Mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll just can’t seem to avoid controversy. He’s crass and brash, and he says outrageous things. He’s always making some Christian somewhere uncomfortable. This time, however, it’s not about the words that he’s said. It’s that he’s claimed the words that other people have said.
On November 21, Janet Mefferd , a radio host, accused Driscoll of plagiarism. She pointed out that passages from his new book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? , reproduce ideas from a book by Peter Jones published in 1999, Gospel Truth/Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference? Driscoll blew off her assertion. Mefferd has uploaded a comparison of the similar passages, along with some other suspect passages, here .
If I had come across the Call to Resurgence passage, I’d have been concerned about the lack of citation, but I might have just shrugged it off as ineptitude.
Some of the other evidence that Mefferd found is more damning. In a book on First and Second Peter published by Mars Hill Church, Driscoll lifts whole paragraphs almost word-for-word from the entry on First Peter in the New Bible Commentary , published by IVP in 1994. These passages are at the end of the previous link, and Mefferd provides additional passages here .
I’m a university professor. I have no tolerance for this kind of nonsense. I’ve failed students for less flagrant plagiarism. So, it’s my duty, as a member of my professing profession, to give Driscoll an “F.”
Mark Driscoll, you have failed.
I’ve dealt with a number of plagiarists, and it seems to me that plagiarism stems from two issues. I’ll let you decide which problem Driscoll suffers from, because there obviously is a problem.
1. Laziness. Writing is hard work, so some writers don’t want to do it right. Laziness also leads to procrastination. Getting behind schedule causes writers to cut corners and plagiarize.
2. Ignorance. I don’t mean ignorance of the conventions of proper citation. Everyone knows not to steal other people’s words. I mean ignorance of the topic. Sometimes people plagiarize because they are incompetent. They don’t know enough about their topic to ask interesting questions and provide interesting answers. Thus they must regurgitate what someone else has done. Becoming competent would take too much work (see reason one), and admitting incompetence would be embarrassing.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing is pretty common in Christian publishing. I remember when I was in seminary I came across a couple of paragraphs in a new commentary that had been lifted word-for-word from a very old commentary. I told my professor about it, and he shook his head sadly. He said, “I know that author. I can’t believe he did that.” We didn’t have blogs back then. It was much more difficult to “out” the plagiarists.
Of course, perhaps Driscoll isn’t a plagiarist. Maybe he employed a ghostwriter who is a plagiarist. It’d be convenient to have a scapegoat right now. But even if it was his ghostwriter, I’ll still fail him because we university professors don’t actually approve of ghostwriting. I know it’s typical in Christian publishing, but it’s still lying. Ghostwriting is lying, and plagiarism is stealing, and there seems to be a lot of it going around.
I’m sorry, Pastor Mark, but I don’t give extra credit. You’ll be stuck with the grade you’ve earned on this one.
(And because it’s always important to cite your sources, I give Jonathan Merritt the HT for this one.)