Still No Correction from Eric Metaxas or Thomas Nelson on Popular Quote Misattributed to Bonhoeffer

Yesterday, Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer biographer Eric Metaxas closed his Wall Street Journal op-ed supporting Donald Trump with this paragraph:

A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.

This paraphrase — “Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless” — of a quote Metaxas has incorrectly attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded me that Metaxas and publisher Thomas Nelson have not answered several requests going back to early August to provide a citation or correct their attribution for the quote.  The popular quote — 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 — was attributed to Bonhoeffer on the back flap of Metaxas’ biography of the German  pastor published in 2010 but cannot be found in any of Bonhoeffer’s works. Since then Metaxas has included the quote in some of his Bonhoeffer resources and attributed it to Bonhoeffer in various public appearances.
Early on in my research of this quote, I contacted Metaxas via Twitter and his website to ask for a citation. He did not respond. I also asked a couple of mutual friends to ask Metaxas about the source of the quote. There was no response given to these people. I wrote publisher Thomas Nelson three times with no response. Given ethical principles in publishing, I believed that Metaxas and Thomas Nelson would either provide a source or issue a correction. However, that has not happened.
About corrections, the Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines state:

This means the editors should
1.2. strive to meet the needs of readers and authors;
1.3. strive to constantly improve their journal;
1.4. have processes in place to assure the quality of the material they publish;
1.5. champion freedom of expression;
1.6. maintain the integrity of the academic record;
1.7. preclude business needs from compromising intellectual and ethical standards;
1.8. always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed.  (emphasis added)

I think the last three principles are relevant to this situation. Even though the quote is a good one, it can’t be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. The integrity of the academic record is involved. Even though it might be better for business if a perception of perfection is offered to the public, publishers and authors should “always be willing to publish corrections, clarifications, retractions and apologies when needed.” Unless they can produce a citation from Bonhoeffer, a correction is needed.
So after weeks of seeking a source (others have as well) or correction, I continue to look for an ethical response from Metaxas and his publisher.

Thomas Nelson Contract: Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage Advance Was $400,000

Cash
Image courtesy of sheelamohan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wenatchee the Hatchet has a copy of the 2011 agreement between Mark and Grace Driscoll’s LLC (On Mission, LLC) and Thomas Nelson to publish Real Marriage. Dusting off my Mars Hill sources, I conclude it is legit. In it, we learn:
-The Driscolls received an advance of $400,000.
-The book had a working title of “A New Marriage with the Same Spouse.”
-The contract calls for the Driscolls to pay for corrections. I wonder if they did since corrections due to citation errors had to be made.
-Mars Hill could have gotten thousands of books through Driscoll at an 80% discount. Instead, Mars Hill’s contract with Result Source called for the church to purchase 11,000 copies at an adjusted retail price so the numbers would count toward the New York Times best seller list. According to this contract, those royalties went to the Driscolls via On Mission.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that being the pastor of a church willing to develop a marketing campaign for your book (see that also at WtH) which includes a preaching series (with research done by consultants) and full support from a marketing team (paid for by tithes) is a really sure way to become wealthy.
This reminds me of the qualms expressed by the Communications Team at Mars Hill Church in 2011 before the executive elders committed church money to the Real Marriage campaign.
RMGiving1pager
 
Mark Driscoll isn’t the only one who found financial gain in megachurch service. David Jeremiah does something like this once a year.

Robert Morris Scrubs Reference to His Doctorate of Literature

Earlier this month, I pointed out that Robert Morris referred to his honorary degree from his own university (The King’s University) as a “doctorate of literature.” This sounds like a real earned doctorate but in his case it is not. Morris has not completed any college degree and has acknowledged using ghostwriters to write his books.
Since that post, Gateway Church’s website has been scrubbed of references to the “doctorate of literature.” For instance, here is the previous church bio, before the post:
RobertMorriswdoctorate
If you go to Morris’ church bio now, you will see that the reference to the doctorate is missing.
Robertmorriswodoctorate
It has disappeared from the Facebook page as well. It does still appear on this Amazon author’s bio as well as a smattering of places around the web. It does not appear on the Gateway website. There has been no comment from Morris or Thomas Nelson just crickets and scrubbing like it was never there.
 
