Posted by: Yvonne | January 25, 2010

Getting To The Bottom Line

An open letter to Byron Borger of Hearts and Minds Books,

You have been a frequent visitor and commenter here on our blog for the past few months.  You have questioned our motives, criticized our positions and our methods in an attempt, we assume, to better understand our beliefs and/or to hold us accountable. 

With Coalition for Christian Outreach Campus Ministry’s (CCO/Jubilee) annual conference fast approaching, we pray that you would be extremely careful in your promotion of certain authors.  You have expressed a measure of influence with CCO/Jubilee and it is with this in mind we write this open letter to you. 

Please know that this letter is not intended to be personal; however, you have made it quite clear of your willingness to give an ear to emergents and that you demand clarity in the use of words. You also claim to understand what a Christian ministry should be; therefore, we plan to hold you accountable, as well.

Plain and simple we desire to bring to your attention our concern for what will be offered to the students from your book table at CCO/Jubilee in February, hopefully, prompting you to reconsider your promotion of a number of controversial authors and books.

At your Hearts and Minds Books website, you regularly review books for your audience and customers.  Here is a sample of authors and/or books that you have mentioned there with some details about each one added by us.

Brian McLaren, from whom you claim to have learned quite a bit, wrote Finding Our Way: The Return of the Ancient Practices.  As you read did you recognize that nowhere in this book does he speak of the exclusivity of Christ, but rather finds common ancient practices with the teachings of Judaism and Islam? 

Were you aware that McLaren, in an interview with Leif Hanson,  positively quoted a pastor that said?: 

 The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive…. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.

Does this type of talk concern you?  Are you confident that if students at CCO/Jubilee read McLaren’s writings, they will be able to glean anything that points them to orthodox Christianity?

More on McLaren here.

Phyllis Tickle, who is a part of McLaren’s book and who wrote, The Great Emergence, says of the Bible, “We begin to refer to Luther’s principle of “sola scriptura, scriptura sola” as having been little more than the creation of a paper pope in place of a flesh and blood one.  And even as we speak, the authority that has been in place for five hundred years withers away in our hands.” 

Are you sure you want to promote an author that calls the Holy Scripture ‘a paper pope’?

More on Tickle here.

Richard Foster, in Celebrate Discipline says, “Christian Meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it.” 

What Scripture reference could he possibly use to justify this statement to ’empty the mind’?

Are you aware that Foster promotes mystics who saw God in all things (panentheism) and that his  teachings are aligned with Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, who taught that God is in all of us?

Here’s an excellent book review of Foster’s dangerous book. 

Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest & mystic, who states in his book, Sabbatical Journey, “Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not.  Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” 

Would you offer a college student a book by an author who says that?

Leonard Sweet in Quantum Spirituality says the Quantum spirituality is “a structure of human becoming,  a channeling of Christ energies through mindbody experience.”  And that we, as Christians must replace the ‘old teachings’ with the new teachings of ‘the New Light”.

This is dangerous New Age teaching, Byron.  Do you sell Sweet’s books at Jubilee?

Doug Pagitt  in Church Re-Imagined states,

“At Solomons Porch, sermons are not primarily about extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives.”  

And in an interview with Todd Friel, of Wretched Radio, said this,

“… there’s going to be no difference between the way God is going to interact with you when you die and the way God’s going to interact with a Muslim when a Muslim dies.”

Do these comments strike you as unbiblical? And coming from a pastor, too?

Rob Bell,who, in Velvet Elvis, suggests Christians spend three months studying Ken Wilbur’s book, A Theory of Everything.  Wilbur, unfortunately, is a guru of the ‘new global spirituality’ and is quoted as saying,  “If you want to know God, you’ve got to get your brain out of the way first. It’s just one big stupid filter….” 

Wilbur gets his mind out of the way by using transendental meditation. 

Is this what Rob Bell suggests Christians study for three months:

Didn’t God command that we love him with all our mind?  (Matt. 22:36)

Here are your comments on Bell’s Nooma videos & books: 

“From the very first, we’ve been supportive of these well-made, edgy, creative and mostly quite solid 13 minute teaching parables. I’m not the hugest fan of SexGod, although it is worth reading, and younger friends love it.  I like Velvet Elvis a lot (and the audio CD is him reading it, very well, unabridged.)  The last few chapters are brillant, rejecting the sacred-secular split in ways that shows God’s redemptive care for everything.  Everythingggg.  Some like his design, and appreciate his intense, postmodern ethos.  I’m glad for what he does…and we’ve got the books on sale.”   

If Rob Bell is influenced by the likes of Ken Wilbur, could his theology be out of the scope of orthodoxy?   Are you confident that Bell won’t lead students into Wilbur’s arena?

Eugene Peterson, who decided to add his own version of God’s Holy Word, The Message,  to a growing list of paraphrases, adds to, distorts and confuses the Scripture.  Here’s an excellent side-by-side comparison of his version and NIV/KJV. 

Just a taste:  Peterson re-writes Matthew 6: 10, from “…on earth as it is in heaven…” to “…as above, so below…”.  

Could this occultists’ mantra, “as above, so below,” just be an oversight on Peterson’s part? 

Google the phrase and see what comes up!   

You say this about Eugene Peterson’s writings:

 “I raved about his exceptionally well-written biblical meditations such as Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Traveling Light, and especially Leap Over a Wall. Each of these, I suggested, were chock-full of insight for what we in the CCO call whole-life discipleship.”    “…his writings virtually throb with an earthy spirituality.”   {emphasis ours}

Byron,  what type of “earthly spirituality” do you plan to present at CCO/Jubilee by offering books by this author? 

