Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mark Driscoll and Janet Mefferd: Plagiarism, Tribalism and Paganism

Mark Driscoll has done a great deal of good in advancing the Kingdom of God. He has also done some really weird stuff that is at best neutral in terms of its effect on the advance of the Kingdom, and in some cases, outright detrimental. At times I have defended some of Mark Driscoll's theological views, and at other times I have called him out for his bizarre, un-biblical views on women.  There is within me respect for Mark Driscoll's ministry as well as some concerns. I am neither on his bandwagon of supporters nor in the camp of his enemies. I've read his newest book A Call to Resurgence and agree wholeheartedly with the premise: Christians should labor for the glory of God and not merely the good of their tribe. According to Driscoll, evangelicals have broken into different tribes of thought on secondary issues and wind up fighting each other rather than evangelizing the world. I agree with him. However, I am about to show why Mark Driscoll has done damage to the Kingdom of God with his book A Call to Resurgence by lifting the original thought of a man named Dr. Peter Jones and passing off Dr. Jones' ideas as his own.

In the pastoral realm, preachers often use other preacher's illustrations and outlines in their teaching ministry without giving proper credit. However, in the scholarly realm--and particularly in the for-profit book publishing industry--taking other people's ideas and publishing them as your own is called plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined as "the wrongful appropriation and purloining for publication  of another author's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions and representing them as one's own original work." Plagiarism is not a crime (i.e. a felony or a misdemeanor), but it is considered in the scholarly world and the publishing industry a serious ethical breach of conduct. Plagiarism gets professionals fired.

Mark Driscoll is a pastor. He is not a scholar. It could be that he made a "mistake" by not realizing the seriousness of selling a book where he appropriated the thoughts and ideas of another author as his own. It could be that Mark truly didn't know how to give proper credit to Dr. Jones in his book's footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography. Regardless, it cannot be said Mark Driscoll did not know that his book A Call to Resurgence appropriated Dr. Peter Jones "language, thoughts, ideas and expressions" as his own. Mark Driscoll knows Dr. Jones coined the language, phrases, and thoughts he used as he wrote about "neo-paganism," "one-ism and two-ism," and other key issues in fourteen pages of his new book. This past Thursday (November 21, 2013) Mark Driscoll was called out for lifting Dr. Jones work and passing it off as his own by a Christian radio host. Many fans of Mark Driscoll became upset that someone dared accused him of plagiarism. However, if Christians don't call out other Christians for such a practice, what's the alternative? Do we leave it to the 'pagan' world to confront us for our lack of ethics. When the 'pagans' begin teaching us Christians a thing or two about honesty and morality, then we really are living in an upside-down world. For this reason, any Christian who believes Mark Driscoll has plagiarized another author and has the guts to call him out should be commended, not castigated.

I first heard about the Driscoll plagiarism controversy when I read Jonathan Merritt's article about Janet Mefferd and her radio interview with Mark Driscoll. Janet asked Mark about his new book and why he did not properly credit Dr. Jones in the book's endnotes. I listened to the interview three times. On the third time, my wife joined with me in listening. I asked Rachelle her opinion on the matter. Rachelle is obtaining her doctorate from Vanderbilt University and is in the process of writing her doctoral thesis. "I would be kicked out of Vanderbilt if I used someone else's thought, words, or expressions as my own without giving the other author proper credit. Surely Mark Driscoll didn't do what Janet is saying he did?" I do not personally know Janet Mefferd. She has interviewed me a couple of times on her radio show. In my experience, Janet prepares thoroughly for her interviews and gives due diligence to her preparation. I have also found her to be fair, direct, and intelligent. I responded to my wife's question by making the following observations:

(1). Janet Mefferd would never be as bold and direct about an allegation of plagiarism unless she was quite confident plagiarism existed in Driscoll's book A Call to Resurgence.
(2). Having identified herself as a friend of Dr. Peter Jones and a participant in his California TruthXChange, Janet Mefferd must have been in contact with Dr. Jones prior to the interview.
(3). Mark Driscoll acknowledges that "I might have made a mistake" (8.30) but then he says, "there is a difference between making a mistake and committing a sin" (13:13). It seems he is saying that his mistake in not crediting Dr. Jones was not intentional. Mark seems to be unaware that careless plagiarism is as serious as careful plagiarism in the scholarly world.
(4). Mark Driscoll states "most of my information from Dr. Jones comes from around the dinner table. I should have taken notes so I could have had better footnotes."  As a pastor who has had dinner with a number of people, and an author who has interviewed dozens of people for hours at a time, I find Mark's dinner table assertion strange. Speaking from my own experience, if you talk about a specific subject with a renowned author at a dinner table, you are going to take notes. It would be interesting to know how many times Dr. Jones had dinner with Mark Driscoll and when the last time Dr. Jones spoke to Mark Driscoll. It seems far more logical that the amount of material in Driscoll's book that comes from Jones' ideas (14 pages) has been lifted from Jones' two books, One or Two and The God of Sex and not from the dinner table.
(5). One of the tell-tale signs that Janet Mefferd was very close to the truth in challenging Mark with lifting Dr. Jones' ideas, words, and thought and passing it off as his own is the manner in which Mark comes after Janet Mefferd. From the 10:30 mark of the interview until the end, Mark Driscoll makes Janet Mefferd the issue. It reminds me of the old saying, "In dysfunctional systems, the problem is never the problem, but rather the person who reveals the problem becomes the problem."

