Saturday, June 11, 2016

at Mere Orthodoxy Jake Meador on the Evangelical echo chamber "Reading with big Eva", a reminder that the plagiarism controversies of past contributors to the TGC could already be proof of the insularity of the scene's readers
...  This is a big difference between New Calvinists and Neo-Calvinists. The latter read widely, try to learn from the best scholars in a variety of fields, and have confidence that challenging reading material will not destroy a reader’s faith. In other words, Neo-Calvinists understand the merits of the Pulitzer Prize. New Calvinists cultivate a safe space shelf of books.

So would the difference between a Neo-Calvinist and a New Calvinist be a question of whether or not you're excited that you can read pdf versions of Brunner for free and refusing to read anyone connected to the neo-orthodoxy movement?  The terminology can be fuzzy but what's less fuzzy is the concern about how insular the YRR movement has shown itself to be.
...    Big Eva organizations such as the Gospel Coalition [emphasis added] have self-consciously sought to drive and thereby control the small-r reformed world by buying up the talent and overseeing who gets to speak, what gets said, who gets reviewed, who is in, who is out.   Other groups, as I have recently pointed out, have become businesses, making big sums on gospel products and the performance of orthodoxy before the adoring home crowd.  And the small pool of names that populate the leadership of all the Big Eva organizations indicates an establishment elite which ultimately shares a common interest in protecting each other’s brands.  The chances of internal reform seem remote.

Nowhere is this problematic culture more evident than in the (non) fall-out from scandals.  Numerous big names have been caught out: plagiarism, bullying, cover ups, adultery, Ashley Madison – you name it, they’ve done it – yet, just like politicians, they offer quick repentances and make come-backs in the time it takes the rest of us to make a cup of tea. And small, hard-core activists are always available to form a hashtag-wielding mob and rubbish any nay-sayers as hypocrites, legalists and worse.   The potential for a leadership dangerously detached from the people and insulated from legitimate concerns of the constituency who ultimately bankroll the operation of Big Eva seems to be being realized before our eyes. ....

By now there seems little reason to doubt that Trueman has read and heard that a dangerous detachment of the upper leadership of Mars Hill from the people, and that this leadership was insulated from the legitimate concerns of the constituency who ultimately bankrolled the existence of Mars Hill, was a thing.

So with preludes like that in mind we get to Jake Meador's recent post on the evangelical echo chamber.
This, then, is the chief problem with narrow reading of the sort that many evangelicals have traditionally practiced, often at the encouragement of influential leaders like Challies. When we read narrowly, only from publishers and authors that bear the (ironic) nihil obstat of Big Eva, we can easily develop an impoverished imagination. We are narrow, shallow individuals who need to be deep and broad. [emphasis added]

Certainly, we could get along decently by reading everything we can get our hands on by John Piper, Tim Keller, and Al Mohler or, thinking of the next generation, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, and Russ Moore. Indeed, I’ve been richly blessed by my reading of several of those authors. There’s nothing wrong with reading these more prominent, widely known evangelicals and as prominent, widely known evangelicals go, these men are some of the best. (color emphasis added for foreshadowing)

Meador didn't set out to take note of the plagiarism controversies that erupted from within the new Calvinist scene but it's worth highlighting this practical shortcoming that can happen if a community's reading becomes too insular and the publishing standards too lazy.  It wasn't THAT long ago that Kevin DeYoung praised a book co-authored by Doug Wilson that ended up discontinuted because of "negligence and gross incompetence" that was highlighted by a blogger.

Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth, A Justice Primer (Canon Press, 2015). I thought this was a book on social justice, economics, and big picture politics. It’s actually a book about how the Bible would have us judge each other (or not) in the mad, mad world of blog warriors and internet vigilantes. This book is full of refreshing wisdom. I hope it reaches a wide audience. And if you already know that Doug Wilson is a good-for-nothing scoundrel (and I don’t know him personally and do strongly disagree with him at times), then that’s an indication that you really need this book. [UPDATE: It seems that portions of the book were plagiarized, which, while not changing the nature of the content, cannot help but affect one’s opinion of the book. I hope Wilson and Booth will respond to the evidence presented in the link above. NEXT UPDATE: The book has been discontinued by Canon Press because of “negligence and gross incompetence” resulting in plagiarism and improper citation.]

