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July 30, 2005

I suddenly find myself in a most strange position. After years of trying to provide rational discourse on Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven teachings; after posting discerning reviews of his books and even going through The Purpose Driven Life day-by-day; after expressing concerns with 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community; after posting an article just a week ago showing how Rick Warren seems to be involved in abusing his position to suppress a book; after having these articles read by hundreds of thousands of readers; after all of this people are accusing me of waffling on the issues. Why? Because I interviewed Richard Abanes.

This morning, Ingrid Schlueter, someone whose site I read and quite enjoy, posted an article entitled “Tim Challies Gives Richard Abanes Platform.” It has since been retitled “Richard Abanes on Rick Warren’s Critics.” You can read it here. While I suspect she was unhappy to see the interview on my site, she was at least pleasant. No so some others who have since emailed me. And for far worse than that, check out the comments at Ingrid’s site. Here’s a sampler:

“Thanks Tim, for helping Richard Abanes out of obscurity. His website, which registers almost no traffic whatsoever, according to the online services that measure such things, is sure to see an increase in hits, thanks to your pragmatic efforts. I suspect his book sales will improve, as well.”

“I dont care much what Challies says in defense of propping up Abanes. I watch his fruit trail….what he does.”

“Shame on you Tim Challies…Choose a side…oops…. it appears you have”

“Perhaps a few years in HELL will wake Tim Challies up to the unimaginable damage he has done to the kingdom of God and the cause of Christ!”

Despite those, there are a few which are more helpful. An Anonymous poster said, “I understand, but disagree strongly with Tim Challies posting this article…Brother Tim, I know you mean well, but in reality will you have caused even more confusion?” Now this is helpful. He or she respectfully disagrees with what I have written. I can learn from this type of exhortation.

Another person wrote, “I KNEW Tim was part of the end times apostasy… I just KNEW it! No one can have a website that looks that good and be serving God.”

A person posting as Clement of Rome writes, “Great, Paul… so now we need to start “discerning” Tim Challies?!?!”

Of course those are just plain funny.

You get the drift. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll soon find myself in the unenviable, though ironic, position of being examined by both sides of this controversy. I am simply astounded, amazed and shocked that people are so upset. I have posted two parts of a three-part interview (the third part, as indicated, will be reflections on the interview) and people are already turning on me and writing me off as a deceived tool of the Devil. Most of these, none-too-courageously, are doing so anonymously. At least let me post the third part of the interview. Surely by now I’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

So before you cast me outside the camp, at least think back to my contribution to the discussion about all things Purpose Driven. I think you’ll find that my record speaks for itself.

UPDATE

Ingrid posted the following at her site:

Good Grief!

When I posted the piece below it was by no means intended to be an attack on Tim Challies. I even altered my headline because I didn’t like the first one I put up. Tim Challies has been doing a wonderful job in bringing out many of the strange things that are going on in evangelicalism. I am not going to say that I’m pleased that given Richard Abanes’ anger and vitriol aimed at those who critique Rick Warren, he was allowed so much space to further the confusion, but I have nothing but respect for Tim. Tim has his site and he needs to run things according to the way he believes God would have him. The comment section here is clearly out of control. Let’s back up folks and take a deep breath. Yes, we do grow defensive when we have worked hard under a lot of attacks to speak the truth. But let’s give Tim a chance to post his concerns about Richard Abanes’ interview before we are ready to start making charges here. I understand the strong feelings of those who have posted because after seeing so much error promoted with big bucks and big campaigns, you feel very alone sometimes in standing for the truth. Let’s not let it get us so defiled we turn on others who may differ in their approach. My apologies for letting this get out of hand.

Thanks to Ingrid for posting that. While I knew she had not turned on me my concern was with those who did. Thanks for post that, Ingrid!

July 29, 2005

Justin Taylor points the way to RSSxl.

Justin Taylor points the way to RSSxl. I had never heard of this service before but it looks excellent. Bookmark it for when you just need to receive an update when a page changes. This is just one more good use for RSS!

July 27, 2005

As you may well know if you spend much time around these parts, I read a lot. A whole lot. In my reading I have noticed a disturbing trend in the way authors use the Bible to prooftext their books. This concern has led me to write this article in which I will suggest some guidelines for the proper use of Scripture in Christian books.

Before we go any further, let’s establish the purpose of using the Bible in a book. The goal in prooftexting or quoting from the Bible is to accurately represent and interpret God’s Word. We do not use the Bible to prove what we want it to say. Rather, we turn to the Bible to learn from God Himself, and then share what we have learned with others. We must have our priorities straight.

Let’s review the different types of Bibles available to us. They fit into three broad categories.

Paraphrase (also known as Free Translation) – Paraphrases attempt to translate ideas and concepts from the original text but without being constrained by the original language and words. They also seek to contextualize the Bible to the contemporary culture, eliminating the historical distance between the time the Bible was written and the time in which it is read. This allows them to be easy to read as they do not need to conform to the sentence structures of the original languages. However, they are also less-literal in their translation. The most widely-read paraphrase is The Living Bible, though in recent days The Message has become exceedingly popular.

Dynamic Equivalence (also known as Thought for Thought) – Dynamic equivalency attempts to create a consistent historical distance between the text and the reader so that the text has the same impact on the contemporary reader as it did on the original reader or listener. Because the translation does not need to be constrained to the original language and sentence structures, the text can flow smoothly, allowing it to be easily readable. However, dynamic equivalence requires some degree of interpretation as the translator attempts to discern not only the words of the author but also the author’s intent and meaning. The most popular dynamic equivalent translation is the New International Version.