My wife wisely challenged me not to draw a judgment without doing research on my own. Of course, she was right. So I bought Dr. Jones' book One or Two and Mark Driscoll's book A Call to Resurgence. I already had Jones' The God of Sex.  I read the Jones' books and Driscoll's book and was stunned. The similarities in the wording and the concepts of "one-ism" and "two-ism" were bizarre. The wording, the thought patterns, and the concepts in Jones' book and Driscoll's book were so similar, one would think the same author wrote them. In the fourteen pages Janet points out in the interview, Mark Driscoll barely acknowledges Jones, and nowhere credits him for his original ideas. For example, Driscoll uses the phrase "sex is the pagan sacrament of one-ism" - something you will not read in your everyday preacher's journal - and Mark Driscoll never gives credit to Dr. Jones for the phrase which Dr. Jones uses in The God of Sex, based on his own original research and writing on paganism. Driscoll's use of that phrase without proper credit would be deemed plagiarism among all reputable scholars and publishers. Period.

Princeton University posts on-line examples of plagiarism in their Academic Integrity website. One neither has to be a scholar or a publisher to know that Mark Driscoll has indeed "made a mistake." I imagine three things are going to happen:

(1). At some point, Dr. Jones will be asked his opinion. Being a man of integrity and character, but also not wanting to cause controversy, Dr. Jones will express his belief that Mark Driscoll did not intentionally plagiarize, but indeed, he did feel that his thoughts and concepts were not properly credited.
(2). Tyndale will issue an apology, taking responsibility for not catching the mistake in the editing process and absolve Mark Driscoll of responsibility (and indeed, a great deal of fault should lie at the doorstep of Tyndale since they are familiar with the scholarly process). Tyndale will promise that in future editions a correction will be made.
(3). The Christian world will do exactly what Mark Driscoll writes against in his book and "take sides" by clinging to a camp that either belongs to Mark Driscoll or one that belongs to Janet Mefferd, rather than seeing the Kingdom as bigger than both camps. Ironically, the plagiarism in Mark Driscoll's newest book will wind up illustrating the theme of his book! God must have a sense of humor.

Closing Thoughts

Pastor Mark Driscoll might not be clear about the scholarly way to give credit. However, what Pastor Mark Driscoll should know how to do is to treat someone who calls him out on his error. This is where he failed and this is what is disappointing. From the 10:30 point of the interview to the end, Mark makes Janet Mefferd the issue. I realize that Mark's friends believe Janet Mefferd was wrong in pressing the plagiarism point and have picked up Mark's offense and made Janet the issue. I even read a strange tweet from Justin Taylor that calls for authors to boycott Janet Mefferd's radio program. Tribalism might be a great subject to write about, but it seems far more difficult to practice.

I would like to close with why I believe those in Mark Driscoll's camp should thank Janet Mefferd for her interview with Mark Driscoll and the way she pressed Mark about taking Dr. Jones' thoughts and passing them off as his own. Janet Mefferd has actually advanced the name of Christ and the Kingdom of God.  Beginning at the 13:13 minutes mark of the interview, Mark Driscoll says the following:

"But see, what I think you (Janet) are missing is there is a difference between making a mistake and committing a sin and if I made a mistake I want to make it right. But really, if you boil it down, you are going to take the entire interview and find what you are critical of and the nail you are going to hammer so that your audience can see you hammer Mark Driscoll today. Mark Driscoll loves Jesus. Mark Driscoll loves you. Mark Driscoll is in one of the least churched cities in America preaching Jesus for seventeen years trying to see people get saved, and I was hoping we could help others talk about how their kids are going gay, their kids are walking away from church, the church is not doing very well, things are not trending in our direction, and people are concerned about how we can help them, how can we equip them, how can we love them, how can we serve them. I would rather talk about Jesus than Mark Driscoll."

Mark, I would suggest that you wind up talking more about Jesus Christ and less about yourself when you acknowledge that you did not properly credit Dr. Peter Jones in your newest book, seek forgiveness, and correct the error.  In addition, it would be wise to apologize to Janet Mefferd for treating her in the radio interview as if she was the problem. In reality, she was just pointing out the problem. Jesus said, "By this will all know you are my disciples when you love one another" (John 13:35). You can say you love Janet in the interview, but a pagan listening to it would laugh.

Pagans would laugh at your message and remain in their paganism because they just listened to you justify your "mistake" (plagiarism) and then castigate the person who calls you on it. They would say to themselves, "That Mark Driscoll is no different from us. He points his finger at us and says we are in "sin," but when someone calls him out for doing something that even we see as wrong, he won't own up to it!"

Mark, you have an opportunity to show the pagan world that we really are different.  Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous, and the "pagan" world doesn't really care to hear about our Good News when we excuse our evangelical sins but condemn their pagan sins. We are all guilty. The Good News is that God loves the guilty, not the self-righteous. Show them how to own up to sin, receive forgiveness, and move on in life.

Only then will the pagans sit up and take notice. They will know we speak of Jesus Christ without forked tongue.


Anonymous said...

"It could be that he made a "mistake" by not realizing the seriousness of selling a book where he appropriated the thoughts and ideas of another author as his own. It could be that Mark truly didn't know how to give proper credit to Dr. Jones in his book's footnotes, endnotes, and bibliography."

IMHO, you are being far, far too charitable towards Driscoll on this matter.

I attended public high schools in the 1980s.

Driscoll is only several years older than I am.

In my high school days, we were taught how, when, and why to attribute sources in research papers. We would get failing grades on a paper if we did not.

This was even more heavily taught and emphasized in community colleges and the two universities I attended in my twenties.

I was forced to purchase the "MLA" guideline booklet while in college, which has examples of how to do citations for research papers, and how to write a works cited page.

The idea one gets as a college student in the 1990s is that taking someone else's ideas or material without crediting them is very wrong, and will get you a failing grade, so how much more important is it in a book you may be writing?

Anyone who attends college will at some point have to do a lot of reading, and one cannot help but notice while reading that a lot of books do use footnotes and end notes.

A person would have to be brain dead not to know by age 45 that one should use adequate footnoting and/or end notes to credit one's sources.

Driscoll majored in communications, I believe, while he was in college, and I would bet dollars to doughnuts he was taught by his profs in his media courses back in the day to properly cite sources.

