Rachel Miller's malice against Pastor Doug Wilson...

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[Note added by TB on May 25, 2016: Here's how Rachel Miller's feminist supporters have just summarized Son Joseph's blog post below: "the Bayly Blog post that accused Rachel Miller of countless sins — albeit without evidence." Well, read on for the non-evidence.]

When Rachel Miller took over the Aquila Report, longtime readers noted a decline in the site's Biblical commitments. Ms. Miller pushed the edge of the doctrinal envelope in a number of places, yet it was possible to think it was simply her attempt to liven up the site.

But then there was sex. This is the place where Satan is focussing his attack on God's law today, and it became apparent that Ms. Miller's editorial leadership was most toxic here. She showed her feminism on the Aquila Report, but Ms. Miller kept the worst parts of her sexual rebellion for publication on her own website titled A Daughter of the Reformation.

Feminists who want to hold onto conservative Christian credentials claim they submit to their husbands at home, in private. Occasionally they trot their husbands out online to testify to their submissiveness at home. But in their online attacks on men, these women take no prisoners. You can see it on all the Reformed sites: women condemn pastors and elders without a hint of modesty or shame.

No one suffers from these attacks more than Pastor Doug Wilson. Some of their attacks are focussed on...

Pastor Wilson's connection with federal vision and paedocommunion, but the vast majority are aimed at Wilson's faithful teaching of God's Creation Order of Adam first, then Eve; and of the outworking of that order in man's Divine call to lead and woman's call to submit to his leadership.

In her attacks on Pastor Wilson, Ms. Miller has left her feminist sisters behind, outdoing them all. Her vitriol is astounding. More recently, she seems a bit unhinged, publicly calling (even on the Aquila Report) for all Christians to abandon Classical Christian Education, whether at home, in a private school, or in a co-op. Pastor Wilson's association with Classical education is poisonous, she says, and thus this form of education must be left behind until it is disentangled from Pastor Wilson's name and leadership.

Now I'm not particularly committed to classical Christian education in the education of our children. We aren't going to be using it next year, although the past two years we have been a part of a Classical Conversations group. During those two years we never heard Pastor Wilson's name mentioned and none of his materials or books have been suggested or assigned.

What about Ms. Miller's hostility against Pastor Wilson's teaching on sexuality? Do Classical education groups display Pastor Wilson's Biblical commitments, here?

I wish I could say Pastor Wilson's Biblical commitments concerning sexuality were more pervasive in the movement as a whole—as Ms. Miller fears. Sadly, her concerns are unfounded. In fact, I'd say her fears are bordering on irrational.

Ms. Miller's hatred for Pastor Wilson is most transparent and unseemly in her constant attempts to discredit him through charges of plagiarism. Now, she's at it again. For the second time, Rachel Miller is loudly broadcasting her charge that a book with Wilson's name on the cover is filled with plagiarism.

When Miller makes these charges, she does it with a ton of screenshots of highlighted pieces of text. All the colored highlighting is intended to show the readers, at a glance, how much plagiarism has been committed. If you stick to a glance and you're not color-blind, it appears damning. Few people will be bothered to read the texts and compare them, evaluating whether the colored pictures are actually what Ms. Miller claims they are.

Running a text through a tool that searches the internet for similar texts is guaranteed to turn up many false positives. For example, we ran my Dad's book, Daddy Tried, through one of these tools and it reported twenty-three percent of the book was plagiarized.

Fortunately, Ms. Miller didn't see and publish the report because none of the text of Daddy Tried was actual plagiarism. All of it was on the order of Scripture quotations that other people also used ("For God so loved the world"), excerpts from confessions and catechisms ("I believe in God the Father Almighty"), and self-quotations where the software found Dad's writing on Baylyblog and reported sentences in the book had been taken from his blog—stuff like that.

You can see how an undiscerning eye might be very alarmed by the software's conclusions. Imagine a posting of the plagiarism software's report highlighted in this and that color and placed side by side with the text of Daddy Tried. According to the software, almost a quarter of the book is plagiarism. Case closed.

