Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. Expanded edition. Andrew T. LePeau & Linda Doll, edited by Al Hsu. Foreword by Jeff Crosby and Robert A. Fryling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022.
Summary: A narrative history of this evangelical publishing house, a division of a campus ministry, upon the publishing house’s seventy-fifth anniversary.
I was a high school junior, eager to grow in and share my faith due to the influence of the local version of the Jesus Movement upon my life. One of our leaders, a former InterVarsity student leader, invited a group of us to his home and showed us a table full of books and invited us to buy (very cheaply) anything that interested us. I chose Know Why You Believe by Paul Little and read it from cover to cover as it spoke to the questions both I and the people I shared Christ with were asking. That was my first exposure to the quality publications of InterVarsity Press, over fifty years ago. In later years, my son started asking the same questions and I took him out for Saturday breakfasts to discuss the book–and lots of other things.
It was an utter delight to read this history of InterVarsity Press. I should mention at the outset that I’m hardly an impartial reviewer. I work for the campus ministry of which InterVarsity Press is a part. I’ve had the privilege to know many of the people in this book, both living and with the Lord, and count some as friends. I’ve lived through a number of the organizational events mentioned in the book. I’ve even been a guest at a couple of the sites that the Press called home. And of course, I’ve read most of the books mentioned here, using many of them in ministry with students as well as being spiritually formed by many of them.
The very beginnings of InterVarsity Press are rooted in collegiate ministry as well as InterVarsity’s connection with InterVarsity Fellowship in the UK. Thoughtful literature was considered an indispensable part of work with students, particularly in the early years where students saw a staff worker maybe once a semester. The UK connection was also important, because the earliest books came from IVF’s publishing and the history notes the continued influence of UK authors from John Stott to J.I. Packer to N.T. Wright on InterVarsity’s publications. These were voices that were evangelical, thoughtful, and articulate–addressing the concerns of students–and as it turned out, a wider audience.
One of the key early moments was the first Bible Study guide published in the US on the Gospel of Mark, written by Jane Hollingsworth. It set an early precedent of women being represented and affirmed, not only in InterVarsity’s field ministry but in its publications. The book tells the story behind many of the publications that established InterVarsity Press as a publisher: the transcription of Paul Little’s lectures on evangelism into How To Give Away Your Faith, the work of editor James Sire with Francis Schaeffer, the connection with John White, a psychologist who wrote The Fight and a lengthy list of other books for IVP, the discovery of Calvin Miller’s The Singer and Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction in the “slush” pile, launching the publishing careers of both authors, and the brief stopover in the UK that led to publication of J. I. Packer’s Knowing God.
The account describes the organizational development of the Press, including the move to its own facilities in Downers Grove–first a house, and later a former auto dealership, and finally the move of the offices to join their warehouse in Westmont, Illinois. We are also introduced to the succession of leaders and editors who gave organizational and editorial leadership: directors Joe Bayley, Jim Nyquist, Linda Doll, Ken DeRuiter, Bob Fryling, Jeff Crosby, and Terumi Nichols, the current president of InterVarsity Press, and editors like Jim Sire, Andy LePeau, Jim Hoover and Dan Reid with academic books, and current editors including Al Hsu, Cindy Bunch, and Jon Boyd. One of the great partnerships at IVP was that of Jim Nyquist and Jim Sire (“the two Jims”). It waa during this time that InterVarsity Press really came into its own and became the resource to thoughtful evangelicals that it continues to be to this day.
The book doesn’t gloss over controversies, perhaps the most significant of which was an early “cancelling” effort by Franky Schaeffer of a book titled Brave New People, which advocated a strongly pro-life stance throughout, but in dealing with the most extreme cases of birth fetal abnormalities (like fetuses without a brain) allowed that these were the only cases where an abortion may even be contemplated. The book was labeled pro-abortion for mooting even this rare possible exception and attacked in various articles, leading to the loss of some InterVarsity donors, picketing at the press, and the withdrawal of the book, causing consternation among other authors, wondering if this could happen if the public didn’t like something in their books. The history explores the particular vulnerability exploited in this instance–the connection between the Press and the donor-supported campus ministry of which it is a part that is not the case with many publishers.
The expanded edition includes coverage of the last twenty-five years of the Press’s work, including a major expansion of its academic publishing, and various new lines like Formatio dealing with spiritual formation and Praxis dealing with issues of practical theology. The history also highlights the huge growth as a publisher of numerous authors who are people of color, of women authors, and the recent launch of a new line of IVP Kids books.
The book has something of the feel of a “family history” and one senses the uproarious fun, the high professional and ethical standards, and sense of mission that have characterized this publishing organization. It gives one a sense of the risks and judgments publishers must assess, and the changes in the marketplace that publishers must nimbly negotiate. For those of us whose lives have been touched by InterVarsity Press books, it is a delight to learn the stories behind the books that have spoken into our lives.
And since I’ve already noted how this is a departure from my usual reviews, I will depart one more time to express to my friends at InterVarsity Press how grateful I am to God for you for the commitment to Christian thought, to publishing authors of color and women, to addressing hard issues and not shrinking from taking positions that not all will embrace. I’ve found J. I. Packer’s assessment, quoted in this book, to be amply true:
“Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe.”
Thank you, InterVarsity Press, for helping me know why I believe, and for fifty years of helping me believe more deeply.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.
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