There is no way anyone in today's world, in his 40s (or early 50s, as may be the case with Driscoll), publishes a book without realizing it is wrong to quote someone else, or use their ideas, without giving proper credit.

I believe Driscoll is very arrogant, but not naive or stupid, not concerning when and how to cite sources for a book.

Wade Burleson said...


I do not know what was in Mark's head or heart and I do not presume to speak for his motive. I know what he did. I always wish to show charity in terms of someone else's motive, while at the same time speaking truth about actions.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't really talking about Driscoll's motives about any of this, but that there is just no way someone goes through educational systems in the 1980s and 90s like he and I did (high school and university) and never learns that one must cite one's sources.

I do agree with several other points you made in your post.

Brindusa said...

Good conclusion!

Perpetua said...

Nobody graduates high school, let alone college, let alone seminary, let alone publishes multiple books, without understanding citations and the requirement of citing sources. No excuse here. Absolutely no excuse also for the way he treated his hostess. Even if he didn't like her questions, saying he had done HER a favor by coming on (ego), and accusing her of being unChristlike, accusatory and rude was really immature behavior. Not classy, Mark.

Darcyjo said...

Mark has a masters degree. There is no way on planet Earth that he does not understand about how to give credit to a source. I can remember having this drummed into my head both in undergrad and in seminary!
If I was a betting woman (and I'm not), I would bet you that there will never be an apology of any kind to Janet--he was angry and embarrassed, and she's a woman.

Anonymous said...

...which makes me wonder how much of the text is actually written by Mark Driscoll and how much is written or partially written as a draft or final version by an underling who may have plagiarised what has to be close to an entire chapter. Just speculating here how this might have fallen through the cracks.
However it happened, mr. macho needs to man up, admit his error and publicly and graciously apologize to the author whose work he appropriated without attribution and also thank the person who brought it to his attention.

Joshua Elsom said...

I think those of us who are upset with Janet are far more troubled with the dead horse beating she gave Driscoll over the footnotes than we are that she brought the charge against him. I'm happy to believe that plagiarism might have occurred, but as a caller told Janet, "...this isn't 60 minutes. This is a Christian making an accusation about national pastor on the air before millions of people!" I agree with the sentiment of the caller and I think the Apostle Paul would feel the same (1 Cor 6:1—6).

Is it really appropriate to try an elder of the church and render a judgement before the court of sinners like this, before a national audience? I think not.

Driscoll recognized her complaint and said he would check it out and correct it if he was wrong. It should have stopped there. That should've been enough, but she was bent, it seems, on chopping him down in public.

She repeated the charge of being a thief several times and later accused him of hypocrisy. Do you suppose she would've treated Phil Johnson, who mistakenly misrepresented Sam Storms and Michael Brown in his lectures at Strange Fire, the same way she treated Mark Driscoll? If she had Phil on the air would've she turned in the screws that tightly? Of course not. The benefit of the doubt should've been given to Mark just like it would've been given to a person with whom she allies.

She claims that she's free to do this because she is a journalist. But she's a missionary of Jesus and an emissary of heaven before she's a journalist. And the way she comports herself in public says something about the kingdom she represents (same holds true for Driscoll). There is no sacred secular divide! And for Janet to continue to accuse Mark after he said he'd check it out and right it if he were wrong, was to abandon her christian witness for her journalistic zeal. And if it turns out that Mark is guilty of plagiarism, whether willfully or ignorantly, it will not change my opinion of the interview at all. She crossed the line, and she owes both Jesus and Mark Driscoll an apology. (Do it Janet, and you'll win my overwhelming respect.)

Also troubling to me, is Janet's insistence that Mark hung up on her (which, to my knowledge, has not been retracted). Tynadle's audio proves he did not hang up and Janet's proves she did not hear his voice. It was obviously a technical problem that both sides interpreted as a "hang up" — that's why Mark did not call back and why Janet assumed he had abandoned the interview.

I appreciate your balance, Wade. I'm sure it'll play out just as you've suggested. And for the record, I'm less of a defender of Driscoll than I am someone who is angered by self-appointed inquisitors in American Evangelicalism. Driscoll is right about our warring tribes. I am of MacArthur, I'm of Piper, I'm of Driscoll, I'm of Mefferd, etc. I despise it!

For the rest of us, those who agree with me, let's just make sure we hold ourselves to the same standard of conduct, that we would've preferred to see come from Janet. Latent sectarianism makes us blind to our own guilt and biases.

Enjoy grace! There is plenty to cover both Janet and Mark.

Victorious said...

Do you suppose she would've treated Phil Johnson, who mistakenly misrepresented Sam Storms and Michael Brown in his lectures at Strange Fire, the same way she treated Mark Driscoll?

Joshua, we can't always control the way others treat us, but we can control how we react. Mark failed miserably. He reacted defensibly, rudely, and disrespectfully.

You are free to think Mefferd crossed a line, but in all fairness, you cannot give Mark a pass on his behavior. Pastor's are held to a higher standard of conduct than are journalists I would expect.

Fred Butler said...

Joshua writes,
She repeated the charge of being a thief several times and later accused him of hypocrisy. Do you suppose she would've treated Phil Johnson, who mistakenly misrepresented Sam Storms and Michael Brown in his lectures at Strange Fire, the same way she treated Mark Driscoll? If she had Phil on the air would've she turned in the screws that tightly? Of course not. The benefit of the doubt should've been given to Mark just like it would've been given to a person with whom she allies.

But Phil Johnson didn't mistakenly misrepresent either Sam Storms or Michael Brown. Where did he do such? Do you mean his one post where he re-wrote about Sam Storms dealings with Rick Joyner and Paul Cain? Sam Storms doesn't deny such, just that he hasn't had dealings with them in over a decade.

Unless you have something else in mind, this is hardly the same as Mark Driscoll plagiarizing 14 pages in his book and then reacting like Mefferd is the problem.

