Eric Metaxas Appears to Minimize His Part in Spreading False Bonhoeffer Quote

In 2016, I discovered that this famous quote could not be found in any of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

The quote attributed to Bonhoeffer was popularized by Eric Metaxas after it was published on the jacket of his best selling book on Bonhoeffer in 2010. To my knowledge, until yesterday, Metaxas has never addressed the false attribution even though it came to his attention in 2016.

First, I need to give a little background.

A week ago, Christianity Today published a fine article by Jen Wilkin on lessons from the life of Tamar. In it, Wilkins used the quote as follows:

There is a line we often hear attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Twitter user Matt Stephens tweeted a link to the article and pulled out the quote with attribution to Bonhoeffer. Assistant Professor of Ministry Leadership at Bethel University Andy Rowell responded by linking to my post showing that the quote didn’t come from Bonhoeffer. He also included author Jen Wilkin in his tweet.

Wilkin replied that she believed her handling of the quote preserved “the uncertainty of the quote’s origin while appreciating its message.” She also added later this statement, possibly meant in jest:

I think the fact that Mr. Stephens simply attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer indicates that Wilkin’s approach didn’t communicate sufficient uncertainty about the quote’s origin. Furthermore, it occurs to me that she would have had a chance to educate a lot of people if she would have left Bonhoeffer out of it. In my opinion, CT and Wilkin should make a correction in the article.

At some point, Eric Metaxas was added to this Twitter thread and responded to Jen Wilkin with the following tweet:

While it is true that the quote is not in the Bonhoeffer book and did appear on the jacket, it is also true that Metaxas included the quote in his other books spun off from the original (e.g., study guide, Miracles). He also tweeted it, led the book promo video with it, and used it in his public speaking appearances. For instance, here is a speech where Metaxas used and attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer even though he admitted he didn’t know the source.

This is in 2014. Even though he couldn’t find a source, he attributed the quote to Bonhoeffer anyway. Now the quote will never die.

Additional note: I recently learned that Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition took on fake quotes and included this one.

Stephen Haynes points to research from Warren Throckmorton (here and here) tracing the quote to a 1971 book by Robert K. Hudnut.

Wax’s conclusion about this quote:

The truth is, it’s not a Bonhoeffer quote. So don’t spread it.

Good advice.

More on the Bonhoeffer quote:

The Popular Bonhoeffer Quote That Isn’t in Bonhoeffer’s Works

Update on a Spurious Bonhoeffer Quote: Not to Speak is to Speak, Not to Act is to Act

Eric Metaxas: The Fake Bonhoeffer Quote Was a Joke

No Correction on Bonhoeffer Quote from Metaxas or Publisher

Eric Metaxas Sides with Russians over U.S. Dept of Justice in Maria Butina Case (UPDATED)

David Barton (left), Eric Metaxas (right)

Yesterday, Eric Metaxas tweeted this defense of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina (see my post about her case):

Butina was charged in July with attempting to advance Russian interests via the development of contacts within the Christian right, the National Rifle Association and the Republican party. Last week, she struck a plea agreement in which she admitted her guilt in exchange for a reduced sentence. About 97% of such cases end up in a plea agreement.

Read Maria Butina’s Plea Agreement

In 2015, Metaxas interviewed Butina on his radio program. With the two tweets shown above, he has come to her defense. In doing so, Metaxas has adopted the position of the Russian government over his own. The only people espousing the view that Butina was kept in or threatened with solitary confinement and forced into a plea are Russian authorities and their sympathizers. According to the Voice of America fact checking website Polygraph, Butina and her attorney said in court that she was allowed visitation and time out of her cell.

During the hearing for the change of plea Butina and her lawyers denied any physical or psychological pressure telling the judge the decision to enter the plea deal was voluntary.

Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll told the court his client is allowed a “time out of her cell, daily activities and visitations, including those from the representatives of the Russian foreign ministry,” and that she is “doing well and competent.”

