It’s always a little (okay, a lot) disconcerting to check out the Christian best-seller lists. I mean the official ones, such as that of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. With Christian Booksellers Association boss Bill Anderson recently resigning after 30 years at the helm, ECPA will probably gain in strength and influence.
For the interests of conservative Christian readers, it probably won’t make much difference. CBA long ago determined to embrace secular business models, and the results were predictable: publishers like Health Communications were welcomed with open arms, as were authors like Paul Young (“The Shack”).
In other words, authors and publishers who had traditionally promoted biblical themes (the Great Commission, doctrine, apologetics) were becoming outdated. Giving in to the seduction of “cultural relevance,” many official Christian organizations began to ease their standards.
There are many reasons for this – including a sincere desire on the part of many to reach new audiences – but in my opinion, the overwhelming reason to broaden the tent was … cash. CBA could not remain viable as a large organization if it had actual criteria for allowing authors and publishers onto the convention floors.
Take a look at the latest ECPA best-seller lists. The vast majority of the titles appeal to self. Have you noticed? It’s all about fixing a relationship you’re in or healing old emotional wounds.
Even “The Hole in Our Gospel,” by World Vision founder Richard Stearns, appears to be another ode to the social gospel. Endorsed by such center-left leaders as Tony Campolo, Ron Sider and Eugene Peterson, the book (I haven’t read it) must be at least a nod in the direction of liberalism.
The product description on Amazon is telling: “This accessible book will make it into the hands of evangelical Christians who may not pick up one of the many ABA books on issues of hunger, access to clean water, malaria and AIDS. Readers of Rick Warren, Jim Wallis and N.T. Wright will find Stearns synthesizing thoughts from them as well as from economists and missionaries. This is a passionate and motivating magnum opus from the leader of one of the most recognized aid organizations in the world.”
Let’s break this down:
- Part of the book’s marketing plan is to get it into the hands of Christians who otherwise wouldn’t read it. In other words, conservative and fundamentalist Christians can’t be interested in feeding the hungry, right? They are too bitter, clinging to their guns. But if we wrap the message in a Christian veneer, they just might read it. I am certain that this is a tactic of the left to introduce heresy – eventually – into Bible-believing regions. Just look at the Emergent movement if you don’t believe me.
- “Readers of Rick Warren, Jim Wallis and N.T. Wright” – further evidence that what is contained in the book springs from liberalism. There is a growing feeling among conservative Christians that men like this have contempt for conservative Christian thought. Endorsements by such authors should be a red flag for Bible-believing Christians. Even Warren, who has successfully used the costume of evangelical pastor to the world, now leans left. His visits with dictators like Syria’s Bashar Assad and involvement in the international community (Council on Foreign Relations) lets us know exactly what his worldview is.
One of the few conservative authors on the list is John MacArthur, the California-based theologian who still insists that the Bible is our final authority.
Just as one can surmise the intentions of social-gospel advocates, one can also pick up on MacArthur’s heart from the product description for his new book:
“In the much-needed message in ‘The Jesus You Can’t Ignore,’ renowned Bible teacher and best-selling author John MacArthur reintroduces the compelling and often unsettling passion of Jesus’ ministry,” the description reads. “MacArthur points to the picture of the real Jesus the world is so eager to gloss over. And he calls readers to emulate Jesus’ commitment to further the kingdom by confronting lies and protecting the truth of God.”
MacArthur of course teaches that Jesus loved people and ministered to their needs. Where he departs from liberal voices is in his insistence on showing the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of M. Scott Peck or Deepak Chopra (whose books, I have no doubt, will eventually make their way into Christian retail organizations, should they survive much longer).
The biblical Jesus – unknown to many because they haven’t actually read the Bible – will return one day to Earth as a conquering king. He won’t have a meek bone in his body. There will be no silence in the face of Pilate’s questions.
But the world not only hates that version of Jesus, it also mocks it. The biblical Christ is mocked daily by theologians and writers who constantly try to reinvent Jesus and the Bible.
Let me switch gears a bit at this juncture, to further my point that Christian publishing is infected with liberalism and that the infection is permanent.
Remember that Ron Sider and Tony Campolo endorsed Stearns’ book.
In a July 27, 2007, letter to President Bush, a group of “evangelical” (they hated the term until they realized it served their purposes to be associated with the quasi-conservative wing of the church) leaders urged the leader of the free world to work overtime on the concept of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
The first name as a signer was Ron Sider, Evangelicals for Social Action. Tony Campolo also signed.
My point is, neither Sider nor Campolo embrace the thoroughly biblical doctrine of Zionism. They are part of the community of useful dupes (see Lenin) who further the goals of Marxists like the Palestinian leadership, which seeks to literally destroy Israel, a splinter-of-a-country that irritates the international community.
“Regular” Christians, those who are busy feeding their families and paying higher taxes, often do not know “who” leaders like Sider and Campolo are. Thus they do not know to practice discernment when choosing books and curriculum for their churches. Not all church denominations and associations have a doctrinal firewall (such as that of the Calvary Chapel movement) that will actively monitor the biblical value of books and other materials.
In the latest ECPA news, we see that “diamond” awards have been given to a handful of books who have met the rarified criteria: 10 million or more sold. Not surprisingly, three of them are “The Shack,” “The Purpose-Driven Life” and “The Prayer of Jabez.”
It is interesting to me that (and I’m generalizing) the readers/authors of such books are not necessarily “committed to the full teaching of the Scriptures” though they insist that they are. What do I mean?
One of the most distasteful elements of Scripture for these people is predictive prophecy. Peter predicted, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that God would one day create a new heavens and a new earth, and that he would do it by first destroying the universe. Peter said that even the elements would burn up, so that God could start anew and provide a perfect home for his children to love for eternity.
Of course, this type of teaching is considered primitive and the domain of hayseeds.
I, however, believe this passage of Scripture, wholeheartedly. It is my worldview, and because of that, I practice discernment when considering the offerings of Christian publishers. My views are considered radical, I suppose, especially for a column about publishing. But if the Bible is true, then heresy and apostasy are coming, and we must prepare ourselves spiritually.
It’s a pity those diamonds that are coveted by worldly authors will one day burn up.