Michael Hyatt, CEO at Nelson, responds

Culled from the comments column, and moved up to a post so it doesn't get lost is:

I am the CEO of Thomas Nelson. Contrary to media reports, we are not requiring authors to sign a doctrinal statement. Nor have we included any doctrinal requirements in our contracts. You can read an unfiltered account of our editorial standards here


skybluepinkrose said...

Oops! There's an important word missing. They are "not" requiring authors to sign . . .

BuffySquirrel said...

A Christian book on business might be interesting. "What you have left after deducting your outgoings from your income is your profit. After reinvesting an appropriate amount in your business, you give this to the poor."

Would it catch on, do you think?

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Miss Snark,

I think you mean to quote the CEO of Nelson is saying they are NOT requiring the Niceen Creed litmus test within their contracts.

Amazing how high profile this topic has become !

Anonymous said...

The editorial standards need some work considering that the second sentence in that post is lacking a "not".

nitpicker said...

Is there a "not" missing between "we are" and "requiring"? If not, I don't understand the "nor".

Ryan Field said...

Unless I missed the point, don't they all do this...all publishers, to a certain extent...at the very least?

M. Takhallus. said...

A non-correction correction.

They are focusing explicitly on the author, on the author's stated beliefs, not on the content.

In other words, no Jews, no Muslims, no Hindus, no agnostics need apply. The litmus test applies not to the material, but to the private and unknowable beliefs of an author.

In theory a Hindu could write the most perfect Christian story but Nelson would reject it, not on the basis of the story, but on the basis of the author's faith.

This is un-American. It is probably legal. But it is un-American. There is no difference between refusing to buy a manuscript from a Jew and refusing to buy a vegetable from a Jew. In either case the value of the object is what matters, not the religion of the seller.

This is the kind of sectarian, exclusionary thinking that has made Iraq the lovely garden spot it is today. Nelson should be ashamed.

Miss Snark said...

The lack of a "not" is MY fault. The original comment at the end of the comment trail has it. I had to retype it for the post and I messed up. Miss Snark is frequently her own nitwit of the day.

word ver: mumlmhmi-the sound you make when you're doing one too many things at the same time and mess them all up.

Anonymous said...

What irritates me is this publisher taking certain values and narrowly accrediting them to Christian beliefs as if anyone of a different religion or an athiest couldn't possibly understand faith, hope, and charity or have a 'positive impact' on others.

Dorothy Rothschild said...

Well, I can cross them off my mythical list of future publishers, being of the Hebraic persuasion and all.

But I can see their point. Amy Grant has very little Blood On The Cross in her pop music, but all of her songs - whether about relationships, recovering from child abuse, or her own controversial divorce - stem from a worldview rooted in her religious beliefs. I'm not saying she couldn't write decent (in both senses) songs even if she was performing acts of badness on the internet, but if the publisher wants to be sure the authors aren't doing so, it's their call.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! this is amazing!!

whats a doctrinal statement?


Anonymous said...

It's not illegal to refuse to buy vegetables from a Jew. People make decisions like that all the time. I won't buy anything at the local Burlington Coat Factory because I refuse to buy from surly people with no manners.

My first novel was published with Thomas Nelson. They refused to publish my second because it was "too Catholic." I asked if that was legal; it was. They suggested I try selling it to someone who publishes Catholic Bibles. I pointed out that THEY sell Catholic Bibles.

Ergo, Thomas Nelson wanted to hold its *fiction* to a higher theological standard than its Bibles. Go figure.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I don't write Christian fiction. I write gentle fiction a Christian can read. There is a difference. So, maybe I'm not getting the point.

Is the main complaint that they want Christian authors to actually be (within their definition) Christians? I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with their equating the creed with a summary of Christian belief.

One wonders if they publish anything that quotes Isaac Watts, the great hymnalist and preacher. Watts rejected the Nicene Creed. In their view, Watts isn't a Christian?

