By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
It might seem odd for me, a Christian preacher, to warn about Christian bookstores. But it must be done. But before I say why it must be done, let me say that we are blessed to live in the USA, with its freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I would not want to live in those countries that deny these freedoms to their citizens. As much as we Christians object to many things in print, and on the radio and TV, it is a good thing that we have these freedoms.
That said, let me now explain why I feel compelled to give this warning about Christian bookstores. To get right to the point, it is because many of these bookstores advertize themselves as totally trustworthy. And we would understandably assume they are trustworthy. But, whether their owners know it or not, they have become primary sources for the spread of false doctrines among their customers.
We who believe the Bible to be what it is, the inspired and infallible Word of God, and who have read it many times and who study it carefully, know that it emphasizes sound doctrine (teaching), and that it opposes false doctrine (teaching). Consider some fact about this matter: The Strongest Strong’s Concordance of the King James Version (which is a great improvement over the other Strong’s concordances) says the word “doctrine” is found 51 times in the King James Version (6 times in the Old Testament, and 45 times in the New Testament). It also tells us the word “doctrines” is found 5 times in the King James Version, all in the New Testament. Strongest Strong’s Concordance also tells us the word “teach” is found 109 times in the King James Version, “teacher” is found 6 times, “teachers” is found 14 times, “teachest” is found 8 times, “teacheth” is found is found 16 times, and “teaching is found 25 times. Here is another interesting fact to consider about this subject; in the King James Version New Testament, we find the word “master” many times, and it is applied many of those times to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the word often means “teacher.” Often, when Jesus is called “master,” it means “teacher.” And when we read in James 3:1, My brethren, be not many masters……….” it means “don’t many of you be teachers,” and then gives the reason why.
Yes, the Bible has a big emphasis on sound doctrine (teaching). But what do we find in our day? An attitude among Christians that says, “Maybe the Bible does emphasize sound doctrine, but what’s the big deal anyway? We all are entitled to our personal opinions.” This unbiblical attitude is very evident in Christian bookstores, for in them we find many books that promote not only minor differences of opinion among Christians, but which promote serious false doctrines and doctrines that contradict one another.
Here are some examples of what I mean: the prosperity gospel is seriously false, but many Christian bookstores sell books that promote the prosperity gospel and books that oppose it. Some Christian bookstores sell books that promote the false doctrine of current-day apostles and prophets, and books that say there are no living apostles and prophets. Some Christian bookstores sell books that promote current-day dreams, visions and revelations from God, and books that take the opposite view. Some Christian bookstores sell just about any book that is considered a reliable Bible translation or paraphrase, and books that help the reader differentiate between good and bad translations. Some Christian bookstores sell books that promote the false teachings of 5-point Calvinism, and books that oppose it. The list of examples could get much longer, but these are sufficient to make the point.
What is the result of such little doctrinal discretion being used in and by Christian bookstores? Here is the answer: Biblically ignorant customers buy what looks good to them, or what the clerks promote, then they read the books, and often accept the teachings in them, whether good or bad. Here is an example of what I mean: Sarah Young is the author of the very popular book called, “Jesus Calling.” But the book is not a good one, for its theology on some key points is wrong, one of which is her mistaken idea that she wrote down messages she claims to have received directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. Her claim is, as to be expected, now being duplicated by others who claim to be receiving direct communications from Jesus. They might not be writing books, but they falsely think Jesus Christ is speaking directly to them, whether audibly or inaudibly.
Many Christian leaders are warning about Sarah Young’s book. One of them is Gary Gilley, senior pastor of Southern View Chapel. He has done a good review of her book. What follows, in bold print, are his concluding thoughts about it. Be sure to take special note of Pastor Gilley’s last two sentences. He wrote: “The idea that Jesus will speak to any who will be quiet before Him, and that He does so continuously (p. 317), is the great danger of Young’s teaching. But the draw is the promise of an overwhelming felt experience of the presence of God. Jesus tells Young, “Let My Love enfold you in the radiance of My Glory. Sit still in the Light of My Presence and receive My Peace” (p. 26), and “Look into My Face and feel the warmth of My Love-Light shining upon you” (p. 278) and “Sit quietly in My Presence, allowing My Light to soak into you and drive out any darkness lodged within you” (p. 294, cf. pp. 104, 259, 276, 284, 355). Sounds inviting – yet is it biblical? Nowhere in Scripture do we find God promising such experiences. We walk by faith, not by the felt presence of God. Even Young warns that discernment is needed lest one be deceived by supposed voices and experiences that may be from other sources (pp. 66, 102). But to Young, and those who follow her, experience trumps Scripture. While acknowledging that the inner voices she hears are not on a par with Scripture, nevertheless, “They were helping me grow closer to God” (p. xii). “This practice of listening to God,” she writes, “has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received” (p. xiii). Obviously to Young Scripture is insufficient; new revelation is needed and that is why she has written Jesus Calling. All this is not to say that Young is not often on the mark biblically. Given her theological training much of what she writes is sound. And she uses Scripture, although it is often paraphrased to the point of changing its meaning or using it out of context (e.g. pp xiv, 15, 21, 45, 78, 91, 134, 177). Young’s emphasis is not explaining the Word of God but adding her supposed revelations to the Word of God. Jesus Calling and its entire offspring are among the most dangerous writings in the evangelical community today.” To read Pastor Gilley’s complete review of this book, click on this link: http://svchapel.org/resources/book-reviews/4-christian-living/846-jesus-calling-enjoying-peace-in-his-presence-by-sarah-young-nashville-thomas-nelson-2004-382-pp-hard-15-99
Why do we find this circumstance in Christian bookstores? In many cases, it is simply because the owners are concerned about making money from the books they sell, and don’t really care about what the books teach. In many other cases, this circumstance is found in Christian bookstores because of the attitude I referred to above. It is this: “Maybe the Bible does emphasize sound doctrine, but what’s the big deal anyway? We all are entitled to our personal opinions.”
Now, why do so many Christians have this opinion about sound doctrine (teaching)? There are two reasons for it : First, pastors aren’t fulfilling their responsibility to preach the Bible’s doctrines and to emphasize the importance of sound doctrine (teaching). Second, we are seeing a fulfillment of the Biblical doctrine of apostasy (departure from Biblical truth) in the last days. What the apostle Paul wrote in chapter 4, verses 1 – 4, of his second epistle (letter) to preacher Timothy is being fulfilled in our day. Here is what he wrote: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” This quote from the King James Version is taken from this website: www.biblegateway.com.
Now that I have issued this warning, I challenge readers to be very careful about what books you buy at Christian bookstores. Remember, these bookstores are primary sources of false doctrines in the last days. And remember that sound doctrine is important. I also challenge my fellow-pastors to be aware of what books are popular among Christians, and warn about the bad ones. To know which ones are popular, just ask clerks at Christian bookstores which ones are big-sellers. It was a clerk who introduced me to the dangerous book called, “Heaven Is For Real.” You will find my warning about this book on my blog spot.