Thinking Out Loud

April 21, 2021

Wednesday Connect

Christianity and Culture

Some insider humor.

Welcome to #95! We’ll get there eventually.

  • Ole Anthony has died. The head of the Trinity Foundation single-handedly exposed televangelist Robert Tilton and is beloved by many for purchasing The Wittenberg Door, a Christian satire magazine. (Yes, well he always thought your first name was strange also.)
  • The UK’s popular Spring Harvest music and teaching festival is launching EC-GO, a Christian streaming service. It goes live May 3rd. I don’t have a final price, but for £77 you can have unlimited access to all the sessions from this year’s festival, and get the first year free.
  • Hendrickson Publishing of greater Boston, which four years ago purchased Rose Publishing of southern California (someone earned a lot of frequent flyer miles negotiating that one) has now itself been purchased by Tyndale House Publishing. Each company will maintain its own location and autonomy. Hendrickson was owned by members of the same family that owns ChristianBook.com.
  • The funeral for Prince Phillip, at his request contained, “no homily, no sermon, no preaching.” Yet there was a strong spiritual tone through the music and the readings which the Prince chose himself.  It was midnight in Melbourne Australia when this writer observed, “The television presenters spoke of Prince Philip’s ‘faith’. For a moment, one commemorator referred to Duke of Edinburgh’s ‘Christian faith’, but quickly corrected his social faux pas by returning to the vague universal category of ‘faith’.”
  • With artists like Carrie Underwood and Harry Connick, Jr releasing faith-focused albums, it’s easy to ask if it’s real or if it’s a marketing stunt. And then there was Justin Bieber‘s surprise EP that dropped on Easter. And what if the message is solid but the language is a little too crude? …
  • …And the writer of the GQ cover story on Justin Bieber says sitting down to interview him was more like being in a confessional booth with him. Key quote, “Being famous breaks something in your brain.
  • No surprise: That jailed pastor in Alberta, Canada who refused to shut down his church services, got a letter of commendation from John MacArthur. But then, he’s a graduate of MacArthur’s seminary. (Plus, I don’t think this qualifies as what the Bible calls persecution “for the sake of the gospel.”)
  • The debate on homosexuality continues in the Catholic Church, with some voices saying it’s time to change the catechism.
  • From last week, ICYMI, Hillsong has shut down its Dallas campus. And as Julie Roys reports, there are stories implicating founders Brian Houston and wife Bobbi have misused funds and were involved in a $1.4M real estate deal.
  • Which is it? “Liberal Christian?” Or “Progressive Christian?” Roger Olsen wants to write a book about the former, but his publisher wants to call it the latter. He thinks the latter just means pro-LGBTQ and pro-egalitarian.
  • Having emancipated herself from LifeWay, author and speaker Beth Moore‘s first curriculum project is Now That Faith Has Come, a study of the book of Galatians.
  • Is this statement a tautology? “Joe Carter of [The Gospel Coalition] and Johnathan Leeman of 9Marks appear to have the cure for this decline in church membershipformal church membership!
  • …However, that story might be related to this story: One popular Reformed pastor believes churches should delay immersion baptism to age 18.
  • Newsworthy: “After nearly four decades of work led by Deaf Missions and collaborations between American Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, Deaf Harbor, DOOR International, Seed Company, Pioneer Bible Translators and the Deaf Bible Society, the Bible was completely translated from original sources into American Sign Language last September.
  • Remember that story from April 7th where a man and his wife and two of their grandchildren were shot and killed? The man was Dr. Robert Lesslie, a doctor and Christian author who wrote medical-themed collections of real life miracles such as Angels in the ER.
  • Admittedly I don’t do these roundups very often anymore, but you can always check out my Twitter which is updated a few times a day.

March 13, 2021

Love It, Hate It, But Don’t Quote It

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:05 pm

When Thinking Out Loud was at its height of popularity, I often found myself the recipient of review copies of books I hadn’t solicited. For the most part however, I requested advance copies or preview editions of books I would want to keep; and today my bookshelves contain a significant percents of what are called ARCs, or Advance Reader Copies.

The deal with ARCs — or any version of the book reviewers are sent — is that you are under no pressure to post a positive review. More recently, bloggers in the U.S. are required to post a statement saying that they received the book free in exchange for a review of any type.

