New Audiobook!

We’ve now produced an audiobook for Whole Bible Christianity. It is available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. I narrated it myself and it sounds very good. I did the narration because I don’t think anyone else could’ve really given the project the right tone except the guy who wrote it. It’s about 16 hours long but I don’t know what the pricing will be. Just check with Amazon under Whole Bible Christianity when you want a complete reference for Whole Bible Christianity to listen to in your car or while you are trying to go to sleep!

Shalom

Bruce

Bible Contradictions

Many, many times I hear about contradictions in the Bible. Supposedly there are hundreds of them. This contradiction argument has become a common standard attack by people who don’t believe in God and don’t want to believe in God. The statement is made as if the list of contradictions by itself is reason not to trust the Bible or believe in God. And I have one thing to say about it: There are no contradictions in the Bible.

If you look up the word “contradiction” in the dictionary, you’ll get something like the following from the online Merriam Webster.

  1. Act or an instance of contradicting.
  2. A proposition, statement, or phrase that asserts or implies both the truth and falsity of something.
  3. A statement or phrase whose parts contradict each other; a contradiction in terms.
  4. A logical incongruity.
  5. A situation in which inherent factors, actions, or propositions are inconsistent or contrary to one another.

As you can see, a contradiction is a statement that has both a truth and a falsehood. This would be something like “the sun rises in the east and rises in the west.” One is true, the other is false. They can’t both be true. There are three main categories of Bible contradictions claimed by unbelievers. One can be classified as text or copyist errors. A second is due to perception, and a third is in simple refusal to accept.

A large portion of the contradictions that are alleged to occur in most Bible denier’s lists are not contradictions at all. They are, at most, copying mistakes or grammar differences or other minor variations in the text. After all, the Bible was written down over a period of about 2,000 years by dozens of authors in many different styles. There’s bound to be a few blips here and there.

An example of this is the difference between 1 Kings 4:26 (Solomon had 40,000 stalls for horses) and 2 Chronicles 9:25 (4,000 stalls for horses). To a thinking person, this is obviously a minor discrepancy due to a copyist error. Or there might be another explanation. But there is no teaching affected by this error. It is not a contradiction, it is a text mistake. There might be a contradiction if you expect the text to be completely letter perfect. In this case though, the contradiction is in the expectation of perfection. Most of the items on unbeliever checklists consist of these types of contradictions that are not really contradictions. I can say without qualification that there is not a single teaching or meaningful statement anywhere in the remarkable document from God that is a true contradiction.

The second category of so-called contradictions is in the difference between what the Bible says and what people perceive or think it says. For instance, a favorite contradiction is manufactured between a God of Love and the facts that He destroyed people in the flood or used Israel to wipe out a tribe or people group. The perception is that a loving God would not destroy people. The perception is wrong on several levels.

For the flood example, God didn’t destroy man for about 1,600 years. He gave them time to change their ways. Not only did they not change their ways but got to where “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The antediluvians were just rotten to the core and made themselves unredeemable. They willingly turned into trash; so God cleansed the corruption from the earth. A similar principle was in effect when Israel was commanded to “take out the trash.” The tribes or nations that were removed had gotten so bad they even burned their kids in fires to appease their gods. Plus they wouldn’t repent though God in His grace gave them ample opportunity. People descended into abhorrent behavior and God took care of the problem. Unbelievers who claim a better sense of love or justice than is shown in the Bible are sitting in judgment on God’s actions and His Word with a perception of prejudice and deliberate misunderstanding.

The third category of contradictions is from simply rejecting what God says and who He is. This attitude is really the driving force behind alleging some contradictions. First they reject God and then they hunt around looking for confirmation of their rejection. They magnify tiny manuscript differences either real or perceived into huge roadblocks to belief. They mock and criticize because they decided to hate God before they ever start looking for a contradiction. Unbelievers reject God as master and Lord, so naturally contradictions proceed from their rejection. Make no mistake: so-called contradictions in the Bible are only contradictions in the heads of the deniers and unbelievers.

