Thinking Out Loud

June 13, 2014

Southern Baptists Condemn All “Heaven” Books

Heaven is for Real books

If you haven’t heard, this week’s Southern Baptist Convention convention (redundancy intended) included a resolution that basically said, ‘To hell with heaven books.’ Blogger Kristine McGuire summarizes the story accurately in this introduction,

There is an article on Charisma News which is reporting that the Southern Baptist convention has issued a resolution stating books (and now presumably movies) such as Heaven is for Real and others like it (such as My Journey to Heaven by Marvin Besteman, To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary Neal, and 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper) are not in line with “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” and are determining to remove Heaven is for Real from Lifeway Christian Stores.

And it’s taken them how many years to come to this decision? Heaven is for Real has been in stores since 2010…

continue reading here

Christian Retailing reported the same story:

…The parent body of LifeWay Christian Stores stopped short of calling for such products to be pulled from the retail chain, however.

Delegates—known as messengers—to the Baptist body’s assembly focused on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife,” cautioning against putting books about personal heaven experiences on the same level as the Bible’s description of the hereafter…

continue reading here

But certainly the rule here should be caveat lector, let the reader beware. By extension, isn’t any Christian book in danger of being elevated to the same status of the Bible? And doesn’t this already happen in certain circles, where the words of both Charismatic and Reformed superstars are given an almost divine authority.

Black Christian News reported:

In another cultural pushback, Baptists affirmed “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” and criticized best-selling movies and books that have focused on heaven and suggested descriptions of it.

“Many of these books and movies have sought to describe heaven from a subjective, experiential source, mainly via personal testimonies that cannot be corroborated,” they said.

In the same session where the resolution was passed, a messenger asked that Heaven Is for Real be removed “for theological reasons” from LifeWay Christian Stores, which are affiliated with the SBC. The request was ruled out of order.

continue reading here

J.D. Hall at the blog Pulpit and Pen notes:

What’s forgotten is that Burpo’s book (and Wallace’s movie by the same name, Heaven is for Real) is nothing new, novelty, or unique. Phil Johnson gives a good list of books with similar testimonies that have become so prominent in the evangelical marketplace that Tim Challies has come to call the genre “Heaven Tourism.” Johnson gives the list including My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life, by Marvin J. Besteman; Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash . . .A Lone Survivor . . .A Journey to Heaven—and Back, by Dale Black; To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story, by Mary Neal; 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life, by Don Piper; Nine Days In Heaven, by Dennis Prince; 23 Minutes In Hell: One Man’s Story About What He Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment, by Bill Wiese.

continue reading here

Heaven is for RealHis article is titled “Heaven is for Real: Is Discernment Dead?” and makes the point that in the final analysis, “the details of the book ought to strictly and immediately raise the red flag of discernment for even the most elementary of Christians – let alone those serving as provost of Southern Baptist seminaries.” But he seems to disagree that giving so much stock to the child’s story as to render it worthy of condemnation is the wisest move. Good, personal discernment is all that’s needed.

Many articles noted that LifeWay did not actually end up having to remove the book from sales. There’s too much money to be lost, and LifeWay is a cash cow for the denomination. In various places here we’ve reported on instances where the company puts profit over principles, such as Southern Baptists’ wholesale condemnation of women in ministry, while at the same time publishing and promoting the ministry of Beth Moore. 

By falling just shy of condemning the book outright at LifeWay, the company leaves itself open to carrying the DVD, certain to be both popular and profitable. The film has earned $89,007,517 in the U.S. so far according to Box Office Mojo, and ranks 15th for 2014. The movie is scheduled to release on July 22nd from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, with an initial MSRP of $30.99 for DVD and $40.99 for Blu-Ray.

Related:

January 14, 2012

Wednesday Link List – Saturday Edition

Weekend List Lynx

The link list bucket is overflowing and needs to be emptied a few days early…

  • We’ll start out serious. Here’s a scorecard, so to speak, of how your persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world made out over the holidays.  “Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions…”  Read. Pray.
  • Stuff Fundies Like has a Sunday School curriculum done in the style of the Westminster Catechism. If you grew up in church this is a must-read, must-forward.
  • Another Baptist church dumps the NIV in favor of the Baptist-owned HCSB translation.  If it turns out that the majority of SBC churches switch to the Holman-published HCSB, then this whole affair was undermined by a massive conflict of interest.
  • Mars Hill’s Shane Hipps reflects on the departure of Rob Bell.  “I was aware of something stirring in him for some time.  While I wasn’t surprised, I was full of grief and joy.”
  • Because the people need to know, here’s Justin Bieber’s take on the subject of church attendance.  “…I focus more on praying and talking to Him. I don’t have to go to church.”
  • And in the same vein, here’s rapper Jefferson Bethke’s rap, Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.  “Religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket.”
  • And going for the three-peat on this subject, here’s Matt Hafer’s take on why “good enough for church” just isn’t good enough.”People, without saying it out loud, seem to think that God exists in about 4 places.The church building…,funerals,hospitals, sporting events…”
  • Did you sponsor a child through Compassion or a similar organization?  For those who need motivation, here’s ten reasons to write your child.
  • For all the young moms and new moms in the audience: How does a mother in a large family create some time for God in the course of a day? Alyssa gives a great answer.
  • In one of the longest articles I’ve ever seen on Christianity Today online, Duanne Litfin writes about clothing; in particular, what we wear to church.  “…[W]e should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter.”
  • Also at CT, an interview with David Crowder on the occasion of the band’s retirement after sixteen years, and David’s move to Atlanta. “There’s just so much life has passed among us, and the depth is really deep relationship feeling, friendship.”
  • The Wall Street Journal sits up and takes notice when Christian media company Salem Web Network surpasses one million Facebook friends. Be sure to read the last paragraph; you may interact with this corporation more than you realize.
  • And speaking of corporate culture, Shaun In The City thinks churches should rethink the concept of competition in ministry.  “In the end you end up with dozens (even hundreds & thousands) of organizations with similar missions, visions, and goals that are not only not speaking, but are often downright combative.  They miss collaborative opportunities and so much more because of this faulty way of thinking.”
  • Also on the topic of church, here’s a megachurch in Nigeria with a major staff shakeup involving the resignation of 200 pastors.
  • In an election year, we have to forgive our U.S. friends for forgetting that the rest of the world still exists. So we tend to ignore American politics here to balance things out, but this article accurately identifies the issues that the election brings to church in 2012.
  • Thanks this week for link leads goes to Todd Rhoades.

October 12, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here in the frozen north, Thanksgiving has already come and gone, but that didn’t stop temperatures from reaching 30 degrees Celsius on the weekend (mid 80s Fahrenheit) for three straight days which made link-catching less appealing than suntanning.

  • For you worship-leader types, here’s one of the most comprehensive articles you’ll see on the “worship wars” discussed entirely in terms of church architecture.
  • Just nine more days to another Harold Camping end-of-life-as-we-know-it date.
  • If you don’t know what I mean when I say, “Stethoscope Video” then you haven’t seen it.  Take 2 1/2 minutes and enjoy.
  • It’s official: Mitt Romney tells Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress that he thinks that Baptists are a cult.  …Okay, not really, but maybe he should have.  Here’s the original story,  a response from Robert Mouw, and a sample of comments; all from CNN.
  • You’ll want to read the comments to find more links to get the full 411 on this story, but the blogger Tulip Girl has a blog post implying that another child death may be linked to the controversial book, To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.
  • No, what follows is not a typo: Is it possible to hate Jesus but love Christianity?  David Paul Dorr looks at that here and here [part two link to follow!]
  • Are you “crazy busy” all the time?  Pete Wilson hints you may need to invest in the concept of sabbath.
  • This isn’t new, but… here’s one of those church video clips from Igniter media that uses a Facebook theme; naturally, this one’s titled Follow.
  • Canadian Anglican Pastor Leonard Griffith is now 90 and just keeps on going.
  • More from James MacDonald on the decision to invite T. D. Jakes to a forthcoming seminar, aka The Elephant Room controversy.
  • Hey kids!  Wanna learn Biblical Hebrew in just three easy lessons?  Well, you can’t.  But maybe 40 moderately challenging lessons from Charles Grebe at Briercrest College and Seminary. Learn more about Charles at AnimatedHebrew.com starting with the Hebrew alphabet. Shalom!
  • The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) celebrated a 50-year anniversary earlier this month.
  • In a culture focused on the excitement of church planting, we never think about the sadness of church closings that are constantly taking place at the same time.
  • Natalie Grant adds “actor” to her list of accomplishments with a feature role in the movie Decision.
  • From Internet Monk writer Jeff Dunn

There is a story told of an old woman who claimed she and God talked on a regular basis. Her bishop was doubtful of her claims to hear from God. After all, he prayed on a regular basis, but the Lord never spoke back to him. So he decided to put this woman to the test in order to reveal her for either a misguided soul or a fraud. He went to her and said, “The next time you are talking with God, ask him to tell you what my most grievous sin was.” The woman agreed to do so.