Again. And this has to be stressed over and over with folks who have misunderstanding of 1 Cor. 6 and Matthew 18: Driscoll's book is a published, public work for public consumption. He does not need to be "contacted" privately before he is confronted publicly about a published work. Mefferd did nothing inappropriately.

Joshua Elsom said...

Fred, I don't recall the particular details of his misstatement about Dr. Brown in the lecture, but I'm certain Phil corrected whatever it was that he wrongly said. If I'm correct, I'm fairly certain that the GTY video of Phil's Baby in the Bathwater lecture was edited to remove the errant statement. (Phil did not do anything wrong, it was a mistake that he gladly corrected.)

Here's my point. If Mark omitted the attribution and said he would correct it, why was that not good enough? If Phil were to have come on the show, before Dr. Brown had brought the error to light, do you think Janet would have turned on the same amount of heat and not accepted his word to make the wrong right? I highly doubt it.

Yes, you are correct, inadvertent plagiarism is more serious an offense than the inadvertent delivery of wrong information about another Christian, but don't miss the forest, brother. The principle remains. No analogy can prove a point, they can only demonstrate one.

You are correct, Matt 18 is not applicable to this situation. But 1 Cor 6:6 is entirely relevant to my concern about making a public charge against another believer!

"one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!"

Paul was not just concerned that Christians, who will one day judge angels, would have unbelievers render a verdict on their disagreement! He was equally concerned about the reputation of the gospel community in the world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Wade and Rachelle for such an insightful read. Hopefully MD learned not to mess with Texas women! Especially Janet! She's one tough cookie. That's why I listen to her show, not to mention her wonderful Christian character and integrity!

Tim said...

I'm as concerned as the next reformed guy about Driscoll's influence on the church. His flippant behavior and lack of reverence for the pulpit make me sick to my stomach, especially given how many Christians look up to him. I'm concerned he's promoting ecumenism with his new book, albeit in an indirect way. It would seem he suggests we sacrifice truth for some sort of fake unity (even though as I work in a secular environment and I communicate with non-believers alongside fellow believers, we never discuss our theological differences while engaging a non-believer).
It's also troubling to me that Driscoll can call TD Jakes a brother in Christ and that further heightens my concerns that Driscoll broad brushes Christianity and the problem then is that many of the people we are supposed to work with are the very people we should be witnessing to.

I say all that to make it clear that I am not a Driscollian and I am not one of his guys, blindly supporting him.

The interview was unflattering to both parties involved. I don't see how harping on the footnote for half the interview was productive. Driscoll said he may have made a mistake and he'll fix it if it's a mistake. That should have been it. But they BOTH kept going on and on about it. If it wasn't on Janet's agenda to go on and on and on and on about the footnote/plagiarism then she should have addressed the issues in the book that are far more problematic than improper MLA format.
Do you see what I'm saying? We're all hung up about plagiarism in a book (and YES it needs to be addressed) when the book seemingly advocates a laissez faire attitude towards truth.
Driscoll's true colors shine through pretty easily without anyone's help. Take him to task on the meaning of his content as that's far more meaningful than the method in which he acquired it.
Janet was right to ask him about the lack of attribution. He requested to be on her show, she has the right to direct it as she wishes. But the footnote lingering was extreme and it did nothing to change the mind of anyone who likes Driscoll. So what was the point?
I'm not defending Driscoll and I'm not attacking Janet. I'm questioning whether this interview is what Biblical confrontation looks like. I don't think it is.

I question the objectivity of those involved because, in some sort of Twilight Zone-eque moment, I was perceived to be a Driscollian because I thought dwelling on the footnote was unproductive (which it most definitely was unproductive!). Notice how I said DWELLING. It was dwelt upon and that simply cannot be denied by anyone with the ability to tell time.
I couldn't care less about proper attribution when a very influential leader places minimal value on Truth.

pattij553 said...

Benefit of the doubt? Who's doubt. If I, someone who after reading everyone's research on this matter asked Mark Driscoll about the allegations, then yes, I would give him the benefit of my doubt and drop that area of the interview after he said he would check it out. Janet Mefford had no doubt. She did her research. The book is public, not something Mark wrote just for Janet to read. If that were the case then I might see the point about a private rebuke.

Joshua Elsom said...

pattij553, the benefit of the doubt regarding the mistaken omitted attribution, not regarding plagiarism. When Pastor Mark said maybe I made a mistake and I'll check into that, she should have given him the benefit of the doubt that it was a mistake and taken him at his word that he'd make it right.

Wade Burleson said...


You make some good observations. I realize that you and others feel Mrs. Mefferd crossed a line by pressing too much on the absence of credit (i.e. a footnote). However, (1). Janet is a friend of Peter Jones, (2). She most likely spoke to Peter Jones prior to the interview, (3). She (and possibly Dr. Jones?) was deeply disturbed by what she (they?) believed to be blatant plagiarism. (4). She pressed because she felt there needed to be a confrontation.

Again, I think this entire situation will be eventually be resolved. I have even wondered if a ghost writer was responsible for some of the error (I don't know, just wondering).

Thanks for the comments.

Joshua Elsom said...

That's speculative, right? She didn't say that she consulted with him, did she?

Either way, she should've let it go when he concede the possibility of a mistake and said he'd follow up. If he failed to repent, that's when she had the right to go after him in that way.

Mrs. Webfoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...


I have listened to this interview many times over and have gone back and forth on my opinion of it. Where I stand now is that Janet WAS carrying the interview on. Listen to it again. Around 15 minutes she takes him at his word that he did it inadvertently, then she moves the interview on to ask what he'll do to correct it. A fair question, don't you think? Driscoll gets defensive, takes it personally, and goes off on rabbit trails and dishes out ad-homs, which were not necessary. Then at 15:14 she states she thinks it's a fair question. How is it not a fair question? Then what is Driscoll's response? He now has to get an attitude of his own and tell her she's rude and questions her intentions. He basically tells her he wont let her take the "moral high" ground. Why? So that he can take it? It doesn't make any sense. Why can't he just give straight forward answers? Very odd.