 

Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris Claims to Hold a Doctorate of Literature

Robert Morris has built a megachurch in Southlake Texas which has been rated as the third largest church in America.  Given that significant accomplishment, it seems that self-inflation would be unnecessary. However, in his upcoming book published by the Thomas Nelson imprint of HarperCollins Christian, Morris includes a version of his bio which includes a description of a “doctorate of literature” he claims he holds.  See below from the upcoming book, Truly Free:
MorrisDoctorateLiterature
I wrote the church and Thomas Nelson to ask if this “doctorate of literature” was an earned doctorate. Repeated requests were not answered. This “doctorate” is most likely to be an honorary doctorate of letters given to Morris by the small Bible school housed in his church — The King’s University. Morris is currently the chair of the board of the school.
An earlier 2011 bio described Morris’ doctorate as a “doctor of letters” awarded by TKU. This would have been about a year after TKU’s board awarded it to him.
morrisdoctorateletters
This description of the doctor of letters is closer to the reasons why such honorary degrees are given. However, this bio is still misleading. According to Morris, his main work, The Blessed Life, was ghostwritten. He told his Gateway audience in January of this year that a member of Gateway (David Holland), wrote the book based on on recordings which Morris made in a hotel room.  He said the ghostwriter helped him with several books. As it turns out, Morris was given an honorary doctorate for writing books he didn’t actually write.
I understand that many celebrities don’t write their own books, but it is misleading to consider those celebrities to be accomplished writers. They may have good ideas and have enough money to afford to pay a good writer but those books aren’t representative of the author’s writing ability when the listed author didn’t write them.
So in his new book published by Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins Christian (as well as the bio on the church website), Morris claims to hold a doctorate of literature when in fact, he was given an honorary doctorate from his own school for books he didn’t write.
When it was discovered that Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage achieved New York Times best seller status via a marketing scheme, Driscoll stopped using “NYTs best selling author” as a description. That was a commendable move. Of course, the proper thing to do for both publisher and author is to present an accurate description to the public.
The ongoing story of Christian authors embellishing their reputations demonstrates the importance Christian leaders place on peripheral persuasion. Perceived expertise is one of several powerful factors operating via the peripheral route to persuasion. Persuasion theory posits two primary routes to persuasion — central and peripheral. In central route strategies, the persuader offers facts and figures with accuracy being important. An assumption is made that the audience is motivated to carefully consider arguments for and against a proposition.
However, in peripheral route strategies, the assumption is that the audience isn’t highly invested in the process but will nonetheless make a decision or render an opinion. Peripheral route tactics influence people to say yes or make a decision for reasons other than the merits of the case. In the situation above, the publisher and author have embellished credentials to communicate expertise in the service of selling books. There may be more personal motives but the effect is that audience members who are motivated by perceived expertise will attribute expertise to Morris due to the embellishments.
Unfortunately, it appears these kind of tactics are embedded features of evangelical and conservative expressions of Christianity.
UPDATE: Just found this article by Phil Cooke on honorary degrees. Bottom line: One should not refer to the degree as if it was earned, or use Dr. in reference to oneself unless one has an earned doctorate.

HarperCollins Christian Published Kevin Malarkey's Second Book

Today, HarperCollins Christian Publishers released a marketing email for their heaven tourism book, Heaven Is for Real, in the face of the failure of Tyndale House’s book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. In short, HCC is standing behind the Colton and Todd Burpo’s story.
As it turns out, another one of HCC’s authors is Kevin Malarkey, the author of the now discredited The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.
Marlarkey’s second book (with agent Matt Jacobson), titled Beautiful Defeat, is available now on the HCC website.
Alex Malarkey’s retraction undermined the credibility of the entire enterprise involving Kevin Malarkey and Matt Jacobson and so I wonder if the collapse of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven presents any problems for HCC.
 

