If you need some context, radio host, Janet Mefferd, charged popular preacher, Mark Driscoll, with plagiarism.  You can read more about it in the link below, the three pieces so far from Carl Trueman (see my Dec. 1 post), and several things at www.janetmefferd.com.


One troubling aspect is the widespread silence among the Reformed community. 

Before you read my own reflections, one editor wrote me a gracious note explaining the reason he would pass on my piece:

Thanks for sending this along to X.  I love the point you’re making.  Let me say, as editor of X, I want more of our celebrities to absorb this message. It would save me a lot of grief.

Unfortunately, this piece won’t work to that end.  It inadvertently makes you the hero of the story, and it will get readers to wondering why you used yourself as a chief example.  This is certainly not your intent, but it will be what is heard. 

Sorry this didn’t work out.  I’m glad we’ve been introduced, and I trust our paths will cross some day.

Here is my response:

Thanks.  I certainly understand your point.  

However, I do think evangelicalism desperately needs more people who can say, albeit with an understanding of their own sin, “to follow me as I follow Christ Jesus.”  I have loads daily to repent of, but do wish in this area more Christians would in fact follow my own example.  

Now on to my own reflections…

Bill Bright started Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) in 1951.  A former businessman, Bright caught a vision for reaching college students with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a college student, I often heard Bill Bright speak at conferences.  His messages were simple and became predictable over time.  He seemed a bit naïve and out of touch with the complexities of college ministry at a secular school, but I never doubted his sincerity.

After seminary, I joined the full-time staff of Cru.  I was placed as the campus director at Stanford University.  It was a trial by fire as my training for this role came after being in this position for an entire year.  I was greatly helped by many wise and patient people.

For various reasons, Bill Bright took a personal interest in the ministry at Stanford.  And trust me, it was not because we were the biggest!  He even visited us for an intimate luncheon.  After the meal, our small group of about twenty peppered Bright with all kinds of questions.  Stanford students are not known for pulling their punches.  One student waxed on about the name Campus Crusade for Christ.  The name needed to change.  There was way too much baggage from the annals of history.  Bill Bright listened attentively and then shocked all of us with his disarming response: “That makes sense. What should we rename it?”  This was the 1980s, long before the change to the abbreviated Cru.  A stunned silence filled the room.  No one had anything to offer by way of a change.  Bright then invited the students and staff to write him with any ideas they might have for making Cru better.  Suffice it to say, those who were skeptical about Bill Bright’s approach going into the meeting were decidedly changed upon leaving.

A few years after our luncheon, I found myself in a hotel ballroom with the full-time Cru staff who ministered throughout the state of California.  There were about one hundred of us.  Bill Bright was addressing us on various issues.  Towards the end of the talk, Bright rather abruptly shifted to speaking about the “drinking policy” of Cru.  Bright’s personal convictions about drinking alcohol were well known by those in the room.  He did not want any full-time staff drinking under any circumstances whatsoever. He went on to say that if we knew of any staff who drink, we were to tell them to stop.  If they were unwilling to do so, they would be required to leave.  It was the most animated I’d ever seen Bill Bright.   

Bill Bright closed by asking if there were any questions.  A few softball questions were initially thrown his way, but I was troubled.  I was sitting in the back of the long, rectangular room.  I raised my hand high so as to be easily spotted.

I knew, as most in the room knew, that there was in fact freedom to drink. The official policy of Cru did not prohibit drinking.  

My give and take with Bill Bright started out with voicing my respect for his reasons regarding abstinence from alcohol.  That said, I wanted him to clarify whether he was articulating the official policy of Cru or simply conveying his own personal desire.

Dr. Bright did not address the nub of my question. He simply gave reasons why he personally did not want Cru staff to drink.  I pressed him on the issue.  At this point I had little doubt many in the room were not happy with me for challenging Bill Bright.  After the meeting, my hunch was confirmed.

After going back and forth several times with Bright underscoring the dangers of drinking, he conceded that this was in fact not Cru’s policy, but his own deeply held conviction.  As we finished, Bright graciously paid me a public compliment.  He said I was a person he could trust to tell the truth.  