So you can love the book. You can hate the book. You just can’t quote from the book if it’s an ARC.

Here’s why: These “uncorrected proofs” contain various types of spelling and grammatical errors which don’t make it into the final copy, plus there are other embarrassing things that happen such as the example below:

Do you see it? I won’t mention the book, but last week I got curious and wanted to verify that the correction was done… correctly.

Guess what? They almost fixed it!

Sloppy, sloppy editing. Peoples’ names matter. 

Oh, lest I forget, this is personal: My last name is Wilkinson.

February 13, 2021

Ravi: The Aftermath in Tweets

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:09 am

From (HarperCollins Christian Publishing)Thomas Nelson and Zondervan

From author Lee Strobel


Zacharias Trust (UK organization equivalent to RZIM) via journalist Ruth Graham (the full statement referred to is at this link.)

I have assumed that readers here are already following the story and there is no need to go over the details here.

However, if you need to know why this is news this weekend, Christian journalist Julie Roys has a report on the findings.

Spiritual implications for you and me: Thinking about the impact of all this became the springboard for Friday’s devotional at Christianity 201.


Numbers 32:23b CSB: “…be sure your sin will catch up with you.”


 

November 13, 2020

Moody Publishing Author Skye Jethani Latest Victim of Book Pirates

For Friday the 13th, I can’t think of a scarier story than this one. You spend months (or years) working on a book only to find that your content has been stolen and republished. Sometimes they don’t even bother to change the title.

Moody Publishing author Skye Jethani posted this on Twitter last week:


The unscrupulous publisher, Mithi Press House, successfully eliminated Skye’s name twice in the description (see blue underlined copy), but missed the last one (circled), an admission of guilt if ever one existed:

The publisher has 41 pages of Amazon results, many of which appear Christian themed. A few have titles similar to popular Christian titles. The Amazon URL, which usually contains an embedded ISBN-10, appears to indicate the book has no ISBN assignment.

Here we are, a week later, the stolen book is still available for purchase. Amazon has a procedure authors must complete to have cases of copyright infringement resolved, but their system, despite their protests to the contrary, is almost by design bound to make things like this happen. In my mind, they are complicit in every one of these cases. The first notification from the author should be sufficient for it to strike the title from its database.

…If customers buy the counterfeit edition, they may be in for a disappointment. It’s listed in the description at 100 pages, whereas the original is listed at 144 pages. They either cut the illustrations — which are the heart of this book — or eliminated some of the Sermon on the Mount.


Related:
• Review of Skye’s book: Adding New Life to the Sermon on the Mount (July, 2020)
• Our story of Tish Harrison Warren’s title being pirated: IVP Author’s 3-Year Labour of Love Lost to Counterfeit Sales (July 2019)

Skye Jethani’s website

April 13, 2020

Christian Media and Publishing: Who is Hurting – A Top Three

Filed under: Christianity, media, publishing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:35 am

The Creators of the film, I Still Believe

The first faith-focused movie ever produced for IMAX couldn’t have had a more unfortunate release date. With glowing advance reviews, if it had released a week earlier, it would have enjoyed a solid week of box office sales on entering wide release. If it had been scheduled for a week later, its release would have been put back to whenever it is this summer that the motion picture industry will play catch-up. Instead, the creators acted quickly and decisively and rush-released the Netflix premiere. Later, many who missed both options will pursue the DVD release.

Vacation Bible School (VBS)

Make no mistake, VBS is a multi-million dollar business in the United States alone. Where I live, primary and junior school grades run to the end of June, so VBS is a July/August thing, but now it’s already in doubt in some places. In the U.S. it’s not unheard of to have a VBS week in late May, so many cancellations are possibly already kicking in, perhaps with some opting for postponement. This of course is part of the larger vulnerability of seasonal product, and there are also publishers of material for Easter and Mother’s Day who are experiencing unforeseen losses right now. An example with Mother’s Day might be Dayspring Cards, whose wares are sold through Christian bookstores many of which are either forced to close (see next item) or are in areas where people are being more diligent about social distancing.

