Logos Publishing Philosophy
If there’s one adage businesses follow, it’s “Avoid discussing religion and politics.”
Alas, this people-pleasing path of non-offense is not available to a Bible software company. Not one of the thousands of books available for Logos Bible Software is wholly acceptable to all of our customers. And that includes the Bible: every modern translation has critics who believe it corrupts the truth, and every edition of ancient text is likewise considered suspect by some Christian brother or sister.
It’s been 20 years since the leadership of Logos first confronted the question of whether or not we would make available an electronic book that we didn’t personally agree with theologically. We decided that we would; we believed that our users were interested in personal study, and that they could evaluate each book, author, and publisher on their public statements and reputation, and that it was unnecessary for us to add another theological filter which only reflected our personal positions.
And we discovered there were even some theological disagreements between the three company founders. To sell only what all three of us could recommend without reservation would be to offer few tools at all.
In the years that followed Logos Bible Software grew from a small tool with a few Bible translations into a digital library of wide scope. And it seems like someone has called to complain about every single thing we’ve made available, up to and including the English dictionary. (There are vulgar words in the dictionary, and the mother who called me wanted us to remove them so children couldn’t encounter or look them up.)
I’ve taken angry calls from people who I respect as leaders and teachers. I’ve taken calls from people who I think espouse heresy. And I’ve taken calls from people whose positions simply strike me as silly.
All these people who have objected to content Logos sells have been sincere, passionate about God’s Word and His truth, and wanted nothing but to keep others from inducement to error. I can’t help but respect that, and I am the same way.
I want to speak up for the truth. I want to challenge those who are in error, to call out false doctrine and poor teaching, and to be unashamed of the Gospel. And I am: in my home, in my church, and in one-on-one conversations. Were I called to preach, I would do so with boldness and authority.
But I am called, for now, to an office, not a pulpit. And in this office we create, sell, and support a library. And I believe that a library is a useful thing, and that it is useful even when it contains error, heresy, the silly and the sacred. Because students and teachers alike need access to resources to learn, to grow, to be encouraged and challenged and corrected, and even to refute.
There is room for a church on every corner, and for a book to be published expounding on each theological distinction. It is possible for us as individuals to live and teach without compromise on even the smallest point; we can even maintain a church united in a specific understanding of the truth. But a library can rarely grow beyond a single book without some compromise, and we’d all find it frustrating if each library (or digital library tool) was restricted to one viewpoint.
Are there no limits then? Can a library contain anything?
Well, yes. In a large enough library (or bookstore) you will find the sacred and the obscene, shelved in equanimity. (Check under “Art” to see them side-by-side.) But in many cases a library takes a label that provides a filter: Medical Library, Law Library, Children’s Library. Or, even more specifically, My Library – we each have one.
Logos offers a Bible Library. If the book references the Bible, is related to the Bible, talks about the Bible, or is of use to people who study the Bible, it fits in our library.
But isn’t Logos a Christian company? I believe X, and I’m okay with your having books from the slightly misguided believers in Y, but the people who believe in Z aren’t even Christians!
True. For many values of Z, I agree with you: they’re beyond the bounds of orthodoxy. But Logos is a library, not a church, and the Z-content relates to the Bible and its study, whether you choose to read it for instruction or in order to refute it.
How can we trust Logos then?
Good question. And here is where, for the first time in 20 years, the answer has changed; there are now two parts:
The historic answer: As an electronic bookseller, Logos Bible Software does not represent any theological filter (and never has). You should not assume that every electronic book we sell represents orthodox Christian belief, or any particular understanding of such. What you can be sure of is that content we sell is labeled with the author, publisher, and other descriptive metadata that will help you identify who is responsible for the content. We trust that our users will exercise discernment in their choice of digital content just as they would when walking through a paper library or bookstore, and we will soon be adding support for user reviews and ratings where you can get and share other perspectives beyond the marketing copy from a book’s dust-jacket.
The new, second part: Recently Logos has become something of a publisher. We create and sell Bible Study Magazine, the Lexham English Bible, HD Commentary, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, and more. It’s fair to ask what theological perspective is behind these publications. And the answer is “Evangelical Christian.” Logos Bible Software is a member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and we subscribe to the Statement of Faith of the Association.
When Logos Bible Software is the publisher, you can expect that the work does not conflict with this statement of faith. In the future we may choose to publish works aligned with even more detailed statements of faith, in which case they will be clearly indicated.
Logos Bible Software exists to serve everyone who studies the Bible. Our offering a large library of content is not an attempt to minimize the importance of theology or right discernment in even the smallest details. It is rather an affirmation of our belief in sola scriptura (“Scripture alone”): as an organization that sells thousands of books we dare not draw a line and say these 10,000 books are orthodox and these 10,000 are not. We don’t have the courage (or the time or wisdom) to make that call. We draw the line at Scripture, and consider everything beyond a resource to be read and considered with discernment.
For many years Logos has sold Jewish works and the Koran, among other obviously non-Christian resources. When I point this out to customers upset that we are selling this or that book containing poor doctrine they explain that the difference is that no Christian will be accidentally misled by the Koran, which missionaries/apologists/researchers have need to reference, but the book they’re worried about “looks Christian.”
Sadly, there is in our world much that “looks Christian” but which represents something other than the Gospel. We must ourselves be discerning; no pastor or editor or Bible software company can relieve us of the responsibility to rightly divide the word of truth.
Logos Bible Software is now offering general Christian books in ebook format. We are partnering with Christian publishers to offer all of their electronic titles for our Faithlife Ebook Reader, which is compatible with Logos Bible Software. The number of titles offered for Logos is increasing very quickly. In this new, larger catalog I know you will find many books you have long wanted to have available digitally. I also know that there are authors and titles there that both you and I wish had never been published. But that’s the price of a large library, and a consequence of the fact that we might actually disagree on some particulars, even while finding unity in essentials.
Moving forward we at Logos will try to do an even better job helping you understand what’s what among the books in our library. We will continue to publish Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and denominationally-specific works. (Along with academic works by atheists and agnostics.) We will, however, make it clear who the author is, who the publisher is, and the faith tradition of the work. Our own publications, however, will continue to reflect an evangelical perspective. (Some technical and academic works from Logos will contain contributions from non-evangelical scholars, but nothing contrary to our statement of faith.)
We hold Scripture in the highest regard and believe in its unique authority. We see it as the job of the Bible student and Bible teacher to interpret and apply God’s Word, and we have intentionally (and consistently) taken the position that as a business we serve Bible study best by offering a large library and powerful tools, rather than a small library reflecting our own (strongly held) theological positions.
I know that some of you agree, but only to a point, believing that this position or that, or this book or that book, are one step too far outside the fold. But I hope that in a world where every modern Bible translation, point of theology, author and pastor has a sincere and thoughtful critic, you can appreciate the value of a library that doesn’t take sides, and come to value Logos Bible Software as a useful tool whose content must still be approached with discernment, like any library, bookstore, radio, television or even the Internet.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback; you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 360-527-1700.
Executive Chairman, Faithlife, LLC