Thinking Out Loud

December 6, 2014

Thomas Nelson: The Macro Perspective

One thing I like about a new month is that I give myself permission to go back one year and look at old articles as candidates for possible re-blogging. But today, I want to go back only a few days, partly to add some things, and party because I think this story got missed.

Jesus Calling 10th AnniversaryIn a story posted late Monday night, we noted the claim from heresy watcher Warren B. Smith about the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:

…[I]f you are more interested in protecting your product rather than in protecting the truth, you do everything in your power to make these problems disappear. One thing is for sure. Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have made some of their problems suddenly disappear in recent editions of Jesus Calling—most especially in a special 10th anniversary edition of Jesus Calling released on September 30, 2014.

Perhaps taking their cue from the missing eighteen-and-a-half minutes from Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes, Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have been systematically deleting controversial material from Jesus Calling. Adding, subtracting, cutting, pasting, and completely eliminating problematic words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs, Young and her editors do not hesitate to put words in the mouth of their “Jesus,” even as they take others away. But like the Watergate tapes, the missing evidence and their in-your-face tactics are doing more to expose their problems than cover them up.

We then went on to note:

It’s hard to find articles online critical of the book, since everyone is on the sales bandwagon, especially in some markets where the book has been #1 for much of the past few years. So I don’t have other corroboration of Smith’s claims.

Still, the book’s theological liabilities have not escaped notice. I’ve been following the discussion thread at Ryan Dueck’s blog for over four years now, and not surprisingly, the book did not fare well with Canadian blogger Tim Challies, who called it “a very dangerous book.” We covered those links here before, also noting two years ago that the genre in which it is written is not entirely new; and also linking to that rare occasion where author Sarah Young did an interview with Christianity Today.

On a personal note, I should say that at the bookstore where I hang out, a good 80% of the sales on this book over the past 18 months have been to the local Spiritualist Church. Until recently the store did not acknowledge sales of the book on its Top books chart, and also, prior to 2012, a book closely associated with it, God Calling was available there only by special order, even though the book is published by, among others, Baker Books.

For it’s part, Thomas Nelson is marketing the anniversary release as an “Expanded Edition.” Nowhere on the company website are words like “revised,” “edited,” or even “updated” used.

What you didn’t see that day however was a comment that I added myself on the original version of the story at Christian Book Shop Talk, an affiliate blog of this one:

BennyHinnI didn’t want to go to hard on Thomas Nelson, but this isn’t the first time they’ve found themselves in a pickle like this, is it? Charismatic faith healer Benny Hinn was reported to have some wacky doctrine that each part of the Godhead was also triune — that’s nine parts if you’re counting — that needed to be excised from one of his bestsellers. (The belief is called Tritheism.) It was also alleged that after the book went through an editorial process, Hinn reiterated the belief in yet another volume.

Check out this link and do a keyword ‘find’ for “Benny Hinn” and “Tritheism.” It’s also in  this piece.

Now that Thomas Nelson is owned by HarperCollins, Jesus Calling would probably be a better fit on its HarperOne imprint, not the more Evangelical imprints like Zondervan or Nelson.

Mark Driscoll 2But then I got to thinking about how this connects with the whole Mark Driscoll story, since the Seattle pastor’s Real Marriage was also caught in the plagiarism controversy.

And that got me thinking about the stable of authors the company has published in the last forty years. From ultra-conservatives who didn’t like the NKJV, to the concerns that Robert Schuller’s message was simply about positive-thinking platitudes with little resemblance to the gospel, all the way forward to doctrinal concerns in Heaven is For Real

It’s no wonder that doctrinal purists reject anything the company issues, or why for example, the New Calvinist community feels the need to create its own sales channels, where they can filter what is marketed and distributed.

When you look at the entire history of Thomas Nelson, Jesus Calling is nothing new for these battle-scarred warriors; it’s more of a minor skirmish.