ChristianBook.com

The place that everyone would turn to if shopping at the local Christian bookstore isn’t an option, Christianbook.com (aka Christian Book Distributors, formerly CBD) has been handed an order by the State of Massachusetts forcing it to close from April 7th to May 3rd, with only orders for digital product releasing. (See story.) The problem compounds for people hoping to get physical Christian books and music online because Amazon is prioritizing food and essential product orders, delaying some book shipments by up to two weeks.

February 29, 2020

Christian Books: What’s Popular Where I Live

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:02 am

I get to do this because I know how to spell Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Tullian Tchividjian. Not that either one made this list. But if you’re having a party tonight with Christian friends and you need a game, a Christian author spelling test wouldn’t be a bad idea. And Lysa TerKeurst.

 

August 20, 2019

In the Future, Amazon Will Control Much of What Christian Publishers Release

This article appeared today on one of our sister blogs, Christian Book Shop Talk, written for Christian bookstore owners, managers and sales associates.

An article released Friday by Canada’s Tim Challies on the influence that Amazon now has on the Christian publishing market has been making the rounds, and I wanted to wait a few days before responding. You can find The Power Over Christian Publishing We’ve Given To Amazon by clicking this link.

He begins dramatically,

A few days from now, or maybe a few months, or even a year, Amazon will pull a book from its site. One day it will be there available for purchase with all the rest, and the next it will be gone. One day people will be able to order it and have it shipped to their homes, and the next day it will have ceased to exist, at least as far as Amazon is concerned. This will inevitably be a book that Christians have embraced as orthodox but that the culture has rejected as heretical…

We’ve seen some of this happen already (especially with respect to Amazon pulling titles) so it isn’t prophetic. He then sets the stage defining the challenge for the future:

…[W]e inadvertently handed Amazon a near-monopoly over the sale of Christian books. We did this with the good-faith assumption that they would continue to sell whatever we published. But times have changed and are changing and it seems increasingly unlikely that Amazon will continue to sell it all. It seems increasingly likely that they will cede to cultural pressure—pressure that exists both within and outside of the company—and begin to cull their offerings. And then what? It’s not like these books cannot be sold by the Christian retailers that remain. But will publishers even be willing or able to publish them if they cannot be sold at the world’s biggest marketplace? Will you and I even be able to find out about them if Amazon isn’t recommending them to us? And will we be willing to pay a premium to have them shipped to us from smaller retailers with higher prices and no ability to offer free shipping?…

In a way, this is nothing new. Spin the search engine wheel and you’ll find many articles from the past accusing Christian publishers of only selling things that will do well at Family Christian Stores or LifeWay, and being extra cautious with progressive writers. But now FCS is gone, and LifeWay is phasing out its physical presence in America’s cities and towns.

Why should a publisher print something which retail won’t carry? Historically, that’s been a challenge, but now that in many parts of North America there is no retail (in the traditional sense) indie-published books compete with those from the larger, established publishing houses. The online behemoth is in many respects now calling the shots. Brick and mortar retail stores don’t matter as they once did; we’ve lost our influence.

What is new is the people to whom that power has been ceded. While dealing with a different aspect of this, Tim Challies correctly notes that,

Amazon is hardly a company founded by Christians or run according to Christian principles. To the contrary, it is a company founded by worldly people and run according to worldly principles.

And beyond the social issues Tim mentions, it bothers me that Amazon has no filters. A Jehovah’s Witness title, New Age title or an LDS title is just as likely to turn up in the search results as something from Baker, Zondervan or David C. Cook. Already, I’ve heard stories of people who unwittingly bought inappropriate books based on search engine results. This in and of itself highlights the value of Christian bookstore buyers and proprietors.

So what if those Christian publishers said to Amazon, “Since you now advertise as ‘the world’s largest bookstore,’ it would be nice if you would carry our titles exhaustively instead of selectively” or even dared to suggest that, “If you won’t carry everything, we won’t sell you anything at all.” If A-zon called their bluff on that, it would be devastating both to authors and consumers, since if a book’s A-zon listing doesn’t appear in search results, the book, for all intents and purposes, ceases to exist.

Again, to read the article at challies.com, click this link.

 

May 20, 2019

The Colorization of Your Bible

On the weekend I realized that several articles we’ve done here at Thinking Out Loud and at Christian Book Shop Talk have a common theme: The progressively increasing use of color in Bibles. By this I don’t mean the addition of illustrations, such as is found in Children’s Bibles such as The Picture Bible or The Action Bible,

but rather the use of color in otherwise unedited, full-text editions.

