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R.C.'s Bookstore Challenge
July 28, 2007
I’ve been reading R.C. Sproul’s latest book, The Truth of the Cross. It’s just a small book but you know that if Sproul is writing about the atonement that it will be well worth reading. Just seven pages in he discusses visiting a bookstore in a local mall. He found shelves and counters full of books with the categories prominently marked: fiction, nonfiction, business, sports, children’s stories, and on and on. In the very back was a religion section which consisted of only four shelves, meaning it was one of the smallest segments in the entire store. The material was not what could be considered orthodox, classically Christian. Sproul wondered, “Why does this store sell fiction and self-improvement, but place no premium on the content of biblical truth as part of its program.”
The answer is obvious. “I realized the store wasn’t there as a ministry. It was there for business, to make a profit. So I assumed the reason there were no solid Christian books was that there weren’t a lot of people asking, “Where can I find a book that will teach me about the depths and the riches of the atonement of Christ?”
While it seems that Sproul was in a mainstream bookstore, the same is true of most Christian bookstores I’ve visited recently. The few good books are sequestered in shelves furthest from the door and furthest from the flow of the foot traffic. Books sharing good theology are “destination” books that people look for deliberately. The junk rates the prime shelf spots. This is simple supply and demand. Most people who visit the store are not interested in good books on matters of profound theology. Instead, they want easy answers, quick fixes, and secret keys to easy spiritual growth. And this is what the market gives them.
So I got to thinking, I wonder what the people in my local Christian bookstore would come up with if I went inside and asked, “Where can I find a book that will teach me about the depths and the riches of the atonement of Christ?” Or perhaps I could ask, “What book would you recommend to teach me about the depths and riches of the cross?” Unfortunately the bookstore wasn’t on my list of things to do today, but I’ll be going near there next week and am going to drop in to see what they say. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a bunch of us did the same, just stopping by a variety of Christian bookstores to see what they can offer?
So how about a few of us try it? We don’t need to go looking for a fight or seeking to embarrass anyone. I’d just be interested in knowing whether Christian bookstore owners (or employees) are equipped to answer this question and what they might recommend to a person who wants to understand the atonement and who wants to glory in the cross.
Does anyone want to give it a shot? If so, drop by your bookstore and post a comment here (or send me an email) with the results. I’m guessing the results will be interesting.