We will admit that most of the above people recognize the failings of the church today.  They may have seen how Christians have failed in ‘the Great Commission’ that we’ve been called to; how we have failed to be ‘salt and light’ in this darkened world.  We posit that they, unfortunately, have turned away from God’s plan of doing things to man’s ways; a dangerous and deceptive path to take.   They are deceived and/or deceiving.

May we recommend that at your book table you offer one of these excellent, discernment books?  We are confident that students will benefit greatly from these sound authors/teachers.

Seduction of Christianity, by Dave Hunt, who clearly demostrates how the church has been deceived by worldly philophies of men.

A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen, who writes how ancient mystical practices are uniting Christians with the world’s religions.

Faith Undone by Roger Oakland, where he questions whether the emerging church is a new reformation or an end-time deception.

The Truth War by John MacArthur, which is a call to arms against the tide of apostasy in the church today.

The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity, Bob DeWaay’s thorough expose on the core beliefs of this movement.

It’s one thing, Byron, to read books by authors that question orthodox Christian theology or that have different beliefs, for discernment purposes; to compare them to Scripture  (Acts 17:11).  It is quite another to offer these same books to students who do not have the discernment to tell the difference; who are zealous for the Lord, but immature in their knowledge of doctrine. 

Jesus warns in Matthew 18, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

We exhort you to prayfully consider this!

Contending earnestly for the faith,
Judy & Yvonne
Jude 3-4

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Responses

  1. I’m eager to see how Byron will rebut this one!

    (you are such a “bully”!)

  2. Glenn, who is the bully? Were you being sarcastic?

    Out of curiousity, I wonder why you never mention that guy, Jim Belcher (http://www.thedeepchurch.com/), who is also speaking at that Jubilee (www.jubileeconference.com) conference held by the CCO (www.ccojubilee.org)? It sounds like you may approve of his book The Deep Church which also offers a critique of “The Emerging Church”.

    Since you keep referring to his books I have to ask, do you know that Richard Baxter is considered to be the father of ‘Puritan mysticism’, sort of the 17th century Eugene Peterson? He is also know to have been somewhat of a universalist, like that Byron McLaren guy. But his comprehensive “Christian Directory” is really hard not to like!

    I may have missed it somewhere along your extended exchanges here, but why do you try to hide your identities, Judy & Yvonne? That seems to lack a certain amount of accountability, not to mention false witness. Why not live in the light rather than hide in the darkness of anonymity?

    You have convinced me that I have to go check this Jubilee conference out to see what it is all about and whether these people deserve the criticisms you both have thrown like grenades into a crowded public market.

    What would Jesus say about your hyper-focus on these authors, speakers, booksellers, conferences and controversies over fixing your eyes on Him?

    By the way, if you were interested I would be willing to buy a copy of Mr. Belcher’s Deep Church book for you so we could open a discussion of his perspective on those emergies. Of course, I would be willing to by it from Mr. Borger’s Hearts and Minds Bookstore as an offering of peace.

    – J. Kimball

    • Welcome, J. Kimball —

      We are aware of all the CCO speakers and Jim Belcher author of Deep Church — but there is only so much time in the day to review the array of authors, speakers, and philosophies being served to our kids at Jubilee. Personally, I am reading Peterson’s The Jesus Way, preparing for a meeting (face to face — without a disguise 🙂 too!) Honestly, it is often very difficult to justify spending money and time on heretical philosophies of so-called theologins (although I believe that Peterson’s degrees are quite extensive from philosophy, Biblical Studies, to ‘Sacred Theology’ — an interesting combo) but this one more directly effects my daughter.

      If you are going to Jubilee, I would recommend purchasing (I think they are for sale) the audio copies so you can spend some time comparing the speaker’s thoughts with Scripture. I will be waiting for the reruns on Jubilee TV. Judy

  3. Yes I was being sarcastic – Byron keeps calling me a “bully” – it marginalizes the arguments.

  4. Well, an “open letter” to me. Interesting.

    I’ve been pondering how best to reply, but I will write two things for starters:

    1. You have said in your first sentence that I have judged your motivations. This is untrue. Unless I spoke poorly in a moment of frustration, I do not think I have ever done that. You do it often, about nearly everybody you disagree with, speculating on why they say what they do and imputing bad reasons for their views. You of course have done it to me, too, saying I’m just in this for the money, a ludicrous insinuation.

    I have called you out on that so it would be hypocritical of me to do the same thing, to question your motives. I have no clue what your deepest motives are, but I must presume that you are telling the truth about your sense of calling to warn people about what you see as danger and heresy. I have on more than one occasion applauded you on the importance of this, even if I think your theology is peculiar and your language unpleasant and your logic questionable. We need not rehearse the questions I’ve asked and the rebukes I’ve written, but I do not deny being very critical of your methods, your tone, and the reliability of what you post. I’m sorry to have become known for this, but you are fair to say it.

    Still, I do not think it is right for you to say I’ve questioned your motivations.

    You see, this is one more illustration why I counsel readers to take your critiques with a grain of salt. You say things you shouldn’t, report things that are untrue, and get it wrong as often as you get it right. I’d ask for an apology or at least a correction, but I doubt if it would be forthcoming. It is fair to say that humility isn’t your strong suit. Granted?

    2. The general point of your piece, warning me to not lead book buyers astray, is well taken. I appreciate your forthrightness and although I may later reply to some of your specific charges about specific authors, I do not object to your calling me to be responsible at the important gathering in Pittsburgh. I have said this before, and mean it. You remind me of how important this really is.