Even this is fine with me. I reject their "brand" of Christianity. I sit on Isaac Watts' bench and listen to sermons similar to those he preached. I would find Athanasius and his intolerant ilk to be the worst examples of what Christianity should be if he were still alive. But, still, Nelson is not obligated to publish authors with views they don't like. I wouldn't want them to be so obligated.

However, Thomas Nelson isn't really a Christian publisher. They're a secular publisher catering to a "Christian" audience. Let's be plain with this. Most so called Christian publishers are no more than this. They are businesses who profit from the dearly held beliefs of others. The few exceptions are Church-owned houses that exist to print only denominational material.

My complaint isn't that they exercise the right to choose whom to publish. My complaint is that they masquerade as a Christian house when they aren't, and that they choose post-apostolic documents that really have no relationship to Christianity to define what a Christian is. They exclude millions of people who do not hold the Nicene Creed dear, who find it unscriptural and understand that it is a document rooted in the abuse of secular power.

By Mr. Hyatt's definition Arian Christians, Socinian Christians, and other types of non-Trinitarian Christians, no matter how much they honour Jesus by their obedience to his words, are not Christians. I’m a good writer, I think. I am perfectly capable of writing what passes as Christian fiction. I believe Jesus to be the Son of God, the Messiah, my saviour. I am barred from writing for Thomas Nelson because I'm more intellectually convinced by what I read in the Bible than I am by a disreputable and dishonorable product of fourth century politics? Fine, fine, fine. I wasn't submitting to Nelson anyway.

Christians of this sort make me cringe. I wonder if this sort of thing isn't what Jesus was referring to in Matthew chapter seven. You know the spot? The wise and prominent come to the Lord and enumerate all the goodly and powerful works they did in his name, and the Lord confesses, "I never knew you."

It would have been better if Mr. Hyatt had not posted here. I would have felt better thinking they were exercising their right to be selective. Now that I see this as corporate decision made by a commercial printer followed by an attempt to obfuscate, I see it differently.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that it's not only Hindus and Buddhists who would be suspicious--not all people who believe in Christ subscribe to the Nicean creed, for example (the nature of the trinity being the key sticking point for some), and it seems to be a narrow-eyed dividing line for some regarding who's in the fold and who's not.

I do think it makes sense for a particular church's (or brand of church's) publisher to want to publish only things that agree with their doctrine, though. I mean, it's one outlet for an expression of their belief. I wouldn't submit a born-again text to a Jewish publisher.

The question seems to be what their aim is: to be a voice of doctrine, or to provide things that are generally praiseworthy and of good report. For the latter, it should be the text that matters more than the individual religion of the author (if any). (Although I admit a certain bias in buying books for my children...Madonna is not someone I want my kids to look to for advice...)

Anonymous said...

I would think that the people who buy their books are expecting certain things of the authors and their material, and therefore this publisher is responsible for not disappointing their readership.
I think it's perfectly understandable.
It's a niche, it's for Christians.

I'd like to use a personal experience as an example.

I used to have family members (before my divorce) who would say things like (paraphrasing), "Well, (post author) isn't a Christian, and when you read her work, you can just tell. God doesn't show through."

These people believe that you can't write/sing/dance/etc. about God without believing in God, and would be very disappointed to find out that their favorite author didn't actually believe in their God, I am sure.

Call it what you will, there are many people who would feel betrayed to find that their favorite author/singer/dancer/whatever doesn't share their beliefs. I think this is because most people become emotionally attached to work they enjoy and can't imagine any one with a different background feeling like they do.

Their reaction to this contradiction between what they think is true with reality is to feel betrayed.

katiesandwich said...

Okay. I've been following the Thomas Nelson comment thread with great interest these past few days. First of all, I want to make it clear that I have no disrespect for those whose opinions I'm about to argue against. This is just my take on things.

