- I'm not sure I believe Jim's story - would love to hear Rainer's side of the story. Given our pastors' penchants for fibbing in the pulpit, I am very skeptical of Jim's recount of the facts in this case - and the rapid disappearance of this article from the FBC Jax websites makes me even more curious and skeptical.
- I'm no fan of the book "The Shack" and I wouldn't recommend it...but my gosh do we need Jimmy Smyrl telling Lifeway what books to sell? Mac himself admitted he read the book - Jim must have read parts of it to know he doesn't agree with it - but Mac has said from the pulpit that he worries immensely about the things we read and Jim obviously doesn't want us to read it. NEWSFLASH TO JIM: We're smart enough to determine what books to read. We can also read blogs, and we can read newspapers, and we can research your sermon stories to see if you're telling us the truth or "speaking ministerially".
- It is amazing that Jim outted Rainer publicly on the blog. I wonder if Jim tried to address this privately with Rainer out of the public eye. Why did Jim decide to go public with it on a blog and accuse Rainer of going back on his word? I thought those that oppose this blog at FBC Jax have said disputes or questions should be handled man-to-man? So why is Jimmy doing this publicly? Jim implies in his article that Lifeway is offering the book for financial gain, and that they are offering theologically incorrect books because it is profitable. Strong accusations there, Jim.
- This is just another example of Jim and Mac's overall disdain for the laity. First, Jim thinks he can snooker his listeners by reading selected words from a commercial, and that no one will bother checking his facts to find out he is being deceitful. Now, Jim says:
"Lifeway actually believes Baptist readers can filter through the bad theology and not allow the gross misrepresentation of God to influence their thinking. The problem with that logic is the assumption that Baptists or believers in general have been taught to read critically. "
Uh, yes, Jim, we don't need you to be the sole arbiter of what religious books we do and don't read. My God, does Jim mean we need to have college credit in "Critical Thinking" to be able to discern fact from fiction, truth from error? Mac and Jim don't trust "uneducated" lay people. Doesn't trust 'em to teach a bible study (need small groups), doesn't trust them to deal with knowledge of bylaw changes, doesn't trust 'em to manage their finances or handle raises, and doesn't trust 'em to teach Church Training classes (had to disband that and bring in seminary classes). Sure Jim, you can tell us what books you recommend and don't recommend - but must you demand that Lifeway pull books from the shelves YOU don't agree with theologically? Mac and Jim think their sheep are just too stupid to think for themselves; they don't trust the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer to help them discern truth and error. We need Mac and Jim to tell us what to believe, what to read. We're just supposed to shut up, listen to Mac and Jim, and fork over our money to Mac and Jim to start satellites, purchase TV advertising for Mac and Honey and Mac's new school.
- If a shopper at the Lifeway website searches for "The Shack" on Lifeway's website, they will see a warning that says "Read With Discernment"...and it gives an excellent warning AND explanation of why they offer it...if you click on the "Read With Discernment" link you will see Lifeway even provides hyperlinks to critical reviews and explanations that would be helpful to a discerning reader. Lifeway I think trusts people, and trusts God and the Holy Spirit to help readers discern truth from error.
Lastly, some helpful advice to Jim: MIND YOUR OWN STORE JIM. You and Mac have enough problems and scandal at your own church before you go pointing fingers at SBC agencies that are NOT accountable to you. As a member of FBC Jax I'm sick and tired of you using our church website to blast Catholic priests, Obama voters, and now Tom Rainer and Lifeway. If you must do this, start your own blogsite and stop using our church name to lend credibility to your views. Maybe someone in the SBC needs to write a blog post about how Mac accepted a land gift and call him out and threaten to bring a motion to the floor of the SBC convention censuring Mac for that breach of basic ethical standards. How would you like the pastor of FBC Dallas preaching about how Mac lied in his pulpit about Sheri Klouda or about how FBC Jax is using trespass warnings to ban members who have been accused of blogging from stepping foot on the church property?
So stick to solving problems at FBC Jax, Jim. You've got your hands full.
