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

The Arian Heresy

Arius was a guy who lived around 300 A. D. and came up with the notion that Jesus was created. He was a bishop in the “church” who challenged the teaching common at the time that Jesus was God in the flesh. Arius thought that Jesus had the nature of God, but wasn’t God. According to Arius Jesus was created first, then God created everything else through Jesus. In his opinion, Jesus was in every way just like God, but wasn’t God. A church council had to be convened to formalize the doctrine of Jesus as God in order to answer this heretical nutball.

There is no Scriptural backup for this doctrine, at all. In fact, any Scripture that teaches the opposite, that Jesus is God, is explained away by Arians acknowledging that indeed Jesus is in every way “like God” but just isn’t God. In other words, to Arians if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, has the nature of a duck, and does things only a duck could do, it isn’t a duck.

The proselytes of Arius in modern times come in slightly different forms and use various arguments to try and prove that Jesus isn’t God, but the arguments still have the same logical holes. Some, like the post on this blog by Timothy titled Yahweh and Yahshua, start off “just wanting to ask questions” but really want to shove their pet doctrine down people’s throats. Why, I have no idea. Well, wait a minute. I do have an idea. What Arius and his acolytes really want to do is tear down the Word.

This is how we recognize false doctrine. When you drill down to the heart of whatever it is they are trying to push you see that the basic idea is to destroy the integrity of the Word. They want to make it to where the Bible cannot be trusted to mean what it says. If they can destroy the integrity of the Word, then they accomplish two things: one is that the suckers that buy the doctrine stop following the Word; two is that we have to start listening to the pusher of the false doctrine. Because if we can’t trust the Word, we would have to trust the guy destroying the Word to tell us what it means. That way, the pusher of false doctrine gets the authority of God and becomes the Big Guy In Charge.

The logical holes in the Arian heresy are big enough to drive a truck through.
1) Jesus accepts worship (Matthew 14:33; 28:9). We are only to worship God.
2) Jesus forgives sins against God (Mark 2:1-13). Only God can forgive sins against God.
3) Jesus was crucified for “making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18; Philippians 2:6)
4) Jesus has the nature of God (Colossians 1:19), meaning He is “after the kind” of God.
5) Jesus would have to be related to both parties to be the kinsman redeemer.
6) Jesus was born of a virgin (the seed of the woman); He didn’t have the nature of Adam.
7) If Jesus was created, why would He have to be born?
8) Jesus claims to be God (Revelation 1:8, compare to Revelation 22:12-13).

These are just some of the major biblical arguments against the Arians. Apparently many of the Arians just can’t get past the idea that God could be born in human form; that He would allow Himself to be crucified; and that a perfect God would or could take on the sins of the world. So because they have a hard time understanding these perfectly clear Scriptural teachings, they make up an explanation that isn’t in the Bible. Then they have to twist and torque the plain meaning of the Word in order to back up their confusion.

Remember, though, the main purpose of doctrines such as this are to tear down the Word of God and make believers doubt. Then they can grab authority for themselves to “properly interpret” the Word. If you get some time, read through the previous post by Timothy. You will see he contradicts himself (saying that Jesus “loses his divinity” on the cross then later saying that Jesus didn’t lose his divinity for instance), confuses Scripture with opinion, and backtracks on a regular basis. A few minutes with people such as Timothy will get you going in circles in a hurry. Stick with the plain meaning of the Word, read it and do it, and you can’t go wrong.

Shalom
Bruce

Deadly Affirmation

Six times greater chance of suicide.

Average life expectancy 8 to 20 years shorter.

Nearly 100% cheating ratio.

Eight times more likely to contract hepatitis.

Fourteen times more likely to contract syphilis.

5,000 times more likely to contract AIDS.

Above average alcoholism and drub abuse rates.

Almost 100% regression into steadily increasing violent actions including sadism, masochism, pedophilia and murder.

These are some of the statistics. They are the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the truth about the homosexual lifestyle. When we “affirm” this choice, either by remaining silent or openly supporting the choice of a friend or relative, we literally condemn the person to vastly increased torture, pain and suffering.

I know. I’m not supposed to say things like this in a blog post. I’m supposed to write stuff that makes you feel good. Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. God will make everything better. There’s nothing really wrong with you – it’s the environment or your parents or your pastor or that pork you ate in your burrito last night. I’m supposed to continue making comfortable, soothing, encouraging music like those guys did on the deck of the Titanic, playing my heart out like there is nothing wrong, all while people are hanging on railings by their fingernails or clawing at the deck to avoid plunging into the icy embrace of death. But hey, as long as you can hum a tune as you’re going down it’s okay, right?

While only 2% of the population, homosexuals have much greater incidences of pedophilia, abuse, and murder. About 30% have had over 1,000 partners, about half of which they are with only once. A little fewer than half have had over 500 partners. This induces much callousness and indifference to the treatment of others. It hardens the heart and makes repentance extremely difficult. It also makes a mockery of marriage.

