Deceptive Disclaimer?

March 5, 2013 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Here’s an update for those of you still interested in the topic of Tim Challies’ February 28 blog post telling people how to “think biblically” about C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries . . .

I said a few days ago that although I was glad to see Mr. Challies finally writing something about SGM that wasn’t an advertisement but actually made mention of the lawsuit and questions about C.J. Mahaney’s fitness for ministry, I was puzzled by how he prefaced his post with this disclaimer:

Before I begin, it may be useful for me to explain the nature of my relationship with C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, though there is actually very little to explain. I recall meeting Mahaney only one time and for no more than two or three minutes. To my knowledge we have never corresponded by email or any other media. He and I have never shared a speaking platform and I have never spoken at a SGM event (though I did liveblog a couple of them several years ago). All this to say that I write as an outside observer rather than as a personal friend and write this article primarily for the benefit of other outside observers.

I went on to point out that while Tim Challies may not have met Mahaney often or shared a stage with him, it was nonetheless true that Mr. Challies has been one of SGM’s and CJ’s frequent promoters through his many positive mentions of them on his (in the Reformed world) fairly high-traffic blog.

But apparently, there’s something more, something that goes beyond the fact that Tim Challies has been a big fan of C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  There is a business relationship.  Check out what the Wartburg Watch gals dug up:

[Tim Challies] is a co-founder of Cruciform Press . . .

. . . Challies first announced Cruciform Press in an April 2010 post on his website.  In case you missed it, here’s the exciting news:

“…let me tell you about an exciting new venture I am involved in. Let me introduce you to [insert drum roll here] Cruciform Press.

Cruciform Press is an alternative publishing company designed from the ground up to operate in the digital marketplace. And it officially launches today.

This is a collaborative effort between Kevin Meath (book editor extraordinaire who has edited books for authors like C.J. Mahaney, Paul David Tripp and Dave Harvey), Bob Bevington (an entrepreneur and optometrist who also happens to co-author books with Jerry Bridges) and me. Together we see the need for a model of publishing that begins with, not extends to, the new realities of this digital world.

As a publisher getting its start at the cusp of the digital age, our model is slightly different from traditional publishers. We are focusing on books between 10,000 and 25,000 words (roughly 50 to 100 pages) and will offer them at great prices in print-on-demand, e-book and audiobook formats. And we intend to publish a new book on the first of every month.”

Cruciform Press Founders

As mentioned above, Cruciform Press was co-founded by Kevin Meath, Bob Bevington, and Tim Challies.  Meath serves as the Publisher and Editor hat, Bevington is the Executive Director, and Challies is Strategy and Acquisitions.

We believe Kevin Meath is the Smoking Gun.  Meath’s bio on the Cruciform Press website says it all.  Here’s how it begins:

“Kevin has more than 25 years professional experience as an editor, including eleven years as chief editor for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has worked on more than 40 book projects for the Christian market, and has edited for C.J. Mahaney, Paul Tripp, John Piper, Jerry Bridges, Joel Beeke, Richard D. Phillips, Scotty Smith, Dave Harvey, and many others. He has worked with Multnomah, Crossway, Reformation Trust, Shepherd Press, New Growth Press, Founders Press, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Revive Our Hearts, Focus on the Family, Desiring God, and others.”

Meath also features testimonials by the likes of C.J. Mahaney, Paul Tripp, Bob Kauflin, Dave Harvey, and Gary Ricucci.  Also, you might be interested to know that Kevin Meath was heavily involved in the publication of Sovereign Grace Magazine.  He writes:

“Sovereign Grace magazine was published for more than 20 years, most of that time as a bi-monthly. I served as Editor for the final seven years.

When it came time to plan an issue, C.J. Mahaney and I would work together to identify the issue theme, as well as the lead teaching articles and their respective authors. I would then work with the authors of the teaching, news, and testimony articles to bring the issue to completion, although sometimes I was also tasked with converting a sermon transcript or book chapter into an article on behalf of the author… The issues shown here included articles that later contributed to several books, including C.J.’s Humility: True Greatness, Living the Cross-Centered Life, and Worldliness, and Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters.”

According to the testimonials link above, here are some of the projects on which Meath has collaborated:

When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage – Dave Harvey

Love That Lasts:  When Marriage Meets Grace – Gary and Betsy Ricucci

Songs for the Cross Centered Life – Sovereign Grace Music

Upward:  The Bob Kauflin Hymns Project – Sovereign Grace Music

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God:  What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know – C.J. Mahaney

Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood (Foundations for the Family Series) – Wayne Grudem

Valley of Vision – Sovereign Grace Music

The Cross Centered Life (both editions) – C.J. Mahaney

Awesome God – Sovereign Grace Music

Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Becoming Man – Sovereign Grace Music

Preaching the Cross – Together for the Gospel by Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., C.J. Mahaney (2007)

All We Long to Sing – Sovereign Grace Music

Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood (Foundations of the Family) – Wayne Grudem and Dennis Rainey

Why Small Groups? – C.J. Mahaney

So, while Tim Challies is not best buddies with C.J. Mahaney, he is business partners with a former long-time SGM employee who collaborated with most of the bigger name SGM authors and musicians and retains good enough relationships with these SGM leaders that they provided him with the testimonials cited above.

I don’t know about you guys, but I confess to being rather shocked.  Doesn’t it seem deliberately deceptive, to offer up a disclaimer worded just right so that your readers will think you’re an “outside observer” and not a “personal friend,” when the truth is that you run a publishing house with someone who has a decades-long history of membership in SGM as well as connections to just about all the key SGM books and materials the organization has put out?

Does it even matter whether Tim Challies is not C.J.’s “personal friend,” when he is business partners with someone – Kevin Meath – who has such an incredibly far-reaching SGM pedigree and continues to use endorsements by C.J. Mahaney and other SGM figures to boost his own credibility?

I mean, wouldn’t Mr. Challies’ words about his lack of a close relationship with C.J. have been completely meaningless if he’d gone on to disclose that he actually does have this other connection to Sovereign Grace Ministries?

What does this sort of obfuscation tell us about Tim Challies’ ability to “think biblically”?

At the very least, it seems to me someone’s a little bit confused about what the Bible actually teaches about truthfulness.  In God’s eyes, it’s not enough to adhere to the technical truth.  (Just check out how Abram and Sarai got themselves into trouble when they told a story that was technically true – Sarai was indeed Abram’s half-sister – but not the full truth.)

I’m bummed.  I have had a considerable amount of respect for Tim Challies in past years.  I actually did used to believe that he was someone who had some good thoughts about “thinking biblically.”  Now, though?  Not so much.

© 2013, Kris. All rights reserved.