No one's going to bother examining the text. Pictures are worth a thousand words, they say, so Dad and his editors and publishers would spend the next month defending Daddy Tried. Against a conviction (or better, a fatwa) issued by Judge Rachel.

But who knows? Since this is now the third time Pastor Wilson has been accused of plagiarism, maybe there's something to her accusation? You know, where there's smoke. The third time's the charm.

So I decided to check it out. This time she is alleging that the Omnibus books—a history curriculum for Jr. High and High School students in six volumes—has large amounts of plagiarism. The books were co-edited by Doug Wilson and have his name on the cover, hence Ms. Miller feeding them to her plagiarism software.

Thinking Ms. Miller would want to start strong, I looked closely at her first picture. Likely it would contain some of her most damning examples of plagiarism.

Ms. Miller reports that her first picture demonstrates six separate examples of plagiarism. Each of the six examples is taken from a sidebar (or text insert) in Omnibus Volume 1, published in 2005.

Here is the first example of what Ms. Miller says is plagiarism. The highlighting is Ms. Miller's:

The Sumerians held that the primeval sea existed first and within that the heaven and the earth were formed. The stars, planets, sun and moon were formed between heaven and earth.

Ms. Miller claims this passage was plagiarized from the following text which came from this web page:

Ancient Sumerian hymns and myths provide a picture of the universe's (anki) creation. The Sumerians believed that a primeval sea (abzu) existed before anything else and that the heaven (an) and the earth (ki) were formed within it. The boundary between the primeval sea and the earth (a flat disk) was a solid vault, within which was the gas-like atmosphere (lil). The stars, planets, sun, and moon were embedded in this solid vault.

Seriously? This is her leading example?

Nobody in their right mind would call this plagiarism. Yet Ms. Miller leads with this example, saying it is a "representative sample of the over 100 instances of plagiarism" she and her software found.

Ms. Miller is simply mounting a smear campaign based upon lots of deceptive pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words. Who bothers to scrutinize texts and web sites when they can glance at a picture and have their judgments confirmed that Pastor Doug Wilson is a thief and a liar?

Ms. Miller relies on these facts and takes advantage of them. One person comments below Ms. Miller's piece, "If an editor can’t easily think of six different ways to word any particular sentence, he shouldn’t bill himself as a “wordsmith.”" Ms. Miller's response?


What can I say? Even assuming the writer of this first example reproduced above had read the second passage beforehand, it would be hard to come up with a better example of wordsmithing that avoids plagiarism. Somebody grasping at straws for a possible accusation might respond that the idea was stolen; or maybe that the original author needed to be cited no matter how the words were written.

But where did the idea come from?

Not the author of the other website Ms. Miller claims the example was stolen from.

The idea came from the Sumerians. Duh! No citation is necessary. Duh!

Well, so much for that. Ms. Miller's plagiarism case started with a bad cornerstone, but I decided to persevere. Her first picture had five more examples for me to check out.

Now then, her second example was printed in the Omnibus book inside quotation marks. This doesn't bode well for Ms. Miller's claim that the text was plagiarized.

What is the text?

It's the first two lines of what we refer to today as the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation myth. And as I said, Omnibus publishes the excerpt from the Enuma Elish inside quotation marks. They describe it as "the Babylonian story," it appears in a section from Omnibus on creation myths, and they put the myth inside quotation marks!

It's hard to fathom how the Omnibus editors could have been more clear, nor how they could have done a better job of indicating their source.

Imagine a textbook that had different ancient texts dealing with creation, one of which was presented as "the Hebrew story" and read "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth."

Would Ms. Miller read this text and accuse Pastor Wilson of plagiarizing some other web page that had the same quotation from Genesis inside quotation marks?

Of course she would. Ms. Miller's software would tell her it was plagiarism, so she'd blithely take a picture of it, highlight it in red and yellow and orange, and put up a blog post with the headline, "Doug Wilson can't seem to help himself. He's plagiarizing again!"

What about Ms. Miller's third example?

