Wilson’s Influence on “Classical Christian Education”

As I noted in the last post, Doug Wilson’s views on theology, history, slavery, patriarchy, marriage, sex, etc. are present in materials that many CCE schools, programs, and homeschools use. In doing my research, I focused on the six-volume Omnibus produced by Veritas Press. Veritas Press is owned by Marlin and Laurie Detweiler who were members of Wilson’s CREC denomination.

The Omnibus Curriculum consists of six volumes covering the time periods from classical civilizations to the modern era. The material is intended for students in grades 7-12. Each volume consists of essays and “sessions” discussing the “Great Books.” The Omnibus volumes range between 500-800 pages in length and cost from $75-$100 each. The first three volumes were edited by Doug Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer. Volumes 4-6 were edited by Wilson, Fischer, and Gene Edward Veith. The first volume was published in 2005, and the last volume was published in 2011.

From the description on Christian Book Distributors website:

In Latin, Omnibus means “all encompassing.”

The Omnibus Curriculum from Veritas Press is designed to help enlighten, train, and develop young minds through the study of everything important, long-lasting, and true: the ideas, arguments and expression of the Western Canon as expressed in the Great Books. …

Each volume features lists of both Primary and Secondary books. Primary books are the traditional Great Books, while the Secondary books provide balance in the areas of Theology, History and Literature …

Each chapter covers a Great Book, examining the author, context, significance, main characters, summary and setting, worldview, and providing an in-depth essay analyzing and teaching the important points of the work. Chapters conclude with five sessions that provide questions to consider, optional activities, reading assignments, cultural analysis, biblical analysis, application, summa questions, recitation comprehension questions, lateral thinking, review questions, and evaluation questions. …

Covering literature, history, and theology from a solidly Reformed perspective, editors Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer weave their understanding of God’s providence and sovereignty throughout history.

In reading through various essays from the Omnibus Curriculum, I found examples of Doug Wilson’s influence throughout. I decided to organize the material here using the list of topics from my post, A Question for Wilson Fans. I’ve made some adjustments, but the basic format was useful in categorizing.

First is the issue of credentials. As Wilson’s own credentials are questionable, he has never been to seminary or been ordained, it seems that many of the Omnibus essay authors do not have the credentials one would expect from this type of curricula. There is no biographical information in the Omnibus for the authors of the essays and sessions. Some of the names were familiar to me as various CREC pastors or members of Wilson’s family. Other names I found through Google, some of them were teachers or administrators at CCE schools, others were former students from New Saint Andrews, Wilson’s college. A few names were of professors from Patrick Henry or other colleges.

The bulk of the essays and sessions were written by Wilson, his family members, and CREC pastors and elders. Wilson wrote over 30 of them himself. Many of his essays were on literature outside the areas of his educational background. His degrees are in philosophy and classical studies. In Texas, in order to certify to teach at the secondary level, a teacher has to have a certain number of college hours in a subject. To use myself as an example, I have the credit hours to certify in History, English, and Spanish.

While Wilson lamented in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning that many teachers in today’s schools are not experts in their subject matter (RLTL, Kindle Locations 1587-1589), it doesn’t seem that the authors of the Omnibus essays and sessions fared much better, with a few notable exceptions. Gene Edward Veith and David Ayers, among other college faculty, are clearly qualified to write on the topics of their essays. Other authors may also be qualified, but without biographical information, it’s hard to know.

The author of one essay, Michael Metzler, wrote that he was asked to write his essay on Oresteiaa group of Greek tragedies, but he “had never even read a greek tragedy”:

A few years ago I agreed with Veritas Press to write for their first Omnibus text book. True, I was an old friend of Marlin Detweiler, and I even remember offering a little bit of volunteer help when the Detweilers were developing those world famous flashcards, but I don’t think this connection has much to do with my obtaining of the assignment. The assignment was an introduction to Aeschylus’ Oresteia … Although the marketing literature of Veritas Press spoke of the “experts” that were writing for this new release, I must confess that I had never even read a greek tragedy.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Wilson’s views on slavery and history show up in the Omnibus curriculum. Those familiar with Wilson’s book Black and Tan should recognize the line of thought in these quotes. I should note that not all of the following quotes were written by Wilson. Many of the examples here and further down will be from other authors, but the point is that views that Wilson has made public through his own writing appear in these Omnibus essays and sessions.

In the essay and sessions on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Toby Sumpter writes:

While Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work was by far the most popular, there were also popular novels of the period written from a Southern point of view, seeking to show that most slaves were treated fairly and compassionately. These stories show many slaves being given opportunities to learn, attend Christian worship services, and in many ways being treated as members of the family. These novels attempted to show how there were often “covenantal” ties that were thicker than blood existing between masters and servants, with mutual love and respect existing between them. (Omnibus III: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, pg. 177)

In the essay and sessions on Slave Narratives, the author (Wilson, Fischer, or Josh Stevenson) writes:

As you read through the Slave Narratives, exclude the abolitionist argument that the relation of master/slave is necessarily wicked. (Omnibus III: Slave Narratives, pg. 201)

And,

The problem the abolitionists had was … they wanted to maintain that the very relationship of slave and master was prima facia, or on its face, immoral. … The abolitionists rejected the authority of Scripture when it came to slavery, and many faithful Christians were right to resist them at this point. (Omnibus III: Slave Narratives, pg. 203)

Wilson’s book, Black and Tan, is listed at the end of this essay as additional recommended reading.

The following quote is from an essay by William Chad Newsom on Battle Cry of Freedom. It also demonstrates Wilson’s influence on the issue of slavery and the Civil War:

But while McPherson acknowledges the presence of complex factors and the reality of Southern ideals of constitutional liberty, and while he is usually careful to avoid coming across as biased, he nevertheless casts his lot with the North, the Union, Abraham Lincoln, and the radical abolitionism and egalitarianism that provoked the war. (Omnibus VI: Battle Cry of Freedom, pg 257)

Wilson’s views on revolution and American independence are also apparent in the Omnibus essays. In Wilson’s essay “American and French Revolutions Compared,” Wilson explains why he calls the Revolutionary War a War of Independence:

Nevertheless, clear-headed Americans knew that what they had fought for was of a completely different order than what the French Revolution was seeking to establish. To blur them together is to be guilty of an historical slander, and it is to throw away one of the great achievements of the American founding—a righteous heritage. So we have already noted that War of Independence is the better name for our founding war. But in conclusion, let’s use the word revolution in order to set the two side by side, that we may look at them directly. The American revolution was legal; the French revolution was illegal. The American revolution was constitutional; the French revolution was unconstitutional. The American revolution was defensive; the French revolution was offensive. The American revolution was conservative; the French revolution was radical. The American revolution fought to preserve the existing form of government; the French revolution fought to annihilate the existing form of government. The American revolution had a clear and definite object; the French revolution never had a clear and definite object. The American revolution was righteous; the French revolution was unrighteous. (Omnibus VI: American and French Revolutions Compared, pg. 137)

It is worth noting that other essay writers in the Omnibus curriculum acknowledge the fact that contemporary sources call it the American Revolutionary War:

Revolutionary War I realize this name is not the best description of this conflict, but it is how Irving himself refers to the war. (O. W. Leithart, Omnibus VI: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, pg. 536 End Note 1)

Next up is the issue of Federal Vision and other questionable theology. Because most of the essays on the books of the Bible in the Omnibus Curriculum were written by CREC and Federal Visionary pastors, various aspects of Wilson’s theology show up in many essays. What follows is some of what I found.

The first two quotes demonstrate the influence of Federal Vision teaching on justification:

Abraham was declared righteous by God before he was circumcised, therefore his right standing before God was based on his faith, not any good deeds. (Etter, Omnibus 1: Romans, pg. 518)

And,

James is significant in that it shapes our thinking in several important areas. First, it provides the perfect balance to the writings of Paul concerning true, saving faith. (Etter, Omnibus 1: James, pg. 527)

This quote from an essay and session on Robin Hood says that Christians can use deceit:

Is it proper to deceive deceitful people? Can we trick the wicked? Although Christians must use it extremely wisely and carefully, deceit can be a legitimate weapon against the wicked. (N.D. Wilson, Josh Stevenson, Omnibus II: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood 370 (teacher’s edition))

Steve Wilkins in his essay On Plymouth Plantation writes that the downfall of the U.S. is partly due to the Pilgrims’ rejection of the liturgical church calendar:

The Reformers … wanted to retain the more historic observance of the Christian calendar. The Puritans saw even this modified position as dangerous and decided it was safer simply to throw out the entire calendar. But this did not mean there would be no “man-made holy days;” it only meant that distinctively Christian celebrations were replaced with other celebrations. Man cannot live without commemorations and celebrations. … The Christian celebrations were replaced with days which celebrated the accomplishments of the state (e.g. Artillery Day, Election Day). The calendar no longer centered around the life of Christ and the church but around the accomplishments of the body politic. Men celebrate what is important to their gods. (Omnibus III: Of Plymouth Plantation pg. 48-49)

N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul have clearly influenced a couple of essays:

Paul was preaching a new cosmos, a new order, in Christ. The resurrection of Christ had already happened, and this reality was going to permeate the old social order and, as a result was going to overthrow it. (Wilson, Etter, Omnibus III: Philemon, pg. 279)

And,

And the gospel is not just about getting people’s souls into heaven when they die. The gospel does promise that, but it also promises far more. That “more” includes the transformation of all the cultures of all men. (Wilson, Fischer, Steveson, Omnibus III: Slave Narratives, pg. 203)

Wright is quoted in a couple of other essays and his books are included in the books recommended for additional reading.

