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Who’s Afraid of Clark Pinnock? – The LifeWay List & Moral Bankruptcy

Seth Dunn

“Hush, hush; Keep it down now.  Voices carry.” – Aimee Man

Clark Pinnock is a deceased biblical scholar, theologian, and apologist.  For a time, he was a member of the faculty of a Southern Baptist seminary.  During his career he was a proponent of open theism and was supportive of annihilationism.  With regards to the eternal state, he was an inclusivist. Clark Pinnock was a liberal Baptist heretic.  According to an article and a list recently published by Cameron Dobbins, Clark Pinnock’s books are not allowed to be sold at LifeWay Christian Stores.  Yet, the average customer of LifeWay likely does not even know the names of the heresies Clark Pinnock endorsed.  The average customer of LifeWay likely does not even know who Clark Pinnock was.  Banning the sale of Clark Pinnock from LifeWay stores is about as effective as banning the sale of pork at a Kosher Deli.  There is almost no demand among LifeWay’s target demographic for the writings of a deceased academic.   By-and-large, soccer moms don’t buy in-depth theological treatises from men like Pinnock.   They buy devotional books such as Jesus Calling from women like Sarah Young…and they buy lots of them.  Sarah Young, who engages in the heresy of Montanism, is not listed on the list of banned authors published by Dobbins.


The existence of the LifeWay list seems to indicate that the organization knows there are certain authors that it shouldn’t sell because the content of their writings is harmful.  The list is a who’s who of disgraced pastors, gay-affirming authors, and Word of Faith prosperity preachers.  Yet it’s not an inclusive list of heretical authors.  As is noted above, popular-seller Sarah Young is not listed.

A Display of Sarah Young Books at a LifeWay Store

Unlike Clark Pinnock, Sarah Young is a best-seller. Her montainist book, Jesus Calling, has sold millions and millions of copies.  It was the No. 5 best-selling book in the world for the first half of 2013.  It even outsold Fifty Shades of Grey.  LifeWay can certainly afford to ban the sale of Clark Pinnock books, but can it afford to ban the sale of books by Sarah Young?

Popular false teacher, TD Jakes is also not included on the LifeWay list.  This is the kind of thing that happens at TD Jake’s church:


His writings are clearly unfit for Christian consumption but, like Sarah Young, TD Jakes has a wide appeal.  TD Jakes even produced the recent Heaven is for Real Movie.  Can LifeWay afford to the ban the sale of TD Jakes books?

“The Bible is the best-selling book of all time, but Christian bookstores still need to sell more than one book to survive.” – Ruth Graham 

Recently, an article was published by Christianity Today that indicated that the list published by Dobbins is not legitimate.  That article was written by Bob Smietana who, until last month, was on the payroll at LifeWay Christian Resources.  A second article which casts doubt about the veracity of Dobbins’ list was published by the Christian PostLifeWay is trying to bury Dobbins’ list.  However, the Pulpit & Pen has confirmed with LifeWay employees that such a list does exist.

LifeWay has a clear motivation for trying to keep the existence of the list a secret.  The list proves that LifeWay knows that it shouldn’t sell books by heretics and false teachers.  Yet, top-selling heretics and false teachers are not on the list and remain on the shelves at LifeWay.  The content of the list indicates that LifeWay values sales over sound Christian doctrine.

Pressure is great upon LifeWay to keep up revenue.  Since it is a non-profit “ministry” organization, LifeWay’s proceeds are not subject to income tax.  LifeWay, which is self-supporting, funnels a portion of its earnings to underfunded state Baptist conventions outside of the Bible belt.  Its constituents depend on its earnings.  Unfortunately, for LifeWay, brick-and-mortar book stores are becoming harder and harder to keep afloat.  Borders filed for bankruptcy in 2011.  Barnes & Noble is teetering on the edge of oblivion as well.  LifeWay’s primary competition, Family Christian Stores, has considered filing for bankruptcy.  LifeWay recently put its Nashville headquarters up for sale.

If LifeWay hopes to keep its doors open, it needs all the revenue it can get.  Books by Sarah Young and TD Jakes have provided plenty of it.  LifeWay has a clear incentive to act unethically and sell these books in order to help keep its doors open.  Bob Smietna, who was a LifeWay employee until last month, has already demonstrated a lack of journalistic integrity by publishing an article in LifeWay’s defense without first providing full disclosure of his relationship with LifeWay.  The Pulpit & Pen has produced audio evidence that LifeWay will special order Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer books, despite these books being banned from store shelves.  Slate has published similar findings.  Given the documented evidence of LifeWay’s lack of integrity and the increased pressures in the book-selling marketplace, it’s perfectly reasonably to conclude that LifeWay knowingly sells inappropriate books to spiritually undiscerning customers.  Its own list of banned authors, which LifeWay is desperately trying to bury, proves that its leadership knows heresy shouldn’t be sold.  It incriminates LifeWay.

“Smoke ’em if you got ’em” – Unknown

Just as the United States government makes millions of dollars a day off of cigarette taxes while allowing the sale of tobacco products it knows kill people, LifeWay takes in revenue from the sale of heresy that it knows causes harm to the souls the of men and women who read it.  Some, less popular, drugs the government won’t allow to be sold.  Some, less popular, heresies, LifeWay won’t allow to be sold.  Somewhere a small child may be sitting in the back of his mother’s car breathing in her second hand smoke while a well-worn copy of Jesus Calling sits in the passenger seat.

Poison is poison…and people pay to consume it.

LifeWay’s defenders might argue that its recent decision to scrap the sales of best-selling Heaven Tourism books indicate that the organization is willing to ban the sale of top-selling, yet theologically unsound books.  Such defenders should note that the popularity of the Heaven Tourism genre was already on the wane before LifeWay announced the decision to stop selling such books.  International Mission Board President David Platt had already publically decried the entire genre.  Alex Malarkey, the subject of one of these books, had already recanted his account.  The Southern Baptist Convention, which owns LifeWay, had already passed a resolution condemning Heaven Tourism books.  LifeWay was hardly proactive in cooking this particular golden goose.  It was reactive and reacted after the majority of Heaven Torusim sales has already been rung up on its cash registers.

LifeWay’s market is disintegrating on more than one front.  Not only are bookstores becoming fast out-moded, church attendance is on the wane.  Twenty percent of the US public does not identify with any particular religion.  LifeWay has less and less people to whom to sell.  Retail book-sales is a failing business.  It may not be feasible for LifeWay to stay in business and not sell what books it can sell, even if such books are written by false teachers and heretics.

God, however, will be in business until kingdom come and beyond.  His grace and mercy are free.  God is the one to Whom concerns about organizations like LifeWay should be directed.  It is against Him who heretics, false teachers, and their enablers sin. We should pray for either the repentance or destruction of LifeWay Christian Stores.  Surely one is nigh. God is not mocked and His will will be done.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will belovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9

[Contributed by Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.