A few weeks back, Brett McDonald wrote a review of Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy at Evangelical Village, and he started off his review in a way that caught my attention:
A professor at Southern (who shall remain nameless) once said in class “Incestuous breeding produces bastard children.” In context, I think what he meant was that serious scholars and pastors should not consume themselves with only reading things with which they agree. It is good for the mind and even sometimes good for the soul to read people who have different opinions and even different theological positions.
This really left an impression on me.
It’s very easy for me to get very narrow in who I read and listen to. I like reading old dead guys. I like guys who are highly theological. I like listening to and reading the work of men like Piper, Driscoll, Mahaney, Harris, Dever and Chandler. But it can be problematic if I only read and listen to guys who I agree with. “Incestuous breeding produces bastard children,” as Brett’s professor said. If I don’t give an ear to guys who I might disagree with on some issues, but who are firmly evangelical, I’m doing myself a disservice.
This is as eays a trap for guys who dig more Reform-ish pastors and authors as it is for folks who prefer the self-proclaimed “Revolutionaries” who sometimes ask good questions but rarely offer good answers to fall into.
And that’s why I’m extremely grateful for blogger review programs that are offered by publishers like Thomas Nelson, NavPress and a host of others. Because of programs like these, I can pretty easily read books I normally wouldn’t (Max Lucado’s latest Fearless, for example), without having having that guilty feeling that can come from purchasing a book that you can’t stand. And as an added bonus, sometimes I find a book that I really enjoy!
The thing I love about these programs is they allow all of us to branch out and read what folks on “different teams” are saying. Sometimes you find something really great (or delightfully peculiar, like ND Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl). Sometimes you find something that you don’t enjoy as much as you expected.
But you always get to try something new, and something that will either confirm your convictions or perhaps give you new insight and respect for others.
So maybe the next time you’re at the store, or on Amazon or on a publisher’s blogger review site… Maybe instead of picking up the latest Piper book (as good as I’m sure it will be), you try someone you might not normally, like Andy Stanley.
Maybe if you prefer Donald Miller, give Ted Kluck a shot (I suspect that The Reason for Sports will be a lot of fun).
If you’ve got a blog, sign up for a review program. Try someone new.
You never know, you just might find something worth reading.