I remember how excited I was when I heard the extraordinary news that the Museum of the Bible was going to be built in Washington.
There are so many museums in the nation’s capital, as everyone knows – dozens of Smithsonians, portrait galleries, the Holocaust Museum, American Indian art, the Newseum, etc. It’s not only the capital of the country, it’s the museum capital of the world.
But, until recently, there wasn’t a museum dedicated to the Bible – not in D.C., not in my town.
Now, I understand that it’s a private institution and those who funded it have every right to set the parameters for its content. But I recently figured out there’s at least one biblical subject you won’t find there – not in the permanent exhibits, not even in the bookstore. It kind of surprised me – and disappointed.
Months ago, as I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament,” gathering endorsements and thinking about where I would most like to see it available, I wrote to the Museum of the Bible and sent an early electronic preview copy. I had, in fact, just heard from Franklin Graham’s office that he wanted to place it in the Billy Graham Library and provided a beautiful and thoughtful cover endorsement. That prompted the idea, along with several others.
I had a nice encouraging conversation with the director of the bookstore. She explained all books went through an extensive review process before being ordered, which didn’t surprise me, but didn’t discourage me either. This is and was, as some others had suggested, a “breakthrough Bible book,” in that it systematically searched out the Good News message of redemption and restoration that I had found so prevalent in many of the books, but also in all 39 of the Hebrew Scriptures – from Genesis to Malachi.
I waited a month or so, not having received any reply.
When I checked back with my contact, I found she had left the position. I had a deuce of a time finding out who replaced her. Finally, I found two new names. I started the process all over. Apparently I hadn’t actually got to first base yet.
Another month went by and I checked in by email. One of the two contacts I had for email bounced, but one got through. I waited another month and tried again – nothing. After a few weeks, I got the news.
She explained nicely that the book had been rejected because of the museum’s mission, which did not include “evangelism” nor “apologetics.”
That surprised me for two reasons:
- The Bible itself is thoroughly evangelistic – from beginning to end. It’s the story of Israel and its role in the coming of the Redeemer and Messiah, who will ultimately restore the Kingdom to God’s chosen people and, in the process, restore the entire Earth to the way God created it when He pronounced it “very good” in Genesis 1:31, before the fall of mankind. That this entire Bible was miraculously woven together by about 40 different authors over 1,500 years with one cohesive message in all 66 books, I thought, was evidence of God’s inspiration – and certainly something worth knowing. In fact, I notice there are historical exhibits in the museum that do reveal archaeological evidence that so much of the Bible is verifiably true. That, to me, is the essence of evangelism. It’s the heart and soul of the Good News Israel was commanded to take to the entire world as a light to the nations. In other words, it is the Gospel.
- I also noticed the recent announcement of plans by the museum for a new Billy Graham exhibit. Billy Graham’s entire life was devoted to evangelism – spreading that Gospel message.
But the explanation to me that there is sensitivity, if you will, that the founders of the Bible Museum has toward evangelism and apologetics, was news. How, I wondered, could you adequately and thoroughly create and maintain the massive institution that is the Bible Museum without the evangelistic nature of the Bible itself, which is God’s inspired Word to His people?
There was some specific verbiage in the rejection letter that also struck me: “The books that we carry tend to be more on the historical and factual side of the spectrum.”
My book is just that. It’s just the facts – using almost entirely the Bible and what it actually says in the text itself. In that sense, it is as historical and factual as a book can be.
Yes, I am disappointed that my book will not be available at the Museum of the Bible.
More importantly, though, I’m disappointed in the reason.