"Lifeway Without the Way", by Jim Smyrl - as appeared at FBC Jax Website 1/28/09, and available in the Google website cache.
Word got out regarding the recommendation. I received a phone call asking for a meeting with Tom Rainer, President of Lifeway, and one of his associates. In a spirit of accountability, I took my colleague to the private meeting at the convention. In order to maintain integrity, I will not discuss the details or spirit of the meeting. I will confirm that in that meeting it was agreed that we would not go to the convention floor with the recommendation, on the basis that Dr. Rainer had, that day, taken steps to form a review committee that would scrutinize what went on the shelves of Lifeway. As an apparent bargaining chip, Dr. Rainer offered to remove The Shack from all Lifeway shelves and immediately did so upon my agreement to withhold the recommendation.
To my shame, as a man that did not know how the SBC hierarchy played the game, in just two weeks after the meeting, when time had passed for the recommendation to come to the floor of the convention and call Lifeway into accountability, Lifeway leaders made the choice to put The Shack back on the shelves. They placed a “warning to the reader” out to inform readers to be cautious and that books like the one in question were just fiction. It is incomprehensible that Lifeway actually believes Baptist readers can filter through the bad theology and not allow the gross misrepresentation of God to influence their thinking. The problem with that logic is the assumption that Baptists or believers in general have been taught to read critically.
Proponents of contaminated Lifeway shelves will readily inquire as to the viability of certain C.S. Lewis fictional works or Tim LaHaye works that may picture God in a less than biblically accurate manner. It is frightening when our convention leaders justify one gross misrepresentation of the very nature of God with a lesser misrepresentation of imagery relating to God. If Lewis or LaHaye serves as the standard by which we now choose our offerings on Lifeway shelves, I’m thankful they did not fictionally present Christ as a lesbian woman. If they would have lowered the bar to that extent, what would Lifeway leaders offer as Christian literature to young and immature believers today?
I believe believers should read from all genres of literature and have opportunity to critically examine all materials. However, for immature believers, such examinations should take place in environments where questions can be posed to them and answered from an open Bible. Such an environment does not diminish the priesthood of the believer, but rather allows pastors to build up a priesthood by properly equipping believers to become discerning, theologically minded readers. Currently, Lifeway offers poison and purity on the same buffet in hopes believers that purchase and ingest can discern, without help, between the two before damage is done.
When Scripture ceases to serve as the standard by which we make choices, even book choices we recommend to believers, anything goes. A few weeks after the convention Lifeway pulled from the shelves a magazine that contained a polemic in favor of women serving as pastors. Chris Turner, a Lifeway representative, said, “The buyers said the statements that were in it took positions that were contrary to what we would say. It wasn’t so much that there were women on the cover.” Who is “we”? What standard was used to make this decision? Why is such a standard not applied to much more influential books like The Shack or should I say, “much more financially lucrative books?”
Lifeway’s actions regarding this magazine should be applauded since women serving in such a role are clearly prohibited in Scripture. However, the inconsistency is glaring. Based on what is offered and not offered by Lifeway, are Southern Baptists to conclude that it is not acceptable to provide literature that presents women as pastors, but it is acceptable to offer literature that presents God as a woman? Or is the decision not ultimately about providing literature that promotes sound doctrine? Does Lifeway choose products that believers walk in, pick up, read and adjust life and belief accordingly based on financial gain? Would it not be better to have smaller stores, fewer employees, less merchandise, and lower profit margins in order to allow Southern Baptist pastors the ability to direct our people to a store that offers materials that represent God in the manner that He has revealed Himself?
Yes, it is the pastor’s role to equip the saints. Lifeway does not have the biblical mandate of the pastor. But why would Lifeway work in contradiction to the pastor’s effort to grow godly believers? Why would a Southern Baptist entity be allowed to offer materials that oppose the preaching in Southern Baptist pulpits? I say to Southern Baptists, either sever Lifeway from the Southern Baptist Convention or require Lifeway to fall within the boundaries of theological integrity in which our seminary professors and denominational agencies daily function.