Who’s Talking About The Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Controversy?

Three days ago, Relevant Magazine published a brief article with the headline: Basically, Nobody’s Talking About the Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Accusations.

What a difference a couple of days make. Now, lots of people are talking about the controversy swirling around Pastor Driscoll.

Religion News Service, World MagazineChristianity TodayChristian Post, CrosswalkRight Wing Watch, Orlando Sentinel, Opposing Views, First Things, Examiner, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, Religion Dispatches, and the Urban Christian News all have new articles up about the matter, some just posted this morning.

One person not talking is Mark Driscoll which is unfortunate because he could quiet the matter with appropriate action and comment. One organization that probably would not like to talk any more about the issue is Tyndale House. According to a statement given to Christianity Today, Driscoll’s publisher, Tyndale House, said his book A Call to Resurgence “conforms to market standards” in the citation of Peter Jones material.

That judgment of Tyndale House might be influenced by a recent publishing deal between the publishing house and Driscoll. Tyndale advertises on the Salem Radio Network which also carries Mefferd’s show.  Certainly seems possible that Tyndale put some pressure on Ms. Mefferd to make a statement of apology. Let me hasten to add that I believe Mefferd was sincere in her statement in that she did not alter her assessment of the evidence regarding citation of sources.

I doubt this story goes away quietly.

I have some additional links below and will add them as I find them. Readers, if you see other articles on this topic, please add them in the comments section.

See also:

On The Allegations Of Plagiarism Against Mark Driscoll (12/2/13)

Zombies, Plagiarism And Mark Driscoll Helped Me Write This Blog Post (12/3/13)

Mark Driscoll And His Church On Plagiarism (12/4/13)

Janet Mefferd Removes Evidence Relating To Charges Of Plagiarism Against Mark Driscoll; Apologizes To Audience (12/4/13)

Ingrid Schlueter Resigns From Janet Mefferd Show Over Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Controversy (12/5/13)

Mark Driscoll Accused Of Plagiarism By Radio Host (Religion News Service)

More Allegations Of Plagiarism Surface Against Mark Driscoll (Religion News Service)

Flunking Mark Driscoll for Plagiarism (11/29 – First Things)

Mark Driscoll and Janet Mefferd: Plagiarism, Tribalism and Paganism (Istoria Ministries)

Ongoing Drama Ensues After Radio Host Accuses Mark Driscoll of Plagiarism (Charisma News – 12/9/13)

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  • The conclusion of the matter is this:

    1. Ms. Mefferd has retracted her accusations and apologized to Mark Driscoll. So should Warren Throckmorton .

    2. The alleged plagiarism of Dr. Jones is not substantial The publisher of Driscoll’s book reviewed the allegations and concluded that Driscoll’s use of Jones’ ideas and crediting to him was to publishing standards.

    3. The alleged plagiarism of two brief paragraphs from a commentary of 1 Peter is more substantial. However, the publication in which it apparently occurred is little more than an internal study guide. Churches commonly produce material for their Sunday School or small groups and likely, inadvertent failures to proper cite sources is also common. The mistake should be corrected but until evidence is forth-coming that it was intentional plagiarism, to treat this as though it is a great moral failure is absurd.

    4. The real substantial issues here are the worldly scandal-mongering that many Christians relish, including some Christian media organizations, the cynical and reflexively scornful attitudes toward Christian leaders, etc.

    • Warren Throckmorton

      John C. Mefferd did not retract her accusation of plagiarism; she apologized apparently under some duress for her tone and for making it all public before she went to Tyndale.

      • She retracted it in the sense that she withdrew it from public. I would suggest you do the same and do some serious soul searching (perhaps with some counselling) about your bizarre obsession with this issue.
        I suspect that your suggestion that Mefferd was under some kind of “duress” is probably a projection on your part; a conspiracy theory, and again an expression of something wrong with the perceiver.
        That you are this obsessed with what amounts to a failure to properly cite two brief paragraphs in what amounts to little more than an internal study guide is bizarre.

