The Logos Seal of Approval

Soon after we posted the TNIV to our prepublication program I received a personal email from a user who was troubled and disappointed that we would digitize this (admittedly controversial) Bible version.

I appreciate that this user took the time to write and am grateful that he expressed himself in a loving manner. Two lines from his email really stood out to me and seem worthy of broader discussion. He concluded his email, “I had thought Logos far more worthy of our confidence than this last example. If you continue to make offerings like this, you will soon lose your reputation for being a leader in producing first class materials.”

This is not the first time I’ve heard statements along these lines and it seems to point up a disconnect between what we see ourselves as doing and what at least some of our users see us as doing.

Statements like these suggest to me the presence of an idea or expectation that Logos serves as a content filter for the material we digitize. It approaches an implicit assumption that the books we publish somehow bear the “Logos Seal of Approval.”

I’d like to challenge this notion and try to clear the air of it if I can. For one thing, what would such a seal of approval mean? Would it stand for a specific theological flavor, particular academic school of thought, a denominational bent?

And who would set the tone? The 100+ people who work at Logos are a moderately diverse group of people; you could visit many different churches around Bellingham and find some of our staff in attendance. Further, we have no oversight committee or editorial board for this, and as far as I know we don’t desire to take on this kind of role.

Having been present at many of the meetings where we decide which titles to offer next on the prepub program, I would describe the process as follows:

1. Is this book useful to people who are studying the Bible?
2. Do we think it would be a good addition to the Libronix Digital Library System?
3. Do we have a license?

That’s about it. If the answer to these three questions is ‘yes’ it nearly always goes into the queue.

We spend less time thinking about the content per se than you might think (though we spend a lot of time thinking about how it should work in the system). We firmly believe that the Bible in its original manuscripts is reliable; everything beyond that should be used judiciously and with discernment.

And I believe this approach is intentional…we want the “Logos bookstore” to be just like any heart-stoppingly-great bookstore you’ve ever walked into. Filled to the ceiling with books–an embarrassment of riches in digital titles!

And just like any really good bookstore, it’s up to you to decide which books you want. You might buy books to agree with them or to disagree with them, and that’s okay. The point is, the choice should be yours.

In fact, this broad scope is one of the unique strengths of the Logos model. Unlike a software platform that contains the works of only one publisher or one denomination, Logos offers a much broader vision: the world’s entire corpus of writing that can be used to study the Bible, from the ancient world through today…all on your hard drive.

Now you may not share that vision for your own hard drive, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be left out in the cold. The beauty of this vision is that it also serves the needs of those who want their own personal library to very strongly reflect their own interests, beliefs, creed, etc. Why? Because there’s a higher probability that the material you like (no matter which denomination you belong to) will be available for Libronix DLS. You just have to do the legwork to know which material you like, seeking out recommendations from a source which shares your theology.

Just writing this post brings it home to me that there is a definite need for more bibliographic “metabooks” (or perhaps more of us, myself included, should take advantage of the many that have been written). And it would be great to have more of these metabooks as electronic books in Libronix.

I think there’s also room for more brief, objectively-written guides to books on Logos.com to help our users navigate the 5,000 titles now available for the system, much like a bookstore owner who offers suggestions based not on his own likes and dislikes but based on his extensive knowledge of what’s available.

But the key here is to expose and debunk the myth that Logos is an implicit gatekeeper or filter that places our theological seal of approval on every electronic book we publish. It’s more helpful to think of us as a digital bookstore that assists you in finding what you want and need, but doesn’t intend to make the decision for you.

Update 2005-8-16: I should have mentioned this in the original post…A number of “recommended lists” and bibliographies have now been collected at The Pastor’s Library website: www.thepastorslibrary.com.

Comments

  1. Ernest Long says:

    I very much agree with your article. There was a time in the past when I was fearful that Logos would not publish a broad range of viewpoints. I am grateful to learn that I was mistaken.
    One thing that I definitely would benefit from is more articles containing lists of recommended books for different purposes. In particular, I would like to see recommended lists from different seminaries. My alma mater, Southwestern Baptist, used to publish such a list. I do not know if it still does.
    Thanks for all the great work you do!

  2. Daniel Foster says:

    Thanks for the encouraging words, Mr. Long!
    A number of these recommended lists have now been collected at The Pastor’s Library website: http://www.thepastorslibrary.com (click “Resources” in the sidebar).
    I don’t see SW Baptist among them, but if you can locate the list on the web or in your files, please send it along and we’ll see if we can get permission to post it.

  3. Jeff Hansen says:

    I am also very grateful for this article!
    In 1564 The Roman Catholic Church formed the ‘Index Librorum Prohibitorum’ to counter the, at that time, heretical books that swarmed the book market in the 16th century Europe. Any of these books added were forbidden to read for all Catholics. These were primarily Lutheran books, but also Copernicus, as an example, had his books added to the list. If you read any of these books you put yourself in a terrible position with the Church. It was abolished in 1966 !
    My point in writing the above is that do you think that Libronix should have their ‘Index Librorum Prohibitorum’? Of course not. I’m not at all interested in TNIV, but I would still very much so – have the *opportunity* to read it – should I feel like it.
    Great to read and hear that Logos feel the same way and I hope to see more ebooks & software, conservative and liberal (and in-between) in the future. I will certainly remain with Logos.
    I wouldn’t even mind if Logos started to publish recipe-books. Libronix is the best ebook software out there that I know of, so thank you!
    Sincerely,
    Jeff.

