Zwinglius Redivivus

“Der glaubende Christ ist der denkende Theologe.” – Hans Hübner

Here’s What John Carpenter of the Christian Post Thinks of Plagiarism

One would think that the eruption of outrage at Driscoll is a refreshing expression of righteous indignation at failures of integrity. One would be wrong. Is having some unknown wordsmith cranking out pages that are then packaged and sold as the work of your favorite celebrity pastor deceitful and wrong? Yes. That deserves outrage. Is incorporating a few sentences of research into what is otherwise your original work really morally depraved lying? Be serious.

Mr Carpenter, ‘a few sentences’?  That’s laughable in its ignorance.   What we have here is a man willing to dismiss the very serious problem of theft.  By a ‘Christian’.  Of another Christian’s intellectual property.  What we have here in Mr. Carpenter is a person void of understanding.

The Christian Post can do better.  It should do better.  It must do better.

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Written by Jim

December 19, 2013 at 11:52

Posted in Total Depravity

9 Responses

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  1. Jim, at least I checked before I offer my opinion about this on Social Media… “Few sentences?” Here is my take on this: it is not just a few sentences, it is a number of sentences that is so high so as to make the book non-existent, impossible to have been written if it wouldn’t be for those sentences. Legally this may be proven in court of law as the book is not a book authored by the author in the title, or by the claimed author, or useless without those “few sentences”.
    I don’t believe Mr. Carpenter checked before he “plays it down” naming plagiarism as “a few sentences” and research. Research when quoted in any book requires attribution, otherwise it is ignorant passive acceptance of plagiarism, which to me is complicity.
    My opinion is not “peer certified” but it is based on what I see and check… just as if I’d see water coming down from heaven and would shout “it is raining…”

  2. Jim, like you, I am troubled by Mark Driscoll’s ministry. But I am also concerned that in the midst of this blogstorm, readers will unconsciously accept that “plagarism” is a Christian diagnosis – historically speaking, isn’t it a modern invention? Neither the church fathers (Augustine said the best way to learn to preach is to copy a good preacher) nor the reformers, nor even someone like Spurgeon (who, after hearing a country preacher read one of his published sermons without attribution saw it as a providence of God, as it encouraged him that he indeed believed what he preached each Sunday) would recognize ‘intellectual property’ as a Christian concept. I think that is because “plagarism” conceives of authorship as creation ex nihilo, with abnormalities (i.e., thoughts learned from others) noted at the end of the page or book. But come on, any self-aware Christian knows that we are all much more profoundly traditioned than that. So I ask, why not describe Driscoll’s errors with Christian language?


    December 19, 2013 at 15:56

    • Those are fair points. Nevertheless, we don’t live in the past with its various approaches to academic questions- we live in the present, for better or worse. And the present we live in cares about sources and honesty in their presentation.

      As a resident of this present Driscoll too is responsible to abide by its standards.

      Further- there are many ancient and pre-modern standards we no longer abide by because they no longer work. This is no source of shame for us or them. Accordingly, our question isn’t ‘what would Spurgeon do’ but rather what must we do.


      December 19, 2013 at 16:05

      • Isn’t also the difference that the issue here, even if we eliminate the “intellectual property” aspects, the “financial gain” aspect remains? Regardless of his motivations, Driscoll will earn financial benefits with the sale of books written on thoughts that are not his and, if it weren’t for some observant person, would have gone unnoticed! What includes the “intellectual property” in the issue is exactly the financial gain that even if that is not Driscoll intention, or motivation (since we can’t read minds or jump into judgmental thinking) is still there. The best way to prove that it is not a financial gain motivation that led him to copy someone else’s material is to come clean and transfer whatever gain he already had to the people whose material he copied. Until I see him coming clean in such a manner he is open to all kinds of criticism and even a lawsuit if the provisions of 1Cor 6:1 are exhausted.

      • Thank you for this thoughtful response, Jim. I’m reading between the lines here, but I basically understand you to be saying that this is a Romans 13 issue (i.e., current authority/convention says this behaviour is illegal, and we have no Scriptural reason to not submit/utilize these structures of thought). Putting aside how problematic I find the assumptions underlying so-called ‘intellectual property’, I remain unconvinced that a “plagarism” charge is going to expose the deep roots of this whole matter. It would be an interesting communal experiment to drop the word “plagarism” and return to Christian vocabulary for a couple of weeks – far from letting Driscoll off the hook, my gut is that this would make possible a perception of precisely those core dynamics that Paul longed for the Corinthians to name (thx to Milton for mentioning the passage), ones that he knew the legal authorities of Corinth were blind to but that God’s Spirit gives to those who are being prepared to one day judge angels.


        December 19, 2013 at 21:10

  3. Reblogged.

  4. the link to the piece in the Christian Post gets a 404 error. Perhaps Christian Post thought better of leaving the piece up?


    December 20, 2013 at 18:40

  5. If you’re speaking of plagiarism, it was two brief paragraphs from a commentary that they said was inadvertently made part of what was little more than an internal study guide on 1 Peter.
    If you’re referring to the use of research assistants, I don’t see that as plagiarism at all. They are paid knowing that their work will be incorporated into the work of their employer. There is no theft involved. It’s debatable whether or not that is deceitful.

    Since the main point of my article as to show that the simultaneous lack of out-rage at the election of Ergun Caner as the president of a Baptist college suggests that the supposed out-rage at Driscoll is fake, and you totally ignored that point and the Caner scandal, you’ve pretty well illustrated my point. What’s up? You certainly aren’t really concerned about integrity.

    John Carpenter

    January 2, 2014 at 10:56

    • The point of your essay which concerned, and concerns me is your dismissive attitude towards the very real problem of plagiarism. That was the takeaway. The Ergun matter is another story altogether.

      The outrage at Driscoll is decidedly NOT fake. Academics take plagiarism seriously. It’s a shame you don’t. That demonstrates a serious lack of integrity.


      January 2, 2014 at 11:00

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