In part one concerning accusations against Voddie Baucham and his book Fault Lines, I argued:
Baucham’s misquotation and misrepresentation of Delgado and Stefancic is a serious error, not a minor formatting mishap.
The controversy online appears to have died down, and while the lack of present controversy may generally be a good thing, the reason appears to be that most everyone with some interest has taken the side of their own camp. This has left the work of addressing the remaining issues largely unfinished. In this post, I will attempt to finish addressing what remains.
The Founders Ministries Interview
On the same day that we published part one, Founders Ministries released an episode of its podcast, The Sword and the Trowel, where pastors Tom Ascol and Jared Longshore interview Baucham concerning the controversy. To be brutally honest, I don’t recommend wasting your time listening. After doing my own examination of it, I put out a Twitter thread upon which I will elaborate here. I will “plagiarize myself” here from the linked Twitter thread from time to time just to keep from inundating you with quotation marks.
Baucham does not appear to have intended to plagiarize or to commit the errors that he committed. However, he also did not own up completely to the errors committed. Moreover—and this is why I’m recommending you not bother watching it—Ascol and Longshore’s contributions to the discussion are worse than useless. They unnecessarily malign McDurmon where they could have instead stayed above the insults, “heaped a few coals” so to speak, and just allowed Baucham to state his side of the issue.
Concerning formatting, Baucham states that it should have been “obvious” that the block of text in question was not a block quotation. I believe this is already refuted in part one of this series given the inconsistent use of quotation marks. These quotation formatting issues also obscure which words are supposed to be Delgado’s and which are supposed to be Baucham’s, an issue that Baucham never fully owns. Finally, Baucham’s importation of other ideas from critical race theory not presented in Delgado/Stefancic causes them to be misrepresented. This in particular is never even acknowledged. I emphasize: the block of text is introduced as representing Delgado and must therefore be treated as such.
Instead, the interview spends a good amount of energy (1) unnecessarily maligning McDurmon instead of point out what was correct or incorrect, and (2) defending Baucham by placing an overemphasis on the paragraph that Baucham got correct and his apology to Delgado.
Finally, concerning the plagiarism issue, only Baucham really knows what happened. He denies that he intentionally plagiarized James Lindsay, which any fair-minded person can believe, but nothing is said about the possibility of unintentionally plagiarizing Lindsay. Further, that Lindsay believes he wasn’t plagiarized is a terrible argument. Lindsay has every incentive to remain in the good graces with the anti-woke Christians who have embraced him in spite of his atheism, so I don’t take his word strongly at all. (I would much rather listen to John McWhorter, an anti-woke atheist who doesn’t care what conservatives think of him.)
The Question of Salem Media Group
Another issue we are now forced to consider is the role of Salem Books, which is publishing both Fault Lines and what effectively is its sister book, Christianity and Wokeness by Owen Strachan.
The principle of equal scales is important to consider here. If the publication of a doctrinally bad book or even many bad books were enough to write off a publisher, we might be in a lot of trouble. Here at Things Above Us, we’ve written concerning a book about Spurgeon’s sermons and a book that in part advocates taking bibles away from individual Christians. Both were from Intervarsity Press. Both Kat Armstrong’s No More Holding Back, which argues for full egalitarianism, and various editions of The MacArthur Study Bible (which…um…don’t) are Thomas Nelson publications. If you dig deeper, both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson are imprints of HarperCollins Christian Publishers, which is obviously a division of HarperCollins, which owns Avon (the publisher—not the cosmetics MLM), which publishes The Satanic Bible. Oh man, “Servυs Chrisτi” was right all along! [/sarcasm]
Baucham and Strachan have come under fire for publishing with Salem Books. Some tweets have pointed out that Salem Books is an imprint of Regnery Publishing, a politically conservative publisher. It is also true that Regnery Publishing is a division of Salem Media Group, a conglomerate whose properties include conservative news commentary sites like Townhall and Hot Air, Christian websites like Bible Study Tools and Crosswalk.com, church products such as Sermonsearch—where one can purchase sermon manuscripts, and Salem Radio Network. SRN administers many conservative talk radio personalities (e.g. Dennis Prager, Sebastian Gorka, current California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder, Eric Metaxas), conservative radio stations mostly under the nickname “The Answer,” Christian talk stations, and contemporary Christian music stations. As publisher for both Baucham and Strachan, Salem was also heavily involved with the Wokeness & the Gospel Conference not far from my location. In fact, video from the conference is on their streaming service, Salem Now.
All of the above was true prior to the most recent controversy and prior to the response from Salem Books head Tim Peterson. Bob Smietana quotes Peterson’s response in his piece at julieroys.com:
“The blogger’s claims of poor documentation and plagiarism in Fault Lines are not well-founded. McDurmon’s weak argument is based on his preference for quoting in an academic style of documentation and formatting, rather than the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard for popular-level works published not only by Salem Books but also for most of our peer publishers in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association,” Peterson said in an email statement.
“It is common for academics to write both popular-level works and academic works and use different documentation styles accordingly. It is unreasonable for McDurmon to demand academic documentation in a popular work and it undermines his overall critique of Baucham’s assessment of Critical Race Theory.”
The second sentence of Peterson’s statement here is just plain false. Chicago is an academic style and is the same thing as Turabian, which I used for my entire time in seminary. And then nothing else gets addressed.
Where To From Here?
Any further works from Salem Books that I read, if any, will be met with enhanced scrutiny. I was halfway through Strachan’s Christianity and Wokeness when this controversy broke, and I simply cannot continue my read without starting over and combing very slowly. But I might not. I might just drop the read entirely.
It is one thing when a secular publisher with a Christian division publishes bad theology but is otherwise capable of exercising honesty and control with respect to basic publishing standards such as citations. It is another when a publisher releases outright false and misleading statements in order to protect its product and its side in a culture war debate. And too few conservatives are holding their own side to account, choosing instead to just fight the culture war as if we were secularists.
I left the Wokeness and the Gospel conference mostly encouraged but still a little skeptical of the Salem organization that put it on. Now I’m just discouraged.
To sum it up, Fault Lines still has a lot of merit to it. Regular Things Above Us readers will get a lot of enjoyment and benefit from it. But I cannot endorse it, not without something else that earns confidence.