Tuesday, August 27, 2013

With Attributions

Some Thoughts on Chuck Missler’s “You Tube” Apology 

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn 

As many readers are aware, the Herescope blog recently posted an article which compared considerable excerpts, most of them word-for-word paragraphs, from Chuck Missler’s book Cosmic Codes: Hidden Messages from the Edge of Eternity and New Age author Michael Talbot’s book, The Holographic Universe.[1] Because the undocumented excerpts from Cosmic Codes (1996, Revised 2004) bear an uncanny sameness to in situ paragraphs contained in The Holographic Universe (1992), the implication is that plagiarism, whether inadvertent or intentional on Missler’s part, was committed.[2] Herescope’s exposure came about as a result of researcher Gaylene Goodroad’s meticulous study of the two books and the conviction that the resemblances, in light of other questionable teachings emanating from Koinonia House, ought to be exposed. This then forms the background for Chuck Missler’s recent video apology for not having appropriately documented the quotations he extracted from Talbot’s book.[3]

The Apology 
The following is a transcript of the video apology. It reads:

“Hi, this is Chuck Missler, and I’m on a difficult errand. It’s an apology and a correction that is tragically overdue. Many of you are familiar with my book Cosmic Codes: Hidden Messages from the Edge of Eternity, and ah, if you look at the front of it, there is a page called ‘Acknowledgements’ that needs some correction. Allow me to read the first paragraph because it really communicates the essence here: 
This book draws on over 50 years of collecting snippets from a hobby of discovery as well as a technical career in the information sciences. It is certain that their remains indebtedness that has gone unacknowledged. As one accumulates personal notes from lectures, conferences and other encounters—many of them private—and then assembles them into various informal presentations over several decades of speaking, some of the source annotations are “incred-er” understandably lost. 
 Now, then follows is a couple of paragraphs of specifics, but there’s a very important one that desperately needs to be added, and we’re going to take this page and reprint it and put it in the remaining unsold volumes. A paragraph will be added, after what I just read, it’ll say,
It has been called to our attention that substantial discussions (e.g. on pages 308 to 309, 329 to 330, and 336 to 341), were drawn from segments of Michael Talbot’s, The Holographic Universe, (that’s in New York 1992), without proper and adequate attributions. Subsequent printings will, of course, repair these credits and omissions. 
 And then following this will the remaining 4 paragraphs of other indebtedness, uh... continue to be acknowledged. And there’s no excuse for the sloppiness that led to this lack of attribution, but we want to repair it as rapidly and as quickly as we can. We certainly apologize for the confusion. It’ll give our supporters an opportunity to be charitable and it’ll give our adversaries an opportunity to blaspheme (the word ‘blaspheme’ said with a smirk and laugh), but we appreciate the support that we’ve had in all of this and we’re going to be as diligent as we can to make sure this doesn’t ever repeat itself again. Thank you very much.”[4]

A Respected Teacher 
For decades now Dr. Chuck Missler has been a respected Bible teacher amongst many who believe in a dispensational interpretation and understanding of the Bible; meaning that the church has not replaced Israel in God’s redemptive plan in history, that the translation of true believers will occur before the tribulation, and that seven years later, Jesus will return to earth and establish His millennial kingdom (convictions which incidentally, I share). Missler’s teachings have impacted the lives of 1000s. He is now, as I, an elderly man and projects, as can be observed on many You Tube videos, a paternal and wise demeanor. He appears as the “Grandpa” every kid could wish he/she had.

My writing this piece in response to Missler’s apology does not concern the sincerity of it—only God knows that. Neither do I exempt myself from God’s coming evaluation of my ministry that has now spanned over four decades (See James 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:10). I am not without my faults and sins. But having said this, there are a few points of the apology that prove problematic to me. Let me begin with the most troublesome first.

At the end of his statement he says his apology will now provide opportunity for supporters to be “charitable”—and well they should, for charitable comes from the Greek word “charis” or grace—but then he adds, “it’ll give our adversaries an opportunity to blaspheme.” Blaspheme... Setting aside the word’s biblical meaning, I looked up “blaspheme” in an English dictionary. Though the word may remotely possess a meaning “to criticize,” the dictionary defines “blaspheme” like this:

blaspheme... 1. To speak of (God or something sacred) irreverently or impiously. 2. To revile: execrate.... To speak blasphemy.[5]

Biblically, Vine defines “to blaspheme” as using “any contumelious [disobedient or insubordinate] speech, reviling, calumniating [make malicious, false statements about] railing at....”[6]

Of course, Missler’s remark was meant to preempt any future criticism of him by classifying it to be blasphemous. But on this point a number of questions arise. One, if future criticism of Missler is to be considered blasphemy then is not any past criticism of him blasphemy also? Two, is Herescope’s exposure of Missler’s copycat words and unscriptural Sci-fi like prophetic teachings to be considered blasphemy? And three, given the common meaning of “blaspheme” in English parlance, is any criticism of Missler, whether past, present or future, to therefore be understood as irreverent or impious speech against God? Is his ministry so coalesced in God that he makes no mistakes to criticize? I don’t think so.