Over the years, other opportunities have presented themselves to speak up about “sacred cow” issues.  Sadly, I have seen many men in positions of leadership freeze when the opportunity came their way.  My own dad modeled in more ways than I can mention here how it is always right to stand up for what is right.  By God’s grace, I have not been too tempted to be silent by the consequences which many times come from saying unpopular things.  And the cost at times has been significant.  And yes, I remind myself regularly to “take heed lest I fall” for the temptation to be quiet when one should speak needs to be vigilantly monitored.

Speaking “truth to power” is never easy.  The possibility of being tagged with jealously over someone’s superior status, making a name for yourself by questionable means, or being labelled as having a martyr complex are all too real.  The difficulty becomes more acute when the one needing the challenge is surrounded by those who benefit in various ways from that particular association. 

The recent controversy over whether Mark Driscoll plagiarized is not really of much interest to me.  Plagiarism is certainly a serious matter, but I can imagine how Driscoll may have been sloppy with his citations.  I leave it for others to decide.

What I do find troubling is how silent the so-called Neo-Reformed community has been up to this point. The quick and incisive commentary of Carl Trueman is a breath of fresh air, but his is pretty much a lone voice.  Yes, there are others like the jolly gadflies at Pyromaniacs, but they are not really insiders like Trueman.  Like Driscoll, Trueman has written for Crossway.   Trueman is also friends with several of the Neo-Reformed and even speaks at some of the same conferences.  Those relationships however, did not hinder Trueman from saying what he labels “the celebritydrome of the evangelical subculture.”  Trueman cited Driscoll as a “classic case in point.”

It is a sign of health not disloyalty when friends within the same institutions are willing to challenge one another.  All of us need accountability and history demonstrates that leaders typically get the least amount.  We are wise to remember the words of Isaiah: “Stop regarding man whose breath is in his nostrils, for why should he be esteemed?”

I have no doubt Carl Trueman would have appreciated my willingness to challenge Bill Bright, as I am deeply grateful for his willingness to challenge Mark Driscoll.


  1. Jeannie Love

    SO vey interesting because at one level this issue is between Driscoll and God; however, since criticism of him was public, it now becomes an issue between ‘the public’ and Driscoll. This reminds me of the second chapter of Galatians when Paul publicly confronted Peter regarding his hypocritical behavior.

    Is it because Driscoll is a ‘public figure’ that confrontation came in a public way? Was he confronted privately first? Plagiarism SHOULD be a fairly straight-forward issue.

    1. Mary Ellen Tharp

      Believe me, speaking up is a bit more tricky when you are female. I am trying to graciously change my reputation for asking “too many questions” at my small church right now. The men teasingly roll their eyes, but the women think I am out of line. I have a lot to learn and I’m sure I have been quarrelsome rather than gracious many times, and that is what I’m trying to change. But I read a lot, and most discussions generate questions in my mind. It is hard not to ask them. And it is hard that some of my questions are dismissed merely because I am female.

  2. Dave Post author

    Hey Jeannie,

    I don’t know the answer to the private v. public rebuke. Doreen had the same question as well.

    Hey John,

    Not easy, but perhaps easier than we typically think. I do think Heb. 5:11-14, especially verse 14 is most helpful.

  3. greg st cyr

    Like David, I too was a product of Cru and had numerous personal interactions with Bill Bright. On two different occasions Dr. Bright circled back with me to apologize for a decision he had made. He was a man of conviction who led accordingly…and was humble enough to embrace a willingness to be challenged.

  4. Dave Post author

    Mary Ellen,

    Thanks for your heartfelt and poignant post!

    Thanks Frank!

    Hey Greg,

    Wonderful to hear from you, my friend!

  5. Jeannie Love

    Mary Ellen, I had a teacher in HS who told me (the classroom questioner), “He who asks a question is a fool for a minute, he who never asks a question is a fool forever.” (and that was at a time when we didn’t even have girls’ HS sports teams 🙂 Take care that you don’t let others determine your behavior but rather be concerned about God ‘rolling His eyes.’

