Safeguarding Truth: Content versus Form

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Article By Solomon Andria

In a consumerist world like ours, producing a lot of products as fast as possible can easily become the norm. Publishers are no exception to this! The emphasis on the message is easily lost while all the attention goes on to marketing. 

Christian publishing houses must be different. We must produce works that are in alignment with the purposes of God, and that meet the exact needs of this century’s reader so that after reading a book, the reader is one step closer to knowing the Truth of God and God Himself. 


Challenges for publishers 

The first challenge is to resist trendy titles or themes just for the sake of attracting potential readers. We have been in the postmodern world for a few decades. It is a world that is less interested in deep reflection and more interested in trivialities. It encourages attachment to sensational phenomena. It promises immediate happiness without effort, prosperity, and visible success. This is easily evident in the material success of the proponents of prosperity theology in Africa. 

Secondly, publishers may be tempted to produce what the reader demands. They opt for writings whose content attracts and whose literary form seduces. This inevitably leads to doctrines that appeal, teachings that confuse and mislead.  

Another challenge is how to interest the younger generation in literature. The present generation is attracted by the visible and the audible more than by the readable. Images and colours replace the written word, and the tablet replaces the book! This impoverishes and even paralyzes intellectually. 


The responsibilities of publishers 

Faced with these challenges, responsibilities are required of publishers but also of editors. They must: 

  • To be attentive to the world in order to know the intellectual and cultural realities and the founded or unfounded concerns of the present generation. 
  • – To identify the trendy subjects and themes, such as prosperity, business success, marriage for all, promises of happiness, and such in order to challenge them. 
  • Identify sensationalism at the expense of the spiritual — some authors consider the sensational to be spiritual. 
  • Be familiar with current language, as each generation is marked by a specific language – language itself evolves in time and space.  
  • Be familiar with the history of the Church, especially the history of dogma. The major doctrinal controversies took place during the first five centuries of our era. Most theological debates were dealt with during this period.  
  • Differentiate between the essential and the secondary in Christian doctrine. The essentials of Christian doctrine are summarized by the three cardinal truths of the Reformation: by Scripture alone, by grace alone, by faith alone. These truths emphasize the full inspiration of Scripture and the interpretation of Scripture in the light of the Spirit. 
  • Consider the biblical triad in interpreting and understanding biblical data: Creation, Fall and Redemption. 
  • To verify the biblical basis of the ideas expressed in the text, since some authors invoke biblical verses to justify their own ideas, to justify themselves. 
  • Look for factual accuracy in the story, appropriate use of quotes or sayings… 
  • Consider the consistency between title and content, but also between content and form, knowing that literary form helps to understand the content or to hide a message! Form includes vocabulary, syntax, spelling and even punctuation! For example, the placement of a comma in a sentence is critical to the meaning of the message expressed. 
  • Develop a brotherly dialogue with the editor, and especially with the author, knowing that in the publication process, the author proposes his manuscript to the editor, and the editor submits the revised text to the publisher. 

In short, the Christian publisher must have a basic knowledge of Scripture and the culture in order to be able to spot intentional and unintentional subtleties in the text and false doctrines presented in an attractive literary style.  

The publisher’s role is to help the author communicate the great truths in an intelligible and enjoyable way. In the whole process, the publisher’s role is decisive, because he is at the end of the chain. This is how publishing houses in Africa help the Church to witness until the return of Jesus Christ. 



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Solomon Andria

Solomon Andria was professor of Systematic Theology at the Faculty of Evangelical Theology of the Christian Alliance in Abidjan for 20 years, and the coordinator of LivresHippo in the Langham Partnership Literature Department in Francophone Africa. He is the author of several books including Église et mission à l’époque contemporaine (CLE, 2007), Initiatives théologiques en Afrique (LivresHippo, 2016). He chaired the board of the Africa Bible Commentary and has overseen the French and Malagasy translations. He has made a major contribution to the African Biblical Commentary, serving as one of the theological editors of the New Testament and overseeing the production of the French edition, the Commentaire Biblique Contemporain.


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