Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Plagiarism in the Pulpit

Let's say I find two sermons that look like they have been plagiarized by Pastor X from the sermons of Pastor Y. Suppose I contact Pastor Y and he doesn't seem the least bit concerned - has no interest in the matter - or perhaps is just not that fond of dealing with pseudonymous folks on the Internet.

Do I, as a Christian, have a duty to spread the word about the apparent plagiarism to anyone else besides Pastor Y?

May I, as a Christian, spread the word about the apparent plagiarism to anyone else besides Pastor Y without being a gossip?

May I, as a Christian, remain silent regarding the apparent plagiarism?



Anonymous said...

I listened to a Phil Johnson sermon on the commandments. In it he referred to gossip and said gossip could involve the spreading of truth in a way that was meant to be detrimental. If I remember correctly he also went on that it's not gossip if the aim is to point out sin is involved and prevent that person from continuing in sin.

Therefore the sinner should be approached first and if unrepentant then their oversight should be approached.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first poster.

Andrew Suttles said...

1) Wouldn't it make a difference WHAT was being plagarized. If we believe the Holy Spirit guided the first man to have a good clear understanding of a passage of Scripture and another man benefits from that and teaches the things he learned to his congregation, that would seem like a good thing. Because of the heavy use of commentaries and Bible software by pastors, almost everything you hear in a pulpit is plagiarized from some place.

If the man is passing off illustrations, stories, or insights (or whatever) in such a way as to give the impression that he is himself a brilliant man, when in fact he is stealing the idea from elsewhere, yes this is a sin.

2) A Dispensationalist teaching on the law?? - where can I find the Phil Johnson sermon referenced above?

Turretinfan said...

"Wouldn't it make a difference WHAT was being plagarized."

I think so. If what is being "plagiarized" is simply a catch-phrase "vipers in diapers," for example, that's different from the whole sermon being virtually a cut-and-paste from another pastor's sermon, right?

Anonymous said...

Reading between the lines with this series of posts on plagiarism, it would seem that you believe that a particular senior pastor is guilty of this.

I would express some concern to you about pursuing this issue too strongly here, in that I believe that the Ergun Caner issue has already hijacked your blog to some degree. What I mean by this is that you have given a lot of focus to this issue to the detriment of other issues that your blog once covered. I think it was correct for Caner to be discussed and for his errors to be pointed out here, but the focus has become a bit too obsessive on this issue.

I would therefore caution against allowing too much of your time to be spent on pursuing the plagiarism issue with whichever pastor has done this.

Peter Pike said...

I disagree with anonymous; I think this issue is worth thinking about since A) hardly anyone does, and B) it's not as clear-cut as we'd hope.

First, I think that in general, it would be a character flaw in Pastor X's part to present anyone's work as if it's his own when it is not. Of course, I work with people who source others even when no one could rationally accuse them of plagarism in the first place (e.g., lots of times they will have a citation saying, "I got the following ideas from such-and-so's book" and then they summarize the other person's ideas, using their own words--often better than the original).

That said, if there is plagarism involved when Pastor X takes ideas from Pastor Y...well, if Pastor Y gives permission for Pastor X to use his material without attribution, that's Pastor Y's right to do so. And this appears to be the same thing, just after the fact instead of beforehand.

I would lean toward it still being morally wrong on Pastor X's part, but that it is at this point a private matter between X & Y. The only time it might have further bearing is if X is being looked at for a new position that requires an examination of his character.

I think it might help to think of a different context. Suppose I were to insult you, TF, in such a way that you could be greatly offended and it was completely unjust on my part. If someone else (anonymous, perhaps) were to call you up and say, "Did you hear what Peter said about you?" and you responded, "Yeah, it was nothing" then at that point it would appear to me that the issue would be resolved and it would become "gossip" at that point for anonymous to tell it in public. However, if I were being nominated for "Nicest Man of the Year" then an argument could be made that it would be relevant for the judges to know about this situation, complete with the fact that you didn't seem bothered by it.

Would that seem to be an appropriate parallel?

Anonymous said...

The Phil Johnson sermon is at

Relevant section from memory is 20 Mins in

Andrew Suttles said...

TFan -

You are making me a little nervous here. You aren't going to extend this to blogs are you? Everything on my new blog, FrancisTurretinFan was "inspired" from a particular internet resource.

My dad was a deacon in a church a while back when the Pastor told him that being a Pastor is easy b/c you can basically download your sermon from the internet. I bet this happens much more than we think. I know some good teachers who don't teach anything until they've listened to MacArthur or SLJ on the passage.

Anonymous said...

Plagiarism by Pastors and Teachers is tantamount to not being saved by Grace through Faith in the finished equitable deeds of Christ! These sorts are hirelings and not True Shepherds appointed stewards of His Church by Christ or the Holy Spirit.

One need only stop and think about the "free" Gift of Eternal Life given to all of God's sons and daughters, His children of the resurrection alive today in this present world, to understand what I am pointing to:

Luk 20:34 And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,
Luk 20:35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage,
Luk 20:36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Let there be few teachers, James instructs.


Well, just consider John's definition of Eternal Life found in verse 3 of John's Gospel, chapter 17.

Using that verse as a base line, why would anyone speak in the Name of the Lord without first getting that Word of the Lord from Him?

Again, referring to "Words" written or spoken from "Living" Epistles is just one part of being in communion and being a part of the Holy Christian Church, knitted together in Love!

I would say this about that, that if you are a teacher or pastor of people given to your charge and care and reading this and you are spending more time reading what other "Living Epistles" have to say or have written about God and His Words of Grace than directly receiving Words from God and His Words of Grace and sharing that as utmost, i.e. Acts 20:32, you do two things. One, you weaken your own Words of Grace that God wants you to give others for their edification. And two, you weaken those who hunger and thirst for His Righteousness whereby they are to be equipped and edified by listening to your words!

Paul did exhort that those who rule and labor well in preaching and teaching the Word are worthy of double honor!

"1Ti 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
1Ti 5:18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."