Then he's surprised that she even asked about it. Then she explains it's because it's potentially more serious than he expects, hence being 14 pages. Then it gets weird again. Then he starts saying she's not just a regular sheep, with no attempt to see eye to eye on her main point. Now he's trying to go ad-hom again, when before he just said he loves her.

This is what MD does. He tries to bite back harder when he thinks he's bit. It was all un-called for on his part too.

On top of all this, he seems to think that twitter is a legit way to announce his presence at Strange Fire. Then he still holds that giving his books away for free equals confiscation. He has also publicly stated that "by the grace of God there will be a trail of dead bodies behind the MH bus", and has never retracted this. I see a big double standard whereby he dishes it out, but doesn't take it.

I personally don't care about all this that much. It will all pass and fade as mist. What bothers me is this cult of personality whereby many MD fanatics take bullets for him. I hope the best for him, but let us remember that repentance will not hinder the kingdom of God, even if it comes from Driscoll.

Anonymous said...

Joshua Elsom
You seem rather focused (hung up) on Janet's failings here, but say nothing of Marks. If you want to talk about witnessing, Mark was condescending in his treatment of her. People are very tuned into manipulators in today's world. Mark was very manipulative towards Janet. He tried to make her the "problem", not plagiarism. That isn't OK, no matter how long Janet wanted to focus on the issue.

Janet is NOT the problem here. It may have annoyed Mark that she questioned his answers. His answers were evasive and she wanted him to demonstrate more responsibility.

He starts by trying to claim he acknowledged Dr. Jones. He didn't, not in the way it is required. Then he acts like "oops, I made a boo boo, I'll talk to Peter Jones about it". Still not legally OK. She wants him to say I was wrong, not "Oops, a mistake, I'll go fix it" because (think about this, OK?)
1) He claims to have a Masters Degree and shouldn't be making "little" oopses like that
2) He has published many books, and knows what needs to be done when they get published.
3) He is very concerned about people plagiarizing his on-line material (sermons, blogs, etc.) - he even has a legal team and warns users they will enforce it.
4) He went after other churches for using the name Mars Hill for their own church, eventually he backed off, but he has chased people down legally for plagiarism in the past.
5) Consider there are already allegations swirling that he plagiarized part of "Real Marriage", well, his wife's only chapter in the book (but he takes responsibility for all of his books, so even if his wife plagiarized, it will fall on him)

With that much common-knowledge background about him, it isn't just an oopsy-daisy mistake. This isn't a first book, he is very insistent everyone credits him when it is his work, he is already in hot-water over other books he has written.

And that, I believe, is why Janet Mefferd pressed him. It was more than a dead horse, it was, likely, a denying horse and that is what she wanted to get at. Did he really make an oopsy-daisy mistake, or is there a bigger issue going on here? Does he hire ghost writers? Does he not have the capacity to write the books he does and has plagiarized many other works the public have not caught on to yet?

So, although she did push hard, I think I see where she is going. She wanted to get to the bottom of a) who wrote the books and b) if it was indeed all Mark, why did he borrow so heavily from someone else - 14, that is f-o-u-r-t-e-e-n pages? That is a lot of 'oops, I just copied it.' More than perhaps copy-right laws even allow? I'd be curious.

Yes Mark wanted to get to the content of his book. Here is the problem. Was it really his book? That needs to be cleared before the rest of the interview could continue. I have long suspected the pastors who are cranking out books every few years with full-time jobs are doing something average writers aren't to keep them coming. I suspect ghost writing, but who knows, maybe just pasting together large portions of obscure author's writings cuts corners just as well, as long as no one notices. Janet noticed something, and it isn't something that could be easily pushed to the side.


Joshua Elsom said...

I've little more time to invest in writing about this, so let me be brief. If you read my comments again you will see that I do mention Driscoll, albeit in passing. Yes, he should own some guilt here, he did get offended and became defensive — but only after she took it too far, I think. Obviously, I wouldn't give Driscoll as much attention because Janet was the protagonist, she was the one driving the interview forward.

As to the background — ghost writer, former accusations, his own complaints against plagiarists — that's irrelevant to me because it was not introduced into the interview nor into her commentary afterward. My primary concern is how one Christian is to confront another Christian in front of a national listening audience. As I said previously, even if all these things are true about Mark, it will not change my opinion about how the interview went down.

Christian conduct should be counter-cultural, altogether different from the world's. That certainly means we footnote properly and we correct our errors (Mark), but it also means we treat fellow Christian leaders with genteelness, respect, and an assumption of innocence in front of a unbelieving world (Janet).

Have a blessed Lord's day.

Wade Burleson said...

Mrs. Webfoot,

You bring up a solid point. However, I remind you that when someone makes a living interviewing guests, and there comes an on-line, twitter and other social media campaign designed to get others to "boycott" the radio show, then the person who makes their living by interviewing others (Janet) will do everything in their power to defend themselves. It takes a very, very strong constitution to be quiet in the midst of an attack. Been there done that. Made my own mistakes, so I can sympathize but not say I'd do much better.

Wade Burleson said...


Once again. Excellent points.

I freely admit (to you) and in my post, that I drew my own judgments just listening to the interview. Then, however, I bought the materials to see for myself. The speculation you suggest I have would have, indeed, been speculation were it not for the fact that I chose to contact JM prior to hitting "publishing." I drew all my conclusions from simply listening to the interview and researching the materials, but wanting a tad bit of a confirmation about what you deemed my 'speculation,' I sent a tweet an email and received some very precise answers to my questions.

