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Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Ten Worst Books for the Church

Left_behind Dr. Sam Storms has just released his list of the ten bottom books that have negatively affected the church.  Take a look and let me know what you think... Sam writes:

Several years ago I was asked by my students to put together my Top Ten list of most influential books I had read. The list ended up going well beyond ten and can now be found on my website (www.SamStorms.com) in the Recommended Section (it is titled, “Meditations of a Bibliophile”). But no one has ever asked me for a Bottom Ten list! But since Human Events did it with respect to political, social, and economic books, I can certainly do the same when it comes to books on theology or related topics.

Not all my bottom ten are equally harmful. Some of them were written by wonderful Christian people who, I believe, love and honor Jesus as best they can. But that doesn’t minimize the deleterious effects of what they wrote. All of mine are of recent vintage, the oldest of which was released in the 1970’s. I decided to avoid mention of some obvious, older, and more overtly liberal works, with one exception, so that the list would make sense to the average Christian today. So, here goes. In no particular order, they are:

(1) “The Myth of God Incarnate,” edited by John Hick (Westminster Press). Although I said these were in no particular order, I’m compelled to put this profoundly anti-Christian collection of essays at the top of the list of the bottom ten!

(2) “The DaVinci Code,” by Dan Brown (Doubleday). Yes, it was a fascinating read (and yes, I will go to the movie). I actually enjoyed it, until I became aware of how many non-Christians imbibed it as non-fiction.

(3) “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament & Contemporary Contexts,” by Joel B. Greene & Mark D. Baker (InterVarsity Press). This frontal assault on the biblical doctrine of Christ’s penal substitutionary death is one that I will review for the website some time in the future. For the present, avoid it at all costs.

(4) “Beyond Sex Roles: A Guide for the Study of Female Roles in the Bible,” by Gilbert Bilezikian (Baker Book House). There are a number of well-written and competently argued (although not necessarily persuasive) books on the role of women in ministry from an egalitarian perspective, but this isn’t one of them.

(5) “The God Who Risks,” by John Sanders (InterVarsity Press). This is certainly the most consistent of all books defending Open Theism. That is why it is probably the most harmful in the way it undermines our knowledge of God’s knowledge.

(6) “God of the Possible,” by Gregory Boyd (Baker Books). I typically required this book for my course in theology at Wheaton, to be read alongside the excellent refutation of it by Bruce Ware (“God’s Lesser Glory” [Crossway Books]). Boyd is an excellent writer and his popular and easy to read defense of Open Theism accounts for its widespread (but unfortunate) influence.

(7)  “A New Kind of Christian,” by Brian McLaren (Jossey-Bass). I chose this volume among many McLaren has written because it was the first in a series of three and is more responsible than the others for his widespread influence in the evangelical world. Being included on this list isn’t to say there is nothing of value in what McLaren writes. He has some excellent and stimulating ideas and his prose is superb. But I fear what Christians will become if they decide they want to be among the “New Kind” that he recommends.

(8) “Charismatic Chaos,” by John MacArthur (Zondervan). I have tremendous respect for MacArthur and cherish him as a brother in Christ. But this book is bad. It takes the worst in the Pentecostal-Charismatic world (and yes, there are some pretty bad things in that world) and portrays them as typical of charismatics in general. His arguments for cessationism and against the contemporary validity of so-called miraculous spiritual gifts is extremely weak. But I want to say again how much I appreciate most of the other books MacArthur has written

(9)  “Left Behind,” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (Tyndale House). O.K. No, I haven’t read it, nor any in the series. No, I don’t intend to. But I know what’s in them and they are more than deserving of inclusion on this list. The eschatological perspective they perpetuate is damaging to the Church and to individual Christian expectation regarding the future.

(10) “Healing and Holiness: A Biblical Response to the Faith-Healing Phenomenon,” by Sam Storms (Presbyterian & Reformed). No, this isn’t a joke. Neither is it a bad attempt at false humility. It’s simply a bad book. Forgive me for having written it. I suppose a good portion of what I wrote is o.k., but that doesn’t justify the rest of the nonsense I put forth in this regrettable effort to undermine people’s confidence in the healing power of God today. It’s out of print (thank God), so don’t write me asking for an autographed copy.

If I’ve offended you by including in this list your favorite author or if I’m in error for mentioning a book you found helpful, rather than harmful, I hope you’ll let me know so that, if possible, I might make amends. Having written one of the books on the list, I’m in a repentant mood right now.

OK... that's Sam's list... what would you add or subtract from the list?  Why?

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June 16, 2005 in Top Ten Lists | Permalink

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I'm just stunned as some of his thoughts behind it. Again, we should focus on helping the church and not pointing out what is hurting it (in our opinion).

Posted by: StrobeAlific | Jun 16, 2005 5:15:56 PM

Don't read too much into this list. :) It's not part of the cannon or anything.

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jun 16, 2005 5:18:57 PM

A Divine Revelation of Hell, by Mary Baxter. Bad. Absolutely bad. Good intentions can't cover for the cover-to-cover unbiblical nonsense.