Formal Equivalence (also known as Word for Word, Literal Translation or Essentially Literal) – Formal equivalence attempts to represent each word of the original language with a corresponding word in the English language. This allows the reader to know, as closely as possible, what God actually spoke through the authors of the Bible. The merit of this method is that it allows intimate access to the originally inspired words for those who do not speak the languages the Bible was written in. The downside is that it is possible for these translations to be awkwardly worded and follow difficult sentence structures. Examples are the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version.

The lines between these categories are sometimes blurred. For example, some would consider the New International Version to be a literal translation and others consider it closer to a paraphrase. There are other translations were parts are paraphrased and others are more literal.

Here are four guidelines for translating the Scripture. They are adapted from the writings of Leland Ryken which have had a profound influence on the way I understand the job of a translator.

  1. We must never lose sight of the fact that it is God’s Word that is being translated. These are not the words of fallible men but of a Holy God who is giving these words to direct our lives.
  2. The text must be translated as accurately and faithfully as possible from the original language to the receptor language.
  3. The translation must be readable so that it adheres to rules of English vocabulary, syntax and grammar.
  4. The translation must not seek to bring clarity to what is difficult in the original text. The interpretation must stay separate from the translation.

Based on this information I would like to propose the following as guidelines governing the use of Scripture in Christian books.

Use a default translation that is essentially literal.

Almost every Christian book has a notation a page or two from the front cover indicating what translation the author prefers to use. This will be the default translation throughout the book. The notation generally reads similar to this: “Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations in this publication are from the [insert translation here]). Authors should ensure that their default translation is essentially literal - a translation that attempts to accurately represent the original languages. Some examples of this type of translation are ESV, NASB, NKJV, KJV, RSV. The NIV is a good choice as well.

Use translations that are familiar to readers

Quote the familiar before the remix. Sometimes it is more valuable to quote a passage that is well-known but is poorly translated and then explain why it is a poor translation rather than simply quoting an unfamiliar translation. This allows people to read the author’s explanation within a context they understand. Think of Jesus who often said, “You have heard it said that…” He gave people the context of what was familiar before telling them what was more accurate.

Use paraphrases sparingly

Only use a paraphrase or translation that is not essentially literal when the new translation is more faithful to the original language than the primary translation. Be attentive that we do not allow the Bible to say what we want it to say, but what it really says! When you do use a paraphrase, indicate within the text that this is a paraphrase and not a literal translation. Indicate that this is an interpretation, not a translation.

Check your work

Just because a particular author or commentator says one translation of a passage is accurate, does not necessarily make it so. Before providing a new spin on an old passage, ensure that your new interpretation is correct. As R.C. Sproul indicates, if you are the first person ever to interpret a passage in a particular sense, chances are that you are wrong. When in doubt, check with other commentaries or authorities on translation. There are many online commentaries that may have all the information you need.

Conclusion

We live at a time when we are privileged to have available to us more translations and study tools than at any other time in history. But as much as these can be a great blessing, they can also do great damage if used incorrectly. Use translations carefully, always remembering that we are dealing with the Holy Word of God. Seek the Spirit’s help in presenting the Word accurately, seeking to to mold our lives by the Word, and not making the Word conform to our flawed beliefs.

July 25, 2005

Time Magazine recently listed the “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.” Predictably, topping that list was Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Saddleback Valley, California, and author of the bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life. The Purpose Driven Life is a phenomenon that defies comparison. In two years it sold over 22 million copies and easily became the best-selling hardcover book in American history. Hundreds of thousands of pastors have been trained in Warren’s Purpose Driven seminars and tens of thousands of churches have participated in his programs. Time gets it right when they say, “Although Franklin Graham is heir to the throne of the Billy Graham organization, many believe that Warren, 51, is the successor to the elder Graham for the role of America’s minister.”

America’s minister. That is a role to which many would aspire, but which few are suited to fill.

Like many other Christians, while I see that there is much to admire about Rick Warren, I have found myself concerned by certain aspects of his ministry and his teachings. Those concerns have led me to carefully study how The Purpose Driven Life became such a runaway success and how Rick Warren has risen to dominate the evangelical church.

On May 26th of this year, I posted an article on my web site that I entitled “PyroMarketing and The Purpose Driven Life.” This article was the result of extensive research I had done into the marketing that caused The Purpose Driven Life to be such a great success. I found a substantial amount of information describing the role played by marketing in the ultimate success of the book. I discovered that an author named Greg Stielstra had also studied the success of The Purpose Driven Life as well as other modern phenomena such as The Passion of the Christ. Stielstra is Senior Marketing Director for Zondervan, the company that published Warren’s book, and was a member of the team that handled some aspects of the marketing for The Purpose Driven Life (though not the subsequent programs such as 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community which were marketed from within Purpose Driven). Stielstra is a confident marketer who was once quoted as saying that “if he promoted a book about quilting ‘to one-tenth of one percent of left-handed quilters,’ he could land the title on the non-fiction bestseller list and prime it for even bigger success.” His observations about what made Purpose Driven Life, The Passion of the Christ and other products such triumphs of marketing, helped him clarify a metaphor he had been perfecting for many years. He termed this PyroMarketing. I found that he was writing a book, entitled PyroMarketing : The Four-Step Strategy to Ignite Customer Evangelists and Keep Them for Life.

At that time the publication date for the book was June 15 of 2005, a date which has long-since passed. I was eager to read more about PyroMarketing, so when the date passed and it was still not available I began to wonder what had happened. Only a small amount of investigation showed that not only was the book still unreleased, but there was no mention of the book or its author on the web site of HarperCollins, the company that was to publish it. Neither was it listed as one of their “Upcoming Books.” A web site dedicated to the book, pyromarketing.com, which is registered to DDM Marketing & Communications now says simply “Coming this July.” Information that had at one time been available, such as PowerPoint presentations and Adobe Acrobat documents, as well as what appeared to be an early draft of the book’s introduction, had been removed.

