Review: Journal for Trinitarian Studies and Apologetics (1)

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I recently ordered and received the first issue of The Journal for Trinitarian Studies and Apologetics, the new journal published by the conservative Evangelical organization, Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, or CARM. This issue retails on Amazon for $6.50. I plan to review each article individually on my blog, but in this post I share some general introductory thoughts regarding layout, editing, tone, audience, etc.

I think such a post is merited for two reasons. First, this post provides a bit of rhetorical context for the individual article reviews. These aren’t traditional academic articles written for an academic audience; rather they are devotional articles with an academic tinge that are aimed primarily at a conservative Evangelical lay audience. A couple of the articles are even written by lay authors. I get the impression from the tone and from the lexicon employed by the authors that they are speaking directly to members of their own faith community. The authors’ hermeneutical presuppositions, when they are stated, are largely presumed to be shared by the readers, and there is no defense or support offered for those principles that flatly contradict traditional academic approaches. For example, in Dalcour’s article we find the following axiom asserted in the author’s interpretation of the gospel of John:

We must take Scripture as a unit: All Scripture is theopneustos
“breathed out by God.” Hence, John 8:58 and the other absolute “I am” clams [sic] are all a part of 1:1 and 20:28, which are a part of 5:17 and 10:30. And these are a part of 1 John 5:20, which is a part of Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; and Colossians 2:9, which are all a part of Isaiah 9:6 and the prologue of Hebrews.

In other words, fundamentalist dogmas must govern the investigation, because the author says so.

The journal is ostensibly apologetic in scope, but there is little, if any, apologetic aimed beyond the boundaries of the Evangelical faith community. Rather, the journal seeks to convince its own constituency that Evangelicalism is biblically and intellectually defensible, and that other traditions lack that support. Most commonly falling between the crosshairs are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Muslims, and Mormons, but even they are addressed as the uninformed “other.” Broadly speaking, the journal is faith promotion and boundary maintenance, drawing an ideological line in the sand around the authors’ and editors’ conceptualization of Evangelicalism. The editor’s own contribution (the last article in the volume) illustrates this in his marginalizing of those Evangelicals who espouse an anthropological monism (but more on that later).

Second, the problems with the layout and editing are so numerous and egregious as to require their own discussion. This journal lacks professionalism at every stage of the editorial process. When I got the journal, I first opened to the copyright page and the first things I noticed were two ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers), which are used for individual books. Someone didn’t think to register an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number), which is designated for serial publications like magazines and journals. This means they have to register an entirely new ISBN with each issue they publish (the journal states it is biannual).

I turned the page and the next thing I saw were ligatures connecting the “t” to the “r” in the word “introduction” in the title of the editor’s introduction. The kerning is inconsistent throughout the article titles, and in several places it is quite noticeable. As an example, here is a scan of a single title page.

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Notice, in addition to the bad kerning, that the indentations for each paragraph are inconsistent. Did the editor not want the last line of the first paragraph to end before the first word of the next paragraph? They picked an unfortunate method for overcoming that problem. Neither are the author’s name and the subtitle centered on the page. Rather, they seem centered on the indented first lines of the paragraphs that follow.

Next, there are issues with the fonts. The editor’s introduction is in a smaller sized font than the rest of the articles, to begin. All the articles use transliteration where they reference Greek and Hebrew, but the article by Edward L. Dalcour appears to have been intended to have some Greek script. It clearly didn’t come through, though. Footnote 14 on page 97 quotes another author, stating, “cf. Isaiah 43:10 where the very words occur iJna pishteushte –oJti egw eimi.” That’s right, the font and/or keyboard wasn’t changed to Greek, leaving a jumble of Latin characters easily decipherable to English speakers familiar with the Greek keyboard configurations. This happens twice more in the body of the article, with the intended Greek phrase in a conspicuously larger sans-serif font.

The footnotes also use a sans-serif font that does not fit well with the body of the text (except for one article, which uses a seriffed font throughout). Similarly, the journal title along the left page headers is in a sans-serif font, but the issue information along the right page headers is not.

The footnotes themselves are inconsistently edited, as well. Only about half of the footnotes have periods at the end. In some articles there is a loose pattern of omitting the period after simple source references, but this is also inconsistently applied, and in one article there are virtually no periods at all in the footnotes. Here is an example of the sloppy editing that dominates:

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I rarely spend any time at all critiquing things like this in a book or article review, but the quality here was so unexpectedly bad that I felt it needed to be addressed. If CARM is looking to create some kind of respected or authoritative forum for Evangelical voices, the first thing they need to do is find an editor who knows what they’re doing.

My next entry will engage the fourth article in the volume, Edward L. Dalcour’s “Jesus’ Claims to be God: Answering the Objections.” I am going out of order because the discussion related to Dalcour’s article will provide some context for the discussion of other articles, particularly those of Bowman, Felker, and Neasbitt.

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12 responses to “Review: Journal for Trinitarian Studies and Apologetics (1)

  • Valentinus

    Thanks for the review, Mak. I look forward to you dealing with the content of the journal itself.

