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Sinful Reviews

When a Christian reader writes a review, should it not be for the glory of God just as much as the Christian novel writer?
| Sep 16, 2014 | 19 comments |
Rome Sistine Chapel Last Judgment

Rome Sistine Chapel Last Judgment

Christian writers often debate and discuss what it means, and strive to write, for the glory of God. We fret and discuss over whether a certain genre, choice of words, or depicted scenes are sinful or not—whether it is sinful to even read them.

Few have discussed whether reviews can be sinful.

Shouldn’t the same standard apply? When a Christian reader writes a review, should it not be for the glory of God just as much as the Christian novel writer?

If you answered “yes” as I expect you did, how can a reviewer sin in writing a review? Here is my top three.

Disclaimer: I’ve not recently read any reviews nor do I have any specific reviews/reviewers in mind in stating the following. So if you’re wondering, “Is he talking about my review?”—no. If the shoe fits, wear it, but I’ve not seen and measured your feet lately. After all, then I would have already committed the first and most common sin in writing this . . .

1. Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

“But wait!” I hear you say. “The whole point of doing a review is to judge a book. Are all reviews sinful then?”

Nay, they are not. The key difference is this: we are called to judge the morality of an action for our own instruction; we are not called to judge a specific person’s relationship with God based on those actions. Only God knows the heart.

There are several verses that speak to this matter: Matt 7:1, Luke 6:37, Rom 2:1, 1 Cor 4:5, 11:31, and Jam 4:11-12. But the clearest example of this is Rom 14:4 where Paul discusses the issue of eating meat offered to an idol.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Paul had no problem stating it is not righteous to knowingly eat meat offered to idols.

What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.
2 Cor 10:19-21

But when it came to someone judging another over it, Paul declared it out of line. We can judge a certain action to be immoral and sinful; we cannot say a specific person is destined to Hell because of it.

A review can fall into this sin when it goes beyond discussing the pros and cons of a book into speculating on the morality or immorality of the author. Even speculating on the intellectual capacity of the author. It can happen through sarcasm or snarkiness, spoofing or elitism.

The sins listed in Scripture are intended for us to judge ourselves with, not to judge one another.

2. Dishonest Reviews

I’m not saying it is necessary to pick a book apart with a fine-toothed comb and list every error, but one has the obligation to give their honest opinion about a book. Don’t write that it was a page-turner when you fell asleep reading it. Don’t skip over the plot hole sticking out like a sore thumb. Don’t say you enjoyed it when three-fourths of it you struggled with boredom.

Remember, a review is not written for the author or the reviewer, but to the potential reader deciding whether this particular title is worth their time and money or not. Hiding important flaws or not stating your honest opinion does that potential reader no favors. That is a dishonest review and potentially sinful.

3. Revenge

Sometimes a review is written because an author said or did something the reviewer deemed offensive, and they want to get back at them. One way is to create “sock puppet” reviews.

A sock puppet review is when a person creates a fake account on Amazon or other online review sites, for the purpose to write reviews on a product secretly. Authors are sometimes guilty of this, creating a list of glowing reviews for their books.

Some sock puppet reviews, however, are so an author or reader can anonymously write one-star reviews on a competitor’s book, or on an author who has rubbed them the wrong way. Aside from the dishonesty of such a practice (see #2 above), the motivation to write it is personal hate and a disregard for the truth. All of that can lead to a sinful review that does not glorify God.

Those are my top three sources of sinful reviews that do not glorify God. Agree? Have any of your own to add?

As a young teen, R. L. Copple played in his own make-believe world, writing the stories and drawing the art for his own comics while experiencing the worlds of other authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, and Lester Del Ray. As an adult, after years of writing devotionally, he returned to the passion of his youth in order to combine his fantasy worlds and faith into the reality of the printed page. Since then, his imagination has given birth to The Reality Chronicles trilogy from Splashdown Books, and The Virtual Chronicles series, Ethereal Worlds Anthology, and How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software from Ethereal Press, along with numerous short stories in various magazines.Learn more about R. L and his work at any of the following:Author Website, Author Blog, or Author Store.

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R. J. Anderson

Your “Judge Not” point reminded me of something funny. I got a review for my teen book Quicksilver once that said something like, “I thought this book was very well written and would have enjoyed it except for one terrible, gratuitous and unnecessary thing that the author put into it. I thought the author was a Christian. I don’t know what reason she had for putting this thing in the book but there is no excuse for it.”

