cracks in the dam(?)

Dedicated readers of this blog will know at least two things: 1) I am poor at posting consistently, and 2) a number of posts have dealt with the problems of plagiarism. Many of the instances of plagiarism I highlight tend to come from students who either fail to abide by the rules of proper citation or are ill-informed about such rules, or from (more or less) popular writers/authors–and often for similar reasons. In the main, I can excuse such things because they can be seen as rookie mistakes. Thus, I tend to get over those instances rather quickly. I see it. I gripe about it (usually to myself, sometimes here). And then I move on.

But there are times when I don’t move on as quickly. And these times are related to when I discover plagiarism in scholarly work–either personally or I hear/read about it from others. Recently, two seasoned scholars have been criticized for plagiarism in their respective commentaries, and both have admitted to the regrettable causes for it (e.g., pressures of publishing, time-crunches) and it appears that both commentaries will be pulled from circulation. This bothers me, in part, because scholars should know better–or at least they are better informed about what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. But as we’re discovering, that idealistic view is being rattled by reality. And what I fear is that this kind of rattling is creating cracks in the dam, which if it gives way will bring about disturbing and disruptive consequences.

I still remember one of the more disturbing instances I encountered: it was in 2011, while I was doing some follow-up research during my doctoral studies. Specifically, I was reading a published dissertation on a theme in Pauline theology.¹ I first suspected it when the writer made an argument that was surprisingly similar to the scholar he cites. The differences in wording were minimal at best (e.g., transposing two words, alternate spelling on a Greek term, an elision of one minor clause). However, I became concerned because the writer did not place the argument in quotes, despite the minor differences. Though, to his credit, he did cite the scholar’s work with an in-text reference, but the citation gave the impression of an allusion to the other’s work, not one that signals explicit reliance upon it. So I ultimately let it go as a one-off, one that might be debatable and thus not sufficient for further thought.

But then it happened. When reading an earlier portion of this same dissertation, I found an explicit use of another’s work without proper citation–let alone quotation marks. In this second example, the author presented an explanation of a particular Greek term and this explanation carried on for nearly 120 words (essentially the length of the preceding paragraph in this post). Only at one point did the author place a portion of the explanation in quotes (5 words, to be precise), followed by an in-text reference. However, by looking at the argument found in reference cited and comparing it with what is found in the dissertation, it is obvious that the author lifted more than the five quoted words. In fact, nearly the whole 120 words were lifted from the source used. But again, since there were no quotation marks around this larger section, thus signaling the use of another’s work, one would not suspect that the larger section was boosted. The only reason I knew of the similarities is because I had read the source used only the day before. Thus, when I came to this portion of the dissertation, things sounded far too familiar.

Not knowing what to do, and being a mere PhD student at the time, I decided to ask a professional. His initial response was this: “From your description it sounds to me like carelessness rather than deceptive plagiarism (i.e. there is a reference to the source material, but the wording is too close to the source without being acknowledged as citation). And it is not uncommon. Deceptive plagiarism (if no source/reference is given, and large portions are found to be derived from an unacknowledged source) is a different matter and would perhaps warrant some further probing.” Even though this distinction and criteria for making it were a touch different than what I was used to, I heeded his follow-up response, which was (paraphrased): I’d leave it alone. You don’t want to start your career as being the one who outed an established scholar and professor for plagiarism.

To borrow from Ron White: “I told you that story to tell you this one”. This morning, while doing some research for a sermon series I’m doing, I came across the following:

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The book on the left was published in 1978, while the one on the right was published in 1993. (I am going to leave the authors for these two works unnamed for now). The parallels in the larger description are close enough to raise an eye-brow, though such material might be said to fall into the category of general knowledge, which is not necessarily required to be cited. (I would debate some of the nuances of that escape clause, especially in this case, but point taken). However, it’s the smaller paragraph that bothered me. The wording is exactly the same, with the exception of one qualifying phrase (i.e., “of the guild”). But there is no reference. No footnote. Nothing. There’s not even a entry in the “Further Reading” list of the newer book for the older one. This should not be happening, especially by a scholar who is known for thoroughness and precision.

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¹ I’m being intentionally cryptic at the moment because I am still torn with how to proceed with this.

a subtle poke(?)