  6. Lindsey Scholl

    Thanks for your thoughts, Mary Ellen. I have found that a church setting–as in, a physical Sunday School room, not just being among Christians–is one of the few places where I hear women speak up in mixed company on abstract, philosophical, or theological issues. In social circles, I’ve noticed that they often (depending on the women involved) leave the men to talk about higher things, while they revert to more practical, daily issues. Obviously, we need to have the law of kindness govern our speech in all things, but that shouldn’t exclude us from exploring deeper realities.

  7. Paul Van Allen

    My sense listening to Janet Mefferd’s show was that, like Fannie and Freddie, Driscoll is “too big to fail.” He’s become an icon and built himself into a brand and though I think he is more than that (a godly man, a man with a calling etc) he is not less than that. How can you admit wrongdoing when your multi-million dollar ministry is based on your name? The pressure of speaking and writing at the velocity that he does must be immense. I remember hearing him say that before he had kids he read a book a day but that he couldn’t keep that up anymore….yet his writing seems to have only increased. Whether the omission of citation was a mistake or intentional can we not safely suspect that it points to the same issue? When I was at seminary I noted to myself that the big named professors who were well written and seemed larger than life were also the people I least wanted to model my life after.
    God seems to use the broken sides of who we are mixed in with that which is virtue and spirit giftedness and yet he wants to work in us not just through us. I’m sure that He is faithfully working Mark Driscoll into his workmanship through all of this. Its also a chance for us to look into our own hearts…are we defensive of Mark Driscoll because of his icon status in our life or are we on the opposite side with mixtures of envy and judgement in our hearts? Frederick Buechner said that “envy is the consuming desire to have everybody else be as unsuccessful as you are.”

  8. phineas

    Speak the Truth in Love. So much of Christianity is NOT either /or, it is both/and. Sometimes both/and is refreshing. Is Genesis chapter 1, history, science, allegory, or polemic ? It is both/and and all of the above.

    But other times, both/and is hard but absolutely required as in Speak the Truth in Love.

  9. Steve McCoy

    Public silence doesn’t equal silence. The desire is for change, correction, etc. The best chance for the deepest change is not when enough noise is made that someone is pressured to change. The result will likely be superficial. But this is a brother in Christ who has already publicly said he would look into it, talk with those who may have been wronged, etc. I assume that’s what is happening right now. If he is in the wrong and he doesn’t listen to them, then sure, let’s actively do something about it. Otherwise I find the concern over the silence to be misguided. You said, “It is a sign of health not disloyalty when friends within the same institutions are willing to challenge one another.” I totally agree. The difference between us, it appears, is that I want those who are nearest to him and most influential with him to challenge him as that will do the most good for everyone if we will just chill out and let it play out. The challenge from a larger, clamoring crowd should be more of a last resort, and I don’t think we are anywhere close to that.

    1. Daniel

      blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Guys like you and J Taylor would defend Driscoll if he called a press conference and denied the deity of Christ. It’s all part of today’s dumbed down, drink the kool-aide, hipster “Christianity” where the truth takes a back seat to whatever the almighty leader says. Blind allegiance trumps the truth. To be clear Steve, your “defend your boys at all costs” approach is seen by the world for what it is, blatant hypocrisy and turns people off to Chrisitianty……er, sorry, becoming Christ followers (what to make sure I have the correct, hip lingo).

      To specifics Steve, your statement that you want those closest to MD to confront him is either disingenous or wildly naive. You know full well what happened to Paul Petry and Brent Meyer when they tried to confront Driscoll.

  10. Dave Post author


    I grant the spirit of your point, but I believe you miss a few fundamental realities.

    And I agree that Janet may not have handled it the best way, but here are my concerns on your post.

    First, the “clamoring crowd” would not be nearly so big if someone with influence just put out a simple and generic, “We are looking into it. Plagiarism is serious, etc.” But nature, and the spiritual life I would argue, abhors a vacuum, and that is what we have had so far. A very large silence when there should have been at least a quick acknowledgment.

    Second, this is a public issue. Why was it entirely okay for D.A. Carson to write a book-length critique of Emergent without first engaging McLaren? I am fine he did so, but this seems like a bit of a double standard.