I found this strange and, being curious as to what had happened, decided to pursue this further. I soon began to hear whispers which indicated that the book had been suppressed from within the HarperCollins organization. Someone, it seemed, had brought pressure to bear on HarperCollins so that the company felt it was unwise to publish the book. Could it be possible, that Rick Warren, who is the bestselling author for Zondervan, whose parent company is HarperCollins, or people within his organization, could have used his influence to block the publication of this book? My suspicions were confirmed when I read a recent article in Publishers Weekly. But before we go any further, I will need to provide some background information on PyroMarketing.

Greg Stielstra

Allow me to introduce Greg Stielstra. As mentioned, Greg is the Senior Marketing Director at Zondervan. The authors he has worked with in his fourteen years with the company read like a who’s who of Christian publishing. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked with the biggest names in publishing Philip Yancey, Lee Strobel, Jim Cymbala, Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend, Joni Eareckson Tada, Billy Graham, Dan Qualye, Oliver North, Dave Dravecky, Rick Warren, Kurt Warner, Mike Singletary, Dr. C. Everett Koop, Rosa Parks, Dr. Ben Carson, and others. My work for these authors has won many accolades for marketing excellence, and my track record includes 88 best sellers, 20 #1 bestsellers, and eight books that have sold more than a million copies. Five of these books made The New York Times bestsellers list, including a title that reached #1 and remained on the list for over two years.”

Through his career Stielstra came to realize that many of the principles used by marketing companies were no longer applicable to the modern (or postmodern) consumer. Growing tired of old marketing metaphors based on water or viruses, he observed examples of marketing that had provided stunning results and created a way of understanding marketing based on a metaphor of fire. He termed this PyroMarketing.

The key to successful PyroMarketing is to understand marketing as fire. Founded on the hard fact that we are bombarded with advertising, and that brute-force advertising is simply no longer effective, PyroMarketing attempts a new approach appropriate for the twenty-first century. Interestingly, Stielstra compares the success of The Purpose Driven Life with another surprise hit, The Passion of the Christ. “The success of The Purpose Driven Life or The Passion of the Christ, remains puzzling to many, but not to those who know their secret. What do these remarkable success stories have in common? They each used PyroMarketing.” The technique is well-described in a little song you may have sung while sitting beside a campfire:

It only takes a spark to get fire going
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
You spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

PyroMarketing is built around this metaphor of fire. Stielstra says, “Every fire needs fuel, oxygen, heat and the heat from the combustion reaction itself. Heat excites the fuel, breaking its molecular bonds at the ignition point freeing the fuel’s electrons to abandon the fuel and join with oxygen in the surrounding air. Ignition temperatures vary significantly from one fuel to the next. The reaction gives off additional heat which excites neighboring fuel and causes the fire to spread.”

Just as fire depends on fuel, so does marketing. Just as ignition temperatures vary from one fuel to the next, so do the “ignition points” of consumers. And just as fire spreads, so excitement about products spreads. “In PyroMarketing consumers are the fuel and their ignition points also differ widely. There is money stored in their wallets, but there is a very strong bond between consumers and their money. Marketing provides the heat that excites them and, if it can heat them beyond their ignition temperature, it will cause them to exchange their money for your product or service.” This approach empowers “consumer evangelists” who will do the most important and effective marketing on a product’s behalf.

The four steps of this marketing approach mimic the steps of building a fire:

  1. Gather the driest tinder - “These people have the lowest ignition temperature relative to your product. The slightest heat from your marketing causes them to light and burn hot. This is the only group whose ignition temperature is within reach of traditional advertising.”
  2. Touch it with a match - “Let people experience your product or service. If you want prospects to laugh, don’t tell them you’re funny; tell them a joke. Experience is hotter than advertising and can ignite even the mildly interested.”
  3. Fan the flames - “This means equipping your customers to spread your message more effectively through word-of-mouth. Personal influence is hotter than advertising or experience and the only way to convert the apathetic masses. Reach them by leveraging the power of passionate customer evangelists.”
  4. Save the coals - “Keep a record of the people you find with your marketing so that each new campaign builds equity you can tap in the future.”

Perhaps the most important concept to grasp is the cyclical nature of this approach. Saving the coals allows a marketer to repeat the process, as the coals can be used to ignite further dry tinder. The coals represent the equity that can be tapped in future campaigns.

If The Passion of the Christ and The Purpose Driven Life are any indication - and Stielstra makes it clear that they are - this approach seems to provide results and is well-suited to bring success in the 21st century.

PyroMarketing and The Purpose Driven Life

Greg Stielstra was Director of the team within Zondervan that was responsible for marketing The Purpose Driven Life. While he was responsible for marketing only particular aspects of the book, he applied his PyroMarketing principles to any areas which fell under his responsibility. In examining the wider Purpose Driven marketing campaign, he came to realize that The Purpose Driven Life made a compelling case study for PyroMarketing. While they were unaware that they were doing so, and in all likelihood had never heard the term, the Purpose Driven ministry team perfectly applied the four principles of PyroMarketing to such campaigns as 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community. At the risk of repeating myself I would like to make it clear that Greg Stielstra was involved in only a small part of the marketing effort for The Purpose Driven Life and does not claim to be the primary reason for its success. But when he studied the wider marketing effort he came to see that it was a perfect case study for his philosophy of marketing.

