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Doug Wilson & Serial Plagiarism

Rachel Miller presents a lot of evidence that the controversial Calvinist pastor Doug Wilson has engaged in serious plagiarism in his new book.  [1] I looked at the side-by-side comparisons of pages from Wilson’s book, co-written with Randy Booth, and pages from the works of other writers. It’s astonishing. She’s nailed them.

Canon Press, the publisher, has withdrawn the book, and put out the following statements:


Canon Press has investigated the charges of plagiarism and improper citation in A Justice Primer, and it is abundantly clear that the editor and co-author, Randy Booth, plagiarized material in multiple instances from a number of different sources. Such negligence and editorial incompetence is a gross breach of contract and obviously does not meet Canon Press’s publishing standards. As such, we have discontinued the book, effective immediately. Refer to the author statements below for more information. We would like to specifically thank Rachel Miller for bringing this to our attention so we could take the necessary steps to immediately correct such a serious error.



“This is a mea culpa for the citation omissions in A Justice Primer. A few years ago I approached Doug Wilson about a combined effort to produce a book on justice. He had begun to write some on the subject as had I. The idea was to blend the writing, and I was in charge of accomplishing this. As best I can tell, all the problems are mine and not Doug’s. As a pastor I was drawing on a wide range of materials and notes that I had collected over a number of years to use in sermons or lessons with no intention of publishing that material, thus citations were often missing in my old notes. Concerning the ‘definitions,’ I didn’t see the need to cite those sources. I have also been a student of Dr. Greg Bahnsen for over twenty-five years, and undoubtedly some of his material has found its way into sermons and Bible studies over the years, which were cut-and-pasted as I prepared for this book.  Regarding the material taken from Paul Rose (2003) and Wayne Blank, I freely acknowledge that I originally collected their material but did not have it cited in my notes from years ago. This is a serious mistake on my part (not differentiating my own material from others in my research and study). While this was not intentional plagiarism on my part, nevertheless I clearly did use their words without proper citation and for this I publicly confess.”



“I was disappointed to find out today that there are serious citation problems in A Justice Primer. In light of this, I am completely supportive of Canon Press withdrawing the book from circulation. For further details on what happened and how, I would refer you to the statements by Canon Press and Randy Booth.”

In 2004, Wilson and a different co-author were busted in another plagiarism scandal [2], in which Canon Press (which is owned by Wilson’s church son) had to withdraw the book.

Randy Booth, the co-author of A Justice Primer, is the man Wilson appointed to investigate the way he and his church handled accusations of sexual abuse within the church. Credibility? None left. Not a shred of it, if ever there was.


68 Comments (Open | Close)

68 Comments To "Doug Wilson & Serial Plagiarism"

#1 Comment By BL On December 11, 2015 @ 9:09 pm

Quoting Peregrine: The format is simply not built for accountability, confrontation, and proper pastoral exhortation.

Perhaps you could point out how well built for ‘accountability, confrontation, and proper pastoral exhortation’ are the modern fiefdoms posing as churches?

The opposite is true – they are well built to keep accountability, confrontation and proper exhortation (from any source) far from them.

And it isn’t a matter of ‘dirty underwear’ being dragged out into the public arena by the peons, as if these are hidden, secret matters.

It is a matter of men asserting themselves into the public already bedecked in their dirty underwear. The world *already* sees them parading about dressed only in their raggedy long-johns, are we to pretend otherwise?

The response you advocate is some Christianized reversed-version of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

If someone wants to insert themselves in the public arena, write books to be sold to the public at profit, and present themselves as teachers to be heard – then *more* is rightfully required of them.

Yet, time and time again, I see just the opposite.

Why do so many require *less* of those in leadership, while requiring so much more from the occasional squeaking peons on blogs?

#2 Comment By Patrice On December 11, 2015 @ 9:32 pm

Dan Phillips, plagiarism in a published book is a sin against all those who read the book because they are deceived. It is a sin against the publishing house, who printed the book in good faith and yet will lose money and integrity. It is a sin against those whose material was taken without credit.

The plagiarist thieves and cheats. A verbatim plagiarist is also lazy.

Wilson publicly avoided responsibility for this plagiarism, as he also did previously, even though he has written harshly against even unintentional forms of it. Thus public cowardice and hypocrisy are also involved.

It makes no sense to insist that these sins be dealt with via one-on-one confrontation. It’s an impossibility, given the number of wrongs done to the number of people involved, many of whom are of the unnamed public.

I encourage you to focus on your own subtext. You are investing heavily in a ‘blame the messenger’ routine. The issue at hand is extensive verbatim plagiarism, not once but twice in books authored by a pastor and his co-writers. Face it. It stinks.

