What About Quoting from Someone You Disagree with in Some Areas or Who Had Personal Moral Failures?

Over the years, I’ve been asked why I would quote from someone in my books or on Facebook or Twitter when I don’t agree with them in every area. My response is that when I quote someone in a context of agreement, the only thing I’m saying is I agree with that statement, not all their other statements. Nor is my quoting someone a blanket endorsement of their lifestyle and choices in every area. Otherwise there is no one I or anyone could quote from!

For example, there are any number of areas in which I disagree with C. S. Lewis, but the quotes from him I put in my books are very insightful observations which I do agree with. Another example is Martin Luther, whom I respect and quote from even though he was anti-Semitic, and I deeply disagree with his view of Jewish people.

To be influenced by someone does not require that we endorse that person in all areas. That said, there is also much inaccurate criticism of people on the internet. For instance, I’ve been sent things that claim C. S. Lewis was a universalist. That’s simply false. A universalist believes everyone will be saved and go to Heaven. But Lewis emphatically believed some people would go to hell for eternity, not Heaven, and he said so clearly. (In this article, I talk more extensively about Lewis’s writings on hell, which include many profound and fascinating things. Some are biblically precise, while others are more abstract and subject to misunderstanding. In some cases, his views are not solidly biblical. But many of his insights on hell are true to Scripture, and some of his speculations are compelling food for thought.)

John Piper has addressed the question of “How I Process the Moral Failures of My Historical Heroes?” in the following video. I found this helpful, and hope you do too:

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries