Just Another Titillating and Salacious Post on a Plagiarism Incident Involving Derek W H Thomas

“It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”―Aslan describing the Deeper Magic: CS Lewis


True stories of plagiarized sermons…or were they?

Example one

A number of years ago, I spent a couple of years in Ed Young Jr’s Fellowship Church. We were new to Dallas, and it was near our house. I was pregnant and our second daughter had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. We were in no position to church shop. However, those couple of years afforded me a number of lessons and I still talk about those days many years later.

Back in those days, before the church grew into the megachurch it is today, we were herded out of the left side of the sanctuary immediately at the end of the service so the next group could get in the seats coming in from the right. We would then be lined up so that we could shake Ed’s hand and be shown the door to get our cars out of there so they cold fit in more cars. That church was a machine!

One day, a man in front of me shook Ed’s hand and said:

“That was a great sermon. I liked it even better then when I heard it at Willow Creek.

Ed paled, smiled and turned to shake my hand. I quickly shook his hand and chased the man into the parking lot. I asked him what was going on. He smiled and said that Bill Hybels preached the exact sermon a few years ago while he was attending that church.

We became good friends with his family, formed a Bible study and then we all left to attend Pete Briscoe’s church a year or so later.

However, was it really a plagiarized sermon? My friend from Willow Creek explained that he was under the impression that a church could join the Willow Creek Association and have complete access to the sermons at Willow Creek. He thought he ‘d been told that the ones who used the sermons didn’t have to give credit to Hybels, etc.

Let’s assume for a moment that this information is correct. It happened back in the 90s so it is hard to verify it. Since the time, I’ve heard that copying the sermons of others is a *time-honored* practice.

Example two

I can now hear the objections. Well, that’s just crazy Ed Young Jr. So, here is another example from my former Reformed Baptist (SBC) church. The leadership at this church was tied into all the *right* groups like The Gospel Coalition, etc. A couple of years into my membership in that church, I was listening to sermon by an associate pastor who told a supposedly true story that happened to his friend. Except, I happened to know that it wasn’t true. I had become an aficionado of Snopes. Here is the *true*story, as told by the pastor and as written about on Snopes in touching tale about a troubled boy named Teddy Stoddard and the teacher who turned his life around.

I wrote the pastor an email and explained the origin of the story. He apologized but blamed it on his friend except…

A couple of months later I attended a different service time. It was the same pastor who proceeded to tell the exact same sermon, including the supposedly spontaneous jokes. It came to the end and I waited, hoping he wouldn’t do it but he did! He repeated the same story, now knowing the story was false and had been published in a magazine in the 1950s as a fictional short story.

So, I went to the senior pastor who looked quite irritated at me as I recounted the story and said, “You know I’ll have to talk to him about this.” I said that I should certainly hope he would. Then he told me that telling these tales was a *time honored*  Baptist tradition and that pastor had been trained in the old school method. I responded, “So they teach them to lie ?” It was not well received.

It is becoming quite easy to spot plagiarism due to the power of search engines.

The advent of the internet allows the average person to spot check sermons and speeches as well as to detect plagiarism in written material such as books, pamphlets etc. Psychology Today posted How to Not Plagiarize
Writing Psychology Papers in Your Own Words by Glen Geher. Not only does the author present what constitutes plagiarism in academia, he discusses how easy to is to spot plagiarism.

Oh if only students knew how easy this stuff is to spot, the entire practice would cease worldwide! First off, there are now many computer-based plagiarism checkers (e.g., “turnitin” via BlackBoard). Let alone the power of the Google search engine. When I’m reading something that just does not sound like a student wrote it – or if it just has way more details than it possibly should given the assignment, I’ll just grab a small sample and put it into the Google search bar with quotes around it. When I suspect plagiarism and do this, about 99% of the time a website or pdf files comes immediately up with the same wording. This process takes me about 4 seconds and it’s nearly something that can be done in my sleep. Things that come up are wikipedia sites (boo!), pdfs of published papers, websites, etc.

The only thing easier than plagiarizing is finding evidence of plagiarism. I think if more students realized this fact, this problem would go away.

I have empathy for those who much preach lengthy sermons due to their church traditions.

I actually believe that it is difficult to preach sermon after sermon, years on end, without using the works and words of others. In many churches in the Reformed or Baptist tradition, the sermon is the centerpiece of the church service, often lasting 45 minutes.

Quick digression: The Internet Monk recently wrote a thought provoking post What’s Wrong With The Sermon?: It’s Too Long. Thankfully, in my church tradition, the sermon is shorter. After years of listening to lengthy sermons, I actually find I remember more from a shorter sermon…but to each his own

I would assume that pastors would use many resources and quote from well know theologians. Recently, one pastor wrote me and met me know that he hands out the sources he used to put together the sermons

So, if a pastor or professor is utilizing the words or thoughts of another, why not simply admit it. It does not detract from the sermon, especially if the pastor/professor has his own unique style of presentation.

Why did I tell the Derek Thomas story on this blog?

One gracious commenter, after suggesting that I was a little lower than dirt, said

“I look forward to your response.”

Here it is.

I was once told that one letter to the editor in the local news media would equal the thoughts of about 1,000 others in the community. Most of the stories that I feature on this blog are here because I’ve heard about it from readers and their compatriots.Read that again.

Could it be that others have heard about this situation?

Years ago, when I first started blogging, I would actually delete unkind comments until one person said that she hoped I wouldn’t. She persuaded me that we should hear from people, in their own words, however awkward, what they think about issues in the post. I decided she was right. Therefore, I rarely delete harsh or pointed comments. I think it is helpful for those in positions of leadership to hear how things sound to the little guy out here. That also goes for me.

I have no problem with people harshly critiquing me or calling me names. In fact, when I see people getting bent out of shape, I realize I have kicked a hornet’s nest and I wonder why. Since that happened in this situation, I now believe that there is probably more to this story. Folks, when you get this angry, I know something is afoot.

Take a look at these two quotes. Both of these men were supposedly telling stories from their own lives. Is this just another example of the accepted tradition of borrowing stories from other sources and then pretending that it happened to the person retelling it? Was it unintentional? An incredible coincidence? Was it plagiarism or just plain cute?

Why is this story important to me, personally?

I would assume that most people know that Thomas’ seminary is the one run by Ligon Duncan. Duncan is one of the 4 in T4G: Duncan, Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney and Al Mohler. Duncan was, and as far as I know, still is an avid supporter of CJ Mahaney in spite of Al Mohler’s recent apology for supporting Mahaney who apparently lied to him about an investigation.

Here is a copy of the letter that Duncan wrote with his buddies in support of Mahaney. In. the meantime, Dee, along with many others, were reeling from the reports and allegations of the coverup of sex abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries (Churches). I became friends with some of those families as I covered the story. It was sickening.

Duncan apparently believed the same lie that Al Mohler believed. Mahaney claimed that an investigation had been done. Nope.

So, to be perfectly frank, I do not trust the judgement of Ligon Duncan. If he remained silent in the face of years of pain and suffering by victims in the alleged coverup of SGM, why should I believe he made sure that everything has been documented in this situation?

Why I believe that there is more to this story.

I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years. When I see such vehemence on the part of just a few readers, new commenters at that, I know that I’ve struck a nerve. I’m a bit irritable since a few people decided to describe a perfectly sensible post on the admitted plagiarism by a pastor and seminary professor at Ligon Duncan’s Reformed Seminary.

Let’s look at the comments of those who accused me of unchristian behavior….

-(I perpetrated ) abuse on Thomas.

Thomas is the one who plagiarized. Had he reviewed his book carefully, this would not have happened.

-It’s gossip.

Please read the book the Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Gossip is a buzz word for those who don’t want to hear what bothers other people.

-Sticking our fingers in everybody’s business is fun, titillating,

No it’s not. It’s interesting but it’s not fun. It’s not  *everybody’s business.* It is the business of those who care about the church and how we handle issues. It ceased being a *private* matter the minute a book was published or sermons became available online. The public does have a right to know. Jesus said we are to be a light on the hill. That means everyone gets to look at us.

-Seeing others fall can often make us feel better about ourselves.

It didn’t help me. In fact, I felt a bit dismayed.

-Salacious gossip column

Salacious? Do you know the meaning of the word? Plagiarism is hardly salacious or titillating? Following the Kardashians might meet those definitions.

-Assumes the worst about someone.

Nope-I can think of lots worse. I write about lots worse.

-But the investigator was the victim himself, and the victim found no evidence that Dr. Thomas’ lack of attribution was intentional.

Plagiarism occurs even when the victim has no problem with it. It also occurs when the unquoted person is dead. That’s not the point.

-Internet mob

Um…It’s just little ole me and some readers.

-Blood thirsty

I think someone has been watching too much of Game of Thrones

-Unmerciful

He’s still teaching and preaching so mercy has been achieved. This post won’t change that.

-Relentless

I wrote one post on the matter until these comments starting rolling in. Now it’s two posts. It doesn’t fall under the *relentless* category.

-Un-Christian

When sensible conversation cannot be achieved, attack the faith of another.

-Why a Christian would be calling for such a destructive punishment

I would suggest reading tis article: The Price of Plagiarism: Why bother teaching our students not to cheat when professors can get away with it?

On many campus web sites, you will find little attention paid to scholars stealing from other scholars. As a professor, do you remember ever having to sign a declaration defining plagiarism before publishing an article or book? The publishing agreements we do sign — such as one I just signed for a forthcoming paper in an academic journal — include only a brief, vague statement that we “represent and warrant to the press and the journal that the article is original.” Who wouldn’t think their work is original? I wrote it, didn’t I?

-(He) committed unintentional plagiarism for which he repented of immediately.

I have problems when people start delving into the motives of others. Take a look at the two quotes above. Was that unintentional or merely an incredible coincidence?

-Failed to demonstrate why it is good and right that you tear down Dr. Thomas

I didn’t tear him down. I posted something that said he plagiarized. In fact, I said that he might be the nicest man on the planet but screwed up in this one area.

-A spirit of division and slander.

There is no division. People do things like this all the time unless you attend a perfect church/seminary. Now, it’s obvious that you have not read this blog. I have a real thing about the misuse of the word *slander* in the Christian community. Slander is the deliberate and knowing telling of a lie in order to cause malicious harm to another. In case you claim the Bible says different, please read my post Slander or an Inconvenient Truth.

In fact, by accusing me of slander, you may actually be the one slandering if you cannot prove that I deliberately and knowing lied in order to bring malicious harm to Thomas.

-Completely uninformed rant

Nope. I bet I know lots more about Thomas than many people.

-I would like to have seen the author reach out to the publisher, which he didn’t. To the elders at Thomas’s church, which he didn’t.

Do you think the story would have changed? Are you saying that what you’ve told us about the publisher and the elders isn’t true?

-You know nothing about Derek Thomas

I know more than I did.

-Pass judgment

We passed on an opinion. If I were asked to pass judgment, it would be handled differently.

-Inconvenient facts like investigation by the legitimate authorities

You mean the authorities with whom you feel comfortable.

-Half cocked internet mob justice

We have no means by which to achieve justice so this is just plain silly.

-Whether you think it’s hard to believe that it’s unintentional is not really up to you to decide.

It is hard for me to believe. However, I do have the right to state an opinion, even if we can’t *decide.*

-What makes this hit piece anything better than slime gossip is not discernible to me,

It’s all good. Read another blog or start one yourself.

-In the name of the unity of Christ’s Church, remove this trash.

Unity is not broken by pointing out problems in the church. In fact, the very Gospel points to our sinful nature. We can be unified in disagreement.

-First off, lumping Dr. Thomas in with others who have misused their office is stereotyping without basis. I’ve heard him preach and he has a very tender spirit about him. He’s humble.

So, who said anything about his humility or tender spirit. Who said anything about him misusing his office (I think you mean as pastor?) This is Christianese at its best.

-Then the Neo Calvinist “Hall of Shame” members are dragged into the piece.

Whether or not you like it, they are part of it. Good night! Think about it, Lowlandseer.

Finally

If everyone had held their collective breaths, this would have gone away with the next post, fading off into the internet sunset. Hopefully this will be the last piece on this matter. However, I’m a bit suspicious this is much more going on behind the scenes. I hope I’m wrong.

“For a long time I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys an unmistakable aura of sanctity

Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all telephone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desks – not too much or we appear inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed – we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.

Course IV: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.”

Eugene H. Peterson. Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Kindle Locations 72-81). Kindle Edition.


Comments

Just Another Titillating and Salacious Post on a Plagiarism Incident Involving Derek W H Thomas — 311 Comments

  1. I do think Law Prof was right that this commenter was not really seeking “equal screen time”, so to speak. They could have easily posted their rebuttal for everyone to read, even on a different post.

    Plagiarism is rampant in the evangelical church. I often ask myself what is at the root of such behavior. I do think there’s something to it still being profitable for the people that do it, even though it’s real easy, with all our current technology, to identify plagiarized material.

    But, at the root core, I think people just don’t want to grapple with Scripture and take an honest look at their beliefs in light of it. There’s a whole lot of verse-avoidance, proof-texting, and even outright Bible avoidance in evangelical ranks now. People would rather just have someone else do the work for them, even if some of those people are doing the exact same thing.

    Because I don’t think it’s just laziness. I think it’s outright fear that they are wrong and might have to confront that they are wrong.

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  2. I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years. When I see such vehemence on the part of just a few readers, new commenters at that, I know that I’ve struck a nerve.

    “Throw a rock into a pack of junkyard dogs, and the one who yelps the loudest is the one who got hit.”

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  3. This is one reason I prefer a pastor who teaches his way through the Bible instead of taking the sermon approach. After you’ve been in church a few years, you start noticing the messages being recycled. Forty years ago, I was noticing stories where more than one pastor seemed to have had the same firsthand experience. If you were in a group of people talking, and one told a story of having an experience that you knew he didn’t have, would you give that person’s words any credence after that? I wouldn’t.

    A lot of times I found these stories to be pretty unlikely to begin with, too. Like re-wrapping presents on Christmas night. I can picture a child doing that with a few presents just for fun but an adult? Every year? To me, it’s awkward when pastors tell these stories and everyone giggles nervously on cue. To each his own, I guess.

    I think that if there is a division in the body of Christ it is between the persons who look for substance and those who don’t want to see anything deeper than appearances. I just don’t get the appeal of living “as if” something is true when you know it isn’t. And the logical next step is wondering if they are pretending “as if” Jesus is true, as well.

    Anyways, I think this is an excellent post and I agree that when someone overreacts, you know you’ve probably only hit the tip of an iceberg. Your original post called attention to the problem of plagiary in the church, a problem that has come up before and is important to discuss. Seeing as the publisher looked into it and removed the books from the market, I don’t think it constitutes “gossip” or any of those other silly accusations. It’s a fact and we ought to think about what it means to us.

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  4. Abigail:
    This is so similar to the practice of ghost writing….wherein a big name pastor authors a book….mostly written by another person…but the big name sells the book. Less than honest.

    Not just Big Name Pastors, but Big Name CELEBRITIES in general.

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  5. It is a prevalent, but not unique conviction amongst Evangelical believers that their peculiar way of understanding scripture and relationship to God is unchallengable. Thus the ultimate reason to leverage a ficticious story or plagiarized sermon in service of their ultimate truth.
    It comes with the territory.

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  6. can you plagiarize body language and how you sit?

    well, my final foray into ‘church’ (Last Church) happened at the time of the rise and fall of MD / Mars H. I remember researching, trying to find out who this pastor ‘dick’ was, and how is it that christian culture has devolved to the point of celebrating ‘dick’ as pastor.

    i watched a video clip from a mars h. service, where md and mrs. md were sitting next to each other on the stage, he on the left she on the right, very close. he sort of made a cave with his body surrounding her, appearing oh-so attentive to her. he makes his torso extra tall, shoulders forward, and looks down in her in a doting fashion, like she’s a 2 year-old. she sort of shrinks down into a kind of doll on display, playing the part. it was some piece about marriage.

    my natural-born contrived meter was sounding it’s purple alert alarm, as i watched in disbelief.

    as i had already learned, this is the man who reads his wife’s emails in surveillance. who felt so disrespected by his wife’s ‘mommy-ish’ haircut that he shamed her publicly for it. who controls who she can have for friends. this is the ‘pastor’ who tells women they are appliances and tells men to use their appliances “at least once a day” for sex. who destroys people, leaving the women in his wake saying things like “I wasn’t allowed to participate in my own life.”

    and now to see him pull this stunt…

    not long after, guess what happened at “Last Church” on a Sunday morning.

    the topic was marriage. 2 chairs are set up center stage, side-by-side touching each other. pastor sits in the one on the left, his wife sits in the other. pastor makes himself extra tall in the chair, makes a cave out of his body surrounding her. he looks down on her, doting. he even makes a pretense of clearing a strand of her hair away from her face (it wasn’t in her face).

    it was the exact same scene. same body language. same contrived adoring facial expression.
    same things were said.

    the only difference was she didn’t shrink. in fact she sort of seemed to be trying to pull away from him in annoyance.

    SO… you bet your boots pastors copy each other. down to the body language, down to the facial expression.

    they either don’t research on the ‘christian leader’ they are copying, or else they do the research but have the conviction of a potato on what above approach actually means.

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  7. SiteSeer,

    At one “Through the Bible” kind of churches I attended the pastor dutifully walked us through Hebrews for months. Invariably, he returned to his experiences growing up in a “broken home”, his Air Force service or his business acumen. It really was all about him and scripture teaching was just a convenient vehicle.

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  8. Lots of things went awry in my childhood church, but plagiarism was definitely not going on. A faction got rid of our amazingly good preacher who had managed to quote Heidegger, Kant, and Buber in an accessible and moving way. The next guy preached about golf: a three-week series on the differences between a church and a golf club, and endless sermon illustrations about witnessing the glory of God on golf courses in Hawaii. At age twelve, my little Rust Belt heart and mind were aching for more Heidegger, Kant, and Buber.

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  9. elastigirl,

    “they either don’t research on the ‘christian leader’ they are copying, or else they do the research but have the conviction of a potato on what above approach actually means.”
    ++++++++++++

    that would be, “above reproach”.

    (geez, that my thesis statement, even)

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  10. “After years of listening to lengthy sermons, I actually find I remember more from a shorter sermon…but to each his own”

    Actually Dee you are not alone. Sermons -or lectures of any kind for that matter- are the least effective way of learning. So it makes sense that the shorter a lecture or sermon the easier it is to remember it.

    Great article about this at science mag.org https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/05/lectures-arent-just-boring-theyre-ineffective-too-study-finds

    Schools around the world and big corporations too are increasingly requiring their teachers to teach through active learning discovery methods and group interaction guided by the teacher/professor.

    In the Christian world it’s called “Discovery Bible study”. It can be done even in large group Sunday meetings by forming breakout groups for the discussion & discovery time. Problem of plagiarism solved because the need for sermons is eliminated entirely.

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  11. I have seen, and suspected “stretching the truth” ( my kind way of saying it) by preachers/speakers for over 40 years. And, this “stretching the truth” is just an acid that slowly, or in some cases, not so slowly, erodes away any credibility that the preacher/speaker has….. maybe superficial people do not care, but those that really pay attention to, and what, the preacher/speaker has to say, and thinks about it, the more they will begin to notice this “stretching the truth”…. and, the respect/credibility goes down the drain
    … attacking Dee for pointing out the deception that is clear, if you care to look, further demonstrates the lack of concern that many people have “speaking truth”

    The more I think about the current state of our culture, the more I am turning the glasses back on the church, both Roman Catholic AND Protestant, and realize how fallen it is…

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  12. ishy,

    “Because I don’t think it’s just laziness. I think it’s outright fear that they are wrong and might have to confront that they are wrong.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    i think they are afraid to have original thoughts because the “liberal” police are so aggressive.

    (i mean, really, it’s like an automatic reponse. someone expresses something fresh and novel that isn’t rehashed standard boilerplate from the partyline and the self-designated police pull the string on their own backs and start chattering “liberal! liberal! liberal”)

    i presume professional christians feel safety in recycling old stuff that has already been vetted.

    they have much to lose. their fears are justified, what with the evangelical maffia. who work in the shadows to ruin reputations, to get people fired. with cruelty. (somehow they feel righteously entitled to administer cruelty)

    even so, i’m longing to see leaders in this silly religion of mine have convictions first, then the courage of their convictions.
    .
    .
    .
    i think there’s such a thing as inherited memory, to some degree. perhaps the collective evangelical consciousness has inherited strands of this memory:

    In 1961 the SBC’s house press, Broadman, published The Message of Genesis by Ralph Elliott, which met with a storm of controversy because the authorship of Moses was questioned and a multi-author theory was put forth. When Elliott refused to stop a reprint of the book by a non-SBC press in 1962, he was charged with insubordination and lost his teaching appointment at Midwestern Seminary, but not before a bomb was ignited on his front porch.

    “Those who claimed they were the most orthodox Christians were the most bitter and ugly in their attitude….. my family are the ones who really suffered. We received threatening telephone calls. And once, explosives were thrown on our front porch. Damaging the door. For a while, the police had to escort our children home from public school.”–Ralph Elliott

    https://etd.library.vanderbilt.edu//available/etd-07232008-000207/unrestricted/Campbell-Reed+Dissertation7-24-08.pdf

    https://books.google.com/books?id=c7A0WVhEnS8C&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=baptist+professor+book+genesis+not+literal+1960s&source=bl&ots=fwnBKMyVl7&sig=-Or1OAAmy-u2YdBz5NHBPSMOV8g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiLvN6xsZHMAhUL0mMKHcYhCVEQ6AEIOTAE#v=onepage&q=baptist%20professor%20book%20genesis%20not%20literal%201960s&f=false

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  13. Brian: Does anyone know if the seminaries actually teach the practice sharing sermons without giving the other pastor credit during its delivery?

    Probably depends on the seminary and denomination. I can tell our sermons are written for us. Since we use a lectionary, part of the challenge is writing something relevant to the gathering, when some folks might recall the last time those readings came up. Our clergy come from seminaries with very strong academic standards. Their faith has been tested by scholarship. Some traditions think that education threatens faith, but I see no reason to hold back from studying about an all-knowing God. The scholarship just has to come from true love and has to be well understood, not showy or remote.

    (This is a different church from the place with Heidegger and golf themes…)

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  14. Years ago, in the christian business I attended * in Glasgow, a visiting speaker used a particular style of recurring joke in his talks. The CEO and head public speaker evidently noted that people laughed, because he immediately started copying that joke in each of his talks. Not long after that, we left (not because the CEO copied jokes, BTW). We visited a service at least a year later and he was still copying the same joke.

    * The saddest thing is that many good people also attended it, believing it to be something it was not

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  15. Comment 2 of 2

    Paul instructed Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of scripture. If all a speaker is doing is reading a prepared script, which may not be wholly true and may or may not even be his own script, then

    a) there is nothing to suggest that he is any more qualified than anyone else reading their favourite thoughts
    b) someone reading out their favourite instagram memes might be better and more memorable
    c) why not go the whole way and just read some Shakespeare (who also wrote medieval english)?

    All the time spent polishing a stage speech and performance, and all the time spent listening to such and developing a taste for it, could arguably be far better spent. But then, as Paul wrote to Corinth, the Kingdom of God does not consist in power, but in words.

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  16. Comment 3 of 2

    Regular Wartburgers will be aware that there are several other commenters here, some with made-up-sounding names, who have the same avatar picture as I do. Technically, this is because they have the same email address as I do which links to the same WordPress account.

    The character of Arnold Smartarse, who constantly quacks the same phrase about not joining the perfect church if you find it, because you’ll spoil it, is solidly based on real life. Christians over here often quack exactly that phrase and prefix it with words to the effect of “what I would say is…” as though they were saying something original. Christianity Magazine (no relation to CT, as far as I know) published an article on Nones/Dones a while back, in which several Nones explained their thoughts on why they didn’t fit in church. The following issue, there were two separate letters to the editor by people parroting the same phrase almost word for word.

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  17. Loren Haas: Thus the ultimate reason to leverage a ficticious story or plagiarized sermon in service of their ultimate truth.
    It comes with the territory.

    And yet the apostle John wrote, “no lie is of the truth.” Do we serve God by using falsehoods? Or do we demonstrate our lack of faith?

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  18. I teach Sunday school ever Sunday at a Baptist Church, and on a few occasions will be called upon to lead a church wide meeting, there is actually an unwritten rule, how to deal with using a quote from someone from the pulpit. it goes like this:

    A- the first time you borrow from someone else, you give them full credit. e,g, Billy Graham once said- yada yada yada.

    B- the second time you plan on using the same quote, you are now free to say- It has been said before- yada yada yada.

    C- but when you borrow it the third time, you are now officially ok to say- I have always said- yada yada yada..

    And yes I am borrowing this justification from someone else, yikes

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  19. Jeffrey Chalmers: I have seen, and suspected “stretching the truth” ( my kind way of saying it) by preachers/speakers for over 40 years. And, this “stretching the truth” is just an acid that slowly, or in some cases, not so slowly, erodes away any credibility that the preacher/speaker has….. maybe superficial people do not care, but those that really pay attention to, and what

    Some of this might be an attempt by pastors to imitate Jesus in their teaching style; Jesus’ “short stories” are an important part of His teaching style. Of course, simply copying stylistic elements from a famous ancient figure, no matter how important a figure, may not be entirely wise; culture changes and the way people interpret the speaking style may change with the passage of time. Of course, the comparison is not entirely apt; Jesus does not seem to have told His stories as if they were His own personal experiences from earlier in His life. I’m not offended by this aspect of “imitation of Jesus”; one knows that the stories are generally not personal experience and quite possibly not even actual events; just made up illustrations (if well-crafted, these stories will be memorable and might actually be good teaching tools). I just wish that they (the would be “Jesus-speaking-style imitators) would imitate more of Jesus than just His habit of telling stories; His “kenotic” life-style, for instance.

    Another aspect of Jesus’ teaching style that I feel very confident is imitated is the “authority” with which He taught. The belief that pastors should teach authoritatively is reinforced, I think, by Paul’s “speak as if speaking the very words of God.” Unfortunately, in the present context this aspiration to authority looks to me to be simply evidence of hubris; every disparate strand of the various church traditions arrogates authority to itself, as though no other views exist. At the present time, we need actual humility, not an authoritative “pose.”

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  20. When the New Calvinist movement emerged several years ago and began to extend its tentacles into SBC life, I followed sermon podcasts by young, restless and reformed church planters in my area (to see what made them tick). It was not uncommon to hear new reformers parroting the words of New Calvinist leaders (Piper, Keller, Driscoll, etc.) without credit to the original source. These young whippersnappers jumped out of bed each morning to check Twitter for Piper Points, Mohler Moments, Mahaney Malarkey, Dever Drivel, etc. They retweeted these gems across cyberspace and incorporated them into their “sermons.” It’s as if they had no spiritual brains of their own.

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  21. Great post. A pet peeve of mine is when a song writer borrows a line from a well known hymn but doesn’t credit the original author and/or composer in the score. This may be the fault of the publisher, but still annoying. Off topic (but related to prior pet peeve) pet peeve: Contemporary song writers that have the hubris to attach a little chorus to the works of people like Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, etc.

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  22. Several years ago, we had a pastor who preached a sermon on “In Search of Significance.” I listened carefully and noted that portions of it appeared to be direct quotes from a book I had just thumbed through at a bookstore titled “The Search for Significance” (by Robert McGee). The pastor preached the material as if it was his own. I wasn’t as bold back then; today, I would have challenged him for “borrowing” the words of others. This is an integrity issue … a lie pure and simple. If the pulpit has no problem deceiving the pew in this way, what else are they hiding? Who are they really?

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  23. Nick Bulbeck: Regular Wartburgers will be aware that there are several other commenters here, some with made-up-sounding names, who have the same avatar picture as I do. Technically, this is because they have the same email address as I do which links to the same WordPress account.

    I needed a good laugh this morning.

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  24. Brian:
    Does anyone know if the seminaries actually teach the practice sharing sermons without giving the other pastor credit during its delivery?

    I don’t know about seminaries, but I ran across this a few years ago:

    https://www.sermoncentral.com/

    Description: “Discover free sermon help to preach biblical messages for your church. Pastors around the world look to Sermon Central for free sermons, sermon outlines, …”

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  25. Here’s what I find amazing: Peter’s sermon was only 15 verses long in Acts, in it, he quoted many passages of Scripture, and told the narrative of what happened to Jesus, and what the people needed to do about it. No anecdotes, no quoting of any celebrity pharisees, no plagiarism, and three thousand people were saved that day!

    Peter’s message was simple, and the power of it was NOT in who you quote or what what illustrations you give. The Power is the Holy Spirit Who delivers the message to receptive hearts! Preachers need to get back to preaching in the Power of the Spirit, and not act like they’re teaching some Bible class or giving a seminar!

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  26. Brian:
    Does anyone know if the seminaries actually teach the practice sharing sermons without giving the other pastor credit during its delivery?

    SEBTS absolutely taught against it, but students were paid by sermon service companies to hand out flyers. When I heard students talk about using other peoples’ selling, it was overwhelmingly pro. Some students complained about professors using plagiarism checkers.

    So, as a school, no. But baby pastors didn’t seem to agree.

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  27. In my experiences, there has always been a vast difference between “preaching” and “teaching”. Most pastors are “teaching” pastors, mainly because they adhere to Mark Dever’s never-ending emphasis on “expository preaching”. Expository preaching, in my opinion, is extraordinarily B-O-R-I-N-G. It feels like I’m in some Bible class in college or something. There seems to be little room for the Holy Spirit to speak during an expository sermon. However, when you hear a “preacher” proclaim the truths of God’s Word, it motivates the listener to a response. Not so much, in expository preaching…at least it seems that way to me.