Another example of questionable theology comes from the essay and sessions on The Old Man and the Sea. This is not orthodox, Reformed teaching on Christ’s death:

Hemingway likens Santiago to Christ, who gave His life for the greater glory of mankind. (Newsom, Stevenson, Omnibus III: The Old Man and the Sea, pg. 530).

James Jordan’s teaching on Adam as needing to grow in maturity appears in a handful of essays:

When God created Adam, He put him in a garden, naked as a newborn. He told Adam to carry out the priestly task of “serving and guarding” the garden (Gen. 2:15). Adam was allowed to eat from the Tree of Life, but before he received the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge he had to grow up. Life is for babies; knowledge or wisdom is for adults, who have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14). Eventually, Yahweh would have allowed Adam to eat the fruit of knowledge, and his eyes would have been opened to judge and rule (cf. Ps. 11:4; Heb. 4:13). Eventually, Adam would have grown up from priest to king. (Leithart, Omnibus IV: Proverbs, pg 13)

And,

“Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect,” Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 5:48. When we hear that, we usually cringe, thinking that Jesus is being totally unreasonable. How can we be perfect? Don’t we still sin? Jesus’ demands are too hard for us, and we might decide that Jesus doesn’t really mean what He says. Jesus does mean what He says, but we often misunderstand it. In the Bible, the word “perfect” doesn’t usually mean “without sin.” Instead, it means “mature.” Jacob was a “perfect” man (Gen. 27:25), and so was Job (Job 1:8). Neither one was sinless, but they were both “complete.” They were both “grown-ups.” That is what the Bible is all about—showing us how to be “perfect,” to be “grown-ups.” Adam was a baby in the Garden of Eden, as naked as a newborn. God planned for him to grow up and put on a crown and a royal robe of glory. But Adam acted just like a baby, grabbing the food he wasn’t supposed to have, and so God put him out of the Garden. When Jesus came, though, He came to bring us to maturity. Jesus came to make us “perfect”—all grown up.  (Leithart, Omnibus IV: Phillipians and Colossians, 377)

At one point, the Omnibus session recommends that students debate the issue of paedocommunion. It’s interesting to note the reasoning behind the suggestion:

Paedocommunion In our discussions on the Lord’s Supper, we discussed the differences of opinion between the four groups regarding the presence of Christ. We did not touch upon another debated issue regarding Communion—that is, the question of who should participate in this sacrament. While most churches only allow adults and older children to participate in the Lord’s Supper, more churches are now practicing what is known as paedocommunion, or child communion. Today, we are going to debate the question of who should participate in the Lord’s Supper.  (Wilson, Etter, Omnibus V: Institutes of the Christian Religion, pg 307, emphasis added)

Wilson’s patriarchal views are also frequently seen in the Omnibus curriculum.

Genesis 2 describes the origins of sexual difference. How does Genesis 2 define masculinity and femininity? Genesis 2 shows that Adam is created to “cultivate and keep” the garden (2:15) and that Eve is created to assist him in this task. Adam is the leader, initiator, beginner of things. And he is also the guardian who protects Eve from spiritual and physical assaults. He puts his strength to work in service and sacrifice. (Leithart, Omnibus II: Macbeth, pg 195-196)

And,

From a Christian perspective, feminism must be seen as a reaction to the sins and abdication of men. If men were genuinely devoted to Christ-like masculinity, if they truly gave themselves for their wives and daughters as Jesus did for His bride, if men honored women as their glory and crown, the feminist movement would have had very little impact. Feminism is a movement about women, but it is just as importantly a movement that poses questions to men. What does it mean to be a man? Christian men are not supposed to be brutal, but Christian men are not supposed to be stuffed teddy bears either. Where is the balance? (Leithart, Omnibus II: Macbeth, pg 1)

And,

Why is Deborah’s victory over Jabin and Sisera bittersweet for Israel? It was bittersweet because on one hand, it was a great victory for Israel, and Deborah was a godly, decisive, courageous judge and prophetess in Israel. On the other hand, when she implored Barak to lead Israel into battle, he would only comply if she went along. She warned him that a woman would receive credit. The bitterness lies in the cowardice and laziness of the men in Israel. In her wisdom (and subtlety) Deborah praises “the princes of Israel who willingly fought” (5:9). (Lusk, Becker, Omnibus IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, pg. 487)

And,

Egalitarianism can mean many different things. I am here using it to describe the philosophy that, while much more obviously present today, was very much a part of the modern outlook in the nineteenth century: the idea that there must be no (or few) boundaries or hierarchies in human relationships and that all people must be “equal” in every possible way. This goes well beyond equal treatment under the law to include equality of income and lifestyle, and the rejection of traditional, biblical roles that give different, complementary spheres to the work and life of men and women, ruler and subject, master and servant. (Newsom, Omnibus VI: Battle Cry of Freedom pg. 274 End note 5)

Wilson’s teachings on marriage also appear in the Omnibus essays and sessions:

Paul views men and women as equal in worth, but different in nature and function. Men and women are created equally in the image of God; indeed, they can only fully image God in community with one another. Further, men and women share equally in the Fall and participate equally in Christ’s redemptive work. But they are also profoundly different, and those differences are more than just a matter of biology. Men and women were designed to complement one another, with their strengths and weaknesses fitting one another like two pieces of a puzzle. Men were made for taking initiative and exercising responsible leadership in both church and home, which the Bible calls “headship.” Women were designed to be helpers and completers. The woman’s role is different, but no less valuable than the man’s. Further, these roles are not arbitrary; they fit with our God-given natures as men and women. We see these basic orientations laid out in Genesis 1–3, where the man’s primary focus is his work in the world (3:17–19), while the woman’s primary focus is the home (3:16); by fulfilling these roles, men and women together rule over God’s good creation (1:26–28) (Lusk, Omnibus VI: 1 and 2 Timothy, pg. 446)

And,

These complementary gender roles are most clearly seen in marriage (Eph. 5:21ff). The man is the head of his household, taking responsibility for the state of those under his care. He is the primary leader, protector, and provider. The woman is to be in submission to her husband, as his helper, not because she is inferior to him (after all, God is called “helper” more than anyone else in Scripture!), but because he needs her support and aid to fulfill his calling in the world. John Piper defines masculinity and femininity this way: At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.13 These are excellent Pauline definitions. There are biblical/theological models that help us understand how men and woman can be equal yet relate asymmetrically to one another. In the Trinity, the Father and Son share in the same “Godness.” They are equal in every way. But they are not interchangeable pieces because they have different roles to play. In the economy of creation and redemption, the Son submits Himself to the Father (1 Cor. 11:2ff). (Lusk, Omnibus VI: 1 and 2 Timothy, pg 449)

And,

Of course, not all Christian men and women are called to be married, and in those cases, there are opportunities for alternative forms of service outside of home life (cf. 1 Cor. 7). But, statistically speaking, it is obvious God calls most people to marry, and the woman’s role as helper to her husband and homemaker for her children should be honored. (Lusk, Omnibus VI: 1 and 2 Timothy, pg. 456 End Note 10)

The last section I want to cover is the significant amount of disturbing material (sex, nudity, violence) in the Omnibus volumes. Some of it is text that reflects Wilson’s teachings.

All of the Omnibus volumes open with prefaces and information for parents and teachers. One of the prefaces has an advisory that explains the editors’ approach to the subject of sex, nudity, and violence:

Advisory to Teachers and Parents

In the course of history there has been much fluctuation on what has been deemed age appropriate for young students. And for those of us alive today, there remains great variation as to what is considered age appropriate. The material we have created and the books we have assigned address numerous subjects and ideas that deal with topics (including sex, violence, religious persuasion and a whole host of other ideas) that have been the subject of much discussion of whether they are age appropriate. The judgment we applied in this text has been the same as we apply to our own children. In the creation of this program we have assumed that it will be used by students in seventh grade and above. Furthermore, we have assumed that there is no part of the Bible deemed inappropriate to discuss with a seventh grade student. Therefore, the material assumes that the student knows what sex is, that he understands the existence of violence, that he understands there are theological and doctrinal differences to be addressed and that he has the maturity to discern right and wrong. The worldview we hold and from which we write is distinctly protestant and best summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Bible is our only ultimate and infallible rule of faith and practice. We encourage you to become familiar with the material that your students will be covering in this program in order to avoid problems where you might differ with us on these matters. (Omnibus I: Advisory, Preface, xi)

Many of the essays recommend movie versions of the books being read. A couple of essays have warnings (like the one below) about the content of those movies:

View the 1964 movie production Becket and write a movie review, commenting on its faithfulness to the record in Lives. Warning: Within the first hour there is quite a bit of female flesh, near nudity, and immorality insinuated to depict Becket and Henry’s companionship in carousing and hunting during Becket’s days as chancellor. An adult should preview the movie and note the times of the offending portions and be ready with the fast-forward or instead find clips of the significant scenes online. The opening scenes are particularly good in showing the king’s penance and the church’s pressure and power in the aftermath of Thomas’s martyrdom. After viewing the film, discuss the following questions (Doud, Omnibus V: Lives of Thomas Becket, pg 226)

One of the books that 9th graders (generally ages 14-15) are expected to read is the play, Death of a Salesman. The play contains profanity, suicide, adultery, and call girls. The Omnibus essay has an end note warning teachers. Note that the warning only mentions the “vulgar and profane language”:

Teachers should be forewarned. This play contains vulgar and profane language. Common wisdom has been to avoid these realities. We think it is more righteous and wise to deal with such matters as God’s Word does: carefully, yet forthrightly and honestly. (Leithart, Omnibus III: Death of a Salesman, pg. 554 End Note 1)

What follows are examples that are representative of the many disturbing images used in the Omnibus curriculum.  It is especially disturbing because of how many there are. As a student of Medieval and Renaissance history, I know that there are many paintings and stories that are troubling. The issue is that there are options when choosing what to use in curricula. That they chose so many creepy images to highlight is troubling. (Each image can be viewed in full size by clicking on the image.)

