Five Steps To…Feeling Good?

There’s a certain genre within Christian writing that grows with popularity with each passing day, and it kind of gets on my nerves. As the title indicates, that genre is Christian inspiration.

What I’m talking about are those books that are designed to affect one’s emotions into thinking that, if they do X amount of steps, their life will be changed forever and all because of this book.  You’ve probably read several of these books by now if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, maybe even had them given to you as gifts from people who’ve read them and liked them (Wild at Heart was one of mine).   These days bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million have entire sections dedicated to Christian inspiration, and they sell very well (better than actual texts on theology).

So what’s so bad about them?  Well, there’s a lot to that…

1) Authors are making money off their own personal experience and marketing it as THE thing that their target demographic needs, as if their book will solve the world’s problems. I feel that this conflicts with Paul’s assertion to “work out one’s salvation with fear and trembling.” Though there is a big emphasis on community in the early church, one’s belief in God is very much still an individual thing, and to think that everyone fits your mould is a little pretentious.

2) It promotes a very emotional Christianity. Now, we are allowed to FEEL as Christians; I encourage it, in fact.  However, these feel-good books make us feel as though something is wrong if we don’t always feel great about God and Jesus and our faith. This seems to be especially true of the health-and-wealth gospels, who say that coming to Jesus means happiness and wealth and stuff. Not cool. Jesus never promised us happiness all the time or stuff, but made it clear that suffering was coming, even persecution and death.

3) It distracts from orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Many times, people will put a book like this on a level with the Bible, sometimes even above it, and that’s not OK.  Some books are good with balancing doctrine and bible-reading and work well as supplements to Scripture; others replace scripture by saying “Do these five steps and you’ll be fine.”

4) It overly individualizes faith.  While I did just say that a certain amount of Christianity is individual, there’s also a big communal part to it, and most Christian inspiration books turn people away from community and into themselves, albeit indirectly. This runs contrary to Scripture, which turns people outward toward others and encourages the development of loving community.

I’m not saying to stay clear of the Christian Inspiration section of the book store, but I am saying you need to be careful when reading books like these, because they can quickly become our idols, replacing our Bibles as the rule of life.  When that happens, our faith gets shallow very quickly.

See you tomorrow!

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