16 February 2006

Bashing CBA, and other hobbies

by Frank "trinketman" Turk


OK: let's remember that I'm the guy who has openly called CBA a "cess pool", and that I'm the one who has called Joel Osteen a person with an android-like smile. I'm the guy who usually starts this little fight, but today I'm going to take the other side of the argument.

What I am not going to defend is Jesus Junk™ -- you know, the ubiquitous spinner covered with semi-Christian taunts (not even well-written ones) and plastic froofroo with Bible verses on it which all sells for under a $5 and makes a ton of margin dollars. That's not actually "Christian" stuff: that's stuff people buy to make themselves feel somewhat giddy about being a Christian. You have a keychain? I have a Christian keychain – Jesus loves even me, baby.

I am also not going to defend CCM. Steve Camp has that covered, and I like Steve, and while I enjoy some CCM music I cringe when I hear "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs. Not talking about CCM today – go back to your Third Day CDs without much guilt.

What I am talking about is the avalanche of books that the Christian Booksellers Association sells on an annual basis. As a point of reference, here's a link:

You'll get a color-coded table of the current CBA/ECPA best-selling books, and the color code is this:

WHITE = Non-toxic; no problems the bookseller should worry about
GREEN = Fiction; generally, non-problematic because it's fiction. It's make-believe
YELLOW = Controversial; either the content or author is controversial and the bookseller should have some method of communicating that to his customers
RED = Problematic; either the author or the specific content has doctrinal issues that the bookseller ought to be aware of and communicate in some way to his customer

If you have nothing to do with your day, you can count the books by class, but for those of you who have better things to do, the quick count looks like this:

RED: 7

Now, the right reason to complain about this list and all the books under this list is that there should be no REDS at all on this list. If you ask me – and you didn't, so forgive my audacity – the ECPA/CBA supply chain is wickedly shamed by the fact that there is even one "no-go" author or book on its list of top sellers. Seven is a complete travesty. And to take that premise one step further, the fact that any of these yellows are there when they could have been fixed in order to avoid being yellow is also a terrible shame.

But the other side of the coin is this: 60% of the top 50 is in the worst case harmless. And if we de-classify the power of a praying franchise and the diet books from "yellow" to "white" as the controversy surrounding these titles is more like "scope of project" rather than "offense to the Gospel", we wind up with something akin to 70% of the books in the top 50 being in the worst case harmless.

Some of it may be pap or filler, but let's be honest: most of my blog is pap and filler. It may amuse; it may set one brain cog to turn one-quarter revolution. But it's filler and not crisis-important stuff.

So when we come out and bash CBA, let's first keep in mind that someplace between 60% and 70% of its "stuff" is pretty much non-offensive. I will be the first one to stand in line to say, "it should all be inoffensive," but to whom? For example, I would say that there should be no Roman Catholic books in a Christian bookstore (sorry, Phil: that one's gonna hurt I am sure), but I am certain that many people – like Catholics, for example – would strenuously disagree with me. James Dobson and Chuck Colson would disagree with me. But then what do you do with C.S. Lewis who studiously avoided that topic, or someone like Chesterton?

Some of what's left is strictly a judgment call by the retailer. And hear me clearly: he has to make that judgment call. He has to or else he is complicitous in the degradation of orthodoxy and the erosion of the life of the church. But at the other end of the cash register, when we walk into a chain Christian retailer or a local guy who thinks he has a ministry to the church, let's remember that the retailer is going to make that decision in part because of how we spend our money.

I have a lot more on this re: the responsibility of the retailer, but the next time you feel the need to bash CBA, keep in mind that it is not any more or less slack in its duties than most local churches are today. I might go so far as to say that if 70% of all sermons preached today were at least not offensive, we'd be a big step forward from where we are, but that's an undocumented statement. CBA certainly has some major problems, but most of those problems have one foot in the local church, and the other foot in the local church. If we are going to be angry and not take it anymore, let's start at home where we can actually impact some change for the Gospel.


Gordon said...

Interesting comments. I have at times bemoaned the "drivel" that is in many Christian stores. But you are correct that if the preaching in our churches were more biblical, there would be less of an appetite for the drivel. Thus, the O'steen's and others of their ilk would not have a profitable market and drivel would not be published.

Sometimes, too, I think we forget that the bookstore is there as a business and not a ministry. Even though they are a valuable asset to many churches, they still must produce a profit or else they will close their doors.

Do you think this is what is meant when the Bible says, "Judgment must begin at the house of God?"

IB Dubbya said...

I liked this post, Frank (not that you need to care).

'Sometimes, too, I think we forget that the bookstore is there as a business and not a ministry. Even though they are a valuable asset to many churches, they still must produce a profit or else they will close their doors.'

Very, very, very (extremely) well said, Gordon!

In America, at least, to turn a profit, "business" must be "business," "church" must be "church," and whenever the twain feign to meet, very great care and even analysis absolutely precedes (though it does NOT guarantee) commercial success.

Otherwise, it's "ministry," and requires donations. Period.


IB Dubbya said...

...Oh, and I seriously bemoan the drivel, as well...just for the record.


Steve said...

Gordon Cloud said: "Sometimes, too, I think we forget that the bookstore is there as a business and not a ministry. Even though they are a valuable asset to many churches, they still must produce a profit or else they will close their doors."