In addition to her own statement and her lawyer’s statement, we have a transcript of a pre-trial conference call where it is clear that Butina’s rights were respected. Not only did Butina get counsel about the nature of her right to a plea agreement, she had another attorney advise her when her own attorney thought there might be a conflict of interest. In the transcript, it is clear that Butina had been talking to other inmates and had been allowed to talk to others, including journalists, on monitored phone calls.

Metaxas’ tweet is interesting in that he implies he has information that isn’t public. “Wait until the whole truth comes out,” he pleads. Somehow he knows something about her faith he tells us. Has he spoken to her? He should enlighten us about his sources. The only sources I can find for the story that she has been kept in solitary confinement or threatened with any unusual treatment is Russia Today and the Russian Foreign Minister.* As noted above, those claims fly in the face of what Butina and her lawyer told the judge in the plea agreement hearing (although in November her attorney did claim she had been in solitary confinement at least some of her stay in jail. The U.S. Attorney’s office did not confirm or deny it).

Given what we have learned over the past year about Russian disinformation campaigns in the U.S., it doesn’t seem prudent or wise to trust the word of Russian authorities. While I don’t accept everything anyone tells me without examination, I reserve the highest level of skepticism for Russian claims. There is a high likelihood that these stories of torture and threats of unusual solitary confinement are aspects of an ongoing disinformation campaign the Russians have cultivated among conservative Christians (see this Christian Post article). Sadly, without providing any evidence, Metaxas is helping the Russians promote their position.

*(UPDATE: In November 2018, Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll claimed in court that Butina had been held in solitary confinement for 22 hours at a time for a combined 67 days. There was no confirmation of this claim by the Justice Department. In her plea agreement hearing, Driscoll and client told a different story.

Having come across this media report, I am prepared to revise my position. I will wait to get more information now that Maria Butina’s gag order has been lifted and her plea deal becomes clearer. I would also like to hear from the Justice Department. When I contacted the DOJ, the answer was “no comment.”

Also in Maria Butina’s request to remove the gag order (which was successful) her attorney wrote:

Importantly, the sentencing has not yet occurred, and the government holds in its sole discretion the determination of whether the defendant has offered “substantial assistance” to other investigations and will evaluate, as will the court, the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility. Thus, the defendant and her counsel have no incentive to publicly contradict the Statement of Offense or her guilty plea or otherwise take issue with the plea, nor to discuss any aspect of possible cooperation.

In other words, Butina isn’t going to debate or dispute the governments account of her treatment or whether or not she was forced to enter a plea deal. She and her attorney already said she did so voluntarily.

Image: Twitter

Eric Metaxas Defends Russian Agent; Says Maria Butina’s Plea Agreement Was Forced

David Barton (left) Eric Metaxas (right)

Eric Metaxas is coming to the defense of an admitted Russian spy, Maria Butina. Apparently, Metaxas doesn’t believe his former talk show guest is a spy. Rather, he believes the government threatened her with a year in solitary confinement which led her to a forced plea agreement. No word from Metaxas how he knows any of this. Here is his tweet disputing Butina’s plea agreement (see my post about her admission to spying for the Russian government).

Read Maria Butina’s Plea Agreement

For Metaxas to believe Butina’s agreement was forced, he has to believe the Dept. of Justice is incredibly corrupt. Butina was represented by counsel and agreed that she was an agent of Russia in violation of federal law.  Her plea agreement refers to various documents which they have in their possession. They have text messages and emails with the information described in the plea agreement.

I don’t know how Metaxas will explain Butina’s agreement. Did the DOJ kidnap this girl and pin an espionage charge on her? Did the DOJ make up all of these events and communications? Did they really threaten to keep her in solitary confinement for a year if she refused to sign a false statement? Is her attorney in on the conspiracy too?

 

Eric Metaxas Plans to Interview Steve Bannon – Yawn?

What’s going on? The New Yorker planned to interview former Donald Trump strategist, alt-right leader, and nativist Steve Bannon at one of their events and social media erupted with protest and cancellations of subscriptions. Within hours, the magazine canceled Bannon’s talk and said sorry.

