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A Listener Letter

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I appreciated your most recent White Horse Inn episode. I recently went to a LifeWay Bookstore to purchase Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Lifeway had nothing by Calvin. I went next door to Barnes and Noble and they had a copy! It's a shame that a secular bookstore has more theology than a Christian bookstore.

-Mike N.

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  • Guest - Kristin

    Just so you know, LifeWay does carry books by Calvin. This may have been a matter of this store not having any in stock. But a majority of LifeWay Christian Stores do carry this book. I would recommend asking a clerk if you can not find the book you are looking for. If they are out of stock or do not have that particular title, they may be able to order it for you.

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  • Guest - Ryan Groene

    The closest Christian bookstore to my house is called Servant's Heart, and the last time I went there, I think I do remember seeing a copy of Calvin's institutes (can't remember if it was abridged). Still, I had gone there to look for Tim Keller's book The Prodigal God and did not find it there, though I did later find it at Barnes and Nobles (or was it Borders? I can't remember.) Anyway, I found that rather surprising as I would not have thought that Keller's books would be that controversial amongst evangelicals.

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  • Guest - Joshua

    Oh wow... the same exact thing happened to me. I got *my* copy of Calvin's Institutes at B&N, but I couldn't find it at Lifeway. So I'm not the only one who notices this.

    That just ain't right.

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  • Guest - Scott A. Treloar


    I was a road representative for many years - I sold Christian books to many of the Christian bookstores - mostly independent stores. I sold Reformed and Non-Reformed books. I did this for thirteen years and also worked in Christina bookstores like Berean, Joshua's (now owned by Family Christian Stores), and independents, too.

    The "sacrificial," buying that you are suggesting bookstores make is naive. Where is the sacrificial purchasing by Christians - especially Reformed ones? Why does it always fall on the store owners, most of whom are not getting wealthy and ARE sacrificing to provide our communities with a Christian bookstore that is not denominationally based and could serve the whole Church?

    The fact is that they carry the products for their CUSTOMERS. Give up McDonald's or Starbucks for a day and pay the regular price on a book instead of purchasing online or at a secular bookstore and you may just find that you will have a robust Reformed section in your store. Economics is about supply and demand. We cannot demand Reformed books and then not supply our resources to support it. It is poor stewardship for them to carry books nobody buys - and also bad business.

    They carry curriculum and other materials in these stores and everybody browses but nobody purchases. Instead they use the store for display purposes only, just to end up going on the internet to save money not considering the consequences of such decisions. Maybe it is cheaper and maybe it is more convenient but consider the sacrifice the store owner makes to employ local people, support local ministries, and to serve us, while keeping the tax revenue in our towns. Now consider your own sacrifice and how you can support them in their attempt to give you what you want.

    Bookstores didn't reject the books I was selling because of theological reasons, though some did. They wouldn't purchase particular publishers from me because it was a poor financial investment for them.

    They are hurting more than ever in this economy and in this electronic age. If we would support them and purchase from them, we would see Calvin's Institutes and RC Sproul's books on the shelves.

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  • As a Christian bookstore owner and the author of a national blog for Christian bookstore owners and managers in Canada, I am so tempted to jump into this discussion on so many different levels; but instead, I find myself grieving how the isolationist trends in the Reformed community are contributing to a fracturing of the larger Body of Christ, just at a time when it seemed that the next generation of Christians was going to move toward greater unity.

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  • Paul, I guess it depends on what you mean by that. If you mean distancing ourselves from best-sellers like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, or Rob Bell; you gotta do what you gotta do! A 'body of christ' which isn't following what Jesus Christ taught isn't worth any kind of 'unity.' I'm all for unity if there is something concrete and non-heretical to it (there certainly is too much fracture over relatively unimportant things). But much of what I'm seeing in today's unity movements is an effort to ditch sound doctrine in order to unify over political and social issues. In other words, ditch the true purpose and point of the church to unify chasing other things (however good or bad they may be).

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  • Steve; are we related? Guess not. No argument re. Joel Osteen; rather I'm concerned that, for example, CBD had to create CBD Reformed because certain people would only buy from "their own." I mean, CBD never had to create CBD Pentecostal, or CBD Baptist did they? I'm concerned that certain people now will only read from the ESV translation, because it's their translation. Because of its reach into the Reformed community, I hear of churches that will only use Sovereign Grace music; people who will only read other Reformed bloggers; or only attend conferences such as T4G where Reformed speakers dominate. There is a real closing of the ranks going on; and rightly or wrongly, I just think it's sad.

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  • Hey Paul, related? I'm not sure. My grandparents lived in Canada east of Edmonton near the Alberta border, but relocated to N. Wisconsin in the US before starting their family... so most of my more direct relatives are from that area.

    I agree with you on that kind of segregation. That is not good, and yes, sad. I was talking more about the general church culture (especially in the USA) and bookstores. I see it as a chicken & egg type of problem. Lack of Christian education produces surface-Christians who can't discern good materials and would rather buy self-help books and Christiany trinkets. Bookstores sell that stuff because that is what the Christians come to buy. Hopefully what you are talking about isn't becoming a trend. That is going too far in the opposite direction.

    While I'm a member of a Reformed church, I graduated from Regent College in Vancouver, so I'm pretty familiar with a great number of denominations and working together with them. (If you want an even more segregating issue.... try to educate about the young-earth, old-earth, theistic evolution topic at some churches! :) ).

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  • Great post and some wonderful advice that I will definitely consider next time I got to my favorite Christian bookshops

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