Nor should that incident be seen in isolation because Kevin DeYoung didn't just praise a book that ended up discontinued in the wake of a plagiarism controversy, he was also explicitly named as someone to be sent a galley proof of Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage, as documented here at Wenatchee The Hatchet from a document sent along late last year.  It's also worth pointing out that John Piper's Desiring God ministries gets named.

Galley proofs - Desiring God with John Piper, Purpose Driven Network with Rick Warren, Life Church with Craig Groeschel, Perry Noble, James MacDonald who runs Walk in the Word Radio and Harvest Bible Chapel, Justin Taylor and Kevin Deyoung of the Gospel Coalition, Mark Dever of 9 Marks, CJ Mahaney and Joshua Harris of Sovereign Grace ...

What's curious about the plagiarism controversies that erupted in connection to authors with Gospel Coalition connections has been that evangelicals who might otherwise have insisted that the New Testament documents can't have been pious forgeries or that there's no such thing as Q and that the pastoral epistles had to have been written by Paul all of a sudden assert another premise for the benefit of contemporary authors, that there's no such thing as intellectual property and that ideas can't be owned.  Well, who has said that intellectual property claims as claims about labor and their results that could be pertinent in a judicial context, were necessarily claims to be "ownership" of ideas?  If you start with a pejorative definition of what intellectual property even is then of course it's not a surprise if you take a light-hearted view toward allegations of plagiarism by saying that really, copyright shouldn't exist. But that won't change the history of plagiarism scandals in which authors who have contributed to the Gospel Coalition, specifically Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson, have been embroiled over the last ... three years.

Would the evangelicals who swim in the Gospel Coalition pond have such a sanguine view about the basic idea of intellectual property or honesty in documentation if this were a discussion about the ethics and public statements of Clinton or Trump? 

Jake Meador's concerns seem legitimate and I would say that the history of plagiarism scandals connected to authors who have had Gospel Coalition connections and/or reviews should be considered as a proof of how insular the scene has had to be for these plagiarism scandals to have ever occurred.  Remember, the Driscoll marketing plans for Real Marriage included requests that some big names in the YRR movement get galley proofs.  If the names mentioned didn't get galley proofs they're more off the hook; but if they got galley proofs and the plagiarism controversy in 2013 happened for Mark Driscoll anyway then it might be a testament to how insular the reading habits of the YRR crowd have been if they got galley proofs of Real Marriage and no red flags at all came up for them that maybe the first edition of Mark and Grace Driscoll's 2012 book needed more footnotes and citations.

So I'd say Meador raises a good point and I'll take it a step or two further by suggesting that the plagiarism controversies that have erupted in the young, Restless Reformed/aka New Calvinist scene should have already told us just how insular the scene's reading has become.

For folks who might be new to Wenatchee The Hatchet, lest anybody imagine this is just a complaint about the insular echo chamber of people who can be dubbed Religious Right ...

The immediately previous post was dedicated to how Jonathan Merritt's friendly words about Rachel Held Evans, who has taken what I consider to be no more than publicity stunt stands against men like Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson, constitute a comparable echo chamber for what could be called the Religious Left.  Having finally gotten around to reading Jacques Ellul's Propaganda I think the explanation for both cases is that propaganda of both sides has entrenched both in ways that are toxic and unhealthy but there's the rest of this year's blogging if you want to read about how I think Ellul's discussion of propagandists and propaganda can explain our current politics and the entrenchment of the celebrity Christians.

1 comment:

chris e said...

"So I'd say Meador raises a good point and I'll take it a step or two further by suggesting that the plagiarism controversies that have erupted in the young, Restless Reformed/aka New Calvinist scene should have already told us just how insular the scene's reading has become. "

.. and actually the flip side of this is the YRR crowd are equally insular when it comes to reaching out of their group, they aren't actually able to write anything that appeals widely outside the group either - as some of the plagiarism cases have centered around material borrowed from the wider evangelical/christian community.

Secondly, when looking back at the list of authors. In any field there will always be the authoritative originators, the skillful popularizes and then the mass of undifferentiated authors who tell the tale twice. On this scale, it's been evident that the various YRR presses have jumped the shark some time ago.