After ministering for more than 45 years as a pastor and professor, I have recommended many things over the years. Once in a while, someone will come to me with a book in his or her hand and usually they will have their finger in the book at a certain page.
They will say something like this, “You recommended this book, but you don’t believe this do you?” And then, they will proceed to read a sentence or a paragraph. Sometimes I do agree; sometimes, I don’t. But it is always an occasion for me to think about why I recommended what I do.
Let me be clear—nothing like that has happened to “spark” this post. I was just thinking recently about how I go about recommending things.
First, I always tell students or other inquirers that a recommendation from me does not mean that I absolutely believe “everything” in the book or other resource. I have never made a recommendation with a “100% OK” stamp of approval.
The reason is, I’ve never found a person or resource I completely agree with. I don’t even presume to teach and preach with absolute certainty regarding everything I’ve said or written. More than once I have had to say, “Is that what you heard me say? Well, if it is, it’s not what I meant!” Sometimes, it’s even more significant than that—I have actually said or written things I later wish I had not. Such is life.
For me, a recommendation is a statement that a person and his/her related speaking and writing will leave you facing in the right direction—that is, toward life in Christ. With that kind of recommendation, I want to leave myself and you free to take issue with particular statements. I want to leave myself and you free to dialog with the statement, engage it, etc.
This was recently confirmed for me in a quote from St. Augustine in On Doctrine which I am sure I am paraphrasing. The wise saint said, “Something is good for you if it leaves you loving God and others more.” I recommend that, but don’t “run wild” with it!