Archive for the ‘Pulpit Crimes’ Category

Plagiarism in the Pulpit

July 21, 2010

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

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

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

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


Plagiarism in the Pulpit – Some Further Conditions

July 20, 2010

In my last post, I gave some general questions regarding pastoral plagiarism (link to post). People provided a variety of responses, but let me add a few more constraints to the question.

Suppose that one came across two sermons from Pastor X, an experienced “senior pastor” type person, which appear to consist to a large extent of the same thoughts and expressions in the same order as two corresponding sermons from Pastor Y, who is geographically remote (i.e. not in the same town).

In other words, in this imaginary situation, there are two sermons from Pastor X that look as though they are essentially just a slightly altered edition of the sermons from Pastor Y.

Let’s assume that the differences in terms of rewording things, omitting things, and adding a few new thoughts are enough to avoid any charges of copyright infringement.

Let’s assume, however, that the level of similarity is enough that if Pastor Y turned in these sermons as part of a seminary assignment, and Pastor X turned in his sermons to the same professor, the professor would be inclined to view the situation as “cheating.”

Let’s further assume that the sermon, in its edited form, was really good and greatly blessed the congregation of Pastor X.

Is this sort of behavior acceptable? Does that final stipulation that the sermon was a great blessing make a difference? Does the fact that the number of “plagiarized” sermons is 2 not 1 make a difference? Does the fact that the number of “plagiarized” sermons is 2 not 5 or 20 make a difference?

What if it turned out that Pastor Y had told Pastor X, “it’s ok to use my sermons, and don’t worry about crediting me”? Would that change matters?

Alternatively, what if Pastor X’s rationale was this: “I’m busy – it’s a good sermon – and there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.” Would that be a sufficient rationale? If not, why not?


Pulpit Plagiarism

July 19, 2010

Pulpit plagiarism is a phenomenon in which a pastor takes a sermon originally by another preacher and re-casts it in some way or another for his own congregation without informing them of this fact. I’ve conversed with a number of people about this topic. Recently someone directed me to the definition of plagiarism found on John Piper’s website (link to definition – article by Matt Perman).

Perman seems to think that plagiarism, where it is intentional, is stealing. I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case, though I see the point that Perman is making. Let’s apply that issue to the situation of sermons. Is it plagiarism if a pastor essentially borrows another sermon he heard on-line without crediting the original author?

What if the pastor reads a great sermon by one of the Puritans and decides to make it his own by updating the language and shortening it by 50%? What if he does the same thing with the sermon of a living pastor?

Finally, how should we Christians react to discovery that a pastor has been engaging in plagiarism? Is this is a Matthew 18 situation? Are we required to keep our knowledge of the fact that something is plagiarism a secret until we have attempted to provoke repentance on the part of the preacher?


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