The reason more people don’t condemn the homosexual lifestyle choice and would rather “affirm” it? Because generally the behavior is a result of sexual abuse, physical and mental abuse, divorce and other sins coming from heterosexuals. We are the ones creating the homosexuals with our own hateful behavior. But we don’t want to renounce our sins, and we don’t want to be identified as the source of further evil. So we “affirm” the fruits of our own destructive lifestyle choices which in turn affirms our own sin.

The church has been the leader in backing away from God’s Word in order to “affirm” our own lifestyle choices. We have been giving ourselves permission to sin since sin entered the world. We don’t like the Law, and we call it “old” or “ceremonial” or at best for Israel only, so we can merrily indulge ourselves in whatever makes us feel better.

The gospel is not “God loves you” (though He does). It’s not primarily a message about you, it is about Him. The gospel is “God with us.” When God is with us so is His Word. We can’t have His love without also making the choice to affirm His lifestyle by living His Word. When we refuse to affirm the homosexual lifestyle, we affirm His lifestyle. We also affirm the fact that we are the ones responsible. We are the ones who divorce at the drop of a hat and will usually drop it ourselves. We are the ones abusing our children in hatred and thus encouraging them to turn to even more hateful lifestyle choices than our own. We are the ones who have abandoned His lifestyle. We have cut ourselves loose from the anchor of His Word in the bay of His love to drift out onto a sea of hate.

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. (Obadiah 15, ESV)

We are the ones who have to examine our own choices, confess and repent of the wrong ones, and affirm His ways over ours. There is hope and restoration available, but only in repentance, not affirmation of death.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18, ESV)

Shalom
Bruce

The Bible TV Series Review

I just got done watching the first two episodes of the series made for TV last year called The Bible. There is only about 40 minutes worth of viewing in each episode, and 10 episodes total. The first five cover the Old Testament, and the second five cover the New Testament. They are pretty abbreviated in their story telling, but given the light budget, the standard Christian (wrong) viewpoint, and the amount of ground they are trying to cover they don’t do too bad. It’s kind of like a condensed version of a Reader’s Digest condensed version.

Some of the scenes are funny (to me). Like the two angels that visit Sodom and Gomorrah – one is black and one is Asian. Trying to be politically correct I guess, but I also guess it could’ve been that way. The funny part is when the Asian guy goes all martial arts on the inhabitants of Sodom with two swords. It’s hilarious that Satan looks just like Obama in a robe.

Some of the details are just wrong. Noah’s kids are way too young. Lot’s daughters are way too young. Instead of a ram caught by its horns in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac, it’s a lamb caught by its foot. Pharaoh doesn’t die in the Red Sea with his army as he’s supposed to. Lots of minor details are wrong too. For instance Abraham doesn’t wander in a desert. It’s a good land with plenty of room for him and his family, and grazing for his flocks and herds. Probably would’ve cost too much in CGI money to make the land look as good as it was.

All in all, it’s not half bad. The producer’s standard Christian viewpoint is evident in the liberties taken with the text. They over dramatize some things and under-report others. On the good side they imply that the third angel talking with Abraham is Jesus (blurry shots, shots from the back). The not-so-good is seen in the skipping over of the Passover details. It’s as if it was made by someone with a knowledge of the key points of the Bible story, but little understanding. Which is why I say it’s standard Christian. Most Christians know the outlines of the stories, but very few have a real understanding coming from intimate reading and doing.

It’s not intended as a substitute for Bible reading. We should be so familiar with the real thing that we can easily identify where they went wrong. If this is all people will want to know of the Bible, then it is woefully inadequate. But hopefully it will encourage people to dig in to get the right of it. The book is much better than the movie in this instance. With all of the shortcomings at least the basics of the story are being told. A solid message that comes through loud and clear is “trust God.” For that at least the producers are to be commended.

Shalom
Bruce

Where God Guides, God Provides?

Did you ever hear this statement? Have you ever heard a statement that is dumber?

“Where God guides, God provides.” Does this mean that if a project, like a mega-church, has His name on it, that means He was the one who wanted it built? No. Is money the only determining factor? No. Can a church be built for other reasons than God’s? Of course it can. Can a ministry not have money and still be God’s? Yes. So is this popular saying from God? No.

The corollary to this is “where Satan guides Satan provides.” If Satan wants something built, he can also provide for it. Duh. The proof of the legitimacy of a ministry is in how it conforms to His Word, not how much money it has. Let’s see. How many prophets of God had money? (Hint: none.) Mega-churches? (None again.) A nice car (or chariot)? (You guessed it – zippo.)

Did God not provide enough money to Jesus? Is that why He was killed? He had a few disciples who deserted Him at the end, and no money. Does this mean that God wasn’t guiding Jesus? See how stupid this bumper sticker Christian statement is?