In reaction on a recent segment of his radio show, Trump cheerleader and evangelical author Eric Metaxas extended an interview invitation to Bannon and not much happened. On that same show, Metaxas hosted alt-right queen Ann Coulter. Mr. Metaxas has had Ms. Coulter on his show for friendly interviews before.

Metaxas considers Brit alt-right poster girl Katie Hopkins his “hero.” Milo Yiannopolis has been his friendly guest as well.

These are not interviews which challenge the guests on their alt-rightness.

Obviously, it is his show, he can do what he wants. I am just surprised that there is no backlash or consequence for going full alt-right. Mainstream Christians will continue going on the show as if nothing else is going on in the culture.

Nothing to see here.

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Image – Fair use

Donald Drains the Swamp – New Book by Eric Metaxas

After books on Christian heavyweights Bonhoeffer and Luther, Eric Metaxas tackles the heaviest weight of them all – Donald the Caveman. I haven’t seen a pre-publication copy as yet, but I can only imagine the wonders within this prehistoric prose.

I do wonder how Metaxas will delicately handle a full treatment of Donald the Caveman’s swamp draining. How, for instance, will he depict the Access Hollywood episode and all that grabbing?

The Stormy Daniels payoff chapter should be a delicate one for a children’s book. Maybe the book will carry a parent’s advisory.

Will there be an entire chapter on Donald the Cavemen’s golf escapades? You have to fill the swamp before you can drain it, I guess.

How about a chapter about the S***hole countries, the very fine neo-Nazis, John Dean the rat, our allies the enemies, and his good friend and mentor Vlad.

Should be amazing.

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Fair use of image from Amazon book page.

Eric Metaxas Says Katie Hopkins is His Hero

As yet another indicator of how far into the alt-right Eric Metaxas has drifted, here is a recent love tweet to British nativist Katie Hopkins.

In no universe should Katie Hopkins be called sweet or be anybody’s hero.

Final Solution

She lost her radio show after tweeting that a “final solution” was needed for Muslims.

Euthanasia Vans

In 2015, she advocated euthanasia for the elderly in nursing homes, telling interviewer Michael Buerk that she would deploy “euthanasia vans” if she ruled the world. According to Metaxas’ hero:

“We just have far too many old people.” Did I know that one in three NHS beds was being blocked by the elderly and demented? A third of our hospitals filled up by people who don’t even know they’re there? She’d soon put a stop to that. “It’s ridiculous to be living in a country where we can put dogs to sleep but not people.” Her solution? “Easy. Euthanasia vans – just like ice-cream vans – that would come to your home.” After they’d finished in the hospitals, presumably. “It would all be perfectly charming. They might even have a nice little tune they’d play. I mean this genuinely. I’m super-keen on euthanasia vans. We need to accept that just because medical advances mean we can live longer, it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

Sweet.

She thinks racial profiling is a “good thing,” doesn’t mind being called a racist, promotes the white genocide conspiracy theory, and advocated using gunships to thwart migrants coming into the UK. She called refugees “cockroaches.”

Regarding Metaxas’ tweet, I don’t know what he refers to by removing Trump by “any means necessary.” Numerous people have called for impeachment, but this is a Constitutional means and well within our republican government.

Metaxas’ devotion to Trump has taken him to some dark places when he considers a person like Katie Hopkins “sweet” and a “hero.”

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A Wild Metaxas Appears!

We haven’t checked in with Eric Metaxas lately. Let’s see how he’s doing.

It appears he’s about the same, maybe a little worse.

It is sometimes hard to follow Twitter so here’s what happened. First, Metaxas retweeted Wayne Grudem’s biblical defense of Donald Trump’s wall (see my take down of that article here), calling it “A Sane View of the Border Wall Controversy.” Then law professor John Inazu responded:

I wonder at what point in the United States’s genocidal westward expansion Metaxas and Grudem would argue a wall would have been biblically justified.