This example is a brief description of a Hindu creation myth printed in Omnibus (Volume 1) back in 2005. Ms. Miller censures Omnibus and its editors for plagiarizing the myth, stating they stole the myth from a website. What Ms. Miller failed to notice, though, was that this website didn't exist until June 19, 2010. Did you get that? Ms. Miller says Omnibus's editors stole from a future publication!

This is getting hysterical, but I kept at it.

After spending some time on it, I was unable to find where the myth actually came from. It appears to be another ancient text translated into English by someone sometime. With some slight variations, the text appears in many places, but always without citation. Is it actually a Hindu creation myth?

Since that's what everybody in the world calls it, it must be so. Anyhow, Omnibus cited the text the same way everyone else cites it.

Ms. Miller's fourth example is a single sentence describing the Egyptian creation myth. Within that sentence appear the words "the swirling watery chaos." Once again, Rachel Miller claims the words originally appeared on a website and Doug Wilson's Omnibus stole those words. In this case she attributes the Omnibus words to a website that didn't exist until November 1, 2006—one full year after the Omnibus book was published (in 2005).

Should I keep going?

Working hard to cover Ms. Miller's shame, let's suppose we found the words "the swirling watery chaos" on a website sometime before 2005. Would this be proof of plagiarism?

No, it wouldn't. These four words are themselves the Egyptian myth. Thus these are the words to use if we want accurately to convey the Egyptian concept in its most basic form. The modern teacher is not at liberty simply to change the ancient idea he is teaching. You leave the words alone because you want your students to learn them and recognize them and doing so is not stealing somebody else's work and passing it off as your own. Ms. Miller's claim that this is plagiarism is absurd. 

Ms. Miller's next example concerns the description of the Egyptian myth. Later, in the same sentence cited above, the Omnibus text reads, "the primordial god represented in the form of a human and a serpent." She claims this was plagiarized from the following text:

"Creator-god worshiped at Heliopolis. He represents the primordial aspect of the creator-god, finding his ideal solar counterpart in Re. Whereas Re represents the sun at the height of his daytime force, Atum is his senescent form; but he is ready to be reborn in Kephri, the sun coming into being. Under the name of Re-Atum, he becomes a model for all the gods who wish to display their creative nature. He is represented in the form of a human and a serpent. He was the supreme god in the Heliopolitan Ennead (group of nine gods)."

Why are we even having this conversation?

Oh oh oh! He used the word "primordial"! Somebody else already used that word. Now nobody else can use it without citing him or it's plagiarism!

Ok. Um... noted. 

Let's move on to the first slide's final example. This time we're looking at a short quote from the Shabaka Stone, an ancient Egyptian text also translated into English. In Omnibus, the text is one and a half sentences long and enclosed in quote marks. Ms. Miller claims it was plagiarized from somebody at the University of Vermont. Yet on the web page she cites, the translation is incorrectly attributed to M. Lichtheim in Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings. In point of fact, it comes from J.A. Wilson in ANET.

Really, though, who cares? This is not plagiarism. This is quoting the standard English translation of yet another very ancient document. No one has stolen anything—certainly not Pastor Doug Wilson!

As it happens, some good soul tried to explain this to Ms. Miller in the comments section of her blog.

Ms. Miller responded, "Quoting from a translation without giving credit is still plagiarism." To support her accusation, Ms. Miller cited this quote "from a Harvard article":

When you put source material in quotation marks in your essay, you are telling your reader that you have drawn that material from somewhere else. But it’s not enough to indicate that the material in quotation marks is not the product of your own thinking or experimentation: You must also credit the author of that material and provide a trail for your reader to follow back to the original document.”

Note that Ms. Miller simply places this excerpt within quotation marks. She gives no citation for this citation saying citation is necessary. Oops.

A minute later Ms. Miller tries to correct her mistake by adding a link to the article in a separate comment. I clicked her link, but oops again. It isn't a link to any "Harvard article". Instead, it's a link to another article Ms. Miller herself wrote.