O1-Samuel-74

(Leithart, Omnibus I: First and Second Samuel, pg. 74) Michelangelo’s David. While there are many nudes in the various Omnibus volumes, this one is particularly noticeable for the angle of the image. For whatever reason, this image was chosen when other angles are more common.

O2-Incarnation-62

(Dawson, Omnibus II: On the Incarnation, pg. 62) The Sacrifice by Edward Knippers. This image has the distinction of being disturbing, nude, and a violation of the second commandment. There was considerable controversy at Covenant College over an exhibition of Knippers work several years ago.

O-2-Beowulf-123

(Merkle, Omnibus II: Beowulf, pg. 123) Artwork by Matthew Clark. The monster’s detached arm is vivid and disturbing.

O-2-Inferno-232-233

(Vest, Omnibus II: The Divine Comedy: Inferno, pg. 232-233) Arwork by Matthew Clark. The caption for this image reads:

Judas, Brutus and Cassius get their just desserts for being traitors to both Lord and empire. Judas is head first as the worst sinner, Cassius the Epicurean screams in his torments forever and Brutus the Stoic suffers but utters no sound. He has a stiff upper lip for all eternity.

O4-Proverbs-20

(Leithart, Omnibus IV: Proverbs, pg 20) I do not know whose artwork this is. If you do know, please let me know and I’ll add that information. This image appears to be a depiction of the adulterous woman from Proverbs based on the surrounding text.

O-4-Apocrypha-245

(Wilson, Gore, Omnibus IV: Apocrypha, pg 245) Susanna and the Elders by Anthony van Dyck. There are other representations of Susanna and the Elders that are not quite so disconcerting, although the theme of the story is disturbing in itself. This is one of several images that depict violence towards women.

O5-Summa-112

(Clark, Dennis, Omnibus V: Summa Theologica, pg. 112) The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. From the description on Wikipedia:

Animals are shown punishing humans, subjecting them to nightmarish torments that may symbolise the seven deadly sins, matching the torment to the sin. Sitting on an object that may be a toilet or a throne, the panel’s centerpiece is a gigantic bird-headed monster feasting on human corpses, which he excretes through a cavity below him,[49] into the transparent chamber pot on which he sits.[53] The monster is sometimes referred to as the “Prince of Hell”, a name derived from the cauldron he wears on his head, perhaps representing a debased crown.[49] To his feet a female has her face reflected on the buttocks of a demon. Further to the left, next to a hare-headed demon, a group of naked persons around a toppled gambling table is being massacred with swords and knives. Other brutal violence is shown by a knight torn down and eaten up by a pack of wolves to the right of the tree-man.

O5-Decameron-515

(Tillman, Omnibus V: The Decameron, pg 515) The Banquet in the Pine Forest by Alessandro Botticelli. The caption reads:

The Banquet in the Pine Forest by Alessandro Botticelli (1445–1510) shows a portion of this story where, witnessing the horrible suffering of some ghosts, a young maiden realizes the cruelty with which she has treated a suitor and so consents to marry him.

Another source I read describes the image and the story behind it:

Directly after what we see in the second panel, the woman who has just been slaughtered rises up as if nothing has happened and Guido mounts his horse and begins to chase her all over again. It is explained that both Guido and the woman are dead. Guido killed himself over his unrequited love for the woman and he is doomed to hunt her for all eternity. The woman, due to her cold heart is doomed to flee from him. The scene Nastagio has witnessed will occur every Friday at the same time, without end.

Nastagio himself loves a woman who does not love him back. The third panel depicts the setup Nastagio has created to win over the woman he loves.
The dinner party depicted is “dedicated to frightening women into sexual submission” (Ricketts, 79) and we can see this through the way the women have all been seated together and have a front view of the gruesome scene.

It is also important to note that the women at the table have similar features to the nude woman Guido pursues and kills. Botticelli uses this resemblance to “imply that all the women were collectively affected…and that they were all potential victims.” (Ricketts, 85) Because of the possibility that they too could end up like this nude woman, the women’s response is exactly what Nastagio intended, which was “deferring to the men’s desires.”(85)

O6-Revolutions-137

(Wilson, Hensley, Omnibus VI: American and French Revolutions Compared, pg. 137) The Able Dr. or America Swallows the Bitter Draught. Particularly disturbing is the lecherous guy looking up “America’s” skirts.

O6-Huckleberry-218

(Iverson, Etter, Omnibus VI: Huckleberry Finn, pg. 218) I’m not certain where this image originates. There wasn’t a name for artist or painting in the caption. But it is clearly meant to depict the torments of hell.

O6-Dreams-621

(Dawson, Omnibus VI: The Interpretation of Dreams, pg. 621) Oedipus and the Sphinx by Gustave Moreau. Again there are other images of Oedipus and the Sphinx that are less disturbing. This one is worse than most, even given the nature of the Oedipus story.

There are other images and more quotes that I could have used here. This is only a small sample. My purpose is to illustrate that the content of the Omnibus Curriculum has been influenced in many ways by Wilson and his heterodox views. I would strongly caution any family or school against purchasing and using this curriculum.

Classical Christian Education and Doug Wilson

One of the largest and best-known movements within Christian education is Classical Christian Education (CCE). CCE is popular with both private schools and homeschoolers. There are several publishing houses that produce CCE curricula, whole networks of CCE schools, and a number of CCE programs available for interested parents.

As a homeschooler, I have many friends who use CCE materials or programs. I also have a number of friends whose children attend CCE schools. So while I do not use CCE myself, I have had a good bit of exposure to the programs. Personally, I prefer other educational models, and generally, I take a “live-and-let-live” approach to educational choices. However, after doing some research into Christian Classical Education, I find it necessary to say something.

What concerns me the most about CCE is not a difference of educational model. Many educators, schools, and parents favor a “classics” approach to education. They generally teach Latin and Greek. They probably read Cicero, Virgil, and Plato. They may have a list of “great books” that they believe the well-educated student should read.

While Christian Classical Education includes all of these aspects, my argument is not about these things. My concern is that CCE as a movement has very close ties to Doug Wilson and has been and continues to be influenced by him and his views. Because of his connections to the movement and because of his influence over what is taught, my concern is that CCE is not a good option for parents and educators, especially those in Reformed denominations.

In 1947, Dorothy Sayers wrote an essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” in which she lamented the state of education and proposed some changes that she thought would improve the future. The heart of the essay is her recommendations which are based on a combination of the Medieval Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and Sayers’ three stages of child development. This is the framework that CCE uses. There are also secular classical programs that incorporate ideas from Sayers’ essay.

Dorothy Sayers explains her theory of child development as it relates to education:

My views about child psychology are, I admit, neither orthodox nor enlightened. Looking back upon myself (since I am the child I know best and the only child I can pretend to know from inside) I recognize three states of development. These, in a rough-and- ready fashion, I will call the Poll-Parrot, the Pert,and the Poetic–the latter coinciding, approximately, with the onset of puberty. The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things. The Pert age, which follows upon this (and, naturally,overlaps it to some extent), is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to “catch people out” (especially one’s elders); and by the propounding of conundrums. Its nuisance-value is extremely high. It usually sets in about the Fourth Form.The Poetic age is popularly known as the “difficult” age. It is self-centered; it yearns to express itself; it rather specializes in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence; and, with good luck and good guidance, it should show the beginnings of creativeness; a reaching out towards a synthesis of what it already knows, and a deliberate eagerness to know and do some one thing in preference to all others. Now it seems to me that the layout of the Trivium adapts itself with a singular appropriateness to these three ages: Grammar to the Poll-Parrot, Dialectic to the Pert, and Rhetoric to the Poetic age.

Sayers’ essay became the catalyst for Doug Wilson to start a private school implementing her ideas in the late 1980s. He went on to write a book, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, about the school and his application of Sayers’ theory of education. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning (RLTL) was published in 1991, and it marks the beginning of the CCE movement. Nearly every CCE school, publishing house, educational program, etc point to Wilson’s book as the foundation of Classical Christian Education.

In RLTL, Wilson writes about the importance of Christian education. According to him, public schools are not to be trusted in educating Christian children.

Error is pervasive. It can come from TV, from library books, or from peers, as well as from school. A Christian parent has two options. The first is to neutralize the false teaching, which means the parents have to spend at least a few hours every night countering what the children learned in school. This is difficult because the parents don’t know exactly what the children learned that day. The children are not yet trained to come back and report on what was unbiblical in what they heard. Responsible oversight sight is extremely difficult. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 495-498). Kindle Edition.)

Interestingly enough, in RLTL, Wilson is also against homeschooling as a viable option. I have read more recent material where he moderates that position, but at the beginning of the CCE movement, he was not supportive of homeschooling because he didn’t believe it was possible for parents to keep up.

If parents instruct their children at home for several years and then place them in a Christian school to continue their education, there is no fundamental difference in principle. But if a home schooling family maintains that children can be given a complete education in the average home (say, K-12), then frankly there is an important difference in educational philosophy. The difference mostly concerns the importance of division of labor in a rigorous, comprehensive education. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 1430-1433). Kindle Edition.)

And,

The alternative is for the home school parents to keep pace generally with the curricula of the more traditional Christian school. Some parents are quite capable of doing this; many are not. As a rule, the average parent who attempts to keep pace with the education that goes on in a good school will have increasing difficulty as the years go by. … For starters, you have to know Latin to teach it. … The reason home schooling works so well at the early years is that the parents are teaching literacy, and they are all literate. This is not true of subjects later in the curriculum. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 1500-1503, 1507-1508). Kindle Edition.)