  • Doug

    I know some people think clams taste divine, but “I am” clams may be a step too far.

  • theapologeticfront

    Hi Daniel,

    I’m one of the contributors for the journal. I will be looking forward to a substantive review of the articles, mine in particular :-)

    Aside from the unforgiving editorial criticisms you posed, I do have some disagreements with how you represented the journal as a whole. But i’ll hold my tongue (or fingers, since i’m typing) until you review the individual articles and i’ll tie it all together.

    Either way, I appreciate your taking the time to notice the journal and offer your thoughts.

    Mike Felker

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Thanks for commenting, Mike. I was expecting disagreement with my characterization of the journal as a whole. With endeavors like this, I can imagine a variety of perspectives regarding the journal’s nature. I look forward to hearing yours.

      Regarding the editing, it really is problematic, and I don’t believe an honest critique should simply overlook it as a matter of charity. Doing so only facilitates its perpetuation.

      • theapologeticfront

        Hi Daniel,

        To some extent, I can sympathize. I would easily deduct 2 stars alone for a book which has end notes instead of footnotes. Though that’s not necessarily a careless editing error, it’s far more annoying than not having periods at the end of a footnote would ever be, in my opinion anyway.

  • Daniel O. McClellan

    Oh, don’t get me started on endnotes.

  • Stargazer

    Besides the sloppy kerning and layout, the typist seems to make the common error of placing two spaces after each period ending a sentence. Though this was proper in non-proportional fonts like Courier, used by many typewriters, it’s a sure way to destroy the order of proportional fonts in a block of text.

    As far as content, the quotation by Dalcour, namely, that “We must take Scripture as a unit: All Scripture is theopneustos—’breathed out by God’” is theologically absurd. Are we to give the same weight to Ecclesiastes that we give to 1 John or Revelation? Typical Protestant tripe! Treat the scriptures as a handbook…from God’s mouth to your ear! Well, Mr. CARM, where does the Bible dictate how to do a baptism, an ordination, or how to confer the gift of the Holy Spirit? And where does it say who may do these things? How do we know what a bishop does, or a teacher or deacon?

    Also, when Jesus prayed that his apostles “may be ONE, even AS WE are ONE,” does this mean those disciples were to become of one essence in a mystical way that defies understanding? There are so many fallacies that it’s difficult for me to comprehend how CARM can denigrate anyone’s religion.

  • Dr. Edward Dalcour

    Hello Dan,

    I too am one on the contributors of the Journal. It seems your review so far centers on typos and style of the first edition. Will you be providing anything at all from an exegetical plane? Thus far you have only made one half-textual assertion, pointing to Jesus’ egw eimi claims, telling us why you “feel” that taking the Scripture as a whole, is, as you implied, an invalid hermeneutic, when you state: “fundamentalist dogmas must govern the investigation, because the author says so.”

    First, your statement is a philosophical one based on your learned understanding of how Scripture should and should not be interpreted—with which we would wholly disagree. Second, clearly you have a double standard—for own religious authority, as you know, does not hold to any kind of objective or accepted hermeneutic when interpreting the biblical text, rather, it is a system of conflicting revelations that are “outside,” and even against, the authority of the biblical revelation.

    I will look forward to your further comments of review; we hope you will provide something more meaningful in terms of exegetical interaction, and not more analysis on the number of typos and different fonts.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Thank you for commenting, Dr. Dalcour. Of course I will be following up with detailed discussion of the individual contributions. As I stated, this was a preliminary post about the layout and tone of the first volume of a brand new journal. The editing deficiencies are strikingly numerous and serious, and as someone who has edited journals in the past I felt that merited comment. If it galvanizes the staff at CARM to produce a more professional looking second volume, I will feel like I accomplished something. It is certainly not my intention to just arbitrarily find bad stuff to say about the journal. Next, my comments about univocality will be expanded upon considerably in my next installment.

      Finally, me analysis is purely academic. My membership in the LDS church has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on it, and attempts to correlate or compare the two will only further distance readers from the purpose and meaning of this review.

  • Kevin

    Just stumbled across this post (I thought your blog had gone dead!). I think it’s good you pointed out those sloppy layout and editing mistakes. I only have a personal subscription to one journal and if I saw editorial mistakes like that, I would be demanding a refund!

    Looking forward to reading more of your reviews of this journal’s articles!

  • Kevin

    Also, I’m curious, regarding the apologetic scope of the journal… does it state anywhere in the journal that the contributors and articles have certain presuppositions? (e.g. the Protestant canon, a belief in the inerrancy and inspiration of the text, etc). If it does, I could be forgiving if the authors don’t take the time to defend these presuppositions in their articles.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      Thanks for the comments, Kevin. I am away from my copy of the journal and cannot verify, but I do not recall any such qualification. What I do recall is the sporadic assertion that this or that presupposition must hold, as I share above. The most recent installment, treating Dr. Dalcour’s article, goes into a bit more detail regarding that and other such axioms, both stated and unstated.

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