From the Sandhills of Nebraska to the Universe Next Door
So I would begin, if you will, by addressing students who had not mentally lived in the modern world—the world in which intellectual questions could be answered by rational arguments and intellectual analysis—all that long. They were living already in this early postmodern scheme that divided religious belief from scientific knowledge. But this lecture brought them from relativism to a realization they really were not relativists after all. They actually wanted to believe what was true. Then we could look at questions of resurrection, the problem of evil, and all the standard stuff that almost all apologists write about.
As chief editor for one of the premier Christian publishers, InterVarsity Press, you had a deep impact on Christian thought through the authors and books you cultivated. Are there any particular books or writers you brought before the reading public that give you a special sense of satisfaction?
Yes, indeed. Francis Schaeffer was brought in just before I came, and I became his first American editor. I'm delighted to be associated with about 13 of his books. The first book I edited from submission to publication was Schaeffer's Death in the City. When I was editor, we were the first publisher of Eugene Peterson, Ronald Sider, Peter Kreeft, Os Guinness, and Steve Garber. All these authors' books continue to have a market.
You make frequent reference in Rim to how your faith was nurtured by the products of Christian publishers. Publishing is going through difficult transitions right now. What do you see as the future of Christian publishing?
There will be a major role for Christian publishing in print form for some time. People, especially in the academic world, want something in their hands to read. Now that may just be my old age creeping in. E-books are going to increase as time goes on, and all the major publishers are making sure their major texts are available as e-books. However, reading an e-book is not as satisfying, not even to those who read e-books, as conventional books are, so Christian publishing on paper will continue to have a role for some time.
Many of your books are familiar to informed Christian readers, but are there any that stand out as not having caught on as well as you had hoped?
My book on Vaclav Havel [Vaclav Havel: The Intellectual Conscience of International Politics], the first president of the new Czech Republic. That book illustrates how non-Christian public figures could be evaluated from a Christian point of view and recognized as having a lot to say positively. I called him the Good Samaritan in my lectures. Jesus would not have appreciated all of his beliefs, but Havel is a wonderful example to Christians of how a public official should live.
The second one is Praying the Psalms of Jesus. Its companion book,Learning to Pray Through the Psalms, has been adopted and used through the years and continues to be in print. But Praying the Psalms of Jesus did not even sell out its first printing, and it's a better book.