Again, I realize that you are in the same boat I was in. Difficult to make a proper and accurate assessment of the situation without having any kind of dialogue with Dr. Peter Jones. I think you will find him making some sort of statement in the near future.

Wade Burleson said...


You make some excellent points.

By the way, I read Mark's book (or his ghostwriters book, whichever it may be - though if it is ghostwritten, the 'author' has total and absolute control over the final content) and I thought the book VERY GOOD!

If they will correct the plagiarism (and I'm sure they will), I would encourage people to buy it and read it. Good stuff.

Curious said...

First time visitor to this page. I found it odd how doggedly Joshua Elsom was defending Driscoll and attacking Mefford (who I have never listened to before, just Driscoll's train wreck), so I did some googling.

A quick google links him to others in the Acts 29/neocalvinist deception. The fact that he supports the "GCM Collective," another obe of those trendy 'church network' things that recommends such wise leaders as Piper, Mahaney, and Warren on the recommended reading list, speaks volumes. Any hope for objective discussion with one neck-deep in the same circles Driscoll runs in should be abondoned. It's clear why he showed up to this discussion- which is ironic since he's essentially playing the tribe card without even knowing it, because someone exposed one of his chiefs.

Wade Burleson said...


I would caution you that your comment seems as tribal as the tribalism you wish to confront. Josh seems to be thinking through issues because people are willing to engage him. Give him an opportunity.

Anonymous said...

"I listened to the interview three times. On the third time, my wife joined with me in listening. I asked Rachelle her opinion on the matter. Rachelle is obtaining her doctorate from Vanderbilt University and is in the process of writing her doctoral thesis."

Always glad to see the tremendous respect you have towards your wife.

Probably would have gone better if Mark would have asked his wife her opinion before he responded to Janet.


Gary said...

Really, fellow Christians, we receive the power of the Spirit to spread the Gospel, so it belongs to Him, IT is not about us, Jesus gets the glory. This is all about pride, coveting what belongs to Him. Satan won this round, it would make a great screw tape letter.

Wade Burleson said...


When Christians sell their materials for profit, there are rules that should be followed. If IT is all about Jesus Christ then we should give our writings away for free. IT is not always about Jesus Christ. Sometimes it becomes about people making a living. You don't take someone else's intellectual property. I think C.S. Lewis would agree.

Fred Butler said...

Joshua writes,
Fred, I don't recall the particular details of his misstatement about Dr. Brown in the lecture, but I'm certain Phil corrected whatever it was that he wrongly said. If I'm correct, I'm fairly certain that the GTY video of Phil's Baby in the Bathwater lecture was edited to remove the errant statement. (Phil did not do anything wrong, it was a mistake that he gladly corrected.)

Joshua, not sure what you heard but there were no edits to that message and no errant statements removed after someone corrected Phil. Who ever is feeding you that information is mistaken or intentionally making stuff up.

Aussie John said...

I must admit that I get very tired of Christians who claim ownership of what they write or say.

If you or I publish,write or say anything of value, it is by God's grace that this is done.

I do not make judgement of anyone who does otherwise, but for me, anything I say,write or do, of value to the Body of Christ, belongs to the Body, and for their use. If credit is due, it is to the Father.

Maybe these very words prove that I have nothing of value to say.

Wade Burleson said...

Honestly, Aussie John, I feel the same way. I'm taking everything I write off Amazon and giving it away for free. Beginning a website where people can download it for free as well (operating in January).

Antônio Ayres said...

I'm not American, but I listen almost daily to the Janet Mefferd' Show, and frankly, I was astonished at Mark Driscoll's change in tone , from the moment that Janet asked him to clarify his conduct of not giving due credit to Dr. Peter Jones.

If we take as a model the teaching of Jesus that "by the fruit the tree is known", I think Driscoll was not very happy in his reaction.

My belief is that it would be good for the Kingdom of God if Pastor Mark Driscoll publicly apologized to both: Dr. Peter Jones and Janett Mefferd.

NeedsToDance said...

Opening Disclaimer: I have never met or talked to Driscoll, am a creedal reformed believer, disagree with many things coming from the YRR/Modern Neo-Reformed crowd, am appalled by the whole emerging picture, dislike Driscoll's street style when take as far as he does, and fear that his popularity and influence is leading him into some things that may (or already has) become very ugly in the future.

However... Why isn't anyone talking about the forum this took place in? Live radio is not the same as a legal letter, printed book review or a daily blog, all of which are more suitable contexts for tackling a plagiarism issue. I think Driscoll is likely wrong. (I haven't heard anything from Peter Jones yet, and am far more interested in his take on it than that of most others.) But why isn't this being handled in a more appropriate way? Matthew 18 is being ignored even though Mefferd admits that she is upset about it, as a friend of Peter Jones. What happened to not taking offense on behalf of others? And why an un-forewarned attack on live radio? Does anyone really expect someone ambushed on live radio to apologize on the spot or to have a more gentle response?

Furthermore, does plagiarism really rate higher on the Christian scale of inappropriate behavior than a verbal attack on a fellow believer in a public setting? Can this be supported Biblically? Does disagreeing with someone on some issues justify attacking them in others? How is this any different than what is considered acceptable in the unbelieving world?

On the face of it, from an outsiders view, this appears to be more a witch-hunt than an honest rebuke with a goal of reconciliation or restitution.

Ending Disclaimer: Driscoll is probably wrong. If this is your sine qua non or Raison d'être then you have a much larger problem than he.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Aussie John: You hit on the very thing I have always believed. Not to mention if one is preaching or teaching the truth of scripture, aren't our words going to be pretty much the same? Truth usually is. When two witnesses see and tell the same story, their words match because it's the truth.

I have never thought our words were something to be copyrighted. Good thoughts Aussie John.

Chris Sanchez said...

