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.

March 27, 2010

Sometimes You Just Know

Part One — The Apocrypha

There are a number of reasons why the Apocrypha doesn’t appear in the majority of Bibles that will be sold today.   The issues of canonicity (it’s a word now!) are varied and complex, and have more to do with authorship and authenticity.

But after reading almost every chapter and verse several years ago, I sensed there was a different “tenor” to those books.   That’s subjective on my part, and I know that by applying the same criteria, others have rejected the book of Esther or Song of Solomon, while still others will be quick to remind us all that the original edition of the 1611 King James Bible actually contained these extra books, something KJV-only advocates are not quick to mention.

But sometimes you just know.   It just doesn’t feel right.   I think that’s the application of the gift of discernment.    There is much accuracy in the books of I and II Maccabees.   There is much wisdom in the book of Sirach.  But these things are true of a host of extra-Biblical writings, not to mention the contribution of contemporary authors.

Part II — God Calling

I’m all for devotional readings to start or end the day — I include a link on this blog’s sidebar to Daily Encouragement in case you missed this morning — but I’m not sure that it should be one’s entire source of spiritual input for the day.

Some of the books available are published by general-market publishers and simply contain the odd Bible verse here and there.   Others are simply too short.   And then there’s God Calling, written by “The Two Listeners” and edited by A. J. Russell.

This book came out of the Oxford Group (don’t Google ‘Oxford Movement,’ that’s different) which also was the ground zero for the Alcoholics Anonymous program.    The unknown authors ‘received’ the book through a process called ‘automatic writing,’ sitting with pads of paper in a room and waiting for God to speak to them.

Several years ago it’s origins were reconsidered in an article in the Christian bookstore trade magazine Christian Retailing which resulted in many such stores pulling it off the shelf.    Others don’t have a problem with it however, and two Christian publishing giants, Baker Books and Barbour Publishing, each continue distribution to this day.

If you negate the book’s orthodoxy on the basis of automatic writing alone, you’re also negating every prophetic word ever published by Charismatics, the “Footprints” poem and the book and video of The Father’s Love Letter. (And yes, there are some reading this who are quite prepared to do this.)

But God Calling presents other challenges as well, and if someone can find one or two good critiques online, I’d be happy to post them here and in my book industry blog.

There is a huge sometimes-you-just-know factor at play here.

Part III — 66 Love Letters

Applying all the above discussion to a new book by respected Christian author Larry Crabb, 66 Love Letters, (Thomas Nelson) it’s hard to see a difference.    The book is based on major themes from each of the 66 books in the core Biblical canon, but again written in the first person as though from God.

I haven’t read the book, but I subscribed by e-mail to the Lenten reflections based on 40 of the 66 chapters.   After negotiating the first few, I found myself skimming the remainder or filing them away for future reference if I ever wanted to consider those major themes.

It’s a personal thing; I just find there’s a danger in putting words in God’s mouth in a format like this.    I’m not questioning the theology or the doctrine contained in Crabb’s writing, and it’s not about him in particular.  And I am in no way dispensational when it comes to “Thus Saith the Lord” prophetic messages from persons having that gift, if it’s truly God speaking.

It just doesn’t feel right; it just doesn’t resonate with my personality or with my spirit; and it brings me back to the same position:  Sometimes you just know.

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