As a pastor for over forty years, I have also been the butt of personal criticism. But I have never considered, nor do I now consider, such criticism to have been or to be blasphemy. To my common English and biblical understanding of the word, blasphemy can only occur against God. Missler’s use of the word reminds me of “heavy shepherding” movement where elders would warn church members that to criticize them was to blaspheme God. In this regard, remember Diotrephes (3 John 9-11); or, the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6, 15)? So I would fault Missler’s apology for using the inflammatory infinitive “to blaspheme” in reference to those who might criticize him in the future.

Second, I would point out 50 years—the decades of ministry which involved a “hobby of discovery” as he calls it—did not elapse between the initial publications of Cosmic Codes (1996) and Talbot’s book, The Holographic Universe (1992). That the sixteen exhibits and the single diagram exhibited in Cosmic Codes, evidently extracted from Talbot’s book, had been lost amidst Missler’s unconscious maze of decades-long research, strains credulity. The publication of the two books were too proximate for this to have happened, especially in light of the fact that Missler states, and this I don’t doubt, that he had made a “technical career in the information sciences.”

Sola Scriptura—where has it gone? 
And third, given Missler’s reliance on Talbot’s book, and in view of the fascination of evangelical lecturers and authors with eccentric prophetic interpretations of the Bible that they buttress by citing non-canonical apocryphal, pseudepigraphal and mythological source materials—literary genres that share nothing in common with the biblical worldview, other than “antiquity”—it must be asked, where has the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura gone? Of the emerging prophetic paradigm that sees current authors and lecturers incorporating these extra-scriptural source materials to construct fantastic futuristic prophetic scenarios that cater to a culture fixated on Sci-fi, I am reminded of Paul’s warning to Timothy:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;
but wanting to have their ears tickled,
they will accumulate for themselves teachers
in accordance to their own desires;
and will turn away their ears from the truth,
and will turn aside to myths

(2 Timothy 4:3-4, NASB). 

In conclusion, I have noticed criticisms of Herescope for having posted this latest series of articles written by Sarah Leslie and Gaylene Goodroad. Some men are even using the term “discernment divas” to refer to women who work in discernment ministry. To such a characterization of them, I would simply say, “C’Mon Man!” Remember Deborah?

And to those who would fault Gaylene Goodroad for exposing the undocumented use of Talbot’s words by Missler in Cosmic Codes and then turnabout to laud his explanation of how it happened, I would say, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t laud his apology on the one hand and then on the other fault Herescope’s exposure of the plagiarism that made his apology-explanation necessary. I think it can be safely assumed, given the seventeen years that have elapsed since the initial publication of Cosmic Codes, that if the copying without attribution in Missler’s book had not been exposed, this issue would need no address... at least not now... if ever in our time.[7]

On a personal note, as one raised under the influence of Dr M.R. De Haan (1891-1965), Dr John Walvoord (1910-2002) and Dr Charles Ryrie’s (1925- ) prophetic teachings, it saddens me that the study of Bible prophecy on the part of some has moved out of the realm of biblical exegesis and theology and morphed to incorporate myths. But this, as the Herescope articles have exposed, is what is happening. In my conviction, this morphing, as it draws attention away from Jesus Christ and onto other “stuff,” will only provide fodder, as the Apostle Peter warns, for “last days” skeptics who seek to discredit the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers,
walking after their own lusts,
And saying, Where is the promise of His coming?
for since the fathers fell asleep,
all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
(2 Peter 3:3-4, KJV)

1. Gaylene Goodroad, “Without Attribution: Purloining New Age Ideas,” August 7, 2013, Herescope, (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2013/08/without-attribution.html). 
2. This is not the first time Missler has been accused of copying someone else’s words without attribution. Allegedly, in his book The Magog Factor (1992) the author copied from Professor Edwin Yamauchi’s book, Foes from the Northern Frontier (1982). See Roy Rivenburg, “Question of Attribution,” Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1992 (http://articles.latimes.com/1992-07-30/news/vw-4952_1_authors-hal-lindsey-and-chuck-missler). 
3. Biographical information on Michael Talbot is posted at tobyjohnson.com (http://www.tobyjohnson.com/michaeltalbot.html). 
4. Transcribed by Kim Treweek, Chuck Missler, “Missing Attributions in Cosmic Codes,” You Tube, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgUsbk9AqZ8&feature=player_embedded). 
5. Webster’s II: New College Dictionary (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995): 117. 
6. W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984): 123-124. 
7. After reproducing the Herescope post “Without Attribution” on his website, Patrick Wood insightfully comments on the controversy. After citing the dictionary definition of plagiarism and that Missler’s copying from Talbot fits the definition, he concludes: 
Any way you look at it, plagiarism is a combination of theft and fraud, not merely “sloppiness”. While it is true that almost every writer has misused a source at one time or another, exhibiting a pattern of plagiarism is another matter altogether. The book, Cosmic Codes exhibits such a pattern. 
Lastly, if one overlooks the plagiarism issue, a greater issue surfaces: Why is Missler drawing any content from a known New Age mystical writer who is clearly not a Christian?” 
See Patrick Wood, “Postscript,” Revelation Gate (http://revelationgate.com/index.php/apologetics/99-missler-and-plagiarism).