[NFR: If the blogger had not publicly exposed this theft, what would the reaction of Wilson, Booth, and their publisher have been? Would they have apologized to those stolen from, and offered to return the money of those customers who bought the book in good faith? — RD]

#3 Comment By Dan Phillips On December 11, 2015 @ 9:39 pm

Rachel pointed me to a blog post by Wilson himself that was supposed to counter my argument, but it does not. Wilson’s example is of a Christian who publicly wrote something unorthodox about the Trinity. While efforts should be made by appropriate people to address the writer and the publisher, assuming it was a Christian press, and efforts should be made by the writer’s church, it is not inappropriate to also address the alleged heterodoxy publicly. This is not analogous to the situation here. Wilson and/or Booth were discovered to be guilty of plagiarism by a fellow Christian BEFORE it was discovered by the broader public.

Wilson is right that there are limits to Matthew 18 which addresses the specific issue of a sin against an individual before the Church age. But there is a long history of respecting the template. Matthew 18 can not be said to directly address Church discipline as it was, as I said, prior to the Church age, but it is widely looked to for guidance with regard to church discipline.

Once the issue has become public, then it is inevitable that it will become a matter that will be discussed publically. The problem here is that this didn’t have to become a public issue. It could have been addressed with those involved and the publisher and a retraction issued without bringing the scorn of the World upon Christianity. (It very likely would have come to light otherwise, but a fellow Christian shouldn’t be one doing it.)

Here is the Wilson blog in question:


#4 Comment By Shane Anderson On December 11, 2015 @ 11:01 pm

One need only peruse Rachel Miller’s social media history to see that she has spread a number of lies about various ministers. As an editor for Aquila Report she publishes hit pieces, full of half-truths, against people and then systematically deletes comments against those posts. I have called her to repent for this, and she has said she will not. It appears that in this case she finally found something true to use against one of her targets.

#5 Comment By LT_15b On December 11, 2015 @ 11:30 pm


Are you saying that it’s ok to support a child molester and actively seek to moderhate the consequences he will suffer from the law if the victim’s father is “a loser”? wow.

No. You can read my comment and see what I said. You don’t actually have to ask me. It was clear in my comment what I was referring to–that Wilson was being accused of some things by those who did not know all the facts of the situation. When Wilson tried to take the high road, he was blamed. So he gave some additional information that shed more light on the matter.

#6 Comment By LT_15b On December 11, 2015 @ 11:37 pm


You say, Your thinking and apperceptions have been distorted by the pathological influence of a man who, in my estimation, is probably an explicit psychopath. I base my estimation of Doug Wilson, strictly and solely upon his own writings on his own blog. I do not know this man, nor have I ever met him or spoken to him. Nor do I intend to! His character is revealed in his writings.

It’s pretty impressive that you can diagnose someone as a psychopath based “strictly and solely upon his own writings on his blog.” I think most people require quite a bit more interaction to make such a diagnosis.

Nonetheless, I haven’t been influenced by him at all. I have read only some of his blog. (Perhaps if I read more I could concur with your diagnosis.) I disagree with Wilson on almost everything that I have read. But more than that, I simply don’t care.

Your long quotations are virtually unintelligible, and the little sense they do make seem to have no relevance here. Such prose can only be written by someone with no writing skills.

There is no doubt that you disagree with Wilson, but that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong. It may be you that is wrong. Or it may be both of you that are wrong. Or you might be wrong where he is right and right where he is wrong. But your quotes do nothing to help. It may in fact be you who have bought into a para-moralism and a reversive blockade. It’s a thought you should spend some time thinking.

#7 Comment By Michael On December 12, 2015 @ 12:58 am

Rod, I think this thread is pretty much exhausted. I have made my own case concerning Doug Wilson. From what I can see, most of the commenters at least understand what I am saying, whether or not they endorse each and every point of it.

The few holdouts on this subject, clearly do not WANT to understand what I am saying, and will quote Scripture out of context, throw my words back at me, or resort to any expedient they have to, to avoid the crux of the matter. There is nothing further that I (or anyone else) can say to them, which has not been said already. Any further commentary will simply be going around in endless circles.

Thus, I recommend that further comments on this thread be closed.

#8 Comment By Tom On December 12, 2015 @ 1:35 am

One does not require a lot of fancy psychology to figure out Douglas Wilson’s problem.
Wilson’s problem is that he is far too optimistic about the potential of humans to deal with their sin, and their willingness to do so.
It’s why he’s a postmillenialist, it’s why he took in Sitler, and it’s why his political viewpoint is “theocratic libertarianism” (his words, not mine).
Now, this would be tolerable if Wilson would learn from his mistakes. But he does not. Instead,he tries to claim that he did not make a mistake.

Also, Shane Anderson. Those are some pretty serious charges you just leveled, with nary a hint of evidence. Care to share?

#9 Comment By Dan Phillips On December 12, 2015 @ 9:28 am

To clarify for the confused: the “Dan Phillips” above is not me.

I am the Dan Phillips who’s blogged at Pyromaniacs and written a couple of books. Some of you may know me. You might know I wouldn’t make that Matthew 18 argument or blankly say “I’m not Reformed.”

I don’t know who it is, but it’s another member of the worldwide host of Dan Phillipses.