 

December 1, 2014

Jesus Calling Critic Says New Edition is Greatly Edited

Jesus Calling 10th AnniversaryHeresy hunter Warren B. Smith begins:

What if you are a major publisher like Thomas Nelson and you suddenly discover that your mega best-selling book Jesus Calling was inspired by a channeled New Age book? And what if you find out that some of the “messages” your author “received” from her “Jesus” weren’t really from Jesus because they contradict what the real Jesus Christ says in the Bible? And what if your best-selling author has introduced a host of other problems in her book that your usually sharp editors had somehow overlooked? What do you do given these issues are already in the pages of ten million previously published books? If you want to be fair to your readers, you deal honestly with these problems as they are brought to your attention. However, if you are more interested in protecting your product rather than in protecting the truth, you do everything in your power to make these problems disappear. One thing is for sure. Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have made some of their problems suddenly disappear in recent editions of Jesus Calling—most especially in a special 10th anniversary edition of Jesus Calling released on September 30, 2014.

Perhaps taking their cue from the missing eighteen-and-a-half minutes from Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes, Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have been systematically deleting controversial material from Jesus Calling. Adding, subtracting, cutting, pasting, and completely eliminating problematic words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs, Young and her editors do not hesitate to put words in the mouth of their “Jesus,” even as they take others away. But like the Watergate tapes, the missing evidence and their in-your-face tactics are doing more to expose their problems than cover them up.

He then reiterates his objections to the original book in the rest of the piece. You can read the entire article at the Stand Up For The Truth website.

It’s hard to find articles online critical of the book, since everyone is on the sales bandwagon, especially in some markets where the book has been #1 for much of the past few years. So I don’t have other corroboration of Smith’s claims.

Still, the book’s theological liabilities have not escaped notice. I’ve been following the discussion thread at Ryan Dueck’s blog for over four years now, and not surprisingly, the book did not fare well with Canadian blogger Tim Challies, who called it “a very dangerous book.” We covered those links here before, also noting two years ago that the genre in which it is written is not entirely new; and also linking to that rare occasion where author Sarah Young did an interview with Christianity Today.

On a personal note, I should say that at the bookstore where I hang out, a good 80% of the sales on this book over the past two years have been to the local Spiritualist Church. Until recently the store did not acknowledge sales of the book on its Top books chart, and also, prior to 2012, a book closely associated with it, God Calling was available there only by special order, even though the book is published by, among others, Baker Books.

For it’s part, Thomas Nelson is marketing the anniversary release as an “Expanded Edition.” Nowhere on the company website are words like “revised,” “edited,” or even “updated” used.

So, if anyone can send us third party verification of what Warren B. Smith has written, we’ll add the link here.

Jesus Calling Collection

 

Co-published with Christian Book Shop Talk blog.

November 7, 2014

Media Musing: Who Owns Christian Publishers, Deline of Music Sales

Filed under: books, media, music — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:41 am

Two stories today that have a common link

Christian Publishing: Who owns what?

First, Christianity Today ran this chart a few days ago which helps put the various Christian publishers that are part of huge multi-nationals in perspective. Each stream begins with the corporate name of the parent company, and then you see divisions and individual book imprints (if it were music, we’d call them labels) color-coded as to the type of audience they primarily target.

Christian Publishing Imprints of Major CompaniesClick the image to read the article. A similar analysis can be found at this link.


Putting music sales in perspective

Each one of the following statements can be supported by a quick online search, but I chose not to clutter this with the links. Basically, the point is that country-turned-pop singer Taylor Swift had great success in the past week with the album 1989 which left everything else that’s happened lately in the dust…

  • In just 7 days, Taylor Swift sold more copies of 1989 than the combined sales of albums at # 2 to # 107 on Billboard.
  • 22% of all albums sold in the U.S. last week were Taylor Swift.
  • Just 3 weeks ago people were saying “2014 is expected to become the first year in modern history where no artist has sold more than 1m albums in the US.” *
  • With only about seven weeks left in the year, she is the first platinum album for 2014, and possibly the last platinum album ever.
  • In a broader perspective, the new album is the fastest selling record in the past twelve years.

