Aren’t There Enough Christian Books Already?

1397570_23025347 278153_3301278153_3301I asked a pastor several months ago about the possibility of him writing a book. He fired back “Aren’t there enough Christian books out there already?” After bemoaning the glut of contemporary publications some more he concluded with “Why can’t people just read the classics?” He posed an interesting pair of questions: do we need more books or are the ones available now enough?

I’ll pose a question of my own: why don’t people ask the same thing of novels? When a new critically acclaimed novel hits the shelves people flock to purchase it and nobody but nobody grumps about it. Sure, there are plenty of people who promote and defend classic literature, but even the majority of them don’t dislike that more novels are published every month. Why do novels get a pass that non-fiction books don’t?

Because they’re interesting and they connect with readers. People can’t get enough stories, but information and instructions get old quickly.

And that’s really the issue with Christian books: not enough of them are actually interesting. Are there enough Christian books? Yes, if you mean books that write promises God won’t keep. Yes, if you mean books that ride trends instead of meeting needs. Yes, if you mean books that ride in the same wheel ruts as so many before instead of treading new ground. Yes, if you mean formulaic, redundant, platform-driven, artless compilations of blog posts or sermons. Indeed, there are too many of these kinds of books.

Some subjects are well-covered, maybe too well. We might not need any more books on marriage or money (or any number of other topics) right now, but each generation and era of the church has its own voices. The contributions of the previous generations pave the way, shape the thoughts, and inform the present. But their books aren’t much read, just as ours won’t be in thirty years. Books have a short shelf life. Truth doesn’t. So other generations will present that truth in their way and their books. God will raise up writers to engage the issues of their day which might or might not be the issues of ours. And so the publication of Christian books will continue.

So, are there enough Christian books out there? Yes – of the boring, repetitive, prescriptive variety. Yes – of the all flash, no substance type. Yes – of the boring type. But that’s always the case. And there will never be enough timely, well-crafted, thoughtful books addressing unmet needs. Such books are consumed like novels because they connect with the reader the way a story does. They are the books that matter most right now and might, just maybe, become the classics my pastor friend thinks everyone should read.

Comments

  1. says

    Hmmm… Thoughtful, timely, interesting and well-crafted books that connect with readers and address unmet needs… Good luck, sir!

    PS> I’d like to see the same criteria applied towards “worship bands”!

  2. ThistletownKen says

    “So other generations will present that truth in their way and their books.” Well, I guess I am of the generation that has had books written for it already. I read a review and discover that this book is the best thing since the Apostle Paul stopped writing. I buy it and find that I read the same thing before the author was born. But he is now writing for a generation that needs it said in ways to which they can relate. He did not write it for me. The classics call me because they still address me. They are classic because they are not generationally bound – quite a gift. Somewhere along the line someone needs to write a review that is honest enough to say “You shouldn’t buy this if you have been buying books for more than thirty years” or something along those lines. Ah well, it’s Christmas and I know young guys who can benefit from some half read books that I read last year and also in the 70s and 80s by different authors in different times.

  3. Jack Vosteen says

    If as James (1:17) writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father … ” … then where do the bad ‘Christian’ books originate and why do Christian bloggers keep reviewing them in ever more glowing terms … ???

  4. serloren says

    And what of why do people (in this case: Christians) NOT read the classics?

    In the case of secular literature, we can argue that for anyone looking for relevance and insights into modern culture they rightly do not expect to gain much from reading Twain and Shelley, and if we look at sales, we do see that the vast majority of top-selling books are in the realms of self-improvement/expression/etc and how-to manuals to make you the best cook/party planner/soccer player.

    But with Christians…we see the exact same trends. Christianized self-help books that promise your best life now, and Christianized bodice-rippers make up the lions share of book sales in our genre alongside a plethora of books on Godly diets, spiritual investing, and the like.

    The “classics” your pastor friend referred to most assuredly wouldn’t fit into those molds. Not only are there no “Christian Institutes” (Calvin), “Orthodoxy” (Chesterton), or “Pensees” (Pascal) being published today for the most part, no one would buy and read them if they were. Even much of what we could consider to be “modern classics” (i.e, Desiring God – John Piper, The Cost Of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc) is relatively unknown as well as unread by the majority of modern Christianity.

    Why? The desire to dig in and be stretched in the pursuit of closeness and better understanding of our God and our roles as his redeemed slaves just isn’t there for the most part; and even most who claim to want to draw nearer to Christ, want it to be an easy thing, without struggle, without sweat…and without tears.

    The church as a whole in America has spent the better part of the last several decades filling peoples desires, rather than their souls – we dropped doctrinal teaching for 20 minutes and 3 bullet points of “how to be happy by…” teaching series, verse by verse, book by book Bible teaching/instruction has been left behind for so long, that our churches are filled with people who know no more about the word of God than they do about any other archaic old book they’ve never read.

    For the most part, our people do not know what they believe or they don’t know why they believe it, and I fear that the day is coming when we’ll find that an awful lot of them will discover that they do not truly believe and never did.

    When the day comes that multitudes of people hear Jesus say “Depart from me, I never knew you”, how much responsibility will we bear for worrying more about how many flavors of coffee we had to offer, than how clearly we proclaimed the word of God?

  5. DesertEd says

    It takes a lot of books to produce a handful that stand the test of time. Or, in the words of Corporal Klinger, it takes a lot of manure to produce one perfect rose.

  6. Don Wagnon says

    I enjoyed your thoughtful post; the way you contrasted do we need to write new books or not. I am writing a memoir at the moment and I hope and I’m working hard to make it an interesting book that will encourage believers in the pursuit of God. Your post has encouraged me to think about my book and future non-fiction books that I would like write.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>