Open Letter to the Lockman Foundation

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by eric_b, Aug 21, 2002.

  1. eric_b

    eric_b
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    I just emailed this off to the Lockman Foundation. If I get a reply, I'll post it to this thread. Basically, I'm wondering why professing Christians try to turn a profit off of the Word of God. The criticism also applies to Zondervan, but they are just an arm of HarperCollins (secular company) so I wouldn't waste my breath.

    I invite comment...

    Eric

    --

    Dear Lockman Foundation:

    I am writing to you with the hope that you can clear up some misconceptions that I may have about your organization. The limited information that I have does not look good, but I sincerely hope that some of my information or conclusions are wrong and want to give you every chance to set the record straight.

    The crux of this matter is the restrictions that you place on the electronic distribution of your translation of the Bible, the NASB. As I understand it (and I hope that I'm wrong) you do not allow the free electronic distribution of the NASB. So, for example, if someone began distributing a pdf file containing the entire, unmodified NASB over the Internet your organization would take legal action to stop them. Also, you insist on being paid $20 for the use of your translation in the free Bible software product e-Sword. If these statements are true, they seem to run contrary to your mission statement which reads (in part): "This organization is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry dedicated to the translation and distribution of the Scriptures." If were truly a non-profit ministry that sought to distribute the Word of God, as your mission statement states, you would not insist on being paid for it. I can understand charging for a printed book, but allowing others to distribite the text electronically would cost you nothing. Am I missing something?

    The publishers of the World English Bible seem to practice your mission statements better than you do. They have released there translation, based on the ASV, into the public domain, allowing it to be freely distributed by anyone. The advantage to this (from a Christian perspective) is obvious: since it is free and freely distributed, more people will read it and be exposed to the Gospel. Assuming that my assessment of your company's policies are accurate, I lift up their good example to you and ask you to consider it prayerfully. Also, it may be worth asking yourselves a question, "What would Jesus do?" If I have some misunderstanding about any of this, I would greatly appreciate being corrected so that I don't mislead others when I speak about your company. Any informative reply would be greatly appreciated.

    In Christ,
    Eric W. Burns
     
  2. Ransom

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    eric_b said:

    If were truly a non-profit ministry that sought to distribute the Word of God, as your mission statement states, you would not insist on being paid for it.

    You make a false assumption. "Non-profit" does not mean "charges no money." It means the purpose of the organization is not to make profit. They might have legitimate reason to charge money for Bibles - such as paying the for-profit printer who manufactured them.

    I can understand charging for a printed book, but allowing others to distribite the text electronically would cost you nothing. Am I missing something?

    If they give it away for free, how do they pay their creditors?
     
  3. eric_b

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    Your first point is well-taken, charging for something does not necessarily imply for-profit. I didn't mean to communicate that it did. To answer your question "If they give it away for free, how do they pay their creditors?", in the following two ways:

    1. With the money they get from selling the books. The books cost them money to make, so I don't have a problem with them charging for them. Or even charging more than the cost to produce them, since researching and developing the NASB involved costs. But allowing free distribution in electronic form would not entail any cost of production. It would also not, in my opinion, reduce the amount of books they sell, since a computer print-out pales in comparison to a bound and professionally printed book. What it would do is make a very good translation of Scripture freely available to many people, saved and unsaved, who want to learn God's Word

    2. With donations. The Lockman Foundation actively solicits donations, and if they removed the apparant hypocrisy I lay out in my letter (saying that the Foundation exists to distribute the Word of God, but subsequently restricting its distribution) I imagine that the amount of money donated would increase.

    Please note the modifier "apparant" before the word "hypocrisy", I'm not calling them hypocrites. I'm just saying that things look bad to me based on my limited information. I love NASB, so I hope I'm completely misjudging this situation and that people convince me of this.

    Eric

    [ August 21, 2002, 04:48 PM: Message edited by: eric_b ]
     
  4. Scott J

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    Lockman as a non-profit company is bound by certain laws that prevent it from making a profit while recouping all of its legitimate costs. None the less, it is a business. The NASB in non-print forms has a value.

    As a well run business, they can and should charge for all of their products of value. It is neither unethical nor immoral to do so.
     