The Great Confrontation of 2012: David Barton and the Evangelical Historians

In August 2012, Thomas Nelson (now part of Harper Collins Christian) pulled David Barton‘s book The Jefferson Lies from publication. This rare move by Thomas Nelson took place in the midst of efforts by several people to confront Barton with his errors. While I cannot tell the whole story (in part because I don’t know it and in part because the main players are not willing to discuss it completely), I can provide a little more insight into the situation. The door was opened to this by a footnote on David Barton’s website and other vague references to a series of meetings that took place in 2012. The footnote is on the page where Barton claims to explain false quotes from his first book. Barton says this:

Although many people, including several respected academics, have told David that they admire his honesty and transparency, others have attempted to use this practice against him. For instance, in a recent critique of David’s work, Professor Gregg Frazer of The Master’s College writes:

“Having been confronted over the use of false quotes, Barton was forced to acknowledge their illegitimacy in some way on his website. There, he describes them as “unconfirmed” – as if there is some doubt about their legitimacy. In a computer age with search capabilities, we know that these quotes are false – the fact that they are listed as “unconfirmed” reflects a stubborn attempt to hold onto them and to suggest to followers that they might be true. That is made worse by the fact that under these “unconfirmed” quotes are paragraphs maintaining that the bogus quote is something that the person might have said.” 2

What an interesting reward for trying to be honest and transparent.

Barton’s claim to be “honest and transparent” requires much more attention, but for the purpose of this post, let me move on to Barton’s description of the source of Gregg Frazer’s words. In the footnote, Barton explains the source of Frazer’s quote:

From a hostile written review of David Barton and WallBuilders written by Gregg Frazer at the request of Jay Richards. That written critique was subsequently passed on to David Barton on August 13, 2012, by the Rev. James Robison, to whom Jay Richards had distributed it. 

After Jay Richards read my book with Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third Presidenthe asked ten Christian historians to read both The Jefferson Lies, and then our book. Richards wanted to get expert opinions on the facts in each book. He also asked Gregg Frazer to review Barton’s DVD, America’s Godly Heritage (which is still for sale on Barton’s website).
With Frazer’s permission, the complete review of America’s Godly Heritage is now available here.
As is clear from an examination of the paper, Frazer did not look at each one of the quotes in Barton’s first book. He specifically examined the DVD series America’s Godly Heritage. Even though the DVD is still for sale, Frazer found faulty quotes in it.
As Barton says in his footnote, this paper was presented to Barton by James Robison surrounding the time when his book was pulled by Thomas Nelson (August 2012). Robison is an apostolic elder at Gateway Church and host of the television show Life Today. As this footnote reveals, Robison was in on the confrontation as was Richards and the Christian historians. While I don’t know specifics, some met with Barton at his ranch where he rejected their advice and counsel. Furthermore, Barton met with at least one leader at the Family Research Council in August 2o12. In that meeting, Barton’s errors were confronted with promises from Barton to provide corrected material. However, nothing happened on Barton’s end until the Family Research Council was confronted by numerous Christian historians in the Spring of 2013.
Despite numerous clear factual errors, FRC continues to have Barton involved in their presentations to pastors. As Politico documented in 2013 (Sen. Ted Cruz defends Barton in this article), Barton has been accepted back into the good graces of the political arm of the Christian right (e.g., this apologetics conference).
The awareness of Barton’s systematic distortion of the nation’s founding is well known at the highest levels of the Christian political right and yet many such groups continue to promote Barton as an exemplary historian.  Because the Christian right is aware of the problems but continues to feature Barton as an historian, the “great confrontation of 2012” has turned into the “great cover-up of the present.”
More to come: Gregg Frazer’s review of America’s Godly Heritage is a devastating critique of this popular DVD program. It has been read by high level decision makers on the Christian right and ignored. I urge readers to read it and pass it around. I intend to give it more attention by focusing on various highlights in upcoming posts.

