Are Our Books Safe?

The other day when I was giving away books a young man approached our table. He looked at the displayed books with a bit of discomfort and then said, “My pastor says that we have to be very careful what we read.” He looked up at me and waited expectantly.

At these community events I avoid starting arguments, so I simply told him, as I always do, to look over the books and to take what he would like to read. I didn’t criticize his pastor’s statement, and I didn’t try to assure him that our books would meet those reading requirements.

As I thought about it, I’m pretty sure he wanted me to do that — reassure him that our books were safe and that it would be OK for him to take one.

Why wouldn’t I do it?

Are our books safe? I certainly hope not! I make every effort to make sure that I’m not publishing safe books. I want to publish books that make you think. I want to publish books that scare you. I want to publish books that change you, and through you change the world.

I’ve fielded any number of complaints about our books. I’ve been told that I was supporting the slaughter of Palestinians by publishing books too favorable to Israel. (I think one of the weaknesses of Christian support for Israel is a failure to express and act on a gospel concern for the Palestinian people. But I don’t publish my opinions. These books challenge me!) Regarding another book, I was told I was both being much too favorable to Muslims by one person while I was told it was insulting by a few others. A book on the Holy Spirit was thought to advocating quenching the Spirit. A pastor handed me back an advance copy of a book saying, “This guy is trying to put me out of a job!”

But the kind of not-safe comments that I treasure are those like:

  • This book made me think
  • I’m going to have to change the way I do business
  • I need that spiritual discipline
  • My job will never be the same
  • My life will never be the same
  • The book didn’t convince me, but it made me rethink the reasons why I believe what I do

Are our books safe? I pray earnestly that they are not.


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  • Steve Kindle

    Henry, several years ago I culled about 300 books from my library that I no longer used. Most were Fundamentalist or very conservative Evangelical books. I took them to a nearby conservative seminary and offered them for sale at very low prices and made an agreement with the library that they could have the remainder. They included works from Baker, Eerdmans, Zondervan, IVP, etc.

    I set up about 10 tables in the commons area. After chapel, students swarmed in. They very carefully looked over every book, but they purchased nothing. Then they left, only to return later with what must have been their professors. Certain books were handed to the profs for their evaluation. Their judgments were either, “This author is sound; this author is not sound.” Based on their authority’s verdict, the books were sold or not. BTW, the library got a lot of books. They must be used as bad examples!

    I’ve wondered about these committed students and how they fared over the years, because I was once just like them. Thanks to publishers who challenged me, my views have changed dramatically, and I think for the better. I hope theirs have too.

  • Henry the books you publish make people think and can be maddening at times (but as you say, you want people to think). You have been willing to publish one of the widest varieties of perspectives of any publisher. That takes courage!


      Bob…And Henry..I completely agree! Thanks, Bob LaRochelle