A Year of Biblical Womanhood?

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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 …

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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

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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:

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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.”

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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

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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:

mag-1

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

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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

A Bible Reading Plan and Bible Study for the New Year

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For the last several years, I have been reading the Bible through each year. I’ve used several different plans, and there are elements of each that I’ve really enjoyed. But this year I wanted to do something different. I like the idea of reading each book through so that you get a good feel for the flow of the book. But I really don’t like to wait until the last third of the year to read the New Testament. I love reading the Wisdom Literature, but I think I appreciate them more in smaller portions.

So, after looking through the various Bible reading plans available, I decided to create my own. There’s a decent chance that someone has made one just like this already. If so, please let me know. I’d be glad to share it.

My plan alternates between Old Testament and New Testament books, but completes one book at a time. On the weekends, my plan has readings from the Psalms on Saturdays and a chapter from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or Song of Songs on Sundays.

I attempted to portion out the readings so that it wouldn’t be too much for any one day, but I may need to adjust the readings as I go through it this year. Below you’ll find a link to the pdf document with the full reading plan. There is also a gallery of jpeg images to preview the plan. You can click on any of the images to open the gallery.

A Daughter of the Reformation Bible Reading Plan

I’m also planning to use Nancy Guthrie’s Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series this year. There are 5 volumes, each with 10 weeks of study. I’m hoping that the combination of Bible reading and Bible study will be helpful this year. I’d love to hear what your plans are for the year.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

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It’s been quite a year. I haven’t had as much time to write this year as I would have liked, but I did get a lot of research done towards the book I’m working on. Thank you all for encouragement and support. May God bless you richly in the New Year.

Here are the top 10 posts for 2015:

10: Does the Son Eternally Submit to the Authority of the Father?

ESS was developed as a response to feminists and egalitarian arguments regarding gender roles. Wayne Grudem, one of the proponents of ESS, wrote an article giving 12 biblical evidences for defining the relationship between the Father and the Son as one of eternal authority and submission.

While I can agree that the Son does certainly submit to the Father in some respects, I think ESS is a dangerous departure from orthodox formulations of the Trinity. The relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit is so much more than authority and submission. I believe that ESS is the result of isolating and emphasizing one aspect of trinitarian relationships to the neglect of others.

9: Continuing Down this Path, Complementarians Lose

Here’s what’s happening for those who might not be familiar. There are some theologians who teach a doctrine called “Eternal Subordination of the Son” (ESS). This includes Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem, both of whom have chapters in the above linked book. Using the human relationship of father and son as a model for the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, ESS teaches that the Son, because he’s a son, submits to the Father from all eternity and for all eternity.

Proponents of ESS have been accused of teaching a hierarchy in the immanent Trinity, but they used to deny this. This book is the first time I’ve seen it clearly stated that they believe that the Son’s submission to the Father is ontological and not merely a function of the economic Trinity. At one point, the book claims that it is promoting functional subordination and equality of nature/essence. However, it goes on the make arguments for authority/submission as inherent in the nature of God as Father and Son.

8: Theology has consequences

First, though, I want to consider some of what Doug Wilson has written that might give clarity to his actions. Not that I agree with his actions, but that it might help us understand what he’s done.

Doug Wilson teaches, in numerous places, that the cure for sexual temptation is marriage and having sex frequently with one’s spouse

7: Marriage as a Blood Covenant?

I understand the desire to strengthen the biblical arguments for marriage. Marriage is under attack in our culture today. But in our attempts to bolster biblical marriage we need to be careful about the unintended consequences of going beyond what Scripture teaches. I see four basic repercussions from teaching that marriage is a blood covenant.

  • It teaches a repulsive view of the sexual relationship between a husband and wife. What was created to be a beautiful expression of the one flesh relationship should not be twisted into a bloody sacrifice.
  • It idolizes virginity. It is a good and God-honoring thing for women (and men) to wait for marriage. It is a blessing, and it protects against many heartaches. But it’s should not be made into an idol. There is a serious danger of that happening. Consider “purity balls.”
  • It overshadows the grace and forgiveness that we live under as believers in Christ. We are all sinners saved by grace. There are no more sacrifices required.
  • It could be used to promote or excuse abuse. There is so much that could be said here, but I’ll leave it at this. There are despicable men in this world who would use this teaching to hurt women.

6: Doug Wilson: “I am not defending the rapist.”

