Is Any Price Enough for Us to Sell Heresy?

March 6, 2009

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A few weeks ago a church member came to me and asked if I had read The Shack. I said that, with all of my other reading obligations, I had not. We had a brief conversation about the book, and what I heard alarmed me, so I made a note to myself to investigate the book later. Last week, as I was walking through LifeWay (the book store chain owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention) I noticed that The Shack was on the book shelf. Below the book was a special tag with a disclaimer. It read as follows:

Read With Discernment. This book may contain thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology. Therefore we encourage you to read it with extra discernment. For important background information and additional insight related to this book, please review the Author Briefing and related content at www.lifewaystores.com/readwithdiscernment .

To learn about the significant theological problems with The Shack, visit this blog. I also encourage you to listen to Dr. Mohler’s radio podcast, where he flatly declared, “This book includes undiluted heresy.”

After a quick perusal of the book and investigation of what others have written and said about it, I wonder why an entity that is accountable to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention would promote and sell a book that distorts the Trinity, declares Jesus as not the only way, and denies God’s wrath on sin. Would such teachings actually lead anyone closer to God or misdirect people from the truth of who He is? I realize that LifeWay is a business. I also realize that businesses must conduct themselves wisely in order to stay in operation. But LifeWay is more than a business: it is a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention to help Christians grow deeper in their faith. I cannot find any legitimate theological reason why LifeWay would endorse this book by selling it.

Back to my original story, about the conversation with my church member. When I began to question some of the things that she was telling me about the book, her remark was that the book had to be okay since LifeWay was selling it. Frankly, I had the same thought about LifeWay. They would not promote and sell anything that would be outright heresy or a impediment to someone’s faith, would they? As a pastor of a Southern Baptist church I would like to be able to direct my church members to a store where they can purchase spiritually fruitful items confidently without having to beware some items for purchase that are heretical.

We don’t need warnings on products from a trusted a source; we need a refusal on the part of our brothers and sisters at LifeWay to be unequally yoked with heresy. LifeWay is not a public library and should not promote or sell products that require discernment warnings—labels that are reminiscent of those put on music CDs with offensive lyrics. The Shack falls short of biblical Christianity, and for that matter, of the first-order doctrines contained in any responsible system of “theological triage.”

One may argue that this is Christian fiction, a genre that routinely takes liberty with theological concepts in its story line. My rebuttal is that whatever denies the basic tenets of our faith cannot be considered Christian and belongs at Wal-Mart or Barnes and Noble, not at LifeWay. I was talking with a friend and I brought up the subject of The Shack. His remark was that the battle for the Bible is really not over when LifeWay aids in the selling of books that contradicts clear biblical orthodox teaching. I ask, should we not “contend earnestly for the faith” rather than drive people from it?

I am saddened by the lack of theological wisdom and foresight involved in LifeWay offering this book. I pray that LifeWay will prove worthy of the trust that churches have given to her and take the Christian responsibilty to remove a book from its shelves and stock that is a detriment to “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”

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