Pssst: Christian Endorsers of Bad Books May Not Have Even Read Them
This week, several famous evangelical leaders posted endorsements of a new book by Paula White(-Cain).
At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter summarized who said what:
On Tuesday, several evangelical leaders drew criticism for promoting the newest book of Paula White, a prosperity gospel preacher who has repeatedly been accused of teaching heretical doctrines. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritanâs Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said âyou might want to check it out.â Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, said to âgive it to anyone looking for hope!â Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, declared, âIt is powerful. I highly recommend it!â And Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, added,Â âPaulaâs life is an encouragement to so many and Iâm sure this book will encourage you.â (Itâs unclear whether these men have actually read the book or if they support Whiteâs teachings.)
Since then, several of those endorsers have removed their original tweets, such as Franklin Graham’s.
But here’s one annoying secret about book endorsements: Sometimes the endorser has not even read the book being endorsed.
This apparently open “secret” leaked some time ago, thanks in part to author Randy Alcorn. In this article, he wrote:
I’m often asked to endorse an entire book based on one chapter, and several times Iâve been sent an-already written endorsement and asked if I would agree to have my name attached to it! Personally, I donât think this is ethical. I’ve also been told by several Christian leaders they would be glad to endorse my book, and they were having a staff person read it and give me the endorsement under the leader’s name. I’ve had to explain I don’t believe in ghost-written endorsements, so no need to send me one because I couldn’t use it. Thatâs an awkward situation for everybody.
This is one of several objections Alcorn shared about “acceptable” practices in Christian publishing. He also critiques ghostwriting and other practices, such as paid celebrity endorsements for nonprofit groups. Alcorn calls these “the scandal of evangelical dishonesty.”1
Earlier this week, I shared some of this info (along with a little speculation about one old, and since removed, celebrity endorsement of another book). Since then, blogger Julie Roys confirmed that, indeed, one endorser had not actually read Paula White-Cain’s book:
. . . When pressed about whether heâs certain that thereâs nothing in Whiteâs book that supports prosperity gospel, Jeffress said: âMy schedule is so busy, I canât read every book word for word. But what I did see was really her autobiographical account of her past and how God redeemed her life.â
. . . Yet when I asked Jeffress if heâs sure that Whiteâs theology is orthodox, and that she is not a proponent of the prosperity gospel, Jeffress said, âAll I can say is she claims not to be.â I asked Jeffress whether heâs investigated what White teaches for himself and he answered, âNo, no . . . Iâm too busy in my own ministry to launch an investigation.â
Sure, perhaps Christian leaders really are very busy. Perhaps they haven’t time to investigate another Christian leader, who has been reputably charged with promoting heresy. But in that case, perhaps you shouldâat minimum!âavoid endorsing the person’s book? Especially if you haven’t even read it? And even if you and the professing-Christian author share the same political fandoms?
On a personal note, in coming months, we’ll move into the endorsement phase for my coauthors’ and my upcoming book. Here’s hoping our endorsers actually read the book first.
- Randy Alcorn also includes this material in chapter 15 of his book Money, Possessions, and Eternity, revised 2003. ↩