Clearly in these two cases, Wilson has indeed defended rapists and has not sought for them to be prosecuted to the “to the fullest extent of the law.” Despite what he has written on his blog and in his books, Wilson chose to support, defend, and care for the rapists at the expense of their victims. I do not deny that even rapists need pastoral counseling, but taking the side of the abusers and blaming victims is not pastoral care.

In Scripture, Jesus told his disciples that there would be false teachers and that these false teachers would be known because of their fruit. Maybe we should all consider what Wilson’s fruits say about him

5: Nancy Wilson: “my ministry is visibly connected to my husband’s and is not seen as a separate work”

After Dr. Valerie Hobbs and I wrote our article looking at Doug Wilson’s wedding exhortations, we were told that we were wrong in our conclusions about Wilson’s view of women. Several people, Wilson included, wrote that Wilson obviously thinks very highly of women and their abilities. Wilson’s wife, Nancy, and daughters/daughters-in-law and their books and articles were given as examples of how wrong we were in our analysis. Of course, our research was about Doug Wilson’s words not his family.

However, continuing in the research I’ve been doing, I read one of Nancy Wilson’s books, The Fruit of Her Hands. Her book is full of advice for Christian wives. In reading it, I realized that it would be worthwhile to compare Nancy’s advice to that of her husband. Would her words support the conclusions of our article? Or would they contradict them?

4: Nearly Everything Wrong with N.T. Wright Summed Up in One Chapter Heading

While there is much to be said about this book and the theological positions taken by the author (you can read the chapter headings here), what caught my attention was the “illuminating excursus by N.T. Wright.” Here is the full heading for Wright’s chapter, “Paul’s Use of Adam Is More Interested in the Effect of Sin on the Cosmos Than in the Effect of Sin on Humanity and Has Nothing to Say About Human Origins.”

This single chapter heading is truly amazing. It has successfully encapsulated almost everything that’s wrong with Wright’s theology. Let me explain what I mean. This chapter heading contains Wright’s low view of Scripture, his re-interpretation of Paul’s writings, his minimizing the importance of the salvation of individuals, his emphasis on the redemption of the cosmos, and his belief in the evolutionary origins of humanity.

3: True Woman 101: Divine Design

Because of my particular interest in the discussion in complementarian circles about what it means to be a godly man or woman, I was curious about this book. I’ve read some blog posts at the True Woman website in the past, and I recognize the names of several of the authors. I wondered what they were teaching about biblical womanhood.

Having finished the book, I am very concerned. There are serious foundational problems with the teaching in this book. The most serious are discussions of the Trinity. The authors then use their understanding of the Trinity as the foundation for their teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood.

Probably the next most troubling thing is that the authors use the relationship between husband and wife as the model for all male/female interactions. And while they recognize that some Christians may disagree with them about what they teach, they consider any disagreement to be the result of the feminist movement’s influence on society. The result is that the book tends to be very heavy on law and very light on grace.

2: A Question for Wilson Fans

I know that every man is a sinner and that even my favorite pastors/theologians are almost certainly wrong about something. And we certainly shouldn’t dismiss every author out there because we disagree on a point or two. But is there a point at which the depth or breadth of the problems becomes significant enough that it’s time to rethink defending a man?

To all those Reformed, Presbyterians out there who are willing to look past the recent Wilson controversies, is it time to consider if what you like is worth defending? For anything that he’s written that you’ve appreciated, isn’t there someone else who has said something similar without all the baggage? Are the qualifiers worth it?

1: Justice, Character, and Plagiarism

In the process of writing my review of A Justice Primer, I ran across a sentence that seemed familiar. I searched and discovered that it was one of those quotes that has a million versions and no one knows where exactly it originated. While searching, I ran several excerpts from the book in a plagiarism checker and had unexpected results. I expected that many quotes would have links to Doug Wilson’s or Randy Booth’s websites, and they did, However, some quotes had links to other sites.

The images that follow are comparisons. Each image has a page from A Justice Primer on the left and a page from another source on the right. The verbatim (word for word) text is highlighted, generally in yellow. The paraphrased (similar) wording is highlighted in tan. None of the highlighted sections were attributed in the book to the original authors or sources.

A Justice Primer: Discontinued as of December 10, 2015

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Canon Press, publisher of A Justice Primer, has discontinued the book due to the plagiarism cited in my other post:

CANON PRESS STATEMENT:

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.

You can read the full statement here.

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