A shameful day in evangelical Christian publishing

Thursday, April 17, 2014
Dr. Michael L. Brown - Guest Columnist

Michael BrownIt is just laughable (or, really, lamentable) for Multnomah to describe one of its authors as "a bold, young, evangelical writer" when his book attempts to make a biblical case for same-sex relationships. Talk about turning truth upside down.

For many years now, publishers have been releasing books that claim that the Bible does not oppose committed homosexual relationships. That is nothing new. But it is a sad and shameful day when a major Christian publisher releases such a book and claims that it is a solid evangelical publication. This is abhorrent, disgraceful, and terribly misleading.  And it needs to be addressed and exposed.

But first, the background to the story.

In 2012, a young man named Matthew Vines, who professes to be a "gay Christian," released a video of his talk about the Bible and homosexuality, and it quickly went viral. His demeanor was engaging and his appeal to the Scriptures very serious – but for those who know the Word well, there was nothing in the least bit persuasive in his presentation. In fact, it underscored just how impossible it is to use the Bible to justify any form of homosexual acts or to sanctify intimate homosexual relationships.

The impossibility of Matthew's position was further emphasized when my colleague, the well-known apologist Dr. James White, put out a series of YouTube videos that thoroughly rebutted the Vines video. And both Dr. White and I have offered to debate Matthew and any colleague he would choose, but to date there has been no response, although we're still hoping that a debate (or a series of debates) will take place.

There has also been a good amount of publicity over the last few months announcing the publication of Matthew's book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, which, through no intentional planning on my part or my publisher's, is due to be released two weeks before my own book, Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality. (I sincerely hope that readers of his book will take the time to read mine as well.)

But here is the disturbing news. The book is being published by Convergent Books, which is part of a publishing conglomerate that includes much respected, evangelical publishing group Multnomah Waterbook (also sharing some of the same staff). And the chief executive of the company, Mr. Stephen W. Cobb, is vigorously defending his choice to publish the book. In fact, he is making an extraordinary effort to publicize it and claiming that it is thoroughly evangelical.

Have we totally lost our bearings as the people of God? Are we now debating the undebatable and trying to sanction the unsanctionable?

The Waterbrook Multnomah Group publishes books by authors like John Piper, Chuck Swindoll, Ravi Zecharias, David Jeremiah, Randy Alcorn, David Platt, Bill Gothard, and now its sister publisher is releasing a purported evangelical book defending homosexuality? (This is not being written on April 1 as some kind of April Fool's joke. I am being dead serious.)

Matt Barber's email response to Multnomah

To whomever sent this,

Barber, Matt (Liberty Counsel)Please don't take this personally as I know you're just doing your job. I do, however, ask you to search your conscience and prayerfully consider your involvement in this decidedly unbiblical charade. This statement [from Stephen Cobb] creates more questions than it answers and is only serving to dig the hole deeper.

Mr. Cobb's entire statement is built upon the classical straw man argument – a logical fallacy of last resort. It fails to address any of the issues and concerns I hit on in my article and completely changes the subject. That said, it does seem to be in perfect keeping with the deceptive tactics employed by WaterBrook Multnomah to this point.

This paragraph for instance:

"It has been suggested that my colleagues and I are trying to engineer a 'secret' publication of Matthew's book, and sneak it into the marketplace. Completely untrue. At no time have we tried to keep the book's content secret from any booksellers, media, or prospective readers. In fact, we sent out some 800 advance-reader copies of the complete text nationwide to build prepublication awareness of the title. We have extensive marketing and publicity campaigns in place, with which we hope to reach the widest possible readership."

I never said, wrote nor in any way suggested that Mr. Cobb or anyone else was trying to "engineer a secret publication," "sneak it into the marketplace," or "keep the book's content secret" and it strains credulity to imply that I did. Again, this statement is layering deception upon deception. I simply divulged in my article that certain insiders had alerted me to the fact that Mr. Cobb was using deceptive tactics to hide the now established reality that Convergent and WaterBrook Multnomah are, for all intents and purposes, one and the same – that Convergent is effectively WaterBrook Multnomah by another name. Note that Mr. Cobb did not address concerns over WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent having the same staff, location, offices, printers, ink, etc.