  11. Steve McCoy

    I agree with the “we are looking into it” thing. It would be helpful to hear that from those involved. But that’s what Driscoll said he would do, isn’t it? It wasn’t only quick, it was immediate in the interview. Let me know if I’m wrong on that, but that’s what I remember.

    As for the vacuum, we get to choose if we want to be generous and give brotherly treatment vs otherly treatment. For the most part I’m guessing those who feel like brothers are working behind the scenes and those who feel like others are clamoring. Do we want what’s best for Mark? Do we want truth in love and not merely truth? I think that changes our approach.

    I don’t know why you brought up Carson, Emergent, and McLaren. Seems a bit of a red herring to me. The Driscoll issue is a public issue, I agree, but that doesn’t mean it had to start publicly, remain public throughout, etc. We should PREFER there to be much more happening behind the scenes than what we see, and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that that is happening.

    It was brought up publicly (in a poor way, but still it’s out there now) so let’s let those involved directly (Driscoll, Carson, Jones, Tyndale, etc) try to make sense of this and handle it in the appropriate way. I’m confident there’s something wrong and something public will happen. If I’m wrong, I’ll be right there in agreement with you on this. I just think your timing and questioning of the publicly “silent” isn’t fair as silence, at least for those I’ve talked to, is not what we desire.

  12. Dave Post author

    Hey Steve,

    Thanks for posting again.

    I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

    The McLaren issue is not a red herring and there are others which could be added. Did anyone seek to talk to Rob Bell first? I don’t agree with either one of those guys in many ways, but the silence comes across as a circling of the wagons no matter what. Without an early “We are looking into it. Please pray for wisdom…” kind of statement, this thing would never have blown up.

    I know from being around many large Christian organizations and knowing many leaders (again many friends), the penchant to be silent is acute when your best friends have taken that tack.

    I am Augustian in these regards: sin is much worse than we can imagine, but the grace of God is much farther reaching.

  13. Steve McCoy

    Dave, so you aren’t going to acknowledge that Driscoll said he’d look into it?

    And we can’t hold every new situation to what we’ve previously experienced. If you want to throw out the baby with the bathwater it’s up to you. But by definition it’s wrong to do so. I’m not ready to sit in a position of judgment and demonization of everything that reminds me of a similar smell to something from the past. And I don’t see any biblical justification to do so. Just from your last comment it seems you are no longer talking about a person but an organization, and that’s too bad.


    1. Daniel

      Why on Earth should anyone believe anything Driscoll says? I don’t believe for one second he’s looking into anything other than more publicity stunts to promote his next book.

  14. Dave Post author

    Hey Steve,

    Yes, that was huge Mark said that. I totally agree with you on it. I was impressed by his candor and willingness. And what seemed like genuine humility.

    My biggest beef, as I mention in the piece is not the plagiarism charge (which again is serious), but rather the no statement from those who should have said something, even simply and basic.

    And since people read into these sorts of things, let me say publicly I love and respect Justin Taylor. His comments today are very helpful.

  15. Steve McCoy

    What were Justin’s comments today? I just saw the Kevin DeYoung repost, but nothing else.

    And I’m asking honestly… Who did you want a statement from? Publisher?

  16. Evan C. Hock


    Good reflection! I, too, appreciate much of Carl Trueman’s responses to things, including the one on Driscoll. Evangelicals today are too often drawn to the power of personality and popularity as a way of satisfying their approach and persuasion to truth. We find it in Neo-Reformed voices which perhaps speaks to an untamed, unruly Calvinism void of confessional ballast. It also reflects our culture of politicized minds not wanting to think for themselves, but aiming for someone to believe in and experience, like a Pied Piper figure. It makes us afraid to question leaders in whom so much emotional stock and identity and awe are invested. I hardly read much of Driscoll anyway to comment directly, but the challenge is justified. I, too, wonder why there is the silence within the fold. What does that say about the self-corrective abilities of the movement? Jeff Ventrella has also commented on this pattern. Anyway, thanks! Oh, I love the quote from Isaiah. Evan Hock


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