IVCF and IVP: don't feed the hand that bites you...

(Tim, w/thanks to Kamilla) Remembering that our Dad, Joe Bayly, was director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship's staff on the Eastern seaboard, publisher at Inter-Varsity Press, that both he and my father-in-law, Ken Taylor, served as editor of I-V's national magazine His, and that for decades Dad served on I-V's board, our readers will understand it's sad for us to admit Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and Inter-Varsity Press would both do well to stop collecting money from church's missions budgets and Christian book distributors, and we all would do well to stop giving them money. The attacks upon the Word of God coming from their employees, conferences, and publications far outweigh any good this or that staff worker, speaker, or book may still be doing. Each of them are only the exception that proves the rule.

For instance, here's what IVP says about one of their newest products titled The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are:

Concepts like "gay" or "straight" are relatively recent developments in human history. We let ourselves be defined by socially constructed notions of sexual identity and sexual orientation, even though these are not distinctly biblical or Christian ways of thinking about sex.

Anthropologist Jenell Williams Paris offers a Christian framework for sexuality that accounts for complex postmodern realities...

She unpacks how sexual identities are socially constructed in our cultural context, and assesses problems with common cultural and Christian understandings of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Ultimately, linking sexual feelings to human identity leads us to a dead end.

Avoiding simplistic moral exhortation about sexual behavior, Paris argues that the Christian tradition holds a distinct vision for sexuality without sexual identity categories. The End of Sexual Identity moves beyond culture war impasses to open up new space and vocabulary for conversations with people in diverse communities both inside and outside the church.

Readers who think IVP's classic Knowing God (or some other title) justification enough for their continued existence should know there are any number of other publishers who are faithful to Scripture, would love to pick up Knowing God as one of their titles, and would not force it to share the same page and shelf with other heterodox and heretical works.

The declaration that "sex is too important to define who we are" is no "complex postmodern realit(y)." Rather, it's one more step down IVP's decade-long, simplistic, and boring effort to demonstrate ever greater conformity to the spirit of the age while claiming the Bible makes them do it.

Comments

Lessee....sexual identities are "socially constructed in our cultural context," which is why every society that has survived more than a few decades is predominantly heterosexual.

Even if these people have never heard of Scripture's injunctions on sexuality, one would suppose that they might have remembered SOMETHING from health or biology class that would bring some thought to bear on the matter.

> Avoiding simplistic moral exhortation about sexual behavior...

Am I allowed to swear on this blog?

The language used in this blurb is nauseatingly dialogueish, and I expect the book is, too. I do not expect to find a hearty, confident, prophetic apologia for "Man and woman, He created them."

However, attempting to hear past the lame tone (if possible), I think I agree that "sexual identity" categories "heterosexual" and "homosexual" are late, perverted inventions (see: Alfred Kinsey). If this book succeeds in debunking the concept of homosexuality as a nature, it is a step in the right direction.

We lose the debate, and fail to confront false presuppositions, if we grant the notion of homosexuality as a nature. It's not a nature, it's behavior.

"Now anyone who thinks that this is a prelude to urging us all to start adopting more biblical ways about speaking about sex, is someone who is perhaps a tad more naive than they ought to be." - Doug Wilson

Well, I've been chastised by lesser men.

I'd be surprised if this book doesn't have an endorsement from Brian McLaren on it somewhere. The book appears to be building on the foundation that he has laid.

Joe, do not Romans 1, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 & 22, among other passages indicate that, while Paul may not have used modern terminology to describe what was going on, the Scriptures certainly do commend heterosexuality to us. No?

Leslie,

I checked the book's website at IVP -- no Brian McLaren, but Greg Boyd instead.

Kamilla

BB-
To use those terms, I reject the notion that there is a "sexuality" other than "hetero." Man is created "male and female," and the Bible doesn't give any indication that there exists any sexual nature beyond those two sexes. The term "heterosexual" implies that one's impulses define his nature, i.e., one has impulses to copulate with the "other" sex, while another desires intercourse with the "same" sex, and these different "orientation" of desire can be understood as different natures. That's a lie. There are only two sexes: male and female. So at best, "heterosexual" is a redundant and useless term, but really it's loaded with Godless meaning.

1Co 6:9 says that the "effeminate" will not inherit the Kingdom. That's the nearest (I can think of) Scripture gets to an understanding of "sexuality" beyond male and female. But I take the word as a description of perversion, not as a third sexual nature, as the modern "homosexual" idea would have it.

