Chapter 7: Our Standards

This is part of the Thomas Nelson Way Series, an in-house curriculum for new employees. It is intended to be a “quick reference” for the things that are important to us. You can click here to see the introduction to the series and our thinking behind it.

Test all things; hold fast what is good.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:21

At Thomas Nelson, we often refer to ourselves as “a Christian content company.” However, we understand our identity as a Christian content provider in a very different way than most of our competitors.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59, Image #676612

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59

Like them, we want all of our messages to be delivered from the perspective of a Christian worldview. This is the foundation of our content program. However, unlike many of them, our communicators are free to explore any subject they wish.

Yes, we publish content and host conferences on spiritual and devotional themes. This is part of life and, from our perspective, the most important part. But it is not the only part. We also deliver content that deals with the other aspects of life: business, culture, politics, entertainment, etiquette, cooking, family, etc. And, of course, we publish fiction. Lots of it! No topic is off limits, provided it comes from a Christian worldview, is executed well, and has commercial value. (We are, after all, a commercial content provider.)

Theologically, our vision flows from our conviction that God is sovereign. He doesn’t preside over part of the world (the “religious sphere”), leaving the rest autonomous (the “secular sphere”). No, He rules over all of it. Ultimately, there is no secular/sacred dichotomy. Because God is the Creator and ruler over all, any field of human inquiry can be explored—and sanctified.

To say it another way, all truth is God’s truth. Some of the content we distribute will be explicitly Christian (mentioning the name “Jesus” or citing specific Bible verses); other content will be implicitly Christian (never referencing anything spiritual). Both are acceptable and appropriate, depending on the communicator’s purpose and audience. The important thing is that the content flow out of a Christian worldview.

And that necessarily begins with the communicator. As a result, our standards focus on the content originator. This doesn’t mean that the content is unimportant. Quite the contrary. But it does reflect our belief that content flows out of a worldview and, ultimately, out of a writer or speaker’s heart (cf. Matthew 12:34, 35). To say it another way, we want to align ourselves with people who share our vision, our mission, and our values. “How can two walk together unless they agree” (Amos 3:3)? This is where it starts.

Specifically, we want to publish and promote:

  1. Communicators who profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ. We want to work with people who are willing to say, “I am a Christian.” We do not try to judge their profession or assess the validity of their faith. Only God knows their hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Nevertheless, we want to work with communicators who claim to be Christians and are not ashamed of it.
  2. Communicators who embrace the central truths of historic Christianity. Such ancient documents as the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are simply convenient summaries of these truths and nearly all Christians can agree on them. Beyond these basic truths, we want to allow latitude—and even disagreement!—on non-core doctrines.
  3. Communicators who seek to live according to the standards of biblical morality. We do not expect perfection. We acknowledge that all Christians—even Christian communicators—fall short of God’s standards. But we want to promote communicators who are committed to living in obedience to God’s revealed will. We want to promote communicators who “walk the talk.”

Beyond these standards, there is freedom. Philippians 4:8 provides the inspiration for an expansive content program. It says,

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Notice the word whatever. It is repeated six times and then followed by the word anything. Based on this verse, we believe that Christians are free to think, write, or speak about anything—whatever they want!—provided it meets eight minimal criteria:

  1. It must be true. This means that it must be authentic and must correspond to reality. We want to promote content that embraces reality as God created it, not content that “sugar coats” reality or tries to make reality something it is not.
  2. It must be noble. This means that it must raise us up and make us more like God. The opposite is to debase or degrade. We want to promote content that ultimately motivates people and calls forth their best qualities.
  3. It must be just. This means it must be righteous or consistent with the commandments of God. It also means it must be fair. We want to promote content that promotes righteousness and godly living. By the way, this doesn’t mean that novels can’t have evil characters. (There are plenty of them in God’s story.) But it does mean that in the end righteousness is rewarded and evil punished—if not in this life, the next.
  4. It must be pure. This means it must be chaste, modest, clean. We want to promote content that promotes holiness and offers a necessary corrective to current trends to sexualize everything. This does not mean that we are opposed to sex, of course. But we want to make sure that our content advocates a view of sex that is consistent with Christian morality.
  5. It is lovely. This means it must be aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. We want to publish communicators who are committed to beautiful writing and speaking. Both what is said and how it is said are important. Beauty is not a means to an end. It is an end in itself, because it reflects the beauty of the Creator.
  6. It is of good report. This means it must be commendable or of high reputation. Again, the emphasis is on that which represents the best, that which anyone could read or hear and agree that it is well-written or well-spoken.
  7. It is virtuous. This means it must affirm behavior which is consistent with the highest values. Values that don’t manifest themselves in behavior are merely platitudes. We want to promote content that challenges people to live lives of moral excellence and virtue.
  8. It is praiseworthy. This means it must be worthy of recommendation; something you can personally endorse. At the end of the day, we want to promote content we are proud of, books or conferences that we are willing to recommend to a family member or friend with the confidence that they will wowed and grateful that they took the time to enjoy it.

The reason we have content standards is because we want to be faithful to Christ as we fulfill His call on our lives. And we also want our customers to be able to trust us. We want people to have confidence that our products are consistent with a Christian worldview, are created by people who profess to be Christians and are striving to walk the talk, regardless of the subject matter they may be addressing.

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