Some unbelievers gleefully point out the contradictions between the behavior or teachings of people/organizations and the Bible. They are correct. There are a lot of contradictions between people who say they follow the Bible and the Bible. However, this does not disprove the Bible, or give me any problems with the Bible text. There have always been pretenders throughout history. Behavior shows what is believed in the heart.

Now let’s take a look at what I think are the real contradictions in the rejection of the Bible and God. At the top of my list is the contradiction between atheists who say they have love greater than God’s and yet reject the God who is the source of love. They claim to love (when it suits them) but then turn around and hate God. This is a classic example of a contradiction that should go under the dictionary definition. Look up atheist in the dictionary and it should say, “See contradiction.”

Second on my list of unbeliever contradictions is between their rejection of God and the miracle of creation. I look at any part of creation and see a complex system that could not have sprung up out of nothing. There had to be a Creator, and not only a creator but a wise and all-knowing one to boot. Everything, though marred by entropy resulting from sin, is marvelously intricate and interdependent. There is no way a thinking person could miss it. Yet the unbelievers and atheists come up with all sorts of contradictory theories to explain.

Speaking of contradictory theories, the third contradiction on the God-hating hit parade is evolution. There is not a single bit of evidence for it anywhere. Unbelievers claim to be rational, thinking people, but evolution is the epitome of the opposite. Circular reasoning, science denying and flat-out lies are the order of the day for this contradiction. Built on hoaxes and sustained by government spending and regulation, evolution destroys morality and vilifies the life and hope that only God offers. It mocks God, pedals death as a good thing, and steals credit that belongs only to the Author of Life.

A fourth contradiction is the claim that the unbeliever has morality without needing to embrace God. Yet all of their alleged morality comes from God. He is the one who establishes morality. There is not a single instance of an unbeliever morality code that doesn’t steal from God. His Law was first; all others are weak copies at best. His ultimate example of morality was in the giving of His only begotten Son to save us from our sinful condition.

Jesus mirrors everything about God, especially in His cooperation with the Father in the sacrifice He made. Along with the sovereignty of God this is what the unbelievers are rejecting. It boggles the mind that anyone would refuse the gift of grace, love and mercy wrapped up in the torturous death of the Son of God, the effects of which are freely offered to hate-filled people. But reject it they do.

Talk about contradictions. Atheists and other unbelievers are selling nothing; everything came from nothing and will return to nothing. There is no hope in their religion, and it is a religion despite their denials. Their god or idol is themselves. They have no means of changing what they are and they stay lost in hate. Hate is not a feeling but the refusal to do what is good and right and truly loving. You cannot love and reject the God of love.

Hedonism or narcissism is what the unbelievers are really selling. Then, in the contradiction of all contradictions, they expect us to buy what they are selling. Believers are supposed to ditch the cleansing of God’s Word and the life and hope for a better future for one of nothingness where you are your own inadequate god. Get real.

Shalom

Bruce

Rebuilding the Tower

The rock band Queen had a song I liked called “One Vision.” It’s got a nice sentiment involving one voice, one heart, one vision, one race and so on. They express the desire of a lot of people that either we are presently “one” and just need to realize it for paradise on earth to be established, or that we need to become “one” so people can make a paradise. “If we could just realize that we are all one then all the problems would be solved” to summarize. It’s a nice thought, and I long for it too. It’s going to happen hopefully soon.

Trouble is it’s not going to happen the way most people envision.

This sentiment is not a new one. About 4,500 years ago the people of the earth had one language and a large group settled in the land of Shinar. This group decided to build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens to make a name. They wanted to stay “one” and avoid being “dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11). Their desire was to take the oneness of all the people of the time and presumably make a paradise on earth. Sound familiar?

In Genesis 11 we read that “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.” He was impressed, from our perspective. “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” This might be puzzling to some. Why would God have a problem with unity?