Good question. What if the Bible had been the holy book of the Chickasaw people?

Then, Metaxas responded to Inazu:

When did you arrive?

Reaction was swift and negative to Metaxas’ insensitive tweet.

Here is a sampling.

Nate Pyle and Katelyn Beaty are Christian authors and Beaty is former editor of Christianity Today.

In contrast to Metaxas, Inazu did stay classy and gave Metaxas a little history lesson:

Since coming out for Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign, Metaxas has bewildered his supporters with his move toward nativism. Metaxas eventually removed the offensive tweet without apology.

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Oren Paris III Resigns as Ecclesia College President, Enters Conditional Guilty Plea in Kickback Scheme

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Ecclesia was unaccredited. I have corrected it to reflect that the school is accredited by the Association of Biblical Higher Education but is not regionally accredited which is the gold standard for academic accreditation. 
…………………………………….
Watch out, shoes are dropping in the Ecclesia College kickback case.
Arkansas Online today reports that Oren Paris III resigned from his post as president of Ecclesia College and entered a last minute conditional

Ecclesia College

guilty plea in the kickback and bribery case which came to light early last year. Along with State Senator Jon Woods, and consultant Randall Shelton, Paris was indicted in federal court on March 1, 2017 for allegedly participating in a scheme to funnel state improvement funds through Ecclesia to Woods and Shelton. State representative Micah Neal was also in on the alleged plot and earlier entered a guilty plea.

Read the Indictment Here

Ecclesia College is an Christian school in Springdale AR which has the support of Christian nationalists David Barton and Eric Metaxas. The school is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education but is not accredited by the Higher Learning Commission which covers schools in Arkansas.
Initially, Paris was defiant and claimed he would be vindicated. Although Paris entered a guilty plea, the move may have been a legal maneuver, according to media reports. His trial was slated to begin Monday and Paris may be hoping to revisit his status if an appeals court overturns Judge Timothy Brooks decision not to dismiss the case.

Read the Plea Agreement Here

In the plea agreement, Paris admits that he “knowingly obtained GIF [General Improvement Funds] money for the College under materially false and fraudulent pretenses.” Paris then caused funds to be paid to Randall Shelton knowing that some of those funds would end up back with Senator Jon Woods in a kickback. By entering a conditional guilty plea to one count, Paris has thrown Shelton and Woods under the bus.
Incredibly, Ecclesia College is standing by Paris, writing on the school Facebook page:

Dear friends,
As you know, Dr. Oren Paris and two others were indicted a little over a year ago by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. For Oren, his immediate family, and the extended family at Ecclesia College, this has been a period of spiritual trial, eased by an ever increasing gratitude for God’s constant presence and His great faithfulness.
While we continue to believe firmly that Dr. Paris has been honest and forthright in his statements from the beginning of this case, he and his legal team are now convinced that the best path forward is to accept a conditional plea agreement negotiated with the government. We stand with him in his decision.
Information recently brought to Dr. Paris’s attention has shed new light on facts he previously knew but had interpreted differently. This enables him to truthfully make the statement required by the government. The terms of the conditional plea agreement clear the path for an appeal to be filed with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to address some the issues raised during the course of this case that have caused us all great concern regarding the appearance of fairness of the judicial system. In the meantime, while Dr. Paris will be stepping down as president of Ecclesia College until his name is cleared in order to avoid further unnecessary distraction from the College’s mission, he will continue to serve Ecclesia.
We know and trust that God is moving on our behalf toward His ultimate answer to our ongoing prayer for His deliverance. Please continue to pray with us that the upcoming appeal will lead to a fully just outcome in the end.We are completely confident that God has every individual and this institution in His all-capable hands. To the faculty, staff, and students operations will continue as normal. We look forward to seeing Him in and through this situation for the overall good and promising future of Ecclesia College.
For His glory,
EC Board of Governance

It is very difficult to square the plea agreement with this statement from the Board of Governance. If his statement to the government is true, then he “knowingly obtained GIF money for the College under materially false and fraudulent pretenses” and “knowing and intentionally engaged in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Arkansas of the honest services of Arkansas state Senator Woods.” (See image below from page 4 of the plea agreement)

This case is not over. Senator Woods and Randall Shelton still must go to trial and no doubt they will have something to say about Paris’ involvement.
 