Or this statement: "Convergent's mission is to publish nonfiction for less traditional Christians ..."

"Less traditional Christians"? I think the term you're looking for is "apostate."

I'm absolutely speechless and it takes quite some doing to accomplish that.

I humbly suggest a different approach: Confess, repent, ask forgiveness and move on.


Matt Barber

Responding to an investigative piece written by Christian attorney Matt Barber, Mr. Cobb explained that his company was publishing the book "because we believe it offers a thoughtful examination of Scripture on the topic of same-sex relationships from a bold, young, evangelical writer whose first calling is to promote a civil, loving, and biblically based conversation on the subject." (See sidebar: "Matt Barber's email response to Multnomah")


Certainly, the tone of the book is meant to be civil, and it does attempt to interact with the Scriptures – although, to emphasize again, you can no more use the Bible to legitimize homosexual relationships than you can use it to legitimize adultery. But to describe the author as "a bold, young, evangelical writer" is to make the word "evangelical" utterly meaningless.

It would be like speaking of a fine, conservative Catholic author whose new book questioned the office of the Pope, or an excellent, Orthodox Jewish author whose latest volume explained how pork was kosher. It is just as laughable (or, really, lamentable) to speak of "a bold, young, evangelical writer" whose book attempts to make a biblical case for same-sex relationships. Talk about turning truth upside down.

To be sure, I personally own a large number of books written by professing "gay Christians," including The Queer Bible Commentary and Holy Homosexuals, so I'm familiar with the arguments. And I've interacted face to face with professing "gay Christians," most of whom seemed extremely sincere. In fact, in my own book, I do my best to introduce readers to the very real personal struggles experienced by people with same-sex attractions who want to follow Jesus, and it is something that has driven me to my knees in prayer, often with real brokenness and even tears of intercession for them.

The travesty here is for Mr. Cobb, the head of both Waterbrook Multnomah and Convergent (an imprint for "less traditional Christians," which is quite an understatement) to choose to publish this book, then to defend that choice, then to present Matthew Vines as an evangelical, and then to go all out with a publicity campaign to promote the book. (He wrote, "We have extensive marketing and publicity campaigns in place, with which we hope to reach the widest possible readership.")

As I note in my book, there are "no new textual, archeological, sociological, anthropological, or philological discoveries [that] have been made in the last fifty years that would cause us to read any of these biblical texts differently. Put another way, it is not that we have gained some new insights into what the biblical text means based on the study of the Hebrew and Greek texts. Instead, people's interaction with the LGBT community has caused them to understand the biblical text differently."

The point is that nothing has changed in terms of what Scripture teaches, which is why almost no one through the centuries has thought to use the Bible to sanction homosexual relationships – that is, until our day, and this is simply the fruit of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, not the fruit of dramatic new insights that would cause us to turn the Bible on its head.

And that's why there are fine Christians today who still struggle with same-sex attractions but who renounce them as contrary to God's plan and who live holy, separated lives, enjoying a full and robust relationship with the Lord without homosexual activities and same-sex romantic connections.

In short, those who want to revise biblical sexuality and morality have moved away from the Word of God; and if they have any sense of integrity, they need to renounce their claim to be evangelicals – and that includes Mr. Cobb, if he personally claims to be one – and say, "We are liberal Christians who no longer hold to the authority of Scripture, because of which we embrace homosexual relationships."

In refusing to do so, they have muddied the waters of the faith, brought reproach on the gospel, further confused a very lost society, and become propagators of deception in the Church. And they will answer to God for all this one day.

As things stand now, the same publishing conglomerate that released books by an evangelical author like Joshua Harris with titles and subtitles like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Sexual Purity in a Lust Saturated World is releasing a book championing the idea that God blesses two men (or women) having sex with each other as long as they are committed.

This is madness.

Dr. Michael Brown, a Jewish believer in Jesus, is a biblical scholar, apologist, worldwide speaker, and activist. He is the host of the nationally syndicated, talk radio program "Line of Fire," and he serves as president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, NC, as well as adjunct professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 21 books, most recently "The Real Kosher Jesus."

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