Would you use solid materials in ministry authored by someone who went astray, was disgraced, etc.?

I remember recommending a Christian book on Autism, and one brother brought  it to my attention that the author had committed suicide.  I had to ponder whether to continue to use the book (which I did), partly because it would be unlikely that readers would find this out, partly because it didn't change the quality of the book.

We used praying the Scripture books by Ken Boa, but found out he had later delved into contemplative prayer (which disregards the actual meaning of Scripture).  We chose to announce that we had not been aware that the author had made a bad turn, but that the books we used in our effort that year were themselves solid and did not recall them.  But we would not use them again.

There are many ways to disgrace the Gospel.  Anywhere from Bill Hybels (who was never that solid to begin with) to James McDonald to Andy Stanley to whoever.  In a sense, the amazing John Stott (in his latter years) denied the eternality of hell.

So would you remove Stott's books from your church library, or just the one that deals with hell?  Would you refer to books by C.S. Lewis (who had many doctrinal issues) in a positive light?

Do you cease and desist using materials from men or women who went astray sexually?  Would you use the early materials from Beth Moore and Patricia Shriver from their early days but not their latter?

You get the point.  How do the baby, the bathwater, and separation meld?  Messy subject, this.

Part of the confusion is about this question:  "Do you endorse everything someone is or does by using his/her material?"

Another ponderable is this: "If a person really loves this individual's teaching, might he or she then be drawn to some of their other books?"

In our situation with Boa, this seemed very unlikely, and we did not want to base a decision on a remote possibility.  But if ti were Gordon or James MacDonald or Andy Stanley, what might we have done?  When it comes to Stott, he is rock solid on so much that I would hesitate to label him a denier of foundational truth. It is tough.

What are your thoughts and opinions?

 

It is hard to determine an objective standard, sometimes yes and sometimes no, based upon projected impact.
55% (11 votes)
You get rid of everything, and don't even quote these people who are off target.
5% (1 vote)
You include only books, lessons, etc., that are solid, but not those contrary to your (or church) beliefs, perhaps w/a caveat.
10% (2 votes)
If it is moral failure or huge heresy, you trash things, but not secondary matters.
15% (3 votes)
Other
15% (3 votes)
Total votes: 20
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There are 13 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

...and my take proceeds from remembering that it's impossible to "screen" the authors of all the entries in a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia or the like.  How do you tell?  Plus, your best ancient language works are done by the Germans.  Do I walk away from Kittel because they were likely unbelievers, or for that matter Moody's Hebrew reference because they use the same research heavily?  What do we make of Paul quoting pagan philosophers at the Areopagus, and again with regards to Cretans?  Or, for that matter, New Testament references to the Oral Torah--seems to me that Pharisaism is a pretty strong rejection of the Gospel, no?

It also seems that imputing doctrinal error or scandal on an author is a great way to end up with very few books one is willing to trust, and would tend to result in an "echo chamber" where the word of the current pastor would become inordinately important--really making the pastor a de facto "pope".  

My overall take is that I try to look carefully at everything I read.  There are some otherwise great sources where I've seen things where I say "such and such press really needs to apologize for this one."  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert, the issue of what we read is one thing -- I read many secular books, for example, that are based upon evolutionary thinking, situation ethics, etc.  

The greater issue is what we have in our church libraries, use for curriculum, or refer to from the pulpit.

I agree with your thoughts.  One reason I enjoy reading secular works or those by authors with positions different than mine (on some subjects) is to avoid the "inbreeding" that is so characteristic of more cloistered fundamentalists.

The problem comes down to, "If we use or make someone's material available in some way, are we therefore endorsing everything about that person?"  I think the answer is "no."  Offering a set of the Chronicles of Narnia or The Problem of Pain in our church library does not mean we endorse the Theistic evolution or universalism of C.S. Lewis, for example.

