The first is to avoid fiction completely, which I blogged about last week. The second option is the common “Christian only” route—you read only those books with clearly Christian content, usually written by known Christian authors and released by Christian publishers.
This second option is a viable option, one I employed during my teen years, and it’s perhaps the safest and easiest of the three options. Nonetheless, it has large disadvantages that Christians rarely talk about. These disadvantages fall into three main areas:
Limited selection and quality: With every passing year this is changing. Nonetheless, the Christian market still produces large quantities of mediocre books, and there remains gapping holes in the genres released. After all, how many Christian high seas adventures or vampire stories have you seen?
Limited Perspective: Reading only Christian books creates an ideological bubble around us—turns us into imagination hermits. But we need to be in the world—though not of it—and one way we can do this is through reading in limited amounts the world’s literature. Through their books, we gain a window into the secular mind and the way it sees the world.
More than that, reading beyond the Christian realm might reveal to us areas of error, because guess what—being Christian doesn’t mean you’re never wrong. But perhaps more importantly, secular writing—or even Christian writing that’s slightly weird—can challenge us to think through why we believe what we do.
Limited Awareness: Believe it or not, Christian writers can and do err. For example, Christian author Madeline L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time) advocates evolution, an idea I firmly believe contradicts the Bible. But how often do we shut off our discernment simply because the book is labeled as “Christian,” allowing these errors to enter our minds unchallenged? No, reading only Christian material can lull us into false security, a far more dangerous state than reading the secular with discernment.
In short, a Christian book is not equal to perfectly safe. While Christian writers and publishers strive for Biblical accuracy, we are still fallible, and pitfalls remain.