        • Huskersuck

          john, you are acting as a partisan tool. There have been numerous professors and academics who have objectively commented on the repeated plagiarism here. You are contorting yourself into a pretzel in order to justify your idolatry of your favorite celebrity.

          If you want to lie to yourself and obfuscate, that’s your choice. But don’t expect others to drink the same kool aide.

          The fact that I see you posting the same nonsense on multiple sites about this issue shows how much of a religion this is for you. You really have to look at the issue of idolatry in your life.

          • Nonsense. That’s a false accusation. You can’t show once where I’ve lied to myself or anyone else. You’ve broken the 9th commandment (Ex. 20:16) by bearing false witness and must repent. If you won’t repent, then you need to examine yourself as to whether you are really “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Or are you just a religious hypocrite who thinks he can fabricate accusations without any basis in reality?

            Driscoll isn’t even my “favorite celebrity”. You don’t know what you’re talking about. And there are no substantiated accusations of “repeated” plagiarism. There is only one: in the 1 Peter study guide. Don’t post falsehoods and then claim you are interested in furthering the cause of truth.

    • Crazi

      Newsflash, Carpenter: Your Emperor has no clothes. Until Mark publically owns up to his plagiarism and at least explains it (ideally repents of it), it remains very much an open issue. Driscoll is a public figure and, as such, is open to scrutiny, regardless of how much you like the guy.

      • Dirtbeard

        If the publisher contends that no plagiarism took place, what is Driscoll supposed to confess/explain? Isn’t your argument with the publisher?

        • You’re right but I think you’re trying to reason with people who are being unreasonable. Like a shark sensing blood in water, these kinds of people crave the prospect of bringing down a pastor.

        • Huskersuck

          The plagiarism of the other books was worse. Did Tyndale even comment on those?

          A publisher is not who decides if plagiarism took place, by the way. Particularly when they have a vested money interest here.

          • Dirtbeard

            Ultimately, this is true. Yet a publisher would take such accusations seriously. My point remains, they say it is not plagiarism, so the argument is with them.

      • Actually in the interview, he said he’s sorry if he made a mistake, etc.
        That you seriously think a lack of citation for two brief paragraphs in what amounts to little more than an internal study guide is a serious moral issue, shows that you have a serious moral issue you need to deal with.

  • Driscoll is doing himself no favors here. The evidence of plagiarism is so obvious and inarguable that even John Carpenter, who is mildly notorious for trolling comment sections to make personal attacks on anyone who dares say anything negative about Driscoll, admitted in a previous comment thread, and I quote, “I agree that the commentary stuff is probably plagiarism.” Well then, QED.

    Coupled with Driscoll’s own statements about how pastors “borrowing” is “a demonic, satanic issue,” it’s easy to see why people have latched on to this as a blatant example of religious hypocrisy. Yet it would be quite easy for him to make the whole scandal go away if he just said, “This was an oversight, I’m sorry, I regret the error, and it will be corrected in future editions.” Instead he responds by attacking those who pointed out the fact. He has only himself to blame that it’s a scandal at all.

    It is a bit amusing, though: All the controversial and offensive things Driscoll’s said and done in the past, and this is the one that becomes a scandal?

    • Also, a few vocal commenters are pleading that an “internal study guide” that fails to cite sources should be regarded as a “mistake” rather than the “great moral failure” of “intentional plagiarism.” Well, that may be their opinion, but at least one well-known pastor disagrees. In the words of… what’s the guy’s name… oh yes, Mark Driscoll:

      “Do not speak anyone else’s messages. Doing so amounts to plagiarism, unless you get permission. Worse, it subverts God’s work in and through you… If you use the work of others, you are not a teacher, and you should quit your job and do anything but speak.” — Mark Driscoll, Vintage Church, p. 105 (quoted here)

      Addendum: Anyone doubting the truthfulness of this quote can easily look it up for themselves. Driscoll specifically defines “plagiarism” as to “speak anyone else’s messages… unless you get permission”, which he says is grounds for resignation. He makes no requirement for it to be done intentionally or word-for-word. You’re welcome to disagree with Driscoll, of course, but to insert an absent word such as “intentionally” into his definition would be to lie about what he said. (Which means there is some major irony here from the trolls….)

