Monday, August 4, 2008

Signing Bibles: The Apex of Christian Celebrity?

I've only seen this in person a few times, and I am just not sure what to think of it. In fact, I am really rather confused by the whole idea of it. I know that the "Celebrity Culture" exists across the Christian landscape and that it has only become more rampant since the Internet has grown.

Nationally, many Evangelicals consider Rick Warren to be "America's Pastor". In fact, considering his global influence some even refer to him as the Pope of Evangelicalism. While I think that is a ridiculous idea, many Christians treat him as the end-all be-all of Christian leadership. How did he get to this point? He sold a few influential books, most notably the Purpose Driven Church & Purpose Driven Life, grew a massive church, and probably most important was the use of The Purpose Driven Life in the kidnapping of Ashley Smith a few years ago. He is a perfect example of a Christian Celebrity. Evangelical pastors want to be him, and many Evangelicals want to follow him. The question is, are they following his love for Jesus, or his celebrity?

It seems that we have brought this on ourselves. Has John Piper become the Michael Crichton or Tom Clancy of the Christian world? Do we buy his books because his name is on it, or because we expect to be shown the wonders of God and the joy of following Jesus? It would seem that Dr. Piper intends the second, but I wonder sometimes if we really buy the books he writes for that reason. Maybe it's a little of both. I can definitely see that in myself a little, and I recognize the danger of it.

Why is it dangerous? The only celebrity in Christianity is God. He is the only one who deserves to be famous. I fawn over certain authors as much as the next person, and I would like to think that it is all because of what they write, but I would be dishonest in saying so. How many of us have gone to conferences and have purchased a book because we recognize the author but in the meantime we pass over many diligent and helpful saints who are not as well known? I have. How many of us have gone to conferences for the speakers and just convince ourselves that we like the theme of the conference as well? I have done that too. However, even with my own motive issues, those books and conferences have proven invaluable. The question I suppose I need to always ask myself is, "Am I buying this book or going to this conference because I want to bring more glory to God?" There can be many motives that seem good, but blot out that "Glory Motive". Where do your motives lie when a new book comes out, or when your denomination holds a conference? Is it because of the celebrity factor or because you want to glorify Christ?

So this brings me to the point about signing Bibles. I have seen men I respect do this and it just seems strange. A recent story about J.I. Packer sums it up well:

"After I had my my book signed, many more pressed him. He signed books as he answered questions. The insight he provided into the Puritans in those few minutes still have a lasting impact on me. During the conversation, a young man (my age) approached Packer with a newly purchased ESV Bible (of which Packer was a general editor). Excitedly, he asked Packer to sign it and handed it to him. For a few moments Packer held the Bible in his hands, and quietly returned it to the young man. He said, "Son, this is God's book. If you want it signed you will need to ask him." - Josh Gelatt (Ephemeros blog)

It seems to me that J.I. Packer has the right idea. Something about asking a preacher you admire to sign your Bible just reeks of the Celebrity Culture. Granted, as some of you know I had my picture taken with some of the speakers at T4G. Honestly, most of my reasoning was because I wanted to get my picture taken with someone I greatly respected. I wanted to have that memory. And seriously, if C.H. Spurgeon were walking around and you had a camera, you know you would want your picture taken too. Regardless, even in my desire to have that memory, I think that I promoted the Celebrity Culture in Christianity.

All in all, I'm not sure I agree with signing Bibles, but at the same time it isn't a deal breaker for me. With all of the writing of books and great conferences out there the Celebrity Culture is inevitable. I see it nationally, and I even see it in the group of churches I belong to. Oddly enough, many of the old dead guys that we all love to read so much never gained fame or prominence until hundreds of years after they died. Maybe it should still be that way.

So what do you think? Should church leaders sign Bibles or not?

***DISCLAIMER: I must say that I believe many of our national leaders to be pursuing the gospel first with no thought to their own fame or celebrity, but it would appear that some toss their weight around more than others...


  1. Love this blog! I'm with J.I. Packer on this one...signing their own books is one thing, but God's word...let's leave that to Him.

  2. Since it's already been seconded, I'll third that.