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Conscience of a Christian Publisher

A friend tipped me off by e-mail to a post, and I think it is appropriate to respond. The poster, Centurion, expresses his concern about Christian booksellers and publishers, and their choices in terms of what to offer their customers, especially considering that many of them regard their business as a ministry as well.

I’m a Christian publisher, a very small one, offering 15 titles at this point, some of them my own, and I certainly do have a conscience about what I publish. My conscience, however, seems to tell me something substantially different than Centurion’s.

I need to address a couple of minor points, but then I’m going to simply tell you what my conscience as a Christian publisher requires of me.

Centurion says:

That’s my second point: the two most-vivid proclamations of the Gospel in the NT are unquestionably Acts 2 and 2Cor 15 — and both of those proclamations place the authority of God’s word as the centerpiece of how and why Christ died. That is to say: whatever it is Christ did (died for our sins, was buried and was raised on the third day) was “in accordance with Scripture”: it happened because Scripture said it would happen. In that, Scripture is our most precious possession in the Christian life. . . .

This is an example of the most bizarre set of statements I have seen about the gospel and the place of the Bible in Christian life. (I refer to a set of statements because I have seen quite a number of similar statements over the years as well as recently.) I’m sorry for the strong term, but I simply can’t think of anything less forceful that nonetheless expresses what I see here. Let me illustrate. I’m going to travel to Atlanta, Georgia in a few weeks. As I follow the highway from here to there, I will proceed “according to the road signs.” But those signs will not become the center of my trip, the purpose of my trip, nor will they be my “most precious possession.” They point the way. Jesus is the object of our faith; the Bible is one of the things that points the way to Jesus. (See also: Jesus is God and the Bible is Not.)

But further, Centurion appears to believe that this somehow means that Christian book stores should avoid the TNIV and possible new and different bindings of the Bible because they don’t fit in with that agenda. He’s not very clear as to what he thinks dealers should and should not carry, other than putting the TNIV front and center in his general complaint.

So let me be somewhat clearer here. What does my conscience require of me as a Christian publisher. First, I do include some of my own writings on my list of publications. This is because the original purpose of my company was to publish materials necessary for classes and seminars offered by Pacesetters Bible School, Inc. As I continued to work, that list expanded, and I very quickly heard this question: Are you going to publish things that you disagree with? People who knew my own doctrinal positions, and knew that I was publishing some of my own material, thought that I would publish only books that supported my own view. But my conscience would not allow me to do that.

My conscience as a publisher suggests the following:

  • Respect the ability and responsibility of the individual believer to make choices as to what they read and study
  • Publish material that is Christian, according to a readily available definition, but is otherwise open to generating new ideas
  • Publish material that will make Christians think and learn how to support and defend their own positions and how to consider new positions
  • Be honest about what it is that I publish so people can know what it is they’re getting

When I respect others in this way I do not choose doctrinal positions for them. I do not decide what Bible versions should be made for them. I allow them to make those choices. I believe this is the proper understanding of the priesthood of all believers and effectively combines business and ministry ethics.

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  1. Apparently, comments of a dissenting nature have a result on your conscience as well — though not the one your philosophy of business would indicate.

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