What to remember when you change your mind about a book

keyboard

Maybe you’ve had this experience before—the thought that comes the exact moment after you hit publish:

What if I change my mind?

I’ve written a lot of book reviews over the last five years. Some books I’ve really enjoyed; others I wonder why I ever read in the first place (probably because I got them for free from one of the blog review programs). But for the most part, I’ve never felt a deep burden to go back and change a review once it’s written. Even so, every so often, the temptation strikes:

  • when a book makes its way back into the reading pile and I notice something different about it;
  • when other thoughtful reviewers raise concerns I didn’t even notice during my read through (either because I didn’t pick up on them or I was blinded by a nasty case of “fanboy-itis”); or
  • when the review simply wasn’t very well written.

So what do in these situations? Well, there are a few things you need to remember:

1. Your review is representative of your opinion at the time it was written. This is just the result of time, and (hopefully) wisdom and maturity. Opinions change, writing abilities improve, convictions either firm or soften… it just happens. And when it does, you can change what you’ve written, but it doesn’t mean you have to.

For example, some time ago, I wrote a review of N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl. The first time out, it had a few catchy lines, but it was in dire need of a polish. In all honesty, even though I loved the book (still do, too), the review itself was kind of a mess. So I decided to rewrite it and republish it.

But poorly written reviews aside, there are a number of books I’ve reviewed over the years that, honestly, I don’t think I was hard enough on. I wasn’t asking the right questions of them, or I was filling in the gaps for myself. (Here’s one example that comes to mind.) But do I feel a burning need to revisit it? Not really. I’ve got enough on my plate to deal with than that.

2. The shelf-life is short, so you probably don’t need to worry about it. Book reviews tend to be very (VERY) time sensitive, and because so many books are published each week, the book you might have been sure was going to be life-changing may be collecting dust in a remainder bin right now. So if you wrote a review and you feel like you gaffed on it, you probably don’t need to sweat it. it’s likely no one’s reading it these days, anyway.

3. It’s never too late to publish a retraction or clarification. This really comes down to a matter of conscience. If you wrote a glowing review for one of Joel Osteen’s books and have recognized the error of your ways, it’s okay to fix it. If you wrote a particularly harsh review of a book that, after some more time and maybe an additional read, you realize wasn’t so bad, it’s alright to say so.

In other words, it’s never too late to say, ”In 2011, I wrote that I believe Real Marriage was more good than bad. Upon careful consideration since reviewing the book, I no longer believe this to be true.”1

Changing our minds is simply part of life. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen to you. So enjoy it when it happens. Leave what should be left alone, alone. Change what needs to be changed. Just make sure you don’t lose any sleep over it.

Think About What You're Reading

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

I read a silly amount of books every week/month/year, and I’ve realized something:

The ones I enjoy the most are the ones with discussion questions.

Recently my men’s small group has been working our way through The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard (it’s a great book, by the way), and one of the most helpful things about it—even more than the content itself—is the discussion questions and application activities.

It’s really easy to read a book (or scan it in some cases) and say, “Yep, I’ve got it. Next!” Especially for me.

I read very quickly, I retain a lot… but if I don’t dwell on the content, it just sits in my head and doesn’t affect my life.

I find that I have to make the time for application. Discussion questions force me to do that, to dwell on the content and chew on its implications.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul is a great one for that, as is Doctrine by Driscoll & Breshears. Both of these contain great questions that are beneficial to personal study or small groups.

Now, there are some things that don’t require discussion guides, obviously. If you’re reading Amish Vampire Romance End-Times books, for example—okay, that might require some discussion (but not of the book itself).

Rescuing Ambition, which I reviewed yesterday, had a lot of questions within the text, which was great. It made me stop and think about the book.

I also appreciate how Francis Chan periodically writes, “Okay, stop reading this book, go watch this video here, read this passage of Scripture and look at what it says about XYZ.” That’s smart; it pushes the reader to interact with the text and not just let it wash over him or her.

So what do you do with a book that doesn’t have any questions?

Ask your own!

As a general rule, I have a few questions for every book I read:

  1. What is the main idea the author is trying to convey?
  2. How does the author support his/her idea(s)? Scripture, tradition, history, illustrations from real life examples…
  3. Do I agree with the author’s main idea? Why or why not? And can I support my position with appropriate Scripture? (Questions two and three are essential for anything labeled “Christian Living,” “Spiritual Growth,” or “Theology,” I’ve found.)
  4. If these ideas are true, what is one practical way I can apply this truth today?

A great book is one that doesn’t just challenge the way you think, but challenges you to think.

Ask questions. Enjoy discussion.

And think about what you’re reading.

Aaron likes his bookie-books

Yesterday, Michael Krahn posted a fun top-ten list about one of our favorite subjects: Books! I liked it so much that I copied the idea.

The Bible fits well as the answer to most of these questions, but I wanted to make sure I had some variety.

With that said, away we go!

1. One book that changed your life:

Knowing God by J.I. Packer, which showed me the importance and beauty of good theology

Runner up: Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families by Pamela Paul

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

Humility by C.J. Mahaney. I’ve read this 3 times already and am on my fourth.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: [Read more...]

Oh My God

Oh My God is a documentary that asks the question, “Who is God?”

The filmmaker, Peter Rodger, travelled to 23 different countries around the world just asking this question. In his travels, he didn’t just ask “experts” to explain their concept or understanding of God. He asked normal folks.

And Hugh Jackman.

Check out the trailer:

Jackman’s quote is pretty interesting:

If you put Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Shakespeare, Arjuna, Krishna together at a dinner table, I couldn’t see them having any argument.

