LifeWay Reads With Discernment

Update: The Baptist Standard reported that LifeWay backs off ‘read with discernment’ label for books. Apparently the label was irrelevant to their customers. So all of the links below have been removed since they were dead.

LifeWay, the Christian bookstore of the Southern Baptist Convention, has a new warning label out. It’s called Read With Discernment.  You can read more about it at their Read With Discernment page where they explain what they’re doing.

Our Challenge to be Discerning
We want you to know that the authors of books marked Read with Discernment may have espoused thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology.

Part of me says – it’s about time! However, I know this will raise some questions as to which books and authors get on the list.  So far the list looks as follows:

The Shack by William P. Young: Book Briefing
Bell, Rob: Author Briefing
McLaren, Brian: Author Briefing
Miller, Donald: Author Briefing

My first question is, why not just stop selling these books/authors?  Then, use the disclaimer on the website to tell people why said books/authors are being offered.

Second, what took them so long to do something like this?  I wrote them years ago about T.D. Jakes only to get back a weak response.

Now, off the top of my head authors like T.D. Jakes and singers like Phillips, Craig and Dean should not be sold at LifeWay.  How about Charles Finney?  John Hagee?  G.K. Chesterton?

I wonder who else will make the list?  Who else should make the list?

(HT: Challies)

For what it’s worth…


p.s. I wonder what The Shack post readers think.

tagged as , , in apologetics,books,Culture,Gospel,heresy,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Thomas Twitchell February 14, 2009 at 11:37 am

Read with discernment? What does that mean?

Some have praised Lifeway for their openness, but my question is, who reads with discernment? All the “questionable” books are available through other venders, so the question becomes, as you asked, why would Lifeway sell materials that may not edify the readers? Censorship is a bad thing, except when there are tender hearts to protect. Knowing that the discernment level in the SBC is not very mature, it would seem to make sense that Lifeway might want to be a little bit more discriminating.

My former SBC church did nothing to filter materials in its library, and it, like Lifeway, is afforded a cerain level of authority and respect by those who utilize the resources as being a safe haven. Many who utilize Lifeway will not discern, but only accept that if Lifeway sells it, it is OK.

Lifeway as an SBC money making entity gains more authority as offering safe materials by that association. So the question must be asked, why would they sell questionable and dangerous materials knowing that their selling it works as an endorsement?

Often I have seen the endorsements of men on books that I suspect they never read and have no real knowledge of the contents or they would not have endorsed them. And often I have heard people make the connection that the endorsement somehow legitimized the contents en toto.

Lifeway cannot escape this accountability. Like the offering of a magazine exalting female pastors, simply the presence of it created the aura of legitimacy. Lifeway is not just another book vender. That is really what is at stake here. But, as you say, if there is any level of censorship, even warning labels, one must ask just which printed works will be filtered and by whom?

2 abclay February 14, 2009 at 7:22 pm

You ask which ones should be labeled? It will be interesting to see which ones will be labeled. If The Shack is labeled “Read with Discernment”, it isn’t a stretch to imagine that those in power could wage their war against Reformed Theology in this manner as a sort of “finger in the eye” if you will.

I stopped shopping at Lifeway when I saw the Finney section about two years ago; I just couldn’t support them any longer. Now, I think I may resume shopping there.

You make a valid point, but I see it only as a step in the right direction. I will hold back criticism for now in the hope that this “warning” may bring people to think about what they are ingesting.

May God grace us all with a better knowledge of the truth.

Grace and Peace…


3 Stephen Thomas February 16, 2009 at 12:07 am

I work at a competing Christian retailer and we sell all kinds of garbage with no such warning. Anyway, given that this is a business that requires money-making, and since heresy is what sells…I kind of see this as a good thing because they can still sell it, but by having that sticker on it, they can also make the buyer feel that they are a bad person for buying it. 😀

But I agree that I am dubious of the SBC’s discernment.

Other books I would put that sticker on…Almost anything in the “spirit filled” sections. Almost anything on the “best seller” list. Pro-dispensationalism books. Pro-Zionism books. Just about most of the books in the store, now that I think of it.

4 James February 24, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Wonder how soon they’ll start pulling MacArthur, Piper, etc., from the shelves?

5 johnMark February 24, 2009 at 10:50 pm


I hope that doesn’t happen. I can’t foresee it, however, maybe they can get their own section of the store or sticker?


6 Young March 2, 2009 at 9:46 pm

If Dan Brown takes “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and turns it into fiction, it’s not Christian? Even though it talks about God, Mary, Jesus?

But if William Young takes “A Course in Miracles” and novelizes it, it’s Christian?

You gotta love “Christian” publishers and booksellers who would gladly sell their souls for a buck.

7 johnMark March 3, 2009 at 10:42 am


As you probably know, Dan Brown does not claim to be a Christian nor does he attempt to positively promote Christianity.

Do you really think The Shack is a version of A Course in Miracles?

I can’t, unfortunately, disagree in total with you about Christian publishers.


8 bms December 28, 2009 at 10:02 am

OK, I’m several months late to this, but I feel I can add a few thoughts. First, LifeWay has long had a history of not selling some things that they felt were clearly not orthodox (small “o”) Christianity. For example, the stopped selling Gwen Shamblin materials when she openly denied the Trinity. But, they basically restricted this practice to thos who openly denied basic Christian doctrines. So, a book such as The Shack was allowed in their stores because–while any discerning reader can see it’s open theology and false teaching–the author denies he’s an open theist.

The new “Read with Discernment” logo is to advance LifeWay’s belief that “Any product we stock and promote should be consistent with historical evangelical theology.” With that guideline, I can’t imagine they’ll start labeling John Piper or John MacArthur. Even a radical Arminian would have to concede that Reformed theology is at least as consistent with historical evangelical theology as anything Baptist, since Calvin slightly predates even the Anabaptists. There’s no rational way to claim the Luthern Church (as formed by Luther, who accepted predestination), the Presbyterian Church, the Puritans et al were outside historical evangelical theology.

While, like other commenters, I have some concerns about how uniformly the label is applied, I generally think it’s a good idea. Far too often I see clearly heretical books (Joel Osteen, The Shack, etc) at Christian bookstores and it makes me feel like I have to be careful with anything I buy there unless I know exactly what I’m getting. At many Christian stores, I could never go and just buy a book that “looks good,” especially if the book was as a gift for someone else. Who knows what I might be getting in such a case?

9 Mark Lamprecht January 4, 2010 at 11:10 am

bms, it’s okay. You’re only about 11 months late. 🙂 I understand what Lifeway is trying to do with it’s new label system. I actually haven’t been in a Lifeway recently. Are they still using it? I’d be curious to check for TD Jakes’ books or Phillips, Craig and Dean CD’s, etc.

10 bms January 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm


LifeWay is still using the Please Read with Discernment tags. You can even see if a book is so labeled on their website: For example, search for “The Shack” and the logo will appear just under the book description. If you click on the logo, it will actually open a window with a description of why that book has been labeled. I was actually surprised at how much LifeWay seemed to defend the “The Shack” in the description.

Neither T.D. Jakes nor Phillips, Craig and Dean have been labeled. I looked for John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart,” which is a book I’ve read and found to have terrible theology. For example, Eldredge claims God doesn’t know the future. And “Wild at Heart” has not been labeled either. So, I really don’t know what it takes for a book to get the label. I know LifeWay’s stated guidelines, but have no clue how they actually make the decisions. I think they need to publish a list of people who make the decisions. I imagine there’s some committee–after all, it’s a Baptist organization.

The Shack:

The Shack’s Read with Discernment book briefing:


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