Actually, the optimum is a bookstore that sees itself as a ministry and is managed via wise stewardship principles. You're correct a bookstore needs to make a profit, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that (some Christians don't seem to get that through their heads--bookstores have to pay the bills and keep food on the table for the employees, too). But the best setup for a Christian bookstore is when the MOTIVE is ministry, and the METHOD is sound business principles (not overstocking, keeping an eye on "product turn," taking good care of the customer, etc.).

I might comment later on Frank's colored list, if I find the time.

FX Turk said...

This post actually got away from me as I started to rage on about what a local Christian bookstore owner ought to do in being a resource to the local church.

It went something like this:

The second question should need no explanation: "Am I sure I know the difference between truth and error?" If the answer is no, the retailer should get out of the trade. He's heaping hot coals on himself.

The third question has to be: what is my mission to the local church? God willing, there will be a day when all Christian retailers can say in one voice, "my mission is to support maturity and reform in the local church." If that's the case, you have to ask if [some book] promotes those goals. But your mission as a retailer is "support", not "ecclesiastical jurist". So if a local pastor is recommending [some book] for a specific purpose and is using it to guide people to maturity in Christ, then perhaps you have to do what is right by a pastor who does have authority and responsibility.

I think there is more to it than that, but the local bookstore is not the church: it is a service to the local church and a support to the local church -- so it really can't be much more orthodox than the local church.

There is also the gigantic problem that a lot of people are allowing media "ministries" to replace the local church in their lives. Don't get me started.

Me, Myself and I said...

How about "the church" do its job and teach people how to read a book and how to pick one. I have many examples of bad books on my shelf, ie The Purpose driven....(car), there for letting me to understand the way people think. Because I am a cheapskate someone had to give it to me but there is a purpose to having some reoundly bad theology in bookstores. What we need is for people to study to know what is right and wrong.

Brad Williams said...

I have this beautiful dream of the local LifeWay being filled with wonderful commentaries and books by dead Puritans. Also, there are people there reading them and drinking coffee. Straight coffee, not a cappuccino. I don't want anyone to call me names.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Parachurch organizations drive professing Christianity today. Churches don't publish. "Christian publishers" publish. They don't really care whether the content exposes Scripture, rightly divides the truth. They're a "bidness" and they have to sell. We've helped create this monster by validating the very existence of these entities with our support. When someone does write something that churches need, if it isn't marketed in some clever way, they won't sell it. The guys who people read can write in a more entertaining way, probably with less semicolons and with more stories. Their net gain is our loss. The church, again, is the pillar and ground of the truth, and should be the grid through which acceptable material must go. The books published by NT churches would come out of discernment and conviction instead of "felt needs." If we did it that way, it's possible that authors and publishers wouldn't make a "living" out of it, but it would please God, which will matter for all eternity.

vegemitechristian said...

can you direct me to a review or something (or comment here) on, "Wild at Heart" (which got a red mark from you) please? I have been loaned this book with a "must read" comment.

donsands said...

I suppose if I owned a Book Store, I would try to have all the reformed writings I could.
I would have other Christian authors as well. No heretics. No T. D. Jakes, etc.
I would love to have some classic authors as well: John Steinbeck, Rudyard Kipling, Robert louis Stevenson, and all the classics really, as well as Robert Ludlum, and many of the people who know how to write a good book.
I suppose I wouldn't be in business very long.
Nice post. Very enlightening.

Screaming Pirate said...

If you want a really good book review of Wild at Heart Read MacArthur's Fools Gold. I personaly have seen this book cause damage in some one's spritual life. In that it caused them to doubt Gods soverenty over their life in pratical terms. He is almost an open theist, if not one. In the book the author makes the stament that God takes risk. If you ask me it also futhers the current trend in this culture of victimsing every one. Just my two cents on it.Here is a reveiw of elderidges book from challies.com

Phil Johnson said...

Centurion: So when we come out and bash CBA, let's first keep in mind that someplace between 60% and 70% of its "stuff" is pretty much non-offensive.

I think you're being waaaaay too generous. I can't walk through the display floor at CBA conventions without thinking this is exactly the sort of thing that provoked Jesus to make a whip and turn over tables.

As a matter of fact, I once walked through a CBA-style megastore with you, Frank, and my recollection is that we had a pretty hard time finding more than a handful of books that either or both of us wanted to buy. In fact, I'd have guesstimated that less than 3 percent of the aggregate of books plus junk in that store was truly profitable or edifying in any sense. It really is appalling, when you think about it.

Anyway, I know you're being purposely generous today, but I feel compelled to say that in my judgment, even some of the stuff listed in white on your list (The Five Love Languages, for instance) isn't really so innocuous as to belong in the white category. I would at least color that one gray. Maybe even dark gray.

The Christian publishing industry is a huge problem for the church in this media-driven world. Ditto with Christian radio. Since I've worked my entire adult life in both industries, I speak as someone who feels a deep responsibility for making my voice heard about the problem. I also have the utmost sympathy for conscientious Christians who make their living in Christian media and are at the mercy of the big companies who pump out evangelical trash.

My two favorite Christian bookshops in the world (one in London, the other in Sun Valley, CA) are both operated by churches, and both carry large selections of books and commentaries without any garbage, and without catering to hype or popular opinion. If you want an Osteen book, you can't get it in either of these shops, even though they both have very large inventories of Christian books. Both bookshops do a brisk business. Both give nice discounts on their books and are financially profitable.