While reading a published PhD dissertation from 1900 (as you do), I saw this in the introduction:

It is the purpose of this book to present a study of Alexander Campbell’s theology by the historical method. He was not a voice crying in the wilderness and having no connection with his age except to receive from its degeneracy an impulse toward reformation. Try as he would, he could not sweep aside all that men had thought during the past eighteen centuries, and lead a religious movement or formulate a system of Christian doctrine as if a true word had not been spoken since the death of the Apostles.¹

I may be wrong (which is always possible), but I think he just took a shot at Joseph Smith with that last sentence. Or maybe even Dispensationalism. Either way: If so… well played, sir.

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¹ W.E. Garrison, The Sources of Alexander Campbell’s Theology (St Louis: Christian Publishing, 1900), 14-15.

something else

So apparently, this Gap ad was perceived to be racist*–despite efforts to explain the pose:

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Yet, as far as I can tell, this earlier version was not perceived in a similar way:

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But putting that debate aside, I’d like to point out one small(ish) detail that’s getting missed:

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Either Cherokee/Target or Gap has some ‘splainin to do. Who wants to go first?

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* And since perception (not truth) is all that really matters these days, it must in fact be racist.

one detail

Just discovered a job that looked rather interesting:

The College of Christian Studies at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor seeks applications for a tenure-track faculty appointment at the rank of Assistant/Associate Professor of Christian Studies beginning August 2016. The College of Christian Studies is committed to preparing men and women for service to the church as well as providing core courses in Bible and theology for all the University’s undergraduate students. UMHB seeks faculty who are active Christians and dedicated teacher-scholars to prepare students for leadership, service, and faith-informed discernment in a global society.

Sounds good. Tell me more about the job.

Faculty Responsibilities: Activities required of all faculty include exemplary teaching, curriculum development and student advising; professional attainment; and service to the department, college, university, and the community. While primarily a teaching institution, UMHB recognizes and rewards research, publication, and other forms of scholarly attainment.

Specific Responsibilities: The successful candidate will have competence in biblical studies and/or theology for teaching in the Core. Teaching responsibilities include online as well as classroom courses. Full-time faculty members typically teach 12-14 hours per semester with three course preparations.

Very nice. All fairly standard. What about the candidate?

Qualifications:  Ph.D. in biblical studies or theology is required. Excellent teaching and communication skills, a dedication to professional attainment, and commitment to quality improvement are essential. Because of the specific mission of the College of Christian Studies, the successful candidate must be a Baptist and must sustain active membership in a local Baptist church.

Ah, crap… That Baptist thing gets me every time. Oh well, the search continues.

books* read in 2015

Since I’m not likely to finish reading a new book before the end of the year, I’m posting this early.

This year’s reading was a bit different, and intentionally so. Unlike the previous annual posts, this year’s list includes those writings read for pleasure and for academic purposes–the latter including books and articles and essays. (Hence, “books” with an *). Here’s this year’s list (in order of reading, according to category):

Pleasure reading:

  • Robert Ludlum, The Matlock Paper
  • Robert Ludlum, The Scarlatti Inheritance
  • PG Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit
  • Lemony Snicket, The Unauthorized Autobiography
  • Robert Ludlum, The Cry of the Halidon
  • Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Brian Moore, The Black Robe
  • Beowulf
  • Heinz Schaeffer, U-Boat 977
  • William F. Buckley Jr., See You Later, Alligator
  • James Cobb, The Arctic Event (Robert Ludlum’s Covert One Series)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, vol. 1 (i.e. Study in Scarlet; Sign of the Four; Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes; Hound of the Baskervilles)
  • Robert Ludlum, The Holcroft Covenant
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, vol. 2 (i.e. Return of Sherlock Holmes, Valley of Fear, Last Bow, Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes)
  • John Grisham, Sycamore Row
  • Robert Ludlum, The Osterman Weekend

Academic reading (books):

  • Martin Hengel, Crucifixion
  • Kelly Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians
  • Charles Quarles, Illustrated Life of Paul (see my review of it here)
  • Howard Clark Kee, What Can We Know About Jesus?
  • Arthur Pink, The Doctrine of Election
  • Michael Halcomb, Paul the Change Agent
  • John Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis
    (though I hesitate to include Walvoord’s book in the “academic” category, for it is hardly worth that label)
  • Mark Howell, Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians ([lengthy] review coming later)
  • R. Philip Roberts, Mormonism Unmasked
  • Vern Poythress, Christian Interpretations to Genesis 1
  • Charles A. Briggs, Biblical History
  • Cornelius Vanderwaal, Hal Lindsey and Biblical Prophecy
  • Charles G. Trumbull, The Life Story of C.I. Scofield
  • J.J. Ross, Some Facts and More Facts about the Self-Styled “Pastor” Charles T. Russell
  • Charles A. Shook, American Anthropology Disproving the Book of Mormon
  • F.S. Spalding, Joseph Smith, Jr. as a Translator. An Inquiry Conducted
  • Michael Bird, Introducing Paul
  • Frank Matera, What Are They Saying About Mark?
  • I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles (NT Guides)
  • Bruce Metzger, The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions
  • Kató Lomb, Polyglot: How I Learned Languages
  • Albertus Pieters, A Candid Examination of the Scofield Bible
  • Constantine Campbell, Keep Your Greek
  • Charles Halton, ed., Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?
  • David Bosworth, The Millennium and Related Events
  • Stephen Travis, Starting with the New Testament
  • Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Academic reading (articles, essays):

