Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 17, 1955

Woods' Record On Modernism And Plagiarism

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

Brother Guy N. Woods is having considerable trouble trying to get his record straightened out with reference to the Gospel Advocate's "quarantine" drive, the modernism in the Advocate's Adult Quarterly which he edits, the plagiarism in his literature, and his arrangements to debate the human institutional questions in line with his newly espoused position. He has an article on all these subjects in the Gospel Advocate, October 6, 1955, entitled, "Keeping the Record Straight." The trouble may be that he has tried to spread his scholarship over too many projects. He has so many irons in the fire that he cannot attend to one without getting burned on another. This reply shall be concerned with only two of his subjects, ,modernism and plagiarism. It is with these two that my former writing has dealt.

Claims Verbal Inspiration

He now claims verbal inspiration for every word of the Bible, for himself and all the writers, actually making it more emphatic than many conservative scholars. He says that the Holy Spirit DICTATED every word. If that is his conviction about the Bible, why did he not say so when he made his reply to the series of mine which showed that he taught otherwise in his quarterly? Instead, his former replies were an attempt to justify what he had done, by what some others had said, or by giving some other cases similar to the ones cited in my series. My series did not attempt to tell why he inserted modernist statements in his literature. THE FACT REMAINS THAT THEY ARE THERE.

For the benefit of new readers of this exchange between us, it is considered appropriate to cite some of the passages of modernism from his Spring Quarterly of 1951 which were discussed in my original series. All of them are discussing the books of prophecy of the Old Testament.

"The domestic tragedy which characterized his life tinged his prophecy with a strange note of sadness."

"He was so deeply stirred by his emotions that his mind leaped from thought to thought with little regard for order."

"In these ways Hosea interpreted the unique message dictated by his afflicted heart."

"And he was almost fanatical in his exultation of the impending doom of the wicked city. He had a vivid imagination; and to him the seas, the hills, the storms, the clouds and the river were symbols of God's fury and wrath."

"Out of his doubts, the prophet forged a new belief in the character of the infinite."

"If he lacked the originality and insight of some of the former prophets, he certainly possessed power to enter the lists with evil."

Brother Woods now says, "every word which the sacred writers penned was dictated by the Holy Spirit." But in his quarterly he said that Hosea's message was "DICTATED BY HIS AFFLICTED HEART." Brother Woods, which one do you believe in: SPIRIT DICTATION? or, HEART DICTATION? The iron is hot, too hot to handle! Why did you put such teaching in your quarterly, brother Woods? You say you do not believe it.

As in the former, so in this second reply of his, nothing which he quotes from Bailey teaches that Hosea's experiences and observation were the motivation for his writing. A perusal of the quotations given above will show that the quarterly teaches that experiences and observation were the motivation for the prophecies. There is a difference between writing by inspiration about an experience, and the person's having the experience. This is the point which brother Woods refuses to recognize about his statements in the quarterly.

His charge that "Welch has simply shifted ground" is groundless. Hosea may have learned much from seine tragedy of life. But the book which he wrote is revelation from God by inspiration and did not come as his own conclusions from such tragedy of life.

He gives a lengthy quotation from brother C. R. Nichol, and then raises a number of questions. The quotation concerns the "doubt" in Paul's mind about departing to be with Christ or staying here. He wants to know if brother Nichol's statement of Paul's being in an "indecisive mood" is modernism. He wants to know if the Holy Spirit created Paul's state of indecision. I am not concerned about the origin of his "indecision." He had it, and brother Nichol rightly stated so. The issue is not whether the inspired men had such experiences or not, nor what the origin of such experience. The issue is whether they related the experience by Spirit motivation and revealed words, or whether the experience moved them to relate such in words of their own choosing. The quarterly adheres to the latter view rather than the former.

Before leaving these incidents of modernism which have been discussed several times, there is one which brother Woods has totally ignored in his replies and explanations. It needs attention. Brother Woods, DID ANANIAS DIE OF SHOCK?

Modernism In His Commentary

A commentary on the Epistles of Peter, John and Jude was written and "edited" by brother Woods and published as one of a set by the Gospel Advocate in 1954. If he is not conscious that he is inserting modernism into his writings and editings then, surely, he needs to become conscious of it. He has included some of it in his introduction to the First Epistle of Peter. Notice the following quotation from page 16:

"There are numerous points of correspondence between the Ephesian letter of Paul and First Peter — similarities that can be accounted for on the hypothesis that the letter to the church in Ephesus was in the hands of Peter prior to the writing of his own epistle. The following instances from the first chapter (and they are equally numerous in the other portions) will exhibit this dependence."