*studio albums, since the Frozen soundtrack achieved this

November 4, 2014

Buying Someone a Bible – Part 3 – Translations

Cartoonist Wes Molebash at The Junia Project website (Sept 2013) (Click image for Wes’ site, Insert Image.)

bible wars

 

 

As we mentioned yesterday, usually the first question you ask someone considering a Bible purchase involves trying to qualify which translation they might be interested in. The best way to ask this is, Who is it for? In other words, you want to be told as much as possible about the end user. Young or old? First time Bible reader? Other translations they own? Type of church they attend? Is English their first language?

Much has already been written online about the two broader approaches to translation: Dynamic equivalence and formal correspondence. Lately, some clever marketers have blurred those lines with some new terminology designed to capture interest from those on both sides of the discussion.

While one approach is often termed word for word and the other is thought for thought, really the question is this: To what extent do you retain some of the original forms, and to what extent can you break out of those forms and express the same concept the way we speak today? The challenge is that some of those original forms contain allusions to other Bible passages and you don’t want to rob the Bible of its beauty and symmetry. On the other hand, you don’t want to have to reduce explanations to footnotes, so sometimes just saying things in contemporary language is best. (But then you often find yourself including the historic or literary tie-ins in footnotes instead.)

So today, rather than look at translations in those terms, I’d like to think of them in clusters.

Traditional – Really, with more than 400 years of history, the KJV is in a class by itself here. The person you’re buying one for would have to really be expecting it, or in a church situation where nothing else is permissible.

Formal – With similar syntax and a name association, the New King James Version (NKJV) would fit this category and is still popular in some circles. But so also would the New American Standard Version (NASB), a rigid but accurate translation that is a favorite among Evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges.  (See also this article.)

Popular – The New International Version (NIV) is still considered the best-selling English translation and with an update in 2011, isn’t going away any time soon. For Mainline Protestants and some Roman Catholics, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is the translation of choice.

Contemporary – Aimed at the same market that reads the NRSV, the new Common English Bible (CEB) is gaining popularity. Gaining on the NIV is the New Living Translation (NLT), especially among younger Christians. Despite its age, Today’s English Version (TEV, also called Good News Bible or GNT) is still preferred by some readers.

Creative – When The Message was first published with its use of idiomatic language and stripping away of verse numbers, it attracted a lot of attention. Today, The Voice Bible is the choice for those who want something edgy, with everything presented in a dramatic (play script) format.  Of course, for those who want to color outside the lines, The Amplified Bible (AMP) has been around for several decades now with its alternative words in brackets. A recent copycat translation, The Expanded Bible offers similar options.

Evangelical Denominations – You’ll find many Baptists gravitating toward the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) and Reformers and Calvinists choosing the English Standard Version (ESV). The translation philosophy for both is somewhat similar to NASB, with a reluctance to make any risky changes to the text as many learned it in the KJV.

Catholic – The New American Bible (NAB, not to be confused with NASB) is the one most identified with the Catholic Church, but you’ll also find interest in the Catholic editions of the Good News Translation (GNT or TEV), the NRSV, and The Jerusalem Bible.

Easy to Read – The New Century Version (NCV) uses a very basic vocabulary but without seeming childish.  The New International Readers Version (NIrV) uses a more choppy sentence structure, but is well-suited to people for whom English is a second language.

Children – The two Bibles in this category are actually the same as in the section above. The NCV is marketed as the International Children’s Bible (ICB), while the NIrV is issued as a part of various branded series that lead the kids into reading a regular NIV. Also doing well in Children’s editions is a more obscure translation known as God’s Word (GW).

Worth NotingThe Story is a Bible story book for adults showing the larger story arc of the Bible in a single narrative. The Kingdom New Testament is a NT written by popular Bible scholar N.T. Wright. And speaking of NT editions, people still seek out The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips.

Unfortunately, in many respects this article is not as useful as yesterday’s piece about features, as if some of these are of interest, you’ll have to investigate them elsewhere.  Passage comparison at sites like BibleGateway, BibleHub and Blue Letter Bible are a good place to begin. Hopefully this has at least helped you narrow down your search.  Bible translation selection is both a science and an art, and many people have a lot of emotional investment in particular Bible versions. In many respects, perhaps it is better that we put the features explanations first, as you might want to simply select the features you want, and then explore which translations offer those particular editions.

