by Henry E. Neufeld
Recent conversations have reminded me that it’s about time to comment on the range of viewpoints published by Energion Publications. I’ve heard I have one of the most varied catalog of any individually owned company. I don’t know if this is true, but the catalog is varied, and getting more so.
So there is some cause for folks to ask me whether what I publish represents my views. I can take this question in multiple ways, but it usually ends up as one of two.
First, the question may be whether I believe the things in the books I publish are true. I’ve been asked this directly a number of times. The answer is “no.” It would be impossible for anyone to believe all the things in all the books Energion publishes. Our catalog is now over 270 books, and these come from a variety of perspectives, from conservative evangelical to progressive, from mainline to charismatic, with even some holiness theology showing up. I would truly have to be flexible to believe all these differing viewpoints were correct.
But I can take the various questions in another way. Does the variety of viewpoints say something about my beliefs or is it just a business decision? Do I publish all of these things because it is the way to make money?
Let me note one thing first. I’m not averse to making money. I may not be great at it, but I like to do it. But do I believe that the variety of materials I publish makes it easier to make money? This would be a good topic for another post. But given the current tendency to choose sides, I would not consider the level of variety I have put into a small catalog to be a decision in favor of easy money. In fact, every few months I end up writing posts like this on our blog explaining my reasons. I also field frequent complaints.
I realize there are those who think those on one side or the other of various issues are truly interested in free speech, while those on the other are not. Accusations fly both ways. I’ve found that there is a strong tendency, what I consider a simple human tendency, to try to suppress things that are just unacceptable. Indeed, I have things that I will not publish, so I understand and share this tendency.
My choice to publish a variety of views, however, is the most prominent way in which my company represents my beliefs. I am a believer in free speech. People often introduce the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution at this point, and point out that it applies to government, not private action. But my belief in free speech is not a matter of my belief in certain political positions or my respect for laws. It is fundamental to the way I believe in interacting with people.
Freedom of thought and freedom of expression are an essential element of the search for truth. They are also an essential element of a good education, and this definitely includes a good religious education.
Thus, for example, our Participatory Study Series includes books by evangelical authors, such as the volume on Ecclesiastes, by mainline authors, such as the study guide to the Gospel of Mark and the one on Colossians & Philemon, and, on the third hand by a process theologian, who wrote guides to Philippians and Galatians.
You may think that I intend these books to serve different audiences. In fact, I do expect that most commonly to be the case, because that is the sort of material that Sunday School teachers and Christian education directors tend to choose. But my intention is that those who use this series will experience Bible study using guides written by people with a variety of viewpoints. When I personally teach, I like to assign reading from sources that disagree with my point of view so that students can hear alternatives to my viewpoint as they are stated by people who believe that way.
I am frequently asked by Methodist groups, for example, to explain Calvinism. While I can explain this generally, I always recommend that they read material by actual Reformed theologians. This is not because I agree with those views, but rather because, not agreeing, I may not represent them in the best way possible.
So in this second sense, the Energion catalog represents my views very accurately. It represents viewpoints that I believe should be understood, whether or not they are accepted.
Note: We are in the process of adding a new imprint which will provide additional variety in specific ways. Watch here for more news!