Now. M Takhallus says that this idea of Thomas Nelson's is un-American. Personally, I don't see how. I can see how people find the idea offensive, but how is it un-American? This country offers people a chance to form businesses and participate in religion and speak as they please, and Thomas Nelson's desire to publish Christian books by Christian authors is, I believe, simply an extention of this.

Something I'm having trouble understanding is why this actual standard, not the false one debated in the last thread, is upsetting. If you're not a Christian, why would you want your book published by a Christian publisher, anyway? For example, I'm Catholic. And as much as I know and respect a lot of Baptists, I wouldn't want to publish a book with a Baptist publisher, because the message I'd be trying to put across would be in such contrast to the message the publisher would be trying to get out. And what about the marketing issues? If I wrote a book about the Immaculate Conception, why would I want a Baptist company to publish it? They think the Immaculate Conception is a load of crap, and my book would never reach its intended audience.

Book publishers must find ways to please their consumers if they're going to stay in business. Most people wouldn't have a problem with a publisher who just prints books about fashion only wanting authors from the fashion industry. In fact, most authors don't even have a problem with the idea of publishers wanting an author to have a platform. In my mind, all Thomas Nelson is doing by putting out these standards is making it clear that authors need to have a platform that suits the kind of book they're trying to publish.

I know I'm probably not going to change anybody's mind about this, and that's okay because that's not my objective. I just wanted to put in my two cents.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

To the last Anonymous:

A doctinal statement is basically your statement of faith, usually of the denomination you belong to. It affirms, line by line, what you believe in.

As for the rest of the comments, other than Mike and Miss Snark...I'm not getting sucked back down this hole. Right on Michael Hyatt!

Good job Miss Snark, your getting noticed all over the publishing world!

Anonymous said...

Having had the misfortune of working within the "Christian" music industry a lifetime ago, I find this terribly amusing in a very sick way. Some of the slimyest most disgusting individuals I ever met in the entertainment business worked in the "Christian" music industry. I even learned a new slew of curse words from a very well-known musical group. TN is very tied into that industry that has NEVER walked what it talked. To say that they want to do this now, by holding authors to a standard to which they do not hold themselves, is sickening.

Anonymous said...

Is an editorial standard that establishes required authorial beliefs and religious behavior an illegal form of religious discrimination? Well, yes. Commercial businesses are not allowed to do that in America. Check out the Department of Justice:


Authors being adversely affected by this might want to join the National Writers Union to get the support of a group which has in the past been a very effective advocate for authors' rights.

Jocasta said...

Oh well, all this religious stuff comes down to the one very line in the Bible that all "religious" people tend to forget: do not judge and you shall not be judged... But I guess that believing you know better or that your faith, and your faith only, is the only acceptable one, is human, and to err is human... God help us all...

sniz said...

Un-American? Isn't the freedom to do business however you please the definition of commercial democracy?

Ann said...

Anon 12/11, doctrinal statement is a summary.

My thoughts as someone who never imagined querying Thomas Nelson anyway ... The way I read Nelson's explanation, if I am a Christian adhering to the basic beliefs in the creeds and verses listed, that's enough for them. They aren't going to tell me I have to wear a prayer covering and dresses 24-7 b/c come Christian groups think that's a biggie, too. It's all pretty basic.

All well and good ... but ... I'd still have to write material they are interested in. Minor detail.

How many of us have queried Thomas Nelson? I haven't. Have you? But, I haven't queried Bane or Tor or other SFF lines b/c I know my stuff is not right for them.

TN's doctrinal comments seem like another part of the "not right for me" equation.

After all, this is America and no one is forcing anyone to do business with anybody.

This whole debate strikes me as odd -- like people who'd never buy a tractor getting their shorts in a knot because John Deere Co. does not offer tractors in more than two colors (green or yellow)

Anonymous said...

Ohh, I undestand now! What a fabulous idea! Instead of publishing 'books that' publish 'people who.' Put the standards on the people, not the books!