For further reading:

 

November 3, 2014

Buying Someone a Bible – Part 2 – Styles and Features

In Part One we looked at the Bible as one of the most significant gifts you can give someone, and why it’s important to get the selection right. Today we want to help simplify the process of choosing features they might appreciate and use. Normally we might ask the translation question first, but we thought we’d do things differently just this one time.

NIV Compact Giant Print 9780310435303Well over 95% of the Bibles sold today are complete editions consisting of the 66 books in the Protestant canon of the Old and New Testaments (or if you prefer First and Second Testaments, or Former and Current Testaments) or the 66 plus a varying number of additional books used in the Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books. In other words, if you’re looking for a New Testament only, beyond a handful of presentation Bibles for babies and children you’ll find a limited selection, and if you’re looking for an Old Testament only, well, good luck. 

By the way, not every Bible containing these extra books is a Catholic Bible because in order to be considered one, it would need a sort of kosher seal on the copyright page known as an imprimatur. You can also purchase those books separately — the original KJV contained them — unlike the case with trying to buy an Old Testament by itself.

You will find many Gospels of John however. This is rather strange because John is an argument for the divinity of Christ, but increasingly, that type of persuasion doesn’t work with postmoderns. You would expect more of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) to be produced now, but alas, we’re getting quite off-topic!

A Bible without any additional features is called a text Bible, and if there are some cross-references listing recommended related verses either in a center-column, at the bottom, or at the end of verses, then it’s a text reference or reference Bible. Free of bells and whistles, these are usually the best-priced and most popular. You can save even more by buying into the volume print runs of pew Bibles, now sometimes called church Bibles. These hardcover editions are quite durable. However, my advice would be to avoid what are called gift-and-award Bibles, because by using cheaper (and therefore thicker) paper, they are forced to use a very, very small type font. Generally, an award Bible is something churches give out to kids or visitors they’re not sure they’re ever going to see again. If they know the child, usually they go for something nicer.

Some of the most popular text Bibles often use the trade-style Thinline or Slimline. Introduced originally with more of the women’s market in mind, their style is also useful for pastors on hospital visits, youth workers at a campfire, and anyone else who doesn’t want to carry around a larger book. Also available are compact Bibles, but here you need to watch the print size, though Zondervan has a rather awesome NIV Compact Giant Print Bible that is a must-see if you’re shopping.

This is probably a good place to pause and mention print size. What Thomas Nelson calls Giant Print on their NKJV editions is really everybody else’s Large Print. This is another instance where you are better off buying in person rather than online. Also, just because a Bible advertises that it used 13-point type, that doesn’t tell you what the leading (spacing between lines of type) is, you need to see that for yourself. And if someone is looking for larger print, you should avoid comparing poetic and prophetic sections (which often use much more white space) to narrative sections which are more normally paragraphed.

Red-letter Bibles are by far the most common, but this is not an exact science. Did Jesus say the verse we know as John 3:16 or was that John’s commentary? Some people are divided on this issue. Does it mean those verses are more important? Isn’t all scripture inspired?  Also appearing more frequently — perhaps sparked by The Message Bible — are editions stripped of verse numbers.

Bindings vary in quality and cost along a spectrum beginning with paperback, then hardcover, then vinyl, then imitation leather, then bonded leather, and then fine or genuine leathers (including Moroccan, calfskin, etc.) Technically, many of the two-tone or duo-tone Bibles popular now are only imitation leather, but the quality and artistry of those covers has advanced to where you might pay more for those than some bonded leathers.

Bibles which have been thumb indexed may be produced by the publisher and have a separate ISBN (i.e. stock number) or may be done by a bookstore or distributor as an after-market add-on. (Remember when Sears Automotive sold after-market air-conditioning for cars?) You can also decide later to add Bible tabs but this is a process akin to watch repair or untangling coat hangers and is best done by the very patient (i.e. wives, mothers and girlfriends.) While you’re buying your tabs, you might as well go nuts and buy some extra ribbon markers.