Of course, large, well-known churches automatically cultivate their own clientele, and they therefore have a huge advantage over the typical small- to midsize independent privately-owned bookshops that dot middle America. So this is not intended as any kind of criticism of those bookshops—especially Kingdom Bound (which I've visited once, and was greatly impressed. It's already my favorite Arkansas bookshop by a wide margin).

Still, I would say that a Christian bookshop is both a ministry and a business, and the weight of stewardship in God's eyes falls on the ministry side. And I know for a fact that Frank sees it that way, too.

I strongly agree with Frank's point that the primary responsibility for recognizing and correcting what's wrong with the evangelical movement lies with pastors and churches. But every Christian, from Christian merchants to Awana leaders, has a duty to be discerning and biblical as well, and for my part, that duty is the very thing that compels me to feel the need to bash CBA.

Steve said...

Again I don't have a lot of time to comment more extensively, but when it comes to CBA bashing, don't forget the responsibility borne by members of the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association). It's the publishers that make decisions on which books to publish and which not to publish. Granted, publishers keep their ears to the ground and are responsive to the reading masses, who, as both Frank and Phil pointed out, often acquire their tastes (or LACK of taste, I should say)from--you guessed it--their church and pastor.

But still...there's plenty of blame to be spread everywhere. Many at the upper echalons of both the Christian publishing (ECPA) and bookselling (CBA) industries are appallingly ignorant when it comes to biblical doctrine and theology. Much of the time publishers produce and stores carry drivel because the folks at the top just don't know any better.

What's sad is that when books by Rick Warren and Joel Osteen sell like hotcakes, it creates a Pavlonian response in the publishers and booksellers. They need to make a profit to stay afloat, and if Warren and Osteen are what sells and keeps the company or store in business, well, then they'll gladly provide the reading masses with MORE Warren and Osteen.

One small way you can help is this: When you find a good bookstore that stocks worthy Christian books, I highly recommend you buy your books there. It might be a bit more expensive than buying from Amazon.com or CBD. But you'll be reinforcing the good sensibility of the person who had the wisdom to stock the store with quality resources in the first place.

Admin said...

I live in the San Diego area and have been blessed with by a Christian Bookstore Owner who won't stock the garbage you mentioned. In fact he has attended the CBA conventions year after year pleading with the publishers to not print such trash. Last I spoke with him he said he has finally parted ways with the CBA. His business has suffered because of his stand on stocking only God honoring literature. I recommend supporting men like John Cully and Evangelical Bible Book Store ( www.ebiblebookstore.com )

John Haller said...


What guidelines do you follow in deciding what goes into the GC Bookstore. We have one at our church, but I don't think we've ever been able to get a handle on content. Who oversees what you let in there?

I've suggested that we use those Mr. Yuck stickers (similar to your bookmark ratings).

BTW, love that bookstore....

FX Turk said...

I just wanted to thank Phil for not beating up on me too badly for being a softie today.

I made up for it on my blog.

John Haller said...

Or, put another way, who has to read all that garbage to make the judgment? As an elder, I read a lot of junk just so I can warn others not to.

I don't want to come up with banned book lists, but how far does the responsbility of the church elders go?

vegemitechristian said...

screaming - thanks, i read and saved the review that challies mentions.

kevin - i've just spent a bit of time hanging at http://ebiblebookstore.com

Bless you for passing this on - never heard of 'em before! Looks great!

Hastey Words said...

The Christian publishing industry is a huge problem for the church in this media-driven world. Ditto with Christian radio....
the primary responsibility for recognizing and correcting what's wrong with the evangelical movement lies with pastors and churches.

Phil made two points that strongly resonate with me as a student. It seems that the Christian community on my campus has split into two camps, each rallying around a different type of trash from the CBA list. One follows the Brian Mclaren/Don Miller vein, while the other chooses the Eldridge/Warren camp.

It seems that few students (or faculty here) are interested in Os Guinness, CJ Mahaney, R. Scott Smith, or the many brilliant biblical pastors and writers out there. It's good to know that at least here in the blogosphere, I have brothers like you that still stand for truth.

As for the bookstores, I think the responsibility lies on the part of the owners and the local pastors. If the local pastors and teachers would not recommend or praise these works of deception, there would be no demand. However, even barring the demand, were the owners to stand on Biblical convictions and refuse to propagate these lies to the public, perhaps more questions would be asked regarding their legitimacy. Just a thought.

Stephen Dunning said...

Two thoughts from a UK book shop manager. Our shop is on the verge of closing - we do not sell enough to pay the bills!

1) I am a reformed baptist. However, the churches near the shop are not reformed. If I sold only what I thought was good, we would have closed a while ago. We have to sell a range of books and other things that is broader than my own tastes simoply to survive, and we still struggle. It is hard to compete against the internet and those shops that "give nice discounts on their books"

2) Perhaps some of the less sound books sell well because they are better reads (easier, more accesible) than some from the reformed camp?

Gordon said...

John Haller said:

I don't want to come up with banned book lists, but how far does the responsbility of the church elders go?

Excellent question John, if I may respond with my feeble opinion, I believe that the responsibility of the leadership of churches is to equip the saints to be able to discern for themselves what is truth.

I have seen too many pastors and church leaders who were control freaks when it came to what their people read. If it didn't utilize the right translation or wasn't from a very narrow field of writers, people were actually castigated if they dared to read it.

The key for leadership is teaching the people the essentials for discernment: the supremacy of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit's ability to illuminate that Word.

Glenn said...

