Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: The Southern Baptist Bookstore - Are the Shelves Empty?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Southern Baptist Bookstore - Are the Shelves Empty?

My attention has recently been drawn to a blog by Michael Spencer, aka "The Internet Monk", concerning the resources available, or more to the point not available, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary bookstore. The main thrust of his argument, which can be read here, is that the SBTS bookstore contains "empty" shelves in the area of literature that would contribute to the "evangelical conversation." He cites two major topics of books, those being apologetics and spiritual formation, as the kinds of books not being written by SBC leadership. He does acknowledge that the SBC is writing books on "church growth, evangelism and the 'popular' level of devotional literature." I am a little confused how SBC leadership can be writing books on evangelism but not contributing to the "evangelical conversation." Finally, he says that "the Southern Baptist dearth of formative resources is a serious problem."

I agree with some of the observations Michael points out. There is, in fact, a void of thought provoking, non-hokey spiritual formation resources from SBC leadership. One great exception is Southern's own Dr. Don Whitney. I am sure that there are even more topics besides the two Michael lists where the SBC is not producing as much work as in other areas. Nevertheless, I don't share his same concern as this being a "serious problem" and am surprised he would think it as such.

Michael refers to himself as a "post-evangelical." What is that you ask? Well, no one knows for sure, these kinds of modern terms are still working themselves out, but based on Michael's own definition in a blog titled, "what do I mean by post-evangelical", he says that post-evangelicals understand that it "emerges from a matrix of the text of Holy Scripture, the history of interpretation, cultural and sub-cultural presuppositions, the use of reason, the place of experience, the wisdom of the teachers of the larger church and the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing more light." Based on this partial definition, which makes me uneasy at best, it is surprising that he would view a lack of sources within a single area or two from the SBC as a serious issue. His foundation seems to be built on the teaching of the "larger church" and the merger of many ideas and concepts. Why, then, should the SBC feel pressure to be the leading producer in every field of study? Usually, the argument against the SBC runs in the opposite direction, that it tries to keep all things Christian underneath its own umbrella and operates as a monopoly from which churches and individuals cannot escape. Surely it is a good thing for SBC members to be reading formative material from Godly people outside our convention. Surely it is a good thing for non-SBC'ers to know that we actually believe God uses people who are not Southern Baptist. Surely it is a good thing to remind ourselves that, as one person aptly put it, the SBC is not "God's gift to Christianity."

So, I think Michael is right in his observations and has some good things to say. I don't share his concern that this issue is a serious problem for the SBC. I agree that the SBC needs to produce more leaders who can contribute meaningful works in some of these areas, but we should be thankful for the good material that is out there, even from people who are not Southern Baptist.


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