Complete Parallel New TestamentParallel Bibles are text editions containing more than one edition, usually side-by-side on the page. Full Bibles are usually 2-translation or 4-translation, but Hendrickson has a nice 8-translation New Testament in hardcover which I really like, but don’t own. (Yet. I’ll send them a copy of this!) There are some very interesting combinations available that blend different translation styles (see part three of this article). There are also a specialized form of parallels called interlinear which weave the original Greek and Hebrew language texts (and often other features) on the same lines as the English translation used as a base.

Devotional Bibles are really two books in one. They contain a year’s worth of devotionals usually for a target audience such as men, women, people in a recovery program, teens, etc.  You can expect at least 310 devos (often the weekend reading is combined) or 366, but you’ll pay less than if you bought the two items individually.

Study Bibles contain supplementary notes. Sometimes the same notes are made available in a variety of translations; so the Life Application Bible has NIV, NLT, NKJV editions. I sometimes tell people that the NIV Study Bible takes us back into Bible times where as the Life Application brings the Bible into our times. That’s a bit simplistic, but helps you see there are different approaches to what type of things get annotated, not to mention different uses of charts, diagrams, the inclusion of longer articles, and even what gets defined as a study edition to begin with. As with devotional editions, there are now a wide variety of study editions produced just for kids and teens.

Certain study Bibles are also tied into the teaching ministry of different pastors, TV preachers, authors and ministries. Sometimes these are sold in bookstores and sometimes they are only available through the ministry organization concerned. Presumably, the notes are derived from the individual’s other notes or study guides, but sometimes it just means that the person named on the cover merely vetted the creation of a special study edition. You never know for sure.

I am not a huge fan of the One Year Bible genre (a Tyndale Publishing trademark, if I’m not mistaken) as they can’t be taken to church or small group given the re-ordering of the material. The same is also true of chronological Bibles which often harmonize concurrent passages such as Kings and Chronicles or the gospels; you wouldn’t want these to be someone’s first (or second) Bible. As Yoda might say, ‘Mixed all everything up is.’ On the other hand, Tyndale keeps producing these at an alarming rate so maybe they know something I don’t. I think their appeal tends to be regional, and I don’t live in that region.

Confused? I hope this is more helpful than bewildering. Even as you read this, executives are sitting in board rooms dreaming up new Bible editions for 2015. There are no limits to the imagination. In The People’s Bible, Zondervan did a turnabout on the red-letter concept, and using data from BibleGateway.com, they put frequently sought-after verses in larger type, with a total of about six font sizes. With The Voice translation, you get a delightful dramatic reading of the entire Bible.

Speaking of drama, Bibles on CD usually come in dramatized readings (sometimes complete with a celebrity cast of readers, not to mention sound effects and often a musical score) and straight narrative readings. We end this discussion where we began, because while you can get New Testament-only audio Bibles, you’ll find getting an Old Testament fairly impossible; so make that initial purchase carefully. 

Part Three: Navigating the various translations.

 

 

 

November 2, 2014

Buying Someone a Bible – Part 1 of 3 – General

ESV Women's Devotional Bible in an imitation leather format.

ESV Women’s Devotional Bible in an imitation leather format.

With Christmas coming I thought we would launch into a short series on Bible purchasing.  This part is the shorter of the three, in the second we will look at editions and formats and in the third we might brave the thorny subject of translations.

A Bible is a very meaningful and personal gift. On the other hand, a Bible which is a keepsake or meant to mark a significant occasion might get put on a shelf or in a drawer and never get used. You really don’t want that. So a fine leather Bible worth over $100 may seem too nice to use or the recipient might be fearful of something happening to it and be intimidated to put it to practical service.

It’s true that the person you’re giving it to may already have several Bibles. Knowing what they already own and use is critical. You might want to share something recently published knowing of their affection for various Bible translations and formats, or you might want to make it personal and share a particular type of Bible that has meant a lot to you if you have a close friendship with that person.

If the person has never owned their own copy of the scriptures before, buying someone their first Bible is a very important act. You want something that they will be able to settle into comfortably, use often, enjoy, and find easy to understand.

