The Ethics of Christian Book Publishing – John Boruff

Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.             –2 Corinthians 2:17

Money for the Ministry:
Frank Viola vs. Francis Turretin

I have heard people in the house church movement argue that it is immoral, sinful, and unethical to publish and advertise Christian books. To a small degree, I can see where they are coming from, but to a large degree I don’t understand this nitpicky opinion of theirs. So, I will set forth my case in defense of Christian book publishing. Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity has turned out to be a real popular book with house church people (which had to be published and advertised with money). In that book, Chapter 8: “Tithing and Clergy Salaries” uses 2 Corinthians 2:17 as proof that pastors should not receive tithes and offerings. However, I side more with Francis Turretin’s view in “The Salaries of Ministers.” Whereas, Viola takes the view of the Anabaptists and Quakers–Turretin takes the view of Reformed and Puritan Christians, and I side with Turretin on the issue.

The REAL Issue:
Hirelings vs. True Prophets

The gist of Viola’s argument is that pastors should not receive money, because that automatically corrupts their motives: namely, that it transforms godly ministry into a career or profession–it makes pastors into seeker-sensitive hirelings, or man-pleasers (John 10:12). The gist of Turretin’s view (which I agree with) is that PASTORS SHOULD RECEIVE TITHES AND OFFERINGS–IF IT IS FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS. Turretin assumes that pastors should be holy, godly, and Puritanical (1 Timothy 3). And that monetary donations received for the ministry are for the support of the preacher of righteousness, so that the Gospel can advance further than it already has. It is seen from a Great Commission viewpoint, to reach out into the world, and convert the masses. Viola assumes most pastors are corrupt–so they should not receive tithes. Turretin assumes that a Biblical pastor is automatically supposed to be godly, so its a no-brainer to support his ministry with money if you believe in what he is preaching. If you don’t believe in what he is preaching; if you think his sermons, his church, his books, etc are all WORTHLESS–then go on your way and DON’T support the preacher of righteousness with your money. Go to Starbucks! Go to the mall and spend it on YOURSELF. However, if you do want to advance Gospel-holiness, then give as much as you want to that preacher and pray for him.

Christian Book Publishing and Pastoral Tithes

When books are published, money is involved. The publisher has to be paid for costs of editing, formatting, graphic design, and printing. This is just part of the art of making books. Books are made of paper and ink; and that means they cost money to make them. Sometimes when Christian books become very popular–bestsellers–they earn what are called royalties for the author. These royalties come to the author as a check. If a preacher writes a book on salvation and holiness and spirituality (as I have done), then it is very similar to when a pastor receives a monetary donation for preaching a sermon. Personally, I believe (at this point) that if I ever made a royalty from a Christian book I published, the money should only go to ministry purposes–and not for personal purposes–like a car or something. However, there is that one verse that the house church, Anabaptist, anti-pastor, anti-tithing people hate: “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). The Bible does not contradict itself. 1 Corinthians 9:14 and 2 Corinthians 2:17 are equally inspired by the Holy Spirit and they do not contradict. It simply means that SINCERITY is the issue. Those who are rebuked for “peddling the Word of God” were insincere, and vain, and preached worthless, meaningless things in the name of Christ. And I say, such men should not receive a penny from us.

THE PRINTING PRESS:
AN INSTRUMENT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS…AT TIMES

Ask yourself: IS THE BIBLE WORTH IT? IS THE GOSPEL WORTH IT? IS DEEPER LIFE WITH CHRIST WORTH IT?

Bibles are books, you know. They cost money to print and you have to buy them in order to read them–unless you have the internet. But then you have to buy a computer to use the internet.

GutenbergThe printing press was invented originally in China in the medieval times. It appeared in Europe in the mid-1500s during the Protestant Reformation. ALL of the Protestant Reformers wrote, printed, paid for, and sold books–this is how the Reformation spread! Martin Luther, John Calvin, you name it: ALL of the Puritans of the 1500s and 1600s–most notably John Bunyan’s bestseller The Pilgrim’s Progress, prophet that he was. John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney–all the GREAT REVIVALISTS and saints of the past ALL used the printing press. This is nothing new. David Wilkerson’s income came almost 100% from Christian book publishing (Gary Wilkerson’s David Wilkerson, p. 153). The royalties that Leonard Ravenhill made from Why Revival Tarries, and all his other books, he chose to give to missions.

The questions you must ask yourself are:

IS THIS MESSAGE WORTH MY MONEY?

DO I REALLY BELIEVE IN THIS ENOUGH TO SUPPORT IT FINANCIALLY?

OR IS IT FAKE?

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is a Philosophy and Religion graduate from UNC Pembroke. In his free time, he blogs about the Christian life; and has special interests in evangelism and spiritual gifts. He identifies himself as a Reformed Arminian Pentecostal. He’s also a husband and dad. John loves street preaching. His influences are Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, John Wesley, Charles Finney, etc. John is always in the process of writing; and is posting free e-books on this site for cultivating a deeper Christian life. Among them are his 'How to Experience God' and 'The Gospel of Jesus Christ.' He is currently working on the lives of great prophets in church history—from Catholic saints to Protestant reformers and revivalists. He is also working on a Biblical theology of poverty alleviation.
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