Thanks for the balanced approach to this situation Wade. I am waiting on my own copies of Driscoll's & Jones books and look forward to comparing them for myself. Without the benefit of having both books in my possession to compare, I suspect the outcome will be something along the lines of Driscoll didn’t do anything “wrong” BUT should be a bit more extensive with the use of footnotes in the future. We'll see. I believe this interview just took place last Thursday so there has been little time for anyone involved to do much (wanna bet someone has been working on this since Thursday?).

Anonymous said...

I have not listened to Mefferd's interview of Driscoll.

But this is the best article I have read on the subject.

Very good job.


Anonymous said...

I'll never understand the value of calling someone out from an internet blog.


Wade Burleson said...


If a matter is private, I agree with you.

However, this matter was very public - a book sold for profit on public websites, a very public radio interview, and more - so I think you'd be hard pressed to accurately say I called "Mark" out. I wouldn't have known about this were it not already public.

The primary reason I wrote this blog is this: I fight for those I perceive to be wrongly treated and/or abused.

When I saw the calls for boycotting Janet Mefferd, I did my own research because if she was being wrongly treated and/or publicly abused for calling out Mark Driscoll, I intended to come to her defense. Frankly, I probably have more in common with Mark Driscoll than I do Janet Mefferd. This isn't about camps (or tribes) as much as it is correcting what I perceive to be a wrong.

KRT said...

Some are criticizing the fact that this confrontation took place 'publicly' and in front of 'non-believers'.

Let me say as someone who has been in the church for 43 years, and has been hurt more than a few times by the wrongful behavior (from one end of the spectrum to the other) of 'fellow' Christians... if you aren't willing to call out a **blasphemer, a heretic, a liar, a wolf in sheeps clothing, etc, etc, in public and you KNOW a problem exists, you can't be trusted, and neither can your Jesus.

To call a self-proclaimed Christian on the carpet, even publicly, is to say to the world, "This is NOT Christ! This is NOT acceptable."

When it's allowed to lie, hidden in the shadows, a large portion of the world will either assume the hidden lie is the broad brush of Christianity, and/or that all of us are hypocrites and hide the truth; That we are deceivers.

I believe the cause of Christ is done justly when wrongful and un-Christlike behavior of Christians is exposed, rather than allowed to be hidden and protected.

Satan hides in the dark, behind the veils of secrecy, not the truth and light of Jesus.

**Disclaimer: Not accusing MD of being any of these things, but used them as broader examples of same behaviors.

Joshua Elsom said...


Looked for more than an hour now for the info about the retraction, to no avail. Maybe ask Phil if he knows what I'm talking about. Someone on FB told me it was mentioned on Dr. Brown's radio program. I certainly was not trying to create new controversy or smear his reputation (Remember, I said he corrected the problem straight away).

Even still, even if we make my example purely hypothetical (which I'm happy to do), do you think Janet would've treated Phil with the same sort of contempt as she treated Mark, continuing to accuse him of guilt, even after he admitted the possibility of error, with the promise to correct the mistake if it were shown that he had made one?

Joshua Elsom said...

One more thing Fred. I should not have been so careless to comment about those "supposed" retractions if I couldn't quickly point to them. I'm sorry for that. You can pass that along to Phil, if you think he cares.

John said...


Are you suggesting that Janet contacted Dr. Jones prior to the interview and had evidence there was plagiarism?

SO it's clear to me Janet's goal here was to smear, tarnish, and possibly destroy Mark Driscoll's career.

Don't you think that the Christian response would have been to handle this privately?

Wade Burleson said...


I think if someone takes the words of another person and passes them off as his own in a for-profit book, the possible smearing, tarnishing and destroying of a career has already happened. Keep your focus on the problem, not the person who exposes the problem.

Whether Mark Driscoll accidentally or intentionally failed to credit Dr. Jones will be something that the publisher (Tyndale), Mark and Dr. Jones will work through. It's quite simple: Either it didn't happen and Dr. Jones will say it didn't happen (and Tyndale), or it did happen and their will be apologies all around and a correction.

I'm not sure anybody's career will be destroyed. I take Mark Driscoll at his word. "If I made a mistake I will correct it."

Nuff said.

Wade Burleson said...

By the way, to me it looks clearly as if Dr. Jones material was not properly credited. But, who am I? I simply read both books, have a little experience in writing and publishing, but am no expert. I'm just telling you what I think and am giving room for others (including Mark Driscoll and Peter Jones) to disagree. I have no dog in this hunt and definitely do not wish anyone's career to be destroyed.

John said...


We do know that Mark had no ill intent if Dr. Jones works weren't properly cited. In the interview it was Mark that mentioned the name of Dr. Jones, not Janet, Mark clearly wants to credit Dr. Jones and did mention his value in forming that part of the book. If this is plagiarism this is one of the more innocent examples.

Wade Burleson said...


I don't disagree with your assessment of the interview. After reading the two books, though, I felt like it was more than just an innocent "mistake." Wholesale sections on neo-paganism, one-ism, two-ism, sex as a sacrament of one-ism, etc... were eerily similar to Dr. Jones writing with no attribution, credit, endnote, and the like.

I think it can be corrected, but it was rightfully (in my opinion) called out.

terriergal said...

Would it be possible to get some examples of quotes (AHEM properly attributed) to compare? Seems the driscollites are never satisfied, and heck if they are going to do it themselves.

"Janet's goal here was to smear, tarnish, and possibly destroy Mark Driscoll's career."

Mark does all that for himself. He doesn't need the lady's help.

And no, Matthew 18 does not apply to public instances of hypocrisy/sin/error/false teaching.

John said...

"And no, Matthew 18 does not apply to public instances of hypocrisy/sin/error/false teaching."

and especially when you don't like the person

Anonymous said...

It seems that many neocalvinist evangelicals are now doing for Mark Driscoll (in the wake of this plagiarism scandal) what so many other evangelicals have been doing for Ergun Caner over the past four years.

Anonymous said...

