A Bible or Three

A page from the Bishops' Bible, 1568According to the WSJ’s OpinionJournal, Bible sales are booming.

The article describes the popular Revolve New Testament as “Corinthians and Colossians for the Cosmo girl.” And how about this heartbreaking comment? “Bibles are becoming as much personal statements as fashion statements. ‘What people are saying is ‘I want to find a Bible that is really me,’ noted Rodney Hatfield, a vice president of marketing at Thomas Nelson. ‘It’s no different than with anything else in our culture.'”

How should we react to that? As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, the inspired Scriptures. As someone who used to help Tyndale House Publishers (who share the top 80% of the market with Nashville’s Thomas Nelson) create specialty Bibles, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, getting a Bible into someone’s hands, a Bible they might actually open and read, is a crucial component of discipleship. On the other, the idea of the Bible as another product to tweak for the market turns my stomach.

Bible in a BagBible sales are on the rise, and I find myself wondering if that’s a good thing. Are those Bibles going to people who have no Bible, or are new to faith in Jesus Christ? Or will they join three or four other Bibles in a current Christian’s “armory”? Wayne Hastings, svp at Nelson, says: “Forty percent of my customers own three to 10 Bibles. … It’s sort of like me and golf. I have Tiger Woods’s book and Ernie Els’s book. I want all those different approaches to how to play golf. It’s the same with Bibles.”

But apparently there is a line. Kevin O’Brien, director of Bibles at my old job, says “If you get too trendy you’ve turned the Bible into a widget.” But what’s too trendy? Zondervan’s FaithGirlz! Bible in a Bag? Or is the really over-the-line content inside, when we add “study helps” that over-relevant the content?

I guess that big question is the same question churches and Christians everywhere are asking: When do our efforts to make Christianity “relevant” cross the line? But is it all that much different from what we’ve done with the church? At what point do we say, “Offensive? Yeah, that’s kind of what ‘rock of offense’ implies.”

(HT: Justin Taylor)

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