  4. John Cornell says:

    I think your article explains to the user the underlying e-book-philosophy of Logos. In the same way that normal reading and investigation considers different points of view, e-book reading and investigation should also.
    On the less serious side, but yet important, if you do make a recipe book, I imagine the first one would be “Chicken a la India” or “101 ways to make chicken-curry”.

  5. Don Awalt says:

    Nice post, thanks.
    But I have a question. If the criteria for content is this:
    1. Is this book useful to people who are studying the Bible?
    2. Do we think it would be a good addition to the Libronix Digital Library System?
    3. Do we have a license?
    How come there is so little Catholic content? I assume it must be #3, as #1 and #2 would sure be a yes if you started attracting Catholics to the product.
    For example, I have found 2 Biblical commentaries that are Catholic in interpretation, and 1 more that is NT only. That’s not many.
    I have asked several times about this on the newsgroups, and the response has been well, lukewarm – I have been told it is up to me to get publications excited about publishing in Logos format.
    So which will be more effective, one guy asking/discussing or a company with a fine Bible product asking/discussing? That response tells me that it’s frankly not a priority for Logos – which is why the product is seldom used in Catholic circles (with exceptions, of which I am one :-))
    Whatever the challenges, Logos is minimally used in Catholic arenas, and I think it’s a fine product and a shame. I don’t have a single Catholic friend that has even heard of it, and many are regular members of Bible study. I asked on the forums at Catholic.com, who uses Logos, (and they are one of the largest forums in the world on any subject), and about 5 people replied that they used it.
    When you think of growth strategies I am baffled why over a billion Catholics and other religions that share in common literature are not considered. I understand that you can’t just invest in content and all of a sudden people show up, but it’s clear to me you understand how to market to a segment – and compelling content is a requirement for that strategy to work.
    Until you address this issue IMHO, Logos largely hits only half of the Christian market – and that’s a huge opportunity if Logos set their mind to it.

  6. I endorse the publication of TNIV. I did not even know that it existed before the prepub offer. This does not mean I will buy it, but if I need to, I am glad that it works in Libronix.
    I am an advocate for the pulblishing of all print material in Religion and Theology, even the book of mormon, New World Translation, and the Koran. It is nice when you can carry your library around with you.

  7. Daniel Foster says:

    Reply to comment by Don Awalt:
    Don,
    You are correct that it’s a licensing issue. We have the desire to add more content from Roman Catholic publishers and we’ve certainly tried to do so and will continue working at it. The ball really is in their court. Bob has posted about this subject in detail on the newsgroup and I’ll leave it to him to address it further here on the blog, if he likes.
    I would like to point out, however, that we do have many Roman Catholic users and the number is growing. Ministry & Liturgy magazine just included in their August issue a major feature titled “Church Technology Resource Guide” and about half of the write-up focused on Logos Bible Software as a tool for education and formation within Roman Catholic churches. The bit on Logos begins, “For self-study, guided study, and continuing education, a clear leader in the field is Logos Research Systems, Inc., provider of Logos Bible Software…”
    The review recommends a number of Logos resources, either published by Logos or our partners, including Early Church Fathers, The Rule of St. Benedict, Bible Review, Biblical Archaeology Review, etc.
    All that to say…we’re working to promote the Catholic-specific material we do have and we are sensitive to the need for additional material. Let’s hope the right people in leadership within the Roman Catholic church are moved by what they hear and read about Logos and become willing to license content to us.
    -Daniel

  8. Kent D Boettger says:

    I had previously sent an email asking whether plans were in the works to publish Catholic resources, such as Papal Encyclicals, the Catechism, etc., but got no response. I also took this as lukewarm interest on behalf of Logos.
    I, and my son who is studying Sacred Scripture at Denver Seminary in Denver, use Logos and truly think it is a gift. I will be ordained a Deacon in the Archdiocese of Omaha in November and take comfort that my Logos software will help me break open the word of God to fellow parishioners.
    Keep trying to gain access to more Catholic resources. I will try to keep promoting your product in Catholic circles.
    Sincerely in Christ,
    Kent

  9. Tim Buhler says:

    You mentioned in the original post that “We firmly believe that the Bible in its original manuscripts is reliable.” Would Logos go so far to say that the original manuscripts are also inerrant & infallible?
    Tim Buhler

  10. Daniel Foster says:

    Tim,
    Speaking for myself, yes, that is what I mean by “reliable.”
    -Daniel

  11. Jason Siemens says:

    I appreciate that Logos had made available the TNIV. I do not like the philosophy behinds the translation but I purchased the pre-pub because, as a shepherd I must be aware of the current translations that are out there and there is not better way to achieve this than having a copy open on my screen side by side my favorite translation, (NASB). I agree with the post that also talked about the Book of Mormon, New World translation and the Koran in that there is no better way to study these books than on the Logos program. I would buy those in a heartbeat to study. There is no better tool for a pastor to use than his own study of the what is out there. That can be done in the most efficient way through the Logos system. If a person doesn’t like the books they don’t have to buy them. I go to a Christian book store and don’t agree with a great deal of what is on the shelves but that doesn’t stop me from shopping there. I look at it all and know what I want and the authors that are solid and buy only that which appeals to me or will help my study. The more that Logos offers the bigger the store the more shopping a person can do the better the library a person can build.
    Keep up the good work of offering various titles of theological perspective.
    Jason

  12. Paul Foster says:

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for a clear, concise and well-reasoned response to a difficult issue.Good writing, son.
    As we like to say, “You done good”.
    Dad

  13. Ken Canning says:

    I just purchased Logos and the Early
    Church Fathers Catholic Edition and love it. And yes, I would like to add myself to the list of Catholics who will definitely purchase offerings such as encyclicals, documents of Vatican II and other such materials. God Bless!