The implication was (and is) they wanted to be one without God. He knows this is impossible, because our natures, without Him, tend towards destruction. He is the source of light, life and love and anyone that wants to be apart from that cannot establish it. He is love; anything less is hate. The very idea of existence without the Source is repugnant to Him. He knows it means death. All that nice sentiment and wishful thinking from musicians, movie stars and politicians will not work without God. God knows it and gives us the choice – if you really want it come to Him.

God said, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand on another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city (Genesis 11:7-8).

The tower the ancients built we now call the Tower of Babel. All talk of oneness without the presence of God is just so much babble. It’s not just words either. It’s also the way we think. For all the talk of unity and oneness we remain scattered because our thoughts drive us away from each other. Without God to gather us together on His principles and character we will never be able to have one flesh, one bone or one true religion. Oneness will continue to elude us as long as we exclude the author of all things pure and clear. There’s no way we will experience love and oneness and paradise without the person who connects us all together in goodness and holiness.

Jesus the Christ was killed as the ultimate expression both of God’s love and human hate. We had the chance at paradise, brotherhood and all those nice things in the songs. We blew it at the Tower, and we blew it at the cross. We’re going to blow it again if we don’t accept Him, His ways, and His Spirit. He’s coming again to establish paradise. Paradise is in, around and through Him and His love. Reject the Christ and you reject all hope of oneness. There is no other way to build it. Believe God and follow what He says. Dedicate ourselves to build His kingdom or keep trying in vain to rebuild our own tower. We’ve got one more chance. The time is now.

Shalom

Bruce

God is Going to Live With Us!

Reading through the biblical account of the Tabernacle caused me to ponder a number of issues. I mean, to be honest, it can be quite boring trying to visualize while reading all of the details. I have difficulty placing all of the sockets, clasps, curtains and boards together into a coherent picture of what the Tent looked like. The initial preparations were extensive, but Israel also had to keep things going with many offerings and sacrifices. I’m glad my English Standard Version Study Bible has a picture and some helpful notes or I’d still be lost in the details.

It’s also difficult to see the relevance. Even if someone tells me that all of the parts and pieces, as well as the finished product and continuing handling instructions, represent some aspect of Jesus or His ministry, it still boggles the mind to try and see the connections. How does reading all of the details of the construction, transport and use of the Tabernacle apply to me today? Why are all of these somewhat tedious instructions included in the Word in the first place? I can see how the ministry of Jesus is represented, at least partially, but doesn’t having Jesus sort of make the Tabernacle unnecessary? So why include the details in the Bible? Was Moses bored and just kept writing because he had nothing else to do? Or maybe he wrote the instructions in case he died and the Tabernacle wasn’t finished?

A side thought was that I wonder if the inclusion of the instructions was for the future? What if Israel decided that instead of a Temple they could build a Tabernacle? A tent would be something portable they could set up easily and move if there was a problem with the building site for a temple.

As I pondered these issues it dawned on me before I completely zoned out that God was coming to live in Israel and the Tabernacle was one of the things they had to do to get ready. God is coming to live with us! How cool is that? For over 2,000 years at that time believers were separated from Him, wandering in the proverbial desert as the unbelievers built cities and kingdoms and seemed to have their way unendingly. Now He is reversing that separation and making a home within the nation of Israel. What excitement! What a monumental change! What a nerve-wracking event!

I know how my wife gets when we are expecting company. Everything must be cleaned and put in order. She makes me change my clothes and I have to put on my best jeans. If the company is really important I even have to shower. All the food is chosen with care with an eye towards what the guests might like. Any decorations are carefully assembled and placed or hung. Etiquette is reviewed and the children rehearsed in it. We want to make our company welcome and comfortable so they want to come and eventually come back.