    3. Although I do take this job of book-selling seriously, before God, and I am concerned about shifts within Christian publishing these days away from historic concepts of orthodox faith and Bible knowledge, you must understand that we have very different views of education, reading, and (it seems) the ways in which disciples of Jesus are to engage the world around them. You seem more inclined to resist the negative, and I seem more inclined to celebrate the positive; both impulses can be found in Scripture. I gather that you’d agree with me that the more liberal Christians could be described as “in and of” the world (which is an unfaithful approach, since we are called to holiness.) But I see your advise as the mirror opposite approach, “neither in nor of” the world. In John, of course, the mandate is to be “in but not of.” It is wrong, I’d say, to feel called by God to be an educated person (and a collegiate) and not have read something of Marx or Freud or Darwin, or liberal theology like the social gospel writers, or the best of medieval monastic writing or Saint Benedict (the old one or the new one) or postmodernists. I suspect we have unresolvable differences there, and while I want to respect your narrowness, I do think it is problematic and not in keeping with historic Christian faith, which always affirms we live in a real world, which is a good thing, and has affirmed wide learning.

    There is solid Biblical grounds for reading widely, too. From Daniel studying the occultic stuff of the Chaldeons in Babylon to Jesus’ battle with the up-tight Pharisees, to Paul on Mars Hill quoting pagan poetry, from early church teaching about “plundering the Egyptians” and Paul, in jail in Rome, writing to young Timothy asking for more manuscripts to read, to the high regard for secular learning offered by all great Christian leaders–Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Baxter, Edwards, Kuyper, Lewis, Schaeffer, etc—reading widely with discernment is better (in my view) than refusing to read, learn, interact, think, enjoy, discern. To equip contemporary leaders with a Biblical worldview and graceful, effective, faith, they simply must read widely, knowing the lay of the land, the best of the writers, the various thinkers that shape the contours of the conversations. That is my conviction. Having a good library and being educated in varying views and loving learning is part of what a learned individual does and is. It is not for everyone perhaps, but it is the sort of person we hope our books help form.

    When selling books to evangelicals, I trust that their own church is teaching them well, that their fellowship groups are grounding them in regular Bible lessons, and that they are on their knees daily, coming to know God in Christ from His Word. (At a place like Jubilee, there are many very young Christians and non-Christians, too, so we give special care to hear their needs and advise them appropriately.) So we are not their only influence (thank goodness). We also find that most have an instinct to recoil from the world, to only read “safe” stuff or fluff, and that liberal theology is not the greatest danger out there.

    In this regard, booksellers are very important, as you suggest, and yet, not all that ultimate. One bad book can lead someone astray, but mostly it doesn’t happen. Watching a Nooma has lead people to Christ in wonderful and solid ways; nobody I know has renounced historic faith by watching “rain” or “trees.” Or reading Velvet Elvis with its hundreds of Bible verses and footnotes telling people to read “all of John Piper.” I know that some have been brought back to the fold from the brink of leaving faith because of the solid Biblical insights of the sorts found in some of the books you find fault with. And the Jubilee “all of life” view of discipleship that helps students relate faith and learning, and propels them to serve God in their calling and careers, has helped nominal Christian become full-on 24/7 servants, like Romans 12:1-2 describes! I am not a pragmatist, but the Bible does teach a bit about bearing fruit as a key to whether something is right or not. I do not say “whatever works” but I do want to see the fruit that is born from various faith traditions– your fundamentalism, or CCOs reformational worldview, or the emergent folks. What helps people learn to love Christ, to be more mature in Bible reading, to become more conformed to the image of God, to take their work-world responsibility and civic lives more faithfully? I know strict fundamentalism, friends, and it has not born fruit for God’s glory or been effective. It is my view that such narrowness is Biblically unfaithful, and not robust enough to help people grow seriously in Christ. That is my view.

    Reading up–from Richard Baxter to Rob Bell— and being a part of the conversations that ARE going on is a good thing, not a bad thing. Selling books can help that along, I believe.

    Involvement in strong churches, good preaching, daily habits of Bible reading and teaching disciples to be critical thinkers is what can help a reader enjoy, learn from, and sort out the good and the bad. I know this is a large assumption, that this is even possible in our confused day of weak-kneed churches and trendy faith movements. But I trust God on this, doing what we can to steer people towards being involved in a church and having a few solid Bible resources, first. And then towards reading stuff that is interesting and helpful, and away form stuff that is boring or harmful. But even bad books can be used profitably, and nearly all books that we promote have much more good than bad in them.

    I suppose Beth and I are moderate on this, and you are more extreme (is that fair to say?) Like the Amish, say, or some cults, you seem to forbid reading stuff that you disapprove of, drawing strong lines in the sand, saying no to this and no to that. I don’t see that much in the life of Jesus (although it was what his critics were all about, as I’m sure you know.)

    I’m understand that this is not how you see it, but I’m not nearly as worried as you are about the dangers of bad books. I’m much more optimistic about the good that can come from helping folks become interested in reading. There is such a bias against religious books that finding stuff that is entertaining, interesting, holds interest and is relevant and helpful, is part of our goal. AND, to remind readers that they must always be regularly reading God’s Word, involved in a Bible-preaching church, and in community with others who can help “like iron sharpens iron.” So I’m less worried about the errors than you are (even though I am not unconcerned—we don’t bring Spong or Borg or others who deny the authority of the Bible or the cross or resurrection.) Or books that are aligned with pagan ideologies or are mean or untruthful, like some that you recommend.

