Owen and Wesley being shortchanged in the bookshop

12 07 2010

The enormity of the debt owed by today’s church for the Christian heritage left by two giants of the faith, John Wesley and John Owen, is difficult to express in a short blog post.  The impact of their lives and writing have been the shoulders upon which many Christians have since stood and been enabled thus to see much further than they might have done if left to their own devices.  The ellucidation and application of the doctrines of the Christian faith although penned and practiced by these great men in a previous century continue to be a significant and guiding benchmark which we ignore or discard at our peril.

Nevertheless, at the present time higher profile and publicity are being offered to names like Gregory Boyd, Clark Pinnock, Brian MacLaren, John Eldredge and John Sanders.  Doctrine which is unbiblical and subversive to the central tenets of the Christian faith is being given high profile by both publishers and booksellers apparently driven by a market economy rather than by a mandate for exactitude in the whole counsel of God.  Shelf space committed to books on Open Theism, Emergent Church and ‘feel-good-about-youself-self-help-books’ dominates the readers eyes as he scans the Christian Life and Theological sections of the bookshop for well-hidden titles by more trustworthy and reliable guides.  One has to pick and chose very carefully to avoid the trap of swallowing some of the garbage we find nowadays on the shelves of the so-called “Christian” bookshop.

You may find it unacceptable that Christians should be guided in what they should and should not read but there is surely a strong case to be made for appropriate pastoral direction and oversight for the flock of God as they set off to feed in such pastures.  Society today is marked by their drive for freedom – freedom to read ALL and read WIDELY – it is our right and our privildege.  We will not be controlled or dictated to by some figure suggesting that certain matters might not be good for us.  Now while I would be the first to stand against outright censure we must ask the question, ‘Is it not right that we flag up the areas where thorns and thistles may choke the Word, and where the birds of the air may snatch away the Good Seed?’  Pastors of the flock, I say, “Warn your sheep!”  Not everything you buy in the Christian bookshop is truly “Christian”!

Even Christian publishers are no longer marked out by their faithfulness to traditional doctrines.  Commenting specifically on ‘Open Theism,’ William Davis notes the following (Beyond the Bounds, Crossway Books):

Christianity Today treats it as an evangelical option, offering both editorials that praise its proponents and links to the official open theism website. Thomas Nelson publishes and promotes The Sacred Heart and Wild at Heart. … InterVarsity Press publishes and promotes Clark Pinnock’s The Openness of God and John Sanders’ The God Who Risks. Baker Books provides publisher’s notes for booksellers that identify Gregory Boyd (The God of the Possible) and Clark Pinnock (The Most Moved Mover) as “evangelicals.”  Societies and gatherings of Christian scholars such as the Evangelical Theological Society and the Wheaton Philosophy Conference have welcomed and even showcased advocates of open theism.”

I wonder how and where Messrs Wesley and Owen from a previous century might have directed their flock…