“When you have wit of your own, it's a pleasure to credit other people for theirs.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy link
What is it in our souls that induces us to take credit for something that we know we didn't do?
One of my favorite science fiction trilogies is The Lamb Amongst the Stars by Chris Walley. It is Christian in flavor and the writer is a professor at Wheaton College. The story takes place thousands of years in the future. In this future universe, people believe in Jesus and continue to await His return. Evil is somehow relegated to the sidelines and the faith is lived out openly in the society as a whole.
However, as the story begins, evil commenced its intrusion in the lives of the people. The first indication that something was going wrong is when a famous singer with a beautiful voice decided to artificially enhance a recording, making it appear that she could hit notes she had never been able to sing before. However, she did not tell people she was doing this. Some of the people who figured this out were confused. She was a wonderful singer. Why did she feel the need to pretend to sing something she was unable to sing?
How many stories do we hear of successful people who have enhanced their resumes by pretending to be a war hero or a Rhodes Scholar? Greg Kelley, a high school football star who was convicted of sexually abusing a small child in Texas, told somebody he was a Marine Sniper returning from Afghanistan. Then there was the case of stolen valor by a pretend Navy Seal who was a speaker at men's retreats. See how he is confronted by a real Navy Seal.
Doug Wilson and a plagiarized book
On December 9, 2015, Rachel Miller noted apparent plagiarism in a book written by Doug Wilson and Randy Booth (Yes, that Randy Booth) called A Justice Primer (read the reviews)which she was reviewing for her blog. This book was published by Canon Press. Apparently, Kevin De Young had recommended the book. Never forget that Doug Wilson is the darling of the YRR/TGC set albeit with hearty chortles directed at his rather abrasive, yet roundly admired personality. Here is a portion of DeYoung's review as posted by Rachel Miller. I wonder if he has alerted his audience about the plagiarism….
Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth, A Justice Primer (Canon Press, 2015). I thought this was a book on social justice, economics, and big picture politics. It’s actually a book about how the Bible would have us judge each other (or not) in the mad, mad world of blog warriors and internet vigilantes. This book is full of refreshing wisdom. I hope it reaches a wide audience. And if you already know that Doug Wilson is a good-for-nothing scoundrel (and I don’t know him personally and do strongly disagree with him at times), then that’s an indication that you really need this book.
What is Canon Press?
I bet you will not be surprised to learn that this is a boutique press started by Doug Wilson and friends so that he could get his books published without any difficulty. From their website:
Canon Press is a publishing house located in Moscow, Idaho.
At Canon Press, we create and provide products that sketch a vision of a whole life—a whole culture: A life full of beauty, tradition, education, community, laughter, and celebration—unashamed of Christ, and sharply at odds with the values of modernity; a mature culture with the church at the center—living out the good life one family at a time.
We believe our book, audio, and visual selections reflect this exciting life that God has given us under the sun.
The plagiarism exposed.
Miller became concerned when preparing for her December 9 post and decided to document those concerns more clearly on December 10, 2015 in a post titled Justice, Character, and Plagiarism. Miller carefully shows examples of the many instances of alleged plagiarism in the book.
She lists examples of plagiarism of original materials written by others.
Four are excerpts from other known authors: Tim Challies, Iain Murray, Greg Bahnsen, and Ellen G. White.
The largest and most significant example comes from a chapter in A Justice Primer entitled, “Justice and Character.” In these images there are both yellow and blue highlighting to illustrate that the material comes from two separate sources. The yellow text is from an article by Paul Rose, and the blue text is from a devotional by Wayne Blank.
Southern Slavery:As It Was, another Doug Wilson controversial tome, was also noted to have problems with plagiarism.
This is not the first time Doug Wilson has been accused of plagiarism. From Miller's post:
This is a significant amount of unoriginal work, and it’s not the first time that Doug Wilson has had a book with plagiarized material. Southern Slavery: As It Was was written by Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins. When the plagiarism was uncovered, the book was pulled by Canon Press and later revised and republished as Black and Tan without Steve Wilkins as co-author.
In that same article, Miller quotes Wilson saying that the plagiarism in the Southern Slavery: As It Was was all just an "unintentional mistake."
And this is the reason the issue of intentionality is so important to us (and to them). Both Steve and I are ministers of the gospel. If either of us intentionally stole the intellectual property of Fogel and Engerman, then we should resign from the ministry. We would be disqualified from our office, having disgraced it. That is the difference between intentional and unintentional in this, and it is not a trifle. It does not matter — if we have been out stealing stereos, automobiles, or ideas — we need to figure out another way to feed our families.
The responses of the authors and Canon Press.
In Doug Wilson & Serial Plagiarism, Rod Dreher, writing for the American Conservative, reviews the responses to the accusations of plagiarism. Guess what? Doug Wilson wasn't to blame. It was all his sidekick's fault.
Canon Press pulled the book.
Please read the full statement at the above link.
Canon Press has investigated the charges of plagiarism and improper citation in A Justice Primer, and it is abundantly clear that the editor and co-author, Randy Booth, plagiarized material in multiple instances from a number of different sources.
Randy Booth-It was all my fault and it was unintentional.
This is a mea culpa for the citation omissions in A Justice Primer. A few years ago I approached Doug Wilson about a combined effort to produce a book on justice. He had begun to write some on the subject as had I. The idea was to blend the writing, and I was in charge of accomplishing this. As best I can tell, all the problems are mine and not Doug’s.