      • Those who followed my comments in a previous thread will note that I’ve learned from my mistake and will not be wasting any time feeding the trolls. I recommend others do the same.

        • melekish

          Win for Eric!!

      • Guest

        A little addendum: Anyone doubting the truthfulness of this quote can easily look it up for themselves. Driscoll specifically defines plagiarism as to “speak anyone else’s messages… unless you get permission”, which he says is grounds for resignation. He makes no requirement for it to be done intentionally or word-for-word. You’re welcome to disagree with Driscoll, of course, but to insert an absent word such as “intentionally” into his definition would be to lie about what he said. (Which means there is some major irony here from the trolls.)

        • …Did I just get plagiarized? LOL. Good point all the same, guest.

    • Two paragraphs lacking citation in what amounts to little more than an internal study guide is not a serious issue.
      Your willful refusal to even entertain the possibility that it could be a simple mistake is demonstrative of the real significant issue here.

  • If this were a Jewish or Muslim matter, many people spewing on this wouldn’t be. But evangelicals are fair game these days and for evangelicals, the gloves are always off.

    Indeed Mefferd, whether pressured or not [probably was] was all about the “gotcha.” She was acting as any modern media vulture would, not as a Christian, and this is the nature of her apology.

    For as an internal matter within Christianity itself, this is about a 1, and since the material is of a pastoral-theological nature, between Driscoll and his congregation, and between Discroll and the 2 authors he putatively may have harmed, Peter Jones and DA Carson.

    Many or most of those weighing in on this want to slime the religious or the right, or both. For them, the plagiarism is an excuse to vent their own psychological issues, Dr. Throckmorton. Such is the nature of these things, and why your blog is as a flame to the moths on these subjects, more Rorschach than Zola. ;-X

    • Crazi

      Here’s why this should not have been handled as a “closed door” matter: the offense wasn’t private. It was the greatest kind of public transgression–plagiarism in a best selling book. At the very least, it was sloppy editing and Christians should be talking about that issue right now. At the worst, it was willful theft of material belonging to a lesser known author. If Driscoll OR his staff did this, they must be held publicly accountable. Whether Mefferd was tactful about it or not, the issue needed to be tackled head on.

      • Thank you, but that’s not a reply to what I wrote, it’s a shoutdown. I didn’t say it should have been handled as a “closed door” matter. I said condemnations are raining down from many people with no stake in the matter, and if this were a Jewish or Muslim thing, I sincerely doubt they would be spewing as they are.

        • I agree with you. I especially appreciated your comment above: “the plagiarism is an excuse to vent their own psychological issues”. There is in white, American church culture a visceral cynicism toward leaders and a deep-seated suspicion of anyone who exudes a sense of authority. (One doesn’t find it in African-American or Asian Christian culture.) It is destroying the church in the USA as people assume that pastors are fair game for any accusation people want to make.

          • These things bring out the haters on the anti-religious left. As for the rest, John, rejection of human authority has been the hallmark of the Reformation for 500* years now [and particularly in America!]. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

            Strangely enough, such a theological discussion seems out of place on this particular Patheos blog. ;-P

            As for the mob trying to talk over your arguments and attack you personally for your POV, good for you that you don’t give into the bullying. I don’t agree with you that Discroll’s plagiarism is minimal, but I also don’t think it’s right for people to use this issue as a cudgel to bash Christians, evangelicals, conservatives, neo-Calvinists or whathaveyou.

            Their political and psychological agendas are pretty naked.

            [As for the handful of concerned evangelicals who do have a sincere stake in all this, of course your concerns are legitimate, that somehow Discroll’s plagiarism reflects badly on Jesus.