I will hereby create a publishing house that will only publish white people because black people, it is well known, cannot write good books, because they're all violent at heart. Or maybe we'll just publish men because women just aren't smart enough to write thought-provoking books. No, no, wait, we'll only publish heterosexuals! After all gay people are all immoral bastards and they don't understand family values.

Oh, snap. That means I can't publish myself. Woe!

Anon #444

archer said...

The passage from Philippians 4:8, as it happens, is emblazoned upon the wall of my county courthouse. I don't have a problem with it--it seems like pretty good advice on how to spend a few minutes of your time.

As to the general question, "Can the publisher do this," of course he can. He seems like a nice enough fellow who likes to publish Christian books, and who says so, and who prefers to get his submissions from people who share his taste. If I submit my latest manuscript "How The Second Coming Turned Out to be a Great Big Fat Hoax," he is entitled to send me a rejection without fear of a lawsuit. Just why he would reject my other manuscript, "Why I as an Atheist Secretly Stay Awake Nights Wishing I Could Accept Jesus Christ as my Savior" I don't know, although his new policy would seem to require the rejection.

The Rentable Writer said...

Well, now that we know there's no litmus test, why don't we cut this whole thing off and stop using Miss Snark's wonderful blog as a bastion for religious debate?

Elaine said...

to m. takhallus--

On the contrary, the publisher is exercising his very American freedom to conduct a private business as he pleases. If he were Jewish and wanted to publish only books written by Jews because of their unique perspective on life and history, would anyone complain? I doubt it.

Dave said...

I don't see the problem. If you want to write for Mr Nelson then you write with his values in mind. If not, find another publisher. If you don't like the contract don't sign it. I repeat, If you don't like the contract don't sign it.
He isn't forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to do. . .
It's his business and he's allowed to do as he pleases.

kis said...

Actually, hand-picking authors based on their religion is illegal in Canada--and maybe in the states. Hard to prove, likely, but definitely not an acceptable practice.


I don't think it would catch on, although if it was factual, it might be interesting. It varies from church to church (I assume) but where I live, business owners who are members of a certain congregation are required to tithe at leat 10% of their profits to the church (not the poor, mind you, there's a big difference). The pastor of this particular church has such a stranglehold on his flock that he has forced the closing of several businesses in town that were doing well, because he didn't feel his share of the profits was "adequate." I have often wondered just how common this kind of thing is in Christian business.

For myself, life's about the hope and the charity. Faith, not so much.

Anonymous said...

If this publisher is selecting work to be published based, not on the quality or marketability of the writing, but on the belief system of the author, then it represents religious censorship.

I have no problem with organisations that want to promote a particular spiritual viewpoint. It's only when they want to call themselves publishers that I have a problem.

we have self-publishing and vanity publishing. Perhaps we need faith-publishing now too.

It helps to differentiate the sheep from the goats.

Anonymous said...

We want to work with people who are willing to say, “I am a Christian.”

What I am willing to say at my choice, and what I am willing to say at my editor's command like a trained budgie, are two very different things.

I'm quite religious. This does not mean that I'm willing to open this very private side of my life to my employer on demand - and there's absolutely no excuse for any employer demanding that I do so, any more than there's an excuse for my employer demanding that I tell him the details of my love life so that he may determine whether it fits his personal world-view.

My publishers have every right to decide whether the world-view expressed in my books fits their mandate. They have NO right to demand to judge whether the world-view in my mind and heart fits their mandate.

My religion is both an important part of me and a part that is, frankly, NONE of my employer's business.

Michele Lee said...

I'm not even close to Christian but I don't see this as an issue nearly as important as it's being made.
1. There are other publishers, even other publishers of Christian books, and I'm sure if you already had an agent they might be able to recommend your book to someone else should they not choose to represent it.
2. It's no different from what christianity has been doing since Martin Luther faced down the Pope. Splitting over who is write and who is wrong. That's why I chose a religion not into telling everyone how they're wrong.
3. Ultimately you DO want your publisher and agent to agree with you on some things, privided you are building a career, not just seelng a single book. Religion is one of the best unifiers (and dividers).
4. Other fish people, other fish, other genres. If you're not finding acceptance in the house you live in there's nothing wrong with walking out to greet the rest of the world.

