1PointPreacher Ep. 21 - Pulpit Plagiarism: Moral Law



1 Point Preacher
Episode 21

Show Notes:

We talked about our experience with plagiarism in Ep. 2. Preaching Another Preacher’s Sermon

Now, "pulpit plagiarism" is trending because of a high profile case.

And we have more to say.

DEFINITION: (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)


: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source

Legal Definition of plagiarize

: to copy and pass off (the expression of ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's work) without crediting the source

In the world, plagiarizing will get you in trouble.

Key: not giving credit to your sources.

Some are slippery, "nothing is new under the sun."
Others are sincere. "What's the big deal?" They love the Lord, they want the Gospel to get out?

We are talking about plagiarism on the part of pastors, preachers of the Word.
Their office, calling, compounds the problem.

A deflection or honest objection:
What if permission was given to use the material?
It's still plagiarizing if there was no credit given.

Why is this wrong?
Our authority for faith and practice is the Bible.

When addressing this sin, when confronting a preacher, and considering church discipline (at whatever level), the case needs to be biblical. The argument, the line of reasoning, must be built from the text of Scripture.

Elders, or even concerned members, must open up the Bible.
Bring them face-to-face with the Word of God. It's Bible study time.

The Moral Law:

8th Commandment: You shall not steal.

A preacher taking material that does not belong to him.
Even with permission, it's not his. But he acts like it is, and as if he did not have permission, when he does not give credit.

Plagiarizing is sin.
Instead of doing the hard work of sermon preparation, he has stolen the fruit of another man's hard work.

Even the errors—misinterpretations and misapplications of the Bible.

The plagiarizing pastor could end up with more work: copied, then checked the work.
Instead of just doing his own work.

This is clear in an academic setting. In seminary, they always refer to these 2 commandments.

9th Commandment: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
This includes lying and being dishonest about what you preach.
"Passing off as your own" and "without crediting the source."

Checking your own work against commentaries and other preachers is allowed, and wise.
But cite the authors and preachers that you learn from and quote.

A challenge: questioning research.
That's a mix of categories; tainting hard work with plagiarizing.
Studying and researching well is not the point.
Stealing is sin. Not crediting the source is the point.

“If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.”

Remember the key: without crediting your source.
Don't steal material, cite your sources, and you'll be clean.

Every thoughtful congregation with a diligent pastor knows that he studies.
They won't challenge him when he cites a source in his preaching.

We aren't the first to study the Word of God.
Our confessional heritage will come in to our study and preaching.

We can also talk about learning from others, which is not sin.

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