I had several candid, and I believe mutually respectful conversations about the charge Mark Driscoll plagiarized.

There is one thing that absolutely baffles me.

Why don’t key people simply say something like, “Plagiarism is serious.  No one is above scrutiny.  Let’s pray God is truly honored.”

It didn’t need to be long.  It didn’t need to be specific.  But massive amounts of silence is baffling.  

One thing that makes me wonder how healthy things can be is when the constantly quoted Carl Trueman has all been ignored, even though he has written several, important pieces.  Thabiti Anyabwile is the only major figure I could find who quoted Trueman on the celebrity problem in evangelicalism.

Yes, I am aware of Kevin DeYoung’s recent piece and the helpful interaction of Justin Taylor.  But so many others who tweet and blog on all kinds of things are absolutely mum.

Finally, some have said this needed to be handled privately and not in the blogosphere.  Granted, Janet Mefferd should have approached Driscoll privately.  She has acknowledged as much.  However, plagiarism and ghostwriting are rife within evangelicalism.  I have talked to quite a few leaders about ghostwriting and publicly wrote about my own experience:

Everyone agrees ghostwriting is a huge problem.  And that gets us back to the blogosphere and “Christian journalism” as Carl Trueman has written about:

Many Christian leaders know about the problem of ghostwriting.  They know it is pervasive within the evangelical camp, but it is almost never talked about.  So the track record of Christian leaders addressing plagiarism and ghostwriting is not particularly strong.  

When we are willing to speak out about every imaginable issue, yet disregard something so wrong and rampant, there is a need for others to say what is clearly problematic, but clearly not popular.  

So with all the problems of the Internet and social media, we ought to be glad for the  potential good which can come from these kinds of checks and balances. 



18 thoughts on “IN A WORD, BAFFLED

  1. Paula

    I too am baffled. Have been for years. The silence about popular evangelicals’ failings and bullying and downright unethical coercive self seeking behavior is deafening. They say they can’t be expected to comment on EVERY scandal but the things which they DO choose to comment on show where their priorities lie. We have seen it with Elephant Room 2 and James Macdonald’s similar behavior (go figure, Driscoll was involved there too), we’ve seen it with the C J Mahaney stuff.

    But then they do comment. They comment to the effect that all these people who have issues with these pastors must obviously be lying/slandering/gossipping and there is no base to their charges.

    We aren’t stupid. We know how the game is played, but those pastors seem to think they can continue to fleece us. The ones that fall for it because of their gullibility are lauded as good obedient church people and those of us who cry foul about all the abuses are labeled divisive. Do evangelicals think that they aren’t prone to the same weaknesses as the scandals and abuses in Roman Catholicism? Do they not learn from church history?

    What a pastor choose not to comment on tells us what isn’t important to them, especially when it is happening in an organization in which they are a member (The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, etc). Second to that, HOW they choose to comment (by minimizing or glossing over sin) tells us again how seriously they take the offense and whether or not they could ever be trusted to protect the sheep in their charge from similar abuses.

    The face of the visible church in America being tarnished by unethical bullying sex-obsessed pastors apparently is ‘adiaphora.’ They can’t comment because they don’t have ‘jurisdiction’ (Isn’t that the line Cain used?)

    But hey, same pastors can spend plenty of time criticizing the unethical behavior of all those pagans outside the church, while the pagans look at the church and can see more clearly than the pastors how hypocritical the church leadership and their blind enablers are. And then those who dare point out the problem have articles written about them ordering them to “Stop Slandering Christ’s Bride.” Well maybe the leadership in Christ’s bride should stop bringing such public shame upon her? Just a thought!

    1. Lyn

      “The silence about popular evangelicals’ failings and bullying and downright unethical coercive self seeking behavior is deafening. They say they can’t be expected to comment on EVERY scandal but the things which they DO choose to comment on show where their priorities lie.”

      Deafening silence indeed. Well said Paula.

