The Dorean Principle

I read this book over the weekend and kept thinking that it would be great fodder for discussion here. Have any of you read it? It’s available (for free, obviously) here and on Kindle. And AD Robles interviewed the author, Conley Owens, here.

There’s a lot in there that reminds me of what Pastor Tim has said about Bible translations and Greek manuscripts and critical editions.

I’d love to hear the author do a series of case studies regarding specific known ministries (like 9Marks, Cannon, DGM, TGC, etc.) and specific missions (like Banner of Truth - or Warhorn - publishing old books, etc.).


Fantastic! Haven’t read anything yet, but I love the topic and I love their online book! Will definitely dig into this when I have the time.


Thanks for reading, @hhtuck! If you know anyone who would like to have me on their podcast to discuss case studies, I’d be happy to do so.


Also, RE: Bibles and critical editions. I cut the details down pretty tight in the book; it’s still only scratching the surface, but I wrote significantly more in section 15.2 of my MDiv thesis.

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Thanks very much for posting, @cco3! I still haven’t had a chance to dig in much, but I have it loaded up on my ereader and I’m looking forward to it.

I realized some years ago that, for an organization working to release a critical edition of Scripture, the ideal aim would be to end up with a copyright on the literal, exact words of the original manuscripts. The very idea fills me with a kind of dread. Regardless of where we land on questions about IP and copyright, THAT just can’t be right.

Thanks for your work!


@ldweeks you hit the nail on the head! Believe it or not, there have been cases of people appealing to typos in their transcriptions of old sheet music to give them some reason to claim copyright when they want to restrict another’s use of a very old work that they’ve made available.


I’m an avid consumer of podcasts but I can think of a lot of folks I’d love to hear you talk to.

I would watch/listen to an entire series of you analyzing ministries (Cannon, DGM, TGC, 9Marks, Apologia, seminaries, etc.) and hearing how you think they’re doing things right but also how they could bring themselves into further alignment with the principles you outlined. And how it would make them stronger and less subject to all the complicating issues that arise from “peddling.”

I think you said on a YouTube comment that you didn’t think it necessarily applied to schools… but I keep daydreaming about how we could make our classical Christian school free to the “consumers” by cultivating a donor base among alumni and their families.

I know you used Logos as an example. But I can’t imagine how they’d do what they do without charging. If 90% of the “work” is in the formatting/publishing other people’s prophetic/teaching labor isn’t that different than them putting out their own Christian content for a fee?

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If I remember correctly, YouVersion is entirely funded by a single church. So many pastors and theologians have benefitted from Logos, I don’t think they would have trouble finding enough churches and individuals who want to support their efforts.

There’s no reason “charging” has to mean more money than “colaboring”. Maybe there’s a little truth to it, but that’s just an assumption we tend to bring to the table.


I could easily imagine them running a crowd funding campaign for each work they digitize/tag, prefunding the work and letting their partners decide what the highest priority resources should be.

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That’s essentially what we did here, and what we’ve discussed doing for other classic works that we’d like to make freely available. We’ve got a number of other works in the pipeline, but it’s slow going.


Some other thoughts: if Logos used an open format instead of their own proprietary one, how many people would simply do that work for them? If their code was open source, how many software developers would simply pitch in without pay? If it didn’t cost so much money to be a serious user of the platform, how many more would use it and recognize it as something worthy of support?


Hard to say. The vast majority of open source projects have 0 help. I think there are open source Bible programs already? I’d say that their success is, in part, due to the fact that they charge.

I’m not saying that they couldn’t get away with it, or maybe they could become the single exemplar, like Red Hat. Their prices are high; perhaps they could open source it and still charge, just make the salaries and books transparent?

I think their revenues would tank, though.

Case in point: E-sword

According to the site less than 1% donate to help it keep going.

For the record, it really is a great program. I used it for years, even as a pastor. But I think it is still the original developer. Though, I think the modules and add-ons have been added by many users.

If you are looking for something more dedicated than and still free, then it is as good as anything out there.

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  1. e-sword is not open source software, so there’s no opportunity for others to help and that is why it is only one person.
  2. e-sword is a UI on the Crosswise Sword libraries that power many other Bible study programs (I personally use Xiphos and BibleStudy, recently renamed from AndBible).

The sword libraries and modules have a large community of developers. I don’t know that a single module has been developed by e-sword directly…these are almost all community contributions. The reason e-sword is so powerful is precisely because of the large community behind the whole sword ecosystem.

The fact that only 1% contribute to e-sword doesn’t really demonstrate anything against a colabor-based model IMO. The fact that projects are able to run with so little in terms of percentages (Wikipedia also runs with less than 1% contributing), shows how much can be done without sticking a paywall in front of your service.

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Hard to say. The vast majority of open source projects have 0 help.

I agree that it’s hard to say, but the vast majority of open source projects that have a large user base also have a lot of help. I have little reason to doubt that logos would find much help from Christian developers, especially if it had greater reach. Now, I get that much of their content is restricted by licensing agreements, but much isn’t, and they have the opportunity to change.

I worked four years on Android, releasing the code. I worked for 5 years on Chrome. These products would not be nearly so successful if they were not open source, and it’s not just because it brings in developers; there are many related factors. I don’t see why Logos would be any different. You just have to find the interested parties and stakeholders and get them to start working together. It takes a little bit of effort, but there are already many who want to see Logos thrive.

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It seems that the crosswise libraries you mentioned are the Android/Chromium of Bible software, and open source efforts should be put there. Logos seems the Apple of Bible software and unlikely to change. It would be nice if they did, I agree. But if they release the resources in a cross compat manner, people will be tempted to just use the crosswise GUI with logos resources. If they open source the GUI, people will use crosswise resources with the nicer GUI. I doubt it will make a positive impact on their bottom line, and in fact, will take resources to do it correctly.

I would like to see them do it too, but I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. It’s their business and people are free to buy or not buy. But thanks for the links to crosswise!

Consider my mind blown. I had no idea there was this massive UI and app ecosystem. I used e-sword for years - starting circa 2005.

Have started your book and am looking forward to it very much. The profiteering of Christian Stuff has been on my mind at least as long as All Star United’s Smash Hit (and that whole album.)


I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

Right, that is the core question that has to be answered! If you haven’t taken a look at the book, I encourage you to. I’ve also made an audiobook available for those who don’t have time to sit down and read.

I’ll see if I can get to it soon. Do you happen to have 1 page summary of the argument for perusal?

Edit: I’ll just have to read it.

From the intro:

The goal of this brief book is to establish “the do­re­an principle,” a biblical precept that distinguishes ethical ministry fundraising from unethical ministry fundraising. The do­re­an principle characterizes godly financial activity in the name of the gospel as acts of co­labor in contradistinction to acts of reciprocity. Ministry should be supported, not sold.