Only the beginning: Bible publishers, Bible society execs, and Bible translators should disclose their pay and its sources...

(Tim) In an earlier post on the marketing of the just-issued New International Version 2010, I made a point of specifying the profit Biblica makes off Bible royalties paid by Zondervan each year, and that it's likely Doug Moo and his colleagues on the Committee on Bible Translation are paid for their work from this profit. To which one reader responded: "The problem isn't that Bible translation committees get paid."

To which I respond:

My point wasn't that paying scholars is wrong, but that every product that's a matter of life and death or supported by tithes and offerings or tied to peddling the Word of God should be subject to full disclosure. So, for instance, if Don Carson writes a book speaking ex cathedra...

from the lofty chair of objective scholarly judgment claiming gender-neutered Bible translation is good Bible and good translation, every man reading that book should be told up front that Don is reviewing what he himself was paid to do: Don got paid to produce the New Living Translation, a gender-neutered Bible translation.

But when Don wrote his book and many thousands bought it, this information was largely unknown. And then Don got paid lots of money from the royalties of that book in which he positively reviewed the translation technique he used to produce that other book he was paid for.

Similarly with Doug Moo: if he gives interviews and writes posts and articles hawking his latest Bible product, people need to think money. And in Doug's case, personal money he's personally paid to do this work.

The New York Times and New England Journal of Medicine have strict disclosure policies. Why would the church think such disclosure is less necessary when she believes in the holiness of God and the depravity of man? Is it less pertinent to know that this and that scholar has been paid money to produce a Bible product, review it positively, and speak and write, marketing it, than it is to know this and that scholar has been paid money to help produce this and that drug or to sit on the board of the pharmaceutical that makes money off that drug?

It's easy to do this: Tim Bayly gets paid salary and housing in the amount of a little over $70,000 by Church of the Good Shepherd and a few hundred a year in honoraria and from book links on Baylyblog (this year the total from both will be less than $400).

Now really, was that so painful? Think of Jesus watching specific amounts being put in the Temple treasury by specific persons, and commenting on those amounts and persons to His disciples. It's really quite simple.

We tell each other what our income is and where it comes from and this full disclosure is very useful as we work to judge one another's motives and work. (And if you don't think judging motives is right, read any of the New Testament Epistles again, more carefully--Galatians, for instance.)

When I tell you I get paid by my congregation, it's no admission of evil. Rather, it's a discipline allowing our readers to know that, for instance, this blog is a labor of love--not profit--and that I don't criticize gender-neutered Bible translations because I get paid to do so; nor have I been paid to produce a competing product.

It's time for full disclosure in the church. Money is killing us--and not our bodies, but our souls!

Let every blogger indicate what money he makes off his blog; every man producing a Bible product indicate how much he makes off Biblica's Zondervan and off professing at Wheaton and off royalties paid for his commentaries; every author to indicate what his royalties are; every non-profit exec. to indicate precisely how much he makes off Biblica or Ligonier Ministries; every missionary to indicate what his annual support budget is for the work he does in Kenya or Germany; every parachurch worker to disclose his annual support budget for the work he does with the fifteen students in average attendance at his campus group meeting each week on the campus of Indiana University; each publisher to tell us what profit he makes off the New International Version 2010; and so on.

Those who live off salaries provided by Indiana taxpayers have their salaries listed, publicly--including profs at IU.

Why should those who live off the tithes and offerings (or Bible purchases and conference registrations) of the people of God not have their salaries publicly known by those who pay them? So much more is at stake in the church.

Really, it's a modest proposal: if a man peddles the Word of God, he should disclose his profit.

Comments

We know what the Lord thought of the money-changers in the temple. Could hawking God's Word for fame and megaprofits be any less offensive to him? Where would we be without the Willow Creek Association, the Rick Warren gunk and the North Point Community Church programs? Probably, we would all be a lot better off!

Tim,

While full disclosure is generally a good idea, I can't quite see the conflict of interest that you seem to see with D.A. Carson.

He worked on the NLT. His name is inside the book. I assume he was paid for this work. He wrote another book defending his methodology. His name was on the book. I assume that he was paid for that work too.

Isn't this what most authors do? They write what they believe in and they get paid royalties when their books sell. They get paid well if their books sell well. Who doesn't already know this?