Centuri0n: "But then what do you do with C.S. Lewis"

Excuse by ignorance, but could somebody please point me in the right direction to find an explanation of the problem with C.S. Lewis?

Steve said...

Stephen Dunning said, "2) Perhaps some of the less sound books sell well because they are better reads (easier, more accesible) than some from the reformed camp?"

Stephen, you've got a good point here. It's one that I personally have talked with more conservative and reformed publishers about. Just last summer at the Christian Booksellers Association convention I talked with one of the major reformed publishers about their books, and observed that the titles of some volumes did NOT very well reflect some of their excellent content (thus confusing the consumer), and spoke of the need to take great writers from the past and repackage their writings in ways that are more accessible, more readable, etc. for the modern Christian reader.

The basic responses I've gotten in the past are 1) we don't have time to do that, or 2) we don't want to mess with the purity of the original creation. Well, excuse #2 is somewhat reasonable because I myself prefer some of the Puritan authors in their original form. But still--those of us who do are a dying breed (sad to say).

When I've shared with "average Christian readers" the gems from the past that I have in my own library, some of them have been pleasantly surprised and expressed interest in reading more...except the stuff is so hard to wade through, which is discouraging for them.

All this to say, Stephen, you raised the very question that I believe is KEY to reaching Christians with better-quality and more theologically sound books. For some reason, the publishers and authors of these books just don't take the time to make them as good and accessible as possible. The message is great, but the writing and presentation are not very good.

This is not the case with ALL the more biblically sound resources produced today, but it's enough of a problem that, among other things, it contributes to bookstores like yours not being able to do better.

A bookstore like the one Phil Johnson mentioned in Sun Valley, California is among the rare exceptions for two reasons: 1) it's a church bookstore that has an already-established clientele right next door in the worship center, and 2) the pastor and leadership of that church have cultivated their people to be a discerning, reading people.

Adjutorium said...

vegemitechristian said...
can you direct me to a review or something (or comment here) on, "Wild at Heart" (which got a red mark from you) please? I have been loaned this book with a "must read" comment.

Try the below review sourced from Monergism.com

God in Man’s Image
A critique of John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart
By Rut Etheridge III

Hope it helps.

4given said...

Mr. Kent, You wrote so eloquently: "We've helped create this monster by validating the very existence of these entities with our support.... If we did it that way, it's possible that authors and publishers wouldn't make a "living" out of it, but it would please God, which will matter for all eternity." I need not re-quote all of what you said, but it is truly all good.

and Donsands, "...No heretics. No T. D. Jakes, etc. ... I suppose I wouldn't be in business very long." comment is perhaps dead on.

SJ Camp said...

CBA: Let's see...

1. The Christless Beelzebub Association
2. The Compromised Booksellers Association
3. The Christian Brokeback Association
4. The Convoluted Betrayal Association
5. The Cha-Ching Booksellers Association

Any thoughts?

Just sharing my heart with you all.
2 Cor. 2:17

4given said...

"The Cha-Ching Booksellers Association" is my favorite.

DJP said...

glenn -- I don't have a link offhand that isn't insane (i.e., imho, whacking him for relatively silly things).

"Our" isues with Lewis would likely center around things like the fact that he didn't affirm inerrancy, and it showed. He leaned on his rejection of inerrancy when exlaining the imprecatory psalms, for instance. Also, though I've read him pretty thorougholy, his grasp of grace versus synergism isn't at all clear, to put it charitably. He was pretty thoroughly Anglican, and reportedly friendly towards Romanism, which is never a good thing.


I say this, btw, as a big Lewis fan. Eat the meat, toss the bones.

marc said...

I love the CBA and Christian Bookstores in general... Its the fuel on which PURGATORIO runs.

Drexen Magz said...

Centuries ago, in 2 Timothy 4, Paul warned Timothy about unsound teaching. He spoke of teachers saying things that "itching ears" wanted to hear. That's what we're seeing today.

Instead of Christian philosophy and teaching "infiltrating" popular culture, we've seen the opposite happen. Shallow and often incorrect teaching is being masqueraded as Christian truth to an unsuspecting, and often undiscerning, audience.

Glenn said...

Thanks for the explanation DJP.

Unknown said...

Taking inspiration from your gif in the column, I recommend a new line of bracelets. WWGGD? -- What Would Gorilla Grodd Do?

Jack "Power Ring" Brooks
Georgetown EFC


IB Dubbya said...

I stand (somewhat) corrected, (I think).

Pardon my exchatological stoicism, but, I don't think the day will ever come (or return) that the local bookstore will, hand-in-hand with the local astute pastor

I'm truly sorry, , but trends are undecniable and will not be reversed by the Faithful Few...this is virtually promised in Scripture, and certainly affirmed by the strength and preeminence of trends - both in American culture (especially) and in the face of increasingly Global commerce.

I just think that most Biblical Christians are more concerned with balancing their stewardship of time (as in saving it by shopping on-line) and money (as in saving it to give to thier local assembly).

(...and yes, our beloved Grace Church is truly an exception.)

Am I a "surrenderist," in this arena?

nancy said...

John Haller and Gordon Cloud:

I'd like to hear you two jam a little more on the role of the elder (or another leader) with regards to encouraging critical thinking and discernment about what is read by those in the church. Yes, both the extremes of book banning and the current free for all are to be avoided. But what is the third way that helps equip the body? (I'm in the interesting predicament of attending a church in which the "red" books form the favorite reading list for the elders and pastors of our church. However, in this particular congregation, it has been the women who have exhibited greater discernment.)