The author, Jenell, left the following comment under a more recent and unrelated post here on Baylyblog:

*******

Hi! I saw the post from several weeks about regarding IVP and my book, The End of Sexual Identity. The book is now available, and if you or your readers have time to read it, I'd love to see what you think of the actual text (as opposed to just its press release). We may not agree, but I hope the book can spark some thoughtful, civil dialogue among believers.

*******

If readers want to write Jenell, send me an e-mail and I'll send you her e-mail address.

Meanwhile, here's the response I left under the comment where she originally posted it:

Dear Jenell,

Authors control their book's pre-publication press releases, as they also control their bios. Your press release was meant to get people to read your book, but it backfired with us, at least. When the release backfires and is a negative incentive, you did your job well. You told people what your book was about and where it stood and they made an informed decision that they would not send you royalty money and not waste valuable time reading your misled and misleading thoughts on the meaning of sex in our decadent age.

If you and your publisher erred in what the release said about the content of your book, then issue another press release saying so and have another hack at putting down what the book's true content is in a follow-up press release.

But of course, you already did put down an accurate summary of what your book's true content is and, to your delight, this accurate summary convinced many who are easily deceived that they should pay you royalties for the privilege of reading your book. Your press release worked quite well with them.

But so it did with others of us who came to a negative decision about buying your book.

You can't have it both ways. If you send out a press release prior to publication telling people what your book says and you get some people on board, you can't complain about others who read the same accurate text, come to the same understanding of your book as those who decide to buy it, but for their part, understand Scripture, fear God, and decide to stay far away from it.

Love,

Oh gee whiz, I don't know if I should enter this conversation, but I'd like to offer this observation. I did not know your father, but did hear him speak, admired his writing, and knew a bit about his role in evangelical institutions that helped shape me. I was a young student influenced a bit by IVCF and a reader of HIS. I am thankful to God for their influence.

Now, as a bookseller who on occasion travels to events, I have opportunity to meet a number of current IVCF staff. I think it is unfair what you said, naming "their employees"and suggesting that orthodoxy and fidelity are an "exception." I don't know your work, so I truly don't know: how do you know this? How many of their staff and employees do you know? Faithful and orthodox staff are in the minority? You know this with enough confidence to say so in public? I'm amazed at the foolishness and/or arrogance of such a huge accusation. You owe them an apology unless you can document this outlandish claim.

A few less than fully traditional books outweighs the good that staff are doing, winning people to Christ and leading book groups on Knowing God and the like? That may be your opinion but it seems evident it is a rather extreme one since by most measurements, the controversial books and conferences are few and the faithful work abundant. Am I wrong to think that you slandered the very good work that many IVCF staff are doing and their deep dedication to God's Kingdom by stating that they are only the exception? It felt like a real low blow, trying to dissuade people to stop funding field staff because you disapprove of a book (that it appears you hadn't even read yet.) You of course know that most field staff of IVP simply don't know about, let alone read, all the IVCF titles. Even if your beef with IVP is fair, to thereby want to hinder the evangelism and discipleship going on in very hard places, is perplexing to me.

The comments in the thread, too, were less than kind, mocking in tone, about the press release. ("So dialogue-ish?" What in the world does that even mean, and is it necessarily bad to dialogue?) Several seemed to think Paris thinks same-sex sexual behavior is acceptable, a claim she does not make in the book at all. To say that understandings of gender and homosexuality are to some extent different in different cultures doesn't necesarily mean that she thereby approves of what the Bible prohibits. The press release that you cite doesn't say that either and you've read into it more than it suggests, I'd say. So, I appreciate Paris' invitation to actually read the book and chat with her. That might be a good dialogue to listen in on.

For the record, I believe it is fine to keep your critique sharp; we dare not hesitate to speak the truth as we see it, and there are significant problems in the evangelical and Reformed church today. We are called to hold one another to account so I don't mean to suggest it is wrong to call out an unfaithful book, author, or movement. Fair enough. But show some grace and some common sense. Large generalities of the sort you wrote about two large organizations are not only unfair, but they are most often simply inaccurate. Stop supporting good IVCF staffers? Sounds like cutting off your nose to spite you face. Shame on you.

