Reflections on Walter Martin, Zondervan and a Little Bit of Publishing History

There will always be a warm spot in my heart for Walter Martin. Shortly after I became a Christian I encountered my first Jehovah’s Witness while doing door-to-door evangelism with Campus Crusade for Christ. She was a very kind lady and gave me lots of material to read. When I brought the literature back the leaders of my team encouraged me to throw the material away (which I did). No explanation offered—“just throw it away.” Now I was intrigued. I picked up a copy of The Kingdom of the Cults and read through the chapter on Jehovah’s Witnesses. While I was somewhat interested in what they believed I found myself more fascinated with the exposition of Christian doctrine. My introduction to Christian doctrine was under the tutelage of Martin and to this day I appreciate that.

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As I was browsing through a book on the history of Zondervan I saw Martin’s name on a page and it immediately arrested my attention. I knew that Zondervan first published the now classic The Kingdom of the Cults but as with everything there was a little more to the story.

In 1956 Martin was appointed as head of the new “Cult Apologetics Division” at Zondervan. But this was short lived. “Despite this happy development, dealings between Martin and his publishers were becoming strained as the writer invested more and more of his time and resources in magazine publishing and research projects. Although his most significant work, The Kingdom of the Cults, was published by Zondervan as late as 1965, Martin had let pass opportunities to produce some promised textbooks on contemporary theology that Zondervan very much wanted to publish. Through no fault of Zondervan’s, the Cult Apologetics Division had a short life; yet what Zondervan was able to publish on the cults during that time was well worthwhile.” (The House of Zondervan, pp. 62-63)

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The Kingdom of the Cults was eventually sold to Bethany Fellowship. The first copy I bought is a fifteenth printing (January, 1974). I had the privilege to meet Martin at one of his speaking events in Lubbock, Texas. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to hear him and to try to get him to sign my book. When I asked him if I could have his autograph he beamed and said, “Sure. Authors love to give their autographs.” In 2003 Baker Book House (now Baker Publishing Group) bought Bethany House Publishers and so inherited The Kingdom of the Cults. Baker continues to publish this classic and I consider myself very fortunate to work with the publisher that continues to give life to this book that has such a history in my own spiritual growth.

On another note. Did you know that the original title for The Late Great Planet Earth was to be Behold a White Horse? After Zondervan accepted the manuscript they had already contracted a book by the name of Behold a Pale Horse. “Lindsey came up with the intriguing title The Late Great Planet Earth, inspired by a non-Zondervan book, The Late Great State of California.” (The House of Zondervan, p. 124)

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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One Response to Reflections on Walter Martin, Zondervan and a Little Bit of Publishing History

  1. johntjeffery says:

    Louis: Perhaps you are aware of some of the controversy surrounding the initial publication of this volume by Walter Martin over his stance on whether the Seventh Day Adventists were to be considered a cult or not. It is my understanding that this caused some delay/hesitation in publishing it.

    Here are some sources that document what went on:

    Stephen D. Pitcher, “Did Adventist Leaders Lie to Walter Martin? A look back at the Adventist/Evangelical dialogues in the mid 1950’s”, in Proclamation! 11:3 (JUL/AUG/SEP 2010), pp. 8-15; on Life Assurance Ministries at http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2010/3/waltermartin.html [accessed 8 NOV 2013].
    See also the editors’ introductory article to Pitcher’s article above, and Talbot’s articles (see below), “Before you read any further…”, op. cit., pg. 7; on Life Assurance Ministries at http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2010/3/stop.html [accessed 8 NOV 2013].

    Louis Talbot, “Why Seventh-day Adventism is not evangelical”, in Proclamation! 11:3 (JUL/AUG/SEP 2010), pp. 16-23; reprinted from The King’s Business 48:4 (APR 1957); on Life Assurance Ministries at http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2010/3/notevangelical.html [accessed 8 NOV 2013].
    Louis Talbot, “Why Seventh-day Adventism is not evangelical”, Part 2, in Proclamation! 11:4 (OCT/NOV/DEC 2010), pp. 14-21; reprinted from The King’s Business 48:5 (MAY 1957); on Life Assurance Ministries at http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2010/4/notevangelical2.html [accessed 8 NOV 2013].
    Louis Talbot, “Why Seventh-day Adventism is not evangelical”, Part 3, in Proclamation! 12:1 (JAN/FEB/MAR 2011), pp. 14-21; reprinted from The King’s Business 48:6 (June 1957); on Life Assurance Ministries at http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamation/2011/1/talbot3.html [accessed 8 NOV 2013].
    All three of Talbot’s articles are available in downloadable PDF format on Life Assurance Ministries at http://lifeassuranceministries.org/studies/talbot1_reprint.pdf [accessed 8 NOV 2013].
    The complete issues of Proclamation! cited above are available as downloadable PDF files on Life Assurance Ministries at http://www.lifeassuranceministries.org/proclamationback.html [accessed 8 NOV 2013]: http://lifeassuranceministries.org/Proclamation2010_3.pdf, http://lifeassuranceministries.org/Proclamation2010_4.pdf, and http://lifeassuranceministries.org/Proclamation2011_1.pdf [accessed 8 NOV 2013].

    Some of us still believe to this day that if Walter Martin had consistently applied the principles he followed when dealing with Mormon claims he would not have come to this conclusion concerning the Seventh Day Adventists.

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