Judging a Book by its Cover?

Christian Living

Sometimes discoveries are made in areas where you least expect them. Such was the case in early April 2016 as we pre-released the cover art for Dr. William Welty’s new book Mary, Ten Test Questions for the World’s Finest Woman.

For the cover we wanted to portray an image of this woman in an uncharacteristic way. Our Koinonia House Art Director, Dean Packwood, created an amazing depiction of Mary, the mother of Jesus. As no one actually knows what Mary looked like, Dean used the facial structure from the Shroud of Turin (which is assumed by some to be an image of Christ) and produced a forensic reconstruction of how she may have appeared. He recorded the development of his creation from a blank canvas to the final product. We then shared that video on our Facebook page and uploaded it to YouTube.1 Personally I thought he did an amazing job and felt that people would enjoy watching a true work of art being created by a world-class artist.

Image showing the painting progression of the portrait of Mary.

To my amazement, the tide of comments initially posted by more than 70% of those interacting with our posts was that of vehement disapproval. What is strange about most of the feedback was not their dislike for the artwork but of the content of Dr. Welty’s book. It seemed that most had a derogatory comment to make about a book of which they knew nothing.

Ignorance and Intolerance?

Perhaps these ready-fire-aim type critics should take instruction from King Solomon who said, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”2 This whole experience reminds me of the unreasonable nature of the ignorant and ill informed. Many initial comments we received accused both Chuck Missler and Koinonia House of being a “secret agent for the Vatican” or Chuck being an undercover Jesuit priest. If it was not so sad it would almost be laughable. All of this because of the cover art for a book that examines the Biblical narratives surrounding the mother of Jesus? Are these so-called judges so uninformed concerning the lifelong teachings of Chuck and the other K-House authors?

The underlying issue here is not really about this book or any book being misjudged but rather about the sad state of real discernment within the Church of Jesus Christ. The Bible is full of instruction concerning the importance and methods of discernment. We are all told to “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”3 In fact, Paul warns Timothy that the end-times will be characterized by deception.4 I have personally published many studies that focus on this topic as I feel that it is a crucial skill that needs to be developed during the final age of the Church.5 Again, Paul warns Timothy of “perilous times”6 where he lists slander as an attribute of those who should be avoided. Yet today it would seem that popular ill-informed insults are sought after rather than researched insights. Sadly, far too many people seem to follow the quick snipes of the self-proclaimed “protectors of the faith” where slander is disguised as discernment.

Discernment or Slander?

The Bible has a lot to say about slander. The dictionary definition of slander is, “to make a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone.” The Bible tells us, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure.”7 The apostle Paul seemed to have his own ill-informed critics who sought to injure him without just cause. In writing to the Romans he said, “And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.”8 In the end, King Solomon concludes the matter by simply saying, “Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.”9

The Source of Slander?

Slander is the rotting fruit of gossip. Gossip grows in the seedbed of the heart that is filled with pride and deceit. In the Letter of James he deals with the harmful influence of an unbridled tongue. He warns that, “This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”10 Moses warned the Nation of Israel, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.”11

Solomon tells us why some are drawn to gossip and slander. “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like earthenware covered with silver dross.”12

Be a Berean

The mission moto for Koinonia House is Acts 17:11, which reveals two important qualities of the believers in Berea. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” They (1) “received the word with all readiness” and they (2) “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

May you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as you study the Bible with a receptive and discerning heart.