    2. Daniel

      Spot on Paula. They blatant hypocrisy of these guys and their cheerleaders (looking at you Justin Taylor) is beyond comprehension.

  2. Paula

    btw, Justin Taylor has been destructive, not helpful. He was the one who tweeted that authors should boycott Mefferd.

    Reminds me of that scene in Les Mis where Fantine gets thrown out on the street for not complying with unbiblical behavior… and she becomes the problem.

  3. Tim

    I don’t understand ghost writing in the kingdom of God. Why would a follower of Christ not want to put the real writer’s name on the product? It’s baffling, and unfortunately the only explanation I can come up with is increased sales. Sad.

  4. Ian Thompson

    “Ghostwriting” isn’t a problem in evangelical publishing – if there is significant input from someone putting the key author’s thoughts together better then their name appears on the cover (see Francis Chan, Richard Bewes, Bruce Wilkinson) – there are conventions for this that responsible publishers follow. If it is not being followed then that publisher is not abiding by the guidelines . . .

    1. Deborah C.

      I agree. Janet Mefferd did the the right thing in publicly questioning M. Driscoll. She had no reason to apologize.

  5. Dave Post author

    Hi Lindsey,

    I’m afraid Eusebius is mixing fairly big apples and oranges. The public is quite aware speechwriters assist the president, but when one name appears on a book almost everyone assumes it is just that particular person. Deception and lack attribution are the issues.

    1. Lindsey Scholl

      This may be drifting far from the Driscoll case, but the differences seem only in degree and not in quality. We assume everybody knows about the President’s speech, but a) that may not be true, and b) when the quote goes down in history books, it is attributed to the President and not to his speech-writer. The main question concerns the ownership of the ideas versus the expression of ideas. Theoretically, the ideas are the President’s own even if the exact wording is not. The same tension can apply to writing. Does the charge of deception and lack of attribution apply when the ideas are a certain individual’s, but the sentence structure is the ghost-writer’s?

  6. Tonya

    “…the helpful interaction of Justin Taylor. ”

    Well, I don’t think this is one of Justin’s most helpful interactions. Most of his involvement in the Driscoll saga has been to censor and delete comments that asked or mentioned the Driscoll Debacle.

    He seems to have recently left some comments up but almost as a way of trying to appear participatory.

    Taylor seems to be hiding and defending Mark more by covering him. I think so many are expecting Justin, Piper, Carson and others to comment given that they promoted, participated with and/or defended him for years. Given that context the question is now: How much can Driscoll get away with before he is finally chastised and lessened in stature?

    If his cohorts won’t call him out over this and give fair warning to the Church then when will they? What will it take?

    Driscoll is fast becoming a case study in the dangers of the Celebrities of the Cross.

    1. Daniel

      To answer your question, personally, I don’t believe there is ANYTHING that Driscoll could do that would prompt chastising from Piper / Taylor, etc. It’s not even about the gospel with these folks. It’s all about them being in charge. These guys will always look out for each other. TGC ought to drop the G from their name and be what they really are….The Coalition.

  7. Daniel

    LOL…you think Justin Taylor’s interactions have been helpful?!?! That’s rich. The guy is nothing more than head cheerleader for MD. For clowns like Taylor, it’s all about protecting their turf. Driscoll could renounce the deity of Christ and Taylor would defend him.

  8. Dave Post author

    Hey Lindsey,

    Sorry to be so slow in responding. The amount of traffic here and loads of email were encouraging, but a bit overwhelming. Plus, I have been incubating on your very good question.

    I would make a distinction between presidents who do quite a bit of the writing and rewriting themselves versus those who simply give big ideas to speechwriters who then put the speech together.

    I recall hearing about this process and realized (no big surprise I guess) that presidents are more diverse on this process than we might think. So yes, I would probably flunk some of them while others would be get a passing grade.

  9. Lindsey Scholl

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your follow-up on presidential speeches. It is no surprise that there is diversity in their approach, although I had not thought about it much from that angle.

    Thanks again for your input on these issues!


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