Since then I have racked my brains to imagine what this horrible thing was in the book that caused the reviewer to conclude I was not a Christian. I even, sneakily, begged a Christian friend (who was equally mystified) to leave a comment asking what aspect of the book this reviewer found so offensive. But the reviewer never replied, so to my dying day I will never know what they were talking about!

Kat Vinson

#2 can be a struggle. Being honest and yet trying to couch your words so they won’t be hurtful to the author. I’ve recently seen #3 done in an opposite way – reviewers taking revenge in defense of an author. Not having read the book but giving it 5 stars because they think the author has been unfairly attacked.

Leah Burchfiel

#2 is easier if you’re not worried about being nice. You can worry about being fair, if you like, both to the author and audience, but it should be a requirement to publishing that authors can separate criticism of their work from criticism of themselves. It’s also easier if you use specific descriptors and not just “this was bad.” Like “this was slow,” “this was too cliche and predictable,” or “if I knew this character in real life I’d be tempted to hit him with my car, except my car has done nothing to deserve being crunked up by this mofo.”


1st John 3:
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

4Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (NASB)

A flagrant, unrepentant practitioner of sin is not only not a Christian AND a child of the devil , but easy to spot as well or John is a liar.  The NASB is perfect. ‘Through this, clearly visible AREcomment image (estin is in the PRESENT active indicative. They ARE obvious right now)  Except they put the phrase at the end of the sentence so it flows better in English. Just about every translation does. That’s actually a very simple and straightforward Greek sentence. 


My above post was held for moderation because the verse numbers pasted in as links 🙁 Next time I’ll have to first paste bible verses into an editor that removes the formatting, and then here.

E. Stephen Burnett

Agreed with R. L.

Amen. As John writes, no one born of God makes a practice of sinning. (This means, by the way, a lifestyle of intentional and unrepentant sin; John is clearly writing to people who unfortunately do sin sometimes because he points them to Christ the Advocate.)

But the idea of “seeing someone else sin = you are committing the same sin” must itself be evaluated by Scripture. I’ve never seen such an equivalency proved. Only assumed.

(Some sin-images often lead to temptation in most Christians. But that’s all we can say.)

And as Rick said, there is no biblical cause to judge or break fellowship with another biblical-professing Christian because he/she has different beliefs about his/her strength or weakness of faith — or because he/she has a different understanding that holiness comes from looking to Jesus and imaging Jesus, not merely by separatism and avoiding “the world.” The holiest Entity ever is the one must involved with this sinful age (including sin-stained cultures) and the least worried about “contamination.”


I messed up!!


RL says: “We are still not to use this kind of thing to judge another’s spiritual relationship with God.
John says, let no one deceive you… the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious. That seems to cover the credibility of their present relationship with God.  In 1st Cor. 5 we are commanded TO judge those in the church and to remove practitioners of sin from our midst. I never got an answer from you on that in the other thread btw Stephen.

RL says: “the final judgment is in God’s hands, not ours”
Absolutely. I would burn myself at the stake before ever pronouncing final judgement on anyone. Only God knows His elect. I must however tell practicing theological and or moral heretics that they have no presently credible claim upon new life in Christ according to New Testament standards. For the reasons Paul gives in 1 Cor. 5. Hopefully their retrieval from death and the purity of the church. The fact that pretty much nobody does that anymore is not my fault and I will not be one of them.

Lazarus is the perfect illustration of the relation between justification and sanctification. Both gifts of grace.  I certainly don’t believe that Lazarus played any part in raising himself from the dead, but once raised he did obey his masters voice and walk outta that tomb. Had he laid there stiff and stinking with no pulse, nobody would have believed he was alive. And quite rightly so. There are regenerate vital signs that EVERY saint displays. No vital signs, no life. I will not watch people die in their sin in the name of an unbiblical hesitance to tell them their words and their life betrays the deadness of their heart.

RL says: “Additionally, whether or not an author sins by having their characters sin is not a cause/effect relationship”
I have read exactly one single fiction book in the last over 40 years. I am neither an author nor a reader of fiction. Unless otherwise stated, I am not addressing those topics.  My issue is that, yes we ARE to judge and we DO know in a large % of cases who is a child of God or a child of Satan. Sometimes we can’t tell. I’ll get there in a minute.