So it is with the Tabernacle. God is coming to live with us! The people are getting ready for company and for a very special and unique company at that. Everything must be just so. Each item in the Tent needs special care and must be constructed with the utmost skill and talent given to the best craftsmen and finest artisans we have. Every stitch, every hammer blow, every forging, the tanning of all the skins and each and every thread simply has to be as beautiful and perfect as we can manage. So now when I read the instructions I don’t get a sense of an onerous God demanding slavery to useless details. I get a sense of the excitement we have when a special visitor is coming to our home.

Another connection to the Tabernacle popped into my head before I dozed off. You probably remember the verses where Jesus tells us that he is going to prepare a place for us. I wondered if perhaps He is as excited to prepare a place for us as we would be for Him.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1–3, ESV)

I don’t think He is building a tent, but still the idea is that He is also preparing for us to come and live with Him. Currently we are living in a tent (our body) that is not our permanent home. Living in a tent shows us that this place and our current circumstances are only temporary. The permanent home for believers is with God. When we are there we won’t be moving around like many of us do now.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:1–3, ESV)

In the meantime God lives with us in our tent. The blood of our Messiah, His only begotten Son, makes this possible. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God cleanses us so that God can come and live with us here and now. Jesus has made us clean. He has granted us forgiveness for sin and prepares a permanent home for us. He continues to forgive us our sins to maintain our relationship in this tent.

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14, ESV)

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (James 4:5, ESV)

Israel did not earn a right for God to dwell with them, He just granted it. It was His desire and only within His power that we be reconciled. We cannot earn any of His regard but He has given it to us anyway. This is what we call grace. So how do we prepare and keep this dwelling, knowing it is the residence of God? Do we take it all for granted? Do we presume on His graciousness, living out our own will? Or do we keep the preparations of our tabernacle going, finding and living His will? In view of the preparations for the Tabernacle, how do we regard the gift of God tearing the veil of the Holy of Holies and allowing unfettered access to His glory?

We can’t earn access to His presence; He just gave it to us. But we can make our dwelling holy by continually following His instructions for living. Like priests we can partake of the sacrifices as we consume the body and blood of the Messiah, which is every word He speaks. His Words are the showbread of life, and living them out we offer incense that is unlike any other.

God is living with us!

Shalom

Bruce

Read the Word Publicly

Just a note to let you know that we’ve posted a new article to the website titled Read the Word Publicly. We advocate reading large portions of the first five books of the Bible and the first five of the New Testament. We use an annual reading schedule that is popular in synagogues called the Parasha or Portion, except we modify it with New Testament readings. It takes a while in our meetings to read eight or ten chapters, but in a lot of ways it is much better than preaching.

The article is about eight pages and covers a number of reasons for why we think this should be a widespread practice among people who genuinely follow Jesus. Click on this link or copy and paste into your browser.

http://www.wholebible.com/read_the_word_publicly.htm

Oh yeah. The new Manna for Whole Bible Christians reading schedule booklet ready for printing is also posted on the site at

http://www.wholebible.com/Manna/MannaBooklet17_18.pdf

Shalom

Bruce

We No Longer Live in Christendom

Baltimore Sun October 23, 2017

Article: Churches merge, close: “We no longer live in Christendom. We really have to accept that it’s a thing of the past”

The quote above is from Reverend Daniel Webster, canon for evangelism and media for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He’s studied the trend of churches closing and merging for 20 years. The article presents his point of view, as well as documenting the decline in church attendance which occasions the closing and merging.

Jonathan Pitts, the writer of the article, offers Mr. Webster’s opinion of one of the most important factors in declining church numbers.

While it’s hard to pinpoint a single most important factor, Webster says, it’s impossible to ignore the repeal of most of the old state blue laws, regulations that had long placed restrictions on commercial activity on Sundays, starting in the mid-20th century.

Today’s faith leaders must compete with everything from youth soccer and pro football games to shopping at the mall.

Mr. Pitts doesn’t really spend much time on causes. He just assumes that competition from the world is the cause and details a number of church’s efforts to merge or close.