    I could be totally wrong, but I’m fairly certain that one of the goals of good preaching is to illicit some kind of a response or motivation from the hearer. I think that’s why many Baptists nowadays are shying away from what David Platt called “those superstitious altar calls”. Expository preaching does not really allow for an opportunity to respond, it’s merely a demonstration to the congregation of how smart the pastor is.

    I hope my little rant isn’t too far off the mark. It just bothers me when pastors think that their sermons are in need of all this “borrowed” filler material to maintain listener interest. The Word of God speaks for itself!

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  28. In another life I was a state denominational executive that worked with churches and ministers. It was a regular happenstance for deacons or personnel committees to ask about their pastors using the sermons of others or subscribing to periodicals for ministers that provided entire sermons, illustrations, jokes, etc. In fact, one deacon subscribed to the same journal as his pastor and sat in the congregation one Sunday and read along with pastor – word by word – as the sermon was delivered. It was interesting to note the pastors I talked with who saw no ethical problem with delivering the sermon of another because it was still the “Word of God.”

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  29. Root 66: could be totally wrong, but I’m fairly certain that one of the goals of good preaching is to illicit some kind of a response or motivation from the hearer

    I totally agree with your comment. (BTW, the word is ‘elicit’.)

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  30. Luckyforward,

    “In another life I was a state denominational executive that worked with churches and ministers. It was a regular happenstance for deacons or personnel committees to ask about their pastors using the sermons of others or subscribing to periodicals for ministers that provided entire sermons, illustrations, jokes, etc.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    what was the view of the governing board you were a part of? how did you respond to these concerns / justifications?

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  31. I was not part of a governing board. My role was to discuss issues with those who presented them (churches or ministers) and address the concern in a solution-focused manner. In terms of deacons or personnel committees who inquired about their pastors using “bought sermons”, it led to a discussion of the expectation for the pastor to be writing their own messages and for the deacons/personnel committee to discuss this reality with their pastor. In cases where sermons created by others were preached without credit (such as the gentleman I cited who followed his pastor’s sermon word by word), I worked with those from the congregation to create a meaningful dialogue with the pastor about their expectations for sermon preparation. This always meant that once the pastor was discovered to be using materials other than his own, the practice had to stop. In more than one instance, a congregation asked their pastor to leave after finding out his lack of pulpit honesty.

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  32. Samuel Conner,

    “every disparate strand of the various church traditions arrogates authority to itself, as though no other views exist.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    so true. and it seems everyone looks down in condescension as well as grave suspicion at customs, spiritual practices and methods that are different from what they are used to.

    the ‘concept of God’ sure makes people uptight. do very weird, unreasonable, and destructive things.

    do christians really think that only those who do things the way they do will be in the heavenly afterlife?

    i think most christians see what an unreasonable notion that is. yet i don’t think they follow it through to the logical conclusion:

    “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    all the rules (spoken and unspoken), all the ‘Statements’ and ‘Councils’ are far too important. being part of the in-group and being able to identify the out-groups is far too important.

    to me, it’s kind of like Israel’s desire for a king. i see parallels, at least. someone, something tangible to rally behind. the red hats versus the blue hats.

    (the Red Dwarf episode “Waiting For God” described it all quite well.)

    (anyone other Dwarfers here?)

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  33. Root 66: Expository preaching, in my opinion, is extraordinarily B-O-R-I-N-G. It feels like I’m in some Bible class in college or something. There seems to be little room for the Holy Spirit to speak during an expository sermon. However, when you hear a “preacher” proclaim the truths of God’s Word, it motivates the listener to a response. Not so much, in expository preaching…at least it seems that way to me.

    To some extent, I think that longstanding homiletical practice is rooted in what could be argued are mis-applications of the biblical warrants. Expository preaching kind of assumes that the hearers are unfamiliar with the biblical narrative, so that this is what they need to hear. This is the situation of the first century gentile churches; perhaps that’s why Paul charged Timothy to devote himself to public reading of Scripture.

    Exhortatory preaching is more nearly rooted in the example of Jesus and Paul, who were preaching in many cases to the unconverted (and, in Jesus’ case, to people who were, as a nation, headed into a national disaster and who urgently needed to be warned of that).

    What of congregations of converts who are familiar with the biblical narrative?

    It has occasionally been noted in TWW comments, most recently (I think) by Max, that the one reasonably clear example of actual NT church practice (1 Corinthians) was much more interactive and participatory than present-day practice (and, in fact, than later 1st century practice, as has been pointed out, I think, by Ken F/Tweed). The 1 Corinthians example is also in keeping with the frequent “one another” emphasis in Paul’s letters, and especially the “encourage one another to love and good deeds” that in Hebrews 10 appears to be the reason for “not forsaking gathering together”.

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  34. Samuel Conner: The 1 Corinthians example is also in keeping with the frequent “one another” emphasis in Paul’s letters, and especially the “encourage one another to love and good deeds” that in Hebrews 10 appears to be the reason for “not forsaking gathering together”.

    Yes, and I also think the majority of Romans 12 clearly demonstrates what a church ought to be and do. Sadly, people today think we should just sit and listen while the pastor rambles on instead of being like the Bereans who compared what Paul told them with the Scriptures to see if his words were true.

    Many believers today have clearly forgotten that we are ALL saints and ministers in the Body!

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  35. Root 66: But don’t worry, I can get “prostrate” and “prostate” badly mixed up too!

    Interestingly, this is where lexicogustatory synaesthesia (the condition whereby words have a taste) comes in handy. The words “prostrate” and “prostate” taste completely different.

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  36. If you think there is nothing to see here, that this is all just an internet hit squad working overtime, keep the following in mind:

    1. This *is* plagiarism – extensive, substantial and deeply problematic – the book was pulled.
    2. Thomas has not been exonerated (in spite of claims to the contrary) – he has received support from his church and from Duncan, but support and exoneration are not the same thing
    3. Thomas’ church and the Seminary faculty have not seen the evidence. Let that sink in for a minute. If there is nothing to see here, why is the evidence being kept hidden from sight?
    4. Ferguson is not the only offended party. People (especially Duncan) keep pulling this line. When you use another’s material in public, you are committing a public sin. Thomas received royalties, his material has been used far and wide. Ferguson is not the only offended party… Does that make sense?!?!?
    5. Why is Thomas still silent on this matter? That’s perhaps one of the most damning aspects of all this.

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  37. I came to believe some years ago that the sermon is a holdover from mid to latter Roman Society. I think it was a marriage of Greek oratory and developing Christian institutions. Greek oratory was a form of public entertainment. It took place on a stage, and would be related to Hypocrites performing drama.

    Later, Christian’s borrow the concept of synagogue instead of house gatherings.

    Separately, a hierarchical structure of authority emerges, as exampled by Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians.

    Finaly, competing dogmas vie for influence through public speaking in the new church buildings.

    Augustine then codified emerging reality regarding oratory, with On Christian Doctrine, circa 400AD.

    The thing is, Western Society really does not have any remaining Greek customs. The sermon is out of place in modern American, and a typical person does not know what to do with it. It’s something you just wait for it to be over so you can stop staring at the speaker.

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  38. If you think there is nothing to see here, keep the following in mind:

    1. This is plagiarism – extensive, substantial and deeply problematic – the book was pulled
    2. Thomas has not been exonerated (in spite of claims to the contrary) – he has received support from his church and from Duncan, but support and exoneration are not the same thing
    3. Thomas’ church and the Seminary faculty have not seen the evidence. Let that sink in for a minute. If there is nothing to see here, why is the evidence being kept hidden from sight?
    4. Ferguson is not the only offended party. People (especially Duncan) keep pulling this line. When you use another’s material in public, you are committing a public sin. Thomas received royalties, his material has been used far and wide. Ferguson is not the only offended party… Does that make sense?!?!?
    5. Why is Thomas still silent on this matter? That’s perhaps one of the most damning aspects of all this.

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  39. My think is that christian hierarchy, christian public meeting structures and the sermon all matured together.

    It is hard to imagine doing something besides the sermon. It you changed one, it effects the other two.

    HBC is the perfect example. HBC apparently needs nearly $500.000 every seven days in revenue. If any part of facility/ celebrity/dogma changes, the other two collapse as well.

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  40. Root 66: I hope my little rant isn’t too far off the mark

    I’d say you are just one more repeated digit away from being right on the mark, Root 66.

    Seriously, I share your concern over expository preaching. SBC seminaries teach it almost as if there is a scriptural mandate to preach this way. Sometimes pastors should be tuning into the Holy Spirit for a timely passage to share rather than systematically preaching the next few verses in order.

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  41. Dee
    “Then the Neo Calvinist “Hall of Shame” members are dragged into the piece.
    Whether or not you like it, they are part of it. Good night! Think about it, Lowlandseer.”

    Not this particular story, no matter how hard you try, although they might be to blame for global warming, because of all the hot air they generate here. 🙂

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  42. I see three levels of plagiarism in the Christian Industrial Complex.

    1. Outright theft. This is when someone takes parts from other sermons, without permission or the knowledge of the original author.

    2. Borrowing. Some more well-known preachers will give away their sermon outlines, illustrations, graphics, etc. I think Craig Groeschel used to do this.

    3. Purchase. There used to be a site called SermonNinja, which sold sermon packages. I recall a page that answered the question: “Why buy your sermons from us?” SermonCentral still does this, and ARC might.

    4. Indentured Servitude. We had friends at a mega, where the pastor preached long sermons. He had two young ladies who did research for him, looking up illustrations, Greek stuff. Not sure if they were volunteers or paid. I’m also not sure what the pastor did all week.

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  43. Brian: Does anyone know if the seminaries actually teach the practice sharing sermons without giving the other pastor credit during its delivery?

    Does all teaching occur only in classroom lectures? I submit RTS is teaching, by allowing Thomas to continue as a professor at their institution, that the practice is acceptable.

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  44. The dead level best preaching we ever sat under was done at a very liturgical church where the minister had a deadline to preach another church on the circuit that morning also. Sermons were about 10 minutes long, based on the lectionary readings. As it turned out his life was falling apart on him in the background as an old addiction to a substance was gaining ground. But when he preached about sin you could hear the heartache for the pain it brings on the sinner and all who inhabit this earth with the sinner. When he preached about grace it was as a man dying of thirst giving others the glass of cold water first. When he administered the sacraments or imposed ashes or led in renewal of baptism it was with the wide eyed wonder and joy of someone who knew he did not deserve the grace offered nor its cost but was absolutely overwhelmed for God to welcome him “anyway.”

    Last I knew he was in jail facing prison for where his addiction led him and what it cost to feed it. But I pray God blesses him for truly and I mean truly bringing his little flock face to face with Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

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  45. FW Rez: I’d say you are just one more repeated digit away from being right on the mark, Root 66.

    Seriously, I share your concern over expository preaching. SBC seminaries teach it almost as if there is a scriptural mandate to preach this way. Sometimes pastors should be tuning into the Holy Spirit for a timely passage to share rather than systematically preaching the next few verses in order.

    I wonder where the Holy Spirit is when a preacher can tell the church what he will be preaching on for the next 6 weeks?

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  46. Root 66,

    While Peter’s sermon was short in Acts, I seem to remember another sermon in the NT which was so long someone fell asleep. Since they were sitting in a window fairly high up, this led to him having to be brought back from the dead.

    I don’t mind long sermons AS LONG AS THEY HAVE SOMETHING NEW TO SAY. Sadly of all the sermons I have ever heard, that quality was only present in a very very VERY small number.

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  47. WOW.

    I find the viscerally negative comments in response to Dee’s first Derek Thomas post utterly bizarre. They are oddly similar to angry accusations lodged against those who call out abuse in the church, which TWW has valiantly been doing for a decade.

    Plagiarism is stealing, pure and simple. It is an offense to God. It should be an offense to the church. The world certainly won’t give evangelicals a pass on such behavior.

    Two years ago, I graduated summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, with a master’s degree in spiritual formation. While this isn’t nearly as impressive as, say, one of my flute students, who is an MIT PhD candidate and recently graduated summa cum laude from Boston University with a triple major in flute, oboe and neuroscience (!), it is nevertheless a real academic credential.

    I did not plagiarize my research papers. Plagiarism is not tolerated at GCTS. I worked my tush off! I felt that an unexpected, mid-career, mid-life academic challenge was worth my all, and seminary was an incredibly rich experience. I was challenged in a totally different way than I am onstage, in my “day” job. I find that the craft of writing is very difficult. When I handed in my papers at the end of each semester, I was relieved – but I also missed the intensity of inhabiting these saints’ lives through my research. It felt a bit as though a dear friend was moving out of town!

    Why on earth evangelicals tolerate plagiarism and/or inflating academic credentials is beyond me.

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  48. dee,

    Today I had lunch with a recently retired clergy member. The homiletics courses she took 20 years ago did not directly discuss plagiarism; her take was that everyone should have learned that taboo long before seminary.

    She spent thirty (30) hours writing each sermon, and never preached the same one twice. Among clergy with whom she served, preaching someone else’s sermons was almost unheard of and very much frowned upon. Her main principles: use ideas that the congregation can relate to, teach something new (without showing off), and leave people with an idea or story they can reflect upon in the following days.

    Her sermons typically ran 15-20 minutes, winnowed down from a huge amount of research, prayer, writing, and revision. And yes, she also did weddings, funerals, baptisms, hospital visits, email, etc.

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  49. me: I don’t mind long sermons AS LONG AS THEY HAVE SOMETHING NEW TO SAY.

    One of my all time favorite preachers (a SWBTS prof) would preach anywhere from 20 – 40 minutes, depending on what he had to say, but it was always the right length. Kind of like Avengers Endgame, since it is done well it doesn’t seem long at over 3 hours.

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  50. mot: I wonder where the Holy Spirit is when a preacher can tell the church what he will be preaching on for the next 6 weeks?

    Proponents of expository preaching consider the fact that the pastor doesn’t have to figure out what to preach about next is a big advantage.

    I don’t have anything against expository preaching in general, it is the notion that it is the ONLY right way to approach the preaching ministry is where they lose me. Our local SBC branch seminary has refined it to something they have branded “text-driven” preaching. I don’t think our future preachers get any guidance on how to approach topical series.

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  51. mot: I wonder where the Holy Spirit is when a preacher can tell the church what he will be preaching on for the next 6 weeks?

    Then again, I’ve seen some expository preachers read their next passage and then completely divert to something topical without any logical pivot point. If they are good at it, most people never catch on.

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  52. Is plagiarism salacious and titillating?

    Nah, how bout’ just plain lazy and stupid?

    If ya’ can’t be original (speech writing, script writing, sermon delivery, etc.), don’t attempt it at all.

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  53. Lowlandseer,

    You need to keep reading this blog… Ligon Duncan is part of this story as explained in the post. I don’t trust anyone who believed that CJ Mahaney was *the man* for an extended period fo time. They have poor judgment and exceedingly poor taste in sermons. 🙂

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  54. Edward Dantes:
    If you think there is nothing to see here, keep the following in mind:

    1. This is plagiarism – extensive, substantial and deeply problematic – the book was pulled
    2. Thomas has not been exonerated (in spite of claims to the contrary) – he has received support from his church and from Duncan, but support and exoneration are not the same thing
    3. Thomas’ church and the Seminary faculty have not seen the evidence. Let that sink in for a minute. If there is nothing to see here, why is the evidence being kept hidden from sight?
    4. Ferguson is not the only offended party. People (especially Duncan) keep pulling this line. When you use another’s material in public, you are committing a public sin. Thomas received royalties, his material has been used far and wide. Ferguson is not the only offended party… Does that make sense?!?!?
    5. Why is Thomas still silent on this matter? That’s perhaps one of the most damning aspects of all this.

    Great comment. Thank you and sorry it took so long to be approved.

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  55. FW Rez: Our local SBC branch seminary has refined [expository lecturing] to something they have branded “text-driven” preaching.

    TBH, I think expository lecturing is better described as preaching-driven text.

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  56. Edward Dantes,

    He even admitted it was plagiarism…Interesting.But then he’s gone silent. I bet her got a couple of his fanboys to come over here and poorly present their case. I sure hope they aren’t pastors or seminary pastors. Their comments were silly. By the way, they’ve gone silent. It’s good that they did so. I was prepared to post again and again until they stopped their nonsense.

    I didn’t catch the difference between support and exoneration. Great point.

    I totally agree with you that Ferguson is not the only offended party. Everyone who heard him, purchased his books or used it as a resource victims.

    I assumed that everyone had seen the evidence. Uh oh….

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  57. Lowlandseer,

    Also, what did you think of the rather coincidental comment by Thomas on his life experience rewrapping present. When you get right down to it, if that’s the best you can do when recounting your life, then your insight meter needs to be jumpstarted.

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  58. BL: I don’t know about seminaries, but I ran across this a few years ago:

    https://www.sermoncentral.com/

    Description: “Discover free sermon help to preach biblical messages for your church. Pastors around the world look to Sermon Central for free sermons, sermon outlines, …”

    This type of site, and I’m sure there are many, is what makes me wonder if, rather than borrowing from one another these guys are just accessing the same stuff online. I mean, what kind of chutzpah would it take to steal the words of the former pastor of your church? But if he looked for a sermon on XYZ, and used the provided outline, quotes and stories, he would never know that his predecessor had used the exact same source. Just a thought.

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  59. ION: Fitba’

    Huge game for Liverpool tomorrow night; if we can compete at the Nou Camp, we’ll be in with a chance in the Anfield leg. Up for grabs is a Final against iAxe, who all but knocked out Spurs tonight.

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  60. TS00: But if he looked for a sermon on XYZ, and used the provided outline, quotes and stories, he would never know that his predecessor had used the exact same source.

    Why don’t we do everything that way? Maybe I’ll look up a couple of stories online (“Man tries unsuccessfully to steal an ATM!” and “Tornado warning!”) and just say the same things to everybody, every day, for the rest of my life. This will save me from having to think, and I am sure my relationships will deepen.

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  61. Eli,

    Eli.

    Think back on your history classes and you will have the background on why plagerism is tolerated.

    The Evangelical message we were taught was a strict moral code. That code was foremost a prohibition of sexuality. Next, it was focused on pushing back against social change. From the Civil Rights Movement, to long hair and rock and roll, the World was a frightening place. And don’t forget the Communist and their domino effect.

    Plagerism was never a threat to the Fundamentals of the Faith. It would never be placed upon the deadly sin list. It does not involve genitals, nor is there any Pro-Plagerism Movement to trigger a Christian counterpart.

    Now if Karl Marx or Charles Darwin had advocated plagetism? We kids would have been warned in chapel that the Plagetist where coming. Coming to get us.

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  62. roebuck: Beautiful! Also, customer ratings…

    Listener ratings might be more illuminating, but that would require the listeners to know that their person in the front of the meeting was using canned material.

    Oh dear… this could be a new form of internet “doxxing” — perhaps an online database of who preached which canned sermon, acquired from what service.

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  63. Samuel Conner: Listener ratings might be more illuminating, but that would require the listeners to know that their person in the front of the meeting was using canned material.

    Oh dear… this could be a new form of internet “doxxing” — perhaps an online database of who preached which canned sermon, acquired from what service.

    Some day we’ll be hearing things like: “Gee pastor, I’ve heard that one a lot of times, but that was just about the best performance I’ve ever heard!” Unironically :-/

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  64. Nathan Priddis,

    Nice summary, just like gluttony was not a sin to rail against, especially when the local “pops” of my fundamentalist school was obese… we kids even noticed it back when.. heaven forbid we touched the cute women/girls, but heck, pass me another slice of that yummy apple pie!

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  65. roebuck: Some day we’ll be hearing things like: “Gee pastor, I’ve heard that one a lot of times, but that was just about the best performance I’ve ever heard!” Unironically :-/

    I was thinking along the same lines — in the “new normal” of evangelical church ministry, the “guy in the front” is simply a performer. Preaching has become a kind of “performance art.”

    We shouldn’t call it the “Evangelical Industrial Complex”. It’s more nearly an “Evangelical Entertainment Complex”.

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  66. Fisher,

    Sermons -or lectures of any kind for that matter- are the least effective way of learning. So it makes sense that the shorter a lecture or sermon the easier it is to remember it.

    Schools around the world and big corporations too are increasingly requiring their teachers to teach through active learning discovery methods and group interaction guided by the teacher/professor.

    In the Christian world it’s called “Discovery Bible study”. It can be done even in large group Sunday meetings by forming breakout groups for the discussion & discovery time.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    well, there’s no glory for the preacher that way (which is a large part of the object of the exercise).

    so very sensible, though.

    i expect christian culture to catch up in about 40 years.

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  67. Nathan Priddis: My think is that christian hierarchy, christian public meeting structures and the sermon all matured together.

    It is hard to imagine doing something besides the sermon. It you changed one, it effects the other two.

    I think you’re right about this, and I feel these three things dominate our fellowship with our brothers and sisters in unhealthy ways.

    The primacy given to the sermon has more or less eclipsed everyone coming together where one will sing, another teach, another give some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues and another will interpret what is said. (And yes I plagiarized that from the NLT bible 1 Cor 14:26).

    There isn’t that much that scripture says about what we should do when we come together, so why do we go out of our way to ignore what it does say?

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  68. Nathan Priddis: The Evangelical message we were taught was a strict moral code. That code was foremost a prohibition of sexuality.

    You’ve got a point there Nathan.
    You (generic you) can run a Ponzi scheme, be a slumlord, charge inflated prices for shoddy merchandise, you name it; just so long as you’re not having sex outside of marriage with another consenting adult, you’re good to go.

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  69. Flat Top: The primacy given to the sermon has more or less eclipsed

    ….else in many modern churches. I’ll never forget something said up front at a church which had recently been taken over by the neo calvinists (that church was actually featured here on TWW as a model of how neocalvinistas do a take over). As the pastor walked up to preach one of his interns, said, “And now for the pinnacle of the service, the sermon.” I was so stunned I didn’t hear a thing the preacher said for the next 45 minutes. All I could think was, “Wait what? Pinnacle of our time together this morning? Where is that in the Bible.” It isn’t. Jesus said, “Come follow me,” and “If you love me you will obey me.” Not “If you love me you will listen silently and give mental ascent while someone else talks about me.”

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  70. Loren Haas: At one “Through the Bible” kind of churches I attended the pastor dutifully walked us through Hebrews for months. Invariably, he returned to his experiences growing up in a “broken home”, his Air Force service or his business acumen. It really was all about him and scripture teaching was just a convenient vehicle.

    Oh, yes, I’ve sat through my share of those, too. Having a captive audience really gets some guys going. Then there’s the ones who use themselves and their wives as the illustration for everything. Who needs Jesus?

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  71. Root 66: Here’s what I find amazing: Peter’s sermon was only 15 verses long in Acts, in it, he quoted many passages of Scripture, and told the narrative of what happened to Jesus, and what the people needed to do about it. No anecdotes, no quoting of any celebrity pharisees, no plagiarism, and three thousand people were saved that day!

    Peter’s message was simple, and the power of it was NOT in who you quote or what what illustrations you give. The Power is the Holy Spirit Who delivers the message to receptive hearts! Preachers need to get back to preaching in the Power of the Spirit, and not act like they’re teaching some Bible class or giving a seminar!

    What a great example.

    I wonder how much of this comes back to the fact that there are some times when only a few or no one responds and does a pastor accept that and continue to simply be faithful or does he decide he needs to do something to help God along… do appeals to the flesh get responses from people who haven’t actually believed?

    I don’t know, just thinking.

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  72. Luckyforward: It was interesting to note the pastors I talked with who saw no ethical problem with delivering the sermon of another because it was still the “Word of God.”

    Why don’t we all just listen to a recording together? What’s the difference?

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  73. Root 66: I could be totally wrong, but I’m fairly certain that one of the goals of good preaching is to illicit some kind of a response or motivation from the hearer.

    The problem I’ve had with that is that eliciting soon becomes manipulation which becomes coercion. My husband and I were literally trapped in a church we visited one time as the pastor and congregation were determined to get us to go forward in an altar call. We were the only visitors that day and the altar calls kept morphing to try and catch whatever it was we supposedly needed to go forward about. We didn’t need to go forward. When the pastor finally called it a day and we made our way out, people actually glared at us. What an experience…

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  74. Nathan Priddis: My think is that christian hierarchy, christian public meeting structures and the sermon all matured together.

    It is hard to imagine doing something besides the sermon. It you changed one, it effects the other two.

    Then there are the churches that have pretty much replaced the sermon with music. A short message and hundreds of repeats of the same few verses. Oh my. So many ways to go wrong.

    My favorite church was a small one where the pastor taught through the Bible and took questions as he was speaking. We had great discussions.

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  75. mot: I wonder where the Holy Spirit is when a preacher can tell the church what he will be preaching on for the next 6 weeks?

    One church I went to, the pastor ‘repented’ of doing that and made a commitment to only preach what “the Spirit led him to say.” For the next months he got up there and blithered about nothing, aimlessly going nowhere, and gravitated towards just reaming us all out every week for not having enough faith.

    Sometimes i think about writing a book about all the churches I’ve gone to. I’m not sure if it would be a comedy or what.

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  76. SiteSeer: Why don’t we all just listen to a recording together?

    Frankly, I would much prefer to listen to someone read a classic, well-written sermon from hundreds of years ago than the silliness that passes for teaching today. Better yet, let’s have honest, productive give and take, so that people can discuss the things that are really important to them rather than listen to some narcissist’s personal opinions.

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  77. SiteSeer,

    “Sometimes i think about writing a book about all the churches I’ve gone to. I’m not sure if it would be a comedy or what.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    i’m waiting for Christopher Guest to do the mockumentary… if only… it would write itself!

    (in the tradition of Spinal Tap, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration…)

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  78. SiteSeer: The problem I’ve had with that is that eliciting soon becomes manipulation which becomes coercion. My husband and I were literally trapped in a church we visited one time as the pastor and congregation were determined to get us to go forward in an altar call. We were the only visitors that day and the altar calls kept morphing to try and catch whatever it was we supposedly needed to go forward about. We didn’t need to go forward. When the pastor finally called it a day and we made our way out, people actually glared at us. What an experience…

    What terribly sad experience! When God’s Word is rightly proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, no coercion or manipulation is necessary. Referencing again Peter’s sermon from Acts chapter 2, the hearers were “cut to the heart” and proclaimed “brothers, what shall we do?” THEY initiated the invitation, NOT Peter! How did we get things so turned around?

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  79. A couple of years ago, I migrated back to church via an invite from a friend. It was an ARC church. As opposed the churches of my younger days, I found it very easy to listen to the pastor. Then he hit the message series “Like a Wolf/I Declare War.” Screech…..what?
    I will admit that as someone who had fallen away from the church, I hadn’t been doing my Bible study for years. I am back into but hadn’t hit that part yet… you know, the part where Jesus tells us to be “like a wolf.”
    The sermon series prompted investigation. The pastor did tell us that it was “put on his heart” to talk about this after reading a book my Levi Lusko. I “Googled.” I found the book. I also found the sermon: “https://open.life.church/items/185419-transcript-pdf” A few paragraphs were left out but the sermons delivered to us were almost word for word the same. (As full disclosure, in case you don’t want to read them (which I would not recommend): in the message series, they never say that God or Jesus tells us to “Be Like a Wolf” which makes the whole thing a little more bizarre.) This was the first time that I recognized the messages were a smattering of Bible verses with loosely held associations and then modern self help as the foundation. Now, I wonder if all of his sermons are copied from an internet source. I now understand where they get the cool graphics that are displayed on the big screen (behind the fog machine). I had concerns about the church prior to finding this (the research on those concerns is what led me to this blog), but for me, this was the end of what I had thought was a good thing.
    Since this website exists with graphics and all the material one needs to directly copy a message series, I guess copying is expected and pastors are not supposed to speak from their hearts after studying the word. The modern form is now speak from the internet after doing a Google? (/sarc)
    I love the people that I met in the church, but I realize the rest is just fun graphics and fog machines.

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  80. FW Rez: Our local SBC branch seminary has refined it to something they have branded “text-driven” preaching.

    More like “text-twisted” preaching to make square Scripture fit in a round theological hole. They torment Scripture until it says what they want it to.

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  81. On the re-wrapping of present part:

    My first thought was to wonder, where did Sinclair Lewis get that story from?

    My second thought was, what a fairy tale. Who does that as a kid? the wrapping paper in our house was unusable after the presents were opened.

    My third thought was, how stupid to plagiarize something that idiotic. Even the C.S. Lewis quote makes no sense.

    In bouncing around to various Bible churches I heard the same anecdotes preached by multiple pastors. Similar jokes, same delivery, same schmaltzy crapola.

    I saw it in the Charismatic folks too, as it seemed like there was a central clearing house where they all got the same info to preach on because often the messages were timed to have the same themes.

    And who doesn’t love the frog in the kettle story?

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  82. Eli: Why on earth evangelicals tolerate plagiarism and/or inflating academic credentials is beyond me.

    It’s a symptom of Evangelical Racketeering which has taken over some corners of the American church. Bending the rules a bit for the good of the reformed movement and to prop up celebrity leaders within it are no big deal. Heck, if any of these offenders would get honest and confess their sins before their congregations, they would probably get a standing ovation! That’s how far we’ve fallen from the moral and ethical standards which should be steering the pulpit and the pew into righteousness.

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  83. Brian:
    Samuel Conner,

    Today’s news media is a mix of news, entertainment, and marketing presented as news.

    Michael Brown was on TBN, using an infomercial format/pitch style to push his upcoming revival.

    I’m quite out of touch with the ways mainstream culture has changed in the last 30-40 years. Don’t and never have owned a TV; life is too short to let the powerful “push” their news and entertainment on you.

    I believe you; it’s another way church and world are resembling each other. Perhaps it’s “convergent devolution”.

    re: “life is too short to let the powerful “push” their news and entertainment on you”, that might be a sensible way to regard the powerful “thought leaders” of the self-described churches.

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  84. Max: Heck, if any of these offenders would get honest and confess their sins before their congregations, they would probably get a standing ovation!

    Yes, and then they could go on a book tour. They could all use the same book, just with different author names.

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  85. Max: They torment Scripture until it says what they want it to.

    I was telling a friend last week how I never respected the “inerrancy” movement since so many of the those making the most noise about it were taking such great liberties with their interpretations that the original intent was getting lost anyways. There were a lot of people paying lip service to the authority of scripture while running amok with their interpretations.

    Since “text-driven” is directly associated with one individual, however, I will say that to the best of my knowledge Dr. Allen is faithful in his interpretation. I’ve known several people that have benefited from his preaching and they all speak highly of him. I just don’t buy into the whole mentality that this approach is the only way to preach.

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  86. FW Rez: “text-driven” is directly associated with one individual

    “It is with a single man that error usually commences” (James Boyce, Founder, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

    FW Rez: to the best of my knowledge Dr. Allen is faithful in his interpretation

    Agreed.

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  87. dee,

    No, not really, as people frequently regurgitate others’ thoughts/homilies/illustrations. It has happened for centuries and has benefited generations. For example, 25 years ago I was struck by somethings that David Clarkson wrote
    – “Man’s soul is left like a ruined palace…(Works, Vol 1). A description then followed. Time and again I was surprised to find that many people had said the same or similar thing over centuries. It benefited me and, no doubt, many others.
    No doubt, if he had written this today, someone would have accused him of plagiarism.
    But there is another, unspoken, current to this, in my opinion. And that is that perhaps it is being suggested that the present author did this deliberately -perhaps for fame or gain or both. Of course that is a dangerous thing to allege, unless there is proof. If there is, let it be brought forth and let the lawful authorities deal with it. Lawful authorities certainly include those previously dismissed because they belong to the same club, but it should also include the civil authorities if a crime has been committed.
    Given the drip by drip nature of revelations, that might be the next story. But until then, only God knows the “true truth” and the man himself.

    I only know Derek Thomas through some of his writings, including the commentary on Acts.
    I only know Ligon Duncan from a brief correspondence with him about the Westminster Confession.
    I only know Sinclair Ferguson through his preaching, pastoring and writings over 40 years.

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  88. There’s a word for what these pastors are doing. It’s called “lying”. I think the Lord God may have even said something about that, a commandment, maybe.

    There was also something Jesus said about the “Father of Lies”. In fact, He said it in the context of attacking church leaders of the day, the Pharisees, the First Century sin-sniffers, the ones whom Jesus said judged by man-made standards, who loved to receive praise from men, who got affluent off the backs of the people, who were power brokers and liked to cozy up with political leaders and wealthy people who had power, the old boys club of the First Century, the ones whom Jesus said would die in their sins. I cannot say whether that all applies to this present crop of leaders. At the time, obviously it didn’t apply to every Pharisee, considering Jesus knocked one of them off his horse and he later wrote most of the New Testament. But the parallels between the Pharisees back in the day and some of the celebs who so love their power and authority today sure are striking.

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  89. Brian:
    Does anyone know if the seminaries actually teach the practice sharing sermons without giving the other pastor credit during its delivery?

    They do it the most indelible way you can teach things: by example.

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  90. One of my FB friends observed that, if preachers simply stood up and read the homilies of Saint John Chrysostom, it would be a vast improvement over most sermons one hears nowadays. (Proper attribution would be required, of course.)

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  91. Lowlandseer,

    Outside of religion where would Derek’s literary theft be acceptable? What high school or college student could appear humble and repentant and have their literary theft overlooked? However much you like Derek there’s no adequate defense for him on this. BTW, I’m a member of his church and received the letter letting Derek off the hook.

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  92. Max: More like “text-twisted” preaching to make square Scripture fit in a round theological hole.They torment Scripture until it says what they want it to.

    Swinging a sledgehammer yelling “YOU’LL FIT! YOU’LL FIT! YOU’LL FIT!”

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  93. Lowlandseer,

    So guy “A” tells a story about something in his childhood.
    Guy “B” tells almost the exact same story about something in his childhood.
    Both guy A & B bring in C.S. Lewis to add to their story and help them make the same point.

    Q: What is guy “B” doing? What is it called? While it is possible, I supposed, that both guys had the same experience as a child and used it to make a point in a sermon, is it likely? Believable? Same event, same self depreciation, same call to C.S. Lewis. Same point. It’s also possible that both guys are lying. What then?

    Guy “B” gets busted and people don’t like other people talking about it. What does it matter?
    It matters because these people claim to be authorities and sit as the authority in their respective denominations, seminaries, and church bodies and don’t think anything of placing burdens on the people they are shepherding that they themselves refuse to bear. Cheating authority is hypocrisy in action. It’s just another example of deception in the church.

    Why shouldn’t cheating shepherds be driven out of the ministry? Their own theology shouldn’t allow them to remain in their position of authority, and if it does allow for that, what does that say about their theology?

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  94. SiteSeer: Then there are the churches that have pretty much replaced the sermon with music. A short message and hundreds of repeats of the same few verses.

    Wasn’t there something about “Vain Repetitions”, usually invoked as a slam on Romish Rosaries?

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  95. Law Prof,

    I think I’m correct in saying that Article 35 of the Church of England commend the repetition of approved homilies, and other denominations encourage “new” ministers to use other people’s sermons. Quite common in the past.

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  96. Lowlandseer: perhaps it is being suggested that the present author did this deliberately -perhaps for fame or gain or both. Of course that is a dangerous thing to allege, unless there is proof. If there is, let it be brought forth and let the lawful authorities deal with it. Lawful authorities certainly include those previously dismissed because they belong to the same club, but it should also include the civil authorities if a crime has been committed.

    But of course it is un-Christian to involve the civil authorities, and many churches insist on handling everything in house.

    I wrote a book about this. It’s called Catch-22.

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  97. Steve,

    Try this from Duke University
    “Intentional Plagiarism

    Intentional plagiarism is claiming sole authorship of a work that you know to have been written largely by someone else.”

    Anyway, that’s enough from me – only one more to come from me.

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  98. Brian: The pain brain lock is on so I can’t remember the details from my days in college. Isn’t there a rule about a common thought versus outright plagiarism?

    In my view, students and other writers should err on the side of citing sources. This demonstrates research skill. Written work should clearly differentiate between the writer’s ideas and somebody else’s. Writers can quote or paraphrase (as long as they label what they are doing), but they are also duty bound to present their own conclusions: to demonstrate thought, not just restate.

    People can quote the Bible, and things in copyright, and things out of copyright, and other people’s hoary old Christmas anecdotes. However, they cannot honestly present these things as their own.

    Hope you feel better soon.

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  99. Lowlandseer: No it isn’t. Civil authorities are appointed by God.

    Despite Romans 13, I’m sure we have all met Christians who look down on the “mere laws of man,” and claim to follow a “higher law.” Many churches do everything in their power to keep people from suing, or even calling the police about crimes against children. Churches also get heavily criticized when they take people to court. All of that objection happens regardless of the merits of any case.

    If preachers don’t want to be plagued by rumors of plagiarism, or taken to court over plagiarism, they should write their own sermons.

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  100. Many words have been tossed around to describe the lack of individual creativity that appears to be endemic to religious pontification. One might, as I have, wonder why this growing awareness that perhaps few biblical ‘teachers’ actually compose their own material has caused such angst. I mean, it’s not that big of deal to borrow a few ideas, is it?

    I have pondered over this for a while in an attempt to get to the root issue. I suspect that people’s feelings are similar to the ones I experienced when I realized that my revered pastor did not deserve the pedestal upon which I had put him.

    Like all good Pharisees, he actually did a praiseworthy job of technically ‘keeping the law’; I mean, legalistically. It was no great sin that caused his downfall in my eyes, no adultery or blatant lawbreaking. Rather, it was the realization that his heart was not what I thought it was.

    It would be difficult to explain in few words how this became clear to me, but it was the result of a long process involving the re-examination of many, many issues and events. The final straw was a 5 hour conversation that left me with no doubt as to what my pastor cared about. The result was what I can only call a broken heart.

    This person whom I had so revered, admired and trusted was mostly concerned with his own reputation and advancement, his personal pursuit of medals to pin upon his chest to prove what a faithful Christian soldier he was. I, and my precious family and friends, were mere means to his end, disposable people useful for earning his ribbons. All who required too much effort, or threatened to expose the charade, were shown the door.

    I suppose I reveal my naiveté when I admit that I rather assumed that my pastor, and all those Christian teachers so revered and beloved, sought wisdom and understanding the same way I did, only more diligently. I assumed that they read voraciously, studied scripture night and day, and grappled with thoughts and questions until their eyes and thought processes gave out. I supposed that they had an even more intimate relationship with God, seeking greater insight and understanding by walking closely with him and seeking his guidance.

    Imagine the shock if one were to discover that one’s full-time minister actually spent most of his time in his fishing boat, after downloading and polishing up someone else’s sermon material for the week. Those deep insights that challenge and direct one’s thinking were actually just the same trite biblicisms being passed around by countless pastors, mined perhaps from the days when thoughtful men actually grappled with God and scripture.

    So, families like mine work, sacrifice and freely give of our own labor so that this man can spend many of his waking hours out fishing – and I don’t mean for men. The money that we really could have used to straighten our kids’ teeth or purchase a car with less than 200K miles on it was gladly given to feed and clothe this man’s children – while he went fishing.

    One might begin to see why a ‘simple’ little case of ‘plagiarism’ provokes so much angst. One might suggest that we are slowly waking up to the truth that we have been had; for centuries. As our most trusted religious leaders are exposed for the naked emperors that they always were, we must deal with the anger, guilt and dismay with which we are left. Is there anyone we can trust? Is anything that these hypocritical Pharisees taught even true? Is God, in whose image we long believed, anything like they say?

    We are dealing with so much more than a minor misdemeanor. We are experiencing the collapse of trust in the societal authorities we have looked to for knowledge, guidance and direction. The most painful idols to see collapse are our religious authorities. We are, perhaps, grappling with the reality of how deep the deception over mankind of the evil one truly is. It leaves us with many unanswered questions, and the realization that much that we have taken for granted all our lives might simply be not so.

    Or maybe I think too much.

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  101. Found the Augustine thing.

    Book Four, chapter 29 Head.

    “It is permissible for a preacher to deliver to the people what has been written by a more eloquent man than himself.”

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  102. Nathan Priddis: “It is permissible for a preacher to deliver to the people what has been written by a more eloquent man than himself.”

    But don’t admit it, because they might realize they don’t need to pay fulltime wages for a man to regurgitate someone else’s insights.

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  103. Nathan Priddis:
    Found the Augustine thing.

    Book Four, chapter 29 Head.

    “It is permissible for a preacher to deliver to the people what has been written by a more eloquent man than himself.”

    I should qualify, that Augustine mentions this supposed no deception. But he then goes on to say the stealing of words seams in part related to the preacher’s manner of life. So, it seems more complicated then just were words copied or not.

    Nor is it clear if the original words belonged solely to the original speaker. He mentions the words of God belong to all who obey it.

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  104. TS00: But don’t admit it, because they might realize they don’t need to pay fulltime wages for a man to regurgitate someone else’s insights.

    Bingo!

    You know, if people are preaching sermons and the church knows they are borrowed and from somewhere and the sermons are available for use, whatever.

    But that isn’t what’s happening. These men are presenting themselves as authorities over others. They are presenting themselves are working hard to earn a much higher wage than the average members of their congregation. And they are doing so by making everybody think they earned their place, they’re acclaim, and their authority though the studying they do.

    I’ve been in these congregations. The members didn’t know. I only found out by accident. And one of those pastors frequently commented (bragged) on how much time he spent studying.

    Like Law Prof said, they’re liars. And we can pretend that lying isn’t condemned in the Bible, but why would you trust them as Bible scholars on anything else if they can’t get that right?

    You can make all the arguments in the world about them being “allowed”, but that doesn’t mean they deserve any authority or a lot of money for doing so

    And of they get sued for plagiarism and lost their reputation as a scholar, it’s their own fault.

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  105. Steve:
    Nathan Priddis,

    And your point is….

    ….that:
    1.Mr. Thomas has substantial historical precedence to claim the practice is acceptable for a Christian teacher.
    2. It would be illegal in the modern world, but that requires the legal content owner to assert their rights. That does not seem to happen in Christian plagerism cases.
    3. The level of moral godliness of the plagiarist, is a mitigating or canceling factor in whether the duplication is wrong in the first place.

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  106. Lowlandseer: And that is that perhaps it is being suggested that the present author did this deliberately -perhaps for fame or gain or both. Of course that is a dangerous thing to allege, unless there is proof.

    It’d also dangerous to allege that he unintentionally did this. I prefer to judge on the action alone. He did it. He said he was sorry. Maybe he won’t do it again.
    I was willing to give him a pass until I saw the quote in this post.There are three possibilities.
    1. Remarkable coincidence, right down to the CSL quote.
    2. The poor man doesn’t know what happened to him growing up and needs to be examined by a neurologist.
    3. He lied.

    My prediction: More examples will be forthcoming.

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  107. Lowlandseer,

    Are we not allowed to ask questions without being accused of judging someone? I believe that we are permitted to make judgments about what to believe or not to believe. Was there something wrong with my questions? I’d like to know…

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  108. Noevangelical,

    I thought you asked valid questions. Lowlandseer belongs to a hierarchical system in which internal investigations bu *authority* figures are fine when it comes to what they consider internal issues. He does not believe that those outside the church can legitimately address their actions.

    Dee, on the other hand, subscribes to the city on the hill with bright lights concept.

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  109. TS00 – What you said!
    So much of what you said parallels my experience.
    I once asked our pastor what/who he “read”. His answer was “just seminary stuff you wouldn’t be interested in.”
    He WOULD NOT answer the question. As a reader and one who enjoys studying, I found it hard to accept. Now I realize, he just didn’t want me to know.

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  110. Oddly enough, I don’t have a particular problem about an actor performing someone else’s script on a Sunday morning. After all, musicians – even those who write songs of their own – do that consistently, and we don’t mind that. Moreover, stage magicians are deliberately deceiving us, and we don’t mind that either.

    The comparison with the world of magic is an interesting one, though. It’s quite some time since magicians actually claimed to have magic powers. We know they don’t – they use (to paraphrase Derren Brown) a clever and well-practiced combination of sleight-of-hand, props, misdirection and showmanship. But the same techniques used in stage magic can also be used to cause genuine damage and deception; by pickpockets, psychics and mediums (not really “media” in this context), and the like. When you watch a magic show and are amazed and astonished at what the magician does, that’s entertainment. But when you watch the same show and come away believing (s)he has real magic powers, trouble is brewing.

    I don’t see any reason why local fragments of the church can’t make regular use of accomplished performers. No more than I see a problem with a local church fragment having, say, a drama group who, for instance, stage visual parables, or re-enactments of real life events of spiritual significance. But there is a problem, surely, when a church fragment becomes factionally devoted to their favourite performer and comes to believe he (or more rarely she) has actual magic authority from God, and that his performance is the most important part of what happens when believers come together.

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  111. Lowlandseer:
    Law Prof,

    I think I’m correct in saying that Article 35 of the Church of England commend the repetition of approved homilies, and other denominations encourage “new” ministers to use other people’s sermons. Quite common in the past.

    I don’t care what Article 35 of the Chruch of England says.

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  112. Lowlandseer:
    Steve,

    Noevangelical,

    Max,

    Let’s hope you never get judged by your own standards. You might bet a shock.

    Let’s just hope that you start paying more attention to Jesus and less attention to Articles of the Church of England. Let’s just hope you start seeking the truth rather than scolding those who seeking it.

    I can always hope, but LS, but truth be told, I’m not holding my breath for your moment of introspection.

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  113. Nathan Priddis,

    And more historical precedence…

    “What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354 – 430): De genesi ad litteram, 9, 5-9”

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  114. Lowlandseer,

    “Academic Integrity

    Intellectual and academic honesty are at the heart of the academic life of any university. It is the responsibility of all students to understand and abide by Duke’s expectations regarding academic work. Students found guilty of plagiarism, lying, cheating or other forms of academic dishonesty may be suspended.”

    Duke makes no distinction between intentional and unintentional plagiarism when it comes discipline.

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  115. Nathan Priddis: Found the Augustine thing.

    Book Four, chapter 29 Head.

    “It is permissible for a preacher to deliver to the people what has been written by a more eloquent man than himself.”

    I suppose that meant that Augustine wanted preacher wannabes to preach his interpretations of Scripture.

    Hear that young men?! Save your money and time and don’t go to seminary! There’s surely somebody more eloquent than you, with sermons available online … “borrow” their stuff!

    I’m not much on lazy preachers who don’t spend time in prayer and Bible study to get a fresh word for their congregations each week. 21st century ministry is already easy enough … all you need is a little charisma, a gift of gab, some marketing savvy, and a pulpit gimmick or two (e.g., Driscoll, Hybels and MacDonald).

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  116. We are in a part of the country where I am not familiar with some Baptist groups. Anyone have info first hand of free will Baptists or General Baptists (not GARBC) just General?

    Thanks in advance!

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  117. Lowlandseer:
    Law Prof,

    I think I’m correct in saying that Article 35 of the Church of England commend the repetition of approved homilies, and other denominations encourage “new” ministers to use other people’s sermons. Quite common in the past.

    And wouldn’t they be expected to read the sermon and notate before and after whose words they read?

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  118. Law Prof: I don’t care what Article 35 of the Chruch of England says.

    Suddenly I did, and it emerges that the books of homilies were issued in 1547 and 1563 when the C of E was rather… young. I don’t think the Anglican Communion is still encouraging preachers to recycle these items.

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  119. I don’t know how we got from Jesus saying to be the least and the last, and telling us the truth will set us free and that whispers will be shouted from rooftops to people who stand up on stages and look down at us, demand money and honor from us, and tell stories about “a friend” that they know darned well did not happen to a friend.

    And then, when you point out that these are, of course, lies, and that lifting from another and then claiming it as your own is, of course, theft and a lie, you have a long bony finger waved in your face and get judged by someone for daring to judge those things.

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  120. I hope it isn’t too late to post here, but I liked your brief response to the comment about unity in your post and wondered if you could fill that out a little more or point me to somewhere else where you or someone else has written on it? Here’s the comment I’m referring to:
    “In the name of the unity of Christ’s Church, remove this trash”
    Your response:
    “Unity is not broken by pointing out problems in the church. In fact, the very Gospel points to our sinful nature. We can be unified in disagreement.”

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  121. Law Prof: Let’s just hope that you start paying more attention to Jesus and less attention to Articles of the Church of England. Let’s just hope you start seeking the truth rather than scolding those who seeking it.

    I can always hope, but LS, but truth be told, I’m not holding my breath for your moment of introspection.

    I quite agree that you shouldn’t hold your breath – you’re apoplectic enough. And I listen to the Lord Jesus as best I can, particularly where He says “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment”.

    So whether you’re a teacher or not, we will all have to account for what we’ve said and how and why we said it. [Us Puritans are notorious for our introspection, by the way ….;-) ]

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  122. dee: Does that include Hitler? Stalin?

    Luther says yes – “First, we must provide a sound basis for the civil law and sword so no one will doubt that it is in the world by God’s will and ordinance. The passages which do this are the following: Romans 12, “Let every soul [seele] be subject to the governing authority, for there is no authority except from God; the authority which everywhere [allenthalben] exists has been ordained by God. He then who resists the governing authority resists the ordinance of God, and he who resists God’s ordinance will incur judgment.” Again, in 1 Peter 2[:13–14], “Be subject to every kind of human ordinance, whether it be to the king as supreme, or to governors, as those who have been sent by him to punish the wicked and to praise the righteous.”
    The law of this temporal sword has existed from the beginning of the world. “
    (Works vol 45, p 84 onwards)

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  123. linda: Anyone have info first hand of free will Baptists or General Baptists (not GARBC) just General?

    My parents were Southern Baptists who late in life became General Baptists. They found the theology to be similar at the time, but would have a problem with the current drift toward Calvinism within SBC. General Baptists hold to general atonement, rather than limited atonement … believing (as they should) that Jesus died for every person of every tribe, tongue and nation rather than a predestined elect. I have visited General Baptist churches and found them OK doctrinally. As I recall, their preachers primarily used the KJV-version of the Bible (my experience was 40 years ago), but I don’t think they are KJV-only sorts. If you are concerned about the spread of New Calvinism in various denominations and are looking for a church where reformed theology is not proclaimed, I think the General Baptists would be worth a try.

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  124. Lowlandseer: Let’s hope you never get judged by your own standards.

    The Word will judge me … it’s the only standard I have for my life.

    “Every man who rejects me and will not accept my sayings has a judge — at the last day, the very words that I have spoken will be his judge.” (John 12:48)

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  125. Max: Hear that young men?! Save your money and time and don’t go to seminary! There’s surely somebody more eloquent than you, with sermons available online … “borrow” their stuff!

    One could take this point a bit further. If the sermon is really that important, then perhaps the laity should make a significant effort to locate the best sermons available in print, online, YouTube, etc, and attend to those rather than to the local re-preacher. Of course, one would still want to gather with fellow believers from time to time for the sake of encouragement of one another to love and good deeds.

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  126. SiteSeer: Why don’t we all just listen to a recording together? What’s the difference?

    That’s what everyone does now in small groups and bible studies. They watch videos and the spend about 20 minutes talking about it using “study guides” that force canned answers. No wonder church going people don’t feel confident to read the Bible for themselves, they’ve been trained to think they can’t.

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  127. TS00: Better yet, let’s have honest, productive give and take, so that people can discuss the things that are really important to them rather than listen to some narcissist’s personal opinions.

    In the discovery bible studies we do as part of simple church (meeting in homes, or coffee shops or wherever) the first two questions we always discuss are:

    What did you like in the passage we just read?
    What didn’t you like in the passage we just read?

    No right or wrong answers to those questions, just peoples reactions to the text.

    I’ll never forget what one lady said after joining our meetings a few months, “this is the first time I’ve ever been able to say what I really think about the Bible. It’s been so freeing. ” she wasn’t argumentative or anything. She just wanted to able to say when something stuck her as odd or uncomfortable

    Honesty-what a great place to start with God and each other.

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  128. TS00: We are dealing with so much more than a minor misdemeanor. We are experiencing the collapse of trust in the societal authorities we have looked to for knowledge, guidance and direction. The most painful idols to see collapse are our religious authorities. We are, perhaps, grappling with the reality of how deep the deception over mankind of the evil one truly is. It leaves us with many unanswered questions, and the realization that much that we have taken for granted all our lives might simply be not so.

    Well said!

    This is the hard indigestible kernel of the matter for me. It’s painful to contemplate the decades I invested in these institutions that I no longer trust. And I feel deep sorrow for the many good-hearted people (both among leaders and led) who will be deeply discouraged when they come to share the same realization. It’s worse for those who sincerely lead — their investment and sense of loss is greater.

    I hope that something good rises out of this ruin. Jesus is still dazzlingly beautiful, and I believe that it is still true that He is lord, and that He was raised by God from the dead.

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  129. dee: Does that include Hitler? Stalin?

    Lowlandseer: Luther says yes – “First, we must provide a sound basis for the civil law and sword so no one will doubt that it is in the world by God’s will and ordinance.

    So lemme’ get Lootair (Luther) straight here.

    He’s saying that God ordained two of the most brutal tyrants of the 20th century?

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  130. Back in my churchian days I attended a leadership meeting, where people were told about being good leaders, being a team player, qualities of a leader, ok I’m sure everyone knows what I’m talking about.

    We were all handed a book to read that was supposed to help us become better leaders based on the author’s genuine, down-home childhood.

    So I endeavored to read it, I won’t relate the details of the first story I encountered, since it may be that the author really did experience all this, but I dunno, it just seemed so perfect and contrived to me that not wanting to be further manipulated, I laid the book down.

    Not as bad perhaps as Kinoshita’s WWII propaganda films I’ve been watching lately (for some reason) but similar in how everything gets tied up neatly in a bow by the end of the tale.

    The pulpit and the pastorate have created a vast demand for all sorts of tales, yarn-spinning, clever gotcha stories and sea-shanties performed with a little jig. Small wonder people plagiarize others or just flat out make stuff up.

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  131. Steve: TS00

    Samuel Conner,

    I’m with you, Samuel. I worry about the disillusionment I fear many are headed for. And I am sometimes sad that I will always be, in most friends’, family and believers’ eyes a heretic or backslider simply because I have lost all faith in the institutional church. They will never hear or believe that my love for and desire to know God has only increased and become sweeter as I have been freed from so much that held me back.

    I truly long to be part of an ecclesia which shares some of my beliefs, so that in this lonely journey we might encourage one another to faith and good works. I am thankful for you and others here who make me feel less alone in the world.

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  132. TS00: I truly long to be part of an ecclesia which shares some of my beliefs, so that in this lonely journey we might encourage one another to faith and good works. I am thankful for you and others here who make me feel less alone in the world.

    It is a lonely journey.

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  133. Muff Potter: He’s saying that God ordained two of the most brutal tyrants of the 20th century?

    He’s either trolling us or winning our souls. I just don’t see King Cyrus in every glad-handing legislator and despot. Paul was making a more general point, methinks.

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  134. Noevangelical: never owned a TV.

    In college I lived off-campus in a tiny rented attic room; it felt a bit like being a poor artist in a garret on the ‘rive gauche’. There was little time for TV; I did take in the nightly news during. This was the ’70s and early ’80s and the selection of ‘free’ ($-free; of course then as now there was a tax on one’s time in the form of adverts in order to monetize the seemingly zero-cost-to-viewer content) content was quite limited.

    After college, I simply never acquired a TV for viewing purposes. Life was and is too busy to give great chunks of attention to that. It’s not a bad way to live, IMO.

    I can, however, recommend re-purposing cast-off but still in working order flat-screen TVs as large-format PC displays for ageing eyes.

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  135. dee: Does that include Hitler? Stalin?

    I’m not sure that we want to object too strongly to this.

    I think that even strongly pro-institution churchians will concede that Hitler and Stalin were bad actors and that is it legitimate to criticize them. Most will concede that it was even legitimate to work against them from inside or outside the systems they oversaw.

    So the analogy to present-day bad actor church leaders is useful. They may in some sense (“decretal” is a term that comes to mind) these people are there “by God’s will”, but that doesn’t mean that they are above criticism, or that the people who are enmeshed in the institutions they oversee have to simply “put up” with the bad conduct.

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  136. mot,

    Why do we always assume the Holy Spirit must be spontaneous? It’s actually pretty amazing how prescient those sermons tend to be. While preaching through Corinthians, some people in church thought we were talking about their recent behavior and got really mad. One of the elders pointed out that we were just preaching the next section and that maybe they were offended because the Holy Spirit was convicting them.

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  137. Brian: Romans 13:1b; Proverbs 21:1

    I cited Romans 13 farther up, thanks. I don’t think we should knuckle under to evil individuals in power (otherwise what are we doing on TWW?). We should obey the law and turn to the courts, police, etc., when we need to.

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  138. Tim Challies has a good quote on his blog today that are particularly apt here.

    Brethren, it is easier to declaim against a thousand sins of others than to mortify one sin in ourselves. —John Flavel

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  139. Lowlandseer,

    Thank you for your kind suggestion. I heeded your advice. It didn’t take too long; it was a two step process:
    Step #1. I read Exodus 20:15; Ephesians 4:28; Leviticus 19:11. I stopped there because God seems to be clear on the matter. In anticipation of your retort, I stand before God having committed most crimes against Him mentioned in the Bible. I do not put myself above Derek morally or ethically. Neither do I place him above me because of his occupation. We stand on level ground. The only difference is that he chooses to live his life publicly. He wrote a book. Made it available to the public. Made a mistake. Has failed to explain the mistake publicly.

    Step#2. See what the world has to say on this topic. Here are a couple of my findings:

    https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/plagiarism/

    https://www.indiana.edu/~istd/definition.html

    https://www.jscc.edu/academics/programs/writing-center/plagiarism/unintentional-plagiarism.html

    The world speaks almost as clearly as God speaks on literary theft.

    But your most kind suggestion also led me to research “Christian plagiarism.” The water got muddy here. I had to get out.

    So, where do we disagree on this?

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  140. Samuel Conner: They may in some sense (“decretal” is a term that comes to mind) these people are there “by God’s will”, but that doesn’t mean that they are above criticism,

    I am sitting looking out over the beautiful mountains of NC and it is warm and sunny. It’s good for the soul.

    I know that this might not be important to some in the long run but it is something that I ponder at length. God’s will is a tricky concept. I do not believe that God actively wills evil. I also believe that God allows us to bear the consequence of our sinfulness. As opposed to God actively willing a Stalin, God is letting us get what we deserve. The old “you can have a ing but you won’t like it.*

    I think we have to be careful on how we word this. I do know that there are Reformed folks who would say that God decreed a Hitler. I don’t. One of the regular concerns expressed behind the scenes, and even from my own extended family and friends deals with the problem of evil and the seeming expressions of some Christians who might imply that God specifically decreed that Hitler should come to power.

    I say some things purposely, knowing that others are quietly reading and wrestling with there issue.

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  141. Gavin White: Brethren, it is easier to declaim against a thousand sins of others than to mortify one sin in ourselves. —John Flavel

    Was this the same Tim Challies who claimed he believed that learning about CJ Mahaney and the claims of cover up of sex abuse in SGM was not good time management? So Tim spends time *mortifying*. one sin while allowing pain and suffering to flourish? SMH

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  142. blockquote cite=”comment-400492″>Steve: He doesn’t hesitate to point out the “sins” of others.
    I learned something about how some in the Lutheran church approach the issue of sin as pastors. when I audited it a course on church leadership. This was a conservative seminary, btw.

    When they discuss sin, they point to themselves. When they discuss good things being down, they point to the congregation. Many of the new Reformed crowd enjoy pointing out sins and relish church discipline for minor offenses.

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  143. Lowlandseer,

    The outcome at Duke is the same:intentional or unintentional. One involves intent to deceive, The other involves shoddy work. Neither alternative speaks well of the perp.

    So, how do you define what happened in the two quotes I mentioned? I think that anyone who doesn’t remember their own childhood and uses the events in another’s childhood along with the quote that the author used, is either rolling down the hill to dementia and needs an examination or something is amiss.

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  144. Lowlandseer: the Church of England commend the repetition of approved homilies, and other denominations encourage “new” ministers to use other people’s sermons. Quite common in the past.

    Great, so long as the person who delivers it says something like “I’m repeating a sermon by Joe Schmo.” Sadly, many who do use the sermons of others like to pretend that the sermon came from their own *anointing.* What’s even worse, there is no one like me in the congregation who says “Wait one gosh darn minute. The pastor is a good guy by he ain’t that good at delivering sermons.” Most just sit there, slack jawed, never wondering what’s being thrown at them./

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  145. dee,

    “Many of the new Reformed crowd enjoy pointing out sins and relish church discipline for minor offenses.”

    Sad, but all too apparent.

    This post and the one previous has struck a nerve that I didn’t know existed. When I got the letter from the elders regarding Derek’s plagiarism I was surprised at the wording. But I chalked it up to business as usual and forgot about it until these posts. I now realize the absolute inconsistency in which Derek was handled and Mark Driscoll. Looking back I think Driscoll’s response was superior. Anyway, the celebrities continue to erode what’s left of our credibility in this world in which most of us live.

    Keep shining your light.

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  146. Samuel Conner,

    Thank you! I find these stories fascinating. As a child I was plopped in front of the TV as a babysitter. The TV was always on, and some members of my household even slept with it on. My spouse, on the other hand, had to earn time in front of the TV. The older I get the less I want of it.

    Considering that civilized society lived without it for millennia, maybe a lot of our modern ills and ailments can be traced to it’s introduction.

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  147. Samuel Conner,

    My husband and I are specific watchers of TV. We record shows or watch on Amazon, etc. Love masterpiece Theater, Law and Order SVU (which is well done IMO), a few sy fy shows. I enjoy good mysteries. I also follow the news.

    When my husband gets home, often late after working hard all day, he enjoys a late dinner (9:30) with the news. It helps him unwind and we enjoy discussing the day, including the news.

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  148. A much shorter summation of what I said before, plagiarism screams ‘Not authentic!’ or ‘Don’t put much weight in anything I say, I just liked the sound of these words!’ Pretty much destroys any trust a person might have once commanded.

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  149. dee: I do know that there are Reformed folks who would say that God decreed a Hitler.

    That’s horrifying. Would these same folks add that others (such as, perhaps, their own relatives) were wrong to fight against Hitler?

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  150. Friend: Paul was making a more general point, methinks.

    I think so too.

    There’s reasonable conjecture that Paul was simply referring (in Romans 13) to a rudimentary Police force on the streets of Rome in his time.

    And even if Luther meant for Paul’s dictum to also include every evil Tom, Dick, and Harry that arises to high positions of governmental power?

    I’m under no obligation to believe it as Holy Writ.

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  151. dee,

    Your comment about dementia is in poor taste – my mother died of it and my father has recently been diagnosed with it.

    However, my view on the Ministry is this.
    “The necessity of eminent holiness in the ministerial character may be admitted, and yet its importance not duly felt. In theory it may receive the instantaneous assent of the judgment but the actual cultivation of holiness, the aiming after such an elevated standard of personal sanctification in connexion with the work of the ministry, may be the distinguishing trait of but few of the ‘ministers of our God’.

    In the light of this it is obvious that we cannot too often stress the importance of the fact that the piety of a minister of the Lord Jesus should be of a different order, that it should be cast into a stronger mould, and bear a character and impress more marked, decided, and elevated than that of ordinary Christians. It is not enough that a minister be a converted man — he must be more. In the degree of his divine illumination, in the extent of his acquaintance with divine truth, in the depths of his Christian experience, in a practical embodiment of the spirit of the Gospel, in the simplicity of an unreserved surrender of himself to God, he must be far in the ascendant of the ordinary Christian. If not, how can he be an efficient teacher and a safe guide of the flock? How can he elevate the character of his people’s piety to a high standard, if his own standard is but a low one? With what honesty can he press the necessity of eminent personal sanctity, and a growing heavenly-mindedness, while his own droops and languishes? With what sincerity of heart, and power of appeal, and cogency of argument, and hope of success, can he urge upon the church entrusted to his teaching a greater degree of spiritual fruitfulness, while his own soul presents but the aspect of a blighted tree, whose hidden root is decayed, and whose sapless branches are hung with nought but the seared and withered leaf? Thus, that he should be a decidedly renewed man, is essential to his ministerial character; but that he should be a pre-eminently holy man, is essential to his ministerial success.” (Octavius Winslow, Address, Stepney College 1843)

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  152. Lowlandseer: Your comment about dementia is in poor taste – my mother died of it and my father has recently been diagnosed with it.

    As did my father. It was not in poor taste. In order for such a mistake to have occurred, it would have to be intentional or attributed to a brain defect such as dementia (my father had it) or a brain tumor which my daughter had.

    So, look at the above Thomas comment again and tell me-how could this have occurred? Unintentional doesn’t cut it in this case.

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  153. Sopy
    Your lengthy comments are once again getting on my nerves. Please stop it. Also, you are getting a bit negative of late. I am not sending on your disallowed comment to Wade Burleson. You are a big boy and can handle that yourself.

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  154. Lowlandseer,

    A missionary whom I have supported for decades is suffering with early onset dementia. There is nothing wrong with questioning if someone is having memory lapses. In fact, I find it odd that one would consider such a thought as being negative. If Thomas had or has dementia, this is not a negative slam at him. It is simply going through a differential diagnosis that many of us in the medical community consider when confronted with confusing situations.

    In a friend’s situation, the possibility of dementia was raised early by observers. That is good since early intervention might help slow the process or, in the case of my daughter, save a life.

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  155. dee: Actually, in my former Reformed Baptist church, there was a man who claimed that Bonhoeffer was acting against the appointment of God by attempting to assassinate Hitler.

    You are reminding me of wonderful sermons about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, delivered to a receptive congregation with many members who had served in World War II. Those sermons helped to form many a young conscience, back when I was a kid.

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  156. dee,

    Given your training and experience, I’m surprised you would offer that as a possible reason for Mr Thomas’’ actions. Having been here for years I think I have a good idea when sideways snark is being inserted into the conversation.

    I remember you saying years ago that “Jesus does forgive anything and everything” but the people highlighted here are often not afforded the same generosity of spirit.

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  157. Lowlandseer: I remember you saying years ago that “Jesus does forgive anything and everything” but the people highlighted here are often not afforded the same generosity of spirit.

    Hypothetical item from the crime pages of a local paper: “A pastor was forced to leave the ministry today after months of credible allegations that he embezzled millions and assaulted multiple children at his church. The chief of police issued a statement urging the public to ‘forgive Pastor Woodenspoon and afford him a generosity of spirit as he endures one blog posting after another.’ A reporter visited the 900-acre Woodenspoon lakeside estate, where a person answering the door said, ‘No comment.’ A small plane, emblazoned with the church’s distinctive golden javelin logo entwined with the phrase ‘Matthew 18,’ could be seen taking off from the private runway on the estate.”

    I’m all for forgiveness. And accountability.

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  158. Lowlandseer: I quite agree that you shouldn’t hold your breath – you’re apoplectic enough.And I listen to the Lord Jesus as best I can, particularly where He says “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment”.

    So whether you’re a teacher or not, we will all have to account for what we’ve said and how and why we said it. [Us Puritans are notorious for our introspection, by the way ….;-) ]

    In all candor, I just don’t get much of a Jesus vibe out of you, LS. I think you’re just another full of it type who references church fathers and sundry worthless crap to, in the end, turn the Bible on its head. Thanks for letting us know that you have no inclination to repent or have any introspection. Well, sir, you’ll one day stand before that Jesus you’re spitting in the face of and give an account. And I don’t get the impression you care to follow Him at all. Just my gut feeling.

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  159. Steve:
    Lowlandseer,

    What does forgiveness have to do with this discussion on plagiarism?

    It appears that if you discuss an issue and name people involved then you have not forgiven the people involved. It is an odd perspective.

    If someone steals from me, I can forgive them but still warn others that this person has an issue with stealing. Others being forewarned is a possible consequence of stealing, even though you have been forgiven.

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  160. TS00: Imagine the shock if one were to discover that one’s full-time minister actually spent most of his time in his fishing boat, after downloading and polishing up someone else’s sermon material for the week. Those deep insights that challenge and direct one’s thinking were actually just the same trite biblicisms being passed around by countless pastors, mined perhaps from the days when thoughtful men actually grappled with God and scripture.

    A couple years ago several people from our congregation went with my husband and the elders to a nearby conference about becoming a more evangelistic church. It was pretty good and we liked what they had to say. A couple weeks later the same church had a conference just for preachers/ministers about how to teach the congregation evangelism, so the elders paid for my husband and I to go. We were sent workbooks and a short sermon series to listen to before hand. Well, the whole thing ended up being a tupperware party. They walked us through the sermons (which weren’t that great to begin with) and even gave suggested stage directions! They said we should use our own illustrations, but if we didn’t have any good ones from our life we could borrow theirs and just say, “I was talking to friend and he said, ‘I…'” Then we tell the whole illustration from a first person point of view and it sounds personal, but we qualified it at the beginning with the bit about a friend. They wanted us to pay for this whole package (on top of paying for that little one day conference itself). We were pretty disgusted by the whole thing, especially the implicit deception in using someone else’s illustrations. It’s technically not plagiarism, but it feels dishonest. This kind of thing happens all the time.

    Writing sermons is hard. 30 minutes is a 3,000 word essay every week. You have to read (a lot), exegete, wrestle with meanings and interpretations, figure out what the point of the sermon should be, write it so it’s engaging, then spend time practicing presentation. Some preachers have tons of meetings to attend, or a staff to oversee, some preachers are also the church secretary and janitor. Sometimes it’s just hard to be creative. I understand the temptation to use other people’s sermons and ideas…but it’s an issue of integrity, not legality.

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  161. Lady Preacher: I understand the temptation to use other people’s sermons and ideas…but it’s an issue of integrity, not legality.

    But it’s not an issue if preachers simply give credit where credit is due. Why not use someone’s sermons or writings as long as you credit the authors? Maybe in your readings you come across words that would be edifying to a congregation. It doesn’t seem like it would be an issue for the HS to work through the readings of an author.

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  162. Lowlandseer: “Jesus does forgive anything and everything” but the people highlighted here are often not afforded the same generosity of spirit.

    Why do I personally need to forgive Thomas? He plagiarized. I pointed it out. I posted another comment that was a bit unusual and for which there has been no explanation forthcoming. Did he apologize for that one s well?

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  163. Steve:
    Does anyone believe that either or both of the Christmas quotes in the post are truthful statements?

    What is even more worrisome is that one of them most likely lied or has a brain condition that makes them believe that such a thing happened them to exactly as it did to the other person. It’s all quite weird. It was this example that led me to believe that Thomas has a problem.

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  164. I think my question above got lost in the following discussions. Hope it’s okay to ask it again here:
    Dee,
    I liked your brief response to the comment about unity in your blog post and wondered if you could fill that out a little more or point me to somewhere else where you or someone else has written on it? Here’s the comment I’m referring to:
    “In the name of the unity of Christ’s Church, remove this trash”
    Your response:
    “Unity is not broken by pointing out problems in the church. In fact, the very Gospel points to our sinful nature. We can be unified in disagreement.”

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  165. Max:
    Law Prof,

    I figure that some of us Wartburgers have been getting too close to LS’s idols with our “idle words” and he doesn’t like it.

    Maybe, I don’t know, but I don’t like the guy. Really do not like him. Ugly vibe, in my opinion.

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  166. TS00: So, families like mine work, sacrifice and freely give of our own labor so that this man can spend many of his waking hours out fishing – and I don’t mean for men. The money that we really could have used to straighten our kids’ teeth or purchase a car with less than 200K miles on it was gladly given to feed and clothe this man’s children – while he went fishing.

    And there you have the gist of it.

    Yes, I have been in that position, had been so naive, came to the same realization. I found this passage meaningful when reading the Psalms (62:9):

    “Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie;
    In the balances they go up;
    They are together lighter than breath.”

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  167. Lowlandseer:

    the repetition of approved homilies, and other denominations encourage “new” ministers to use other people’s sermons. Quite common in the past.

    Perhaps it is difficult to come up with an original thought at this time that hasn’t been elucidated by someone else at some time in the past. But, Lowland, don’t you agree that when someone is relating a personal experience as having been their own personal experience when it is really something they heard or read from someone else, that it is strange? One can use the illustration with attribution if one thinks it is really that illuminating, i.e., “Sinclair Ferguson tells the story of rewrapping his Christmas presents…”

    I have not gotten the sense that Mr. Thomas is being “bashed,” as Sopy suggested. To me, bashed would be people calling him names, mocking him, verbally abusing him. As I read the discussion, it is one brought about by his example but the discussion is on plagiarism in the Christian church- what is our proper response to it? I see people having various opinions of it. I think the consensus is that it’s fine to use other sources but they should be credited, and that if a pastor is using others’ sermons, he ought not to imply that he is spending hours of his own work to come up with those sermons. I also saw that there is the concept of common knowledge, which I think comes up often as we share bits and pieces of teachings we have appropriated over years of time as expressing what we also believe, and we perhaps paraphrase something we’ve heard many times from many sources. A book of paragraphs that are, one after another, identical to someone else’s is on another level, however.

    I think that it is always hard when someone we respect and have believed in is called out for having done something wrong. We want to grab a fig leaf and cover him from this unpleasant examination. But perhaps it is good for us to recognize that even those we respect and appreciate are human and have their own feet of clay, as a reminder to keep our trust in God where it belongs, rather than in human beings who are like us. This, then, can be worthwhile.

    I, personally, have nothing against this man, I didn’t even know who he was before this article, and I have no animosity towards him. I think he made a mistake and should go on to live a better life, just as we all should when we fall into doing something we ought not, just as Peter did when he hypocritically withdrew from the Gentile believers and was called out by Paul. I don’t think Paul was bashing Peter, I think he called him out precisely for the sake of those who could be misled by his example. And perhaps this is what the Bible has in mind by, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Sometimes we do someone no favor by overlooking when they’ve done wrong. We certainly would not raise responsible children by doing so.

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  168. Perhaps one of the most famous people to tell the Teddy story is the Tony Campolo. I did an interview with him one time and asked him whether he actually knew the teacher in the story. He replied: ‘I don’t know her personally, but I know someone who does!’ Regarding his wonderful story of the midnight party he had for a prostitute while on mission see below https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWlMV-UmueM he was asked once, did it really happen like that, he replied: ‘ Well, if it didn’t happen like that- it should have.’ WE can forgive Tony,I think, as he is a one off and his stories are really parables and he is a master story teller. Sinclair Ferguson on the other hand is a straight as a die and as staid as any scotsman could be- I would say someone would steal from him before he would steal from them.

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  169. SiteSeer: Perhaps it is difficult to come up with an original thought at this time that hasn’t been elucidated by someone else at some time in the past.

    From what little I have read, the brand-new Church of England produced the Article 35 homilies to help people understand its brand-new teachings. They were produced in reigns after that of Henry VIII.

    Preaching them was not plagiarism, and not an endorsement thereof. I think that idea was introduced here with mischievous intent.

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  170. Friend,

    The replication of Creed, Catechism or Cannon, would never be plagerism.

    The Cannons of Dort has a head of doctrine describing how the doctrines are to be taught. No one would need to cite the Cannons though.

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  171. I have no doubt that Bible church preachers not only recycle sermons but heavily borrow from others. My last pastor in the last Bible church used to read a bunch of commentaries, and then quote them verbatim without giving credit to anyone.

    Not only was it truly annoying to hear this week after week, but it was also annoying to hear the same themed sermon preached each holiday, each one just fluffed a little. Like he sprayed them with spiritual frebreze. Good as new!

    As to the story telling aspect, I am skeptical whenever anyone relates a personal anecdote. I am especially skeptical when the anecdote sounds like something out of an old Reader’s Digest. When it borders on the absurd, I tend to dismiss it and the speaker and stop listening.

    One of the benefits of breaking out of evangelicalism is that I rarely have to put up with personal stories, lame jokes, or suspicious anecdotes. The messages I hear now are mostly solid law & gospel and packed with Scripture. They are almost always memorable and I highly recommend them.

    But as our pastor told me just the other day, even if we mess up, drop the offering tray, trip lighting candles, and he totally tanks the sermon, we still have the liturgy that points us to Christ. And that is the whole point anyway.

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  172. Steve:
    Does anyone believe that either or both of the Christmas quotes in the post are truthful statements?

    No idea, but they reminded me a bit of a true story from my own childhood. I used to get so caught up in the wonder of Christmas that, after we’d unwrapped all the presents, I used to wrap them up again just to see if I could re-create the magic. But I eventually realised that, as Aslan once said, the real magic of Christmas is a deeper magic that comes from before the dawn of time.

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  173. I am sure my comment is highly irrelevant and most likely was mentioned elsewhere, but I wonder if Thomas shared the Christmas story (referenced in the photo quote) at First Presbyterian, Columbia, SC. That would be funny, because Ferguson was the pastor there just prior to Thomas. If the good members of FPC-C are not paying attention, they may be hearing Ferguson’s sermons all over again.

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  174. I’m growing weary of “Titillating and Salacious” posts about pastors! Thank you Dee for continuing to inform and warn the Body of Christ about these rascals. It’s becoming too burdensome for this ole guy to see the institutional church slip further into the abyss, heartbreaking. I’m going to take a break for a while. Keep up the good work Wartburgers!

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  175. John,

    ““Unity is not broken by pointing out problems in the church. In fact, the very Gospel points to our sinful nature. We can be unified in disagreement.””
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    you weren’t talking to me, but…(well, though i’d chime in)

    unity, at the expense of inconvenient truth… makes me think of a dairy product in a warm room for several days.

    here’s my thought:

    i work with a variety of people, some from countries whose cultures have a kind hierarchical structure to them. classes of people, according to gender and power and affluence.

    these cultures are also wired very tight on what is polite. it is totally impolite and improper to be confrontational and speak plainly and directly. it is the expectation that those in lower ‘classes’ will not challenge anything concerning those above them. they are to be dutiful and cheerful about it.

    regardless of how unfair, unjust, offensive, harmful, unethical things might be.

    there are ways around this, of course. passive aggression is a big one.

    i observe the people i know from these cultures engaging in passive aggression as a way of life.

    first, it is exasperating for others. for example, at the end of an appointment when the next client is there and ready to start their turn, the passive aggressive persons i’m referring to will invariably linger, make no effort to collect their things and make moves to leave (let alone start the leaving process). they just remain seated, appear to be daydreaming, or relaxing, dozing, engaged in their electronic device, etc.

    but more importantly, it’s a cruel way for these people to live, for their own sake. they appear to believe they don’t have the right to be straightforward. it’s like a straightjacket. it’s intolerable.

    and even more importantly, things that are harmful and wrong just continue under an artificial veneer.

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  176. Nick Bulbeck: No idea, but they reminded me a bit of a true story from my own childhood. I used to get so caught up in the wonder of Christmas that, after we’d unwrapped all the presents, I used to wrap them up again just to see if I could re-create the magic. But I eventually realised that, as Aslan once said, the real magic of Christmas is a deeper magic that comes from before the dawn of time.

    I also got an Aslan for Christmas, but mine had the self-rewrapping feature. Joy upon joy, day after day! 😉

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  177. Max,

    It is easy to let things become personal when one person’s sincerely held beliefs replicate what another now rejects as a well-worn, faulty script. We must try to give one another the benefit of a doubt, and seek to debate ideas rather than people. Preaching to self here. 😉

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  178. IMHO ‘recycled sermons’© In the 501c3 Christian community should NOW require mandatory attribution references, to among other things, —to avoid the confusion of this possible proverbial problematic driven stake antics of particularly presumed literary theft business, n’est-ce pas ?

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  179. Denise:
    FW Rez,

    There is nothing worse than topical preaching.
    The sermon can hope all over with scripture verses taken out of context.
    Expository preaching done well is the best. And yes- the Holy Spirit is there.

    And yet there are no examples of expository preaching in the Bible. Is any one style of preaching truly better than the the others or is it just a matter of personal preference? As I get older, I am finding value in liturgical services with lots of Bible reading and very short sermons.

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  180. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    If one wanted actual “documented in the text” style preaching, one would need to go back to the really really “old days” when there were prophets to whom came “the Word of YHWH”. These seem to have continued in the apostolic era (mentioned in Acts, for example. and Paul regards this to be one of the “gifts of the Spirit.”)

    I wonder whether it might be the case that prophetic gifts still exist in the Church, but because of our expectations of what forms proper speech from leaders should take, it becomes necessary to couch genuinely “from God” prophetic utterances in the language of prior canonical texts. If there’s something to that, it might be a justification for the topical style of preaching.

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  181. SiteSeer: But, Lowland, don’t you agree that when someone is relating a personal experience as having been their own personal experience when it is really something they heard or read from someone else, that it is strange? One can use the illustration with attribution if one thinks it is really that illuminating, i.e., “Sinclair Ferguson tells the story of rewrapping his Christmas presents…”

    Sadly, Thomas said that it was his own experience. This is either a straight out lie or the man has some sort of cognition problem. Neither is a good option.

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  182. Sopy

    I cannot keep up with all of your comments. I have to read each one of yours before approving them because of you past history. We are talking 20+comments in a shot period. Please slow down or I will stop approving your comments.

    I get it. You think Thomas is awesome and don’t give a flip about what occurred, even with the comment by Thomas in this post. I don’t care what is in Wikipedia. You do know that what is there today can be gone tomorrow. Go over and add something to the SGM entry and watch what happens.I wrote two posts. I didn’t beat squat out of anyone.

    I don’t really care that you don’t like this post. But you have been allowed to speak you piece so please lever me in peace on this subject.

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  183. John,

    I didn’t write about it before. I just wrote that statement in response. People use the term *preserving unity* all the time. It makes sense when it involves tertiary issues. However, when it involves keeping sin or serious concerns on the down low, we’ve crossed the line.

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  184. dee,

    “Unity” is today’s code word for “keep your mouth shut and believe/do what I tell you!”

    I place “maintain unity” in the same category as “I have the gift of discernment”, “I received the call into the ministry”, “give 10%”, etc. All code words to control sheep who refuse to use their God-given brains.

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  185. Nick Bulbeck,

    FYI, I’m heading to another preschool soccer game to watch my 5-year old grandson play. I told you earlier about his admirable performance as a goalie, but in an earlier game he helped his girlfriend on the opposing team kick the ball toward ‘her’ goal! Thus, we don’t know what to expect today!

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  186. dee:
    John,

    I didn’t write about it before. I just wrote that statement in response. People use the term *preserving unity* all the time. It makes sense when it involves tertiary issues. However, when it involves keeping sin or serious concerns on the down low, we’ve crossed the line.

    “UNITY! WE MUST HAVE UNITY, COMRADES!”

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  187. I’ve been preaching since 1997. I was ordained in 2003 and have been a senior pastor of 3 churches as well as an interim in one other. I’ve spoken at one Bible conference and been a guest speaker at more churches than I can remember. In all that time I do not believe I’ve ever given an “original” sermon. Virtually every word has been from study of other materials. Oh I suppose I’ve used original material as far as personal stories and other illustrations etc. But the truth is I’ve always disdained “new” things. I’ve probably quoted everyone from Mathetes to Thomas Huxley and I doubt 10 percent of these quotes were given citation. I usually do not allow my sermons to be recorded. You might think that’s because I don’t want folks knowing these facts. You’d be dead wrong. I’m very open about my usage of others. The reason I don’t want to be recorded is my sermons are for a particular group of people at a specific time. They’re not the Bible. They’re not meant for everyone everywhere. Awhile back I was asked to have a series that WAS RECORDED (I was a guest speaker) transcribed and edited to produce a small book. I declined and gave the following reason: There is now way I can remember all of the materials I used in that series to give proper citation that putting it in print would require. I say all this to make the following claim: I have never met any preacher who does not “plagiarize” a great deal. I just happen to be one who’s open, honest and frankly proud of the fact.

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  188. Just a Country Preacher: I have never met any preacher who does not “plagiarize” a great deal. I just happen to be one who’s open, honest and frankly proud of the fact.

    I wonder how far back in church history we would have to go to find preachers who devoted themselves each week to prayer and Bible study to get a fresh word, an anointed ‘now’ word, for God’s people the following Sunday … a sermon that would breathe spiritual life into the Body of Christ from the lips of a servant of God … a word that did not simply deliver information but caused transformation in the lives of those who heard it? I suppose there are still some preachers of that sort around, but from what you’re saying they are a rare and endangered species.

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  189. Max: I wonder how far back in church history we would have to go to find preachers who devoted themselves each week to prayer and Bible study to get a fresh word, an anointed ‘now’ word, for God’s people the following Sunday … a sermon that would breathe spiritual life into the Body of Christ from the lips of a servant of God … a word that did not simply deliver information but caused transformation in the lives of those who heard it?I suppose there are still some preachers of that sort around, but from what you’re saying they are a rare and endangered species.

    I believe I understand what you’re saying here but I think I’d disagree with it most likely. For me personally it has never been some kind of “new” word that has reached my sinful soul. It has always been the greats of older times. Mathetes for example in the second century. Chrysostom from the 4th. Maybe a John Bunyan from the 17th. You get the idea. And of course every single one of these men borrowed from others both before them and contemporary with them. I remember reading 15 or so years ago in a Thomas Boston a phrase that set my soul on fire. About five years after that I read the same phrase in a book written a hundred years earlier. Since that time I’ve learned it goes so far back we can probably never find it’s true origin. The reason is the Bible never changes. It has communicated the same message for 2 millennia and ten thousand years from now (if the Lord delays his return) it will communicate the very same message. There is nothing really that can be called a “new word from God” is a very true sense. Further I’d say that something that may be hundreds of years old might be quite new to a modern listener. I also think you assume something in your comments that’s simply not true: That such preaching is not bathed in prayer. I for one have been a minister who is a man of prayer and fasting over my sermons. I dedicated upwards of twenty hours a week in preparation and every line was written prayerfully. Plus I gave hours of prayer for the delivery and hearing of the sermon. I think you might consider that it’s not so much new CONTENT a preacher should be seeking from God but rather the right message for the right time for the particular people he must address. In other words I don’t think it’s a new word but the RIGHT word. In that sense I’m hopeful for a fresh Word every single Sunday. But as someone who has studied the history of preaching for over 20 years I am not aware of anyone in the history of the church who has relied on wholly new content immediately given by God for a sermon. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, most notably the Apostles and Prophets of the Scripture.

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  190. Just a Country Preacher: “new” word

    In my comment, I referred to a “now” word, rather than a “new” word. In your response, you addressed this I think when you said “right message for the right time.” That’s the sort of preaching the pew needs, IMO … something that stirs them where they are and what they need right now.

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  191. Max: In my comment, I referred to a “now” word, rather than a “new” word.In your response, you addressed this I think when you said “right message for the right time.”That’s the sort of preaching the pew needs, IMO … something that stirs them where they are and what they need right now.

    Max,

    Yes I recognize you used “now”. In my earlier post I referred to a “new” word so I was keeping my own theme. Yes I think we agree on your concept of “now” for the most part. My only concern is with those who seem to think a minister either should not use the words, insights, phrases, or structure of other men in the past. Or present for that matter. I am also concerned that some seem to think the standards for a sermon as far as citation is in view should be the same as for a published book or article etc or for a research paper. Pastors should be concerned with feeding the flock and tending it, not being professionals in accordance with modern secular standards. Now that being said I do believe they must be honest. I would never, for example, give someone else’s story and make it as though it was an experience in my own life. Also when the matter of publishing for remuneration is in view there must be intellectual honesty obviously. I do not know the particulars of the case that prompted this post and I am not very familiar with Mr. Thomas (I’ve read two books by him on Job but otherwise know virtually nothing about him) so I will refrain from judgment. But I will say that if a man is making money publishing written or disseminating recorded materials he (or she) should indeed be very careful to make every effort to give proper credit to sources. However, I do not hold the local pastor to such a stringent standard for his parochial sermons especially if they are not distributed beyond his particular congregation. Thank you for the discussion. I hope others have benefited from our clarifications.

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