What are your thoughts?

IB Dubbya said...

(...sorry, got side-tracked...)

'...hand-in-hand with the local astute pastor...' restore the balance between commerce and ministry with the proper empahsis on ministry, as one so adroitly stated earlier.

...and that apology was meant for Stephen Dunning, whose UK bookshop, I'm sure, could use a boost from the reversal of these (unfortunate, but) irreversible trends.

Again, am I being a "surrenderist?"


Momo said...

kent brandenburg, there is much we disagree on, but I think sometimes it probably isn't as much as it seems. I think your first comment on this thread is right on the money. I just wanted to encourage you stick around our little sharpening shop and keep lending us your iron.

IB Dubbya said...

...Also, to discern the Truth, is to learn the Truth...NOT to study anything other than...

(I'm told that's how counterfeit money-detectors learn their trade.)


Momo said...

Turk: There is also the gigantic problem that a lot of people are allowing media "ministries" to replace the local church in their lives.

Seems like one of our other Pyros has been addressing that in bits and pieces.

Momo said...

glenn: Excuse by ignorance, but could somebody please point me in the right direction to find an explanation of the problem with C.S. Lewis?

I am pretty new to Lewis myself, but to answer your question, Lewis is of questionable orthodoxy. Personally, I think he was orthodox, but he didn't always come across that way. In fact, I won't quibble with anyone who claims he was not because he gave them so much ammunition.

For an example, pick up Mere Christianity. There are gems in there, brother--diamonds. The problem is you have to sift through the bird cage linings they are wrapped in. On one page you will find the clearest explanation of the Trinity you have ever read. On the next you will find the most muddled and confused view of the atonement followed by an apology dismissing it as mostly unimportant anyway.

Is he worth it? You decide. He was for me. But that's me.

Renee said...

Once money is involved, all bets are off. I have serious questions about any true believer selling Christ and the Gospel. What I mean by sell is putting a specific price tag, a desired amount, a minimum amount, etc. It's no wonder the so called CBA or any "Christian" publisher will sell anything just as long as it makes money and has Christ or God or religion mentioned somewhere in it.

I agree with Gordan at the top..

it's a "business" and that pretty much says it all.

FX Turk said...


That's not Grodd -- that's Axwell Tiberius, aka Monkeyman. I know all talking monkeys look alike to some people, but you should keep that kind of racist remark to yourself.

FX Turk said...


Seriously, tell us what you think. I think you're being a little vague -- you didn't mention anyone by name and give their home phone#. Can you be more specific?

FX Turk said...

Seriously though:

Is the talking monkey great or what? Behind "Baptists! Pheh!" it's my favorite graphic.

Unknown said...

Sorry, I come from the Silver Age. I even used the own the "Gwen Stacey Dies" issue of Spider-Man, then gave it away (d-oh!). If it wasn't for Wikipedia, I wouldn't have a clue what was going on in any of the Universes.

I imagine Brian McLaren is OK with the diversity in the CBA. Oh, I thought you meant the Conservative Baptists...

Jack Brooks
Georgetown EFC

IB Dubbya said...

Hey, Frank, [the wee brown kid yells across the room]:

Does this whole discussion fall within the scope of your "Organ Grinder Pparable???"

(heh, heh...)


IB Dubbya said...

...Or is that a different kind of monkey...


Unknown said...

One last cultural marker from me, since none of the rest of these posts are comical. Figure out decade I had an eight year old son!

It's time for Pyromaniacs!
And they're zany to the max!
So just sit back and relax
You'll read till you collapse
They're Pyromaniacs!

Come meet the Johnson Brothers
(and the Johnson sister, Dot)
They run around Sun City
and the blog-o-verse-a-lot
John locks they in the tower
whenever they get caught
But they get goin'
and quote John Owen
and now you know the plot!

They all pack away the snacks
{there's baloney in their slacks)
They're Pye-ro-maney
They never refrain-ey
Those are the facts!

John Haller said...


This has been an issue that has weighed heavily on me the past few months. On the one hand, I agree with ib.carlos. Things are clearly getting worse. For some time I have felt that the church is under assault. As a church leader, it is a constant battle not to get carried away, as Phil Johnson has point out, by all the fads.

As luck (sovereignty?) would have it, I had the opportunity to talk to Mark Dever about this this afternoon. He and Jerry Bridges are at the church I attend this weekend. Mark spoke to the church leadership (basically a summary of his 9 marks book; GREAT stuff by the way).

We have a bookstore at church. Frankly, I think we as elders have failed to keep a handle on it. Personally, I don't have a problem with people reading a wide variety of things, but I can tell you that my perception is that many people are not protected from being led astray. I must admit that I've gone into the bookstore and found books by Benny Hinn or Joyce Meyer. Those don't last long but the fact that they are there is a cause for concern.

Mark Dever said you have to have a handle on it. He said he personally approves everything that makes it to Capitol Hill Baptist's book rack. I think the elders have a responsbility to do it. If you can't, then you probably should not have one.

I think elders need to be informed about what is going on out there. It's tough to keep up. Last week I was in California and talked to an elder at a church pastored by a TMS graduate (other elders in the church are as well). He did the intro at the ABF we attended and pointed out some cultural markers and trends to make his point. Afterwards I commented to him that I saw the same things in the emerging church. His reply: "Never heard of that; what is it?" Now, in some respects, it's good that he does not know, and maybe it has not made it to the Inland Empire, but I was a little stunned.