 
 

Dennis Prager, Eric Metaxas and the Surpassing Moral Good of Evangelicals

Eric Metaxas loves him some Dennis Prager. After Jon Ward’s profile of Metaxas as a Donald Trump supporter came out on Friday, Metaxas heartily recommended Prager’s defense of evangelicals who support Trump on Saturday. In his National Review article, Prager wrote, “this Jew would like to defend Evangelicals and other Christians who support President Donald Trump.”
After chastising never-Trump evangelicals, Prager said that God used prostitute Rahab to help bring the Israelites into the promised land. If God can do that, why can’t evangelicals get over Trump’s moral failings? The punch line of the piece is:

Evangelicals realize that the moral good of defeating the Left is of surpassing importance.

Is that so? Is such a defeat what we are here to accomplish?
A few minutes of reflection bring up several problems with Prager’s summary of evangelical moral good. Who is The Left? At one time, the left was the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. was considered the Left by conservatives. Many Christians agreed the races shouldn’t mix or be treated equally. Should this movement have been defeated, Mr. Prager?
To many conservatives, The Left includes people who want a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. However, many evangelicals also favor inclusive policies. Ronald Reagan favored inclusive immigration policies. Was he a part of The Left to be defeated?
On Saturday, Mona Charen was booed when she blasted the Republican party for overlooking the sexual harassment allegations against President Trump. She had to escorted from the event due to concerns for her safety. She also stood against the outrageous presence on the program of Marion Merechal-Le Pen. Le Pen claims to be the political heir of her Nazi and racist grandfather. Yet, CPAC welcomed her with open arms. Trump is aligned with CPAC. Is Mona Charen, a lifelong Buckley conservative, now a member of The Left because she opposes Trumpism?

Thou Shalt Defeat The Left?

Here is another puzzle. Where is it written in the Scripture that Defeating The Left is of surpassing importance? We are supposed to treat others the way we want to be treated. We are supposed to teach disciples in all nations. We are supposed to love God and then our neighbor as ourselves. Those without sin can cast a stone but if we have sin, we have to drop them. There is talk of salt and light. Somebody help me find this Defeat The Left passage.
Even though I believe Prager and by extension evangelicals who think like him are wrong about the surpassing moral importance of defeating the Left, I do think he put into words one of the Great Commandments of Trump Evangelicals.
On Metaxas’ Facebook page, he said he likes Prager so much, he is thinking of proposing marriage. That is legal of course, but it would violate his old religion, but perhaps not his new one. Since Prager is Jewish and Metaxas is Christian, they would be of different faiths. However, now that Metaxas is with his new evangelicalism striving to defeat the left, perhaps such arrangements are just fine.

Yahoo News: Eric Metaxas' House of Mirrors

In a remarkable Yahoo News article, Jon Ward gives the public a look into the thinking of Eric Metaxas as he defends himself against his critics.

David Barton (left), Eric Metaxas (right)

Metaxas is the author of books on Bonhoeffer, Wilberforce and most recently Martin Luther. Much to the puzzlement of many, Metaxas is also a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump. In his email exchange with Metaxas, reporter Ward sowed sharp questions about Metaxas’ support for Trump and reaped Metaxas’ whirlwind of projection and self-justification. You must read the whole thing at Yahoo and then hop on over to Medium where Jon reproduced the email exchange in full.
I could pick out many aspects of this exchange, but Ward’s piece is so clear that little commentary is needed. I will simply hit one or two high spots and then end with some commentary on Metaxas’ rant about Messiah history professor John Fea.

