Outfitters of the Reformation: Why Canon Press?
One of the things that God’s people like to do is figure out ways to communicate with one another. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: And the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Mal. 3:16). This impulse is God-given, and it will manifest itself in different ways over the centuries. However they did it in Malachi’s day, it almost certainly did not involve social media, printing presses, or conferences in great meeting halls with giant media screens on each side. But still, God’s people have always found a way to share the Word with one another.
A common practice among the 16th century English Puritans corresponded—kind of—to our modern day conference circuit. They called them prophesyings or exercises, and they were perhaps a little tougher on their speakers than we are on ours. They would gather at a centrally located church, and three to six ministers would preach, starting with the youngest. They would all preach from the same text, and the last minister to go would summarize the main points. Then a moderator would take over, and conduct a critique of the various messages.
The printing press was invented by Gutenberg in 1450, but in the revolution that followed, there were other factors as well, including the mechanization of paper manufacture. Within 50 years of the invention of the printing press, the presses of Europe had produced over twenty million volumes. Many of these volumes consisted of the people of God sharing the Word with one another in various ways. The rise of the publishing industry in England was helped along considerably by the demand for Puritan sermons in book form. This glorious picture was tangled up considerably because of the conflicting interests of many players—ministers and prophets with something to say, princes and officials who were interested in them not saying too much of it, and private business owners with ink on their noses.
Outfitters of the Reformation
Canon Press began in 1988 with the publication of Fruit of the Cross, and functioned as one of the literature ministries of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. Credenda/Agenda began around the same time, and was a periodic magazine (some might say intermittent) that served as the other literature ministry of our church. Over the course of the next twenty-four years, our writers tackled many subjects in many ways, and God was kind to our efforts—meaning that we were able to continue to do it. As with many other publishing ventures around the country, the movement was up and down, but over the most recent two years, the developments at Canon have been very exciting.
As a result of many factors, in late 2012, the elders of Christ Church made the decision to sell Canon Press to some private businessmen—men who are committed to the vision and mission that Canon Press successfully maintained for a quarter of a century. The new principal owners are now Aaron Rench and N.D. Wilson, both gifted products of the ministry here. Also on board is Dr. Larry Stephenson, along with a number of other talented individuals. I will have an ongoing role in the continued production of what is in these days called “content,” and will help to provide continuity of vision. The transfer of Canon was made in such a way as to respect the continuity of that founding vision and yet free the church from having to be responsible for a burgeoning business that showed promising signs of being capable of wagging the dog.
All of Christ for All of Life for All the World
Our desire at Canon Press will continue to be to submit our words to the Scriptures, and then to connect those submitted words to as many things out in the world as we can manage. In his inaugural address at the dedication of the Free University, Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Because Jesus is the Lord of all, this means that everything is connected, all is related. As we attempt to think God’s thoughts after Him, as Kepler put it, we are seeking to do more than just think with a biblical worldview. We want to live that way, and we want to publish materials to help others live that way. Owen Barfield once said of C.S. Lewis that what he thought of everything was contained in what he said about anything. This was not a personal achievement of his—this is what the grace of God is supposed to look like. The apostle Paul said in Colossians that Jesus Christ was the arche, the integration point for all things in Heaven and on earth (Col. 1:18). If two things are rightly related to Him, they will necessarily be rightly related to each other. This is the overarching thought for all that we produce—all of Christ as the integration point for all of everything else.
One other important point should be noted. The element of historical optimism that is fairly obvious in what we are doing is not a function of the personalities involved. Postmillennialism is the view that the resurrection of Jesus was foundationally relevant to all subsequent human history. Postmillennialism is liberation theology for conservatives. Postmillennialism means that because jubilee in history does not depend on theological liberals, it might actually happen. Postmillennialism is therefore an essential part of our ongoing business model. As my wife Nancy puts it, “Go, fight, win.”
If the Lord wills, as James put it (Jas. 4:15), and iff’n the crik don’ rise, as Clem put it, the following are some of the areas we hope to labor in. As you browse the categories listed below, please know that some of them are new to us, and some others are where we have been working for years, whether distributing or publishing or both. Just a short paragraph falls under each section, but each short paragraph should be understood as representing some fairly large hopes. We hope, by the grace of God, to make a dent. We hope, by the grace of God, to be outfitters of the reformation.
Worship & Church:
We believe that the worship of God every Lord’s Day is the most important thing we do. Everything else we do flows out of that—whether business, politics, music, economics, and so on. We seek to glorify God in Heaven, and then we ask Him to do His will on earth as it has been done in Heaven. We want to glorify Him in Heaven, in the course of our worship, so that He will use that worship as His instrument for advancing His kingdom on earth.
Examples: Angels in the Architecture, A Primer on Worship and Reformation, The Lord’s Service
Marriage & Family:
The gospel is what transforms the world, and one of the great central images of that gospel is a godly marriage. We do not believe that we will be able to promote reformation in our church communities if the work of the pulpit once a week is torn down every night at the dinner table. The potency of a biblical marriage and family is considerable, and this is one of the reasons why the enemy is so interested in undermining it. This element has been a central theme of Canon’s publications over the years, and it will continue to be.
Examples: Reforming Marriage, Loving the Little Years, Fit to Burst, Fidelity, Fruit of Her Hands, Father Hunger
Theology & Doctrine:
Theology is only dull when you are doing it wrong.
Examples: God Rest Ye Merry, Silence to Song, Against Christianity
The purpose of the church in this world is two-fold—birth and growth. We are looking to cultivate a form of Reformed living that is aggressively and exuberantly evangelistic. Our desire is to help Reformed churches begin to grow because of direct evangelism, and not because we have figured out how to grow “from the side” as sheep stealers. We don’t believe that pop evangelical churches need to be the Ellis Island for all the immigrants from the world.