As an editor at a publishing house, I can confidently say that your accusations against Tyndale are unjust. Cited material not presented in quotation marks would not red-flag the editor assigned to the project if he or she is unfamiliar with the original source.

Wade Burleson said...


"Cited material not presented in quotation marks would not red-flag the editor assigned to the project if he or she is unfamiliar with the original source."

Great point. However, I would think an editor might ask a question like, "Mark, where did you get the terms 'One-ism' and 'Two-ism'? Did you make them up? Are you borrowing them? The full sentence (Start) "Sex is the pagan sacrament of one-ism" (Stop), did you come up with that idea on your own? Did you borrow it? Why is it not cited or footnoted if you did?

I realize it is tedious and time-consuming to ask such questions, but one would think this is the job of an editor at a publishing house.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a particular fan of Driscoll but the interview itself was a bit on the side of trying to criticize Mark Driscoll, which I'm fine with. No one is disagreeing that Driscoll should've cited. That being said, Mefferd spent an inordinate amount of time on one issue that was resolved quickly by Driscoll. He referenced first Dr Jones and made clear that he may have made a mistake. Move on from there.

If you watch her recent radio show, she spent an entire hour on going through another Driscoll book had the introduction plagarized. That's fine, but one does wonder whether she is out on an agenda now.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that a lot of Driscoll defenders have been qualifying their comments with "I'm not a fan of Mark Driscoll." I have my doubts.

Mrs. Webfoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Excellent analysis, Wade. The best I've read on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering... who set the interview up and what was the purpose? She was ready for the confrontation and she states that she is glad that he has sound doctrine but he is ungodly in actions and here is why_______________________________.

Will Mefford apologize for saying that Mark hung up on him when the raw audio provided by Tyndale has him still on the line?

Anonymous said...

I fundamentally do not get this brouhaha.

The fact will always be after we're dead and gone, thank no Christian is entitled to an original thought. This is nothing less and nothing more than flies gathering at a mild pile of poop.

The sheer glee of the Pyromaniac personalities is evidence enough that, "Where the dead are, the vultures gather."

Too much of God's people judging the servant of another on something that God Himself probably is totally ambivalent to. After wall, we are plagiarizing Him every time we claim an original theological thought.

Larry Parrish said...

Personally I don't think we ought to accept Mark's use of "tribes" as his means to stifle or to marginalize disagreement!

Rob Smith said...


I love the way Joshua Elsom uses this national forum to chastise Janet for using a national forum for chastising Driscoll.

Joshua, you are as Driscoll is. A man who has one set of rules for others, and a second set of rules for himself.

Anonymous said...

She took it too far. Maybe her goal was exactly the spectacle we are now witnessing. Maybe she has a personal beef with Driscoll based on some of his teaching. ut whatever it is, it wasn't a very Christian thing to do to attack him publicly to that extent. She's engendering sympathy for Driscoll, regardless of the truth if the issue of plagiarism.

Victorious said...

...regardless of the truth if the issue of plagiarism

Umm...not "regardless." The issue most certainly is plagiarism by one who apparently holds others to very strict repercussions for the offense and gingerly excuses himself for the "mistake."

Her assertive approach in questioning is not the issue. To make it so is to miss the focus of the interview.

Joshua Elsom said...

Rob Smith,

The categories are different, brother.

If you've read my comments then you'll happily concede that I did not "chastise" Janet for asking Mark about Peter Jones' work on air. What I was concerned to bring up was that a nationally syndicated radio show is not the place to confront a brother whom you suspect has committed a sin. Moreover, Janet's refusal to accept Mark's acknowledgement of having possibly committed the error and then his pledge to make right what was done wrongly, was a sin against Mark and the Church. And that needed to be addressed publicly.

I'm all for confronting people publicly when a public sin has been committed, but when sin is merely suspected and the person you suspect vocalizes repentance when confronted, you don't continue to accuse them of sin and withhold forgiveness.

Since, this response now comes after Janet's confession and repentance toward Mark, I joyfully forgive her. I pray that Mark rightly responded to her apology and settled with Peter Jones, since nothing public has announced.

Joshua Elsom said...

Oddly enough, I was forwarded this link shortly after submitting my last comment.

Driscoll responds —

Rob Smith said...


You also missed my point. Mark Driscoll has one set of rules for himself, and another for others.

Rob Smith

Anonymous said...

I know Driscoll as I am from one of the other Mega Churches, sorry to say and I wonder how much of his books he has actually written, from my own experience the majority of these books are written by ghost writers who simply edit the preaching tapes of the Mega Preacher and source stuff from other books etc most of the product is then bought by the ministry to get the best seller label, then given away at church or on TV for a gift of so much or whatever and all of a sudden the guy is a best selling author it's a joke, I have been present when loads of unsold books where shredded by a commercial shredder after hours, we have all heard preachers say "As so and so said, as someone said, I have heard it said, and then it becomes as I always say" preacher are the greatest copy cats on the planet, I'm guilty myself (Shame) I've preached a great message in my church, then I hear a friend preach my message on his TV service and people think I copied him because I'm regular and he is Mega

Anonymous said...


An elder is supposed to be above reproach with other Christians and unbelievers. Driscoll isn't. He has done far too much damage to the Body of Christ, to the name of Christ, and to the cause of Christ.

Driscoll's using somebody else's intellectual property as his own (which is illegal in the United States and actionable in court) is part of his character

You are worried about protecting Driscoll's name and not having an open and honest discussion? Seriously?

Driscoll had Paul Petry, a godly elder and Christian, fired from Mars Hill and had Mr. Petry, his wife, and children shunned. That alone disqualifies Driscoll from serving in ministry. He has never made that right, in open repentance and restitution. What an evil and despicable thing. Ditto for what was done to other saints at Mars Hill and their shunnings.

And yes, we need to have open and transparent discussions as that will do more to further the cause of Christ in the eyes of believers and unbelievers.