, they saw it fit to blast me – a university student at the time – for my questions and anaylsis.

    In the church they try to make it seem as though “worldy” studies don’t matter. It’s your “level” in God which does. But I do believe that there is value in secular education such as mathematics, computer science and discplines along those lines as they train the mind in problem solving and logical thinking. Why should we have to suspend logical thought processes to accept God and to follow him? It makes no sense.

    Sorry for the rant. But this article I think touches the surface of deeper issues prevalent within the institutionalised church.

  • Lara P.

    You made a lot of salient points in this article. While I haven’t been around long enough to see the changes in so called Christian literature, I can comment on the quality of the material. Often times the authors promise much but deliver little.

    My history with one prolific Christian author went like this: the first book I read I found helpful and I was impressed since it seemed to a breather from the judgemental, condemning ,always ready to punish God. The second book helped a bit but not as much. I progressed into reading their daily devotionals and then back into their books again. I devoured this person’s material for the better part of almost 3 years.

    What I found upon further analysis and discussion was that the author was turning out books faster than secular authors who often took years to write one book. I wondered how this could be.At first I thought it was the “anointing” since this person claimed to have it in abundance. But I then realised once the blinkers were taken from my eyes concerning this individual that some of their inspirational anecdotes were pulled from other sources and cobbled together with their own version of a pep talk to make a book. The books sold well because of their popularity and name but in reality were worthless pieces of poorly researched literature churned out to make money.

    I found this lack of quality to be true for other authors of this genre that I read. Lots of hype but very little substance and very little said in the books that you could take away and use.

  • Pingback: The U.S. Is not a Christian Nation — and It Never Was - Commonsense Christianity

  • Pingback: “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.” Yuck. - Commonsense Christianity

Previous Posts

Three "Christian" Teachings That Jesus Didn't Teach
"For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine . . . and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4 This week's assault on Facebook is 2 Timothy 4:3-4, with assorted memes ...

posted 11:45:01am Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

How Come God Never Speaks Directly to You?
"Then the voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" 1 Kings 19:13 I'm sure many of you have had the experience of someone accosting you and announcing, [caption id="attachment_1803" align="alignleft" width="351"] Frequently, ...

posted 11:30:31am Aug. 21, 2015 | read full post »

Does Jesus Get Mad When We Complain?
"Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 Some of the most insensitive sayings, passed on via social media memes, are posted by people who call themselves Christians. There is a lamentable desire to encapsulate ...

posted 1:51:31pm Aug. 19, 2015 | read full post »

When Christian Leaders Say, "Jump!" Do We Leap?
"If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you." James 1:5 For many years, my literary junk food was celebrity people magazines. Once every two weeks I headed to the ...

posted 12:51:02pm Aug. 14, 2015 | read full post »

How to Recognize a False Prophet
"Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." (Matthew 24:11) Recently I ran across a blog from a mega-pastor who was refuting the teachings of another mega-pastor. Mega-Pastor B had some decent things to say about grace, mercy, ...

posted 1:41:02pm Aug. 07, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.