Examples: Collision, Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl (book), Persuasions, Is Christianity Good for the World?, Principles of War, Weapons & Tactics, A Shot of Faith (to the Head)
We believe that Christian children should grow up in an educational environment that is dominated by the Word of God. The greatest commandment in Scripture, that which calls us to love the Lord our God with everything we have, is a command that comes to us in a section of Deuteronomy dedicated to the education of covenant children (Dt. 6:4-8). When Jesus quoted the command, He added the requirement that we are to love the Lord our God with all our minds (Mark 12:30). Because of this we want to continue to publish books that urge Christian parents to take up the world-transforming task of taking responsibility for the education of their children.
Examples: Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, The Case for Classical Christian Education, The Paideia of God, Excused Absence
Canon Press is excited to announce two important acquisitions. Logos Press, developed by Logos School here in Moscow, is now an imprint of Canon. Logos School was the pioneer school in the resurgent movement of classical Christian education in North America, and Canon is now editing, publishing, marketing, and distributing their fine materials. In addition, Canon has acquired Noeo science curriculum, long popular with homeschoolers. Not only are we excited to be distributing the materials already produced by these great publishers, we are in the midst of developing a ton more of it. Our goal is to provide resources to Christian schools and homeschoolers (K-12), and to do so in a way that equips educators, whether at school or at home, to provide the best possible Christian education that they can.
Examples: Our Mother Tongue, The Riot and the Dance, Orbis Pictus
While we believe that living in community is designed by God, and that education in community is an important part of incarnational living (Luke 6:40), we are not superstitious about so-called “distance learning.” Books are a form of distance learning, and God is apparently not opposed to it since He inspired the apostle Paul to send the letter to the Ephesians across quite a distance. At the same time, we know that the biblical writers preferred to be present with those they were teaching (Gal. 4:20), whenever that was possible. We say all this because all forms of online education have to be evaluated in comparison to what the actual alternatives are on the ground. In that spirit, we are committed to providing quality educational services online, with a classical Christian approach, in such a way as to enable schools and parents to strengthen what they are able to provide in real time.
Examples: Logos Online School is offering scores of classes for the fall of 2013.
James tells us that if someone is merry, he should sing psalms (Jas. 5:13). Our musical endeavors will be as wide as the world is, but we do want the recovery of psalm singing to have a central place in it. These musical productions will include CDs that will help small congregations (who may not have a music minister) learn how to sing in parts. We also hope to make technological assistance available to congregations in this position. In addition, we will be producing classical psalms and hymns with contemporary instrumentation, so that Christians can learn psalms in their cars off CDs they would be willing to play in their car.
Examples: Singing in Harmony, Brother Down
We are convinced that Christians should be story-tellers. C.S. Lewis did as much to advance the faith with his Narnia stories as he did with his works of apologetics—not that either should be pitted against the other. If we refuse to tell stories, at the end of the day, it is evidence that we have not been listening as God tells us His stories. And that is a bad place to be.
Examples: Evangellyfish, 100 Cupboards, Leepike Ridge, What I Learned in Narnia
We are in the process of building a network of blogs that enable us to respond quickly to the issues of the day in all the areas we are seeking to address. The life cycles of contemporary “hot topic” issues are now measured in minutes and hours, when they used to be measured in terms of weeks and months. The pace of life is a lot faster now, and we believe that faithful words should keep up with these developments, and should do so without becoming frenetic. Canon has acquired three established blogs, and will be developing a way to grow this network of blogs.
Examples: Having Two Legs (Toby Sumpter), Femina (Nancy Wilson, Bekah Merkle, Heather Wilson, Rachel Jankovic), Blog and Mablog (Douglas Wilson)
We have been greatly influenced by writers before us, and one of the things we want to do is keep some of their stuff in circulation. We will be stocking a shelf or two filled with first editions of Wodehouse, Tolkien, and Lewis, along with other early editions of their works.
Examples: These titles will come and go, depending on the phases of the moon
When Canon Press was privatized, one of the things that Christ Church kept the rights to was the video content of the sermons. Canon will continue to be the distributor of this content, providing it free of charge. CanonWIRED will continue to be the site that houses the sermons, as well as brief clips from sermons that can be easily embedded on web sites, or sent around with links. CanonWIRED will continue to post Q&A clips on various topics of interest as well.
Examples: Ask Doug
Canon Press hopes to be involved in various aspects of film-making. This would include producing “bookumentaries” and feature length films, as well as placing screenplays with studios and pitching concepts for film projects. Our ultimate goal is to get me a walk-on in a remake of The Maltese Falcon. Not really. But let us return to Kuyper’s quote about how there is not one square inch that does not belong to the Lord Jesus—if this is true, and it is, then this must include every square inch of every movie screen in the country. That has ramifications.
Examples: Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl (DVD), The Great Divorce
This must all seem pretty ambitious, and so we promise that nothing has gone to our heads. We know that there are pitfalls connected with such ambition, and we know further that all of this is dependent upon the grace of God (not to mention His inscrutable purposes). We are not trying to run ahead of Him. But we are convinced that the besetting sin of our age is not that of running ahead of God’s redemptive purposes, but rather that of foot-dragging, lollygagging, and stumping along well behind them. All things being equal, we would rather shoot high and miss than shoot low and make it. We do not want the shallow triumph that comes from achieving all our low expectations, set low in a spirit of self-indulgence and self-flattery. If the servant with ten talents lost his shirt, but it was a true and valiant effort, we suspect that he would be well-received along with the others and told to enter into joy (Matt. 25:21). At least we hope so.