If brother Woods is not a modernist, in this instance he seemed to forget that such similarities between the two could be possible because the Holy Spirit moved them to write similarly. Brother Woods' statement supposes that the explanation is that Peter was acquainted with Paul's writings, hence, influenced by Paul's writings in his own letter. He even goes further than such a supposition, he positively states that the things which Peter wrote are "DEPENDENT" upon Paul's writings. Brother Woods, if that be so, where is the "dictation" of every word by the Holy Spirit, which you affirm in your latest article? You cannot have it both ways. Which are you going to take? Or, are you going to say you believe in Spirit dictation of every word, while at the same time continuing to insert such modernism into your literature?

There is no doubt that Peter was familiar with Paul's writings because by inspiration he recognizes their existence and quality (2 Pet. 3:15, 16). But the idea, that Peter was "dependent" upon Paul's writings for that which he said, is rank modernism. It places Peter down on the level with commentators, and makes his epistles no better than good commentaries.

Several conservative scholars and commentaries have been examined on this point. Many of them mention the similarities between Peter and Paul. They speak of Peter's acquaintance with Paul's letters. But they do not say that he was influenced by Paul's writings, nor that his letters were dependent upon Paul's. For example, notice A. T. Robertson, in Word Pictures, vol. 6, p. 73:

"There is no reason for doubting that Peter was familiar with some of Paul's epistles as there indicated. There is some indication of Peter's use of Romans and Ephesians in this epistle. It is not always conclusive to find the same words and even ideas which are not formally quoted, because there was a Christian vocabulary and a body of doctrinal ideas in common though with personal variations in expression."

Also it might be well to notice Schaff in his introduction to the Epistles of Peter:

"There are striking similarities between Peter and Paul . . . These are of a kind to indicate that Peter must have written with familiar knowledge of much that Paul had written before him. . . They have induced some, indeed, to suppose that his First Epistle was purposely, constructed to some extent, as regards the introductory greeting and the exhortations to various orders of society, on the plan of Paul's letter to the Ephesians."

It appears that brother Woods is one of the "some" referred to by Schaff. Were the things said by Peter patterned after Paul's writings? Were they dependent upon Paul? That is the conclusion reached by brother Woods, but it is certainly net the conclusion reached by conservative men such as Schaff. Notice him further:

"They are affinities, not borrowings. Peter puts all in a form of his own. Even when he most reminds us of Paul, he has an independent method of expression."

There is no reason for denying similarities between passages of these two writers or of any of the writers. They are teaching the same truth. But the idea that such similarities could not occur unless one writer had read the other is modernism, it is a denial of the truth that the Spirit gave the words of the Scriptures. Very often one inspired writer actually quotes from another, but not because he is dependent upon the other for what he writes, it is because the Holy Spirit has chosen the words which he gave to the other writer in the further revelation of truth.

Excuses For Plagiarism

Brother Woods has not denied that he has passed off as his own the statements of another writer. That is exactly what he did, and that is the definition of plagiarism that he himself quotes from Webster. But he seeks to make excuse for doing it on the grounds that "there was no conscious design to deceive." What is it, when a man takes up a book like "Preaching from the Prophets by Yates, and copies statement after statement without telling anyone that it is not his own? Those statements are not the kind which would be subject to general knowledge and expression. They are statements which could only be peculiar to a specific author. If he did it "unconsciously" he needs to become "conscious" of its offensiveness.

He has offered another excuse for doing it, not thinking the one already mentioned to be sufficient. He offers the childish excuse that even if it is so, he is no more guilty than others. Does the fact that others have done it make a thing right? Brother Woods knows that such excuse does not answer. He tells us in a lengthy demonstration that Roy Cogdill, in his New Testament Church, has plagiarized from G. C. Brewer in his The Model Church. This writer is of the persuasion that brother Cogdill is able to take care of the matter, and should. While we are on the subject, though, one point or two is in order.

First. The matters presented as having been copied are in outline form. Classifications of things of general knowledge are not plagiarisms. The five items on giving can be generally perceived from a reading of the passage used, 1 Cor. 16:1, 2. For instance, If I write on baptism that there is the action, design, element and subject I have not necessarily copied from any person. It is the type of classification which would be generally understood.

Second. Brother Brewer says that he got the material for his book from other sources: "The author acknowledges his indebtedness to many men and many books. He claims nothing new for this work except the arrangement." (The Model Church, page 6). Maybe Cogdill drank from the same fountain which brother Brewer used. The fact is, the material cited by brother Woods has been handed back and forth so much that it is like a lot of church bulletin articles; no one knows the origin, it has come to be general property.

But why say more? Brother Woods is an attorney at law, and knows these legal principles about passing off as one's own the writings of another. He has conceded such by giving his excuses for the act. We should hope to produce honorable correction instead of excuses.