A week later the bishop returned and asked, “Did you ask God to reveal to you my worst sin?”

“Yes,” said the woman. “I did ask him.”

“Well,” said the bishop, “what did he say?”

The woman said simply, “He says he forgets.”

June 25, 2011

When We Allow Our Instincts to Inform Our Theology

Tucked away on Rachel Held Evans’ blog is a rather landmark post which is worthy of greater attention than it is already receiving; and it is actually receiving a lot.

She brings together three seemingly disconnected elements:  Rob Bell’s Love Wins, the Southern Baptist Convention, babies and toddlers.  I know, it’s like a gag on a late night talk show, and you’re waiting for the punchline.  There isn’t one.

Basically, the recent SBC convention, in its predictable denunciation of Bell’s controversial book, birthed this comment from Rustin J. Umstattd, assistant professor of theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: “The majority of evangelicals who hold to the orthodox understanding of hell…are troubled by its implications. But being troubled, even deeply troubled, by the implications of the biblical text does not give us a reason to abandon the text or force it into a mold that rests comfortably with us. It should be our goal to let the Bible be the source and shaper of our doctrine.”

And then, out of left field comes the zinger: The doctrine of the “age of accountability.”  Except that it’s not Biblical doctrine.  Hmmmm.  The idea that kids of a certain age are “safe” if they die without having made a profession of faith is in Rachel’s mind what Bell’s book is to adults who die outside of the faith.  In her view, you can’t have this both ways.

But she says it better than I can repeat it here

You really need to read this.  (It’s actually the same link.  I really want you guys to click through on this one.)

And then, for a variety of reasons, you really need to read the comments, most of which are in agreement with her. (Yes, it’s the same link; you should be there right now, not here!)

Apologies ahead of time I’m sure to people who have or have had small children who have wrestled with this.  That’s always the risk with a topic like this one.

February 16, 2011

Wednesday Link List

This is undoubtedly the best link list anywhere published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.

  • David Murrow, the author with a passion for making church more male-friendly, suggests there’s a reason why the guys on the weekend were standing with their hands in the pockets letting the women do all the singing.
  • Consider this church: “A 911 call in the middle of a service is not abnormal…We want to meaningfully bring worship into the mess of our lives. There is a place for ordered worship, where everything is well orchestrated and predictable. However that is not necessarily the world in which many people find themselves today. Life is messy. We need Christ in the midst of the messiness.”  Read more about Toronto’s All Saints Church.
  • If you find yourself suddenly the recipient of a large number of theological books, or if you’re a pastor who is about to retire, perhaps you’d consider helping this guy out.
  • Steven Furtick says his church is more focused on the “people we’re trying to reach than on the people we’re trying to keep.”  He says we should be “fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.”  He goes on to suggest that perhaps it should not be the ‘saved’ who are setting the agenda.
  • Resorting to tabloid-styled language, John MacArthur announces a Bible translation catastrophe to a captive audience at Liberty University.
  • Provoke not your children to anger.  Who me?  I could never do that.  Or could I?  Mark Altrogge suggests numerous ways in which we can and do provoke our kids.
  • Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk has a rather interesting review about a rather interesting book which follows the lives of two pastors.  The book is titled, This Odd and Wondrous Calling by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver.
  • Name Dropping (1): Rob Bell guests at CNN Religion blog on the topic of suffering.
  • Name Dropping (2):Meanwhile over at USAToday Religion, Justin Bieber is labeled a ‘Tween Evangelist,’ even as a pastor quoted in the article says the faith element is not all that overt.
  • Name Dropping (3): At age 102, George Beverly Shea picks up a Grammy Award on Saturday for lifetime achievement.  (Background story)
  • That Soulful Ragamuffin, Carols Whitaker, gets interviewed by the 30-minute weekly Canadian Christian program, Listen Up, and defends the position that you can have real relationships with people online that you’ve never met in person.
  • Michael Horton jumps into the “What is the Gospel?” discussion, albeit by video.  He likens it to a “victory report.”  (Via Brian at Near Emmaus blog.)
  • Here is another testimony that captures quite well the struggle with pornography which is common to so many people.  This was submitted in response to something that appeared here a few weeks ago, and I encouraged the author to set up a separate home for the article where more people can read it.  Check out How God Broke Me To Fix Me.
  • Pete Wilson preaches at a church in India that their church in Nashville helped to start.  Check out Cross Point India part one, and also part two.
  • I get into some strange discussions during the course of a week, and in that process have learned all sorts of information about various faith groups, not to mention the times my wife and I have visited mosques, a mandir and a Buddhist temple.  But I had never actually heard of Mormon Underwear.   Or, as they prefer, “garments.”  Honestly, I had to look this up online.
  • When a business like Ashley-Madison advertizes promoting the value of having an affair, it’s no wonder that Albert Mohler sees it as a kind of adultery industry.
  • That’s it for this week; if you missed them, check out posts at this blog for the last few days; there’s always something happening here.   Our cartoon is from Jon Birch’s popular ASBO Jesus blog.