    I asked before how one might feel if an atheist student came to legitimate and certain faith in a bone fide conversion through the blood of Christ, all because of a CCO worker’s ministry of cooperation and friendliness with atheist student organizations? That is a big question that I was sad you didn’t answer. (I jump out of my shoes whenever anyone asks me how I feel about a lost soul who is saved! That you couldn’t work up the energy to rejoice in a soul saved was telling, it seemed to some.) My point was wondering whether your opinion-cum-ideology against CCO’s method was over-powering your passion for the lost.

    I asked Glen, I think, what he would say if somebody came to Christ–really, in a solid and reliable manner–through a Nooma video. Does your criticism-cum-ideology lead you to be sad if God actually uses Bell to bring a lost soul to Himself?

    These are parallel examples that reflect on the big question about books: if a nearly perfect book doesn’t lead people to passionate and Biblical servants of Christ, but a slightly unconventional one does, will you be glad?

    There was a story once Jesus told, about a boy who said he would do just what his father said, but he didn’t. Another brother said he wouldn’t, but he actually did. Maybe my application here is strained, but it does seem that our Lord taught that saying the right things (even in a book that earns your approval) or saying things the wrong way (Bell? Miller? Seay?) aren’t what matters most. What matters is if one does the will of the Father. Do our efforts (in this case, bookselling) bear fruit for the King? Do books help people to thoughtful, obedient faith? My test is less about their purity, and more about their fruitfulness…

    You are right to be concerned about error and to fret some about “bad” books. Yet, if your judgment is hardened into an ideology, you have made an idol out of your own opinion, possibly like the Pharisees or the boy who said the right stuff, but didn’t live it. This can happen to any of us. I have blind spots, and have said so. Yet I don’t hear it from you. We hear little of bearing fruit, of reaching out, of celebrating the goodness of helping others, of having hope, of the kind of love in Corinthians 13 that says it “believes all things.”

    I don’t mind someone being critical of our book reviews or disagreeing with how helpful different authors are. But does it have to be so “all or nothing” so utterly blasting, so graceless?

    • Byron,

      When you sell books by known false teachers, it means you either support them or you are doing it for money. When you sell their books, the false teachers are being enriched so as to write more false teachings. There is no justification for a Christian to sell books by false teachers. Period.

      You have told me that you don’t support the emergent teachings, but when I looked at your site, there is no way anyone can come back from it without thinking that you indeed support emergent; lots of glowing words for emergent teachers! And then you say that this blog has “peculiar” theology!

      I agree that it has very much appeared that you have questioned Judy’s motivations. And then you just make the charge that she is lacking in humility, when, in my opinion, your lengthy dissertations exude pride.

      You say you are “concerned about shifts within Christian publishing these days away from historic concepts of orthodox faith and Bible knowledge,” yet you are part of the problem selling such stuff! Isn’t that hypocritical?

      There is a grave difference between a person solidly mature in their faith and student who are still learning, wouldn’t you agree? Those who are solid in their faith can study false teachings so as to learn better how to combat them, while those who are still learning can easily be misled into accepting the false teachings they are studying. If one of mature faith is studying with the immature one, it can indeed be beneficial, but since this is rare when an immature believer purchases a book on his own, the danger is great. Also, acquiring a book which someone else has purchased (say from a library or other source) rather than buying it doesn’t add money to the pockets of the false teachers. I have read all sorts of stuff of Marx and Freud and Darwin, but haven’t provided one dime to their coffers.

      You go back to the issue of biblical support for reading widely so as to justify your putting money into the pockets of false teachers and possibly leading immature believers astray. But the examples from the Bible don’t hold water. The men you mention were mature in their faith and prophets/apostles of God; they were not going to be led astray!

      Knowing the culture around you is well and good for using analogies to assist those you are trying to reach with understanding. Paul was quoting pagan poetry to pagans so as to lead them to the truth, but there is no way you can say what Paul asked for Timothy to bring were manuscripts of anything but Scripture. You are arguing from silence, as am I by saying it was Scripture, but I think the evidence is that Paul studied God’s word relentlessly.

      There is also a difference between reading stuff from the culture around you and reading stuff which is so-called Christian material which will do nothing but confuse (Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, et al).

      You say, “When selling books to evangelicals, I trust that their own church is teaching them well, that their fellowship groups are grounding them in regular Bible lessons, and that they are on their knees daily, coming to know God in Christ from His Word.” You obviously aren’t paying attention to the state of the church today! Why do you think there is as much false teachings sold in so-called “Christian” book stores as there is good teaching? Why do you think the likes of Beth Moore is so popular in churches? Because pastors wives are some of her main followers!!!!! There is very little discernment taught in the Church today, and people like you who sell emergent garbage are adding to the problem as you line the pockets of these false teachers! Do you really think Christ would be handing out books by false teachers to people weak in their faith?

      You say, “Watching a Nooma has lead people to Christ in wonderful and solid ways; nobody I know has renounced historic faith by watching “rain” or “trees.” Or reading Velvet Elvis with its hundreds of Bible verses….” (Of course in Velvet Elvis you have to wonder about the appropriate use of the passages!). My question is, what sort of Christ are they being led to – an emergent Christ? You keep trying to justify bad material by anecdotal claims of people coming to Christ. As I have stated previously, people have come to Christ through the Mormon Church as well as the Romanist church – so should we then justify those faiths and send people to them because they MIGHT be led to Christ? Your claim is that the ends justifies the means. How pragmatic! And also wicked! Yes, God CAN use anything to lead people to him, but that doesn’t mean He approves of it!

