A Question on Quoting Others

Question: Why do you quote authors whose theologies and/or approaches to spiritual growth are not completely orthodox?

I’m not the only author who has been the target of “guilt by association” charges. Indeed, I make numerous quotations in my books to amplify and clarify various ideas. This includes a wide array of ancient, medieval, and modern writers from Augustine to Blaise Pascal to C.S. Lewis. The fact that I quote various writers in no way constitutes an endorsement of all they have written. When the apostle Paul quotes Epimenides and Aratus in Acts 17:28, Menander in 1 Corinthians 15:33, and Epimenides again in Titus 1:12, it would be the height of folly to suppose he endorses the bulk of these Greeks’ writings. Notice that Paul did not use caveats about the quotes. Quotations do not in themselves constitute theological endorsements. It would be an absurd and impossible task to stop and issue a caveat about all the things a reader should NOT accept about what the quoted person says, every time a quotation is used.1

A more nuanced and responsible approach is to avoid tarring me or any other author with the same brush as the person he or she is quoting unless there is clear evidence for such an allegation. I encourage all believers to “mine the gold and eschew the gravel” as they read. In other words, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater; some human authors get some things right and other things wrong—we’re to use discernment through the power and wisdom of the Spirit at all times, even while reading authors we have come to trust.

Footnotes

  1. In my book Life in the Presence of God, for instance, I quote Thomas R. Kelly, Watchman Nee, and Hannah Whitall Smith (among numerous others); these quotes and examples are used for specific purposes of illustration. My quoting them does not mean I subscribe to everything they each believed and taught.