There also isn’t time to talk about Biblezines, such as these three (lower right of photo) produced by The Gideons in Canada, with beautiful photography running through every page. Besides, they aren’t full Bible editions either, but contain selected themed text, with the Gospel of John complete at the back…

I’m sure it began with covers. I can’t imagine that black was always the cover color of choice. Evangelist Bob Harrington used a cherry red Bible which apparently some found offensive. He countered with, “The Bible should be read;” a homonym pun he repeated (and repeated) at successive appearances in the same churches.

Red letter Bibles are not that old. Wikipedia tells us:

The inspiration for rubricating the Dominical words comes from Luke, 22:20: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you.” On 19 June 1899, Louis Klopsch, then editor of The Christian Herald magazine, conceived the idea while working on an editorial. Klopsch asked his mentor Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage what he thought of a testament with the Dominical words rubricated and Dr. Talmage replied, “It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good.”

Klopsch published the first modern red letter edition New Testament later in 1899. The first modern, fully rubricated bible was published in 1901. The rubricated bible instantly became popular, and is sometimes favored by Protestant Christians in the United States. Especially in King James Version editions, this format is useful because quotation marks are absent.

But we want to look at more recent developments.

Even as early as 2010, I noted the following Bibles that were offered for sale by a prominent online Christian retailer, and asked readers to reader decide if we are really so excited about Bible engagement that we needed all these permutations, or if the marketers had gone a little crazy on us (and no, I am not making these up):

  • The Veggie Tales Bible
  • The Soldier’s Bible
  • The Grandmother’s Bible
  • The Duct Tape Bible
  • The Busy Life Bible (“Inspiration even if you have only a minute a day”)
  • The Chunky Bible
  • The God Girl Bible (only in “snow white”)
  • The Wisdom and Grace Bible for Young Women of Color
  • The Waterproof Bible (useful in frequently flooded U.S. states)
  • The Pray for a Cure Bible (in pink)
  • The Divine Health Bible
  • The Wild About Horses Bible
  • The Fire Bible

The cover colors offered were just as varied:

  • Raspberry
  • Melon
  • Razzleberry
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Caramel
  • Espresso
  • Toffee
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Glittery Grape Butterfly
  • Plum
  • Lavender (with flowers!)
  • Black Cherry
  • Distressed Umber (?)
  • Mocha/aqua

and remember this was before the “duo-tone” type of Bibles became more entrenched, ultimately exceeding the traditional “bonded leather” editions in terms of popularity.

In January of 2017, we reported on the trend that developed out of a convergence of adult coloring books and scrap-booking. People were apparently coloring the text pages of their Bibles and not everyone was happy with the results.

Bible Journaling 2

Bible Journaling 1

In 2017, Tyndale Publishing House decided to help some aspiring artists kickstart their personalization projects by creating The Inspire Bible, available now in a half dozen different editions.

The primary market for these is women, so I don’t actually own one. This page sample was captured online, and then I darkened it considerably so you would see the graphic art material which is actually printed in a much lighter tone.

They will disagree, but rival publisher Zondervan has never come with anything quite as striking in terms of color, print process (including the page edges) and overall aesthetics for the NIV. Meanwhile Tyndale is about to issue a girls version of Inspire.

Then last week, I discovered that even Bible tabs had joined the party. You can’t buy the ones pictured at Christian bookstores or major Christian online vendors, but through independent sources.

Of course, not every innovation pleases everyone. Just last week someone reacted to the NRSV Pride Bible which we had noted in a past edition of Wednesday Connect:

This, they felt went too far, though minus its appellation, with its primary colors it would make a nice Bible for kids.

Finally, all this is nothing new; people having been been marking their Bibles according to theme for decades. Perhaps this well-marked copy was the inspiration for the various color-coded Bibles on the market today…

…such as the Rainbow Study Bible, pictured here:

May 10, 2019

How to Accuse Someone of Heresy

Before you say:

  • He’s not a Christian
  • She doesn’t know the Lord
  • He’s probably in hell today

make sure you’ve worked your way through the normal method of drawing such conclusion.