Recently, a person who attends the class I teach asked me what I thought of Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. He said the Bible study at work wanted to use it. My initial comment was why not have a Bible study where you actually study THE BIBLE! I bought the book and read it on vacation. Lots of bones (this book would fall into what Mark Dever said today in his talk: go into a Christian bookstore and look at the books that have a scripture index in the back; probably very few do which proves the point: we say scripture is important and give lipservice to it, but we sure don't live like it; the books in the "christian" bookstores are symptomatic of that.

At my church, there are other issues. Recently, one of the leaders of Emergent Village was invited to speak at a young adult conference. It's a big church and I only found out about it at the last minute. I objected, but he came anyway. Still processing through how I should deal with that. I don't think the guy did much damage because he had to temper his message quite a bit, but I think we could have done better. (Throwing the question out: if your concerns are rejected, as mine were, what do you do then?)

So, enough rambling. I think it is a struggle. I fear it will get worse. I don't think it will ever get better. I think we need to caution our people. We need to protect them. We need to equip them. But, not everyone is going to be equipped as well as someone who has been at the process longer. That means we always need to have our guard up.

I still think Mr. Yuck stickers are the way to go.

Hope this helps advance the conversation.

One other thing, Nancy, I agree with your comment that the women sometimes do a better job. My wife is one of the gatekeepers on books that can be used in our women's ministry. She's fantastic at it (the men used Celebrations of Discipline FCOL). She will nix books that come highly recommended. One was The Power of a Praying Wife. The title sums it up (HEY, pray for your spouse). But the books swerves into a lot of experiential and bad theology territory that is best left unexplored. It was not used and reasons why were given. That's the way it should work.

Maybe the answer is to really act like we believe in the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture. Books that expound on scripture, like MacArthur's (does he REALLY write all of those books?), Dever, Piper, etc. are really valuable. Let's recommend those. Let's fall in love with the serious study of scripture and not the latest fad.

Hope that helps.

IB Dubbya said...

[Yes, John Haller, I'm sure Phil can attest to the fact that John writes every book himself (with (extensive?) help from our Main Man, the "Lead" Pyro).

...and all 60+ volumes without the help of that thing you're staring at, right now.

Or, Phil, has our dear shepherd finally relented on the technology tip?]


John Haller said...

I know he does; it's just "hard to believe." Sometimes you just have to wonder if there's not some Lenin or Kim Jong-Il thing going on, you know?

Unknown said...

Interesting comments. As someone who is involved with the CBA on a daily basis, through author, editor, agent interviews, sending out my own manuscripts for hopefull placement within the CBA, I know this is a group of people (on the whole) who love the Lord & desperately want to touch others with the love of Christ.

I have friends who will bash Falwell or Robertson, etc, no one is perfect, not any individual or organziation. My reply to those who complain is this: how many lives for God have you touched? What are you doing for the kingdom of Christ?

My desire is of course to tell a good story and entertain. The fact that I'm a Christian who loves God will seep into my story. Will that touch someone? I hope so. Without the CBA, I may not have had the chance. The ABA isn't exactly banging Christian's doors down to write stories that glorify God.

Some of the books that others here complain about have changed lives for the better. God uses the imperfect. I know because He uses me.

Interesting piece.

Mary DeMuth said...

Like Gina, I move in and through the CBA as an author. I don't think my books would be classified as "red" (hopefully, they'll classify as "read"!), though my upcoming novel deals with a sensitive enough issue it might qualify.

The thing I see lacking is a deeper call to radically follow Jesus. Folks would rather settle for a formulaic Christianity with easy answers and good diets that work than the weightier message of the cross and dying to self. I suppose that message wouldn't sell books, though.

The thing that worries me in this post, however, is linking anyone with emergent thoughts to heresy. Be cautious. There are many, many folks who love Jesus and have good, sound theology, who question modernity's approach to Christianity.

IB Dubbya said...

Were I a time-travellin' reporter, I'd love to first interview several of the more obviously 'imperfect' author's (Warren, Eldridge, etc.), then return to 1405 BC & interview Baalim's...uuh...donkey to survey just how much in common ~ if anything ~ they have...


donsands said...

Gina, "What are you doing for the kingdom of Christ?"

That's a good question that we need to always be asking ourselves. Am I using my gifts for His kingdom and glory? Am I being bold in the truth with love? Am I growing in my disciplines of Reading the Word, praying fervantly, fellowshipping with the saints, and worshipping my Savior?
If the Church was constant in this, then the Lord would be adding to the Church daily, those who are being saved.
Preaching the gospel cuts hearts deep. Some to salvation by repentance and faith through grace, and others will hate you. (Acts 2:37; 7:54)
The kingdom of Christ is warring against the kingdom of darkness, and we need to recognize this, and be willing to fight and contend for the faith, against all the subtle lies of Satan and his servants.
God's kingdom will prevail against the gates of hell. That's a promise, but it takes discplined disciples to do so.
Those are my thoughts for what they're worth.

donsands said...


I agree that there are those who love the Lord, and are serving him, who are in the ECM.
I am not that well aquainted with the whole movement. I know Brian McLaren is one of the leaders in the ECM, and I would caution anyone to not read his teachings. He is quite unbiblical in many of his teachings.
There is an excellent book you could read, if you haven't already, by D. A. Carson, called, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. I got one at Walmart for under $10.
Thanks for sharing your heart.

sally apokedak said...