And, lastly, regarding your reply to Paris's invite. It's not a huge deal, but you sounded so darn scolding to her, I wanted to offer this: I'm not so sure authors create their own press release. Your dad was in publishing a long time ago and if he created his own press releases, maybe you think it is still done that way. I seriously doubt she had a hand in the press release, the back cover, or perhaps not even the title. Why you imply that she said it is mistaken (she did not say that) or that she she wants to have it both ways strikes me as very odd. She wants to to read the book, not a paragraph about it. Such come courtesy is known even in the world. That you, in the name of faithfulness to Biblical orthodoxy, would have no shame or chagrin in critiquing a book you haven't read, is a very poor witness indeed. Even a tiny bit of humility or indication that you could be wrong---since you hadn't read the book---would have been proper. Don't ya think?

And anyway, the book's thesis seems pretty evidently true--sexual mores are profoundly different all over the world, have developed over time, and simplistic rhetoric of the right or left isn't necessarily wise or Biblically faithful. She is a professional anthropologist and whether we agree with her phrasing or conclusions, it simply won't do to say we think she's wrong without knowing what she is setting out to do and what she concludes. The book does not condone homosexuality, by the way, and IVP has never published a book that does. The firm rebuke of you and your pals just baffles me.

To say you won't give her royalites or waste your time reading the book which you are publicly condemning is a cop out. If your going to go to the effort of condemning her project and then extrapolate from that that IVCF staffers don't deserve support you should be pretty darn sure you are correct with this audacious accusation.

And--wow!--to imply she doesn't "fear God" is to suggest something you cannot judge at this point. There comes a time when such a thing must be said--through tears, as Schaeffer used to say--but, guys, you haven't even read her book, let alone talked to her. I detected arrogance and anger, but no tears. It is a heavy, sorrowful thing to declare a person (let alone a whole bunch of people in two organizations, most of whom you do not know) apostate and I think you are crossing the lines of fairness and Biblical norms for prophetic denunciation.

I'm sorry to bring all this to you, but the more I think about solid folk at IVCF and at IVP, too, the more frustrated I am with your broadside generalizations and overly strong accusations. Your arrogance grieves me and I suspect it grieves the Holy Spirit.

>>How many of their staff and employees do you know?

Tons for many years--didn't you notice I went to UW-Madison? My wife and I were intimately acquainted with IV's Madison staff. Then too, Dad was on the board for two decades and resigned because of what IV had become. A quarter century ago!

Listen, brother, I wrote what I wrote because of what I know about IV's men and women. Which is a ton. And by God's grace, I don't sell books (or blog posts) for a living, so I don't have to make nice. I've taken vows to speak the truth and to guard the good deposit that's been passed on to me.

IV's local staff and national officers refused to correct IV's promotion of sodomy here on the campus of IU this past year. Plain fact. IV promoted sodomy in a much-publicized evangelistic meeting. Plain fact.

And you think I need to apologize?

As for books promoting heterodoxy and heresy, IV's been doing this for decades. And you call it arrogance to warn God's sheep to flee?

I'm going to leave your comment here for all to see as a perfect example of a man in bondage to the spirit of the age. As Dylan sang, "When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?"

(2 Timothy 4:1-5) 1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Love,

Thanks for the reply, I guess. Perhaps there is little point in furthering this too much, I suppose, as my effort to call you to humility and logic seem to fall on totally deaf ears. I was surprised you weren't at all cordial, admitting no overstatement on your part at all.

I did not say it was arrogant to warn the sheep. Why did you accuse me of that? I did not say that because I do not believe that. I specifically said it is fair to offer critique, if it is done with kindness and is based on facts. We could quibble about what it looks like to "speak the truth in love" but you misrepresent me if you think I said it is arrogant to warn sheep. One can warn without arrogance. If you are going to retort, at least quote me properly. Geesh.

I did say you should apologize, but not because you spoke out against what may be some bad books, but because of your vast overstatement and unwarranted generalizations. You reply as if I think it is wrong to speak out, and I specifically said otherwise. Again, why fight a straw man, as if I'm a liberal who doesn't believe that we should call people to account. I specifically said otherwise. My concern was about the facts of your accusation and what I took to be a prideful tone.