Posted by: Craig Loving | Jun 16, 2005 5:19:47 PM

"Left Behind" has moved from any kind of ministry to a branded money-maker and franchise. It has made millions $$$ for the authors-- no exagerration. One of the effects has been to encourage other "Christian" author's to get rich in a similar way, so now you see people apparently trying to copy the $$$ success, like Hank Hanagraaff with his fictional series "The Last Disciple": http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0842384375/qid=1118969064/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-5736630-7093557?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

Buy the book from Amazon or any place other than CRI, and Hank gets the royalties personally. Pretty good setup, with the free advertising (paid thru donations) on the BAM show. I've written more about this here:


Posted by: bernie dehler | Jun 16, 2005 8:53:27 PM

if i wrote a list i'd include the 'prayer of jabez' and 'wild at heart'.. how bout those 'wwjd' books and subsequent bed sheets, hairspray, toothbrush,.. i think you get where i'm going with this & why.

Posted by: gavin | Jun 16, 2005 9:00:15 PM

I would add:
Joel Osteen's: "Your best life now"
Steve Arterburn's: "Every man" series
John Eldredge's: "Wild at heart"

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 16, 2005 10:28:47 PM

And let's not forget two of the worst:

"The Purpose Driven Life" and its ugly twin sister, "The Purpose Driven Church."

Posted by: Ricky | Jun 17, 2005 1:11:46 AM

Uhhhh, Ricky...Purpose Driven Life?? What's your reasoning? Have you read it? Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: Ben | Jun 17, 2005 1:36:14 AM

Ben... let's not go there. :) Ricky's already expressed his opinion on 'all things purpose driven' here. (Just read around). :)

We'll just keep this to additions and deletions to the list that you would make.


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jun 17, 2005 8:02:28 AM

Umm... this may get me stoned, but I'm actually a FAN of Greg Boyd and John Sanders, and I actually think that Open Theism has some valid arguments that Bruce Ware did not effectively shoot down in "God's Lesser Glory".

I'll be finding some place to dodge the rocks now...

Beneath His Mercy,

Posted by: Brian Burkett | Jun 17, 2005 8:59:36 AM


You're right, you'd better duck for cover on that one. :)

We'll save the 'open theism' debate for another posting. Now that'd be a fun one, wouldn't it?


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jun 17, 2005 9:04:27 AM

Growing Spiritual Redwoods by Easum and Bandy. It is such a useless bunch of consultant-speak and unusable ideas that I actually avoid anything from this book's publisher unless it is HIGHLY recommended by someone I really trust. Plus the whole relativistic nonsensical stuff that they manage to squeeze in there... Just plain bad.

Also, kudos to you, Sam, for having the guts to include your own book on the list!

Posted by: Peter | Jun 17, 2005 9:30:47 AM

I love it when a Christian develops one of those angry, criticize-everyone-who-does-not-agree-me websites and then calls it "Enjoying God Ministries.'

Posted by: Gerry | Jun 17, 2005 10:00:33 AM

If the category is books most damaging to the church I'd have to nominate Conversations With God. I've had many discussions with seekers who like this god better than the one in the Bible.

Fortunately a lot of the other books nominated are only read by church people, so the damage is minimal.

Posted by: Geoff Surratt | Jun 17, 2005 10:42:11 AM

RE: Steve Arterburn's: "Every man" series and John Eldredge's: "Wild at heart"

I would be curious as to why these are included above. In my experience sexual addiction and manhood issues are connected and the church has been silent far to long on these signifcant issues. These two books approach these topics in a very (my opinion) practicle and biblical manner.

Posted by: Shane Montgomery | Jun 17, 2005 12:52:40 PM

I’d have to add anything by Jay Adams on “biblical” counseling—or by anyone else on “biblical” counseling, including “Self Confrontation” by John Broger. (Jay Adams is well loved by John MacArthur, by the way.)

The popularity of the DaVinci Code is unfortunate, since it raises poppycock (chicken dung) ideas like Jesus being married.

I hold to the premillennial eschatology of the authors of the “Left Behind” series—I just think that it’s bad writing. Christianity is producing better artists than the likes of these authors and Thomas Kinkade. It’s a pity that bad Christian art gets the most attention (and money).

I haven’t read “A New Kind of Christian,” but I think that the pervasiveness of McLaren’s influence is unfortunate. Must emergent/postmodernism Christianity be equated with bleeding heart liberalism?


President of the Christian Association of Angry Unrecognized Conservative Snobs

Posted by: thx | Jun 17, 2005 1:02:55 PM

1. Let's not equate the books we dislike the most personally with those that are most harmful to the Church. I think that that is what Sam has done.
2. Though books can cause harm to the Church, a greater harm is done by narrow, nagative attitudes that stifle fresh thinking.

Posted by: Gerry | Jun 17, 2005 6:17:26 PM

I love it when a Christian develops one of those angry, criticize-everyone-who-does-not-agree-me websites and then calls it "Enjoying God Ministries.'

BeHim responds:
Hmmm. who wrote that book?

