Thou Shalt Not...Plagiarize!1
There has been a lot of buzz in the last few weeks about a popular pastor in some Evangelical circles. Initially, Pastor Mark Driscoll was accused of plagiarism by syndicated radio host Janet Mefferd who produced photocopied documents of some of Driscoll's work side-by-side with some older stuff by other people. Driscoll's stuff didn't cite what was used. This is a problem. And it has turned into quite the debate... some people defending Driscoll, some people condemning him, etc.
I first heard about this when I caught a glimpse of the article on First Thoughts by Collin Garbarino titled, "Flunking Mark Driscoll for Plagiarism." This article was pretty intense. It stated, "Mark Driscoll, you have failed." Naturally, this whole conversation in the greater Christian community has brought up issues of ghost writing (where someone writes for someone else but doesn't get their name on the front of the book, or article, or blog, etc.) and all sorts of other things. Does a pastor have to cite every person that pastor has consulted? In sermons? Articles? Books? As my professors always told me, "better safe than sorry...cite, cite, cite." In academia, the cardinal sin is plagiarism... you just don't do it! I ran into another article today by the editor of Christianity Today Andy Crouch. It is titled, "The Real Problem with Mark Driscoll's 'Citation Errors.' - and it isn't plagiarism." This talks about an even deeper problem that may be at the root of this issue. Spoiler alert: At the end of his article Crouch says, "No human being could do what 'Pastor Mark Driscoll' does—the celebrity is actually a complex creation of a whole community of people who sustain the illusion of an impossibly productive, knowledgeable, omnicompetent superhuman. The real danger here is not plagiarism—it is idolatry." One of the last books I read as I was finishing seminary was by one of my profs titled, Should We Use Someone Else's Sermon? Preaching in a Cut-and-Paste World. Needless to say, this whole ordeal has got me thinking. Do I ever take credit for someone else's work? Am I desirous to portray a particular picture of myself which in fact I could never in reality reach up to? Why do I do what I do? Am I doing it for my own glory, or for the glory of God? As a pastor, I want to have the answers that my people are looking for. But I shouldn't pretend like I've got em all already. It takes work to understand God and His word. It takes lots of research. Especially with how often I forget. God's Word is simple, but that doesn't mean it isn't complex. Let's be honest: most of the answers I have now I wouldn't have if not for other people who have gone before me and have provided resources for me to go to for "...such a time as this."
So, what is one way I can guard myself against the temptation of idolatry that we all (I) face? The temptation for me to want other people to idolize me instead of worshipping the God who is the source of all good works. Certainly to take pleasure in taking credit for other people's work is to do the very thing I am not to do! It would be a worthless side-show. A mere distraction. I don't want to be that. I don't want to get in the way of the beauty of my Savior!
Well, I think one way I can personally avoid this is to always be crystal clear about the sorts of sources I am using. Most people don't care. But some people do! And it's the principle that counts. This way, no one gets the wrong impression that all this "knowledge" is coming only straight from my head as if all of this is just there already. I wish I had a super-brain. But I don't. I wish I was a spiritual genius. But I'm not. So, in the interest of being forthright, I'd like to make public the resources I've most often utilized these past few months as I've been teaching our youth and young adults on the subject of "Parables: Then and Now." Most everything I have done with them this Fall has been a result NOT of what I already know, but of going to the resources and going to God's word and in prayer saying, "What of this stuff can be utilized and focused on for God's glory for God's people?" It takes discernment. It takes study. I take no credit for it. I'm sure most if not all of the stuff I've been presenting is not original. But "original" is overrated anyways. Nothing is new under the sun - and all of it has been for the glory of God. For anyone interested, the following are the resources I have read and used just about every week this Fall:
- Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. By Klyne R. Snodgrass.
- The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation. By Brad H. Young.
- The Challenge of Jesus' Parables. Edited by Richard N. Longenecker.
- The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told. By Simon J. Kistemaker
- Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. By Kenneth E. Bailey.
These resources have been of immense help to me and I have used material from all of them in my teaching and preparing of curriculum. Thank God for these men and the work they have done so that I can then use it to help people not only understand the Bible better. But I get the privilege of helping people understand Jesus better. Hopefully without any sort of hint that in order to do this, you've gotta be an all-star. Christianity isn't about being able to "do it all" or "have it all figured out." No amount of education or experience would ever get us to that point anyways. It's about being a servant and working hard for the sake of God's people. And taking it one day-at-a-time.
*The picture is from my twitter feed. I posted it on September 26th, 2013 with the caption, "The mother load came in! Can u guess what the youth and young adults will b learning about this Fall?! #research!"
For His Glory,
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