I think in some ways God’s provision is exactly the opposite. If you don’t have money, or scads of acolytes, there’s a much greater chance that you are being guided by God.

The determining factor is the Word, stupid.

Rating the Pastors

Back to the chart showing how pastors think about the job they are doing.

A more accurate rating should be: How well does your flock know the Bible, and how well do they live it?

Is your divorce rate, like so many churches, the same as the world’s?

Is your suicide rate, again as with so many churches, the same as the world’s?

Do your congregants use anti-anxiety drugs like the bread of communion?

Do the people with money have more influence and power than the poorer members?

Do you follow the whole of the Word, observing His holy days, His dietary guidelines, and His instructions for cleanliness? If not, why not? Have you instead been taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, precepts and teachings and elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ? (Colossians 2)

Are the discipline instructions in Matthew 18:15-20 followed in your church? Why not?

Jesus said that those who hear His words and do not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. How do we know our house is on sand? When the rain falls, floods come and winds blow and beat against the house, it falls down.

How many times has your “house fallen down” in upheaval and turmoil because of a pastor change? How many pastors do you know have fallen into transgression such as adultery and drug abuse?

Which is more common in your church, the fruit of the Spirit or works of the flesh? (Galatians 5:16-26)

Does your church look anything like the first century church?

Now how high does your pastor rate?

Do you think there’s a deeper meaning to the fact that diplomas are called “sheepskins?” As in, “wolves in sheep’s clothing?

Shadows and a Soft Heart

Following the whole of the Word of God is not about rules and regulations. It’s about a soft heart. A real believer cannot sit in judgment on the Word, calling some parts of it “shadows” and some parts “small things” not worth doing, and still claim to be following the big things. I’m sure Adam and Eve had a similar attitude when they decided that the dietary command concerning the tree of knowledge was a shadow, a small thing, and not worth doing.

Demons Confess Christ

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NASB95)

Building on yesterday’s post about Jesus telling demons to shut up about His being the Christ, what else can be learned?

Demons can say the right thing, and still be demons. Their nature and behavior doesn’t change just because they know the truth. In fact, they are intimately acquainted with the truth. They know it backwards and forwards. They just don’t adjust themselves to it. Even though the demons “confessed Jesus” with their mouths, their hearts were not in it. Confession goes all the way to the heart. It doesn’t stop at the lips.

The “doctrines of demons” Paul mentions to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:1-5) are doctrines that seem right, but they are not God’s truth. The truth is God’s Word. Those who know the truth and adjust themselves to it (change of heart) will know the difference between the truth and a doctrine from hell. We know the truth if we do everything God says. The demon doctrine might use some of the words of the truth, but will be a lie. A lie is any teaching that departs in the slightest from the Word.

One is coming who will pass off a lie as the truth in such a convincing manner that most will be buy into the lie. Only those who know the truth and follow it, whose heart is completely His, will be able to tell the difference. The lie will be close to the truth, perhaps even using some of the same words that God uses, but the end is death. And the spirit of antichrist is already here.

They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD. Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:3–6, ESV)

Feeling for Truth

From ‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 1 section on Feel for Truth

Dogma in Greek means “that which one thinks is true” and comes from the root word dokeo meaning “to seem good” or “to think.” But at some point we stop thinking and switch to what “seems good” but is not sustained by the Word.

One way that people enable a part-Bible church is that we substitute feelings for truth. According to the survey ‘Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings’ from Barna Research (February 2002; The Barna Group of Ventura CA; barna.org) many prefer to do whatever “feels right or comfortable,” or would “produce the most beneficial results.” Sadly, what is captivating many Christians these days is a form of godliness lacking in power and appealing to “various impulses.”

1But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7 NASB95)

A New Definition of Cult

From ‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 10 A New Definition of Cult

Cults are traditionally defined by somebody’s opinion of orthodoxy. The dictionary definition of orthodox is “conforming to the approved form of any doctrine.” In other words, orthodox means accepted opinion. Orthodoxy can include the Bible, but usually includes a lot of men’s opinions too. If a person or group is lacking in any of the ‘orthodox’ or accepted doctrine or dogma, then in the opinion of the ‘orthodox’ they must be a cult or part of one. With respect to Dr. Walter Martin, I propose a better definition of orthodox, and of a cult or cultist.

My definition of a cult or cult member is a group or a person who at most gives only lip service to God. This takes into account all those who smugly wrap themselves in church or synagogue doctrine, yet have no intention of anything more than lip synching the Word of God. It includes anyone who is in a ‘religion’ and denies the whole truth of the Word. It also gathers up all those part-Bible people who sit in judgment on the Word, picking and choosing what part of it they want to follow. Throw in all those people with doctrines that are used to separate us from abiding in His living oracles too.