  5. Ransom

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    eric_b said:

    The Lockman Foundation actively solicits donations, and if they removed the apparant hypocrisy I lay out in my letter (saying that the Foundation exists to distribute the Word of God, but subsequently restricting its distribution) I imagine that the amount of money donated would increase.

    There is no apparent hypocrisy either. The NASB is the Lockman Foundation's intellectual property. It is an asset - as Scott J. said, it has value. Lockman is fully within its rights, morally, ethically, and legally, to guard its property and determine how it is distributed and by whom. (That is why copyrights exist.)

    I would say, in fact, that they are on higher moral ground than the people who wish to receive "free" electronic NASBs from the Lockman Foundation at no cost to themselves. Maybe they should look up their friendly neighbourhood Gideon.

    Nor is Lockman "subsequently restricting" the spread of the Word of God. They do not have a monopoly on Bibles; if one does not like their offering, there are plenty of alternative translations to choose from. Some are even free.
     
  6. eric_b

    eric_b
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    I take exception to that remark, if it was directed at me (maybe it wasn't?). I've already bought NASB in various formats, and can afford to so it doesn't bother me for my sake. Even if everything became public domain, I wouldn't get a refund, my motives are my stated motives.

    What does bother me is the apparent contradiction between a group calling themselves an "interdenominational ministry dedicated to the translation and distribution of the Scriptures" (that's taken verbatim from their mission statement) and then acting like a business instead of a ministry. I'm all for intellectual property rights, but you'd think they would want to waive them if their priority was to spread the Gospel.

    As a Christian, I'm discouraged that very few translation groups want to make their work freely available for the sake of distributing God's Word. World English Bible is a notable exception, and there are a few others, but no major translation has been made available to the public domain. Why wouldn't Christians want to do this if their priorities were in order? Perhaps I'm being naive?

    Eric
     
  7. Ransom

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    eric_b said:

    if it was directed at me (maybe it wasn't?).

    No, it was not. All too often I have heard questions like this posed (usually from KJV-onlyists, BTW), but they always seem to be cast in such a way as to suggest that the person is ticked he can't freely copy or redistribute some Bible translation or other.

    In most cases the person's attitude proves him to be a leech. He is not willing to lift a finger to do any translation work himself. Nonetheless, he is disgruntled that some translation committee won't waive their rights for his benefit. (This attitude is especially puzzling in the KJV crowd since the KJV is in the public domain and they regard the modern versions as "corruptions" to begin with.)
     
  8. eric_b

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    Thanks for clearing that up. I hope you understand that I respect where you are coming from on this, I just can't come around far enough to agree with it. But I don't at all question your good will. I'll read everone's response on this thread, though (as well as Lockman's) with an open mind...

    Eric
     
  9. Pastor Larry

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    YOur letter is unfounded.

    1. Property rights and copyrights assert ownership of the material and prevent others from using it for profit or change.

    2. Translating, even by a non-profit organization, requires money. Publishing requires money.

    3. The spread of the gospel is not hindered by copyrights. That is a pious straw man argument. Every version ever printed has been copyrighted.

    4. No book that I am aware of that is under copyright is distributed free of charge in an electronic media.

    If you wnat to beef with someone, I would beef with those who include it and charge for it. Tell the software company to foot the bill to Lockman and give it to you for free. After all, they are in it for money.
     
  10. eric_b

    eric_b
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    Hi Larry,

    I'm a little confused by your message, I think there are three points I need to make...

    1. You seem to be misusing the phrase "straw man argument". A straw man argument is when you purposely distort what the other person believes in an effort to make them look bad. For instance, if we were debating gun control, and you said "I think everyone has the constitutional right to own guns" and I replied by saying "oh, you think little children should own guns?" I would be guilty of a straw man argument. The reason it's called a "straw man" is because it's as if you are building an imaginary opponent that can be easily toppled over instead of taking on your real opponent. It's much easier than tackling your opponent's actual arguments if they have any logic to them. It's also a pretty lame way to debate an issue, and I'm scrupulous to avoid it. I'm pretty sure I haven't used any straw man arguments in this thread. Maybe you meant to say "fallacious argument"?