Crossway Books Condemns Manipulation of Bestseller Lists

Monday and Tuesday, I wrote about three Christian authors (David Jeremiah, and Les & Leslie Parrott) who have used help from ResultSource CEO Kevin Small to attain their publishing success. Mars Hill Church’s contract with ResultSource to elevate Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage shook public trust in that church. Perry Noble, pastor of New Spring Church, has admitted to using ResultSource to elevate the position of one of his books. There are other authors of books published by Christian publishers who use the ResultSource schemes.
Until recently, ResultSource’s methods were wrapped in mystery. However, with the disclosure of the contract between Mars Hill Church and ResultSource, the public got a look at the service purchased by authors who want New York Times Bestseller status. Essentially the author pays ResultSource to purchase a large quantity of books which ResultSource will send to addresses supplied by the author. If the author doesn’t provide enough addresses in the right geographic areas, then ResultSource will supply them. ResultSource deliberately uses methods which overcome obstacles “to the reporting system” (i.e., deceives the bestseller list). See the excerpt from the contract below for the details.
I asked three Christian publishers — Tyndale House, Harper Collins Christian, and Crossway — for opinions about the use of ResultSource. Tyndale House’s Todd Starowitz told me he would reply when publisher Ron Beers returned from a trip. However, Tyndale did not respond further. HarperCollins Christian did not respond at all. Only Crossway, speaking generally about list manipulation and not individual authors, provided an answer:

From our point of view at Crossway, the bestseller lists are designed to provide an accurate reflection of the market’s response to an author and his or her book. If an author, agent, or publisher intentionally tries to subvert or distort the intended purpose of the bestseller lists, we believe this would constitute an ethical violation, in terms of standard ethical norms, but even more so in terms of Christian ethics. This would be dishonoring to the Lord (to whom we are ultimately accountable), and it would also conflict with our calling to love our neighbors as ourselves (by not creating a distorted or deceptive picture of reality). Christian authors, agents, and publishers are called to a high standard of integrity as we seek to glorify God, not only in the content of what we publish, sell, and market, but also in the way in which we go about this calling.” — Justin Taylor, senior vice president and publisher for books, Crossway 

I think Taylor cuts to the heart of the problem with manipulation of bestseller lists. The lists should provide a snapshot of the public response to a book. The public at large seems to see the lists as indicating broad public interest and even quality. However, as it stands, what the list provides is unclear. As the extent of manipulation by Christian and non-Christian authors unfolds, the list may be more of a shadowy glimpse into who has sufficient money to purchase their way into a fiction. Taylor calls the manipulation what it is: unethical. Taylor calls the Christian publishing world to a higher standard. The defense that everybody’s doing it is no defense at all.
Back in June, David Jeremiah’s non-answer to Marvin Olasky’s question about list manipulation provided an insight into another bogus rationale.

Marvin Olasky: TheNew York Times for its bestseller list counts sales from a bunch of secular stores; I understand there’s a company that will go in and buy several books in each of these bookstores. The companies that do that spread the release point of these books that are purchased by individuals so they can get attention. Is that legitimate?
David Jeremiah: The bottom line is you’re selling these books and they’re just not getting noticed. If you want the books to be noticed so that you can reach more people with them, you’ve got to figure out how to do that. I don’t know all of the ramifications of it, but I know that you can’t just write a book and say I’m not going to have anything to do with marketing. If you don’t care enough about it to try and figure out how to get it in the hands of other people, nobody else is going to either.

If you want your books to be noticed, you have to do something about it. It is stunning that David Jeremiah, a man who provides daily bible advice about a host of topics, can say unchallenged that he doesn’t “know all of the ramifications of it.” Dr. Jeremiah, fellow Cedarville University alum, let me ask you to read Justin Taylor’s statement about the ramifications. Let me hasten to add that I don’t know exactly how Jeremiah worked with ResultSource. However, given the direct question about manipulation of sales asked by Olasky, it is disappointing that Jeremiah did not answer it directly.
If he is really unsure of the implications of Olasky’s question, then Dr. Jeremiah should also read Jared Wilson’s article, “What’s Wrong with Buying Your Way onto the Bestseller List. Wilson provided five reasons the practice is wrong:

  • It’s dishonest
  • It’s egocentric and lazy
  • It may eventually harm your reputation and will bug you in the long run
  • It’s poor stewardship and bad strategy
  • It disadvantages those actually gifted.