Wilson’s answer to the question of how to school Christian children is Classical Christian Education. He likes the format that Sayers developed in her essay, and he expands on it. He believes that education must conform to the Bible:

We should hold all forms of education up against the same Biblical standard and then make our decision.(Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 534-535). Kindle Edition.)

And that it’s not possible to have a theologically neutral education:

Neutrality is impossible; worldviews in education are unavoidable. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Location 573). Kindle Edition.)

At these points, I have to agree with him. We should recognize that all education is going to be influenced by the worldview of the educators or authors of the curricula, and all our educational decisions should be made using the Bible as our standard. And this is why I’m concerned with Wilson’s continued influence over the CCE movement. Doug Wilson is often referred to as the founder and one of the most influential leaders of the Christian Classical Education movement.

Doug Wilson founded Logos School in Moscow. Logos School is a model for CCE and holds teacher training seminars every summer for CCE teachers. In 1994, Doug Wilson founded the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS) “to promote, establish, and equip schools committed to a classical approach to education in light of a Christian worldview.”

ACCS, which is headquartered in Moscow, holds an annual conference and regional teacher training conferences. The speakers at  this summer’s conference will include Doug Wilson, his son, N.D. Wilson, and Matt Whitling, who is a principal at Logos School. ACCS also provides accreditation for CCE schools. There are around 200 schools listed as member schools accredited by ACCS. This accreditation allows Wilson oversight of the CCE schools implementing his model of education. Accreditation can mean control.

As Wilson points out in RLTL:

An accredited private school may or may not be a high-quality school, but one thing is certain-it is a school on a leash. An accredited school is a controlled school. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 1324-1326). Kindle Edition.)

Canon Press, a publishing house founded by Wilson’s Christ Church in Moscow, has a CCE curricula branch called Logos School Press. Logos School Press offers curricula, resources, and online classes for Christian Classical Education schools and homeschoolers.

While there are a number of other publishing houses and CCE programs that provide resources and books for CCE, many of them either publish books by Wilson, promote materials by Wilson, or use Wilson’s books in their programs. Even Susan Wise Bauer’s book, Well Trained Mind,  quotes Wilson to explain aspects of CCE.

To recap, Wilson literally wrote the book on CCE. He founded one of the first schools. He founded the association that trains and accredits many CCE teachers and schools. His books and the curricula he helped develop are used by many CCE schools, programs, and homeschoolers.

While I intend to write more about this in my next post, Wilson’s views on theology, history, slavery, patriarchy, marriage, and sex are present in various materials and curricula used by many CCE schools and programs. Here are some small examples from the RLTL book.

Wilson’s Federal Vision theology, which includes baptismal regeneration, paedocommunion, and a denial of justification by faith alone, shows up in a passage discussing the importance of parents educating their children in the faith.

God has given parents a profound authority over children. If they use that authority correctly, with much love and affection, the children will wholeheartedly follow the God of their parents. … In Titus, the elders are required to have children who are believers-which implies that fathers can bring their children to belief. … He put children in their parents’ charge, and then He instructed the parents to teach their children in a certain way. A child should come to belief on the authority of the parents. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 477-480, 487-488). Kindle Edition.)

Wilson also has views on various aspects of history that many find troubling. This is particularly true of his views on slavery, more on this is the next post, but it’s also true of his views on the American Revolutionary War. Wilson does not believe it is accurate to call it a “revolution” and prefers to call it a “War for Independence.” He apparently believes that revolutions are sinful and not an appropriate description of the Revolutionary War (more on this in the next post).

In RLTL, Wilson uses this distinction to illustrate the importance of the worldview of educators:

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Surely that is a bald historical fact, whether or not the teacher is a Christian. Yes, but did that action by the colonists begin a revolution, or a war for independence? A revolution occurs when the government established by God is toppled, there are mobs in the streets, and lawful authority is rejected. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 710-712). Kindle Edition.)

Even Wilson’s patriarchal views are evident in RLTL when he expresses concern about mothers being the primary educators in homeschools:

In many home schools, the responsibility for lesson preparation, curriculum research, attendance at home school association meetings, and actual teaching falls on the mother. There is obviously no problem Biblically with the mother working with these things, so long as the father is truly exercising his responsibility as the head of the household. But in how many home schools is the father a passive onlooker? In how many situations has the father simply allowed the mother to run the program? If one were to attend a typical home school association meeting, how many fathers would he see there? (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 1465-1468). Kindle Edition.)

It’s also worth noting that in 2003, the board of Logos School voted to restrict membership to men. From the Logos School newsletter explaining the board’s decision:

“First, we are not considering this amendment because we believe that the scriptural requirement of men only in the eldership of a church applies to the board of the school,” the newsletter noted. “Thus, it is our view, it is not a question of whether it is a ‘sin’ to have a woman on the board, but rather a question of wisdom and prudence in our cultural circumstances.”

“Second, in regard to those circumstances, we believe that it is necessary to resist egalitarian feminism, which has spread throughout our culture and has even affected many parts of the church. As a classical Christian school committed to the Scriptures as our ultimate rule of faith and practice, we believe we have an obligation to set a positive example. Sad to say, frequently in the current climate, women seeking positions of authority (e.g. on a school board) subscribe to some form of feminist philosophy. Rather than vetoing a nomination of this sort (which would appear personal instead of principled), we would rather address the issue this way, without involving personalities.”

The danger that I see in this is that many people who do not share Doug Wilson’s views on theology, history, slavery, patriarchy, marriage, sex, etc. may be allowing him to teach his views to their children without being aware of it. You may think that the danger is small, that his views on these topics are only a small portion of what your children are being taught. But as Scripture says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Gal. 5:9, ESV). In my next post, I will be going through some of the popular CCE curricula to show how Wilson’s views on these topics are being taught and promoted.  For now, I’d like to note that Wilson advises in RLTL that even a small amount of unbiblical teaching is too much:

It is a mistake to assume that the unbiblical nature of the curriculum must be overt before Christians oppose it. If we come to understand that a man’s life is unified in his theology, whatever that theology is, then we will not be surprised to see what he affirms in one area surface in another. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 662-664). Kindle Edition.)

It’s not often that I agree with Wilson, but I do here again. Wilson’s theology shows up in many places in the material I researched in ways that I didn’t expect.

My conclusion is that if you want to teach, or have your children taught, the classics, if you want to study Latin, Greek, and Socrates, that’s great. But if you currently support the Christian Classical Education movement, maybe it’s time to take the good out and start over on the system. As Wilson noted in RLTL, a reform of CCE may be necessary:

There are potential dangers-this is one reform that is necessary, but it might result in a system needing a different type of reform later. (Douglas Wilson. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series) (Kindle Locations 261-263). Kindle Edition.)

I think the time has come to stop funding Doug Wilson and his various endeavors and to protect our children from being indoctrinated by his heterodox views. May God bless those who seek to develop a new and better way.

A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament

When going on a trip, I always grab a couple of books to read and make sure my nook is loaded and charged. Our trip last month was no exception. We were headed up to see my in-laws and help them pack. In addition to my usual historical fiction and sci-fi/fantasy books, I made sure to take a new book by my friend, Christina Fox, A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament.  The book is due out this week, and Christina had sent me a copy and asked me to review it.

Sitting on the plane, I opened the book and began to read. My eyes began to fill with tears as I realized that this book was exactly what I need to read at that moment. I read these words:

What happens when we don’t find the answers to our problems, when we can’t find peace through our Google searches, or when the solutions we have found fail us? What do we do when we are worried about our children or fearful about the unknown future? What do we do with those emotions? When the sorrow just won’t lift and the loneliness is more than we can bear, where do we go for help? For some of us, we seek comfort in food, shopping, or Facebook to quell the emotional turmoil stirring in our hearts. We might busy ourselves with projects or work long hours to keep our mind off our pain. We might look at our circumstances and seek to change our situation in the hope that we will finally feel at peace once our life has changed. (16)

You see, as I sat on that plane early in the morning, I was a bundled knot of anxiety, fear, worry, and sadness. I was worried about my son’s ear and how it would handle the flight. I was anxious about all the details that go with travel. I was grieving over broken relationships with family and friends. I was afraid of what the future might bring. And I was doing everything in my power to distract myself (reading a book …) and to control my surroundings so that I, myself, could overcome my circumstances on my own and be ready to stand on my own power for any bad thing the future might bring. And then I read that paragraph. And I stopped. And I cried. And I realized that God was using Christina’s words to get my attention and to work on my heart.