  • J. Daryl Charles, “Angels, Sonship and Birthright in the Letter to the Hebrews.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33.2 (1990): 171-78.
  • James R. White, “Is Your Modern Translation Corrupt? Answering the Allegations of KJV Only Advocates.” CRI Journal 18.3 (1996): 20-27.
  • Walter Kaiser, Jr., “What Commentaries Can (and Can’t) Do.” Christianity Today 24 (1981): 24-27.
  • David G. Horrell, “Who Are ‘The Dead’ and When was the Gospel Preached to Them? The Interpretation of 1 Pet 4.6.” New Testament Studies 49.1 (2003): 70-89.
  • Benjamin Edsall & Jennifer Strawbridge, “The Songs We Used to Sing? Hymn Traditions and Reception in Pauline Letters.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 39.3 (2015): 290-311.
  • Calvin Roetzel, “The Judgment Form in Paul’s Letters.” Journal of Biblical Literature 88.3 (1969): 305-132
  • Abraham Malherbe, “The Holy Spirit in Athenagoras.” Journal of Theological Studies 20.2 (1969): 538-42.
  • William J. Deane, “The Growth of the Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body Among the Jews.” The Expositor (2) 7.3 (1884): 190-204.
  • A.P. Salom, “The New English Bible Translation of 1 Thessalonians.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 1 (1963): 91-104
  • Sydney Allen, “On Schedl’s Attempt to Count the Days of Daniel.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 4.2 (1966): 105-06.
  • Tremper Longman III, “What I Mean by Historical-Grammatical Exegesis–Why I Am Not a Literalist.” Grace Theological Journal 11.2 (1990): 137-55.
  • Loren Stuckenbruck, ” ‘One like a Son of Man as the Ancient of Days’ in the Old Greek Recension of Daniel 7,13: Scribal Error or Theological Translation?” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 86 (1995): 268-76.
  • H.J. Cadbury, “Gospel Study and Our Image of Early Christianity.” Journal of Biblical Literature 83.2 (1964): 139-45.
  • Norman R. Gulley, “Progressive Dispensationalism: A Review of a Recent Publication.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 32.1 (1994): 41-46.
  • Hans K. LaRondelle, “Paul’s Prophetic Outline in 2 Thessalonians 2.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 21.1 (1983): 61-69.
  • Sakae Kubo, “Review Article: The New Revised Standard Version.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 29.1 (1991): 61-69.
  • Kenneth Strand, “The Two Witnesses of Rev 11:3-12.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 19.2 (1981): 127-35.
  • Gerhard Hasel, “The Book of Daniel: Evidences Relating to Persons and Chronology.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 19.1 (1981): 37-49.
  • Gerhard Hasel, “The Book of Daniel and Matters of Language: Evidences Relating to Names, Words, and the Aramaic Language.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 19.3 (1981): 211-25.
  • Jacques Doukhan, “The Seventy Weeks of Dan 9: An Exegetical Study.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 17.1 (1979): 1-22.
  • Abraham Malherbe, “A Physical Description of Paul.” Harvard Theological Review 79.1-3 (1986): 170-75.
  • W.D. Davies, “Reflections on the Mormon ‘Canon’.” Harvard Theological Review 79.1-3 (1986): 44-66.
  • John L. White, “Saint Paul and the Apostolic Letter Tradition.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45 (1983): 433-44.
  • I.I. du Plessis, “Once More: The Purpose of Luke’s Prologue (Lk 1.1-4).” Novum Testamentum 16.4 (1974): 259-71.
  • Gordon H. Clark, “Wisdom in First Corinthians.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 15.4 (1972): 197-206.
  • Kenneth A. Kitchen, “The Chronology of Ancient Egypt.” World Archaeology 23.2 (1991): 201-08.
  • John Lyons, “The Fourth Wave and the Approaching Millennium. Some Problems with Charismatic Hermeneutics.” Anvil 15 (1998): 169-80.
  • Mark Sidwell, ” ‘Come Apart and Rest a While’: The Origin of the Bible Conference Movement in America.” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 15 (2010): 75-98.
  • Joseph Plevnik, “1 Thessalonians 4,17: The Bringing in of the Lord or the Bringing in of the Faithful?” Biblica 80.4 (1999): 537-546.
  • E. Calvin Beisner, “Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?” Christian Research Journal 28.2 (2004): 50-51.
  • Andrew Lincoln, “The Promise and the Failure: Mark 16:7, 8.” Journal of Biblical Literature 108.2 (1989): 283-300.
  • Paul Raabe, “Daniel 7: Its Structure and Role in the Book.” Hebrew Annual Review 9 (1985): 267-75.
  • Vern Poythress, “Comments on Mark Strauss’s Response.” Westminster Theological Journal 74 (2012): 133-48.
  • Vern Poythress, “2 Thessalonians 1 Supports Amillennialism.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37.4 (1995): 529-38.
  • Vern Poythress, “Genre and Hermeneutics in Revelation 20:1-6.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 36 (1993): 41-54.
  • J.C. Coetzee, “Christ and the Prince of this World in the Gospel and the Epistles of St John.” Neotestamentica 2 (1968): 104-21.

