Et tu, Challies? (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Tim Challies responded here in the comments, at Collin Garbarino’s blog, and added a comment on the Teresa of Avila post:

Note: Readers pointed out that initially I did not properly cite Wikipedia’s entry on Teresa of Avila; I appreciate having that pointed out and added a footnote as appropriate. It was clearly marked as a quote in my research notes but that did not make it to the article. As for the general tone of the article, it is meant to be informational more than biographical, by which I mean I do not provide exhaustive information about the false teachers; most of my interest is in the false teaching. Of course this does not excuse sloppy or inaccurate information and this article did not adhere to the standards I would want it to. I am traveling this week and, being away from my usual routines and my usual reference works, allowed myself to be sloppy in both research and writing. It would have been far better to save this for another week and to ensure it was of better quality. I will attempt to revisit this article soon and to do a better job of it. For the next few days I am in Australia preaching two to three times a day and I need to prioritize that (I’d really appreciate your prayers in this time as I have not adjusted well to the fourteen time-zone difference and am extremely tired); I will return to the article after I return to Canada. In the meantime, please do forgive me for my sloppiness.

Challies also said he would speak to David Kjos about his response to Collin.

————————– (Original post starts here)——————————

There is a little dust up happening at Tim Challies blog surrounding plagiarism and Protestant-Catholic disputes.

Collin Garbarino has the story:

Challies is in the middle of a series on false teachers. Some of the posts are helpful, some less so. This morning’s post was less so.

In this morning’s post, he denounces the mysticism of Teresa of Ávila. I’m not a fan of Theresa’s writings, but even so I was disappointed with Challies’s lack of engagement with her texts. It was as if he had never even held one of her books in his hand.

And then I started Googling.

It turns out that he copied and pasted, with slight rewording, a section of the Wikipedia entry on Teresa.

You’ll need to go to Collin’s post to read the comparison between Challies summary of Teresa of Avila’s views and the Wikipedia entry but Collin is right, they are nearly the same. For instance, Wikipedia’s entry says:

The “devotion of union” is not only a supernatural but an essentially ecstatic state. Here there is also an absorption of the reason in God, and only the memory and imagination are left to ramble. This state is characterized by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of at least the higher soul faculties, or a conscious rapture in the love of God.

Then Challies writes:

Devotion of Union. The devotion of union is a supernatural, ecstatic state in which human reason has become absorbed in God and only memory and imagination remain unclaimed. This is a state of bliss and peace where the higher faculties experience a sweet rest and the devotee experiences conscious rapture in God’s love.

Paraphrased but the main words are the same with the order of presentation the same. Elsewhere the phrasing is identical. See Collin’s post for the entire section.

I wrote Challies and his assistant contacted me this morning. In fairness to him, he is in Australia and apparently has not had much internet access. Also, he tweeted a response to Collin’s question about the appropriateness of the citation. Challies acknowledged that it was not appropriate and said he would fix it.

 

Of course, a link to Wikipedia should have been in place at the beginning, but at least he intends to correct the matter.

However, there is more to the story. Collin pointed out the plagiarism in a comment on Challies’ blog but then spent more time addressing what he perceived to be distortions about Teresa of Avila. His comment was initially removed and then restored:

It doesn’t seem that you are familiar with Theresa beyond a cursory Google search. Perhaps you have read all her books, but it doesn’t sound like you actually understand her in this blog post. As a matter of fact your discussion of her teaching is almost word for word the Wikipedia entry on Theresa’s teaching.

Moreover, you wrote: “She left behind a significant number of books including The Way of Perfection(1583), and The Interior Castle (1588), which many regard as a masterpiece of spiritual autobiography alongside Augustin’s Confessions.”

First, she didn’t really write that many books.

Second, you seem to have misunderstood this sentence from the Catholic Encyclopedia at newadvent.org: “The account of her spiritual life contained in the “Life written by herself” (completed in 1565, an earlier version being lost), in the “Relations”, and in the “Interior Castle”, forms one of the most remarkable spiritual biographies with which only the “Confessions of St. Augustine” can bear comparison.” Most of her spiritual autobiography actually occurs in Life Written by Herself. Interior Castle is more of a guide book.

I would never defend Theresa’s writings, but if you’re going to condemn someone as a false teacher in the public square, you should actually engage with the texts yourself. It takes longer, but it will do you and your reader more good.

Initially I thought his comment was removed because he pointed out plagiarism, but I think it had more to do with his fairness toward the Teresa of Avila. Moderator David Kjos wrote in response to another commenter:

Thanks for the heads-up. I checked him out, and it seems you’re right. Another contrarian troll weeded out.

According to Collin, he is now banned from commenting there, or in other words, he has been “weeded out.”

If Collin had posted repeatedly without reading what Challies wrote (we’ve had a few of those here), then moderation of comments is in order; but in this case, Collin posted an informed perspective and made a true observation. For that, he becomes a contrarian troll.

I hope Challies fixes more than the plagiarism when he returns.

See also:

Mark Driscoll’s Citation Errors at a Glance

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