See also the comments of the Director of Communications for the New York Times.
At the end of the day, it should not be hard for Christian leaders to understand why fooling the public with a purchased persona is wrong. When Mark Driscoll’s deal with ResultSource came to light, the church initially called it an opportunity, then unwise, then wrong. Eventually Driscoll removed the designation of NYTs best selling author from his bio. What should other authors do who have used this scheme? What should publishers do? At Crossway, there doesn’t seem to be any problem with understanding the ramifications.
 
Excerpt from the contract between Mars Hill Church and ResultSource. The entire contract is here.
RSIMHCone
 
For another inside look at ResultSource in the context of business publishing, see Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s article.

Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Update: Dan Allender Gets a Footnote in Real Marriage

In January 2014, I noted that Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins Christian added Dan Allender’s name to the Acknowledgments section of Mark & Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. Use of Allender’s styles of relating without citation was one of the early allegations of plagiarism made by Janet Mefferd after the infamous November, 2013 interview.
In my post demonstrating the addition of Allender’s name to the Acknowledgments section, I expressed my view that the publisher should also add a footnote to the section where Allender’s material was used. Now I see that sometime since that post a footnote has been included along with a mention of Allender in the text of Real Marriage (although with an error in grammar). See below for the before and after images:

This modification vindicates the concerns expressed at the time and is yet another indication that the statement from Tyndale House about plagiarism in Driscoll’s books was inadequate. For future reference, publishers can use this chart to find a substantial number of other corrections that should be made. For instance, Crossway publisher has yet to correct Driscoll’s use of Allender’s conceptualization in Death By Love.

 
 
 

Spokesperson: Thomas Nelson Working With Driscolls to Address Real Marriage Citation Issues

I asked Harper Collins Christian Publishing Director of Corporate Communications, Casey Francis Harrell for comment regarding when the print edition of Real Marriage would reflect the changes now seen online. In response, Ms. Harrell said in an email:

We are aware of the issues that have been raised about Mark and Grace Driscoll’s REAL MARRIAGE, and we are working with the authors to address them as efficiently and effectively as possible in all formats.

Thomas Nelson has addressed two of the several issues which have been raised here and elsewhere.

Publisher Thomas Nelson Alters Mark Driscoll's Book Real Marriage To Correct Citation Problems

On January 9, I compared a section of Mark & Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage to Justin & Lindsey Holcomb’s book Rid of My Disgrace. In that post, I noted that the Driscolls did not give adequate credit to the Holcombs for some material adapted from the Holcombs’ book on recovery from sexual assault. While some supporters of Mark Driscoll have minimized concerns about plagiarism and  inadequate citation, the publishers involved apparently consider the problems to be important. First, Thomas Nelson added an acknowledgment to Dan Allender* in Real Marriage and now the publisher has made more changes in the book to more appropriately cite the Holcombs’ work.
The image below shows the original version compared to the Google version (p. 125) now online:

With these corrections, Thomas Nelson addressed the precise issues that I pointed out in the January 9 post. The current version is much better and gives appropriate credit to the Holcombs.
Thomas Nelson should get some credit for this reaction to concerns over plagiarism. In contrast to Tyndale House, Thomas Nelson apparently viewed the citation of the Holcomb’s work as less than market standards. Recall that Thomas Nelson pulled David Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies when it became clear that the book was filled with factual errors. Now, they have taken a less drastic course but nonetheless tacitly acknowledged problems which require action.
I would say that the several publishers involved have a lot more work to do to make appropriate corrections. Now that Thomas Nelson has moved to make these changes, Tyndale House may feel additional pressure to rethink the findings of their investigation regarding citation of Peter Jones’ work in A Call To Resurgence.
*This now shows up in the Google version as well.
UPDATE: Thomas Nelson issued a statement to me today regarding the changes being made to Real Marriage. Click the link to read the statement.