So you knew some people a quarter a century ago? You went to Madison (a while ago)--that's one campus. Somebody at one chapter refused to correct an error you pointed out? Plain fact: there are hundreds and hundreds of chapters. You are either deluded or dishonest if you think you know them all. Tell us in honesty: what percentage of the current IVCF staff have you interviewed? How many prayer meetings or Bible studies or training sessions or chapter camps have you attended in recent years? Maybe you have researched this more than you let on but you can understand why I doubt that. I think you accused some falsely and impugned their reputation and it is a sin. Do you disagree that accusing people falsely is a sin? Do you disagree that you said that the orthodox faithful ones are in the minority? That is, "most" IVCF staff should no longer be funded. Can you make such a claim without having met these many folks? You said you know tons so I don't disbelieve you that you have a big picture of the organization. I know I have not traveled widely or visited many chapters. But your accusation simply doesn't line up with the good folks I know, conservative evangelicals, faithful young adults leading good studies and doing good work. I find it hard to believe they are the exception, and will remain doubtful about that unless there is evidence to show otherwise. You fault me for wanting to give the benefit of the doubt to good folks trying their best to serve? Would not charity demand that people are "innocent until proven guilty" or is that an example of me being caught in the spirit of the age? How tacky of me.

Besides asking you not to make unwarranted accusations without proof or evidence about the many, many staff that are out there (the fallacy of over-generalization) I voiced the fairly commonly held view that it is shoddy to make confident claims about a book that one hasn't read. I simply asked that you read a book before you thoroughly condemn it.

And you say I am a "perfect example" of a man "in bondage to the spirit of the age." Jimminy Crickets, man, you are quick to judge! I certainly am a good example of a sinner who is glad for God's merciful grace, but on what basis can you possible say I'm in bondage? I may be, but you don't know me and all I did was ask for standard honesty in not implying you know the majority of IVP staff and that you not read too much in to a press release about a book. And you insult me over that routine suggestion? I'm the perfect example of being caught by "the spirit of the times"? You've got to be kidding? Do you jump to conclusions this quickly with everyone you correspond with? Do you often treat others so rudely or did I just get you on a bad day?

Look, if you said you're afraid that some, or many, IVCF workers are drifting badly, or if you documented how many campuses you have visited throughout the country so you could back up this hefty claim your view would have some merit. I know that there are theological concerns in some quarters if IVCF. I know some older staff have expressed concerns. (I've read the piece by Mack Stiles, written just as they published his latest book.) I don't love or recommend every book published by IVP, although in recent years most are more than solid. It would carry some weight if you'd show that you have some basis on which to make such a large accusation other than saying your dad used to know IV decades ago and you know "tons" of people in IVCF. Or that somebody endorsed sodomy at one campus event.

So, I call on you to either document your public claim about the majority of IV chapters and IVP books or moderate it to reflect what you actually know to be true. Admit that you overstated a bit, perhaps inadvertently smearing the reputations of people you have never met. Speak your concern, name your issues, but it is simply inappropriate to make accusations about staff, chapters, and employees you do not know. Otherwise we can only surmise you are speaking without credibility.

And full of presumption, making overly large claims on the basis of slim evidence, as you did with me.

And pride. "You" don't have to mince words like this poor sap who has to sell books for a living. Cut me a break big guy. Shooting off your mouth with no tears or evident kindness (or even much logic) isn't a mark of being a prophet, or particularly faithful; bragging how you don't mince words could be sign of just having bad manners and thinking too highly of yourself.

Oddly, although I don't know you and I may be very wrong, I have a hunch that you'll feel good about yourself after this, since you've irritated this corrupted critic, accused him of spiritual laxity, made yourself look oh-so-Godly for refusing to compromise and stood the ground for the real truth. Like the Pharisees, perhaps? I hope I am wrong.

>> Or that somebody endorsed sodomy at one campus event.

Yipes, Byron, and the whole local, regional, and national organization has refused to apologize for or repudiate the teaching of that event, nor take action with the people involved. The organization has made it clear that they will lead students to hell if they want to, not just at one campus event.

And all these good I-V people -- do they support this wickedness by their organization? If they don't, where are their voices demanding that their organization issue an apology, or speaking to the issue at all? If they don't know about this wickedness, why is it all these bad things you have said for it to be brought to light and the cry to go up?

And if they say "It's not wickedness" or that it's a small thing, or that this incident at IU wasn't technically *leading* souls to hell but rather just suggesting some ways of thinking about blah blah blah--

If that's the case, then it's worse than Tim says, and I can only close my mouth and be apalled.

PS: I've responded to Mr. Borger at more length on the main page in a new post titled, "Evangelicalism has betrayed the Word of God: leave the dead to bury the dead..." In that post I explain in more detail why Christians today should stop giving money to InterVarsity Press and InterVarsity's Madison headquarters. Here's the link:

http://www.baylyblog.com/2011/11/recently-a-brother-has-been-faulting-me-for-writing-that-inter-varsity-ought-no-longer-to-receive-support-from-our-missions.html#more