House of Mirrors

Ward summarized the email exchange:

To read Metaxas’ email was like entering a house of mirrors. It was not Trump who had aroused and played upon xenophobia as a candidate by his endless talk of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and his slur of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and his talk of banning all Muslims from entering the country. Rather, “Beltway and Manhattan elites” were engaged in a “new and accepted tribalism and xenophobia” against “white European ‘Christian’ varieties” and in favor of Islam.

Ward really captured the contradiction in Metaxas later in the article:

Metaxas firmly planted himself on the side of the common folk against “elites.” He protested the “patronizing” and “fundamentally un-American” attitudes of media gatekeepers, who he said believe “many Americans are too uneducated or too gullible to properly understand all that confusing news in its raw form.” But when it came to the topic of Trump’s many racially charged comments dismissing or demeaning minority groups, Metaxas didn’t hesitate to take the view of an elite who knew what was better for those communities than they did themselves.

Trump, Metaxas said, “has been perceived as wrong by certain groups, by many groups. We need to take that perception seriously, but just how seriously is the larger question. Are we not living in a time when everyone is far too easily offended, so much so that we are taking our eyes off what actually matters, off actually solving the real problems of people rather than giving politically correct lip service to those problems?”

When you attack Metaxas or Trump, you’re patronizing. When Trump attacks, the other side is too easily offended.

Hitlery Clinton

More contradiction comes via Metaxas’ opinion of Hillary Clinton. On one hand, he wrote to Ward:

Christians who think the Church in America might have survived a Hillary Clinton presidency are something like the devout Christian Germans who seriously and prayerfully thought it unChristian to be involved in opposing Hitler because to do so would have dirtied their hands with politics,…

He even once tweeted “Hitlery Clinton” but in the email exchange he told Ward: “Nor do I mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, but the principle at issue is the same nonetheless.” If he didn’t mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, then why bring up Hitler?

John Fea and the Beast of Revelation

Despite his complaints of being pilloried, he did not hesitate to pillory. His response to a question about historian John Fea’s spot-on critique of his book If You Can Keep It is a case in point. Ward asked in part:

The greater point is that Fea thinks you make a common mistake of many evangelicals, that of confusing America with the kingdom of God. This is a complex and nuanced point. A firm rootedness in one’s citizenship in heaven should not produce passivity or fatalism about one’s community or nation here on earth. But the critique of culture warriors often is that they cling too tightly to worldly outcomes because the two categories (kingdom of God and America) have become almost unintelligibly mixed or combined. Do you think you have done this in any way?

Metaxas snorted in response:

Mr. Fea’s critiques have not only not persuaded me, they have helped me see more clearly why what I said in my book If You Can Keep It is necessary to communicate to as many Americans as possible at this time in history. If I could give a copy of that book to every American — or at least to every young American — I would do so. Mr. Fea’s misunderstanding on this central issue — one that particularly seems to plague academics — is at the heart of our problems as a culture and as a church.

To mix these very separate categories is a great sin indeed, but such sins must be in the eyes of the beholder. I am afraid Mr. Fea has committed the opposite sin in being so enamored of a certain anti-populist and anti-American narrative — which view is so trendy in the Academy that he should be concerned about having accepted it himself — that he falls into the category of those who find any healthy celebration of patriotism as like unto worshipping the Beast of Revelation.

Metaxas did not answer the question. All he did was attack Fea’s character and his patriotism. If Metaxas wants to elevate discourse among Christians, perhaps he should start with himself.
Those new to the criticisms of Metaxas’ historical errors in If You Can Keep It should go back and read the many critical reviews of the book by Christian historians (herehere, here, here, here). These critiques documented the many historical problems in the book. At the time, he doubled down on the errors and aligned with David Barton against the critics.
I believe historians writing about this period of history will find Ward’s article quite helpful as a window into the evangelical split over Trump. Agree or disagree with Metaxas, I think and he and Ward deserve thanks for being willing to put this conversation before the public.
Another list of critiques of Eric Metaxas’ If You Can Keep It
John Fea’s series
Tracy McKensie’s blog
Gregg Frazer’s review
My article in the Daily Caller
My blog posts addressing the errors