  1. Gather the driest tinder - Purpose Driven gathered the driest tinder by seeking out the people who were most likely to respond positively to their campaign. They found 1200 pastors whose congregations totaled some 400,000 people. Using existing credibility gained through Warren’s prior book The Purpose Driven Church and through Purpose Driven seminars, they convinced 1200 pastors to begin a 40 Days of Purpose campaign in their churches. These people were gathered with the promise (or at least suggestion) of success - that by following this campaign they would have bigger, stronger, more successful churches.
  2. Touch it with a match - Having found 1200 pastors who would lead their churches in this campaign, Zondervan produced commercial spots and had them played on Christian radio stations in target areas. This generated some excitement about the program and even provided a small amount of brand recognition. They did not actively promote the book, but the campaigns that were beginning in local churches. For six weeks, following a video introduction by Rick Warren, those churches taught messages prepared by him and studied his book in small groups. Zondervan discounted the book to just $7 (from the usual $20) to promote it to the 400,000 people attending these 1200 churches. The flame was now burning, if only in a small way.
  3. Fan the flames - Zondervan fanned the flames by promoting the book and the associated programs as evangelism. They told how this book had changed lives and grown churches within those 1200 congregations that formed the initial campaign. A company called Outreach marketing produced posters and door hangers and other items to assist churches as they spread the word. Zondervan provided retailers with marketing tools like postcards and emails along with a list of participating churches so they could sell them any additional copies they needed. The pastors and laypeople who had already completed the program, largely unknowingly, became consumer evangelists. The flames spread.
  4. Save the coals - Zondervan gathered information on every church that had done the program, and wherever possible, on the individuals who had participated. They gathered email addresses through their web sites. As more Purpose Driven products become available, Zondervan can market them to a group that has already expressed interest in this type of product. According to Stielstra, saving the coals “is how your marketing budgets build equity and the only way to expand your business with marketing budgets that stubbornly refuse to grow. There is a great deal of scientific evidence for PyroMarketing from psychology, physiology, and sociology.” The coals are now gathered, prepared to heat up a fire that is dying down, or to begin a whole new one.

Following the success of The Purpose Driven Life and other phenomena that displayed the value of PyroMarketing, Stielstra decided the time was right to publish a book explaining his philosophy of marketing. Without claiming credit for its success, he sought to explain the success of the book through the principles of his marketing philosophy. HarperCollins Publishers agreed to publish the book, which was to be titled PyroMarketing : The Four-Step Strategy to Ignite Customer Evangelists and Keep Them for Life and was expected to reach store shelves by mid-2005.

The Suppression of PyroMarketing

Apparently at some time during 2004, Stielstra met with Bucky Rosenbaum, who at that time was Rick Warren’s literary agent. Rosenbaum has since gone on to become President of Purpose Driven Publishing. Rosenbaum expressed no great concern with the content of the book and made only three requests. First, he asked that The Purpose Driven Life not be the only case study used. Second, he asked that Stielstra write from the perspective of an observer rather than as a team member. In other words, he wanted to ensure that Stielstra did not claim that his marketing technique had been the textbook for the Purpose Driven ministry team. And finally, he asked that he have access to the manuscript prior to publication. While he was under no obligation to do so, Stielstra, as a courtesy, agreed to these requests. According to Publishers Weekly, “On July 6, 2004, Stielstra wrote Warren a letter outlining those three points and included a sample from the book that illustrated how references to PDL were being incorporated. Stielstra e-mailed the letter to Rosenbaum. “Within hours of receiving the e-mail, Bucky replied by saying, ‘This is fine and consistent with our agreement.’”“

A short time later, it seems that Stielstra received a phone call from Doug Slaybaugh, an executive at Saddleback Community Church. He expressed grave concern with the content of a speech Stielstra had made a short time before and indicated that he would do all within his power to ensure every mention of The Purpose Driven Life was removed from PyroMarketing. His concern seemed to be that Stielstra was attempting not only to explain the success of The Purpose Driven Life through PyroMarketing principles, but also that he was attempting to take undue credit for his role.

By this time Rick Warren had a new agent, Jeff Slipp. Slipp contacted Zondervan and expressed his expectation that they would procure the manuscript from HarperCollins. They were able to do this. After reading it, Warren’s agent asked to edit the manuscript and make changes as he saw fit. Stielstra refused, but offered to discuss this man’s concerns. Eventually, due to pressure from Zondervan and HarperCollins, Stielstra did make at least two rounds of changes to the text. The agent finally approved the manuscript and indicated that he would pass it to Rick Warren.

Not long afterward, it appears that Rick Warren contacted Zondervan’s President, Doug Lockhart, and demanded that all references to The Purpose Driven Life be removed from PyroMarketing. Apparently this demand stemmed from a concern that this book would make a clear connection in the mind of the reader between The Purpose Driven Life and marketing technique. Lockhart returned to Stielstra, suggesting that he remove all references to Warren’s book and that he find examples of his marketing principles from the 2004 Presidential campaign. He declined. To this day Stielstra has refused to edit those portions of his book. HarperCollins has not published PyroMarketing and will give no indication as to when or even if they will do so. At this point the book is more than a month past its publication date and has not yet been printed. As indicated earlier, all mention of the book has been removed from HarperCollins’ web site. Amazon sent a notification to customers who had pre-ordered the book indicating that it had been delayed and providing order-cancellation information. The site currently shows an August release date. It now seems unlikely that this book will ever be published, at least unless HarperCollins returns the rights to the book to the author so he can find a new publisher. To this point they have refused to do so. According to an article published in Publishers Weekly, “Harper senior v-p/director of corporate communications Lisa Herling declined to discuss Stielstra’s assertions, noting only that Pyromarketing “is still in the editorial process, and the publication date is yet to be determined. We do not discuss the details of our editorial process nor our conversations with our authors.” Warren’s organization referred PW to Zondervan.”

