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December 9, 2013

“Improper Citation” in Driscoll Book Surfaces

The evangelical world has been troubled by a publishing controversy surrounding Reformed Baptist megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll. The tumult began when radio talk show host Janet Mefferd very publicly accused Driscoll of plagiarism in his latest book during an interview. Christians immediately began to call for answers. Their questions were left unresolved. Many complained of a rude and tactless attack on a pastoral guest. A production assistant that worked for the Janet Mefferd Show resigned, adding even more controversy to the kerfuffle. Complaints about an “evangelical-industrial complex” came to the fore on the blogosphere. Meanwhile, religious journalists tracked down possible answers while academics like the inimitable Carl Trueman (here and here) and Collin Garbarino (here) decisively called foul on Driscoll’s book.

Tangible answers to plagiarism allegations have begun to surface. Today, Christianity Today reported that InterVarsity Press asserted, “Mark Driscoll improperly copied paragraphs from the New Bible Commentary edited by G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson and R. T. France in one of his out-of-print books.” This was discovered by Warren Throckmorton at Patheos.com. Today, the Religious News Service, whose own Jonathan Merritt has covered the controversy with great diligence, highlighted similar aspects of the controversy.

These particular facts do not speak directly to the Mefferd affair, which deals with Driscoll’s latest book, A Call to Resurgence. However, it doesn’t look good for Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, either. Already, one party’s ethos seems badly hurt by precedent. On the other hand, past indiscretions do not mean that Driscoll and his researchers are automatically guilty of wrongdoing in this particular case. In short, this is only going to get messier and more convoluted until the light of truth can shine fully on the whole affair. Maybe pressure from this new story will provide impetus for more timely answers. Exposing errors to the truth, attacking an innocent before proven guilty, or secreting evils to the shadows will all provide, in the words of Carl Trueman, “a powerful signal to the watching world.”

UPDATE: An original posting had incorrectly stated that a production assistant had been fired when she in fact resigned.

Also, Doug Wilson over at Blog and Mablog offers a helpful analysis for the information that we have so far.


  • Jeremy Long

    There are bigger publishing issues to fret over. A certain website – which I will not name for the obvious reason I don’t want anyone to go there – is posting thousands of books, for FREE. Yeah, might sound nice to a budget-conscious reader, but it is THEFT to any author who gets no royalties. Publishers and individual authors have been firing off cease-and-desist orders, which work – briefly – but the cite has to be constantly monitored. The curious thing is that the people posting these freebies are individuals, so some of them are Christians who apparently think they are doing a good deed by making Christian books available for free – but it’s both illegal and immoral.

    As for Driscoll: shame on you, man, you do so many good things, but that doesn’t excuse you from observing the legal niceties about quoting from outside sources. You don’t filch money from one person’s pocket, you don’t filch words either.