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This refers to those items where I willingly subjected myself to mental torture.

jabs with bad analogies

For the past couple of weeks I’ve seen more and more people (or groups) taking pot-shots at Christians, trying to make it look silly or inept. It might be because we’re a few days away from Christmas and that’s what normally happens. But it appears as though, because there is not a huge show-stopping crapumentary on the Discovery Channel or H2 or whatever about Jesus, the attempts have been reduced to quick jabs–or sucker punches, if we’re honest–given for a cheap thrill or an easy laugh.

Earlier this month, Conan O’Brien gave this little quip (about 5:28 in):

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A few days later, I saw these images floating around, the first slightly more subtle than the second:

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(Whether people stole it from Conan and rejigged it or Conan got it from these images is not really my concern. Frankly, I don’t care).

There are two initial problems with these kinds of claims. First, they are not fair to the discourse that needs to happen concerning the refugee crisis. In fact, these types of claims not only politicize the crisis, which is insulting those who truly need refugee, but also reveal that at least one side of the debate is happily wearing its “ideological blinders”.* The other side might be, but they are not as expressive or honest about it.

Second, these sorts of political jabs are uncalled for, primarily because they operate on a faulty premise and a crap analogy. For those who have done their homework, it will be obvious that the image of Mary and Joseph frantically looking for housing in Bethlehem only to be turned away repeatedly until some gruff inn-keeper’s wife Gibbs-slaps him and make him offer the barn; that is nothing but sensationalized tradition. The historical and textual evidence about the birth narrative does not support such view.

Moreover, there is nothing to suggest that Mary and Joseph situation was anything comparable to the refugee crisis. Mary and Joseph were not trying to flee their home country and find safe harbor in another. They were simply traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the purposes of taxation. If we wanted to say anything (admittedly in dramatic terms), we could say they were being “hunted down” in the same way that the IRS wants our money each April. But they were not under threat for their lives because of the ethnicity, nationality, religious beliefs, etc. To say otherwise betrays a lack of understanding about the data and an inability to make an appropriate analogy.

The refugee crisis is admittedly an awful situation, one that has created a rather heated debate with varying and often conflicting responses. It is a situation that needs to be taken seriously and it is one that deserves conscientious and respectful discussion and action. It is one where all sides of the debate need to come together and shut up and listen openly and fairly. And it is a situation that most certainly deserves more respect than being used as one side of a crappy analogy for the purposes of taking cheap-shots at Christians. Such one-lines are good for a laugh and caricaturing a group of people, but they do nothing for moving the discussion forward. It’s school-yard antics. It’s weak. It’s empty. And it’s hypocritical.

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* Taken from “West Wing”.

approaching 50. a bit of catharsis.