1. Let's not equate the books we dislike the most personally with those that are most harmful to the Church. I think that that is what Sam has done.
2. Though books can cause harm to the Church, a greater harm is done by narrow, nagative attitudes that stifle fresh thinking.

BeHim responds:
Shouldn't pick out people and call them names either. Although I would agree, there are allot of books I don't like but so far many of these are one's I would have to agree, they can severly harm the Church.

RE: Steve Arterburn's: "Every man" series and John Eldredge's: "Wild at heart"

I would be curious as to why these are included above. In my experience sexual addiction and manhood issues are connected and the church has been silent far to long on these signifcant issues. These two books approach these topics in a very (my opinion) practicle and biblical manner.

BeHim responds:
Yes, these things should be discussed but the manner in which they were discussed and recommended to discuss. It's almost like "The View" for men's bible study group.

Steve Arterburn's parallelism with Jesus submitting to the Church was over the edge for me.

It's not so much that they are bad reads but they are dangerous for churches to institute their methods (back biting, tale baring and gossip easily have their roots in such methods).

A non-essential topic but well worth considering in building a healthy church. But it comes down to opinion on topics like this.

Posted by: BeHim | Jun 17, 2005 11:33:28 PM

THX wrote: "I'd have to add anything by Jay Adams on 'biblical' counseling [...](Jay Adams is well loved by John MacArthur, by the way.)"

THX, I certainly hope you were waxing sarcastic here, but it seems not. If anything, Adams' books are a serious wake-up call to a psychology-obsessed modern church. Even as a believer of some 15 years I still find Adams' calls to radical self denial almost as challenging as Jesus' call to the same.

Todd: Even as now-Reformed ex-Pentecostal, I concurr with your citing Charismatic Chaos here. I don't know if it was as damaging on such a wide scale (e.g. Left Behind) as some of the others cited. In any case, it certainly was a shameful pile of prose that wouldn't get a passing grade in Journalism 101, let alone serve as an example from a man with doctorate. Personally, I would have lumped "Late Great Planet Earth" in with "Left Behind" as more of the same sensational, whooops, I mean, "Dispensationalist" writings ;-)


Posted by: Phil in CA | Jun 19, 2005 4:24:01 PM


Radical self-denial is good, but denial of the need for psychological treatment and medication is a harmful display of ignorance that seems to be running rampant in some segments of the church.

I understand the suspicions surrounding psychology, but Christian scholarship has helped to advance the field greatly in the last 20-30 years. For a good article, see the following:

“Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical”

Posted by: thx | Jun 19, 2005 8:08:57 PM

Amen,THX. I spent significant time in a therapy group with Christians dealing with the type of issues that Jay Adams and others of his ilk would be helpless to help.

Posted by: Gerry | Jun 19, 2005 8:54:11 PM

Thanks, Gerry.

I don’t want people to misunderstand, and I’m sorry for taking the conversation off track. I think biblical counseling is great, and that the church should do more counseling, not less; but it should be done in conjunction with other needed mental health treatment—not instead of it. When the Church excludes psychotherapy and psychopharmacology, it is just as wrong as when psychology and science religion and spirituality. Integrating these understandings is not of the devil, as Adams and his followers seem to imply.

These ideas are a big issue for me, but I guess one person’s “damage” is another person’s “defending the faith.”

Posted by: thx | Jun 20, 2005 1:10:25 AM

Gerry said:

"2. Though books can cause harm to the Church, a greater harm is done by narrow, nagative attitudes that stifle fresh thinking."

Gerry, there's nothing "fresh" about the tripe that passes as "christian" today. It's nothing more than rewarmed paganism.

Posted by: Ricky | Jun 20, 2005 2:19:46 AM

I am not going to get into a debate about Biblical counseling here, that's not why I posted. But as an advocate of nouthetic type of counseling, it pains me to see misinformation communicated about it. As Dr. Jay Adams himself explains, Biblical counseling (namely the nouthetic type) is not a "take two scriptures and call me in the morning" simplistic solution as it's sometimes caricatured. Neither is Biblical counseling exclusive of proper medical treatment (i.e., psychopharmacology) where indicated by clearly organic causality. It's just plain mischaracterization (read: false witness) to say otherwise. Finally, just like psychology, there are variations in theory and practice within Biblical counseling. I would advise studying a particular Biblical counseling methodology prior to criticizing it or spreading disinformation about its practices or foundations.

Posted by: Phil in CA | Jun 20, 2005 3:47:24 AM

I thought I'd add my 2 cents in. Since the Da Vinci code is one of the best selling books of all time (it is still not in paperback) and is soon to have a full length movie out, I see it as an opportunity for pastors to teach about Biblical truths to the church community and also to unbelievers. We brought in a NT professor to speak on The Da Vinci Code, and invited the community. We had quite a large crowd and were able to lay out the problems with the book, alongside Biblical truths. Anyway, I don't think Christians should read every piece of secular trash that is produced, but I do believe it is helpful to read a book like the Da Vinci code, as it can be a great opportunity to lay out Biblical truth inside and outside the context of the church.

Posted by: Chuck | Jun 20, 2005 10:15:48 AM

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