Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Chicken or the Egg?

A couple weeks ago, when I went out shopping for books for my high school grads, the first place I visited was a local Lifeway. I must say, I was absolutely disgusted by the drivel that filled the shelves, and the associated lack of solid content. It's a shame that this is the best our SBC dollars can do. There were three or four books I had in mind for my students, all by known authors, and none of them were anywhere to be found. The place had more Don Piper than John Piper. Fluff was the name of the game. My wife had a similar experience a week earlier looking for a family and parenting book for some friends of ours. No wonder everybody's using Amazon. I mean, it's not like there's not good stuff out there. This got me thinking recently - what's the problem? Are our bookstores stocked with fluff because that's what our biblically anemic American Christianity wants, or is our American Christianity biblically anemic because our bookstores are full of fluff? My sense is that it's much like the classic "chicken or the egg" conundrum, where the two are so interconnected it's impossible to say which begat the other. I'd be interested to hear your take.

Note: For any Louisvillians out there, let me recommend the Christian Book Nook, where I easily found what I was after. It's a great, locally and privately owned bookstore with great prices, selection, and service. Check it out. Lifeway - take some notes.


Ferg said...

I'm with you there DJ. I was in a christian book shop and the rubbish on the selves was shocking. The Patriot Bible on the shelve nearly made me vomit. Have you seen the absolute nonsense in it?
I do think we should be thankful that we do have christian bookshops though.
I'm waiting for the day an Oprah book hits the christian book shelves or that dreaded 'A New Earth'.
Would you consider Greg Boyd as an author who should not be in a christian book shop or do you mean the likes of Osteen and Creflo Dollar etc?

D.J. Williams said...

The Patriot Bible, the Golfer's Bible, the Green Bible - there's no end to it, really. No matter which one you choose, the result is the same - God's word is trivialized by being tailord to lesser agendas/whims.

I'm grateful for the good shops like the one I mentioned in my note. Hopefully, my rant isn't too all-encompassing. However, those kind of shops seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Interesting question on Boyd. I certainly wouldn't categorize his stuff as "fluff," which I certainly would for Osteen anc Co. I'm grateful for Boyd's stand on the Trinity and his work countering the Jesus Seminar guys, but I find his open theism to be incredibly dangerous. I know you're a fan, man, but I see him as denying a fundamental quality of God - namely his omniscience and sovereign rule. He is the God "who declares the end from the beginning," accomplishing his purpose. If I was running a bookstore, would I stock Boyd? Probably not regularly, since I believe there are a ton of other guys who share his good qualities while avoiding his big doctrinal errors. Would some of his stuff on other topics be worth carrying? Likely, though not having read it I can't say for sure. How would you approach it? Would you stock MacArthur, Piper, Sproul, etc.?

Ferg said...

Really good question.
Let's just say God's grace means I'll never own a Christian book shop. I can totally understand why you wouldn't stock Greg Boyd. Stocking a book like 'Is God to Blame?' in your book shop is saying it's worth reading and has good answers on suffering, whereas you'd probably have a heart attack if you read it!!
I remember the first time I read Pipers article, "10 reasons why God is sovereign over Satan's acts" or something like that, and my head nearly blew off! I couldn't believe what I was reading. My Pastor, he's a super well respected reformed preacher in Ireland, has had me read plenty of Carson (they're friends), Piper, and I've read Ware and co's critiques of Open Theism, however I would be like you and would find it very difficult to recommend through stocking in my book shop a book on suffering by John Piper or Don Carson as I don't believe their take on the issue reflects what I believe is God's true Father Heart for us.

It must be really hard, owning a Christian bookstore deciding what to stock. Reading Boyd for you could be beneficial in understand where the 'other side' is coming from and helping you in your discussions with them. I know I've learnt a lot from reading so much (too much my wife tells me!!) reformed material in the last 2 years. Do you stock T.D. Jake's if he denies the trinity? Do you stock 'The Fray's' latest release because they are apparently Christians? Do you stock Catholic Bibles, or the works of Mother Theresa? Man, I could go on and on but I think if I was to own a shop, it'd be a coffee one!

Darius said...

We've got the same problem here in Minnesota. Northwestern Bookstores is the main Christian game in town, and they stock fluff by the bucket. In my experience, the demand drives it. Most Christian women I know rarely get beyond the Christian fiction/romance aisle... though my wife and a bunch of her friends have been doing book studies this year through Death by Love and Crazy Love, which is very cool. And the typical Christian man just doesn't read... I think it's safe to say that somewhere between 40 and 60% of Christian men don't crack a non-fiction book in a given year. They all read The Shack, of course...

Darius said...

Check this out: