SBC Pastor Upset at Lifeway

TheBigDaddyWeave (Aaron Weaver, a doctoral student studying Religion, Politics, and Society at Baylor) has a piece about FBC Jacksonville pastor Jim Smyrl holding Lifeway‘s feet to the fire for selling the Christian fiction novel The Shack and not adhering to the Baptist Faith and Message.  For one reason or another, Smyrl’s original post has been removed, but TheBigDaddyWeave has it posted in its entirety on his website.

Check out the whole entry here, but below is a preview:

“Lifeway Without the Way”, by Jim Smyrl – as appeared at FBC Jax Website 1/28/09, and available in the Google website cache.

At last year’s SBC meeting in the city of Indianapolis, a colleague of mine went with the intention of making a recommendation that Lifeway stores come under examination. The purpose behind the recommendation was to call our convention to hold Lifeway accountable to the Baptist Faith and Message in regards to materials offered for sale. At the time, Lifeway was rapidly selling The Shack, which heretically misrepresents the Trinity, presenting God from the viewpoint of a modalist. I believed and continue to believe that as a Southern Baptist entity, Lifeway should have enough integrity to offer materials that are chosen based on our BFM. The Shack is one of dozens of works offered on Lifeway shelves that not only contradicts the BFM, but more so, the Bible.

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.

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