Developmentally, 50 is a landmark number. However, diversity reigns when people attempt to define the value of this landmark. On the one hand, most fear its ominousness; some dread its arrival; others succumb to its reality and effects; and few choose to waste away in its prison. On the other hand, there are those who meet it with fortitude; those who embrace it as a new lease on life; those who see it not as an anchor but a badge of honor; and those who (repeatedly) seek to redefine perceptions of it–i.e. “50 is the new 40”, “…the new 30”, “…the new 25”, etc. Yet in the midst of this diversity, there is one constant: the definitions and/or perceptions are ultimately choices; they are not predetermined assignments from which there is no escape. Thus, those who feel confined by negative conceptions and perceptions of turning 50 are free to abandon such things and embrace more positive views. While it is that simple (in theory), it is admittedly not easy (in practice). And while some might not make the needed choice, the difficulty of it cannot be used as a legitimate reason for refusing to act.

I’ve still got a little ways to go before I reach 50. In just a small handful of months, I will turn 39. But I am nearing a different kind of 50–one that has brought with it many of the negative sentiments that come with human development. The 50 I’m referring to is the number of “No”s I’ve received in my search for full-time employment.* Since March 2009, I have kept a log of all the jobs I’ve applied for and the reasons why I failed to score an academic post. (Admittedly, a few of these attempts were part-time positions, but I applied with the hope that they would become full-time). In 2011, I broadened my search to include ministerial positions, because that is a vocational option we will not rule out. But that list pales in comparison (only 4)–i.e. the bulk of my applications have been academic.

When I reached 20 “No”s (near the middle of 2012), a cloud of anxiety and uncertainty began to descend. I not only started questioning why I was not successful but also started (subconsciously) nursing doubts about my abilities and worth. By the time I achieved 30 (near the end of 2013), the questions and doubts gave way to annoyance and frustration–primarily because, by that time, I saw several people (roughly the same age, with roughly the same credential [sometimes less]) easily landing jobs. Candidly, there were a few times when, “What the crap?!” gushed from my lips and I was  tempted to quit trying and do something entirely unrelated to the nearly 10 years of educational training I endured. When I reached 45 (near the middle of this year), melancholy set in for a while and then it transformed into a sense of numbness. I simply got to a point where I had to shut down emotionally from the rejection. Doubts, questions, frustration, and tears got me nowhere. Why not try apathy? After all: if I didn’t care, I couldn’t get hurt. But then something happened. Or, I should say: someone.

Right after my 47th rejection, my lovely wife came to me with a healthy (and necessary) dose of supporting love and brutal honesty. She said she noticed an obvious change in my person, and it was a change that she watched developed over a couple of months. At first I rejected the idea, but I quickly realized that such a rejection was masking what I knew to be true. As soon as the mask fell, everything came out. There was nothing to stop the flood. For the first time in a long time, I admitted that I was fighting feelings of insufficiency, ability, and even worth. I confessed that I was deeply hurt, I was in pain, I was angry, and that I loathed applying for jobs because I already knew what would happen. And it was in this release of thoughts and emotions that I finally realized something: in this area of my life, I was faithless. I didn’t say this, but my wife sensed it and spoke directly to it. She reminded me not only of God’s definition of me, but also the faithfulness he has displayed throughout my life–especially in the past few years. In not so few of words, she showed me that my imprisonment was my own making. I put myself there and I decided to stay there and complain about the circumstances. And she was dead right.

That night, after our conversation, I realized (and remembered) that my perceptions about my situation–i.e. failure to secure a full-time job–were my choices. I chose to have doubts, questions, frustrations, sadness, anger; I chose to devalue to my worth, my abilities, and my contributions. And I (stupidly) chose to opt for a faithless approach. Because I chose these things, I failed to see that because they were choices, I could choose to see things otherwise. But before that could happen, I had to make a more immediate and foundational choice: I had to choose to trust in God’s provision and faithfulness. I had to choose to surrender inadequate views of myself and embrace the indescribable reality of his person and the incomprehensible abilities he has to (re)shape who I am. I had to choose to decrease so that he might increase. I had to choose to rest secure in his Yes when others say No.

I knew such choices would be difficult, but they had to be made. Failure to make them was not only hurting me but also expressing doubt in God. Thus, my prayer that night was not simply one of rescue but also renewal. I needed forgiveness and restoration. I needed God to help my unbelief. That has remained my prayer. And since praying, I have sensed his answer: I am more at peace than I have been in years. I am learning how to see myself (again) as a new creation in Christ–a vessel to be shaped and used for his purposes and glory. And I am being strengthened to choose the ways of God over all other competing ways of defining self and success. So I’m ready for 50, no matter the outcome.

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* This list exclude the four “Yes”s I’ve received since the same time; although those are/were not full-time academic positions.