Unless one thinks that D.A. Carson is writing things that he doesn't believe to be true (and I don't believe this for a second) in order to make money - it is difficult to see where the problem lies.

David

Dear David,

People had no idea Don got paid for doing gender-neutered Bible work when they bought and read his book evaluating gender-neutered Bibles, nor do people have any idea what kind of money men make off royalties. Fact is, people don't even know the usual percentages negotiated as royalties.

But note carefully: when a NYTimes journalist writes about something in which he has any financial or relational interest; or when someone submits an article to the NEJMedicine that addresses anything having to do with a pharmaceutical firm or drug he has a financial interest in, that pertinent information must be fully disclosed to the readers.

Don't be naive about the ways these things influence us. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Thus the discipline of fully divulging our personal interests and profits.

If you think it's not pertinent or needed, you have no idea how publishing works, nor the stunningly corrupt influence of money. Jesus warned us clearly about this. And any number of times in Scripture, the Holy Spirit records the flow of money next to sin, and the absence next to holiness.

John the Baptist, for instance, did his preaching and teaching and baptizing for nothing; the Holy Spirit tells us precisely how poor he was by giving us a precise account of where he worked and what he wore and what he ate.

But we should think that doesn't give John the Baptist any credibility since money couldn't possibly influence a man's work? Seriously?

Like you and me, Don Carson and Doug Moo are entirely capable of being led astray by a desire to get rich. If they have done their Bible work for free, tell us--just as the Holy Spirit told us about Moses and the Apostle Paul and John the Baptist and Jesus. And if they didn't do it for free, that's even more pertinent. Print it at the front of the book. What could possibly be the harm of doing so? The New York Times does it. The New England Journal of Medicine does it. Most reputable publications do it.

If even pagans know how easily money corrupts judgment and discipline themselves through full disclosure, how have we gotten to the point that Christians feel no need to follow those disciplines ourselves?

If it's a basic law of journalism to "follow the money," God's people should disclose the money so it can be easily followed and accurate judgments made concerning matters of doctrine and practice and motive.

Love,

Tim,

Thank you for your thoughts. You know a great deal more about the publishing industry than I do - so I will defer to your judgment about how corrupt and corrupting it is.

As a fellow pastor - my salary is public knowledge. In fact it gets voted on every year. I make no outside income and, if this helps, I have volunteered to donate my time to work on producing a new translation whose copyright is owned by a Biblically Reformed denomination.

David

p.s. While this is off topic, I do think that you are wrong about pagans getting the issue of full disclosure better than Christians do. The type of disclosure that is offered by financial journalists only produces the appearance of credibility while ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room. That gorilla is that financial television and magazines exist to sell advertising. Therefore journalists get paid to attract an audience by telling them what they want to hear. So, if you follow financial journalism, the time when you will see or read the greatest need to be cautious is after the market has already crashed. As a system, financial journalism encourages people to buy high and sell low because that is what sells advertising - and I have never seen a warning label or disclosure for this reality.

>>As a fellow pastor - my salary is public knowledge. In fact it gets voted on every year. I make no outside income

Good policy. I wish it were followed in every church. Pastors' salaries should not be hidden in clump of numbers, but pulled out man by man.

As for the 800 lb. gorilla, I agree. But on the individual level, they best us.

Love,

Disclosure of financial interest does make sense. It works both ways, as Tim Bayly shows in this post. We might think he makes a lot of money from this blog via advertising or subsidy from some fat cat. By disclosing that he makes less than $1,000 per year he tells us that isn't so. Thus, when he writes controversial posts, it isn't to stir up interest and fund himself or the blog overhead.

That said, maybe I should disclose the royalties from my game theory book as well as my Indiana University salary. I might get round to doing that sometime. (IU does make me disclose this to them, since I assign the book for one of my classes.)

p.s. In the same spirit, it would be nice to know whether Mr. Carson makes $100 per year from his gender-neutered Bible translation, or $50,000. If it's a major part of his income, that does make us think about his defense of it differently.

>>it would be nice to know whether Mr. Carson makes $100 per year from his gender-neutered Bible translation, or $50,000

In the case of the NLT, I'm sure Don's profit was negligible. The larger issue in this particular case is that he was purporting to give an objective review of something he had personally committed himself to, yet he didn't notify his readers of that personal (and longstanding) commitment.

Love,

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