#10 Comment By Patrice On December 12, 2015 @ 9:42 am

Dan Phillips, you are afraid people will scorn Christianity, yet it is not Christianity that is at stake here, but Christ. Even so, isn’t it written that Christ will seem foolish to many? So let him be seen as foolish for himself, not because of our actions.

Your phrase ‘appropriate people’ hints that your real fear is for the reputation of someone you support rather than for Christ.

Yet, everyone is aware that humans do dumb things and are often inclined to destruction. Christians are no exception, as our doctrines state. if we are indeed sinners, if Christ indeed forgives, let us be public in repentance of public sins. Then, let us show by subsequent behavior that the Spirit has power to change. There is nothing to lose except reputation. What is our loss is Christ’s gain.

Finally, smearing the messenger does your POV no service. Most everyone knows the cliche about killing the messenger. Your (and others’ here) continued indulgence in it merely further inclines people towards the message.

#11 Comment By Dan Phillips On December 12, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

Patrice, I’m not necessarily a big fan of Wilson. I agree with him on some things and not on others. IIRC, he recently wrote something on immigration/refugees that hacked me off. My use of “appropriate people” meant someone with sufficient theological standing to address an issue of heresy rather than Joe Blow. Nothing nefarious about that.

#12 Comment By Dan Phillips On December 12, 2015 @ 3:37 pm

Hello “The Other” Dan Phillips. I know who you are. I’ve been confused with you before. I’m the ranting paleocon Dan Phillips. You’re the Calvinist but yet Dispensational Dan Phillips. Out of curiosity, why would you not use Matthew 18 here?

#13 Comment By Patrice On December 12, 2015 @ 6:09 pm

Not nefarious, (another) Dan Phillips, but problematic.

So your point is that the church should use a heresy expert to address plagiarism. This reveals a different problem. Plagiarism is not an issue of specific theology. It is not even particularly a church thing—every educated person in the country can discern its ethical flaw.

Perhaps the issue here is that you assume we must keep things secret because most of church membership is ignorant and the world is too corrupt to properly distinguish what is wrong in this situation.

Yet most laymen as well as a good chunk of the secular world understand the basics of facing one’s wrongs, making apology and correction.

Most of us have consciences and most of them aren’t seared. Believers obey theirs for/from Christ but that doesn’t mean no one else comprehends/applies similar principles. God created this world, and built good things into it, and they are there for all to use.

If this is your assumption, you under-estimate the capacity of everyone but the theologian, whom you over-estimate.

I wish you well, Dan Phillips.

#14 Comment By Dan Phillips On December 12, 2015 @ 7:19 pm

Patrice, you misunderstand. Rachel (Miller) offered a post from Doug Wilson himself where he argued that Matthew 18 isn’t alway operative, and he used as his example a Christian scholar publishing something heretical. My point was that Wilson’s example of heresy wasn’t equivalent to the plagiarism issue we have here.

#15 Comment By LT_15b On December 12, 2015 @ 11:34 pm


Not to belabor this but yYou say, The few holdouts on this subject, clearly do not WANT to understand what I am saying.

Do you have any category for those of us who understand what you are saying (or at least want to if we don’t) and think you are wrong? Or is everyone who disagrees with you simply willfully blind and undesirous of understanding? I think I understand you. I just disagree with you on some points (probably not all points). People of good faith and good will can certainly do that in some areas.

I wonder if you might reconsider your own statements. Pathological influence? An explicit psychopath? Might these statements be a bit over the top, more reflective of your personal issues than Wilson’s character or integrity or intelligence? Wilson has issued a clear apology (while also noting that his contributions to the book were not plagiarized).

It seems like you have an axe to grind with Wilson whereas I have nothing but apathy, meaning I don’t really care one way or the other. I enjoy reading some of his blogs because I find him an engaging writer. I find him less often convincing. But there is nothing that would indicate that he is a psychopath, at least nothing conclusive that could be picked up from a blog. It might simply be that you have a strong difference of opinion.

In the end it might be better to back off a bit, and let the facts stand for themselves.

#16 Comment By Austin On December 13, 2015 @ 8:10 am

Dreher: The Ted Wells of Christendom – “It is more probable than not that Doug Wilson is at least generally aware of absolutely everything that goes on in Moscow, Idaho and is directly responsible whether there is evidence or not.”

Again, false-witness is as explicitly condemned as theft.

[NFR: He doesn’t have to be aware of absolutely everything that goes on in town. He does have to be aware of the content of a book of which he claims authorship. This is not hard. — RD]

#17 Comment By Auatin On December 13, 2015 @ 1:02 pm

The difference between taking responsibility because your name is on the cover and taking responsibility for plagiarizing isn’t hard to understand either.

For reference, [4] is Wilson taking responsibility for his name being on the cover of a book containing plagiarism from his co-author. I’m sure it will be ignored because it doesn’t fit the narrative or “isn’t actually taking responsibility” because he wasn’t ousted for a crime he didn’t commit.

#18 Comment By Jon Swerens On December 14, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

Time to update this with Wilson’s follow-up, for fairness’ sake?