At this point, the reader will understand I decided I wasn't going to look through every slide. Some people have looked through all of them thoroughly and reported to me privately that, in the omnibus of accusations made by Ms. Miller, almost all of them are false charges. Only a couple indicate a need for the editors of Omnibus to make some changes in future editions.

It's also clear almost all the text Ms. Miller says was stolen was not the product of Omnibus's authors or named editors (like Pastor Doug Wilson). Rather, it was text inserted later in the editorial process by unnamed copywriters trying to make the textbook more interesting for Jr Highers. It was sidebars, images, captions, etc.—those frivolities that make a textbook more fun to look at; less daunting.

Why does this matter? Because Ms. Miller is trying to smear Doug Wilson—not Omnibus's publisher. But once again, the images Ms. Miller trots out, upon examination, melt away. This big campaign Ms. Miller has mounted against Pastor Wilson ends up embarrassing herself, mostly; and in a couple of cases, some other people who have made innocent mistakes.

What about the many, many, many false charges Ms. Miller makes?

Ms. Miller doesn't care about collateral damage. It seems clear Ms. Miller will toast anyone and anything if she thinks doing so will harm the reputation of Pastor Doug Wilson.

Veritas Press?

They publish something by Doug Wilson. Burn 'em down.

Classical Christian Education?

Doug Wilson is in favor of it. Burn it down. 

But that brings us to a larger point that needs to be made about Ms. Miller's accusations. Consumed by her hatred, she's burned herself down. Why do I say this?

Because Ms. Miller does exactly the same things on her blog that she is calling out as "plagiarism" in the Omnibus curriculum. Many of the passages she includes on her website are incorrectly cited by her as coming from random websites. If improperly citing a source is plagiarism, what is improperly citing the wrong source while you're accusing somebody else of plagiarism?

The Omnibus failed to put the name "Enuma Elish" in the text, but at least they correctly attributed it to the ancient Babylonians. By contrast, Ms. Miller attributed it to a post on the ₦airaland Forum entitled "The Real Truth Behind Origin Of Human Beings" by somebody calling himself Saklekplus.

Ms. Miller places a lot of weight on the "Harvard article" to prove the guilt of Pastor Wilson, but there are two things she doesn't seem to realize.

First, it proves rather less than she claims (as we will see). Second, if she does want to force it to mean this much, she catches herself in the net she has laid for Pastor Wilson. Let me explain.

First, the text Ms. Miller cites is actually taken from the Harvard Guide to Using Sources (A Publication of the Harvard College Writing Program). This work's section on plagiarism starts with the following sentence: 

"When you write papers in college, your work is held to the same standards of citation as the work of your professors."   

In other words, this is a guide for writing academic papers in higher education. If that isn't clear enough from this first sentence, the section Ms. Miller quotes starts with the following words: 

In academic writing, it is considered plagiarism...

In other words, "the Harvard article" is quite specific in explaining the standards it is laying out are for citation in academic papers—not seventh grade textbooks. If Omnibus were a humanities textbook for Harvard students, editors would be more detailed in their sources and there would be fewer captions, pictures, and sidebars. But, I say it again, Omnibus is a junior high school textbook! All junior high school students need to know is that the quote they just read is from an ancient Egyptian myth.

Done. And admirably. But let's take this a little further.

Since Ms. Miller is appealing to Harvard's Guide to Using Sources and requiring that everything anyone writes must follow its rules, Ms. Miller might want to take a look at the Guide's section on how to cite sources—in particular, web pages. I know at this point I'm stretching the reader's patience, but let me report that, once again, Ms. Miller is not doing what she herself requires of others. Ms. Miller insists that improperly cited material is plagiarism.

If this is the standard, Ms. Miller's entire attack on Pastor Wilson is filled with plagiarism. Get this: in a recent post, Ms. Miller quotes Doug Wilson extensively, and yet she does not provide citations. She merely says the quotes were "on his blog"—no link provided.

So isn't that what I've done also, here in this blog post?

Yes, and with no apologies. If I'd taken the time to link every quote, I'd never have written this blog post. The reader has been provided links to Ms. Miller's Aquila Report and A Daughter of the Reformation, and it would be the work of a moment to find every example I've given, above.