A Heart Set Free is a book about learning from the Psalms of Lament how to cry out to God. Instead of pretending our emotions don’t exist or that we aren’t hurting, we need to learn how to lament, how to express our emotions in our Christian walk:

In fact, the Psalms, especially the Psalms of Lament, give us a structure for how to express our feelings. They remind us what is true. They point us to God’s love and faithfulness. They help us journey through the dark valleys until we can emerge on the other side and bow in grateful worship. (17)

Christina start the book with the bad news. Our worry, anxiety, fear, doubt are the result of sin:

Sin is the cause of all our pain and sorrow. It might be the sins of others committed against us that bring us feelings of shame. It might be the effects of sin on the creation around us that bring a natural disaster, resulting in loss and our subsequent grief. It might be the brokenness of our bodies, causing us emotional turmoil or the failure of our minds to work as God intended. It might be our own sinful responses to what happens in our lives. It might even be a combination of all these, but at its root, sin is what brings us all our sorrows, griefs, and fears. (39)

She goes on to explain that our normal means of coping (distraction, control, or simply giving in to the worry and fear) are not helping the situation. We’re making the problem worse and not actually dealing with our emotions. I was particularly convicted by what she had to say about using “control”:

Some of us try to handle our emotions, such as worry, fear, or anxiety by attempting to control all the things we worry or fear about. We make to-do lists and refuse to rest until each item is checked off . We research thoroughly everything that worries us. Google and Clorox are our two best friends. … Control is something we all desire but none of us have. … Our desire and pursuit of control are in fact a denial of God’s control. We don’t trust that His plans are good enough. We think we know bett er what we need. All the worrying, fretting, and stressing we do over our life situations stem from a lack of trust in God’s good and perfect plan for us. (40-41)

Thankfully the book doesn’t stop there and leave us condemning ourselves for our failures. Christina moves on to share the hope of the gospel for the believer wracked with fear or worry or depression:

The gospel of grace has not only saved us from our sins in the past and those in the future, but also empowers us in the present. It is applicable in our daily struggles of walking by faith. It frees us from the bondage of bitterness, anger, worry, fear, despair, and doubt. (59)

But the journey doesn’t end with recognizing our need for a Savior. Knowing that sin has caused our hearts such pain and accepting the grace that God gives us in our salvation through Christ, we still face the day to day challenge of living in a sinful, broken world. And this is where A Heart Set Free is very helpful.

Christina lays out the format of the Psalms of Lament and explains the various elements. The purpose it to teach us to make our own laments using the Psalms as a model. In the Psalms of Lament, there is a “three-part structure” that we can use in our prayers: crying out to God, asking for help, responding in trust and praise (87).

Using these steps we can begin to learn to express our emotions to God and learn to trust in Him through our painful situations. That last part is the one that really challenged me. Since the death of our daughter years ago, I have learned to cry out to God, to tell Him what I’m feeling. I realized months after Bethanne died that I was angry and that I was hurting. And it dawned on me that there was no use in pretending before God that I wasn’t. He knew. And not only did He already know, He loved me. He loved me even though I was angry and hurting. So I cried out to Him and told Him what was on my heart. And He heard me. The pain was still there, but things changed that day. I knew I wasn’t forgotten or unloved.

When my boys were born, I learned to ask God for help daily. Being a mother showed me how much I needed Him all the time. But I have always struggled with the final step. Having cried out and asked God for help, I tend to short circuit and go back to worry and trying to control my situations. The book reminded me that the next step is to trust God and praise Him:

This step of the laments is the part where many of us get to and we stop. It’s easy to cry out to God and ask for help but to trust Him in the darkness where we cannot see what’s ahead of us? That’s the hard part. (134)

And that’s where I found myself, with tears streaming down my face on that flight, crying out to God, asking Him for help, and then actually finishing my lament. I laid down my own struggle for control and praised God for His love and care and put my trust in Him to take care of my future. It was the first step in a lifelong journey of learning to trust even when life is painful.

I know that life will not be all sunshine and roses just because I’m learning to trust. Christina reminds us of that:

There may also be times when we go through this journey with the psalmist and we respond in trust and worship and still feel grief. We may still feel intense sorrow. This process of following the structure of the laments is not a magical incantation that erases all our emotions. It’s not a step by step list to follow that will take away our problems. But it is a journey that draws us closer to God. (138)

But even in the sadness, I can learn to have joy in Lord. He is my strength, and He will never leave me or forsake me. And that is the hope we can all cling to:

This joy can co-mingle with other emotions. It can co-exist side by side with other feelings and circumstances like sorrow and fear. Even when life is at its hardest, gospel joy is still there. It is always present, like an anchor in the storms of life. (139)

Like Christina recounts of her own life, I have struggled with anxiety, worry, and depression for much of my life. It’s my “thorn in my side” and so far, God has not removed it from me. Christina’s book has offered me hope, though. Not that I can finally fix this for myself, but that when my heart is filled with doubt and fear, when my anxious thoughts consume me, I can cry out to God. And He will hear me. Just like He heard the psalmists in their laments.

I highly recommend this book to anyone, male or female, young or old. No matter your struggles, God speaks to us through the Psalms of Lament, and through the Psalms of Lament , we can learn how to speak to God. Thank you, Christina, for writing this gem of a book. I pray many will read it and be helped by it.

 

 

A New Look and A Parable

As you can see, the blog has had a lovely facelift, thanks to the wonderful talents of my dear friend, Jennifer. I hadn’t updated anything in the nearly 5 years since I first started writing here. It was time for a new look.

I wanted to take a moment to explain the significance of the image used in the header. The painting is “Miranda- The Tempest” by J.W. Waterhouse. The subject of the painting is Miranda from Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest.” In the painting, Miranda is watching a ship crash on the island where she and her father have been banished.

The significance comes from a parable that I wrote. It was written to express the struggle that many of my friends have experienced when speaking up about the issues facing the church today. Many of them have faced the frustration of having their concerns dismissed or ignored.

This parable is for all of those who seek to be Berean and whose hearts ache for their brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering under false or weak teaching:

 A woman was on a ship with her family traveling across the Atlantic. One cold night at sea, the woman thought she saw an iceberg. She went quickly to the captain and shared what she saw. The captain assured her that he was familiar with these seas and that they rarely had icebergs. He told her the watchman was good at his job and would let him know if an iceberg appeared.

The woman went away unconvinced and stood to watch and see if she could see the iceberg again. There it was! And closer than before. They were going to hit it. She called out, “Iceberg!”

The captain of the ship chastised her for speaking out. He told her, “You’re disturbing the peace on my ship. Some of the passengers are offended. They think you’re demeaning the watchman.”

The woman apologized for offending the passengers and assured the captain that she meant no offense to the watchman. She was hurt that the captain didn’t take her sighting of an iceberg seriously.

The captain said to the woman,”I see that you’re hurt. We should talk about why you feel that way.”

The woman sighed. She and her husband put life jackets on themselves and their children and prepared a life boat.

Meanwhile, the ship hit an iceberg and sank.

The parable ends on a sad note, but it is my hope that more and more “captains” will listen and heed the warnings and that fewer “ships” will crash.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16, ESV

A Year of Biblical Womanhood?

Recently, I read a twitter exchange between Wendy Alsup and Rachel Held Evans on Evans’ interpretation of Leviticus 15. Specifically the discussion started over whether the Bible actually teaches that women should live in a separate tent during their menstrual cycles. You can read much of the exchange as part of Alsup’s post on A Year of Biblical Womanhood (AYOBW).

The discussion intrigued me, and I started researching into both AYOBW and the Leviticus 15 passage that Evans used in her book. First, the description for AYOBW says:

What is “biblical womanhood” . . . really? 

Strong-willed and independent, Rachel Held Evans couldn’t sew a button on a blouse before she embarked on a radical life experiment—a year of biblical womanhood. Intrigued by the traditionalist resurgence that led many of her friends to abandon their careers to assume traditional gender roles in the home, Evans decides to try it for herself, vowing to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year.

And here is what Evans says in her introduction about AYOBW and her methodology:

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, from Genesis to Revelation, from the Levitical code to the letters of Paul, there would be no picking and choosing. (AYOBW, xxi)

Evans states her purpose is “to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible.” She says that “there would be no picking and choosing.”

In April in her year of Biblical womanhood, Evans addresses the issue of the purity laws in the Old Testament. Using Leviticus 15:19 as her starting point, she lays out her plan of action. This includes camping out in a tent in the front yard during part of her cycle and not touching a man for 12 days.

Camp out in the front yard for first three days of impurity. (Leviticus 15:19) (AYOBW, 146)

And,

Throughout the twelve days, I was forbidden to touch a man in any way; no handshakes, no hugs, no pats on the back, no passing the salt (v. 19). (AYOBW, 165)

From a casual reading, given the reference in both of these quotes to Leviticus 15:19, a reader might think that in Biblical times women lived in a separate tent and were forbidden to touch a man because of their cycle. But what does the passage actually say?

When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean. (Leviticus 15:19-24 ESV)

To summarize, a woman was unclean (unable to participate in sacrifices and religious activities) for seven days during her cycle. Everything she sat or laid on would be unclean during that time. Anyone who touched her or anything she had sat/laid on would be unclean until that evening. And a man who “lies with her” during her cycle would be unclean seven days and also any bed he laid on would be unclean.

Notice that nothing is said about a woman living in a separate tent for the duration of, or any portion of, her “menstrual impurity.” It also doesn’t say that she is unclean for twelve days. And it doesn’t say that she is forbidden to touch a man or that a salt-shaker would become unclean if she touched it.