Publishers Weekly also quoted Stielstra as saying, “It’s becomes apparent that a resolution is far, far away. If HarperCollins isn’t going to publish my book and they don’t want to upset their largest author, I can understand that. Just give me back my book.”

What Happened and Why?

Is Rick Warren, America’s Pastor, using his power to suppress this book? If so, what value is there in denying the truth of what made The Purpose Driven Life such a success?

Based on the information available to us we have to conclude that Rick Warren or his representatives brought his considerable influence to bear on Zondervan, and thus on HarperCollins, demanding that this book be suppressed. Warren represents a significant source of revenue for these companies. Not only is he the biggest selling author for Zondervan, but he is also the bestselling author for the parent company HarperCollins. It seems that they felt they had to cater to his demands, for his influence far outweighed that of Stielstra.

But why does Warren fear this book? From all I could find, Stielstra has never written anything negative about Rick Warren or The Purpose Driven Life. If anything, he has praised both the book and the author and appears to respect Rick Warren as a pastor and as a church leader. After two rounds of changes that were subsequently approved by Warren’s agent it seems clear that the book will be likewise positive in tone. What would cause a person to knowingly risk interfering with a contract made between two other parties? Based on the comments made by his representatives, it would seem that the explanation lies in Warren’s fear that his critics will misinterpret the book and twist Stielstra’s words to prove that Warren is not a pastor, but a marketer. He feels that people will come to view The Purpose Driven Life as a marketing success rather than a ministry success. This may also impact Warren’s global P.E.A.C.E. plan which is in the beginning stages even now. Perhaps when people become aware of PyroMarketing techniques they will come to see themselves as “glowing coals” and realize they are part of a larger marketing campaign.

Strangely, and perhaps ironcially, few people would list marketing as a primary concern with The Purpose Driven Life. Only a brief survey of various reviews and critiques proves this to be true. Having studied almost all of the available information about The Purpose Driven Life and the principles of PyroMarketing, it is clear that the book does owe much of its success to this type of marketing. The Purpose Driven Life was not merely a grassroots, word-of-mouth, ministry success. It was a well-planned and carefully-orchestrated marketing triumph.

Based on this information, it is only right and fair that Rick Warren and his representatives retract their demands and allow PyroMarketing to be published. Zondervan must follow suit, freeing HarperCollins to publish this book. Supreme Court Justice Luis Brandeis once said, “men feared witches, and burned women.” Misguided lawmakers have often tried to control their critics by restricting their right to self-expression. But just as the women who were killed in Salem did little to solve the problem for which they lost their lives, so suppressing PyroMarketing will do nothing to silence Warren’s critics, for marketing is among the least of their concerns.

Sources Cited

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA628774.html?display=breaking (Subscription required)
http://www.pyromarketing.com/documents/PyroBio.pdf
http://www.pyromarketing.com/documents/MagazinePublishers_script.pdf
http://www.pyromarketing.com/documents/PyroExcerpt.pdf
http://www.pyromarketing.com/documents/GregStielstra_Presentation.pps
http://www.pyromarketing.com/documents/WOMpresentation.ppt
http://www.pyromarketing.com/documents/WOMoverview.doc

July 25, 2005

Hang on to your hats, because I am about to spiritualize (and very possibly trivialize) one of the great laws of physics. Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, in its simplest form, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Take a look around and you will see this law in action every day.

Have you ever seen a slow-motion replay of a big boxing match where the broadcasters show the punch that finished the match? A gloved fist flies towards a face and at the moment of impact you can see the law in effect. As the glove meets the face, it reacts according to the amount of force applied to it. When the fist meets flesh, the point of impact is compressed inwards – perhaps a cheek is pressed into the boxer’s mouth. As that happens, the force of the punch pushes the entire head in the same direction as the fist is travelling. The opposite cheek sags eerily outward and a spray of sweat flies off the man’s body. The action of the fist striking with stunning force produces an equal and opposite physical reaction.

While this law is true in the physical world the framework of this law applies equally to truth. Through history we have seen that for every truth God reveals about Himself, there arises an equal and opposite error. Whenever God has chosen to reveal new truth about Himself, an opposite falsehood has arisen to lead people astray from the Lord.

The history of truth’s progressive revelation to mankind is not constant. Through history we have seen that for truth to progress, God must first reveal it in an objective sense. There must then be a combined effort on the part of God and men to subjectively reveal that truth to church or society. Where the objective revelation may take place in a moment or a day, the subjective revelation may take years or ages. Consider God’s revelation of His Law to Moses. In just a short while He wrote the Law on the tablets, objectively giving His Law to a particular man. It was then the combined task of God and Moses to subjectively integrate these Laws into society.

History, then, when viewed through a wide lens, is a series of these great epochs as God first makes an objective revelation and men then slowly integrate this truth into society. The first is an action on God’s part and the second is a reaction on the part of men. While there is always a positive action in reaction to truth, there is also an opposite negative reaction that arises in direct opposition.

J.A. Wylie describes the waves of action and reaction as being similar to the tide rising on a beach. A great wave crashes down on the beach, and for a moment it seems that the beach and the land beyond must be flooded. But in a moment the ocean’s fury is spent and the wave retreats, washing back towards the sea. But a careful observer will see that not all the ground that was gained by the great wave has been lost. Before long another wave crashes on to the beach and more land is gained by the ocean. And thus, by a series of advances and retreats the tide flows in and the beach is gained. And so it is with truth.