    2.With regards to your very last comment I'm a little confused. The only software I mentioned anywhere was e-sword, and e-sword is 100% free (except for the NASB module, because Lockman insists on charging, but this is out of e-sword's control). I invite you to check out the web site: www.e-sword.net. The programmer who made it was more interested in promoting the Bible than making a profit, and I only wish more Christians had that attitude.

    3. To address your fourth point, the New English Translation Bible is under copyright and distributed free of charge (http://www.bible.org/netbible/index.htm). Another good example for Lockman, in my opinion...

    I think I've already addressed your other points in my previous posts, so I won't repeat myself.

    Eric

    [ August 22, 2002, 10:25 AM: Message edited by: eric_b ]
     
  11. kman

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    Doesn't 1 Tim 5:17-18 have an application here?

    1Ti 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
    1Ti 5:18 For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

    If someone is doing work for the Lord, he is
    entitled to making a living off of that.
    (atleast that is how I interpret it).

    -kman

    ps.. Above verses cut-n-pasted from my NASB module
    in e-sword ;) for which I paid $20.
     
  12. eric_b

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    Good response, kman! I also paid $20 for the e-sword module. Another good verse is: "Without payment you have received; without payment you are to give." (Mat 10:8 )

    But I don't dispute that Lockman has the _right_ to charge money. You very rightly point out that they do and support it with Scripture. I agree! I just don't understand why they wouldn't _want_ to waive that right, if their goal was truly to spread the Gospel. I think Paul is a great example:

    1Co 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING." God is not concerned about oxen, is He?
    1Co 9:10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.
    1Co 9:11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
    1Co 9:12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

    1Co 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.
    1Co 9:17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.
    1Co 9:18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
    1Co 9:19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.

    Eric

    [ August 22, 2002, 11:08 AM: Message edited by: eric_b ]
     
  13. Pastor Larry

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    YOU have distorted the spread of the gospel argument to make it look as if Lockman is against the spread of the gospel because they are charging for rights to their translation. That is a straw man, unless you meant somethign different than what you implied above.

    What about the NIV, the RSV, the NRSV, the NLT, and various other translation that they don't include? To jump on Lockman for that is not exactly a fair argument.
    According to their home page, everything they have gotten for free, they are giving away for free. There is nothing wrong with that. But neither is there anything wrong with charging for things that cost. If E-sword charges for something that cost them, why is it wrong for Lockman to charge for something that costs them?

    As for the NET Bible, many organziations of different types are giving away electronic editions in hopes of selling hardback editions. This is how the whole Napster craze of trading music got started. Bands without contracts and significant resources used it for free advertising. But because the NET Bible (a fair translation) does it, does not obligate others to do it.

    I am not jumping on you. I simply think you are probably being a bit unreasonable in your expectation and are basing it on a unfounded argument.
     
  14. eric_b

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    YOU have distorted the spread of the gospel argument to make it look as if Lockman is against the spread of the gospel because they are charging for rights to their translation. That is a straw man, unless you meant somethign different than what you implied above.
    </font>[/QUOTE]Even if I mischaracterized the Lockman foundation it still wouldn't be a straw man argument because I'm not debating them. Ack! I hate to see phrases misused! The worst you could accuse me of is distortion or libel (which wouldn't be correct, but at least it would be in context). And I never said that Lockman was against the spread of the Gospel (you are using, dare I say it?, a straw man argument against me), I'm just saying that money seems to be a higher piority to them than distributing God's Word, and so their actions don't seem to match up with their mission statement.

    What about the NIV, the RSV, the NRSV, the NLT, and various other translation that they don't include? To jump on Lockman for that is not exactly a fair argument.
    According to their home page, everything they have gotten for free, they are giving away for free. There is nothing wrong with that. But neither is there anything wrong with charging for things that cost. If E-sword charges for something that cost them, why is it wrong for Lockman to charge for something that costs them?

    </font>[/QUOTE]They are well within their rights. But their actions are incongruous with their mission statement. That's why I'm picking on Lockman and not, for instance, Zondervan, Zondervan admits to being a business, Lockman claims to be a ministry and actively solicits donations. They claim in their mission statement to be a "ministry" whose goal is to distribute scripture, but they will sue anyone who tries to electronically distribute the NASB Bible for free. If their first priority was to distribute the Bible they would not do this. I freely admit that distributing Scripture could be their _second_ priority, in which case their mission statement should be revised to accurately reflect their priorities and policies.