So, if it’s not in the Bible, why did Evans choose those things to follow in her year of Biblical womanhood? Evans explains in the introduction of AYOBW:

I took my research way too seriously, combing through feminist, conservative, and liberal commentaries, and seeking out Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant perspectives on each issue. I spoke with modern-day women practicing ancient biblical mandates in their own lives – a polygamist, a pastor, a Quiverfull daughter, and Orthodox Jew, an Amish grandmother. (AYOBW, xxii)

While Evans states that there would be “no picking and choosing” regarding what to follow from the Bible, she did pick and choose whose application of the Biblical instructions to follow. The mandate that she mustn’t touch a man for twelve days and even refrain from passing the salt-shaker came from her interactions with an Orthodox Jewish woman:

In communities where the taharat hamishpacha, or “laws of family purity,” are still observed, a husband and wife must avoid the slightest touch during a woman’s period. (AYOBW, 152)

As for sleeping in a tent for the first three days of her cycle, Evans picked that up from a popular novel about the life of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. She does clarify at this point in AYOBW that there is no Biblical evidence of women living in separate tents during their monthly cycle:

At the more popular level, modern impressions of biblical menstruation are largely informed by the success of Anita Diamant’s best-selling novel, The Red Tent, an imaginative retelling of the story of Jacob’s family through the eyes of Dinah, the daughter of Leah. In The Red Tent, menstruation is portrayed as a time of rest, repose, and female bonding as the women of the house of Jacob gather together each month to mark the new moon and the arrival of their cycles beneath a secluded red tent. While many cultures use huts or tents for the purpose of secluding menstruating women, there is no solid biblical or archaeological evidence to suggest this happened among tent-dwelling family groups in the Bronze Age Mesopotamia, though it is certainly possible. Ahava called the entire book “nonsense,” but I read it anyway and loved it. (AYOBW, 154)

At the end of her month of following the purity laws, Evans writes that the lack of physical touch was difficult. She ponders the effect of such restrictions on women in difficult times, such as the loss of a baby:

No hugging after the birth of a baby? This seemed unreasonable, even cruel. I wondered about women who miscarried and whose blood represented a deeply painful loss. Could the law not be broken to offer them comfort? What kind of God would be offended by that? Orthodox Jews like Ahava adhere to the laws of family purity simply because they are taught in the Torah. (AYOBW, 153, emphasis added)

“What kind of God would be offended by that?” This is the question that Evans comes to, and this is the danger, I think, in Evans’ approach to what it means to live Biblically as a woman. In our culture, women have been conditioned not to make strong, doctrinal, theological, statements of fact. We are encouraged to filter such information through personal experience, to couch our words in softening terms, such as “I feel” or “In my experience.” The result is that women are not taught to appreciate the danger in “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1, ESV) type challenges.

The other danger is that we, as women, then have difficulty in separating critique of ideas from personal attacks. When women write about theology by way of experiences, to criticize the author is to criticize her as a person. And it shouldn’t be that way. Women should be taught how to be Berean and how to think critically about what authors and speakers are teaching. My critique here of AYOBW is in no way a criticism of Rachel Held Evans. I do not know her personally, and I’m sure she’s a perfectly lovely person. I have no animosity towards her in the least. But I do disagree with her methodology and conclusions.

Back to the the book, Evans’ asks “What kind of God would be offended by that?” Evans’ experiential approach has led her to draw conclusions about God and His law that don’t reflect what God actually said and what He required in the Old Testament laws. No hugging or touching a woman after the birth or loss of a baby is not in the Bible. It’s a hedge built around a law. God never said not to touch a woman who was bleeding. It only says that a woman was ceremonially unclean (unable to participate in sacrifices and in the tabernacle/temple worship) and that those who touched her or her bedding (things she sat on) would be unclean until evening.

What is interesting to me is that the same chapter in Leviticus also deals men and their discharges of fluid. A man with a discharge, either from disease/illness or natural bodily functions, was also unclean until evening or until the discharge stopped. His bedding was unclean too, and the uncleanliness could spread to anyone who touched him or his bedding. The passage goes on to say that a couple who have intercourse are unclean until evening:

If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening. (Leviticus 15:18 ESV)

If the application of Leviticus 15:19 is that a woman cannot touch a man while she’s unclean, why isn’t the application of Leviticus 15:18, men don’t sleep with your wives? In the Biblical application of these laws, both men and women faced situations regularly which would make them unclean. But the Bible never says a woman can’t touch a man when she’s unclean. So to answer Evans’ question, “What kind of God would be offended by that?” Not the God of the Bible.

So moving away from experientialism, I want to consider the question Evans’ research should have lead her to. Why did the purity laws exist and what application do they have on us today as New Testament Christians?

First, the laws do not exist for us to create hedges around them so that we can attempt to keep them all by never getting close to disobeying them. Jesus warned about these extra-Biblical additions to the law, these Pharisaical burdens in Matthew 23:4:

 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (Matthew 23:4, ESV)

We know that no one could keep the law perfectly, no one except Jesus. And that is the answer to my question. The purity laws existed to set apart God’s people, to teach us about the pervasive nature of sin, and to show us our need for a Savior. The law should drive us all to our knees to say there is no way we could ever obey it all. Without Christ, there is no hope.

We need to understand that sin is not a little thing. Sin invades every aspect of our being, thoughts, actions, and words. We are by no means as bad as we could be. Thanks be to God for His restraining Hand. But sin contaminates us and makes us unable to come into the presence of a holy God. But God, in His great mercy, didn’t leave us in our sin and separation. He sent His Son to live for us, obey for us, die for us, and rise for us. Christ bridged the chasm between God and man, and now we can have peace with God. This is no small thing. We demean the work of Christ in our redemption when we treat sin lightly. God forgive us for failing to appreciate the magnitude of what Christ has done for us.

Ultimately, I think that Evans’ book is the result of the experientialism so common in the Church today. Despite her claims that she would follow the Bible’s instructions for women without picking and choosing, she does exactly that. She picks and chooses how to apply those instructions by deciding which extra-Biblical sources she will follow. She then draws conclusions about God and the Bible based on her experiences living “a year of Biblical womanhood.” These conclusions find fault with God and with the Bible instead of with her sources or her own interpretations. This is a very dangerous.

Women reading Evans’ book may come away with a distrust of the Bible and with animosity towards God for “requiring” things He never required. And that makes me very sad. There are plenty of hard sayings in the Bible that are difficult to understand. There are many passages that theologians and scholars have debated and will continue to debate. But the Bible is abundantly clear about those things that we have to know to be saved. And that is a great blessing, because Christ is the only Way to salvation, and the Bible is how Christ is revealed to us.

Instead of looking for ways to dismiss what the Bible teaches, we should all seek to understand what we must do to be saved and how we must live in light of our salvation. Without Christ, as revealed in the Bible, we are without hope in this life or the next.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

It’s Just the Way I Am …

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. (Proverbs 25:11-12, ESV)

I’m re-reading one of my favorite books, Anne of Avonlea. It’s such a sweet story. I’ve always believed that the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, had great insight into people and human nature. It’s more apparent to me now reading it as an adult.

One passage I read stood out to me this week. Anne is talking with Mr. Harrison, a grumpy, cranky sort of man. The kind of man who offends others and doesn’t care. Here he makes excuses for his behavior:

“It was the truth and I believe in telling the truth to everybody.”

“But you don’t tell the whole truth,” objected Anne. “You only tell the disagreeable part of the truth.” …

“You must excuse me, Anne. I’ve got a habit of being outspoken and folks mustn’t mind it.”

“But they can’t help minding it. And I don’t think it’s any help that it’s your habit. What would you think of a person who went about sticking pins and needles into people and saying, ‘Excuse me, you mustn’t mind it . . . it’s just a habit I’ve got.’ You’d think he was crazy, wouldn’t you?” (Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea, pg. 63)

How many times recently have we heard certain pastors or politicians praised for their “honesty.” There seems to be a lot of praise for offensive “honesty” lately. But being offensive is not a virtue.

As believers, there will be times that we have to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), and it may very well offend. When we confront others for their sin, we can do it gently and lovingly and with kindness towards them. They may be offended by what we say, but let it be the message that offends, not the method.

Let’s put off seeking to offend and rejoicing in offending others. It doesn’t speak well of us or commend us or our message of grace and forgiveness. Let’s put aside the world’s ways of communicating with others and build each other up out of love for each other. And let’s stop promoting public figures who enjoy being offensive. As Anne says, they’re like crazy folk going around “sticking pins and needles into people.” We wouldn’t stand for that, why should we promote, support, or excuse offensive behavior in others, especially those in authority.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. … be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:4, 18b-21, ESV)

The Very Definition of Plagiarism

Since I wrote my response to Canon Press’s investigation into the plagiarism in A Justice Primer, there has been a continued discussion of what constitutes plagiarism. I thought it might be useful to go over some basics. There is a very comprehensive article from Harvard University on “What Constitutes Plagiarism.” It has many helpful explanations, especially as it explains how to integrate the use of source material into your own work without plagiarizing.

Let’s start with the basic definition of plagiarism from the Harvard paper:

In academic writing, it is considered plagiarism to draw any idea or any language from someone else without adequately crediting that source in your paper. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a published author, another student, a Web site without clear authorship, a Web site that sells academic papers, or any other person: Taking credit for anyone else’s work is stealing, and it is unacceptable in all academic situations, whether you do it intentionally or by accident. (emphasis added)

That’s right, folks. Plagiarism is plagiarism whether or not it was intentional. No matter how many times people repeat the claim that the plagiarism in A Justice Primer was unintentional, it doesn’t matter.

One type of plagiarism is Verbatim Plagiarism. This would be when an author copies source material word for word without giving a proper citation. Notice that whether you put the source material in quotation marks or paraphrase it, you still have to provide “a clear citation.” Good examples of verbatim plagiarism would be the two examples of copying from Creation.com that I gave in my last article. (As a side note, it appears that Randy Booth has since taken down those two posts from his blog.)

Another interesting form of plagiarism is Mosaic Plagiarism. This would be when an author quotes or paraphrases from one or more source and doesn’t adequately cite the original material. Mosaic plagiarism would be like the chapter in A Justice Primer on Shimei that weaved material together from two sources with original material.

The Harvard article on plagiarism also covers Inadequate and Uncited Paraphrase. These would be when an author changes words somewhat but either doesn’t change them enough (inadequate paraphrase) or doesn’t cite the source material of the paraphrase (uncited paraphrase.) An example of these from A Justice Primer would be the section taken from Gary North. The original material has been paraphrased some, but a portion is still word for word, and none of it is cited.

One final type of plagiarism that I want to consider today is Uncited Quotation. The Harvard article defines it this way:

When you put source material in quotation marks in your essay, you are telling your reader that you have drawn that material from somewhere else. But it’s not enough to indicate that the material in quotation marks is not the product of your own thinking or experimentation: You must also credit the author of that material and provide a trail for your reader to follow back to the original document.

