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.
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:
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.