Citation

You simply must quote the name of the work in question and page number. Include the quotation. If you can’t honestly bring yourself to purchase a copy of the author’s book, while I admire you for standing on your principles and not spending money on someone you don’t think you can support, know that you have forfeited the right to critique their writing. There is no need to read further.

Identify

Make clear what it is in the quotation that you feel is worthy of examination. Everyone else may be reading this and seeing “A” but if you feel “B” is present, note both the impact and implications of the authors words. State what you see the author saying. At this stage avoid citing third parties. This is about what you want to express concerning the author.

Verify (1)

Make sure you’re not ‘proof-texting’ the author. Don’t use pull-quotes to deliberately be provocative if the body of the larger paragraph doesn’t support your thesis. Is the author using sarcasm, humor, etc.? Jesus himself used hyperbole on several occasions in his teaching. (People who feel they have been called to defend the faith against heresy are, for reasons that escape me, generally lacking a sense of humor.) I know one particular author who is not known as a humorist, but did one title totally tongue-in-cheek. And certain people will always miss that sort of thing.

Verify (2)

Do the research for yourself. Don’t quote someone else. And make sure that person has followed these steps. (The propagation of the KJV-Only movement happened only because people built a foundation on ‘so-and-so says.’ In fact the whole thing can be traced back to two individuals, with very little primary research done by others.)

Compare

Now that you’ve followed those steps, compare what the author says verse-by-verse with scripture and make the case that there is definitely a conflict.

Avoid Generalization

Just because an author can be faulted on an individual point does not mean that their ministry has a whole deserves to be labelled heretical. (I would be greatly hurt if you called me a heretic just because I have views on eschatology that are different from yours. Which, by the way, I do.) For more on this, Google the phrase ‘logical fallacies.’ 

Civility 

Avoid name calling at all costs. Even if the person is a ___________________, it diminishes your argument. I would go so far to say it completely undermines your argument.

Repent

If the tide of public opinion on a particular author is positive and your view is negative, ask yourself why you are the lone prophet in the wilderness. Look for the fruit. If there’s fruit, and it’s good fruit, God is using them. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” – Romans 14:4

Humility

I would want to avoid the actual charge, “Heresy!” Sufficient to say you have concerns. And don’t even begin to express opinions about the eternal destiny of someone based on what you’ve written. Even if every charge you make about doctrinal aberration is correct, you don’t know that.

April 18, 2019

Book Review: The Baggage Handler

I am reviewing a fiction title for the first time in many years.

The Baggage Handler actually released a few weeks ago. I had read the book in February — on an airplane appropriately — but never wrote anything at the time because it wasn’t releasing until March 26th. Then, that date simply flew by unnoticed.

The premise: Michael, David and Gillian all pass through the airport on the same day and no, they don’t end up with each other’s luggage. But there is a luggage mix-up to be sure, with varying degrees of consequences. There is a baggage handler, who seems to work two locations at once; the airport itself and the downtown lost-luggage facility.

And the key to the story is in that word baggage. Don’t think luggage or suitcases, rather this is all about the metaphorical baggage we all carry around, a moment of discovery for all three characters in the story when they try to retrieve their belongings.

Not surprisingly then, author David Rawlings describes himself as a writer of “stories for those who want to dive deeper.” (His follow-up, releasing in December is about a couples’ counsellor.)

It must be said that both the cover design and the decision to release the first edition in hardcover leaves the book bearing a striking similarity to similar titles by David Gregory; Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, A Day with a Perfect Stranger, etc. These titles, as well as similar ones by Andy Andrews, ask us to temporarily suspend belief as to plausibility and accept certain plot contrivances in order to learn a greater lesson.

Bouncing back and forth between the three central characters means the book moves along at good pace, and for those who want to “dive deeper” in a book club setting or even on a personal level, there is a short collection of discussion questions breaking the book into five sections.

My personal disappointment with the book was that as a longtime reader of Christian books in general, I kept waiting for God to show up. Somewhere. On a single page, perhaps. After all, Thomas Nelson put their imprint on it.

There’s no real definition for what makes Christian fiction and I suppose that on the spectrum of books that preach and books ‘written from a Christian perspective;’ this one is in the latter category. At least I hope so.

On the other hand, as someone with much exposure to both Andy Andrews and David Gregory, I see the value in this novel, and already recommended it to someone.

We all have things in our past we need to deal with.

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