This particular type of plagiarism is very interesting to me. In my last article on the Canon Press investigation, I included an instance of this kind of plagiarism by Doug Wilson from his book, Fidelity:

mag-1

After my article ran, I read various explanations for why this was not an example of plagiarism. One said that it wasn’t plagiarism, it was simply a similarly worded translation. But last week, someone asked Doug Wilson about it on Facebook. He replied that it was not plagiarism because he put it in quotation marks. He later clarified and called it an “amplified uncited quote.”

plagiarism wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not exactly sure what an “amplified uncited quote” is. I’ve never heard the term before, but uncited quotation is the very definition of plagiarism. Carl Trueman commented that my last article was “a combined lesson on Basic Research Methods and Plagiarism 101.” After what I’ve read this last week, I think maybe there are many who would benefit from more instruction on research and plagiarism.

Doug Wilson: “The beauty of biblical courtship is that it never leaves women unprotected.”

One of the comments that Doug Wilson has made regarding Jamin Wight and the abuse Wight inflicted on Natalie Greenfield is that Jamin and Natalie were in a “secret courtship.” The existence of this “secret courtship” is supposed to be a mitigating factor in the abuse. For the record, Natalie, and her father Gary Greenfield, both deny the existence of a courtship, secret or otherwise. Having read a good bit of literature on courtship, I wondered how what Natalie experienced could be called a “courtship.”

I discovered that Wilson has written a book on courtship, Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World. I decided to read the book and consider the following questions. First, how does Wilson define courtship? What is it, and why is it preferable traditional dating? Second, would what happened to Natalie fit under that definition of courtship? And, lastly, if there had been a “secret courtship,” so what? What difference would it make?

So first, what is courtship? According to the various advocates of courtship, such as Gothard’s ATI and Phillips’ Vision Forum, courtship is a way for a young couple to determine if they are suited for marriage. Unlike traditional dating, the couple does not get to know each other through going out on unsupervised dates. Typically, the process is for a young man to approach the father of the young woman he’s interested in and ask for permission to start courting her. The end goal is marriage.

This means that a man who is initiating in a relationship must take quite a risk in talking to her father. But God has designed it so that the man is the one who is to take such a risk. He initiates, and, if she has received her father’s blessing, she responds. This is biblical courtship. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Locations 99-101)

Throughout the courtship, the couple will be expected to follow some strict guidelines regarding physical interaction. In general, no kissing, hugging, or hand holding.

The logic of unbelieving dating resembles a “test run” more than the courtship of a Christian virgin. Because of this test run mentality, it is not surprising that immorality is so prevalent. If a man needs to know a woman before he makes a commitment, then why should he be denied the privilege of getting to know what she is like in bed?

In God’s pattern, wisdom is exercised as public information about a suitor, or about a young woman, is carefully gathered. All intimacy follows the commitment; in the biblical pattern no intimacy precedes the commitment. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Locations 1001-1004, emphasis added)

This process is designed to protect young couples from becoming emotionally and intimately attached to each other before marriage. The idea is that if their emotions are kept in check, they will be able to make a more rational decision about marriage. And they will be protected from the dangers of sexual activity outside of marriage.

We must reject the pattern of abdication, disobedience, and sexual immorality which we see all around us; hence, our rejection of recreational dating, or the modern dating system. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Locations 124-125)

Fathers are key in this process. They act as gatekeepers and guardians. No one can court their daughters without their permission and all of the courting activities take place under their supervision.

In biblical courtship, the practical, involved authority of the father over the process is fully recognized and appreciated. With recreational dating, the authority of the father is treated as a vestige of another era, or as a joke. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage Kindle (Locations 315-317)

Doug Wilson explains the protection of courtship:

Apart from biblical dating or courting, there are many destructive consequences-emotional, sexual, and spiritual. But if a young man seeks to initiate a relationship, and takes full responsibility for the relationship under the woman’s father, there is scriptural accountability and protection. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Locations 40-41)

The beauty of biblical courtship is that it never leaves women unprotected. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Location 93)

In courtship, a woman’s fundamental protection is provided by her father. But this does not mean that her suitor has no responsibility to act like a gentleman. Suppose the father has given his permission for a young man to court his daughter. As a godly man approaches a woman, he should assume all the risk. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Locations 437-439)

Wilson also explains the way courtship should work. By its nature, courtship is very public:

With biblical courtship, the courting activity is publicly connected to the life of the family, most likely the family of the young daughter. With recreational dating, the privacy of the couple is paramount. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Locations 322-323, emphasis added)

When a young man is given permission to court a young woman, he is limited in his access to her. He has permission to get to know her while spending time with her family:

If the daughter is interested in the suitor, then the father should come back to him, and say, “No, you cannot take my daughter out, but you may take us out.” Because there is interest, the young man is given permission to spend time with the family. If that goes well, he may begin to spend time alone with the daughter under the watchful oversight of the father. The young man is being invited to spend time with the family. (Kindle Locations 856-859, emphasis added)

If at any point the father (or the daughter) decide that the courtship shouldn’t continue, the father can revoke the permission:

If it becomes obvious during the courtship that the young man is not suitable, then it is the father’s duty to explain to him that he is not free to continue to come around in the same way. He no longer has the father’s permission to single his daughter out in the way he has been doing. (Kindle Locations 867-868)

To summarize, courtship is an alternative to traditional dating that allows young couples to determine if they should get married while seeking and honoring a father’s role as protector of his daughters. It is designed to provide emotional and physical protection for young men and women. It is openly acknowledged, public, and has strict boundaries. There is no physical intimacy.

Given that understanding of what courtship is, let’s consider what happened to Natalie. I will warn you that the details are graphic and disturbing. Natalie explains how things began:

Jamin expressed an interest in me to my parents when I was 14 years old, months after he’d begun grooming me and had already instigated a physical relationship with me. To say I had a crush on him would be an understatement – I was completely infatuated with him, as is very common for abuse victims,  and had been since shortly after I met him at a church event when I was 13 years old. (No one knew the depth of my affection for him, of course, I think told my parents I thought he was pretty cool.) My parents told Jamin he could wait for me if he wanted to and they’d  reassess the situation when I was 18 years old. It was made exceedingly clear that in the meantime there was to be no ‘relationship’ whatsoever. As far as my parents knew there was no relationship … . My parents were naive and foolish, yes. They trusted him to respect the house rules regarding their daughter, partly because he’d been vetted by their own pastor as a seminary student. He didn’t follow the rules.

As a side note, it is common practice in Moscow for students at New Saint Andrews and Greyfriars to board with families. Students and families are encouraged to participate in this housing arrangement.

So, Jamin approached Natalie’s father and expressed interest in courtship. At that time, Natalie was 14, and Jamin was 24. Jamin was told that he could wait until Natalie was 18, and if he was still interested, then a courtship might be considered. Based on Wilson’s guidelines for courtship, that should have been the end of Jamin seeking out Natalie. But it wasn’t. You can read the timeline of events that Natalie put together here.

Here are some excerpts from Natalie describing what did happen over the next few years.

The beginning:

Jamin moved into our mansion on B Street and lived there along with 4-5 other boarders. At some point during this process Jamin expressed an interest in getting to know me. My parents discussed what they should do and ultimately my father told him he could wait around for me until I was older, if he wanted, and strictly forbade any development of a physical or romantic relationship. We were allowed to be friends. Two weeks later Jamin kissed me for the first time.

Later:

Let me describe a scene to you, one scene of many, many more just like it. It’s late afternoon in an old house on B Street in Moscow. A 14 year old girl goes bounces down the stairs of her family’s 8-bedroom mansion to get her favorite pair of jeans from the laundry hamper. A 24 year old man follows her down the stairs and enters the laundry room behind her. He sneaks up behind her and grabs her by the shoulders, she shrieks, then giggles. “Shhhhh! C’mere!” He says. He pulls her by the hand into the dungeon-like bathroom adjacent to the laundry room. “Jamin, stop! My mom will hear us!” the girl protests. “Then be quiet” he says, pushing down firmly on the top of her head until she buckles to her knees. She knows what he wants, it’s what he always wants and she hates it. She begins giving it to him and a minute later they hear footsteps coming down the long basement stairs. The man shoves the girl away from him, she falls backward into the laundry room and he closes the bathroom door to finish the job himself. The girl jumps to her feet, wipes her mouth and runs up the basement stairs, shaking nervously as she passes her mother on way. A close call.

The abuse continues:

Jamin began more serious abuse, this included sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse. He was wildly jealous of me, he spied on me, he gave me a strict set of rules to follow regarding my behavior, dress, and social life, he forced me to perform oral sex on him on a regular basis, he oiled the hinges of the doors in our home and frequently snuck into my room in the middle of the night, he limited when I was allowed to leave the house and where I was allowed to go (he did this by privately bullying me, as far as anyone else knew the decisions were my own), he demeaned me constantly and convinced me never to tell anyone about what was happening because he said they’d all know I was a slut and no one else would ever love me, he told me I should not go to college or develop any career or interests because I was to be his wife and the mother of his children someday and would have no need for continued education or a career path, he lectured me constantly on my flirtatious, sinful, tempting ways and convinced me I was an abhorrent girl with few redeemable qualities.

After Natalie’s father kicked Jamin out of the house:

Jamin no longer lived with us but still occasionally stopped by to grab belongings he’d left, and during these brief visits would rendezvous with me in the basement or in a car for sex favors. One time, I stopped him on the front porch and quietly asked him if I was still a virgin because I didn’t know if fisting constituted penetration. He laughed at me, then walked inside. This was one of the last times we ever spoke.