However, I do not agree that competition from the world is the cause of church closings and mergers.The world has always been in hostile competition with the Kingdom of God. Believers have been in a fight since the Garden of Eden with those who oppose God and His plans. Perhaps you’ll be surprised at my opinion that the church has also been in hostile competition with the Kingdom. The church (in general) and the world are not much different from each other. Churches claim to follow Jesus, but when we compare their beliefs and practices with the Bible we can see that they don’t have much in common. On the other hand, compare churches with the world and we can see that the real merging has already taken place.

Just because the church has some trappings that look Christian, does not mean a church is automatically part of the Kingdom of God or the body of believers. Much of what the church has done is to merge some stories and tradition borrowed from the Bible with self-seeking behavior. Way back in 325 A. D. when the Roman emperor Constantine took a fancy to some of the Christian concepts the merger with the world got a big boost. For centuries the visible church has been in a tug-of-war with the world sometimes holding to God’s Word better than at other times. But in modern times it has mostly been tugged in the wrong direction.

The church merged with the world a long time ago, and the loss of some people or buildings is not the biggest hurt. It is the loss of God’s Spirit due the refusal to do what God says that has really sunk the church. Churches might be shrinking or merging, but the body of Christ has been steady and growing because we hold tight to the Word of God, living and teaching it to all who would listen.

I don’t even agree that “we no longer live in Christendom.” Believers have never lived in Christendom. We are salted throughout the world, and even throughout the church or churches. A church member is not the same thing as a believer although there are believers who might be church members. The world has always been hostile to God and the body of believers, and we’ve never had a Christendom. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we no longer live in Churchdom.

Shalom

Bruce

Law, Restated

Just put a new article up on the website titled Law, Restated. It’s about the imaginary restriction some people put on the Law that it is not restated in the New Testament. Therefore it is not something we “have” to do. I beg to differ. In the article we look at the many ways the Law is stated and restated in different forms throughout the Old Testament. Then we’re ready to look in the New and see if the Law is there. The conclusion is that yes, the Law is restated in the New Testament.

So now what?

Of Pigs and Men

Jesus meets a demon possessed man near a herd of pigs in the country of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes as recorded for us in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. He commands the demons, who call themselves Legion, to leave the man, and Legion’s last request is that Jesus allow them to go into the nearby pigs. Granting Legion’s request, they leave the man and enter the herd of about 2,000 which immediately rushes downhill and drowns itself in the Sea of Galilee.

Whenever I read these accounts, one of the first things that puzzles me is that the people ask Jesus to leave the area. Why, I wonder, would they send away such a powerful miracle worker, one who had returned one of their brothers to them? Why would they not rejoice that a local travel hazard was removed? What if the demons left that man and infected others?

Some teachers say that the expense of the pigs was a factor. Jesus had just cost someone (or maybe several someone’s) a lot of money. Others say that these people weren’t supposed to be growing pigs for market because pork was not to be eaten according to the Mosaic Law. I get that these were possibilities, and perhaps they can stay in the mix for explaining the incident. But they just are not that satisfactory to me. Wouldn’t the loss of the pigs be worth removing a hazard like a man who could break chains and attack people? I’d think so. Were the citizens Jews, who would care about the Law, or were they gentiles, who wouldn’t? The ESV study Bible says that they were Gentiles, but there must’ve been some Jews around too. And Jews aren’t exactly known for always sticking with all of the Law anyway.

I was able to make a great deal of progress understanding this situation as I read further in Mark and got to the rich young man of Mark 10, and the question on the authority of Jesus in Mark 11. Now how, you may ask, did I connect the people of Gennesaret unwilling to allow Jesus to stay in the area with a rich man unwilling to give up his riches and the unwillingness of the chief priests to answer Jesus about whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from man? I’m glad you asked that. (You might be guessing at the same conclusion as I because of the way I phrased the question.)

The chief priests could not answer a simple question, because they refused to acknowledge that the authority of Jesus was from God. If they did it would mean that their authority was from man, and they would have had to give up their cushy positions. The rich man knew that Jesus was a “good teacher,” but not so much that he was willing to suffer economic harm to follow Him. The Gennesaret people knew Jesus was at the very least a holy man of God, but were not willing to suffer further economic harm in order for Him to have stayed in the area.