September 23, 2008

Lifeway Publishing Reveals Its Total Hypocrisy

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:44 am

I am in no way a fan of Lifeway Publishing.   The Southern Baptist curriculum publisher is, in my humble opinion, a giant money-making machine.  They buy up the rights to produce curriculum for many top selling Christian books and brand-name Christian authors, in many ways capitalizing on those authors’ concepts.   They then sell those books through the trade as “short discount” items, giving stores less than half of their usual margin.   Huh?  When is a book publisher not a book publisher?  (And they aren’t the only one, David C. Cook invented the term “programmatic curriculum” so they could short-discount their non-dated curriculum in a similar manner.)

The sales on this stuff are so brisk that when we visited the Lifeway store in Nashville, they had a sales clerk somewhat permanently assigned to the aisle containing their adult curriculum.   Their number one product, the workbook to Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby has sold enough copies to have long-recovered any developmental or research costs.   The ethical thing to do at this point would be to call it — and several others — a regular book publication and drop the short discount.   But if Lifeway has ever debated that possibility, I’ll never know.   They have refused to answer any correspondence I’ve sent them on this issue for about three years.  They’re Baptists.   They don’t have to answer to me.

So it was hard to have any sympathy for Lifeway whatsoever when I saw this story about the company being caught in a classic case of double-speak.  The magazine at left, Gospel Today, got pulled from their retail store shelves because it featured a cover story on — are you sitting down? — female pastors.  Yes, I know a few Bible verses on this subject, also; but this is Lifeway, home of Beth Moore, the Southern Baptist equivalent of Joyce Meyer. (Or is Joyce Meyer the Charismatic equivalent of Beth Moore?)

Here’s how Kentucky writer and blogger Michael Spencer at Internetmonk summed it up so well in this editorial.  I don’t share his biting anti-evangelical rhetoric, but I’ll grant that in this case, the comments are completely well-deserved:

Rereading the story of the story of Lifeway Christian stores pulling from sale a magazine with five female pastors on the cover, I was really overwhelmed with the vacuity of evangelicalism.

At what point is someone allowed to say that in those same Lifeway stores, the #1 selling Bible teaching marterials are the resources published by Lifeway by Beth Moore? When are we supposed to notice the dozens and dozens of Beth Moore books and workbooks? The Beth Moore aisle in most Lifeway stores? When are we supposed to notice that Beth Moore’s materials in Lifeway DWARF any male pastor or teacher? When do we get the exercise in pretzel logic that explains there’s no inconsistency in having a female Bible teacher with an audience larger than any pastor in a denomination that opposes women pastors?

When are we supposed to notice the howling hypocrisy of chattering endlessly about the tragedy and threat of women pastors, but pocketing who knows how much money from Beth Moore’s Bible teaching?

Moore can teach more individual Southern Baptists and in more churches (via video, etc) than any other Bible teacher, but as long as we have our Pharisaical lenses on, it can all be explained as within the boundaries we’ve drawn.

And you wonder why people equate evangelicals with an inability to think critically. It’s this kind of nonsense that makes any pretense to principle comedic. It’s the authority of the Bible….as we creatively construe it.

… If you link to the article, don’t miss the more than 70 comments that have been posted.

Blog at WordPress.com.