More than any other aspect of the Christian publishing industry, Bible purchasing is where you are most likely to make a mistake if you purchase online. I know I have a bias here, but you are better served when you can actually touch/handle/examine the product in a physical store and utilize the expertise of Christian bookstore staff, many of whom have had to take a Bible sales training course from one of the major publishers. So your ideal source is a Christian bookstore, not Barnes and Noble.

The other advantage with this is the ability to exchange the product over-the-counter if the gift is not suitable. (Be sure not to fill in the presentation page, put the person’s name on it, etc., before you know they are pleased with it and intend to use it.) You’ll also see a selection of products that you might never discover online.

In the second and third parts of this we’ll look at two other decisions you need to make, but let me preview those now so you can be thinking about them. The first involves additional features the person might be helped by. This can include reading plans or devotionals to guide their journey through the scriptures, or study notes; but also includes superficial things such as print size or whether or not they are comfortable with a large, bulky Bible or need something more compact. 

The second thing is the issue of which translation of the Bible will be suitable and/or meet with their approval. (Notice that last word choice!)  A number of factors influence this including their expectations or previous familiarity with the scriptures, or which translations they already might have had access to. 

I really hope you’ll consider giving Bibles this Christmas. The right one in the right hands — even if they have previously owned several — can result in a lot more engagement and passion about Christ, and better understanding of the story arc of God’s dealings with us from in the beginning to today.

 

 

October 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster

Our graphic image theme this week is parody. The upper one is a supplement to the Orange Curriculum, a weekend service Christian education experience for children. You can click on the image and then surf the rest of the web page to learn more.

A bumper harvest this week; get coffee first.

The rest of the week Paul Wilkinson offers you a daily choice between trick at Thinking Out Loud, or treat at Christianity 201.

What a Mug I Have of Coffee

October 18, 2014

Catch a Falling Star

image 1017

 

I started immersing myself in the Christian blogosphere at least a year before beginning to write my own, so I’m guessing it’s been at least nine years now. During that time I have unfortunately been made aware of the different tribes that exist among my fellow believers, and the degree to which tribal convictions isolate us from each other. While I enjoy the exchange of ideas that can pleasantly take place among those of divergent views, I have also seen firsthand the dismissive attitude that plagues attempts at conversation between people of differing doctrinal positions.

Despite this, there has been another feature of my personal ‘Christian internet story arc’ that involves people of all stripes, and that is the world of Christian publishing. Regardless of rapture views, Bible translation preferences, opinions on predestination, or positions on a variety of gender issues, popularity online usually precedes a book deal.

I have the luxury now of sometimes receiving books unsolicited, but most of the review books I get are things I have specifically requested. For that reason, my library is filled with authors who, at the time, I had enjoyed reading online and wanted to be in a position to promote their published works to others. Always, the books fulfilled expectations since the writing in question was already a known commodity.

Often it is the case that an author’s first book is the best. It says all the things they have most wanted to say. It is often birthed in the heart of the writer before any deal has been signed and there is any sense of deadline. At minimum, the author is offered a two-book deal, and while some authors just keep getting better and better with each new release, with others, the second book now imposes a commitment that must be met, a homework assignment that must be completed.

At the same time, the author is now devoting more of their attention to the book writing and dealing with the enhanced profile that has come with having a title in print. So the blog writing, the thing that brought them to the attention of publishers, often begins to suffer.

In other cases, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, their fifteen months of fame run out, and the attention has turned to newer voices. If they are pastors, their church growth possibly plateaus, if they are musicians, their new album doesn’t generate the same sales.

As a teenager I had one particular nerdy hobby: I would compose my own music charts. Working from the charts of other radio stations with a bias toward the music my friends and I liked, I sat the keyboard weekly and compiled my own Top 40 that was seen by a very select few each week and stored in a number of 3-ring binders. There was no direct benefit to me or anyone else, though I must say that I was faithful to it, just as I try to be faithful here on the blog on a daily basis.

I quickly learned the dynamics of charts. As the “last week” position was typed next to the “this week” ranking, it was obvious that some songs were still gaining traction while others were starting to wane. This of course, was in the days before SoundScan where titles now enter the chart at #1 and then begin a slow descent.