      You say, “I know strict fundamentalism, friends, and it has not born fruit for God’s glory or been effective. It is my view that such narrowness is Biblically unfaithful, and not robust enough to help people grow seriously in Christ. That is my view.” I suppose we’d have to define our words, because “strict fundamentalism” is following the Scriptures and definitely has borne fruit. Paul was a strict fundamentalist. And “narrow is the way” — which is certainly faithful to the Bible. Paul chastised and condemned those that would teach another gospel, yet you sell their books and “Noomas” and claim they can lead people to Christ. And yes, emergent is ANOTHER Gospel, and Rob Bell is one of the heavy-hitters of that movement.

      You stated, “Yet, if your judgment is hardened into an ideology, you have made an idol out of your own opinion, possibly like the Pharisees or the boy who said the right stuff, but didn’t live it.” I see this as pointing right back at you – as it is your ideology which your are trying to justify over and over, that it is okay to line the pockets of the emergent false teachers because it MIGHT lead people to God. (By the way, it was the Pharisees who were AGAINST discernment!)

    • Yes, Byron, you have questioned our motives. Here’s a lovely judgment call from one of your comments two weeks ago:

      “So, while your at it, pray for yourself, too, that you would lose some of that arrogant tone. I am not the only one who thinks your articles come across like you are so special with inside truth that makes you better than everybody else.”

      I suspect I could go back and find some more ‘evidence’, but what’s the use? It’s not important to me that you question why. The bottom line, as stated above, is that you seriously reconsider selling ‘bad’ books to undiscerning students or anyone else, for that matter!

      *******************
      Here’s what I find ‘interesting.’

      You say: “Or books that are aligned with pagan ideologies or are mean or untruthful, like some that you recommend.”

      Which of the five books that we recommended do think are “mean or untruthful”, Byron?

      Which of these five have YOU READ that you can judge them to be ‘mean or untruthful’?!

      Could it be that you are guilty of the very thing of which you accuse us?

      Absolutely fascinating, indeed!

      *******************

      Here’s another ‘interesting’ nugget–Who could be more pagan than Ken Wilbur, who Rob Bell suggests Christians spend months studying? Certainly, after spending time studying Wilbur, Rob Bell must have been influenced by him!

      Bell spent time with the Dalai Lama at the Seeds of Compassion conference. Wouldn’t you agree that Buddhism is pagan? Any influence there?

      You may not sell Wilbur’s books or the Dalai Lama’s writings, but not doubt Bell is unworthy of promotion, despite his popularity or any claim that his Nooma’s have been used of God to bring someone to Christ.

      **********

      You say: “…while I want to respect your narrowness, I do think it is problematic and not in keeping with historic Christian faith,…”

      Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Enter by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

      I’ll stick to the ‘narrow’ way, Byron, it’s not ‘problematic’ for me. I’m unsure of what you mean by ‘historic Christian faith’, but if it doesn’t line up with Scripture there certainly is a problem.

  5. Yvonne,

    Just a tiny bit about this matter of whether I’ve questioned your motives. I sort of hate to say this because it seems so evident. I’m not trying to be sneaky or rude, but it is just a fact: to question your ethics or maturity or honesty, to observe that many readers think you come across as arrogant, is NOT the same thing as questioning your “motives.” I have repeatedly questioned your ethics because I think you seem careless about reporting things truthfully.

    I do not question WHY you do this, and only suppose it is because you think you are right.

    AND THIS: You just said you could go back and find more evidence of the allegation that I question your motives, but you say, no, that isn’t necessary because it isn’t the real issue. (The real issue is that I sell books you don’t approve of)

    Well, yes, the books and their legitimacy is the key thing we are discussing now, BUT, do consider this, please: this is yet one more example of your rude habit of making accusations, then saying it doesn’t matter. Well of course it doesn’t matter to you, since you aren’t the victim. I am the one you accused falsely, and it does matter to me. And it matters to God, a God of truth. And it should matter to anybody reading this blog and wondering if you are a reliable Christian leader they should be trusting or not.

    So, per usual, you make outlandish claims, and then when challenged, instead of doing the decent thing and being a tad humble or a bit polite or even apologizing you push on through like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

    So, again, I have allowed that I may have said some things I regret, and I have apologized on more than one occasion. I ask for forgiveness if I have been needlessly stern. But I do think you are wrong: what other motivation would I presume you have for your crusade? I can only surmise that you feel you are being Biblically correct and faithful to what you think is right and helpful. I don’t conjure up other odd motives, or motivations. To rebuke your overstatements and lack of kindness is not the same thing as questioning your motivations.

  6. You asked about how many of the books you have suggested have I read. When I ask you those kind of questions you never once answered.

    I am happy to tell you. I have read three of the them, two I’ve studied pretty carefully, and one of them I have even corresponded with the publisher about. (MacArthur.) Two I have never heard of, one I have heard of and read a review or two about.

    I didn’t suggest I read them all, but I have found three of them to be uncharitable in their tone (everybody who knows Mr Hunt knows his blunt style, even his past publisher) and I can, if anybody wants to chat about it elsewhere, document direct untruths written in MacArthur’s book about truth. Ironic, coming from a well known Bible guy. I sell the book, though, as there is enough good stuff in it, despite its inaccuracies and tone, that I think it is useful for some folks who need a dose of his strong clarity.

    Yvonne: why didn’t you just ask me nicely which ones I’ve read, instead of piling on the snide insinuations, presuming the worst, implying that I am a hypocrite? That is exactly what I mean by being uncharitable. If I didn’t answer you or tried to wiggle out of the question, I suppose you would be justified to come back with a firmer rebuke, as I have with you. But to start off your legitimate question with this ugly half-baked wondering—and the “very interesting….” insinuation was just uncalled for. I’d like to hear your apology there, again, but, as readers know, that is like pulling teeth from you, to get you to be pleasant the way ordinary writers might.