Bill Peschel said...

After reading Mr. Hyatt's statement, it still sounds like "we're requiring this of authors, but we're not going to put it on paper."

Mind, I don't have a beef about it. They're a private company and I don't think anti-discrimination laws apply to the writer-publisher relationship.

The real mystery lies in why they feel it's important to judge the writer's morals, in addition to judging the quality of the work. I'm sure Jesus had something to say on that subject.

Richard Lewis said...

We all have our standards.

There are some guys I wouldn't want dating my daughter, no matter what nice things they say to me.

If I follow some this arguments here correctly, then our outcry about the OB Simpson book was hypocritical and un-American, for he has every right to tell his story and not be muzzled.

Anonymous said...

Anon, book publishers aren't "employers", though, are they? If you wanted to write a book about your experience with, say, genital herpes, and your publisher said ahead of time "We want authors who are willing to talk openly about herpes," and you weren't, would you think they were within their rights not to publish you?

Just curious.

Kim said...

I don't think it's un-American for Thomas Nelson to operate the way they do. I might not agree with it, but I don't think it should be illegal or whatever for someone to run their company the way they wish to, nor would I want the government interfering with that to make it illegal. That would be un-American. And I do agree with the people who asked why an author would submit to a company that doesn't, in essence, want their book. That makes about as much sense as submitting a religious work to Harlequin (and not their inspirational line, either). Every publisher has their standards and, while you might not agree, that's their right. To try to change that would be un-American.

I do wonder how they would prove an author to be their idea of a Christian. How would they check? Do their authors have to provide a written and notarized statement from their priest or other religious figure? There are plenty of people who go to church every Sunday, Holy Day, etc. but then spend the rest of their time screwing over as many people as possible. How can you quantify it?

Maybe I'm missing the point, but I don't really think it's that big a deal.

Kate Thornton said...

I don't like faith based commerce of any sort - I would simply avoid this publisher and all their products.

M. Takhallus. said...

There is a difference between what is moral and what is legal. Nelson's actions may be legal. (Although, see below.) But they are immoral.

It is immoral to look for excuses to divide the American people, whether it's by race or gender or class or religion. Nelson seeks to create two classes: those it judges sufficiently religious, and everyone else.

Nelson is absolutley free to judge manuscripts by any criterion it wants. But it's not judging manuscripts. It's judging people. And it is judging them solely on the basis of their stated religious faith.

So at Nelson it's not "good manuscripts here," and "bad manuscripts over there." It's Christians here and everyone else over there. That is un-American. It's religious bigotry. It is a sectarian division of American citizens solely on the basis of faith, without any reference to the quality of their work.

I suspect, by the way, that in some limited cases it actually is illegal. When we worked for Word/Nelson it was on a work-for-hire basis. That's not the sale of a manuscript, rather it's a contract for services. Imagine if we learned that a construction contractor was refusing as a matter of policy to contract with plumbing companies owned by Catholics. I believe that many states, if not national law, will find legal difficulties in overt religious discrimination under those circumstances.

William G. said...

word ver: mumlmhmi-the sound you make when you're doing one too many things at the same time and mess them all up.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that... I think.

SusanT said...

Someone else would need to check because I don't know... but do BFOQs apply to things other than sex?

I'm pretty sure they do. A BFOQ--a bona fide occupational qualification--allows a company to employ people based on a protected class because they need to be that in order to do that job properly. So, a strip club that caters to men can reasonably employ only women as strippers, but wouldn't be able to do the same for their accountants.