In other words, none of these people wanted to go all the way. They saw the miracles done by Jesus, acknowledged His power and authority, recognized that He was from God, but didn’t take the next step of risking everything to follow Him.

In modern times we find the same sorts of attitudes. We hear people saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” all the time, in song and prayer and sermons. We see regular attendance at a church service, with many an “Amen” during the preaching. There are bumper stickers and hats and T-shirts proclaiming that the wearers “know Jesus.” Mega-churches abound, pastors have carved out positions with nice paychecks claiming to speak for God, and television stars rake in the bucks while hawking their latest books and trinkets.

Very few will see the Kingdom of God because the ticket into the Kingdom costs a lot more than simply raising a hand and “going forward.” Faith is putting your money where your mouth is, like the rich young man refused to do. It is the willingness to give up possibly everything you have to follow Him, like the people of Gennesaret could have done. It is submitting your will to His, and giving everything to welcome Him into your heart unlike the chief priests, Pharisees, and other religious leaders then and now.

Jesus obviously had authority from God because He did what God told Him to do and taught what God wanted Him to teach. Everything Jesus did or said was right from the written Word, and could easily be checked if one wanted to do so. But we don’t want. We fear to give up our position, our money, our reputations or our lives because the short term suffering is not worth the long term gain.

Like Frank Sinatra or Cain, we want to do it our way. We want to retain parts of the world system and try to merge them into the Kingdom. We say “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. We want to patch the garment with unshrunk cloth because we don’t want the work of making it right. We try to fit new wine and old wineskins together when they are just not compatible.

We refuse to accept a message from the Christ because it will cause us too much trouble and might wreck the nice little corner of the world we have made for ourselves. It might cause us some discomfort. It might make us change. It might make us realize that even with the talisman of the name of Jesus we are still far short of what God requires of us.

Shalom

Bruce

The Demise of Christian Bookstores

Publishing a book is not an easy task. Traditional publishers want you to get a literary agent and won’t accept manuscripts if you don’t. A literary agent can be good or bad, but mostly they are limited by their own perspective on what will sell. What sells is frequently not really connected with the Bible or good Bible teaching but more likely something based on feelings only loosely connected with the Bible. If you write a book, as I think I have, that is not only biblical but comes from an unexpected direction then you are pretty much out of luck with traditional publishing. You won’t even get a second look.

Another huge problem in publishing is the Christian bookstore. My wife and I are getting ready to take another trip to see family in San Diego. So I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to buy some copies of my book and take them around to the bookstores there and see if they would like to carry some copies. I started researching on the web to find the stores and got a shock. One chain calling themselves Family Christian had just closed (something like 240 stores) after filing for bankruptcy a couple years previous. Another chain calling themselves Lifeway tells me on their website that they don’t accept Product that is self-published. The “Product” must come from a traditional publisher or a literary agent. A third option I remembered in San Diego was the Evangelical Bible Bookstore which was famous for a long time because they carried a lot of serious theology books, were very knowledgeable and helpful, and discounted their books. To my surprise they had gone the way of many independents and closed their doors too after 40 years in business.

Locally, the three or four independent Christian bookstores we used to have are also out of business. The only stores around here are a Barnes and Noble (not exactly a Christian hotspot) and a couple of church bookstores. We used to have a Borders also, but they bit the dust some years ago. You would think we could maybe try the church bookstores and see if they would carry our book. But the problem with the church bookstores is if you have a book that is not “church friendly,” such as our book Whole Bible Christianity, or you are not one of their own famous people or pastors, you are not going to get a fair hearing from them. They only carry stuff with which they agree, usually written by their own people.