I want to briefly consider this in the contexts of four of the great epochs in history: God’s original revelation, God’s revelation to Moses, early Christianity and the Reformation.

Revelation After Creation

At the close of Creation God created a man in His own image and placed him in the Garden of Eden. The crowning achievement of His Creation, man was given a position of great honor and responsibility. Man was given dominion over the earth and entrusted with the responsibility to tend it. Everything was given to him but a single tree – the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man walked in perfect communion with God. We do not know what truths God revealed to man at that time, but we can presume that it was just exactly what he needed – no more and no less. God told man what he needed to know to thrive in a perfect world. It was in this beautiful world that there arose the first error as Satan convinced man that He could be like God. In opposition to the truth that man is limited and God is infinite, arose the opposite error. Satan convinced man that he could be like God. The waves receded so that by the time of Noah the Bible tells us everyone on the earth, with the exception of Noah and his family, hated God and sinned continually.

truth gradually progressed in society. But as truth had progressed, so had error. Paganism took root as the opposite of the pure worship of God. The tower of Babel arose as men reached to the heavens to usurp the glory due only to God. We see that paganism, though in a primitive form, arose and thrived as the evil alternative to God.

Mosaic Revelation

Many years later God’s children found themselves in bondage to the Egyptians. It must have seemed like the world contained nothing but darkness and surely the Israelites must have felt that God had abandoned them to their sin. But this was not so. Just when it seemed that things could not deteriorate any further, God providentially raised up Moses. After leading the people from their slavery, God gave Moses new revelation about truth. Over the course of many years, this truth was subjectively integrated into the Israelite society. The tabernacle and later the temple were built as places to worship God. The feast days were integrated into the calendar and the ceremonies into times of worship.

During this time error also increased in direct opposition to the pure truth of God. Baal worship progressed in its influence and in its evil. The ceremonies of pagan worship grew in proportion to match the ceremonies of god-ordained worship. God’s people were continually led astray by more developed forms of pagan idolatry that directly contradicted true worship.

The Early Church

Jesus’ death marked the end of the Mosaic era. The ceremonial and judicial laws were fulfilled in the Savior. In place of law and ceremony God planted a church – a church that was not merely an extension of His plan for His people but was the fulfillment of His plan. His eternal plan led to this church, composed of men and women, Jew and Gentile, black and white – a church of people from all races united in their love of God. But the laws of truth were in effect even then, and there quickly arose opposite errors. The simplicity of the early church was polluted as jealous men fought for rank and position. Whatever God instituted was quickly matched by a corrupt opposite. Simplicity gave way to symbolism, free grace to man’s work and sacrament to ritual. The early church gave way to a Roman religion that for over a millennium seemed to hold back the tide of truth’s progress.

The Reformation

Once more the waves receded so that the beach again appeared to be bare. Once more it seemed that God had allowed the shadow to cover the earth. But there, in the 16th Century a light flickered. God allowed one man, Martin Luther, to take a stride forward in truth. Following in Luther’s footsteps other men came to rediscover great truths that had seemingly been lost since the time of the apostles. Within just a few years this truth had been integrated into Christianity in the movement that came to be known as the Reformation. Similarly, within a few years, there had arisen errors to match these ones. As truth unfolded in a more complete form, so more complex errors were invented. Arminianism arose as a means of lessening the terrifying prospect of God’s absolute sovereignty. Catholicism continued its corruption, attacking the principles of Protestantism – Christ’s sufficiency, His completed work and God’s free grace.

And So On

And so it continues. Even in our present day, hundreds and thousands of years after these great revelations, truth marches on. The truths God revealed to Adam, to Moses, to the apostles and to the Reformers continue to challenge the church. There is little reason to doubt that more epochs will unfold, or perhaps are unfolding even now, as God more fully reveals truth. As truth progressively unfolds, error continues to oppositely assert itself.

It is of foundational importance to understand that while each truth further strengthens its position, each error further corrupts the attempts to undermine God’s revealed truth. Each truth draws closer to perfection while each error draws closer to destruction. Just as a child lies to his parents and as his ficticious story progresses it becomes less and less plausible, so error upon error progressively undermines the position of those who fight against truth. God’s truth must and shall prevail. In the end error will be destroyed; truth will reign supreme and shall be fully revealed. We will know truth even as truth knows us. Truth will win in the end.

I first posted this article over a year ago. Just yesterday my attention was drawn to it when Steven G. Brant linked to it in an article in the Huffinton Post. His article was subsequently picked up by Yahoo and suddenly there are hundreds of people linking to the article. I thought it would be interesting to post it again and have some discussion about it.

July 21, 2005

Before we go any further I’d like to point out that the title of this article is meant entirely in jest. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be like me, nor do I encourage anyone to walk down that road. The title just seemed so much more interesting than “10 Really Swell Books I Liked A Heap” or something of that nature. You understand, I’m sure.

Anyways, what I wanted to do was list some of the books that have been most foundational in the development of my faith. And I didn’t include the Bible as it was just far too obvious. This began as a personal exercise, but after going through all the work of scouring my dusty bookshelves and my even-more-dusty mind, I thought I’d share the results with you.

So here you have them, in no particular order.

Whatever Happened To The Gospel of Grace? (James Boice)

A book I read early in the time that I really began to seek out the differences between mainline evangelicalism and the Reformed faith. This book helped reinforce the importance of recovering our identity in light of the solas of the Reformation.

My Review

Ashamed of the Gospel (John MacArthur)

My favorite of all MacArthur’s books and the one that impacted me most. Ashamed of the Gospel showed me the danger of being complacent in my faith and encouraged me to stand strong for the Gospel, especially within the church. This is an absolute must-read that touched me deeply and is one of the few books I have read multiple times.

