Skip to content

February 18, 2012

How I Find Authors I Trust

Before we started our journey to the Catholic faith, I had begun to study the origins of the Bible. Moving for a while into apologetics, then theology. Last year in an unintentional attempt to do it all wrong I started studying Philosophy.

At each stage I’ve consumed a large number of books on various topics, along the the way I’ve learned a number of very important lessons that may seem common sense to some, but I thought I would share regardless. One question I’ve often been asked is who can I trust when reading books on church history, theology or apologetics? I would love to give a simple answer, but nothing is ever that easy. When I’m looking to study a specific topic, I use a number of things to figure out if the author is going to be worth my time:

1. I try to match the authors expertise to the topic being written about, for instance when I wanted to study the Catholic Catechism, I looked for someone who others felt was influential in the area. In my case it Fr John Hardon, who is considered one of the great Catholic Theologians of the last century was the perfect choice.

2. I use Amazon and the internet to read reviews about the authors books, in particular I look for reviews where people with opposing views (and they are always out there), give fair comments about the author. I shy away from books where it sounds like the local fan club wrote all the articles, I want someone who has the guts to make at least ONE person upset!!

3. When possible I look to see what viewpoint the author is coming from, for instance Neil R. Lightfoot has a very good book on how we got the bible, but Neil is from the Church of Christ and his theology effects the context and tone of his book. Especially in the area of the Catholic Church. It’s not that I would never read anything from Neil, but if I know that Neil has a bias against Catholics that will help put into context the voice of his writing.

4. I look for authors who are not afraid to call a spade a spade, especially on their own faith. I don’t believe that ANY faith, including the Catholic church has EVERY issue right, and I’m not interested in reading someone who is more interested in pushing their faiths position, than telling the truth as they see it. This is really important to me, I don’t want to listen to a cheerleader, I want someone with critical thinking skills, who hasn’t been brainwashed or deluded themselves into thinking that everything is peachy.

5. Finally I stay away from polishers, these are people who use antiquated language or spend more time telling you everything is rosy and perfect in their world, than talking about real issues. I read a book one time about how to study the bible and I finally had to put it down, because I don’t know what world the author was living in, but I’m pretty sure it had unicorns, rainbows and cotton candy clouds. I despise condescending language, especially in books.

I have a list of favorite authors, which I will share in another post. I try when possible to stick with the ones I’ve come to trust and will sometimes give other authors a shot, if they are referenced by someone I trust. I have a very short list of authors who I trust, and a larger list of those who I will read, but I’m still very cautious in choosing reading material.

One more thing to note, for topics like the history of the early church, I have found that going directly to the source has been the best way to learn it, that removes any outside influence and allows me to decide for myself what is being said. You can find almost all the church fathers directly translated (and many of them are free if you have a Kindle), it’s eye opening when you actually read what Clement or Ignatius actually wrote, it’s sometimes very different from what others will tell you they said 😉

Happy Reading.


Read more from Books

Share your thoughts, post a comment.


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments