CTT | Christian Bookstores: A Modern-Day Aeropagus?

I write this post with a heavy heart. Rather than share a Bible study to help right a wrong, today I will be sharing a lament from a trip our family made this past Saturday. My wife and I spent much of the weekend discussing this matter, and she has been such an encouragement to me in this.

Background

Last Friday, my wife told me she wanted to upgrade her Bible to a nice journaling ESV Bible. Her current Bible is one of those NIV “Women of the Bible” Study Bibles that I got her in our first year of marriage (before this blog existed), and she likes to take notes in the bible and we now spend our study time in the ESV at home and at church. I saw a great one online, but I also heard on a local Christian Radio station that Family Christian Bookstore was opening a new hard site locally, so I thought it might be better if my wife could hold the Bible and inspect it to see if that’s what she wanted.

The Trip

So we went to the newly opened bookstore. There was a mobile van for a local radio station I didn’t recognize outside, but otherwise not much fanfare. One of the nice ladies took a liking to our little ones and offered some stickers and puzzles as she led us into the store. My eyes were following my little ones as they carefully followed the associate to the counter to get their goodies, and then I looked at the table that was laid out before me, front-and-center at the main entrance to the bookstore.

DiscountFalsehood

 

My heart just sunk… and then my pulse began to race. I just wanted to look at Bibles. I’m not here for this garbage. Why is this selection here? 50% off? Family Values (okay, kudos for the word-play on “values”)? With Easter Sunday coming up, this selection just infuriated me… John Hagee’s 4 blood moons nonsense, Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling mysticism, and the typical fare of Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Johnathan Cahn, and Joyce Meyer.

And then I saw one book cover with a crown of thorns on the cover. In large print, the title was “The Day I was Crucified”. I didn’t want to dare hope it would be a Gospel book, especially among all of the other titles on 50% sale here… but I thought, “Maybe the author is proclaiming the Gospel and saying he was crucified with Christ by Faith”. And then I read the subtitle:

The Day I Was Crucified: As Told by Christ Himself by Gene Edwards

Details

Take a journey alongside Christ and experience the depths of his love in this recounting of the harrowing crucifixion, as if told by Jesus himself. Master storyteller Gene Edwards invites readers to encounter history’s most powerful and defining moment unlike ever before.

No work of modern literature can usher you so powerfully and intimately into the Savior’s heart like The Day I Was Crucified.

Product Details:
Pages: 208
Release: 01/2015

Can I just tell you how badly I wanted to scream in the middle of the store? I didn’t. It is one thing to listen to someone imagine what one of the Disciples or Old Testament figures might have been thinking as fallible human beings… but this author presumes to write a work of fiction from the perspective of God the Son on the day He laid down His life for our sin?! And this thing was published? It’s being sold in a Christian Bookstore? My eyes went back to the several piles of “Jesus Calling”. Further back in the store, there was an entire end-cap dedicated to Sarah Young’s book… and there was even a youth and children’s version for sale.

Not a Christian Bookstore

I realized I wasn’t in a Christian Bookstore. I was merely in a spiritual exchange brokerage house, a place where anyone seeking literature of a spiritual nature can come and peruse various spiritual books just loosely tied to a “Christian” theme. Entire sections dedicated to “Charismatic Interests” and most of them boldly including “Mysticism” and “Mystics” in their titles! In the Bible section, you find “the Voice” and “the Message” parodies intermixed with all of the others. I only mention these because they were the half of the store I had to walk through to get to the Bibles.

Now, you might be asking, “What would it take for you to consider it a Christian bookstore? If it agrees with you?” That would be a fair question and potentially a valid rebuke. My definition of a Christian Bookstore would one that centered on Christ rather than on keeping it’s demographic as wide open as possible to make the most money. It’s not enough to simply be a bookstore free from nudity and violence… in many ways, peddling so much false teaching under the guise of being a Christian bookstore is more dangerous… because unsuspecting immature Christians are trusting the store to be selling valid material. And that’s when it hit me… they reach millions of people with this garbage… Churches organize their small-groups (and sometimes Sermon series) around this tripe… and we wonder why the Church is questioning the inerrancy of scripture?

The Aeropagus

Let’s do some history study before we look to the scripture reference that lead to the title for today’s blog.

Areopagus,  earliest aristocratic council of ancient Athens. The name was taken from the Areopagus (“Ares’ Hill”), a low hill northwest of the Acropolis, which was its meeting place.

The Areopagite Council probably began as the king’s advisers. Early in the Archaic period it exercised a general and ill-defined authority until the publication of Draco’s Code of Law (c. 621). Membership continued for life and was secured by having served as archon, an office limited to the eupatrids (Greek: eupatridai, “nobles by birth”). Under Solon (archon 594 bc), the composition and authority of the council were materially altered when the archonship was opened to all with certain property qualifications, and a Boule, a rival council of 400, was set up. The Areopagus nevertheless retained “guardianship of the laws” (perhaps a legislative veto); it tried prosecutions under the law of eisangelia (“impeachment”) for unconstitutional acts. As a court under the presidency of the archōn basileus, it also decided cases of murder.

For about 200 years, from the middle of the 6th century bc, the prestige of the Areopagus fluctuated. The fall of the Peisistratids, who during their tyranny (546–510) had filled the archonships with their adherents, left the Areopagus full of their nominees and thus in low esteem; its reputation was restored by its patriotic posture during the Persian invasion. In 462 the reformer Ephialtes deprived the Areopagus of virtually all its powers save jurisdiction on homicide (c. 462). From the middle of the 4th century bc, its prestige revived once again, and by the period of Roman domination in Greece it was again discharging significant administrative, religious, and educational functions. (reference: Areopagus | Greek council)

And from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (via Blue Letter Bible)

This hill belonged to (Ares) Mars and was called Mar’s Hill; so called, because, as the story went, Mars, having slain Halirrhothius, son of Neptune, for the attempted violation of his daughter Alicippe, was tried for the murder here before twelve gods as judges. This place was the location where the judges convened who, by appointment of Solon, had jurisdiction of capital offences, (as wilful murder, arson, poisoning, malicious wounding, and breach of established religious usages). The court itself was called Areopagus from the place where it sat, also “Areum judicium” an “curia”. To that hill the apostle Paul was not led to defend himself before judges, but that he might set forth his opinions on divine subjects to a greater multitude of people, flocking together there and eager to hear something new.

As the last portion of the quote suggests, we’ll now go to Acts 17.

Acts 17:15-34 (ESV)

15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Paul in Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription,‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Conclusion

I didn’t feel like my family was safe in that store. I didn’t want my son watching the kids videos (particularly after seeing the kids version of Jesus Calling). My heart broke as I saw ailing and frail people perusing the “healing” section and handing each other what they’d found. As I looked through the Bibles, at least there was one other family in their to buy a bible. Sadly, we didn’t find the Journaling Bible my wife wanted, so we’ll have to order it online. I did pick up the “ESV Reader’s edition“. A beautiful Bible without verse numbers or footnotes, only chapter book and chapter headings at the top of the page. I’m very excited to read through the Epistles uninterrupted by verses. We left that store quite deflated… hearing the radio station van play “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, didn’t even make me flinch. Of course it’s a secular radio station… why expect anything different?  What makes my heart remain heavy to this day, though, is the nagging thought that while we do what we can to preach Law and Gospel here in these small bible studies, read by a few folks who are interested discussing in what God’s Word says… it feels so insignificance when pitted against the mass-produced tidal wave of false doctrine being passed off as Christian. Thank you for reading here, and for the many of you who also blog and share the Word of God with others.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

 

 

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