My Review

Decisions, Decisions (Dave Swavely)

I found this book at a time when I was struggling with fallout from Blackaby’s Experiencing God. I was looking for biblical insight on how God speaks and what role experience plays in discerning his will. This book was a biblical defense of the traditional Protestant understanding and shaped my understanding of how God speaks.

My Review

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace (Michael Horton)

Is there was any doubt in my mind about the biblical foundation of the Doctrines of Grace (ie Calvinism) they were erased by this book. I recommend this book to more people than any other as no other book has done as much to form my knowledge of and love for the principles of the Reformed faith.

My Review

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (J.I. Packer)

Still the most accessible work on the relationship of human responsibility and Divine sovereignty in evangelism, this book answered more questions than I can number. Packer explains the apparent contradiction and provides constant insight and encouragement. This shaped my view of evangelism in a Calvinistic context.

My Review

The Murder of Jesus (John MacArthur)

I read this book around the time The Passion of the Christ was released as I sought to more fully understand Jesus’ crucifixion. If everyone who watched the movie had read this book, the church would be much, much stronger. This book helped me grow in my understanding of what Jesus death accomplished.

My Review

Total Truth (Nancy Pearcey)

Total Truth is an exposure of the bifurcated worldview that has been adopted by far too many who profess to be Christians. This book caused me to examine the importance of worldview and to look deeply into my own heart to see where I had succumbed to this split between facts and values. It has caused me to live a life more consistently pleasing to God.

My Review

With Reverence & Awe (D.G. Hart and John R. Muether)

Despite being ultra-Conservative (more so than myself), Hart and Muether gave me much to think about in regards to biblical, Spirit-filled worship. They helped me realize that what is free is not most pleasing to God, but what is free within the boundaries of his will. They taught me much about worship consistent with my Reformed faith.

My Review

Selling Out The Church (Philip Kenneson and James Street)

While it seems silly to include a book I read less than two months ago, this book has often been on my mind since then. The authors helped clarify in my mind the difference between marketing and a marketing orientation within the church. They helped me understand the dangers of adopting a marketing mindset. This book is a solid refutation of the church marketing that we see in the Evangelical church.

My Review

L’Abri (Edith Schaeffer)

It may seem odd to include this book since I have never read it. But my parents, as well as many of their friends and influences, were profoundly shaped by the Schaeffers. My parents spent more than a year at various of the L’Abri locations. I could not count the number of times I heard my parents (and my mother especially) refer to Edith and Francis Schaeffer. So this book stands as a tribute to the greatest influence on those who most influenced me.

If you would like to post a similar list on your blog and want to borrow my code, send an email and I’ll let you have the code. I’d love to see which books have most influenced you.

July 21, 2005

Update (5:43 AM) - I am experiencing occasional issues with phpbb errors. If you get one of these please let me know. I think if you refresh your screen it will go away.

As you may have noticed, the web server that hosts this site crashed last night somewhere around 6 PM EST. It was still down when I turned in at around 10 (early to bed, early to rise, don’t you know). As of 5 AM this morning it was alive, but showing all sorts of errors. A quick call to technical support resolved it, so I think as of 5:25 AM things are back to normal. Looks like they had to restore a backup from the night before which means that the server probably lost a hard drive. So, if you posted comments of any sort yesterday, they are lost forever. I do apologize, but it truly isn’t my fault! Hopefully things remain stable today.

July 21, 2005

Susanna, over at her blog, has just posted a stimulating article she entitled “Pious and Reclusive for Christ” which discusses Christian children who attend public schools. I’d like to point out that Susanna, who is a particularly intelligent and beautiful blogger, just so happens to be one of my three little sisters. At this point she is the only one who blogs.

Susanna came across a post on another blog which extolled the value of Christian education (and I would assume this would mean the author is primarily an advocate of home education) and indicated that parents who allow their children to attend public schools are making a great mistake.

My sister goes on to detail some of the benefits of my parents’ decision to allow their children to attend public schools. She points to several relationships that led the friend to become a believer.

July 19, 2005

For some reason the whole family woke up early this morning. By 7 AM we were all out of bed and sitting in the living room, waiting for something to happen. Naturally nothing did happen, so I decided I’d catch up on some DVD reviews. After watching an episode in a 6-part history of Christianity, I put in the second disc of the two-disc series Journeys to the Edge of Creation which is produced by Moody. This episode is entitled “The Milky Way & Beyond.”

As we would expect, the video contained glimpse after glimpse of the universe, using the most advanced technology ever devised by humans. Using massive telescopes we can see tiny fragments of what lies beyond the earth and even beyond our own solar system and galaxy. The pictures were nothing I have not seen countless times before. Little points of light set in the black backdrop of the night sky have never impressed me in the way they do some people. I am almost ashamed to say that astronomy has never been an interest of mine.

But there is something that did make my mind churn as I watched this production. I found my mind cramping as I tried to comprehend the sheer vastness of space. The producers tried their best to provide some idea of just how vast our universe is. They took us on a 50 billion light-year journey (which means 50 billion years travelling at the speed of light) that gave us a bird’s-eye view of many of the galaxies we see around us, but did not exhaust the distance to the edge of the universe. They talked about the belief that there are some 200 billion galaxies in the universe, many of which contain upwards of 100 billion stars. If we were to add up all the grains of sand on all the beaches on earth, we would still fall short of the number of stars. They showed how if you hold a grain of sand at arm’s length, that space blocked from your vision by that one tiny grain of sand will contain hundreds, even thousands of galaxies, most of which are far larger than our own.

Fact after fact after fact. But the real fact is that we just cannot comprehend the vastness of space.

