The following is a Twitter thread (hence the “choppiness” and brevity required in that context). The fact that the structures of the SBC seem to be intent upon defending Litton and making his plagiarism just “go away” tells us much about the future value of continuing to support those entities without any real chance of effecting change within them (as the events around the last annual meeting demonstrated). As I said on the DL, I cannot imagine being a student at SWBTS and listening to this conversation, knowing that Litton had been presenting sermons for years that were the work of someone else.
According to his bio, Joshua Wester is an ethicist, “Chair of Research in Christian Ethics at the ERLC.”
So let’s examine this ethicist’s ethics, shall we?
The video evidence regarding Litton’s plagiarism is not questionable. No one who has ever taught and graded papers can with a straight face, buy any of the multiple, conflicting excuses Litton and his defenders have offered. Even in the SWBTS appearance Litton said you can line up various statements. No, you have outlines, titles, full sentences, and most damning of all, personal illustrations and stories transferred, without attribution, in totality, to Litton’s mouth. It is the classic, unquestionable definition of plagiarism of spoken presentations. And though Litton yesterday tried to say he has a great memory for remembering what he has heard (!) Litton plainly uses a manuscript/notes in his sermons. There is no question about the facts. He did this multiple times over multiple years.
So here we have one of the key players at the ERLC, a good chance to determine is there is a “deep state” at the ERLC after Moore.
And what do we find? When Dr. Buck points out the obvious inconsistencies in Litton’s excuse-making, he is “picking it apart,” while Litton is “offering a genuine and sincere answer to a matter of concern.” Shouldn’t an ethicist determine whether something is “genuine and [a] serious answer” based upon its truthfulness and evidence, it’s consistency? But the very act of pointing out the obvious contradictions in Litton’s words is reduced to “picking it apart.” Here is an ethicist using language in the very same way the DNC uses it.
Then we have the use of ad-hominen against @owenstrachan with “never missing an opportunity to flex.” Subtle, political, but, similarly unethical, for an ethicist.
In the next tweet in the thread our ethicist becomes soul and mind reader. He claims to know the goal of Drs. Buck and Strachan: “to shame and heap scorn on opponents and perform for their fans.” Knowing the indefensibility of such a patently ad-hominem personal attack, he immediately launches into a word barrage to inflame emotions, referring to Tom’s “song and dance.” He includes the inevitable assertions of how daring to point out the glaring inconsistencies in Litton’s excuses is “shameful” and “does not honor Christ.” Instead, “it amasses a following” (the real allegation this ethicist is making…but falsely).
Only then do we read that this ethicist may well be compromised in his position: he is on Litton’s pastoral staff. He concludes, as an ethicist at the ERLC, that Buck and Strachan are “posturing as our spiritual betters,” and that listening to them is a “waste.”
So did our ethicist give us a serious, genuine answer to the real questions, in light of the unquestioned documentation of plagiarism over time? No, that was not his intention. Instead, he tried to create a narrative where daring to call for integrity in the pulpit is equated with trying to amass a following. That is, without evidence, this ethicist is lodging an ethical charge that Buck and Strachan (and anyone else who would dare to suggest that this matter is not concluded) are not genuinely concerned about the obvious reality of plagiarism over years by Litton; instead, this is all about personal aggrandizement and promotion. Classically shallow argumentation, but for an ethicist, obviously violating his own standards and norms.
So it seems there really is a “deep state” at the ERLC, and they intend to continue down the path charted by Moore. Given the behavior of that same ruling class at the last convention, I could hardly blame concerned and serious Southern Baptist congregations for considering deeply their future participation and support.
Concluding note: after posting this series I was informed that Wester’s bio is a bit out of date. A month ago Wester joined Litton’s staff. I do not know what his relationship is with the ERLC currently. Obviously, one does not have to live in Nashville to continue on in one’s role. In any case, when I wrote the thread, Wester’s bio on his website read as it is cited above.