Christians and Reading materials

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by DiamondLady, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. DiamondLady

    DiamondLady
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    I enjoy the "what are you reading" thread and seeing what everyone is reading. I came across one of the posts and it mentioned the book they were reading had extreme (I think that was the word) violence and sexual content. Here's my question....Should Christians read secular literature or should they only read Christian literature? If it's okay to read secular literature do you draw a line at what you read? What's okay and what isn't, in your opinion? For the women, is it okay to read romance novels?
     
  2. Crabtownboy

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    I am not sure what is meant by 'secular literature' as some books that are probably in this category carry very strong ethical and/or moral lessons. For instance I recently read By Ox Cart a biography of a young couple migrating to California in 1860. It was very interesting and did, in a number of places, carry moral and ethical lessons ... at least IMHO.

    Books by Fyodor Dostoyevsky are very strong in their Christian moral lessons, but I doubt they are considered Christian literature in the sense you mean.

    I do not mind violence or sexual in nature if the violence and sex are integral parts of the story. If they are simply there to hopefully sell more books, then I do not approve at all. I thought much of the sex in The Godfather was not important to the story and thus was not acceptable.

    Sadly in my experience much that would be called Christian literature is poorly written and often has weak plots or story lines. But again that is simply my opinion.
     
  3. preacher4truth

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    Some believe that all we should read is the Bible alone, and to read commentaries & C is wrong, and that this implicates those who are guilty in doing so as trusting in man, not God. :rolleyes:

    As far as explicit materials, I think fleeing immorality is Scriptural, that dabbling it it is foolish and anti-Scriptural, why give Satan a foothold?
     
  4. InTheLight

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    I presume the intent of your question is regarding reading fiction, not historical or informational material. But I will give my opinion on all.

    I think it is OK to read secular literature. I do draw lines. I'm not going to read anything informational that contradicts Christianity, i.e. new age stuff, Islamic, or eastern religious stuff, or material that espouses universalism. I would apply the same criteria to biographical material but with a wider safety net. I wouldn't read biographies of criminals, for example.

    It gets dicier with fiction. I try to avoid explicit s*xual material. Ninety nine times out of a hundred there is no reason to describe the actual scene between two people in bed. I also try to avoid novels where there will be a lot of unmarried people having s*x, in fact I can't think of the last story I read with this as a plot device.

    I read a lot of adventure and thriller novels. A staple of these stories are the hero and heroine being thrown together in a sequence of dangerous, life threatening situations where they barely escape with their lives. Eventually they reach a lull in the action where they acknowledge their attraction to each other. At this point there are a couple of ways to handle what happens next. Explicitly or obliquely. We know what explicitly entails. Obliquely would be some suggestive dialogue between the characters and then the next scene would be "he woke up next to her early in the morning" or something similar that offered no details of the night before, then move right into the next sequence in the plot.

    As to romance novels, I've only read a couple and it was 20 years ago, so I can't specifically address them. BUT, if they feature adultery and/or lots of s*xual scenes, I would contend that they aren't appropriate for Christians.

    Violence has a place in a story depending on the genre (war novels, detective novels, etc.), but gratuitous violence is a big reason why I don't read horror anymore. In fact, I can't think of a good reason to read horror.

    Between the two--s*xual or violent content--I'd avoid s*xual content as much as possible and the violence had better have context to the story. The reason being that everyone can be tempted by s*xual content, but the vast majority of people are not going to contemplate committing violence.

    I don't like profanity in stories and will put down a novel that has a lot of swearing in it. On the other hand, I acknowledge that some characters will use this type of language and if it is infrequent enough I will keep reading.
     
    #4 InTheLight, Jun 29, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 29, 2011
  5. InTheLight

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    This is generally true, but there are some real quality fiction authors out there. If anyone is interested I will list some of my favorite Christian novelists.
     
  6. quantumfaith

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    I personally have enjoyed Peretti and Rosenberg novels. Admittedly, I do not read fiction often. Unless of course if you view reading topics related to Science and Faith, or my "no name" theology fiction. :)
     
  7. quantumfaith

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    I do like Dostoyevsky, but you should have a well grounded faith before tackling The Brothers Karamazov. It will most certainly challenge you on the basis of mankinds ability to be horrific toward one another.
     
  8. DiamondLady

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    I very deliberately left the question open to opinion, as I thought it an interesting place to see where people come from. I wasn't forming any judgments on the reading choices of others, but only interested in where others were on this issue. In my opinion the terms secular literature would be anything other than Christian literature. The term literature has a broad definition.
     
  9. Baptist Believer

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    The Bible itself has extreme violence and sexual content.

    It’s hard for English translators to mask the violence in some portions of the scriptures, but it is much easier for them to mask the sexual content, since most modern English readers don’t understand the Hebrew euphemisms, especially when they are translated literally into English. (For instance, the story of Ruth and Boaz in Ruth 3:7-14 – Ruth uncovers Boaz’s “feet,” which is a Hebrew euphemism for his genitals. Once you know that, the rest of the passage is obvious.)

    Since God has seen fit to document sex and violence in the scriptures, I do not think it is necessarily wrong (within reason, of course) to have such things depicted in other literature that reveals truth.