But note, I'm not the one falsely accusing Pastor Wilson of plagiarism. Ms. Miller is the culprit and neither Pastor Wilson nor I have the slightest reason to take Ms. Miller's standards seriously or allow her to tie us to her Procrustean bed because...

The standards of citation vary from text to text and place to place. It all depends upon what you are writing, and for whom.

This is something Ms. Miller seems to understand and apply to her own editing and writing. 

For some reason, though, she is bonkers, off the deep end in holding Pastor Doug Wilson, his co-editors, the many contributors to Omnibus, Veritas Press, and their staff to an entirely different standard than the standard she lives by herself on her two blogs.

It's the height of irony, then, that Ms. Miller titled her latest post, “Rules For Thee And Not For Me." Predictably, in the post itself, Ms. Miller rants against Pastor Wilson for holding others to a higher standard than he holds himself to regarding plagiarism.

Here, let me kill two birds with one stone by dealing with an objection and giving another example of hypocrisy on the part of Ms. Miller.

I only read a few of Ms. Miller's slides before I gave up looking for plagiarism, but one of the other slides I happened to look at included Omnibus's use of a poem called Moondrunk. A couple of people translated this poem from the German into English back in 1987, so their translation is still under copyright.

In this example, Ms. Miller's concerns about the copyright of translated texts might draw some blood. Also the translation from the Shabaka Stone mentioned above: it too is still under copyright and reproducing copyrighted material is not allowed without permission.

But this is a question of copyright law—not plagiarism. Correctly following copyright law is a different matter from plagiarism, and debates over the proper application of copyright law are even more difficult to navigate than what is and isn't plagiarism.

Back to this poem Moondrunk. It is not clear to me whether anybody involved with the publication of Omnibus got the appropriate permission to include the translation of this poem in their text. Did they even realize this translation was still under copyright? After all, the original poem has long since been in the public domain.

Yet what is exceptionally clear is that Ms. Miller absolutely knew she could not reproduce the work without permission. She included the following quote concerning the copyright of the translation of the poem. (I'd include a screenshot here, but what if Ms. Miller saw it? Would she claim I was plagiarizing?)

Regardless, here's the text:

The copyright says, “To reprint and distribute this author’s work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you must ask the copyright-holder(s) directly for permission. If you receive no response, you must consider it a refusal.”

Ms. Miller included this text directly under her own complete reproduction of the work in question. There's no indication that she got permission to do so. Maybe she did? Maybe she didn't? Regardless, we're left with another example of Rachel Miller thinking the rules apply to others, but not to herself.

One final comment.

Ms. Miller is a member of the non-profit religious corporation called the Presbyterian Church in America. In order to become a member of congregations affiliated with this corporation, individuals must take five membership vows. This is the fifth and final vow:

Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

What does it mean to submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church?

In its Rules of Discipline, the Constitution of the PCA states the following concerning members who make accusations against another believer when they are "known to indulge a malignant spirit towards the accused," and those who "fail to show probable cause of the charges" they have made:

31-8. Great caution ought to be exercised in receiving accusations from any person who is known to indulge a malignant spirit towards the accused; who is not of good character; who is himself under censure or process; who is deeply interested in any respect in the conviction of the accused; or who is known to be litigious, rash or highly imprudent.

31-9. Every voluntary prosecutor shall be previously warned, that if he fail to show probable cause of the charges, he may himself be censured as a slanderer of the brethren.

Ms. Miller's session should sit down with Ms. Miller and provide her pastoral care and direction concerning her very public "malignant spirit" against Pastor Wilson, as well as her very public failure "to show probable cause" in her attack upon Pastor Wilson. Failing to do so, her session joins Ms. Miller in her scandal and sin.

Joseph and his wife, Heidi, have five children, Tate, Eliza Jane, Moses, Fiona and Annabel. He graduated from Vanderbilt University and Clearnote Pastors College. He is currently planting Christ Church in Cincinnati with several other families.