In this situation, one might say that if one is trying to publish genuine religious books based on a certain creed, that it is reasonably necessary that these books be written by people who believe that creed. It could be an iffy claim in court, but I can see the basis for it, and it might hold up. Certainly I can see why they'd want to do that. It would be a bit embarassing for them to try and sell a Christian novel and have to explain to people that the author is an atheist.

But I'm a Christian who steadfastly refuses to purchase so-called Christian fiction for reasons which look an awful lot like their "standards." How... boring. How much literature would have been published with the rule "righteousness must always be rewarded and evil punished"?

Sponge Girl said...

Okay, so they ARE judging the writer's personal beliefs, not the quality or the message of the work. I'd be hideously surprised if that isn't illegal in the US.

Saying "only people who profess a particular brand of Christianity are allowed to write for us" is different to saying "only works written from a particular spiritual point of view will be published by us" - surely everyone can see the difference?

Just like "books about herpes" is different to "books by people with herpes", "books about the Republican party" is different to "books by people who vote for the Republican party", "books about GLBT issues" is different to "books by GLBT people".

Limiting range of books based on moral or other content = perfectly okay, identify your niche and service it, great, use your right to market a product, whoopee.

Limiting range of authors based on religious beliefs = against freedom of religion and overall a nasty, nasty thing to do.

And, like many people have already pointed out, Christianity isn't some great monolithic thing with a static set of values. It's perfectly possible to be Christian and support gay marriage, for example, or no-fault divorce, or stem cell research. It's also perfectly possible to be atheist and oppose the same.

So for the publisher to call themselves "Christian" when they effectively ban all but a very narrowly defined group of Christians from publishing is inaccurate, and maybe even a bit hypocritical. They're trying to appeal to a broader market base by - oh, the irony! - claiming to represent and support items of faith that in fact they don't.

It's like a publisher that focuses solely on books about Burmese cats to advertise themselves as publishing books about Animals - and then even refusing to publish books about Burmese cats if the authors in question don't have such a feline of their own, or bought theirs from a non-preferred supplier.

elaine said...

Kim said: I do wonder how they would prove an author to be their idea of a Christian. How would they check?

They wouldn't. Mr. Hyatt said very clearly that the state of a man's heart is between that man and God. I think many commenting here either did not read his response very carefully or have misunderstood it.

As to the rest of this discussion...

What is the big deal?

I'll admit to being baffled as to why anyone should get upset over this.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I agree with you Elaine, especially since I don't see anyone here that would approach a "Christian" publisher anyhow!

Anonymous said...

Add me to the list of the baffled. It's a niche publisher. There are also Jewish and African American niche publishers. There are publishers who specialize in certain genres. There are publishers who specialize in women's fiction. If you don't want to submit to TN's questions or you aren't interested in their brand of publishing then pass your work on elsewhere. This is just weird to me.

Vgrzra: So you're ready when the time is right.

M. Takhallus. said...


I'm baffled that there are American citizens who can't see that there is a problem in refusing as a matter of principle to do business with people of other faiths. Do the words "Sunni" and "Shia" mean nothing to you people? What is this, Northern Ireland? You look around the world and think, "You know what we need? More ways to divide Americans along religious lines."

You don't divide people by religion and simply refuse to do business with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists etc... You don't do that. It's un-American. You reject a manuscript, you don't reject a person for their religion.

Are they no longer teaching world history in schools? Have they stopped publishing newspapers?

Sponge Girl said...

Assuming that everyone understands the difference between "will only publish books with a Christian bent" and "will only publish Christian writers", it seems like a lot of people think that anyone who finds the difference problematic is either anti-religion or just doesn't count because they wouldn't be writing for the imprint anyway.

True, most people who write a particular type of Christian fiction probably also are particular types of Christians - and probably people who write about Burmese cats have such a creature at home and love it dearly and most likely people who write about GLBT issues belong to one of the categories themselves.

But not necessarily, and that's the issue.