Today, I don’t bother trying to track book sales with the same diligence, though I do compile a chart for the Christian retail store I am involved with at least twice a year. But it is clear that there are always rising stars and falling stars both in micro terms of individual titles and the macro career of certain authors.

As I type this, we’ve watched another development take place in the plummeting of a particular pastor’s influence and credibility. While it saddens many as it should, there are others waiting in the wings to take his place.  Whether you get 15 months of attention, or only Warhol’s 15 minutes, the celebrity hunger in all of us keeps us scanning the horizon for the next big thing.

In Psalm 75 we’re told it is God who doles out promotion, honor, exaltation, lifting up. I don’t know why certain church plants go from zero to ten thousand in two years while others never receive the attention that results from significant metrics. I don’t know why great books languish on the shelves and end up in the remainder bins while others seem to crack the bestseller lists effortlessly.

I also know that within me is a desire to jump on the bandwagon only because sometimes that seems consistent with the idea of coming alongside where the Holy Spirit is moving. But is that always the case, or does human effort dictate what becomes Christian celebrity?

In show business there is saying that “The people you meet on the way up are the people you meet on the way down.” (The original suggests kindness to those people you meet, because of the eventual re-acquaintance.) It’s exciting to watch stars rise, it is sometimes painful to watch them fall. Both are taking place all the time, and sometimes there is a comeback or a second career.

The current chart status of a Christian celebrity is in no way a measure of their spiritual life, but their changing relative influence is part of watching an endlessly shifting landscape.

 

October 8, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Okay, so this was everywhere online this past week, but if you missed it here’s an explanation of the Biblical phrase Gird Your Loins. (click image to link)

Gird-Up-Your-Loins-2

Here are the news and opinion pieces from the past week that stood out. You can also read today’s links at PARSE by clicking here.

Because this is Blogger Appreciation Month, you can catch Paul Wilkinson at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, or @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter.

Hotline to God

 

August 2, 2014

A House is Known by the Company it Keeps

Our Big American God - Matthew Paul TurnerWith all the buzz on Twitter, I would love for this space to contain a review of Matthew Paul Turner’s Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever Growing Deity but alas, getting review books from Hachette Book Group is like pulling teeth and only once — with Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book which, by the way, is coming out in paperback in September — have I been successful. (I really wanted to review Rob Strong’s The Big Guy Upstairs so I could present my conspiracy theory that Strong is really Rob Bell; a theory I maintain despite the lack of physical resemblance…)

But I found it interesting who is on the list of review citations appearing at Ingram Book Company, the world’s largest book distributor.  It’s certainly A-list, but it’s also a list of progressive writers who would be unlikely to say anything negative. (Not that they would; from what I hear the book is a must-read.)

Here’s a sample:

  • Ed Cyzewski author, The Good News of Revelation and A Christian Survival Guide
  • Jon Acuff, New York Times bestselling author of Start
  • Micha Boyett, Author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer
  • Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World
  • Frank Schaeffer, author, And God Said, Billy! 
  • Peter Rollins
  • A. J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically
  • Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
  • Timothy Kurek, author of the bestselling book, The Cross in the Closet

Okay, so maybe I’m not quite in their league, but I’m not asking to be part of the print edition, I just want to review the book on the blog. Jericho Books, are you listening? Still, it’s interesting to see the omission of endorsements by Max Lucado, Jerry Jenkins or even Bill Gaither. (Does Bill read?)

Oh and by the way book marketing people, Peter Rollins looks really lame on this list, so I will say what the online product detail didn’t: Peter is the author of at least seven books and an unpublished PhD thesis that “offers a survey of religious thinking in the aftermath of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche. It engages directly with Martin Heidegger’s critique of onto-theology and explores the religious significance of Jacques Derrida’s post-structural theory and Jean-Luc Marion’s saturated phenomenology…” (Wikipedia) Hence the doctorate in “Post-Structural Theory.” But onto-theology is out of my league also.

And that’s just a sample of what my research department would provide Matthew Paul Turner if Hachette/Faithwords/Jericho wants to ante up with a print copy, mailed to my lavish executive offices (see yesterday’s post) in the next 72 hours. 

#unreview

#ainttoproudtobeg

 

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