"Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
For years Bible Gateway has been relied upon for accurate Bible translation. In 2008, Bible Gateway was purchased by Zondervan Publishing, and for some months now, Bible Gateway's online General Store has served as gateway to a number of heretical authors.
If that sounds too melodramatic, or harsh, just consider: With over 12,000 sites carrying its link, Bible Gateway is by far the most popular online source for Bible translation. It is used by those who have been saved for many decades, by brand new Christians, and also by those who are investigating the Christian faith.
Bible Gateway offers this assurance: "Of course, it's critical that any advertising on Bible Gateway reflects our Christian values and does not conflict with our mission. That means we carefully screen the ads that appear on Bible Gateway, and we don't use ads in ways that interfere with your ability to read and study Scripture."
Unfortunately, through Bible Gateway, new believers or seekers can easily end up with heretical books that may indeed interfere with understanding the Word of God. Against all logic, against all biblical propriety, two of the most heretical, Christ-defying books are offered without warning through the Bible Gateway General Store.
It must be noted that Doug Pagitt's A Christianity Worth Believing, and Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian are not the only anti-biblical books for sale through the online store. Not by a long shot. We could mention The Shack, Thomas Merton (115 items available!), The Message paraphrase, Tony Jones, Rob Bell, and many others.
For now, however, let us briefly examine these works by emergent leaders Pagitt and McLaren. Both deny the substitutionary atonement of Christ; that Salvation comes solely through Christ; that there is a biblical hell; or that Christ is even necessary for daily forgiveness of sins.
McLaren informs the reader he and others have "dared to tweak" the content of the Word of God. He states, "We might question conventional theories of atonement or the nature and population of hell or whether concepts like original sin or total depravity might need to be modified."
McLaren also designates Christians who are not shy about calling homosexuality a sin with the derogatory label, "fundasexualists." As has been stated elsewhere, McLaren is essentially saying that when it comes to opposing homosexual sin, a good Christian is a silent Christian.
So why would Bible Gateway be okay with selling this? Particularly since the site claims "it's critical that any advertising on Bible Gateway reflects our Christian values and does not conflict with our mission."
Doug Pagitt's ode to apostasy, A Christianity Worth Believing, equals McLaren's book in mutilating the message and meaning of the Bible. Here, according to Pagitt, is how we gain forgiveness for sins: Without Jesus.
He writes, "This can come as a shock to those Christians who are so used to hearing that Jesus is the solution to sin that they assume that the remedy started with the death of Jesus."
Thus, because of these authors and others, Bible Gateway may not be a safe site to recommend to unbelievers or new Christians or even long-time Christians for that matter. The online General Store may well introduce them to anti-biblical and heretical books. And consider how many could potentially be affected: With over 12,000 websites recommending or linking to Bible Gateway, if just 2000 people per website, per year go to Bible Gateway's site, that is a number that exceeds 24 million people. That is a lot of influence.This is not just about people, either-selling heresy is a slap in the face of our Holy God.
"Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things; they have put no difference between the holy and profane...." (Ezekiel 22:26)
When I contacted Bible Gateway General Manager Rachel Barach about Pagitt and McLaren, her response was rapid. She emailed me:
"You'll be pleased to know that our editorial board has recommended that we request removal of the following from our General and Digital Stores on Bible Gateway:
Doug Pagitt: All Titles
Brian McLaren: All Titles EXCEPT Generous Orthodoxy, Finding Faith, More Ready Than You Realize, Adventures In Missing The Point
"The stores, as I mentioned to you previously, are owned and managed by outside parties, so we are at their mercy regarding their actual catalog changes. But we have submitted the requests, and will follow up for prompt attention."
The four McLaren titles mentioned by Barach that they would be keeping are all published by Zondervan, which owns Bible Gateway. Zondervan in turn is owned by secular publishing giant, Harper Collins. But, to date, not one single McLaren or Pagitt book has been removed from the Bible Gateway online General Store.
Not to give her a free pass, but this was never Rachel Barach's decision to make. In 2008, when Zondervan purchased Bible Gateway, Zondervan CEO Moe Girkins told an interviewer, "We have a vision that if we create a lot of synergy across all Christian content providers, we can have more impact on the internet."
Okay, but what kind of impact? Like Bible Gateway, Zondervan's stated intent is noble: "To be the leader in Christian communications meeting the needs of people with resources that glorify Jesus Christ and promote Biblical principles."
But how does having Brian McLaren as contributor to Zondervan's NIV Men's Devotional Bible(available as 2010 ebook) serve to "glorify Jesus Christ" when McLaren rejects Christ as Savior? This, and more than seventy other McLaren related works, can be found in Zondervan's Bible Gateway General Store.
When Bible Gateway General Manager Rachel Barach stated the Bible Gateway stores "are owned and managed by outside parties, so we are at their mercy regarding catalog changes," what did she mean? Controlled by Zondervan, the Bible Gateway General Store leads the potential buyer directly onto the christianbook.com site, the largest online catalog of (allegedly) Christian books and materials. Reflecting the synergy Zondervan CEO Moe Girkins referred to, the Bible Gateway General Store's web address is http://www.biblegateway.christianbook.com
Christianbook.com is blessed with a wonderful history (started by a pastor's young sons and originally operated out of their home ), but has now strayed from its original purpose. So much so, in fact, that it probably should not be called christianbook.com at all, but rather something more generic, like "ReligiousReading," or "Spiritualitybooks."
It should be simple. If an author is heretical, or anti-biblical, a "Christian" book seller should have nothing to do with the book. Christianbook.com laments, "The difficulty we face comes in trying to balance our personal views about products that we carry while serving a great variety of customers reflecting the entire spectrum of the Christian market and beyond."
What it really comes down to is Zondervan, Bible Gateway, and christianbook.com are having their cake and eating it, too. The companies are presented to Christians as if they are solidly Biblical in outlook, and in mission, but in reality they are not above spreading harmful teaching-and even heresy.
But this is such a small thing, some say. It's simply the free exchange of ideas, isn't it? No, it is not. This goes far beyond disagreements or interpretations within the context of the true, biblical faith.
Christian talk show host Ingrid Schleuter has recently introduced an interesting term. She refers to people who claim biblical orthodoxy, yet act and associate contrary to stated biblical doctrine, as Bridgers. These are people who are serving to bridge the gap between biblical Truth and false teaching.
Sadly, by promoting not only out-of-the-closet heretics McLaren and Pagitt, but also Tony Campolo, Tony Jones, Rob Bell, and others, these Christian book companies are essentially serving as a bridge for these Bridgers.