It would be quite possible to write a book whose moral message, characters etc. would be quite appropriate for a Protestant readership, in synch with their values etc, while the author is Catholic.

The system that we're all up in arms about (or which to some is just "big whoop, get over yourselves") would not allow the Catholic to publish a perfectly acceptable Protestant-ish text because the author's religion is "wrong" - but the imprint would still steadfastly call itself "Christian", and market itself as encompassing "all" of Christendom (although that may be just a beef of mine).

The problem isn't that there are Christian, or Jewish, or Hispanic, or chicklit-focused publishers. The problem is that only certain people, based on their religious (or ethnic or career etc.) backround, would be allowed to publish.

It's also quite insensitive and ignorant to assume that anyone who wants to keep their spirituality a private matter, and not a condition of their employment, would be somehow a worse person. It's equally ignorant to assume that anyone who is bothered by religious discrimination would be anti-religion themselves.

Not true.

It's quite possible to have faith and still be able to respect the choices of others and believe those who believe differently should still be treated equally.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I'm a bit frustrated by this discussion. My final thoughts:

1. Thomas Nelson isn't a Christian Publisher. Thomas Nelson is a secular publisher who caters to main stream Christians. They make money off your belief.

2. Thomas Nelson tried to obfuscate (read lie without lying) by saying, "Oh, this isn't in our contract!" Of course it's not in their contract. You don't get that far if you don't meet their (profit-based) definition of Christian.

3. Thomas Nelson has an absolute right to be stupid.

4. If you don't like what they do, tell your agent not to submit to them.

5. There are many millions of Christians who object to all or part of the creed. If Thomas Nelson chooses to alienate them, that's okay. There are other publishers who will publish well-researched, excellent writing with less regard to who produced it.

6. Nelson has helped define mainstream Christians as bigots. Some of those who post here have contributed to that as well. This is strange to me, since I regularly engage other Christians who do not share my particular faith in spirited but rancor-free conversations. It is possible for a Christian to be free from bigotry; apparently it's not possible for a commercial printer who wishes to take Christian money to be free from bigotry.

7. John Milton ... you know of him? Certainly, you do! Paradise Lost and assorted other poems...Remember? A literary genius...He never published in his lifetime his dissertation on Christianity. He would have lost his livelihood, and maybe he would have been imprisoned. Yet, its publication in 1827 rocked the American religious establishment. (Didn't know that, did you?) It was unread and unseen for centuries because of fear ... John Locke's religious pamphlets were published anonymously for the same reason. Thomas Nelson would be happy to recreate that environment. For money...Your money, should you happen to be believer in the standard creeds.

All this is proof that a successful publisher can be stupid.

In my estimation, the last good thing Thomas Nelson did was back in 1901 (or thereabouts) when they became the publishers of the American Standard Version, the American Revision Committee's response to the Revised Version of 1881 which relied more heavily on the British Committee's preferences.

Some of those on the original committees would find no place at Thomas Nelson today. Isn't that sad?

Oh, and as far as I know, Thomas Nelson no longer publishes that remarkable translation.

Word verification for this post is OKPOO, which seems an appropriate response to what Michael Hyatt said.

Beth said...

M. Takhallus (and a few others) seem to be missing the point.

Christian readers who buy books from Christian imprints expect those books to be written by Christians. The perception is that the authors of these books speak the same language, they have the same shared spiritual purpose and world view. Christian readers find this a reassuring constant in an increasingly secular and hostile world. Christian bookstores are a spiritual comfort-zone for Christians, and they expect the books sold there, fiction or non, to be written by and for Christians.

So, TN's editorial policy is far less about the contract between publisher and author than it is about the contract between publisher and reader. The Christian market demands authenticity in its writers. TN is simply conforming to the demands of that niche.

As do other publishers of other niche markets.

This is all such a tempest over nothing.

elaine said...

Sha'el said: Thomas Nelson isn't a Christian Publisher.