At times it seems like we lose our awe of God. Allow me to steal a paragraph from an article I wrote a couple of months ago. “There was a time in human history where men worshipped the moon. They saw the moon above them and considered it an awesome manifestation of the Divine. And so they worshipped it, paying homage to it as a god. But as civilization advanced, men constructed instruments through which they could study the moon. They came to realize that it was merely a moon orbiting the earth. They saw that it was a giant, dirt ball that had no light of its own, for it only reflected the light of the sun. In the name of science, men were sent to the moon and walked on its surface. Like so many others, I have stood in line at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington to touch a piece of the moon, worn smooth under the pressure of millions of fingers. At this point we can say that the moon has been thoroughly demystified. We know what it is, what it is made of, and even know of its importance to the earth. When we gaze at the moon today, we do so with little of the awe and wonder of men thousands of years ago.” The same holds true for much of the wonder around us - the plants, animals and human life we see every day. The first time Adam looked at a woman he must have gasped, and he immediately broke into a song of praise to God. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). But it was not too long after that he turned on her, blaming her for his own sin. Truly we are prone to losing our awe of God as we conquer the boundaries of science.

At the same time, pushing the boundaries also brings us closer to a view of the infinite. As we approach the building-blocks of life, stored in every living cell, we come face-to-face with the realization of the incomprehensibility of God. We may be able to map the genome, but we can no more duplicate its complexity than we can call a new planet into being. We can begin to understand the “what’s” - what does it do? what does it control? - but we can only begin to scrape the surface of the “how’s.”

Gazing into the vastness of space this morning, even if it was only on a television screen, left me in awe of the God who created and maintains it all. The sheer immensity of space boggles the mind, especially when I stop to consider that God knows each star by name and without His constant presence each one would simply cease to exist. And this same God, who told Abraham to “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them” (Genesis 15:4) has an interest in me. He loves me. And He created me so I could enjoy this marvelous universe.

There are those who look at the vastness of the universe and conclude that we are nothing more than microbes of life living on a speck of dust in the middle of a vast cosmos. Carl Sagan expressed this hopelessness when he said, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” As followers of God, children of the Creator, we know better. The first verse of Psalm 19 declares “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” God created the universe to declare His own glory - and today he uses it, and perhaps uses it more than any other aspect of His creation, to proclaim His power. For as long as humans have been on earth, they have looked to the sky and acknowledged the power and presence of a Creator.

I was convicted this morning that as we approach the edge of creation, we will encounter in ever-greater ways, the sheer immensity of the power of God. And I realized that God is pleased when we explore His creation, not merely so we can increase our intellectual understanding and perhaps even discount His existence, but so we can come face-to-face with His power and glory.

July 17, 2005

This morning we had a “guest” pastor. I put guest in quotations because he was one of the founding pastors at our church, but recently moved to a neighboring town to help stabilize a floundering daughter church. So he was only a guest insofar as we have not seen him for a while. He preached a sermon called “The Myth of Popularity” which is the final installment in a series on the Beatitudes. Each Beatitude has been examined as the answer to a common myth. The myth of popularity, according to Pastor Jim, is that popularity gives me value. He applied this to Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:10-11 NIV). Of course the reality of the Christian life is that popularity is not what gives us value before God. God desires that we pursue righteousness.

While he only dedicated the first few minutes of his sermon to the myth of popularity, I was taken by the applications to the blogosphere. This is something I thought and wrote about last week in reaction to a particularly good article written by Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost.

Jim told us today that there are three unavoidable results of pursuing popularity. First, it promotes envy. When I pursue popularity I am always, consciously or subconsciously, comparing myself to others and seeing the areas where I feel I fall short. Second, it take my time and energy to maintain it. Popularity wanes when I am silent, so I must act to maintain it. Third, it causes me to depend upon others for my approval. Jim spoke about celebrities who are always reading their own publicity, trying to keep up with how the press regards them. The popularity of a celebrity depends entirely on the approval of others.

Jim provided the example of Tim Burke, a pitcher for the Montreal Expos and the New York Mets. Tim and his wife had chosen to adopt several troubled children and he came to a point in his life where he realized that his career was keeping him from his family. If he was going to prioritize what was truly most important in his life, he was going to need to retire from the game. So while his career could have lasted for many more years, and he could have earned a lot more money, Burke retired. His popularity immediately declined so that few people remember him. He has done nothing to maintain his popularity. But surely his pursuit of more noble goals has paid dividends. Burke got to a point where he realized that Major League Baseball would be able to get along just fine without him, but his family could not, and that made his decision simple.

As I listened to this message I realized the parallels with the blosophere. It is easy for us to believe that our value is tied directly to our popularity. We may think that the Hugh Hewitts and LaShawn Barbers (or anyone else who is more popular that us) of the blogosphere have greater value because they have greater popularity. But from Jesus’ teaching we know that this is not the case. Those who have the most value are those who chase harder after righteousness. Those who pursue righteousness are counted as most blessed.

I guess it is important for each of us to realize that if we shut down our blogs - if Doug McHone or Amy Scott or Hugh Hewitt or Phil Johnson or Joe Carter or Tim Irvin or Michael Russell or David Wayne or Adrian Warnock or Tim Challies stopped writing - the blosophere would get along just fine. And incidentally, if your name is not on that list and it makes you angry or jealous, you’re missing the point!

So as we read other blogs and promote them, via blogrolls or other links, let us value what God values. Let’s give honor to those who pursue righteousness and not confuse value with popularity. Let us not be, as Jim warned, hostage to what others think of us, for other people’s opinions change like the weather. Instead, let us heed the words of the apostle who says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of th world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).

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