The church bookstore does okay because the overhead is paid by the church, and they don’t have to meet sales goals. They are present just to push the publications and music of the particular church or denomination. Catholic bookstores sell Catholic books, Calvary Chapel sells books by Chuck Smith or others of their pastors, Christian Science sells their own teachings, and so on. Since Whole Bible Christianity just teaches the Bible, and we don’t push a particular church teaching, we are out of luck.

So why is the Christian bookstore (or even just bookstores in general) disappearing from the landscape? Many people jump to blame the internet, and Amazon in particular. They have a point. Amazon has a tremendous selection, fast shipping, discounted prices, and are open 24/7. But did the rise of Amazon kill the bookstore, or did Amazon and others like them come into existence because the bookstore wasn’t getting the job done in the first place? Did Amazon kill the bookstore, or did the bookstore help create Amazon?

In my estimation, Amazon or the internet in general has not killed the bookstore. It is also not the main factor hammering the traditional publisher either (traditional publisher sales, Christian and otherwise, are also slumping). Two things I think are doing it. One is the lack of vision; the ability to discern what people need and would want, or if you will, the ability to tell the difference between a good product and a bad one. The second is the church itself.

Publishers and bookstores have to make money. Printing is expensive, and carrying space in stores costs money. If a publisher prints a bunch of copies of a book and they don’t sell, it can get costly. A bookstore has limited space, so if a book doesn’t sell it is a double whammy because the space could’ve been used by a book that did sell. So the industry is forced to gear all of their decisions around what will sell. If they make a mistake it can get real expensive real quick. So the nature of the market causes them to be super cautious. The publishers use literary agents to sift the writers material, which helps a little, but the literary agents work off of commission and tend to be extra cautious also. They have reputations to protect too, because if they keep recommending books that bomb then they will not be able to continue in the field. Everything is driven by money, which is not necessarily a bad thing (costs have to be paid somehow) but it tends to make people in the industry want to find the guaranteed “sure thing” and stay away from stuff they simply don’t have the vision, skill, imagination or judgment to evaluate properly.

A couple of cases in point. The first Harry Potter book was universally turned down by every publisher by the account of J. K. Rowling. A book called The Shack which has become a multi-million bestseller (although I think it is a piece of trash) was also turned down by everyone. Many more examples could be listed, but I think you get it. People in the book industry have purposefully become dumber than a sack full of hammers, too afraid to take a chance because of the dollars involved and reputations that could suffer.

The same problem afflicts the Christian book industry. But another problem serves to double the damage, and that is the church. I will go out on a limb here and say that the church doesn’t teach the Bible anymore. They just teach opinions about the Bible. Pastors, priests and rabbis have (in general) made themselves into champion ear-ticklers. They have convinced themselves that no one wants the truth, because the truth may not fill the pew or the offering plate. The lure of a bigger paycheck, a mega-church or a spot on late night talk shows is too strong for most of them.

Obviously, the Bible is the champion bestseller in history, so why would we back away from teaching it? Money and ego, again. It is easier to write and sell a book catering to the latest fad or to sentiment than it is to take the time to learn and teach the Bible or anything from it. You also don’t (seemingly or immediately) get very far with Bible teachings because those require humility to learn and teach.

Fortunately, God doesn’t need the world’s systems (including the worldly church) to get His Word out. One way or another He gets the job done. His Spirit is causing all sorts of people all over the world to wake up and embrace the pure, plain, soul-saving teachings of the Lord of Life. We may or may not be able to sell a single book, but His work goes on and on for eternity. His holy, just and life giving will is being done, and you can come along for the ride if you want. A bookstore could find that the difference between bankruptcy and success lies in the radical marketing concept of the Book that beats all others. Publishers would see fewer reverses if they would just commit to serving up the meat of the Word instead of the bland, nutrition-less saccharine they insist on providing at the present time. If we submit to His Word we find that judgment for finding what really matters comes roaring back.

The bookstore, the publisher, and the church/synagogue are sowing the seeds of their own demise. Blame Amazon if you want and it makes you feel better. But you might want to look in the mirror instead.

Shalom
Bruce