            But considering how few of these haters would ever have heard about this in the first place if Mefferd hadn’t played “gotcha” in her ambush interview of Discroll, I’m not sure any greater good is being served here.]


          • Interesting. I don’t think it has anything to do with the Reformation, however (which we’ll have the 500th anniversary of in 3.5 years). I’ve had some experience in African and Asian Christian churches and one doesn’t find this reflexive suspicion of leaders. White Americans, however, believe the pastor is guilty until proven innocent — and he’s never really proven innocent in their eyes. They think it’s wise always to be suspicious of pastor. This is destroying the evangelical church in America as good pastors are routinely slandered, fired and driven out of the ministry. The true charlatans are allowed to prosper because they don’t challenge people’s sins and wouldn’t think of ever writing something with enough factual content that would actually need a source — properly cited or not.

          • Mr. Carpenter, this is hardly the place to discuss Christianity!

          • Huskersuck

            It’s worth mentioning that John Carpenter attacks people who simply think Driscoll should be held accountable to how he defines plagiarism on his own website.

            This is true idolatry.

          • That’s a false accusation. You’ve broken the 9th commandment (Ex. 20:16) by bearing false witness and must repent. If you won’t repent, then you need to examine yourself as to whether you are really “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Or are you just a religious hypocrite who thinks he can fabricate accusations without any basis in reality?

      • Baloney. The only substantial charge of plagiarism is in the study guide on 1 Peter, not for the Resurgence book. It’s two brief paragraphs in what is little more than an internal study guide. I’ve yet to see any real evidence for plagiarism elsewhere.

  • Escapee

    It does seem odd that Driscoll is being silent about it, other than his on-air comments about looking into it. It would seem to be in the best interest of everyone involved (Driscoll, Mars Hill, Mefferd, Salem, Tyndale, Carson, and Jones) to give some kind of statement. Mefferd seems to me to be hung out to dry a bit, especially given Merritt’s recent interview of her in which all her answers were “no comment.”

    • Crazi

      I’ve noticed this “remain silent” strategy being invoked when the situation is especially sticky. When Christopher Hitchens wrote “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” years back, which provided damning evidence that Kissinger was a war criminal who had violated US and International law, Kissinger’s camp simply remained silent. They pretended it didn’t exist. The best way to draw more attention to a controversy is to respond to it. The only reason Kissinger got away with this tactic is because of a complicit secular media. The only reason Mark seems to be getting away with it at the moment is because of a complicity Christian media. The question is, will folks like World Magazine, who have taken on beloved figures such as David Barton, tackle the Driscoll plagiarism scandal, as well, given the similar Reformed roots of Driscoll and World magazine?

      • You seriously believe Christopher Hitchens? Are you an atheist too?

    • Dirtbeard

      If the publisher’s current position is that no plagiarism took place, and Driscoll’s response was to say he’d look into it. What else is needed?

      • Escapee

        Your comment applies to the Jones citation, but not to the Carson one. It seems prudent to me to address the Carson one, but no one has as yet.

        • Dirtbeard

          Isn’t that what he said was being looked into?

          • Escapee

            No, when Driscoll was on-air, Mefferd brought up the Jones citation. She posted the Carson one later on her blog, after the interview was over. He has not responded to the Carson citation, nor has anyone from Mars Hill, which published the booklet in question. Carson emailed Merritt saying he did not wish to comment.

          • Dirtbeard

            Guess we’ll see how it plays out.

  • Dirtbeard

    So there were/are two issues: 1) the published work and 2) the internal (to Mars Hill) study guide. Is that right?

    In the first case the publisher has reviewed the work and said it’s not plagiarism. The second case is not published, and Driscoll may not even have known about it.

    Copyright infringement for copying Carson, maybe, but I don’t see the issue being as big as its become.

    This isn’t so much a defense of Driscoll as it is a question of why its a big deal.

