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Lifeway Continues to Walk Tightrope Between Principle and Profit

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Only in the case of Lifeway Christian Resources, it goes:  Love the profit to be made from the sale of each book, hate the theology.

This time around, Christian musician Shaun Groves has brought the issue of Lifeway’s “warning” notices back to the surface.    In a must-read piece, he begins with the story of trying to purchase Donald Miller’s latest at Lifeway, seeing the consumer advisory notice, and electing instead to purchase the book across the road at Barnes and Noble.

LifeWay warns Miller’s readers to exercise discernment because it believes his books to be inconsistent with historical evangelical theology in some way, yet instead of refusing to sell them, LifeWay chooses to profit from what it alleges to be heresy(ish). That seems a bit like Nancy Regan going into the crack business. “Just say ‘No.’ First one’s free.”

But more odd is how LifeWay is defining “historically evangelical theology.” Actually, I’m not sure how they’re defining it.

What definition both condemns Donald Miller as a heretic but approves the writings of Joyce Meyer and John Hagee?

Yes!   Finally!   Someone is saying what needs to be said here.   Groves goes on to ask,

Is “historical” Christianity the stuff that happened after Constantine…or after Calvin…or is it after D.L Moody?

And what historical evangelical theology is communicated by paintings of cottages printed on mousepads, and t-shirts that print scripture pulled from context across an American flag, or keychains or romance novels minus the sex?

Again, you’re encouraged to read both the boldness of Groves’ analysis and also the humility of his conclusions, by clicking here.

Where does this leave the rest of us?

My take on this is that ultimately, we in retail either trust our publishers or we don’t.   If the name Baker, or Nelson, or Zondervan, or Harvest House appears on the spine and the title page, you need to trust that both their acquisitions department and their editorial staff believe the product is worthy of their endorsement.

But if you can’t trust those publishers, then don’t carry any of the products.   That’s right.   Don’t carry any of them.   Not one.   In fact, better to just limit yourselves to just the products in your own publishing family:  Broadman, Holman, Lifeway… and nothing else.

Though I’m not sure about the last one.    As a conservative Evangelical, the prospect of Beth Moore teaching the Bible — i.e. to a mixed audience — may be a bit un-Biblical.   Maybe they could start by reconsidering their own products.

Or consider the other possibility.

The publishers themselves tell Lifeway, “Hey, you don’t trust us, fine your account is closed.”   Yes, I know what you’re thinking, that would never happen for a dozen reasons, but mostly because it’s way too radical. To which I respond: Is it any more radical than sticking disclaimers all over your product?

Related post 8.23.08 at Thinking Out Loud

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