    So, there ya go. A fair answer, to a fair question. But my question was why you had to be so mean about it?

    • Byron,

      May we presume that you will not be removing any of the authors or books mentioned in this post from your book sale at Jubilee?

      The answer only requires a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

      Thank you.

    • Byron,

      You’re right. I did assume that you had not read those books. I admit that I was wrong and that those particular remarks were ‘snarky’. I sincerely apologize.

      ************

      You say: “(The real issue is that I sell books you don’t approve of)”

      Not exactly. Whether or not I approve of the books is not the issue. The issue is whether or not you are promoting/selling books by heretics like McLaren, Bell, or any others listed above, to undiscerning Christian students at Jubilee.

      This is the point, Byron.

      Are you willing to reconsider selling books by these authors mentioned above at Jubilee?

      • Yvonne,

        Thank you for noting that it was unfair of you to presume that I hadn’t read any of those. I understand, though, so accept your apology.

        AND, you are right, of course, when you say the point isn’t that “you” don’t approve of the books, but whether they are adequately Biblical to be useful for students.

        I guess, though, we (as you will see in my book by book reply) disagree about what is or isn’t clearly wrong. I understand that you deeply believe these books are faulty and therefore dangerous. I hope you understand that I just don’t agree with you on that.

        So, we both want the books to fit within a Biblical framework and be interesting and useful for the kids. But we are in an impasse of whether or not you can make a compelling case that those authors are so bad as to be un-safe to sell.

        (You noticed, I hope, that I am not a big fan of Doug Pagitt’s last book, and I won’t take the Sabbath Journal due to that odd quote. However, for somebody doing a serious study of Henri Nouwen, it may be useful to read his private diary, to see what was really going on the year he died. I probably wouldn’t have taken it anyway, but we aren’t ashamed that we stock all of his books. For the historical record, folks ought to know what he was about….)

        So I summarized saying that these are books “you don’t approve of” since I cannot say that they are books that have shown to be unbiblical, since you haven’t made that case in a compelling way for me. Foster? Peterson? Solid. Brian and Phyllis? Love em. mostly, but most likely not for youngsters at Jubilee. Bell, he has this edgy demeanor and hipster aesthetic, and I haven’t studied all he teaches and does, but I find his books to be fully adequate, with moments of brilliance.

        And, by the way, I agree with whoever posted that piece about the Jubilee speaker Jim Belcher. He’s an PCA church planter who has written a gracious and insightful book critical of emergent doctrines, and it is a fair, friendly, and honorable piece of work. I’m so glad they are having him at Jubilee, and will celebrate his book big time.

  7. Since this was an open letter and you asked so many specific questions, I thought I’d reply, at least about a few. I hope readers note my earlier response, where I affirmed the concern that is raised here—booksellers, including my wife and I must take our duties seriously. Those that know us know our sinfulness and our hoped for integrity. I wrote a posted a reply above, quickly explaining our basic approach of reading widely. Others have commented on the deficiencies of this approach. We think our general approach (not being scared of wide learning, and insisting on the “in but not off” approach to cultural engagement) is Biblically and theologically on solid ground, and suspect that most Christians would agree…Having church history figures like Calvin or Lewis, or contemporary figures like Francis Schaeffer in general agreement doesn’t prove we’re wise, but it should be noted that avoiding the culture is not a Biblically faithful option. And, we think, learning to read and appreciate various authors from the broad Christian community is, in the long run, an asset to faith.

    Of course there are books that are profoundly wrong about essential matters, and we do not promote them.

    And there are some that are written by authors who have said wacky stuff in other places, but that particular books in not unsound.

    And there are books that are fabulous at some points, but may have some odd lines or citations.

    Each of these we determine on a case by case situation, to the best of our ability.

    So, a few replies to a few of your questions. This may get tedious, but I presume you wanted answers when you asked. I’ll be briefer than I should to do the complexity justice.

    1. Brian McLaren is a friend, although not a close friend. I have watched how he responds to his critics and I wish I could be as humble and Christ-like as he. His patience with critics who mis-quote him, his kindness towards those that slander him, and his honest portrayal of honest questions is commendable. People who were once nearly ready to walk away from Christian faith have found themselves re-energized with new passion and interest and reading and serving and that fruit is something I value. Not sure where it will all lead, but I believe many critics have been to hard on him. I have not found his writings too problematic, and have really appreciated some; I don’t promote them at Jubilee, really as I don’t think they are quite right for students. His forthcoming one may (or may not) portray his journey away from evangelicalism as some have predicted. I haven’t read it yet, so can’t predict what he will say.

    The book you cite is one I reviewed favorably. I stand by that.

    Your criticism, though, shown there, is that he has quoted a person who said something you found wrong. I, too, found that quote by that person unacceptable. You didn’t tell us what Brian quoted from that person, or in what context, so I cannot speak to that. I think your saying he quoted a guy you didn’t like is a pretty lame way to critique a book, and nearly useless as a criterion for Beth or I to use in determining if we should stock said book. So, here’s what I do: I read the book in question, and explained why I liked it. Some unexplained quote by some unnamed guy doesn’t concern me and has little to do with our choice to promote some of his books.