I think it is fallacious thinking that quoting someone in a positive light endorses everything (or anything) about them.  Still, quoting the wrong person can be a major distraction and counter productive.  For example, if I quoted Harry Truman, that would probably not be distracting.  If I quoted Barrack Obama -- or even Donald Trump -- my listeners might be distracted and enter a mental rabbit trail.

But still, if the author has deserted the faith or has proven sexually immoral, etc., I think his (or her) reputation overshadows the good teaching or writing that person may have done in the past.  If the author disagrees in some areas which are not the core of the book, for example, that is a different story. For example, I recommend Grudem's Systematic as the best  current one out there, but agree more with Ryrie's work, which, unfortunately, is not a complete, thorough systematic.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

....in me wonders whether we could train the congregation to really be able to "see through" a lot of the mistakes and worse in a lot of the references we can use, but....perhaps I am a dreamer.  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I may have to separate from you. Erickson clearly has the best systematic. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Nord Zootman's picture

Tyler, I know this is off topic a little, but I know you have referred to Erickson a number of times. I have used him some and may want to read through his theology. I have the second edition in Logos. Do you know if the third edition is enough different that I should pick it up before I invest that much time in reading it?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I don't. I have the 2nd, and got advice that I don't need to upgrade to the 3rd. Sorry! 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I went with get rid of his stuff and don't quote him.

It seems severe as an "in every situation," but I took it as "in most situations." The reason is that there are always multiple options when it comes to resources and even when the resources are really excellent and the author isn't iffy, there will eventually be something as good or better. Just use something else.

But it does depend on your church as well as the author in question. In highly literate congregations with a large number of active readers, use of a particular book by a particular writer doesn't stand out much. Where books and reading are largely neglected, it can be a big deal. 

Nord Zootman's picture

Thanks Tyler

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron wrote:

 In highly literate congregations with a large number of active readers, use of a particular book by a particular writer doesn't stand out much. Where books and reading are largely neglected, it can be a big deal. 

Aaron, those are some good thoughts.  To expand upon your principle, the whole separation issue varies with the type of people that characterize a congregation.  

Still, I would say the deeper problem is the "I am of Paul" or "I am of Apollos" syndrome. People who are not as wise latch on to a big name and hold tight, eventually embracing everything about them. Wiser people glean from many sources but do not sell their soul to any.

I can see how one congregation can quote from anybody without such quotations being considered endorsements, while in another group a simple quotation is understood as an endorsement.

Even I get frustrated when we have story after story about evangelical missionaries suffering and sacrificing for the gospel, and then someone uses Mother Theresa as an example.  It gets on my nerves, not because of the source, but because pastors who should know about evangelical missionaries either don't or do not appreciate their efforts.  Okay, let me get down from my soapbox!

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I would join you on that particular soapbox I think.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I give away a book at church every month. We announce the book, and have people put their names in the offering plate the next week. We draw the week after. I have a copy of Hybels' Just Walk Across the Room to give out. It's a short, happy, helpful little book that encourages people to just have Gospel conversations in their everyday lives. It isn't a theological tome, but it is encouraging. I don't know what to do with it. Many people have heard what Hybels is accused of doing, and it makes me reluctant to give it out. But, it's a good book. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ed Vasicek's picture

Many people have heard what Hybels is accused of doing, and it makes me reluctant to give it out. But, it's a good book. 

Yes, that makes the point I am addressing.  Some people would have tossed the book before the MeToo scandal, on the basis of being seeker-sensitive, etc.  I would not have done so for that, but would because of the Me Too.

These are exactly the hard kind of calls this poll is about.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Interesting comment relevant to this poll from Clint Archer at Cripplegate, referring to Francis Chan:

What do we do with the trove of his material online?

The same thing the noble-minded Bereans did with Paul’s teachings (Acts 17:11) and the same thing we should do with all we read or hear: compare it to Scripture. As for anything he produces now… I wouldn’t recommend it. Not until we see an unequivocal return to the safe zone of Scripture. Once a person loses their discernment, their teaching can easily become increasingly laced with error.

"The Midrash Detective"