What Natalie describes is troubling and clearly abusive behavior on the part of Jamin. He groomed her, he abused her, and he did it all secretly and privately, hiding his actions from her family. There is nothing about what Jamin did to Natalie that remotely fits Wilson’s description of courtship.

The last question that I want to consider is: even if Natalie’s parents had agreed to a courtship between Jamin and Natalie, would that change anything? No, and here’s why. If Jamin had been allowed to court Natalie, he would have been given permission to get to know Natalie and her family in an open, public, and respectable fashion. He would not have had permission to have any physical intimacy or private dates with her.

So even if there had been a courtship, that would not have given Jamin the right to treat Natalie the ways in which he did. It would not explain or excuse any of his behavior. And it should not have been used to minimize the sentence Jamin received.

Jamin’s abuse of Natalie was not in any way a courtship. I’ve written before about the abusive tendencies of patriarchal systems, but I sincerely hope that emotional, physical, and sexual violation are not common behavior in Wilsonian courtships.

When a man initiates and a woman responds with her father’s approval, everything is wonderful. Doug Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage (Kindle Location 1008)

A Justice Primer: The Investigation

Late last week, Canon Press released a statement with the findings from their investigation into the plagiarism in A Justice Primer. To refresh our memories, the original statement they released back in December was:

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. Such negligence and editorial incompetence is a gross breach of contract and obviously does not meet Canon Press’s publishing standards. As such, we have discontinued the book, effective immediately. Refer to the author statements below for more information. We would like to specifically thank Rachel Miller for bringing this to our attention so we could take the necessary steps to immediately correct such a serious error.

Apparently they have now changed their minds about portions of this statement. There are three main points that they make in the new statement. First, they claim I had help with my original article that I didn’t cite. Second, they claim that my colleague and I have a personal animosity towards Doug Wilson and that bias negatively affected the research. And third, they claim the plagiarism wasn’t intentional, was mostly citation errors, and was really not such a big deal after all. I would like to address each of these points in turn.

First, Canon Press has “discovered” that Valerie Hobbs helped me with my research. Valerie and I have worked and published together in the past, and I did ask her to help me.  I did all of my own research, and the material I published in my article was my own work and my own findings. Valerie had a small, but much appreciated role in my research.

Here’s how the research process went. While preparing to write a review of the book, I discovered some passages that seemed odd. I decided to check if they were original to the book or from some other source. Because the book is only available as a hard copy book, and not electronically, I had to type up the quotes I wanted to search. Then I ran various quotes from the book through a commercially available plagiarism software. When I discovered plagiarized material in A Justice Primer, I wanted to be careful that my research was accurate.

Because large portions of the book were taken from Wilson and Booth’s blog posts, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t missing something. I didn’t want to say it was plagiarism by Wilson or Booth and have it actually be that someone had plagiarized their work. So, I discussed my findings with Valerie. She offered to run the quotes through the academic/research software she has access to as a professor and researcher. She did not turn up any additional plagiarism. What she found was consistent with what I had already discovered.

So there’s the big secret. Valerie double checked my work for accuracy. Since the findings were truly mine, I didn’t see any need to cite her assistance. But I am very grateful for her help. If Canon Press had bothered to ask me during their investigation, I would have happily supplied that information to them.

Second, Canon Press now seems to believe that because I have a history of writing things critical to Doug Wilson my findings are suspect. Doug Wilson himself addressed that very issue when he publicly thanked me back in December. He noted that while we have had our disagreements, he was thankful for my work in this matter.

It was no secret that I read A Justice Primer with the intention of critiquing it. I said so in my original post. It is absolutely true that I disagree with Doug Wilson on many theological matters. That doesn’t change the facts that I presented in my article. I was very careful in my discussion of the plagiarism not to speculate who had done the plagiarizing. Canon seems to think that I knew Booth was responsible and didn’t say so so that I could implicate Wilson. That is not true.

As I’ve said before, much of the book was taken from blog posts that Wilson and Booth had written over the last 10 years. However, there were large portions of the book that did not seem to come from either blog. The book itself gives no indication who wrote which portions or that Booth was the editor. When Canon released their first statement that Booth took full responsibility for the plagiarism, I agreed that Booth was likely the one responsible. But, because I could not know for certain who wrote what at the time of my post, I refrained from speculating. It would have been unfair to either author to do otherwise.  And ultimately, as Doug Wilson has said regarding plagiarism:

But with all said and done, the person whose name is on the cover of the book is responsible to put things completely right if a problem surfaces. He may not be guilty, but he is always responsible — as basic covenant theology teaches us.

Lastly, the recent statement by Canon Press appears to say that the problems in A Justice Primer aren’t really that bad. It was unintentional. There were “citation errors.”

Let’s consider that for a moment. Before I published my article on the plagiarism, I presented my findings to 5 seminary and university professors. I wanted to know what they thought of the significance of what I’d found. All of them said it was plagiarism. They said that if they had done it, they would have been in trouble with their university/seminary/academic community. They also said that if one of their students had done the same the student would face disciplinary action including expulsion. Plagiarism is serious business.

What do universities say about plagiarism? Here are a few university statements. I’ll start with the one from Greyfriars’ Hall, the ministerial program in Moscow. New Saint Andrew’s uses a very similar statement:

Students must avoid plagiarism, misrepresentation, misappropriation of the work of others, or any other form of academic dishonesty, whether intentional or the result of reckless disregard for academic integrity (see “Plagiarism” in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers, sixth edition, p. 74 [5.2]). Such academic dishonesty may be grounds for disciplinary action by the instructor and Greyfriars’ Hall administration up to and including dismissal from Greyfriars’ Hall. (emphasis added)

This one is from the University of Sheffield:

Plagiarism(either intentional or unintentional) is the using of ideas or work of another person (including experts and fellow or former students) and submitting them as your own. It is considered dishonest and unprofessional. Plagiarism may take the form of cutting and pasting, taking or closely paraphrasing ideas, passages, sections, sentences, paragraphs, drawings, graphs and other graphical material from books, articles, internet sites or any other source and submitting them for assessment without appropriate acknowledgement. (emphasis added)

Here’s one from Duke University on what constitutes “unintentional plagiarism“:

Unintentional plagiarism is plagiarism that results from the disregard for proper scholarly procedures.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism:
Failure to cite a source that is not common knowledge.
Failure to “quote” or block quote author’s exact words, even if documented.
Failure to put a paraphrase in your own words, even if documented.
Failure to put a summary in your own words, even if documented.
Failure to be loyal to a source.

Or this one from Baker College on the difference between intentional and unintentional plagiarism:

Intentional plagiarism is copying someone’s words or ideas without citing them, in order to pass them off as your own (in other words, cheating).

Unintentional plagiarism is accidentally leaving off the required citation(s) because you don’t understand the rules of citation and plagiarism.

Going back to Canon’s statement, I didn’t speculate in my article as to whether or not the plagiarism was intentional. It’s certainly possible that Booth unintentionally plagiarized in places. In his own statement, he said he wasn’t aware that he had to cite dictionary definitions. And failure to put Tim Challies’ words in quotation marks or as a blockquote could also fall under this category, since there was some attempt at citation near that passage.

However, the chapter on Shimei is still hard to explain. Whole sentences and paragraphs were taken from the two sources and weaved together without any indication where the material came from. It’s hard to understand how that happens accidentally. But either way, intentionally or unintentionally, all of these are still plagiarism, by definition.

According to the academic statements above, if a student commits plagiarism, he or she will face discipline whether the plagiarism was intentional or unintentional. No one but Randy Booth knows if he intended to commit plagiarism or not. And in the end, it doesn’t matter. Either way the material was plagiarized.

For example, it’s plagiarism if an author takes information from another website and publishes it on his own blog without linking or attributing the original source:

Booth-Creation

Left column: Randy Booth Right column: Creation.com

And again, material taken from another website without attribution is plagiarism:

Booth--Creation

Left column: Randy Booth Right column: Creation.com

It’s also plagiarism to take words from another source, change them slightly, and use them as your own without citation:

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The left-hand side of the image below comes from page 130 of Doug Wilson’s book, Fidelity, published in 1999. The right-hand side comes from page 777 of the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery edited by Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III and published in 1998.

 

I hope that Canon Press and the authors involved will be more careful in the future with their citations. I also think it would have been wise for Canon to have kept to their original statement on the plagiarism in A Justice Primer. It was clear and concise. I don’t believe their current statement has done them any favors.

From the Comments

Occasionally, I get comments that I don’t let through moderation. Typically, the comments that don’t make the cut are rude, or obscene, or are simply name-calling screeds. Sometimes, I do let them through, like today, so that others can see the kind of responses I get.

The following comment was left by “Eric Malroy” although he signed it as “Thomas” at the end. Apparently whoever it is can’t remember which alias he’s using today.

I find your propping yourself up as a teacher of the word highly offensive given the fact that you fail to follow biblical teachings and principles. You bring forward charges against Doug Wilson but hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. You operate like the devil, hiding in the background, shooting your poison darts, and cackling in the background! Are you a teacher of the word? To be fair, I don’t know about Doug Wilson, but I do know that you twist his words and he has no chance to respond and defend himself. You respond that he can reply to your charges, but it is filtered by you! Who are you to operate a court against a teaching elder in the church? Essentially, that is what you are doing! If you have a charge against the man, then you need the place it against the man openly revealing yourself and working through the church. Otherwise you should keep your mouth shut and let God work, either approving his work or condemning it! Certainly, you can pray in all this but you should be biblical. You should not be a busybody in the church, if you are a truly Reformed Daughter! Yours in Christ, Thomas