So, when Jesus doesn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery, is He excusing the practice of that sin?
The best manuscript evidence indicates that 7:53-8:11 was most likely not part of John’s gospel. Assuming it was though, it has no bearing on this. I lived a life of BC sin that was probably worse on a few levels than this woman’s was. Jesus commands sinners, like us, to repent. When they do, they are no longer practitioners of sin. If they continue practicing sin, John says they were not truly converted and are in fact still children of the devil. Indeed the parable of the soils tells us this as well.  Definitions are required there for what “practicing” sin means though.  The prodigal was still his father’s son, even in the far country.

RL says: “Jesus offers mercy and forgiveness”
And bless His holy name for the fact that he does. How much mercy did he offer the pahrisees though? How much did Paul offer the Judaizers? Mercy is for hearts broken in sorrow for sin. Excommunication is for, again,  stiff necked, unrepentant moral and or theological heretics.

RL: “John gives us those guides for our own benefit of knowing what to avoid to foster a healthy relationship with God. Not to condemn others with it.”
It’s both. Certainly Paul and John were in agreement.
1st Corinthians 5:
9-I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10-I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11-But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12-For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13-But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (caps as per the Lockman NASB translation crew. OT quote.)

RL quotes 1st Corinthians 4:5
Paul is talking about himself being unrighteously judged by the Corinthian church as the context clearly establishes. It doesn’t appear he says this just because he as an apostle either. He’s saying that he is a person WITH a credible testimony and that if there actually were any charge against him, it is too well hidden in his heart and therefore their best knowledge does not provide a platform for judging him.

In the very next chapter, which I quoted above,  he gives a living illustration of John’s principle.  Flagrant unrepentant sin DOES provide that platform and DEMANDS excommunication and shunning until the hoped for repentance is forthcoming.
Stephen. Yer a blast man!! (that’s not as sarcastic as it sounds)

I have no idea when I can help you with your comment 😉 But I’ll try as soon as I can.


RL asks: “Okay, but I still ask, how do you interpret the passages, many of them, that say not to judge? What do you think that means?”
Not to sound oversimplistic or cliche, but context is everything.

There are some things which we are NEVER allowed to judge. As in telling somebody that they WILL go to hell. Only God knows who WILL be in heaven and hell. That’s not the same though as telling them that they are on their way there now.

We also are forbidden from judging others as regards “things indifferent” in themselves. (as the old reformers called them) Eating and drinking and holy days and festivals as in those passages. Along with their actual moral equivalents. Romans 14 most notably.  (1st Cor. 6 and 10 etc as well) The trouble with this is that the modern degenerate church has devised astonishing new and creative ways to extend this legitimate principle to all manner of wickedness. Especially in the areas of “art” and media entertainment.  To the point where one’s spiritual maturity is seen as a direct function of how much blasphemy, blood and pornography they consume.  Some of them who’s name’s I’m pretty confident you know. You may even be one yourself.  I don’t know. The vast majority of the church in that category now though.

Along those same lines we are not to bind the conscience with precepts or principles that are not either explicitly stated or deduced by “good and necessary consequence”  from the scriptures. In chapter 4 of his epistle, James says that would be judging God’s law, by implicitly declaring it either wrong or deficient or both. A REAL no no.

As is very strongly implied in your 1 Cor. 4 passage for instance, Paul tells them that where there is no objective evidence of one’s sinfully dead state, leave them to God.

Before I spend another hour on this, please do read the above doc http://tiribulus.net/judge.html

After reading this comment and that document, please give me passages which you feel are still troublesome for me in what I’m saying. and I’ll do my best to address them. There are eternal consequences as well ones right now for the church if we don’t take a stab at getting this right. I contend that we have been getting it wrong for quite a while now and been quite content in doing so.

STEPHEN. I apologize. I must confess. I’m (kinda) pushing your buttons because I know it gets you all worked up. I honestly don’t mean anything malicious by it, AT ALL, but it’s still not nice.  I’ll make a concerted effort to be better.


Ok. What’d I say? Do I have really bad breath or something? 😉 Everybody disappeared.

Alex Mellen

Let this be a kind, honest review of commentors in general 😉 : If the comment is longer than a screen-length, I tend to skim or skip ahead. Sometimes this is because one person and the author have gotten into a detailed conversation–not a bad thing, but it doesn’t always interest me. Maybe emails would work better in some cases?