Select Wisdom Brand

How to Discern Theologically Sound Authors and Books

by Stephen Davey

Cynthia Asked:

Stephen, you often speak of reading books. How do you determine the credibility of books or authors of the books you read and feel confident about referencing? This is especially a matter of concern today in the era of self-publishing.

Great question, Cynthia. Thanks for asking.

Let me start by saying that the volume of books I read is much more than the books I would reference. When I’m studying a passage or subject, I do my own study. Then, I read a wide variety of books. I want to know what other theologians and pastors have said. I try to find books that span the generations, from early church leaders to the present. And I want to know what people who disagree with my interpretation have said. So, the books I reference in my sermon footnotes represent a fraction of what I read each week.

I use great caution when it comes to referencing a book. This is especially true if I am using the reference in a positive light. When I reference an author, I assume that someone might purchase and read that book. I try to be careful to quote and reference authors who lead people to biblical truth. Sometimes I quote people I disagree with, but I’m careful to make sure people know that I disagree.

I also take into consideration the character and the lifestyle of the author. Although I don’t always do this, I prefer referencing authors who are now with the Lord. There have been times when I have quoted men who, at the time, seemed to have vibrant, effective, godly ministries. Later on, they fell into moral failure. In one case, a man I quoted renounced his faith. While I can’t go back in time and change what I preached, I do try to go back and edit my manuscripts to delete the quotes and the references. I want to point people to men and women who offer a godly, faithful life model.

Let me end with this. As a Christian leader, I don't want to influence someone toward content and resources that might lead them away from the truth. A spiritually immature listener might assume that because I quoted an author, what that author has written must be good. However, if you are a mature believer, I don’t think everything you read must align with Scripture. There can be value in knowing the thoughts and ideas of those who disagree with you. But you need to be discerning. Never embrace what anyone says as truth unless it lines up with Scripture. I expect you to treat what I say and write the same way. If a book does not align with the Bible, don’t adopt what it says as part of your beliefs. the Bible is the only standard.

Bonus: Eight Tips for Choosing Books

Navigating the vast array of theological literature as an evangelical Christian can be challenging, especially concerning theological accuracy and doctrinal soundness. Here are some tips to help discern which authors might be most aligned with evangelical beliefs and sound theology:

  • Check the Author's Background and Affiliations: Look into the author's educational background, their denominational affiliation, and the organizations they're associated with. Authors who are connected with well-respected evangelical seminaries or churches are more likely to align with evangelical theology.

  • Read Reviews and Endorsements: Check out reviews from trusted evangelical leaders or organizations. Endorsements from respected theologians or pastors can also be a good indicator of the book's theological soundness.

  • Compare with Biblical Teachings: Always compare the teachings in the book with the Bible. The core of evangelical belief is the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, so any book that deviates from biblical teachings should be approached with caution.

  • Seek Recommendations from Trusted Sources: Ask for recommendations from your church leaders, fellow believers, or reputable evangelical organizations. They might have a list of authors or specific books they trust and recommend.

  • Beware of Popularity as the Sole Criterion: Just because a book is popular doesn’t necessarily mean it's theologically sound. Sometimes, books gain popularity for reasons other than their adherence to sound doctrine.

  • Engage with a Variety of Perspectives: While it’s important to stay grounded in sound theology, reading a range of perspectives can help deepen understanding and discernment, as long as these are weighed against the Bible.

  • Participate in Study Groups: Engaging with a study group in your church or community can provide insights into different authors and books, and the group discussion can aid in discerning the theological accuracy of the readings.

  • Utilize Online Resources: Websites, podcasts, and blogs from reputable evangelical sources can be valuable for getting book recommendations and reviews.

Remember, discernment is key. Even within evangelical circles, there can be a range of interpretations and teachings, so it’s important to approach all readings with a prayerful and discerning heart, always seeking to align understanding with the truth of Scripture.

Before you go, add a comment below. How you choose books? Share some particularly helpful books with the rest of us.

Add a Comment


Nancy McNiff says:
Thank you for the guidelines. Of course we value books by Stephen Davey. My husband and I also refer to books by Nancy Guthrie, Erwin Lutzer, Charles Swindoll, Charles Stanley, and Adrian Rodgers.
Georgia says:
I like checking the background of Christian Authors to see if what they're writing about lines up with the word of God.
David Sommer says:
I found Dave Hunt's book, What Love is This, dealing with Calvanism very thorough and very revealing, starting with Calvin's background.
tammy L dresner says:
i like to choose books that others have read such as BBN's lamplighter theater and Lynn Brooks on Christian Classics and also Elisabeth Elliot gives book titles and authors from time to time.
Nuria says:
I use Bible commentaries to learn and understand deeper the Word from Swindol and Wiersbe. Can you consider during the summer to offer intense Bible studies for people who wants to learn but cannot take a year to study due to job obligations? I go to professional conferences as part of my teaching training as a college professor but I wish you can consider it. Of course with a fee that includes hotel and meals and registration. Please? Thanks
Michael Shelton says:
Probably like most folks reading this, I have read thousands of books and articles. I do try to apply Dr. Davey's suggestions to my choices pertaining to theological or discipleship, etc. reading. Sometimes I intentionally read articles or books by people that I know I will disagree with for the purpose of sharpening my own doctrinal beliefs. This helps me to "be ready to give an answer" as to why I believe. I love Stephen Davey's teaching, he is my favorite. God bless your ministry.
Beth Micander says:
Thank you very much for your insightful info on choosing theologically sound books to read/recommend. I am tasked with culling books and adding new in a small (Baptist) church library. Lots of Amish fiction and very little "meat" non-fiction so a challenge to re-focus the collection. Children's select is dismal at best. Any advice there?
David Sherwood says:
We often refer to the website Michelle Lesley has done a lot of research into many popular authors. Popular authors have to be vetted VERY carefully. We have found the women's ministry in many churches to be the avenue for the entry for many books of bad theology. The authors are empathetic, attractive, and personable, but their theology is riddled with error.
David Sherwood says:
I often go to the "school of the dead preacher". Martin Lloyd Jones, Charles Spurgeon, F.B.Meyer, RA Torrey, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, A.W. Tozer. etc. "Banner of Truth" , CARM , are good sources good source. Stay away from Lifeway! More modern sources include G-3 ministries, Voddie Bauchamp, Tim Challies, Stephen Davies (of Course), Stephen Lawson, John MacArthur, J.P Moreland, Paul Washer, Jon Harris. (of Cnversations that Matter),