Some people ask why I give the negatives in reviewing a book. I usually observe that a uniformly positive review is essentially an unpaid advertisement, and readers don't trust someone who only gives one side. (I doubt they like someone who only gives negatives, for that matter.)
But some people also bring the idea that giving negatives for a Christian book is unchristian or even damaging to the Gospel. The reasoning here evades me on several counts.
1. The only reason I can think of for giving uniformly positive reviews is precisely to increase sales. Such reviews will give the impression of a must-buy book without any discernible flaws. That will encourage sales, but it will also be a lie: all books have problem areas. Acknowledging this is a service to both the writer (who may improve the writing) and the prospective reader (who may intelligently weigh pros and cons). As the saying goes, "We report; you decide." I will not lie.
2. Similarly, I can't accept the idea that acknowledging negatives is not Christian. In Proverbs 27:6 we read, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." (The title for this blog entry is from the more poetic King James rendering.) So the problem is that I am not the writer's enemy, or I could "multiply kisses" with a uniformly positive review. As the writer's friend, I may occasionally inflict a wound, though never in spite or anger.
3. It is also wrong to claim that disagreement will somehow prevent the spread of the Gospel. It's like claiming that peace is always better than disagreement. Yet in an abusive household, there may be a sort of peace (the abuser is never contradicted) that is contrary to the Gospel. The triumph of the Gospel comes not through a deceptive peace but through the godly handling of strife. Thus, someone who never has any trouble is not as strong a witness for Christ as someone who undergoes great trials yet faithfully proclaims Jesus as Lord by word and deed.
Paul wrote the Corinthians, "No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval" (1 Cor 11:19). What did he mean? That you could identify the really godly people because they were always on the right side of a disagreement? No. Compare Romans 14:1-15:9. (Look it up: it's a bit long to post here.) The way you show you're approved is not by being in the right; it's by responding lovingly to disagreement.
You see, unsaved people have seen appeasers and phony peace before; they won't be impressed. But if they see people who can disagree in a loving, godly fashion, that's very unusual. People flock to oddities, so they will want to see it and know how we can love one another even in the midst of disagreement. They will know we are Christians by our love--real love, not the false love of appeasement.
1 year ago