1. Becky Minor says:

    Thank you for these thoughts, Randy. One hates to think that Tyndale and LifeWay simply saw a buck to be made from the cult following “heaven” stories have right now. But one also hates to think they had been roundly deceived. Either way, the answer is messy.

    Here’s hoping they choose to do the right thing in cleaning this up. If that means the best thing to do is pull the book, I hope they have the guts to do it.

  2. Randy Streu says:

    Becky — I believe they DID, in fact, pull the book. The main point of contention here is that they basically didn’t do ANYTHING until Alex and his mom went public. Once it was out in the open, it became, “oh, well, we want readers to know we have integrity, so we’re pulling this book and investigating.”

    Where was the investigation BEFORE it went public? Integrity is what you do when nobody’s watching.

    • Ben Wolf says:


      I agree with you–mostly. I think that while Tyndale could have done more to investigate, Lifeway is getting shafted here. The source of their knowledge that the book was false came from a longtime critic who repeatedly emailed (and presumably still does email) Lifeway’s president regarding issues he has with what Lifeway produces. Given the source (and I’ve read the email) if I were Lifeway, I wouldn’t have investigated either.

      It’s not that Lifeway didn’t want to make sure everything was legit–it’s that they, as a company so big that they have their own zip code, can’t verify everything all the time for total accuracy. They probably get 100 requests to remove or add content to their stores per week for a variety of reasons. If they spent time chasing down every last one, they’d be a Private Detective service instead of a publisher, albeit a Christian one.

      And with Tyndale, Even if the son and the mom were saying that this was true, you can bet the dad was there the whole time telling Tyndale “Oh, it’s fine. They’re just nervous.” or whatever because he was making good money at it. Since the dad is the more experienced and cognitive of the two coauthors, why wouldn’t Tyndale listen to him?

      For me, this is a witch hunt. Regardless of what your views are on heavenly tourism, I see a lot of jealousy in all of this. Not from everyone, but I personally get a bit jealous when someone is successful and I’m not. I think that for some of these critics, that’s the case, and so they’re content to use (very valid) reasons to tank this book and these publishers/distributors. Yes, the book should be pulled if it’s not true (or just moved across the store to the fiction aisle) but we ought to stop lambasting Tyndale and Lifeway. All we’re doing is looking for someone to direct our angst at, and it’s serving to make us look divided and stupid in the process to the rest of the world.

      Those are my thoughts. Great article, Randy.

      • Randy Streu says:

        Ben, I know you’re NOT, but you -seem- to be saying a Christian bookstore needn’t take any kind of responsibility for what it sells. If it’s branded “Jesus,” that’s all the diligence due.

        If LifeWay didn’t purport to be a ministry (and, by the way, they do), that might be somewhat different. But as a Christian organization that exists to

        “assist churches and believers to evangelize the world to Christ, develop believers, and grow churches by being the best provider of relevant, high quality, high value Christian products and services (from the LifeWay Mission Statement)”

        they have given themselves the responsibility to know what’s on their shelves.

        • kim says:

          Honestly, Randy, I think that as society drifts from God, so does His people. Jesus said in Matthew 24:12 that because of the rise of sin, the Love (Agape love, God love) will grow cold and in Luke 18:8 Jesus said But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” 

          I think that we’ll only see less and less of God with some christian publishers and less in bookstores too. I also believe we will one day see ‘Christian Porn’. Some writers move closer and closer to the flame while waving the Christian flag and some publishers and bookstores want to follow society. Sad, huh? That’s where the Christ following Christian needs to plant their flag and say I won’t be moved. God will bless those works dedicated to Him, but not those who want to play games. It is what it is.

          • Julie D says:

            Given how reluctant some companies are to even show a couple experiencing sexual desire for each other within marriage, I think outright porn is a bit further away than that.

            • kim says:

              Oh i’ve read some christian stuff that made me think Harlequin books. ANd it was more than just marriage sexual desire. SMH. Trust me, it’s closer than you think.

        • Ben Wolf says:

          But the very thing they’re doing is already flirting with biblical disaster. Jesus said that we can’t serve two masters, or he will love one and hate the other. Lifeway “serves” Mammon (money) and Jesus at the same time. So by definition they’re already violating a biblical principle by even attempting to serve both.

          In any case, someone somewhere will have an issue with something on a  Lifeway shelf at some point. Does that mean they should pull everything? Certainly not. They are “responsible” in upholding their own standards. They get to determine what does and doesn’t fall under those standards, don’t they? I’m not running Lifeway, so I can’t determine that for them.

          Yes, I can complain and voice my concerns, but they get to make the decision. We get to make the decision whether or not we’re going to support them financially. That’s their motivation. Because if they don’t get our money, they won’t have bookstores to sell us stuff. Then there won’t be anything on the shelves, heresy or otherwise.

      • Randy Streu says:

        I feel like I should mention: LifeWay is by far NOT the only Christian retailer who needs take a serious look at what they’re selling. They just happen to be among the biggest, so they get all the press. CBD, Family Christian Bookstores, etc. all pretty much ALL guilty, one way or another, of pushing everything from bad doctrine to outright heresy on their bookshelves.

        I’m not calling for a boycott or anything — Christians ought to get out of the boycott business and into the business of loving their neighbors. I am suggesting, lovingly, I hope, that these retailers take a serious look at their priorities, and make a decision as to whether some of this material lines up.

  3. notleia says:

    From what I’ve heard, it gets worse. Apparently Kevin keeps all the royalties and Alex hasn’t seen a red cent since his parents’ messy divorce. Alex has been wanting to retract for years, but it’s only now that he and his mother have finally gotten anyone’s attention that Tyndale and LifeWay are doing the PR patch-up song-and-dance.

  4. kim says:

    Hey Randy!! Thanks for posting this. And that’s why I stay away from the bigger publishing houses and enjoy my little sweet publisher. It seems the bigger christian houses are now trying to bring in more work that they are now crossing their own beliefs, which in my opinion, is downright cheesy.

    I’d rather have a publisher who sticks to their guns as opposed to wanting to follow society trends.

    I also found this interesting:  The reviewer was surprised to find that these words had been accepted in a book published by a known Christian publisher — which, given criticism from the other side of the proverbial aisle, is a fair point.

    The bigger secular publishers frown on cursing in novels as they say it equates ‘lazy writing’. I don’t agree that it is lazy, but I avoid cursing  b/c of my audience and how I feel about it. I’ve had to work hard and dig deeper to avoid it. It’s actually made me a better writer. Even Stephen King says to avoid it even though his books are filled with cursing. LOL!! Now the Christian publishers are allowing it, while the bigger secular publishers say, really?? LOL!! Oh my. The things these Christian publishers do to be invited to the ball.

    I wonder if Tyndale is so desperate to bring in the business that they’ll print anything, which is sad. I fear that the christian publishers are being a lot like society and dropping their Christian standards in order to ‘fit in’. That’s just plain sad. God doesn’t play games, but too many people think He does or that He won’t care what they do.

    Oh well, not my circus, not my monkey. 🙂



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