Have you visited their website? If they're not a Christian publisher, I don't know who is.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Elaine,

They are a commercial house. They are in business to make money. That's what businesses do. They aren't Church-owned. They are corporately owned. Their target audience is Christians.

Thomas Nelson, inc. of today isn't run on the same basis that Thomas Nelson & Sons was. It is a profit making entity that targets Christians.

Their decision on whom to publish is a business decision, not a faith based decision.

They are a publisher of "Christian" material, but they are not a Christian organization.

elaine said...


I got a very different impression, especially from Mr. Hyatt's letter, which hinted that a reorganization of priorities is in the wind. They are not a non-profit organization like a church, no, but they appear to be run by Christians and have a distinctly Christian world view in their approach to business. That makes them a Christian business, from where I sit.

JPD said...

It doesn't matter if it's faith-based or a business decision. TN can publish any person they wish, and exclude any person they wish.


JPD (sorry for shouting in captial letters...)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear JPD,

If you read my previous posts, you know I already said that.

I have no problems with them exercising that right. I've said that repeatedly. I have a problem with those who claim to be Christian excluding others who have some problem with a Creed but who believe in God and Christ.

A Creedal measure of Christianity is wrong. It is wrong to claim to be Christian and mislead. I see Mr. Hyatt's denial as expressed in this post as misleading, especially when measured with what is on his blog.

It is misleading to promote Nelson as some sort of ministry. Thomas Nelson, inc. is a business. That's ALL it is. Their decision is theirs to make. That it is their right to make doesn't make it wise, Christian, or right.

I've tried to teach a tad bit of history in these posts. The kind of decision Nelson is making on a corporate level is the same type of decision that led to the burning of Christian martyrs in times past.

This may be far removed from your thought, but it is a matter of urgency to me. These issues are being played out on a Governmental level in the former Soviet Republics, in France, in Belgium.

The church with which I most often associate has a small publishing house. I do not expect them to publish Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, or Adventist material. They are an arm of the church's ministry. They're not a commercial press. I also don't expect them to say, "all you people who disagree with us aren't really Christians at all."

By relying on a Creed (rather than a Bible-based faith) Neslon is saying to any individual or faith that has trouble with the Nicene Creed, "Your Christianity is not good enough. In fact, you aren't Christian at all."

Until conquest and forced rebaptism changed things, the predominate expression of Christianity in Europe was Arian or semi-Arian. The reason the Creed prevails isn't sound biblical reasoning, but bloodshed. The Nicene Creed turned to the bloody sword.

All this may seem distant to you. It is distant in time. It is not distant in the thought process of those who wish to enforce a rule of faith.

You think that doesn't exist? In Romania they're debating a law that will recriminalize or otherwise penalize all religions but the Orthodox Church. This law is fostered by the Orthodox clergy, and is directed against their fellow Christians. In fact, they do not see Protestants as Christians at all.

I look at my fellow Christians who are persuaded by the Nicene Creed and wonder just how far away we really are from the sword as an expression of faith. To me, Nelson's corporate decision isn't a large step away from a desire to have the government make similar decisions.

You think that can't happen in America? It has happened in America's past. Sunday laws directed against Seventh Day Adventists comes to mind, as does the persecution of Bible Student faiths from the 1918-1950s. That persecution involved a wave of laws, riots and prosecutions that were only stopped by diligent application to the courts.

Has it gone away? No. Look at the recent case of Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York v. Village of Stratton. You may not like Jehovah's Witnesses. We may differ from them in faith, but will we legislate against them because we differ? Some are prepared to do so, as this case demonstrates.

I do not object to Nelson's corporate decision. I object to the evil heart that declares others to be Non-Christian because they differ over a Creed.

Do not attribute to me things I have not said. And as far as you know, it is my money. As far as you know, I may own stock in Thomas Nelson's parent company. You have no way of knowing, do you?

Wrong is wrong, even if they have a legal right to make their decision.