…This is a serious mistake on my part (not differentiating my own material from others in my research and study). While this was not intentional plagiarism on my part, nevertheless I clearly did use their words without proper citation and for this I publicly confess.”
Doug Wilson-Nothing to do with me.
“I was disappointed to find out today that there are serious citation problems in A Justice Primer. In light of this, I am completely supportive of Canon Press withdrawing the book from circulation.
The Names on the Cover-another response by Wilson
Doug Wilson wrote a blog post about this dust up. Here are a few of his comments.
Bye, bye Randy.
In addition, Randy was serving as the pro tem presiding minister of the CREC. Resigning that position is a bit more complicated constitutionally, but that process has begun.
I take full responsibility but Randy gets punished.
… I want to take full responsibility for having my name on the cover of a book containing plagiarized sections, and where the contributions from the authors were undifferentiated. In such circumstances, when plagiarism is detected, the one who finds it has every right to look at the cover and decide right on the spot who is responsible. The names on the cover are the ones with the authorial responsibility, which is the primary responsibility according to contract, and the editorial imprint is the one with the publisher’s responsibility, also specified by contract.
…This reality is heightened by the fact this is the second time it has happened. While it should not have happened either time, it really should not have happened the second time. (The first time was almost twenty years ago with the booklet Southern Slavery as It Was, co-authored with Steve Wilkins.) Because it has happened before, and because I am operating in an environment of hyper-scrutiny, I should have taken special precautions against the possibility of this happening. Not doing so in an adequate way was solely my responsibility.
I mentioned that I needed to state a few specifics. One of them is that after I gave my sections to Randy for editing and blending, I did not do anything more. I looked at the manuscript when it came in, but did not read through the whole book, left to right. I do not know that doing so would have changed anything, but it could have. This is an example of practical responsibility.
Tim Bayly, BFF of Doug Wilson, thinks plagiarism is no big deal, especially if it involves pastors-bless their hearts.
Do you know how hard it is for pastors to mention who they are quoting in their sermons? Pastors have it really rough.
On December 10, 2015, Bayly rushed to the defense of his buddy in a post titled Justice Primer; is this really a scandal?
I've always been sympathetic to pastors accused of plagiarism because I know, personally, how awkward it can be to stop in the middle of an exhortation to say, “this particular sentence is a quote from Calvin’s sermon on this text.” It robs the sermon of continuity and authority, even seeming to congregants to be pedantic. So, including a couple sentences from another source in our manuscript doesn’t mean we are going to stop in the middle of the sermon and identify the source of those ten or twenty words. And if we know we’re not going to stop in the middle of the sermon to identify the source, we easily get sloppy and don’t bother putting the sentence in quote marks and including the source in the manuscript.
Now then, years later we are under deadline and looking for material to pull into our book, and kabloom! Scandal erupts and we are left with egg on our face…
… Doug has to be firm in his response, but the rest of us should be understanding of pastors who write and get lazy in pulling in excerpts from their sermon manuscripts.
Tim Bayly also points out that he (Bayly) has never had one original thought.
I am in an increasingly snarky mood this evening and fear what I might say. I look forward to hearing from all of our readers on this one.
One final thing: I’ve often told the congregation I have the privilege of serving that I have not one original thought. That everything I say and write comes from someone I’ve learned from and although I’ll use attributions whenever appropriate, no one should think I have anything interesting or unique to say myself.
When we plagiarize, we lose an opportunity to love and point outside to others. Instead, we make it all about ourselves, either in laziness or in an attempt build up our own egos. It is selfish.
One of the greatest joys that Deb and I have had with this blog is to encourage others to blog about the things that they care about. I still remember the day when Julie Ann Smith called me, crying her eyes out because she was being sued. This was prior to her starting a blog. I remember telling her that one day her ability to talk about her experience would bring comfort to others. Today, how many of us are fans of Julie Anne's blog, Spiritual Sounding Board? I love to quote her. I love it when she gets attention from the press for her stands on issues.
I remember when Eagle called me about starting his own blog. He asked me what he should talk about. I told him that he had things to say inside of his heart that were unique to him and that he needed to find out what they were. He is well on his way.
And then there is Nate Sparks, a new blogger, who blew away the topic of hypocrisy on the subject of abuse within the complementarian camp. I was so excited to feature his post at TWW last week. Then there are posts written by all of you about your trials within the evangelical wilderness. It makes me smile when your posts are read and commented upon.
We love to quote our readers and give credit for their many original thoughts. Poor Tim Bayly. He needs to read over here and see some truly original thinkers. I will often quote some of my pastors like Jim, Wade and Pete. I try to use their names and link to their churches or websites.
It is time for all of these self assured, excuse making, self absorbed, overblown egos to get down off their thrones and to quit pretending that they are the religious equivalent of Navy Seals. Instead, they need to encourage and love those whose words they use by carefully quoting them and even applauding them for their unique thinking. We are the body of Christ and it is about time that some of these gospel™ quoting pastors start living the real gospel by loving and giving credit to others instead of appropriating the God given talent of others and pretending that they are the ones who "thought of that."
PS: Tim Bayly: Here is how to do it. On your weekly bulletin, list the sources that you used for your sermons and quotes. However, that may mean having to give away some of the glory.