The State of Evangelical Publishing
Vic Reasoner
Published with the permission of THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. Fall 2012. Volume 30.
Date Posted on IMARC June 13, 2013

Four of the most important conservative Christian publishers all began as family businesses in Grand Rapids. Known as the "Netherlands Quartet," because of their Dutch background, here is how they each began.

Kregel Publications began in 1909 when Louis Kregel started selling used theological books at his home. William B. Eerdmans began selling "ten-cent specials" to Dutch farmers in 1910 in order to pay his way through Calvin Theological Seminary. Pat and Bernie Zondervan, who were cousins, launched their own venture in 1931 by selling used Reformed books directly, then by mail. Herman Baker, a nephew of Louis Kregel, also established a book business in 1939.

But in recent years evangelical book publishers have been bought out. In the early 1980s Zondervan bought out Revell and Francis Asbury Press. Zondervan advanced a million dollars in a book deal with John Delorean in 1985. When the book bombed, they ultimately shut down their Francis Asbury imprint as well as Revell. In 1987 Zondervan became a wholly owned subsidiary of HarperCollins.

Thomas Nelson bought out Word Publishers in 1992. In November 2011 HarperCollins also bought out Thomas Nelson. But HarperCollins is owned by the News Corporation, with Rupert Murdoch as chairman. This is the world's second largest media conglomerate.

The bottom line is that the News Corporate now controls 50% of the Christian book market. Thus, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson exist to generate a profit for New Corp. They are going to publish whatever they think there is a market for. But Rupert Murdoch is not committed to evangelicalism, biblical reform, or genuine revival.

The result is that the average Christian bookstore is stocked with superficial and sometimes heretical products. Christian publishing sells $4 billion annually. But when the pop-psychology-self-help-feel-good books, the end-times fiction, the celebrity biography, and the opportunist author trying to capitalize on current events are removed, the average Christian book store would be left with little besides romance novels. We have become a generation of believers who are doctrinally illiterate and historically unaware of our roots. While the history of the Christian Church is dotted with classics from every time period, the best-seller list is dominated by a few celebrity authors.

With in the academic market, publishing is controlled by the guild. Those who seek to publish their research must submit it to peer review. The guild controls who can get published. It is a sport for these scholars to come up with some new theological twist. A rather narrow group of scholars all congratulate each other, but few have obtained the academic pedigree necessary to play this game.

Anyone who has an unpopular message or is contending for truth will probably have to resort to self-publication. It was a mistake for the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy to disband after ten years in 1987. Looking back, they did a great deal of good, but after they disbanded the liberal agenda never slept. They have so muddied the water that many people are now confused. My article"Why Inerrancy is Compatible with Evangelical Wesleyanism" has been submitted to three evangelical journals, who have all rejected it. Click on this sentence to read this paper, or access this paper by copying and pasting this url into your web browser.

Most major Wesleyan publishers would not recognize Methodist theology if they were hit over the head with a hardbound volume of Wesley's 52 Standard Sermons. The current spate of Wesley studies often equates John Wesley with process philosophy, feminism, liberal theology, and an errant Bible. Thus, Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers was formed in 1991 to contend for historic Methodist doctrine.