Yesterday my blog’s top search was “true son of heaven david marshall.” That night David Marshall commented on my book review of his book titled True Son of Heaven. I read that book some time ago and I was critical of its content. Marshall has said many things in his comments that I am going to slowly digest through. I’m not perfect and can err in my assessment. Again this is going to be a process but thus far I still think the gist of my review is correct. In this post I want to focus only on his opening paragraph of his first comment:
I find your critique of my book petty and off-the-mark. You complain about typos, but your review itself is chock full of grammatical errors. You claim True Son of Heaven “does not even fulfill the expectation of an undergraduate essay.” Yet in fact, I expanded my argument in this book into a doctoral dissertation, which passed review easily. (As, indeed, did the thesis papers in my MA program, critiqued by eminent scholars who know the topics I was writing on well.)
Let me share with you what was in my original review that he was responding to:
The first problem is rather minor but everything else that follows concerns with the content of the book. This book has bad editing. The book has three sections but the numbering of the section is off; for instance, part one is labeled as part two, and part two is labeled as part three, etc. In the first chapter the endnotes are missing. I think the editors were asleep on the wheel and honestly I think if they did a better job scrutinizing the content of the book, I think the book wouldn’t have been published in the first place because I think it does not even fulfill the expectation of an undergraduate essay.
Again in this post I only want to focus on his first opening paragraph and not have any red-herring. Lord willing in future posts I want to revisit my review and examine his comments against the review more carefully. I want to move from the obvious to the more weightier matter over time.
Here’s my response:
- Right off the bat Marshall is right about my bad grammar. This has been a struggle of mine for a long time. I’ve been trying to work on my grammar, I got a long way to go. So I take to the blog and write as an exercise. I took to heart someone’s suggestion to write shorter sentences. I’ve been doing that. I’m trying. Honest to the Lord, I’m trying to work on my grammar. I’m actually planning on finding an English grammar book to read through this year. It’s kind of embarrassing for me to even admit this, but this has been a problem for me all throughout my life in school. I don’t want to minimize my grammatical mistakes since I think it is important to communicate clearly. This problem with my grammar extends beyond just the immediate matter at hand. I ask the readers to pray for me.
- To make sure I was not “off the mark,” I rechecked to see if my original claims that the book has bad editing. I stand by my original assertion in my the book review, that the editing was poor: It is true the book has three sections but the numbering of the section is off where part one is labeled as part two, and part two is labeled as part three, etc. It is true that in the first chapter the endnotes are missing.
- Marshall’s response to the above observation is to say “You complain about typos, but your review itself is chock full of grammatical errors.” But isn’t this committing the fallacy of responding to a wrong by pointing out another wrong?
- I am not trying to downplay my grammatical error when I say this but I think my observation of the book’s typo is more important than the grammatical mistakes in my review. One is a book, and the other is a review on a blog.
- Concerning my review’s original comment about the editors or publishers being asleep on the wheel: I just found out this work is self published, since Kuai Mu Press only publishes David Marshall’s books and the business address is at a personal residence in Washington. This does explain a lot since we all have blind spot and having actual publishers can minimize those typos.
- Marshall has contention with my “undergraduate essay” remark. I have known undergraduate essays being rejected because of format error and problems with citation.
- Marshall contends with my “undergraduate essay” remark by asserting “I expanded my argument in this book into a doctoral dissertation, which passed review easily.” That might be true with his doctoral dissertation being higher quality than an undergraduate essay but that doesn’t necessarily follow that his book is of the same caliber of argumentation as his dissertation. I do hope his argumentation has gotten better in between the time he wrote the book and his dissertation. His book was copyrighted in 2002 and his doctorate was awarded in 2013. We must also realize that his book is not the same thing as his dissertation. His dissertation was specifically “‘Towards a Christian Model of Religions: Yuan Zhiming as a case study in Fulfillment Theology’” and it’s not the book True Son of Heaven: I don’t recall the book primarily being about Yuan Zhiming, Acts 17, Matthew 5, etc. Either way, my review is on his book in 2002 not his dissertation in 2013. It is possible that his dissertation might be good but the book itself wasn’t good.
- In Marshall’s responses to my book review he’s mentioned several times his masters’ degree and doctorate, that he’s a historian, that’s he’s been vetted by scholars, etc. I can’t read people’s heart but I wonder what’s driving him. I also don’t know how many historians or scholars out there who goes looking online for reviews of their books and responding to them even though they think the book review is “petty.” I don’t know if that’s necessarily a virtue of a good scholar or whether the guild he’s a part of would think highly of such a behavior.
- Since he’s open up the can of worms on the topic of his advanced degrees, there’s also controversies surrounding his credentials that’s discussed online. Please note I’m opening bringing this up because he’s brought up his degrees. When I first read his book I couldn’t find his credentials mentioned anywhere nor on his website. That’s rather strange. Since I do not know for sure, I think it is still fair and legitimate to ask: Is Marshall’s claim of being a historian based upon his master’s degree in International Studies from University of Washington? If so, the degree program on its website professes to provide “a broad understanding of the Chinese people and their culture, historical development, and contemporary problems,” which is a far cry from being a historian. Or is his claim of being a “historian” rest on the basis that he has a doctorate in missions? Of course I don’t know it all but I must ask if he has another technical history degree(s) that he’s not made public in the past or articles for peer review history journals he’s authored as an historian?
- I must add that just because the book was poorly edited and controversy surrounding his degrees that doesn’t mean one can dismiss the book on those grounds alone. I hope in future posts to look at some of his other comments about my review.