Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New buzz about the Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

As a smaller-time theology blogger, I'm beginning to see that it pays to comment on controversy! Edward Feser has written a short blurb at the National Review on the encyclopedia, basically rehashing Kurian's case and throwing in a John Kerry reference for good measure. And he links to me! Amazing what "getting attention in the blogosphere" amounts to. Little ole' me. Perpetua of Carthage also comments on the situation.

I would stress again, I'm sensitive to Kurian's concern about confessional scholarship, and I would disagree with anyone who said that such perspectives are not valuable on an academic level. But this situation seems more basic than such PC politcs. It seems to be much more a matter of the editorial process and how it has been approached. I'd also stress, also again, that the information upon which this whole tempest in a teacup is based amounts to two emails, one from the editor and one from the publisher. Sideline commentators (like myself!) should take that into account before we get all righteous in one direction or another.

UPDATE: Ruth Glendhill has picked up on the story now, also with a link to clavi non defixi. As with the others, she seems interested in quoting exclusively from Kurian's charges rather than including the statement of Wiley-Blackwell with it. As Wiley-Blackwell posted their email publicly on my blog before Feser, Glendhill, or others picked it up, I can't help but think that they're not including everything simply for the purposes of stirring the pot some more. Carl at Ignatius Scoop has also picked up on the story, with a bit more common sense and qualifications included.


  1. Hello Evan,

    As I noted in the article, the trouble with Wiley-Blackwell's current claims is that they do not account for the fact -- which they never deny or even address in their reply -- that they not only initially agreed that the Encyclopedia was ready to go, but actually had it printed and bound. That they should ignore this amazing aspect of the story in their rebuttal certainly raises questions about their credibility, no?

  2. To be sure, the fact that all of this was recalled after the encyclopedia was printed is odd. That said, a publisher must rely somewhat on editors and reviewers, who they presume are being forward about their work.

    If the editorial board was left out of the loop by Kurian, then likely Wiley-Blackwell was as well. It's unfortunate that complaints were made so late, but I do wonder at what point people like McGinn, Morgan, or the Wiley-Blackwell representatives were actually able to do editorial work on the project. Wiley-Blackwell's email also mentions that it was article contributors themselves who first raised concerns. It was your co-contributors.

    You bring up the point that Wiley-Blackwell doesn't mention the very late nature of the complaints. But we can't forget that Kurian has also not addressed the issue of whether his editorial board was consulted in accordance with his agreement with Wiley-Blackwell. This is surely a pertinent question to ask.

  3. You'll be getting plenty of visitors from England too:

    It's certainly a good way to publicise the Encyclopedia, maybe advance sales had been low, what with the recession and everything.

    It sounds like a management failure as much as anything else, but it's probably not wise to draw any conclusions until there are more facts in the public domain.

  4. The religion write for the London Times is Gledhill, not Glendhill.

  5. "I can't help but think that they're not including everything simply for the purposes of stirring the pot some more."

    That may be, but at least some of what remains opaque here, seemingly, could readily be cleared up by a still more transparent and forthcoming explanation, for example one wherein some - at least two or three - specific examples are responsibly vetted, shown to the light of day.

    The perforce and prominent fact that the first edition was already printed and bound looms large, so ancillary suspicions, beyond what is covered more generally in W-B's explanations to this point, seem entirely reasonable, if still on a tentative basis.

  6. Quite right, 9.West. I read her often enough, you'd think I'd spell her name correctly.