Friday, March 01, 2013

Judging the Author by the Book

A while back I was blogging through a book and someone took offense because of the author's lifestyle. The argument was that his call to discipleship was hypocritical because of the size of his house. I can't cast any stones because I don't personally know either the author nor the commenter. But it points out a fundamental challenge for any author- you become known by the words committed to the page even though there is much more to you than those words. That's one reason why blogs are so great, because you are able to catch the author in the moment, not limited to a specific subject or committed to the title of a book.

If you follow the advice to not judge a book by its cover, then do not judge the author by the book.

I humbly and regrettably admit, I'm not going to get around to reviewing either Francis Chan's Multiply or David Platt's Follow Me (which are intentionally complimentary works). There are many great reviews out there already (BibleDude for Multiply and Tim Challies for Follow Me for just a couple). But there is one review, actually a couple reviews by a single reviewer, that I want to address.

I am a big fan of Frank Viola; his teaching on the Organic Church and the Centrality of Jesus I believe are must-reads to break out of the Americanized Church. So I don't blame him for the stances he takes on both of these books. His review of Multiply is followed by a series of questions directed at Fancis Chan, warning against the legalism of the shepherding movement that is read between the lines. His review of Follow Me sounds some of the same alarms adding that the book misses the Eternal Purpose of God.

I'm not intending this to debate Frank, only to emphasize the point made above- a single book is only a limited snapshot of who the author is and just a sliver of his or her doctrine and theology.

If you read Multiply without reading Crazy Love, then you won't get an accurate measure of Chan's overwhelming love of the Almighty God. If you read Follow Me (or Radical for that matter) without listening to David Platt's sermons online, then you miss how much he is motivated by his love of the resurrected Jesus.

I just spent the last two hours listening to both Platt and Chan at the Verge Conference. Platt spent most of his time on the centrality of Jesus, and I believe Chan's Crazy Love addresses God's eternal purpose to reconcile his creation back to him. (Chan's talk expanded on Jesus' command "by this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another"- John 13:34, by noting that they saw firsthand a resurrected Jesus and how could they not have been changed by such an experience.)

If you listen to a song that you really like, you will likely check out the artist's other work- maybe log onto iTunes to listen to other songs on that album. If you like enough of them, you might buy it. If you really like the album, you might go watch them live or buy another album. You might follow them on Twitter and sign up for their fanclub.

Why should we treat the books we read any differently? Just as there's more to a band than a single song or album, there is more to an author than a single book.

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