It’s a really nice sentiment, the belief that all religions are fundamentally the same (although I’m not exactly sure how Shakespeare fits into the “religious figure” camp), and therefore, they do not stand in conflict.

It’s a nice idea that we hear a lot. Heck, it’s an argument I threw out a lot back in the day. But as nice as it is, it’s not true. Jesus doesn’t allow for it. What we see in the New Testament is that Jesus debates a lot. He challenges the assumptions of the religious leaders of the day, and even those of His own followers, asking them, “Who do you say I am?”

But that’s what makes the movie intriguing to me; it’s asking, perhaps, the most important question we can ever ask:

Who is God?

It’s a question I’m glad Rodger is asking.

I’m curious if he discovered an answer.

HT: Z

John Piper: The Tornado, the Lutherans and Homsexuality

UPDATE (08/25): For my thoughts on interpreting providence, read God & The Weather.


Central Lutheran's broken steeple

Wednesday, a tornado touched down in Minneapolis, Minnesota, much to the surprise of everyone (including weather forecasters). The tornado directly hit the convention center and the Central Lutheran Church at the exact time that delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America were debating the acceptance of openly practicing homosexuals into the pastoral ministry of the church.

The next day, John Piper offered some possible insights into this occurrence in a post titled The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality. This post has caused a lot of controversy over the last few days, but there are a couple of very relevant pieces we need to look at. In his original post, Piper writes:

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.”

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

In his post, Piper offers his thoughts on the specific purpose of this providential act of God, with some strong biblical support. [Read more...]

"Free Pass" Theology

Something interesting that’s been coming up over and over again in conversation has been the idea that God gives certain people a free pass.

If a group of people live somewhere where the gospel’s never been preached, they automatically get into Heaven, is one heard a fair bit, but I honestly don’t give it much thought because it’s answered in Romans 1:19-20.

But there’s another idea that gives me pause:

If a child dies very young, before reaching an “age of accountability,” then he or she goes to Heaven.

I’ll admit, I really like the idea of this, but I want to know if it’s true.

So I’ve been doing some research. And aside from (so far) finding that the only place where a doctrine of an age of accountability is clearly defined is within Mormonism, I did find a couple of interesting points:

In Deut. 1:35-36, the Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land are reminded of God’s judgement on the previous generation, that “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!” [Read more...]

Is the Single Income Household Dead?

maxed-outFinances have been on my mind a great deal. Over the past few months, the Armstrong family has been learning how to live solely on my income and finding that we actually can. Our lifestyle is by no means extravagant, but we have food on the table and the bills are paid, which is really all you can ask for, right?

We have to wait on things that we want, but that just means that we have extra time to learn whether or not we really want them.

Thursday morning, I had a great meeting with our pastor, and we were discussing this very thing. And after saying how much he admires the very difficult task that single moms have, earning an income and raising children on their own (I was raised by a single mom who worked really hard to take care of my sister and I, so I wholeheartedly agree; single parents are superheroes), he, in a somewhat resigned fashion, said, “The days of the single-income household are gone, for the most part.”

[Read more...]

Responding to the Question

Yesterday, I posed the question Why don’t we share our faith in Christ? 

Today, I thought it would be wise to give you my thoughts.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s because we’ve bought into the lie that it’s okay to like Jesus, as long as you don’t love Him. It’s okay for us to go to church as a hobby, but it’s not okay for it to mean anything. It’s okay to
be a “Christian” as long as it doesn’t affect any area of your life beyond what you do on Sunday morning (and even that’s up for grabs).

I know that I’ve caught myself hesitating at times because I worry about being seen as “the weird Christian guy”… The one who actually talks about Jesus like He matters. And, I’ve often lost an opportunity to speak because I’ve hesitated.

The fact is, if my faith means anything, I have to talk about it. Not just blog about it, or wax intellectual, but really talk to people. My friends who aren’t Christians. My family who aren’t Christians. I’ll be honest, it’s really scary for me because I’ve already lost friends because of it. I’d prefer to not lose more. But there in lies the dilemma: Is it really faith if it doesn’t cost me anything?

Maybe I’m over thinking?

Why don't we share our faith in Christ?

Sunday, our pastor is concluding what’s been, without hyperbole, the best sermon series they’ve done in my four years at Gateway Church (my wife was shocked—in a good way—when I said this the other day). It’s been challenging, convicting and inspiring. Most importantly, it’s been centered on one of the crucial distinctions of the Christian life: Unless our works and our passions are connected to the cross, they are nothing more than good will.

In anticipation for this week’s message, Pastor Rick sent out an intriguing question that I wanted to throw out to all of you who are reading:

Why don’t we share our faith in Christ?

Take a moment and share your thoughts. Looking forward to some great discussion.

What is the Gospel?

Tomorrow night our small group is beginning a short study of the equally short book of Jude, beginning with looking at what it means to contend for the faith.

In light of this, I thought I’d throw this question out to all who might be reading tonight:

What is the gospel; how would you articulate it?
Do you believe there are things that don’t need to be said?

I’m interested to read your thoughts, so please drop a note in the comments section.

10 Things We Don't Mention in Worship Songs…

A while back, Abraham Piper wrote about “10 Things we don’t mention in worship songs but that I’m happy God saved me from.” I liked it so much that I’m blatantly copying him, although not his 10 things.

Here’s my list:

  1. Rage
  2. Children out of wedlock
  3. Divorce
  4. Adultery
  5. Pride (though I struggle with this constantly)
  6. girls with low self-esteem
  7. Self-esteem
  8. Satan (long story)
  9. Candy and things that taste like candy (again, I struggle with this constantly)
  10. Emergent theology

What’s yours?