Ugh, Just what we need--more white books. Was this a joke? I don't read here enough to know, but I gotta tell you my opinion of the Reformed Baptists has plummeted since I started to reading all the End of the Spear garbage.

So if you aren't joking and you really want all white books, here's what I think of that.

I'd rather have all red books? If we have all white books then our (and I use the word "our" loosely) reformed view will get no hearing. Five point Calvinists are offensive to Arminian Baptists. So why not allow all the Arminians, Open Theists, Word of Faith guys, and Reformed writers to write their books? And then why not sit back and relax knowing that God will save those he chooses to save? What do we have to fear from those false teachers? If you are to be saved the Holy Spirit will give you spiritual discernment. If you are not to be saved then you will believe the strong delusion.

Our job is to speak the truth in love not burn the books of the idiots who are lying. If we really are speaking the truth then we need not worry about what the other guy is speaking, he will be shown to be a liar in God's good time.

I am sick over this kick that the Reformed Baptist Bloggers seem to be on to cut everyone else down. God have mercy. "Contend for the faith" does not mean you have tell everyone else what they should and shouldn't read. It means you warn them and you remind them of the faith that was once for all delivered to the apostles. It doesn't mean you have to try to remove danger from them--no, you teach them to sidestep the danger that God allows to press in on all sides. You are not my Holy Ghost or my father and I'd like to be allowed to go into the bookstore and buy books and make my own decisions. I don't trust your interpretation of things. I like to look at stuff and hold it up to Scripture and make up my own mind. Thanks anyway for the offer of protection.

I don't want to live in a Muslim state or a Communist state or a theocracy. I want to live in the world while not being of it. I want to be allowed to preach the gospel and I trust it can stand up to the false religions of the world.

DJP said...

Let's try to sort this out.

So, Sally, for no expressed Biblical reason, you judge Reformed writers as bad for judging others as bad, though they do it for expressly Biblical reasons. What you tell them to do is not to tell others what to do. You scold them for scolding. You want not to be of the world, but others mustn't point out Biblically what that means. You want to preach the Gospel, but others mustn't Biblically point out when others are preaching false Gospels.

And when you ask, "Why not sit back and relax knowing that God will save those he chooses to save?", are you aware that every Reformed reader will instantly recognize that you haven't a clue about their position?

Matt Gumm said...

It would be great if everyone would sit down and read Charnock's Existence and Attributes of God. But that's not going to happen. Some of it is desire, some is capacity, but whatever the reason, it's not realistic. Some people are just going to have a hard time reading Jonathan Edwards. Hey, I'll admit it: I have a hard time reading Edwards. So what do we do?

Excerpts. Snippets. Bite-sized pieces. Although there are several different issues here, one of them is how can we get new interest in the old writers. I think this is a way.

I used to be opposed to this. I used to think that it was all-or-nothing. But having kids has helped shape & soften my view. We have the book & video Dangerous Journey, which is a majorly abridged version of Pilgrim's Progress. But my kids love it. And I hope that one day they'll be ready for the real thing.

So what are practical ways we can do this? I think Spurgeon is more accessible than most, and (thanks to Phil) you've already got more Spurgeon out there than the average person could read in a lifetime. Puritan Paperbacks (from the Banner of Truth) have some abridged versions of Puritan works. My own pastor has a ministry where he excerpts Puritan writings based on a certain theme. I'm sure there are tons of resources like this that are out there.

As useful, practical, and necessary as many of the suggestions about churches and pastors/elders are, my two cents are recommend some of this stuff to people you know. Not quite in the same category as the above, but awhile back Centuri0n recommended The Deliberate Church as an counterpoint to the Purpose-Driven Church. That's the kind of thing I'm thinking about. Otherwise, the Olsteens, Eldredges, and others will continue to be on the top of the list.

Darel said...

Hi! What's going on in this thread?


Mr. S. Camp, very nice. I am of the opinion that there cannot be enough jokes with "brokeback" in it. So that's my favorite.

Sally, I hear you.

DJP, I'm hoping I heard Sally right, since it does seem that this topic is drifting toward book-burning. Censorship bad, even by Christ's standards(Lk 9: 49,50). As a Baptist, I'm firmly convinced of religious liberty. Just a little peek at the "tension" between Reformers and Baptists will tell you why I feel this way. Maybe catch up on why a Baptist founded Rhode Island, and you'll see what I mean. Let's not go down that path, starting with banning books and land us back in "beaten and imprisoned for neglecting to baptize their infants."


DJP said...

Who's advocating burning or banning books? More often, I see that claim (along with allusions to Taliban, theocracy, etc.) as the lazy "out" of someone who doesn't like seeing his favorite ox gored -- or, to speak Purgatorially, his favorite sacred cow tipped.

IOW, "I don't care what the Bible says, I love ____, so don't criticize it." But you can't just come out and say that. So you use the dodges.

sally apokedak said...

I'd like to apologize to everyone on the board for coming into a group of strangers and spitting. I asked some people on another board I frequented if I'd overreacted and they told me I had. Going back and reading the comments here, I agree that I overreacted.

Please forgive me for causing offense by my rude behavior. And forgive me for bringing up book burning, it was unecessarily inflammatory. =0)

However . . . I still feel not very friendly to Reformed Baptists Blogger Pack I've been reading lately. And I don't know what to do about it except come here and tell you about it and hope you will hear me.

