By Elizabeth Prata
A reader asked me my opinion of a certain author, which happens a lot. In this case it was Linda Dillow. I had not heard of her or her ministry.
It is encouraging to me when women are careful before getting involved rather than asking me how to get out after they already have been grabbed by false teachers.
I was not familiar with Linda Dillow. As I went about searching for information on her, I thought it would be a good idea to present how I vet an author. Mine isn’t a foolproof method, and there are undoubtedly things I’m overlooking, but I feel it gains me enough information initially as to whether to proceed in absorbing the author’s material or recommending her to others. My discernment radar is always up after accepting an initial positive assessment. Discernment’s not a “one and done” kind of thing.
As always, check yourself, check ME out, and pray for wisdom.
First, I read Dillow’s About page of her ministry. I looked at who she partnered with in conferences or in her ministry, such as, who is on her Board or listed with her on her page. I read her bio. I read her beliefs or mission if she has one posted.
I also looked at her past life history. In Dillow’s case, her past life included years abroad as a missionary. Now home from the mission field, her recently established ministry involves younger women and chastity, abstinence, and sexuality in proper context. This is good, it’s a needed ministry topic. I continued.
On Amazon, I read the first pages of her book Calm the Anxious Heart. I like reading portions of an author’s book either on Google or Amazon, because when she authors a mainstream book published by a recognized company, it goes through a long process with oversight. The author writes exactly what she wants to say. She can’t blame anything untoward on a misquote or a hasty comment. I feel it’s a good way to view her stances on biblical concepts, and to see how she uses verses (In context or out of context? Faddishly or properly?).
I also plug in key words such as sin, wrath, judgment, Gospel, etc, and search inside the book to see if those words, verses, or concepts appear. If they do, I look to see if they are used correctly.
Nothing jumped out at me as far as misusing the Bible, taking things out of context or false doctrine. I almost stopped after looking at this one book, but I’m glad I didn’t.
I then read the first chapter of the book about Satisfy My Thirsty Soul: For I am desperate for Your presence. It was the capitalized ‘Your’ that got me. And ‘presence’. I’ve seen that phrase in Sarah Young’s heretical books Jesus Calling and the fad her books sparked. Jesus Calling was published just a couple of years prior to Dillow’s.
I was saddened to see that Dillow wrote that as she grew weary in the well doing on the mission field, she said that she longed for “something more” and longed “to hear His personal voice to me.” Those are quotes. That is exactly how Sarah Young phrased her longing in her books: “I knew that God communicated with me in the Bible, but I yearned for more.” Dillow, too, longed for something more and wanted to hear the voice of God outside of the pages of His Holy Writ. Dillard wrote that she was knew He is omnipresent, but that wasn’t enough. In her words, she wanted a ‘face to face encounter with Him’. What? Like Moses?
Look at her sources. In this case her bibliography included solid men like John MacArthur, Jerry Bridges, & Walvoord, but also mystics like Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, and Watchman Nee.
No. Just no.
Her books seem to be typical “women’s books,” sadly. So many of these ‘chick books’ that tackle women’s Christian Living issues are full of personal anecdotes and chatty stories that we’re supposed to connect with even though we know that as women, our experiences are certainly not universal just because we’re women. That’s why just explaining the Bible is better.
And as we read the author’s anecdotes and stories with some scripture sprinkled in, this is somehow supposed to help advance us on our walk with Christ. It’s theology lite, and Dillow’s seems to be in the same vein as many women’s Christian Living type books.
Her books like so many others try to trap women with the longings for intimacy we supposedly lack, longings we all supposedly share. She rightly says that the intimacy should be with God but the trap comes when teaching we can and should seek personal encounters with Him outside of His word. She wrote on page 103 “we obey God’s word AND His voice.” No. We obey His word, for that IS His voice.
As far as the chatty anecdotes go, we may or may not connect with someone’s experience, but better is to have more of the word of God in a book than anecdotes. The Spirit is sure to connect us to HIS word. Rather than reading someone else’s story we can read God’s story. If we want someone’s story, read a biography.
A good book on the topic of contentment is Jeremiah Burroughs’ Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. It is a Puritan Paperback sold thru Banner of Truth books. It’s short but powerful. If the Puritan language is too big a hurdle to overcome, there are modernized versions of Rare Jewel recommended thru Monergism, edited by William Gross. There are read-aloud versions too, on Youtube.
Also good is Maturity by Sinclair Ferguson, a book along the same topic lines as Dillow’s Calm the Anxious Heart. Also good is Healthy Christian Growth by Ferguson as well.
Just because we’re women we don’t have to read books by women. I know it seems reasonable to read women or study the Bible from curricula written by women, but I always advocate for women to read solid men. Less chance of running into the female foolishness and falsity. Also read the actual Bible: the Bible transcends gender. His word is always applicable to women OR men.