    2. Phyllis Tickle is a fascinating writer, a woman who knows much about all sorts of religious publishing, and while I may not always agree with her take or something, it is valuable to some of us. I don’t think younger students would need to read her much, and don’t know that we would promote the one you mentioned. I have it in the store, and some older folks have really appreciated a slim, easy-to-understand overview of the shifts in culture in our lifetime. I wonder, though: from where did that “paper pope” quote come? I wouldn’t want to criticize her for that without knowing what she meant, although it does trouble me. While I affirm a high regard for the authority of Scripture, it is clear to me that Jesus is the Living Word, and he criticized the Pharisees for scrolling through their Scriptures, and missing Him! (And, boy, is that ever a problem today, too, folks who can quote their Bible as they carry on in ungodly ways, as if knowing the truth is all that matters!) Of course the Bible is God’s printed Word, but we ought not turn it, let alone our interpretations and systems that come from our study of it, into an idol or ideology. God alone is God, and the Bible points us to His redemptive work, seen most clearly in Jesus and His cross. I suspect Ms Tickle was affirming that, a common-sense view that most Christians would agree with. If you are going to put her down for that quote, it might be helpful to explore in fair detail what she meant, how she meant it, and in what context she said it and then determine if it is unwise counsel. Was it from that Great Emergence book?

    3. Foster. We highly recommend all of his books. Any insinuation that he teaches “emptying” one’s mind in any Eastern or Zen way is ridiculous, as he very, very clearly affirms that we are to put on the mind of Christ. His drawing on the rich teachings of esteemed Christians from the past is a great, great thing, and students should be exposed to the best thinking from though-out the ages. Foster sometimes offers words of warning about some medieval mystics or other writers, who exhibited an imbalance, say, and he offers correctives by offering good resources from other sorts of writers/theologians. I know you have fellow bloggers in your circle that think he is wrong, and I think they are seriously mistaken. Whatever you do say about him, I hope you will be fair and thorough, and not caricature him, as if he is some zany Eastern mystic or pagan with weird ideas. That is simply untrue.

    Of course I am aware that Foster could be seen as something close to panentheism. Some of the other watchdog sites which you link to have made this claim (they have wrongly made it about me, too, and were not very nice about it when I tried to clarify, but I digress.) He denies it, and he guides readers towards authors that are most usually quite reliable. I have reason to disapprove of panentheism myself, but let it be said: God is near and around all things. Praise be to God. Read Psalm 127 or Colossians 1.

    I am not sure what you mean when you say Foster is “aligned” with Merton. He values much of Merton’s work, as I do. Near the end of Merton’s long writing career he drifted from historic Catholic faith, and seemed universalistic. I don’t think Foster approves of that, and neither do I. Some of his works are very moving, deeply insightful, good stuff. One can take some of Merton without taking all. Again, please be judicious as you describe the relationship between Mr. Foster and Tom, long dead.

    4. Nouwen, in that journal he wrote before he died, like Merton, seems to have drifted away from standard understandings of salvation. I will not take that book to Jubilee. This does not disqualify other books of his that must be considered on their own merits.

    5. Sweet. Ha. He’s a good guy, and, interestingly, is a pretty traditional evangelist, insisting that we always remind us that we are saved by “nothing but the blood of Jesus” (one of his favorite choruses.) That Quantum book is a rare early work of his, and it is interesting that you mention it since most people don’t even know about it. I am excited about some of his books, find some very provocative in a good way, and disapprove of a bit of his stuff. We carry all his current ones, but most people enjoy him speaking in person better than his books. Do you know his recent movement about being utterly sold out to Jesus and nothing else. Pretty great. He uses that mind/body stuff in part because he is an endless learner, and is always into some new aspect of science (which he reads endlessly.) I think it is wise and right to interpret that new agey sounding lingo in light of his very traditional Weslyan theology. He can be accused of being a bit too hip and trendy, but he sure isn’t “new age.” He’s a Jesus guy.

    6. Doug Pagitt. Well, that first quote is not even a complete sentence. So go look it up in the book, read the whole paragraph, tell us about that, and then I might be able to tell what I think of it. I refuse to get into a debate about a partial line like that. And I won’t ban a book because of a half-a-line.

    That other quote is about how God will treat people upon their deaths. It seems to me that historic Christian faith says exactly that: those that are in Christ are saved and those that are not, are not, God will show grace in the manner He has described in the Bible to all. No double standard there. I don’t know what Mr. Pagitt meant, but on the face of it, it’s a true statement.

    For those that want a good illustration of what is good and dangerous, interesting and dumb, about emergent, his last book is a “good” example. I won’t promote it at Jubilee.

    7. Rob Bell. Rob has not been to Jubilee and I don’t announce his stuff from up front or anything, so I can say that we are not promoting him in any real significant way. But yes, we will stock his books and have them available. I think they are pretty good, as I have said previously. I’ve asked which ones you don’t like, and which noomas you find offensive and why.

    Here is my reply to your comments, though. You have those two Wilber videos showing what an unusual guy he is. One might get the impression that those YouTube clips have something to do with Rob Bell which, of course, they hardly do at all. Here’s the truth of it: Rob Bell does not mention Wilber in the text of the book at all. I went back and reread every page, since I hadn’t recalled it. I have learned from past experience that you are sloppy with your facts here, so I wondered why you wrote that. I realized, then, that Rob cites the “Everything…” book in an end-of-the-book footnote 145. AND, it wasn’t clear to me that Bell was really commending it, let alone suggesting it was so important that one should study it for three whole months, as I think you suggested. Rather, he was saying that it would take three months to wade through it.) Anyway, the mind experiments in the Youtube clips don’t seem to have much to do with the thesis of the “Everything…” book, which isn’t even named in the text of Velvet Elvis, but only in a footnote. So it seems a bit cheesy of you to suggest, esp with these big video clips so prominently shown, that this is some huge influence over Bell. Hardly. I’ve never picked up any “transcendental meditation” stuff like Wilbur in any of Bell’s teaching. None.