Why am I upset? Because several RB bloggers are not being merciful towards brothers who are dear to my Lord. I have read how they use scripture, and I don't like it. I believe that they and/or the crowd they have whipped up, have slandered Christian men, have assassinated their characters, and have assigned evil motives when they cannot read the hearts of the men they are condemning.

Are all Reformed Baptists this way? I think not. I have some dear friends who are Reformed Baptists. That's why I'm so surprised by this hypercritical stuff.

Are the RB bloggers who are calling Steve Saint and Mart Green to repentance, biblically pointing out the ETE preached a false gospel? Is that true? Or are they being overly critical? If you want to attack those who are preaching a false gospel, do so. But End of the Spear did not preach any false gospel. It didn't fully preach the gospel but it certainly didn't preach a false gospel.

DJP, you say:
---And when you ask, "Why not sit back and relax knowing that God will save those he chooses to save?", are you aware that every Reformed reader will instantly recognize that you haven't a clue about their position?---

No, I'm not aware. Why would Reformed readers think such a thing? (But I grant you, I'm beginning to think I have no idea what Reformed Baptists are all about.) My father is ordained in the RPCes (way back when) and we were missionaries to Taiwan. I am a member of the OPC. I have been raised in the Reformed Church and I love the Reformed doctrines. Why would the Reformed reader think I'm clueless to the Reformed position? Is this some new Reformed position going on here?

And because I suspect that the RB position really is some new thing and I'm not really as close to you fellows as I thought I was, coming here and reading that you want white books only, really bothers me.

The truth is that we can't write white books. Every book we write will offend our Holy God. We see in part and we know in part. (1 cor. 13) We do not have a complete understanding of God and so anything we write is going to fall short of his glory.

So what shall we do? Only read the Bible? Is this what God wants from us? Shall you shut down your blogs and shall we all stop writing books? Or does he redeem even our stumbling steps and use them for his glory. He has chosen us as fellow laborers with his Son Jesus Christ. We are to preach, to love, to suffer, to die.

And yes, we are to write books and paint pictures, I believe. Do I have a proof text for that? Not really. But God created us to be creative. He has left us here to live in the world and to salt and light in it. He came down and walked with men, entered the synagogues, ate at the tables. He used everyday things to tell stories that enlightened his hearers. He mixed with the world and yet was unpolluted by it. And then he left us here to walk in this world after him.

God is a God of beauty and order and when we create something beautiful we are showing forth the glory of God, I believe, just because we are doing what he made us to do. We are creating because he made us creative.

Here's the deal, if Steve Saint is being called to repent for the way he wrote End of the Spear, then any book I write is going to get me branded as a heretic by the Reformed Baptists.

This is why I'd like you all to forget about trying to get only white books in the stores.

There will be no pure church and no pure bookstore this side of the Parousia.

I think you should show some compassion to your fellow, weak brothers. Because in the same measure as you mete out mercy, it will be measured unto you.

Sorry for the long post. When I spit short posts I get in trouble for not being clear and loving and biblical and when I write long posts I get in trouble for writing novels.

Here I stand, may God judge me.

nancy said...

JH - Thanks for your thoughts. I agree, we can't ban, but we must equip. Last week in our women's Bible study, we focused on some essential doctrines. We'll continue with that this week but we'll also look at some quotes (that I will present anonymously) from some questionable writings and I hope the ladies see the error on their own. It is my prayer that they develop the confidence to test all things by scripture.

Praise God your wife is in the role of gatekeeper!!

Darel said...

Don't be deceptive. The post and many subsequent threads several times make the statement that certain books (it doesn't really matter which ones, does it?) should not be carried. They should not be carried because of their theological content, even if someone wanted the book to read it. Denying someone from buying a book is called "banning". (Even if they can buy the book elsewhere, that particular bookstore has banned the book from sale)

Now... maybe that's not where you want to be. Congratulations, I don't want you there either.

BTW, I think stuff from Osteen and Warren are generally crap and not worth the time spent. If you don't take my word for it, read it for yourself....

DJP said...

Do you periodically feel yourself incapable of expressing yourself without being gratuitously hostile and insulting? Is this one of those times?

In your world, a store deciding not to carry a book, for what it considers good reason, is "banning"? In mine it's "free enterprise."

Tim Bayly said...

When CBA started, it was quite small and insignificant, and books were its heart. Now its constituents have sales each year in the billions, and books make up significantly less than half the market. This is part of the reason looking at a list of books doesn't come close to addressing the obscene reality of CBA.

For years, I've been telling my Wheaton publishing friends, authors, and relatives that it's time for us to go to CBA and rip it to shreds--chainsaws, sledhammers, leaf blowers, and belts. All the booths are so lightweight, made to travel, that the whole thing would be a shambles in only minutes. (Did you know one major evangelical publisher's booth likely cost them many hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

Anyhow, I tell my friends that when we finish obliterating the exhibits and displays in the exhibit hall, we'll get busted and have to do some time, for sure.

But I also tell them that while we're lead out in handcuffs, there will be a huge collective sigh of relief washing across the exhibit hall, with everyone whispering to one another, "It was a nasy job, but somebody had to do it."

Most of the grand poobahs I've said this to laughed nervously, and agreed that it was a job that needed to be done. But only younger men with nothing to lose have offered to join me.

Tim Bayly said...

"Nasy" should have been "nasty."