Judging a Book by its Title

August 01, 2008

There is an old saying that you "cannot judge a book by its cover." Some people do not even go so far as to look at the cover. David Tolliver, interim executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, recently made claims about a book's content based solely on its title. The problem, however, is that had he actually read the book he may have seen that his summary was incorrect.

In his column about how we should not compromise the truth, Tolliver ironically offered this untruth:

Some modern church leaders -- some who call themselves emergent church leaders -- seem to be repackaging biblical doctrines. In his latest book, Everything Must Change, emergent church leader, Brian McLaren, asserts that Christians have to change their doctrines. Rather than fulfilling a commission, the emergents purport that the church is to be fostering a conversation.
Tolliver apparently has not read McLaren's book Everything Must Change (which I reviewed in an earlier post after reading it). Instead, he seems to make his claim that McLaren wants us to change our doctrines because the title of the book says that we must change everything. However, McLaren admits on page one of the book "that the statement 'everything must change' is hyperbole" and that some people have felt "a little skeptical and suspicious" about what he was writing after "having only read the title and subtitle of this book." If only Tolliver has at least read the first page of the book!

On page six, McLaren explains that Jesus is the one "that could change everything for us and the world we inhabit." Then on page 23, he tells the story of where the title came from. It was a statement a woman made during a discussion in Africa. As they talked about what it meant to live out the "kingdom of God," the woman declared that if that was true "then everything must change." They were talking about our lifestyles as Christians--not the creation of some new doctrines. As McLaren explained on page 23, "the kingdom of God is not simply a new belief or doctrine that can be patched into an old way of life; it is, rather, a new way of life that changes everything."

Tolliver could have learned all of this just by reading the first two dozen pages. Instead, he apparently only read the title and then used it to support his own bias. In the next sentence, Tolliver claimed that those like McLaren want a conversation instead of following the Great Commission. But why must these be opposing ideas? Many times the best way to live out the Great Commission is to have a conversation with others where we truly listen to them instead of just talking at them. It seems it would do Tolliver some good to sit down in a conversation with McLaren.

0 comments