    I don’t deny, though, that Bell cites him. Earlier Christian scholars making a point about the details of how creation works might have cited Galileo and more recently, Albert Einstein. Would you be mad if an evangelical cited Einstein? Of course such citations are always “dangerous” and that is why we always remind buyers (esp at Jubilee) to be rooted in a Biblical view of things, and not be hoodwinked into falling for false views, and to enjoy reading and learning, but to always be critical readers, “with the Bible in the other hand..” College students read books for a living and see ungodly thinking all the time (although aren’t terribly led astray, aren’t usually skilled in being very discerning, either.) One passing reference (that they may not even see in the footnote in the far back) of a contemporary (granted odd) influential scholar isn’t a bad thing, let alone a very dangerous thing.. Bell also, in a footnote, insists that people read “all of John Piper, starting with the Dangerous Duty of Delight” a much more compelling author recommendation he makes. Sadly, they won’t see that, either, although we do promote Piper at Jubilee.

    So, I protest that you’ve mis-characterized Bell in this post. Yes, you’ve presented evidence that he cited a pagan. You did not show that he has been badly influenced by that pagan. Showing a weird Youtube clip of Wilber does not prove that he has had any significant influence on Bell. I maintain that there is nothing to worry about on that score. I like Velvet Elvis, and, even more, the rich Biblical study of Jesus Wants to Save Christians. His piece about the Passover blood there is very powerful, solid, faithful. What do you think of that?

    8. Eugene Peterson. Again, I beg you to stop implying that somebody that translates the Bible is thinking they are re-writing it, or making it up as they go, or adding their own words. That is just a wrong accusation, unfair, dishonest. Rev. Peterson knows the Greek and Hebrew very, very well, and if you’ve ever heard him explain why he chose to do a contemporary rendering, loaded with idiom and slang, you might be surprised. I am not at all suggesting one must like The Message. Just don’t make innuendoes about his motivations or intent.

    I guess it may not make much different, but I said that Peterson teaches an “earthy” theology (not an earthly one.) “Earthy” meaning, down to earth, rooted in daily life, ordinary, mundane, serving God in the here and now of how we enjoy creation, and pay attention to daily stuff, how we relate to others, living our faith in the real world of “earth” etc. He’s so Hebrew in his mindset, he really does see God’s sustaining hand of Providence in all things. He’s very solid in terms of historic Protestant theology, and I wish I could get more students to read him. He’s a tad deep for those unfamiliar with serious reading, but—like some of the Puritan stuff we’re fond of, or Augustine or Calvin or Edwards or Kuyper, or Bonhoeffer—we try.

    Any suggestion that one might find any occultic connection in Eugene’s writing is unspeakably weird. If that phrase has been used by Satan worshippers or neo-pagans, I’d suppose he didn’t know that. You can ask him, but it would be shocking and seriously slanderous to even hint that he has any occult ties. I trust you were not doing that, but only showing the genealogy of that phrase. That is interesting, I suppose, but I know for a fact he had his nose in the Greek N.T. for years as he was working on The Message’s rendering.

    We will promote all of his books, anytime we can.

    Your final remark about being aware that many younger Christians are zealous but with little doctrinal knowledge is so true. We highlight titles up front, most often the ones that we think will be most useful for the average students. We have, with the CCOs blessing, suggested some key titles that we describe in the program. You most likely won’t like them, but we have several about basic Christian growth and foundational books that are impeccable.

    With many students, as time permits, and as they are willing, we chat about what they know, what they’ve read, who brought them to the event, trying to quickly diagnosis if they are a Christian or not, if they are well read or not, if they are well grounded or have only read fluff (or exclusively odd-ball stuff.) Pray for us, as we try to do our best, given the convictions we have.

    And take down those silly Wilber clips. They’ve got nothing to do with the discussion, and only give the impression that Bell is into that stuff…

    And read some Peterson for yourself, as I heard you are doing. He won’t lead you astray.

    • Bryon,

      Simply stated, At CCO/Jubilee you will be selling books by:

      Richard Foster, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Leonard Sweet, and Eugene Peterson.
      You are afraid to offend these authors, you are afraid to offend the ‘students’ , you are afraid to offend the ‘world’ — but not afraid to offend Christ.

      What is your priority, Bryon? What do you worship? Man’s intellect or Jesus Christ?

      Who would you rather offend?

      Erring on being too ‘extreme’ or too ‘moderate’.

      Keep it ‘safe’ and prosper, Byron.

    • I could be mistaken, but I think I recall Byron saying in another post way back that he didn’t support emergent. Yet here he praises all these emergent teachers and promotes their books. IF that isn’t supporting emergent, I don’t know what is!

    • Byron,

      Your thoughts on the authors that we have presented in this post truly saddens me. While, on one hand, you say you appreciate how careful one must be when selling books to young Christians; on the other hand, it is clear that you are undiscerning and deceived yourself about the dangers of the very authors you say are solid.

      It’s almost like you glean a little bit out of their writings that seems helpful and just ignore the heretical stuff! I just don’t understand how you can find justification for that! Despite what you claim about Paul, Timothy, et. al, there is not Scripture to support what you are doing.

      The evidence that has been presented here as well as on other discernment sites is enough to warn most concerned Christians to avoid these authors and yet you choose to continue to promote and sell them anyway. I am seriously concerned for the students at Jubilee who look to you with confidence in what you will be offering. You are guilty of leading them astray, Byron.


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