    • Hi, no. The “study guide”, I call it, on 1 Peter is officially published, although I believe by Mars Hill. Churches frequently produce study guide material for their small groups. Mars Hill has the capability of publishing theirs. Two paragraphs in this study guide on 1 Peter is apparently plagiarized from a commentary by D. A. Carson (who isn’t commenting). The question is whether it was done intentionally or inadvertently.

      There are also accusations that Driscoll plagiarized from a professor Jones from whom Driscoll credits to having learned a lot. This is in his latest book, “A Call for Resurgence” (or something like that). But in that case there are no word-for-word copying and the publisher concluded that Driscoll’s book meets publishing standards for citing sources.

      I don’t think the issue is Driscoll at all. I think it is the culture of suspicion of authority and scandal mongering in white American evangelicalism.

    • This site covering the story has a good list of quotes explaining why the issue of plagiarism, no matter the scope of the publication and whether it’s purposeful or not, is a very serious breach of pastoral ethics. This is according to Mark Driscoll, D. A. Carson, and other such leaders, so if anyone disagrees they can take up with them.

      “Do not speak anyone else’s messages. Doing so amounts to plagiarism, unless you get permission. Worse, it subverts God’s work in and through you… If you use the work of others, you are not a teacher, and you should quit your job and do anything but speak.” –Mark Driscoll. Note that he defines plagiarism simply as speaking someone else’s messages without permission– no requirement made for it to be done intentionally or word-for-word.

      • Dirtbeard

        Eric, I agree the issue of plagarism is serious. My confusion was with the big deal that was being made if it given that the publisher does not believe it to be plagarism, in the first case, and we dont even know Driscoll knew about the study guide in the second.

        I’m not defending Driscoll, I just don’t understand the level of rhetoric given that the process has not played out as of yet.

        • See my first comment for that– I think it’s the combination of Driscoll’s prior statements about plagiarism being “a demonic, satanic issue” (making the Hypocrite Card all too easy to play) with his combative response to the confrontation. A gentle answer from him would have turned away a lot of wrath. I do agree that that it’s rather odd that this of all things is the scandal that went viral; there are much more problematic statements in his oeuvre for anyone who really wants to go on the attack.

          • You still refuse to consider the possibility that he made a mistake. And he wasn’t combative with Mefferd, that’s why it’s Mefferd who had to apologize, not Driscoll. But don’t let truth get in the way of your lust to smear a pastor.

  • Mark

    Keep this information. I do have a concern beyond just this issue and this is the question whether Mars Hill is a church or a cult? Now the Driscollites and Driscoll idolaters will be upset by this question, but it is a valid question regarding their celebrity pastor and his organization.

    • To be fair that’s a very controversial label, but I recommend you go on Google and search for “Mars Hill cult.” You’ll find, let’s just say, some very eye-popping stuff.

    • It’s clearly a church. It’s theology is orthodox by evangelical standards and Biblical. As I understand it, it has a presbyterian-style polity. There’s no reason whatsoever to consider it a cult.

  • $25021989


    How quickly we forget…

    Remember Dr. Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (“ERLC”) , who was accused of plagiarism and the investigation which ensued? The conclusion of the ECLU:

    “We…reprimand Dr. Land for quoting material without giving attribution on the Richard Land Live! (RLL) radio show, thereby unwisely accepting practices that occur in the radio industry, and we acknowledge that instances of plagiarism occurred because of his carelessness and poor judgment….As a Christian, a minister of the Gospel of our Lord, and as President of the ERLC, Dr. Land should have conformed to a higher standard.”


    No one can accuse the ERLC of being part of the “anti-religious left-wing” or of being “haters.” Certainly, they would have preferred if their investigation results would have exonerated Dr. Land. Dr. Land was regarded by many as a veritable institution in the Southern Baptist Convention, and there were never any allegations that he plagiarized in any of his written materials, as is the case with Driscoll.

    However, even though it could be argued that Dr. Land did not “intentionally” quote material without giving proper citation, it was still acknowledged that plagiarism occurred. Dr. Land was very publicly reprimanded by the leadership of his denomination and lost his program.

  • dave