    I don’t draw distinctions between “Christian” literature and so-called “secular” literature since I don’t think either category actually exists except in terms of marketing. There are many books in Christian bookstores that are full of abominable lies and do not present the truth about the world, the truth about people, or the truth about God. There are also books written by authors who do not write for a specifically Christian audience, but their work embodies a Christian worldview and reveals God’s truth, even if there is not an evangelistic bent to the work.

    1.) Quality – It must be quality writing and a quality story. Quality stories are based on truth.
    2.) Balanced – The writing must not wallow in violence, sexuality, political rants, etc., but should present a balanced truth perspective. There are some exceptions to this (for instance, first-person accounts of war), but the work needs to have something to reveal beyond a simple depiction of events.

    I don’t draw distinctions between men and women as far as reading material goes. I also have no experience reading romance novels, so I really don’t know much about them except for what I might see on the covers… and I don’t want to necessarily judge a book by its cover.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a story of romance, as long as the romance is rooted in the truth of true love. However I have heard that most of those books are more about fantasy relationships (there the lead male character has few, if any, realistic faults or weaknesses) and not about realistic depictions of people, that women who are not well grounded in life and normal relationships may develop unrealistic expectations that may undermine their real-world relationships.

    As I tell the high school boys I teach at church, you have to guard your imagination/fantasy life. If you find yourself fantasizing about a girl in a sexual way, you are training your mind and body to react that way in real life when an opportunity presents itself. Like a soldier or police officer who runs drills to train the body and mind to know how to react in certain emergency situations when you don’t have time to think everything through, Christians need to decide who they are going to be and what their standards are BEFORE they fact temptation. If they don’t have a plan and have made these decisions ahead of time, they are going to find it very difficult, if not impossible, to flee temptation when it presents itself.

    In the same way, those who feed their minds and imaginations on a steady diet of untruth, lustful fantasies, and unrealistic expectations are setting themselves up for an enormous amount of difficulty if they want to be a disciple of Jesus. As it is, the training of the mind and body to act/react appropriately (that is, Christian spiritual disciplines) toward the temptations present in a normal life is difficult enough without adding negative and unhelpful influences. However, writing (whether marketed as “Christian” or not) that reveals truth can only support true Christian discipleship.
     
  10. InTheLight

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    Well, that makes other passages a bit clearer.

    (concerning Jerusalem)
    Ezekiel 16:25 Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms.
     
  11. preachinjesus

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    I don't understand the distinction between the "sacred" vs. "secular" materials. When several of the major Christian publishing houses are owned by "secular" companies, what's the difference? Does the Holy Spirit only speak to us through "annointed" works? What does that look like?

    Those questions are more rhetorical than anything else. I don't make a differentiation between the two categories when planning my reading. I just read.

    Right now if I had to lay out percentages, I read about 60% "secular" resources and 40% "sacred" resources. Given that I read a newspaper, several magazines, a host of news websites, sports news, as well as business reports, books talking about social trends, fiction, etc. that is a chunk of reading.

    My "sacred" reading is delimited to useful theological and spiritual formation studies. I don't read Christian fiction because it is not good. I don't listen to much "Christian" music because it is usually not good.

    I don't like making the bifurcation between the two categories. There is a lot of overlap. I also don't understand people who say they should only read the Bible. Clearly the Bible itself uses secular resources to make up some of its commentary.

    How do you determine what you watch at the movies? Or on TV? The content is important. For instance I enjoy reading from a wide breadth of perspectives on political and social issues. I've got a brain that works so I can determine, from the perspectives, what is good and bad. When it comes to what I'm reading I don't get into stuff that is overly sensuous. Nor do I get into areas of reading that exalt lifestyle choices outside of God's plan.

    You have to develop and use your discernment as conditioned by the Holy Spirit. Right now I think too much believers have never actually encountered a move of the Holy Spirit to know what its warning horns would sound like. Also because of the volume of other things in their lives they don't know what that voice sounds like. Yet discernment is critical device to learn to use.

    I get this question a lot, usually by email. Women are different then men. My reply usually begins by acknowledging those differences first. Some women get wrapped up in soap operas, when they were on tv, and others get wrapped up in Oprah, when she was on tv. Men get wrapped up in their stuff too. So if someone tries to say, "Well romance novels are just for women being neglected by their husbands..." I don't buy it. (I've never read one...so this might be wrong) But maybe some of it has to do with the same things that make some people watch shows about wealthy people and such.

    If the content is lascivious and lewd than it is no better than magazines some men "read." There is some efforts by evangelical authors to bring forth a response to the lewdness here. Unfortunately I hear all these books are about the Amish or something which has all kinds of different implications.

    Its a good question, but one needs to understand the reply through the same paradigm as other resources. :)

    This is a great idea for a thread btw! :thumbs:
     
  12. davidoregonJr

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    The Lord bless you a 1000 times more as much as you have in your life now.
    amen
     
  13. Iconoclast

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    As with anything in the christian life....


    Can you give thanks to God for it?

    can you do it heartily unto the Lord?

    Is it a good use of your time?
     
  14. Baptist Believer

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    Excellent response! :thumbsup:
     

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