Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 15, 1961

The Making Of Books

Bill McMurry, Atoka, Oklahoma

"And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

The wise man Solomon long ago saw the vanity and futility of man's attempting to study the many books that could be produced. "Much study" is ranked with the other elusive vanities of life, a "striving after wind." Yet, there is an area in which study is not only commendable, but is absolutely necessary for the perfecting of the Christian soldier. (Eph. 6:13-17) Timothy was admonished to "study to show thyself approved...." (2 Tim. 2:15) This is a strong implication that a lack of study is equal to a lack of approval. The Bereans were called "Noble" because "they searched the scriptures daily." (Acts 17:11) The Old Testament prophets admonished the Jews to "seek ye out of the Book of the Lord, and read.." (Isa. 34:16) The word scripture itself means writing and signifies a collection of various sacred writings as would be contained in a scroll or a book. Jesus had such in mind when he said "Search the scriptures... (John 5:39) Undoubtedly, we are commanded to search the scriptures because they alone are perfect and inspired of God. (2 Tim. 3:15-17) The scriptures alone have the testimony of the Lord that it "cannot be broken." (John 10:35) The scriptures alone contain "all things that pertain to life and godliness." (2 Pet. 1:3) It is for this reason that we are to speak only as the "oracles of God." (1 Pet. 4:11)

Today, just as in the days of Solomon, we find many books being produced. The presses roll out a ceaseless array of books, magazines, tracts, journals and periodicals of every conceivable shade and tint and hue. We are at once struck with the problem of sorting through this mountain of type and selecting those of any value while rejecting those which are only a "weariness to the flesh." The field of so-called Christian journalism in particular should be scrutinized in great detail. It is full of so many false doctrines and spurious writings as to make our task difficult almost beyond measure or ability. I offer just a few simple rules which have been of great assistance to me in this difficult task with the hope that they may make the way a bit smoother for some other struggling soul, as they have for me.

The very first rule we should follow in separating true Christian literature from that which is only so-called is to remember always that the only thing we should be concerned with is the truth that makes us free. (John 17:17) For this cause we should not allow petty personalities to influence our judgment of facts nor should we allow the quibbling of those who engage in such to determine or to in any wise affect our evaluation of a situation. We should never be concerned with who said it, only with whether it is truth. To depart from the teaching of the Word of God and descend to personality squabbles is an open admission to the world that our position is not anchored on the immovable Rock of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Matt. 16:18) James tells us that the tongue is a small member which, if we can master, we will have become well nigh perfect. (Jas. 1:26; Jas. 3:5-18) To condescend to engage in a mere question of personalities is not only an admission of the weakness of our position but an open advertisement of our weak character. "These things ought not to be so."

Secondly, we should keep, as much as possible, the writings of men from entering into a religious discussion. If they do not speak as the "oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11) they will come to naught at the judgment and we need not waste our time on them. It is, of course, permissible to refer to and quote from various writings insofar as they may bear directly upon the scriptural point under discussion. It is for this reason that there should be no objection to quoting from various creeds, manuals, disciplines, etc., in order to contrast them with the scriptural teaching. Beyond this point, we have no reason, and no authority, to proceed. It should be below the dignity of every Christian to descend to the level of "brother J. said thus-and-so ten years ago, now he says this or that." What does it matter what he said or is saying? The important thing is "What saith the scripture?" It is permissible to use such writings ONLY when the point at issue has any direct bearing on a scriptural issue, never for the sake of merely showing that "so-and-so says he has not changed, but he has."

There is much more that might be profitably discussed, but, lest I weary you with "much study" of my own writings, we shall terminate our study with one final rule. We should never engage in controversy merely for the sake of proving our opponent wrong in the point at issue. To do so is to assume that we are in full position of all knowledge and are incapable of any error whatever. It is this attitude that leads to bitterness and even to the splitting of the church. We should always assume that our opponent is sincere, just as much so as we are, and conduct our discussion on a high Christian level. Even if he should prove to be dishonest and dishonorable, and should demand that we engage in personalities rather than issues, we are not at liberty to do so. We must be Christians at all times. Nothing else is sufficient.

Finally, we should remember that we are to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thess. 5:21) In holding fast to the good we have no place for the things of the world, no place for our own feelings and desires. We must "humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord." (Jas. 4:10) We are limited, narrowly so, in even the things which we may THINK about and remain a Christian. If we live by the rule of Phil. 4:8 we will have no room for personalities, human opinion, name-calling or "weariness of the flesh," "vanity of vanities," "striving after wind." "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on THESE THINGS."