    You were just criticizing me for assuming ulterior motives, but seem quick to do so yourself. I think there are Christians who are willing to give up a chance to make money in order to spread the Gospel. Maybe I'm naive...

    I am frequently unreasonable, it's a side effect of being an idealist...

    Eric

    [ August 22, 2002, 11:59 AM: Message edited by: eric_b ]
     
  15. Pastor Larry

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    As to straw men and debates, by writing a letter there seems at least the implication of debates or an attempt to enter into a assertion/response format which may be characterized as "debatelike." I think you are defining straw man too narrowly. I too hate to see phrases misused but I am not convinced I have done so. Regardless of the name, the implication was there.

    I don't agree with that at all. I could say that if your first priority was to spread the gospel, you would quit your job and spend all day looking for people to talk to. That is simply not a fair argument with you and it is not with them. Translations, whether for profit or not, still cost money. Research is expensive. Translator's have to live, just as you do.

    Lastly, my point about the NET Bible was not to judge anyone's motive. I personally do not know why they do it and I am not convinced that it matters. I rather think it doesn't. I was simply pointing out why some people do it. You have to pay $20 to get the NET Bible for your Palm. Should they change that policy? And why would they have it free for PC And $20 for Palm? It seemed a little bit strange, even incongrous.

    But all that is fine; either way, it is not a big deal. I simply wouldn't question the commitments or integrity of Lockman over this.
     
  16. eric_b

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    From Stephen's Guide to Logical Fallacies (http://www.intrepidsoftware.com/fallacy/straw.htm):


    Straw Man

    Definition:

    The author attacks an argument which is different from, and usually weaker than, the opposition's best argument.

    Examples:

    People who opposed the Charlottetown Accord probably just wanted Quebec to separate. But we want Quebec to stay in Canada.

    We should have conscription. People don't want to enter the military because they find it an inconvenience. But they should realize that there are more important things than convenience.

    Proof:

    Show that the opposition's argument has been misrepresented by showing that the opposition has a stronger argument. Describe the stronger argument.

    References:
    Cedarblom and Paulsen: 138


    Eric
     
  17. Pastor Larry

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    Straw man -- caricaturing an opposing side so that it is easy to refute: see rule 5 (Rule 5 deals with loaded langauge) (From Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments.

    What you did was essentially caricature the opposing position to make it look as if Lockman was not committed to the spread of the gospel by virtue of charging for an electronic version of their text. Whether or not that fits your definition of "straw man," it most certainly fits mine. However, the use of straw man by Weston or anyone else is not really the issue. The issue is simply, Do not make false arguments in order to make your side look favorable.

    Lockman should not be construed to be against the spread of the gospel. That is an attempt to prejudice the conversation toward your side.

    As I say, it would be like me saying, "Do you care about souls or are you going to keep your job?" In essence, that is the false dichotomy you made with Lockman.

    However, it is no longer necessary for us to trade definition of straw men. My point was made: Use caution in the motives you attribute to people.
     
  18. eric_b

    eric_b
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    Please cite text from any message where I stated that the Lockman Foundation is "against the spread of the Gospel". You've said repeatedly that I've said that, but I clearly haven't. Reread my posts. You are putting words in my mouth (not necessarily on purpose, but at the very least you've misunderstood me).

    This conversation is starting to sound like a flame war, we should probably just agree to disagree and discontinue this for the sake of Christian unity. If I get a letter back from Lockman I'll post it here, but otherwise I've said what I have to say...

    Eric

    [ August 22, 2002, 02:21 PM: Message edited by: eric_b ]
     
  19. Sojourner

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    Eric,

    I tend to be an idealist also. In fact, I'd suggest that most pastors on here have been tainted with idealism.

    I have my own windmills to tilt, so I'm not one to judge whether yours are unreasonable or no. I'm just thrilled to be on your team, knowing that our mutual head is none other than Christ Jesus. :cool:

    Nothing else compares to knowing Him as Saviour and Lord, eh?

    David
     
  20. eric_b

    eric_b
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    Amen!
     

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