What did Mark Driscoll know, and when did he know it?
Not about the plagiarism.
As is becoming clear, when Mark Driscoll isn’t plagiarizing others’ work and thoughts, he’s relying on uncredited ghostwriters to write his sermons and books. Some Christian leaders are starting to call Driscoll and others out on the way their celebrity is built on the work of, as John Piper puts it, the plebes.
We know that Driscoll is a happy client of Docent, a Bible research service designed to let seminary students research and write the content of pastors’ sermons. The pastor provides the topic, and Docent provides the verses.
Which brings me back to the opening question. If you’re reading a Driscoll book or listening to a Driscoll sermon, how do you know that he knows what he’s talking about? Just what does Mark Driscoll actually know?
Clearly, it’s not as much as he’d want us to think. And that can be a real problem when he doesn’t have access to his staff of seminarians.
One of the frustrating and surprising things about that famous exchange was how Jakes was able to smoke Driscoll. Jakes came through Driscoll’s staged interrogation smelling — at least to Driscoll — of Trinitarian roses, even though the evasions in his answers were evident to many in the audience.
Until now, I’ve assumed that part of the reason might be that these guys all depend on each other for a living, so they don’t have any financial interest in disabling one another.
But what if Driscoll didn’t know enough of the differences, especially in language, between Oneness Pentecostalism and Nicean Trinitarianism? Without research notes, what if he wasn’t sufficiently sure of himself to challenge Jakes?
The plagiarism damages Driscoll’s integrity. We can’t be sure he owns what he says.
The ghostwriting damages Driscoll’s credibility. We can’t be sure he knows what he says.
May I show you a better way? A role model who combined deep knowledge with meticulous attribution.
During John Calvin’s first few months in Geneva, he accompanied William Farel to Lausanne for a debate between the Protestants and Catholics that would determine whether the city would become Protestant. After listening to the debate for the first three days, one of the Catholic delegation made a claim about what the church fathers believed. Calvin stood to his feet and without notes gave the following speech:
The reproach which you have made concerning the holy doctors of antiquity constrains me to say one word to remonstrate briefly how wrongly and groundlessly you accuse us in this connection. [He then begins to paraphrase the early Fathers from memory.] Cyprian speaking of the present matter that now occupies us in Book 2 of the Letters, Letter 3, says [he then paraphrases Cyprian]. Tertullian, refuting the error of Marcion, said [he then paraphrases Tertullian]. The author of the unfinished commentaries on Matthew that are attributed to St. John Chrysostom, in the eleventh homily about in the middle, said [he then paraphrases this source]. Augustine in Epistle 23, very near the end, said [he then paraphrases Augustine]. In the book Against Adimantus, about the middle, Augustine declares [he again paraphrases Augustine]. At the beginning of [Augustine’s] Homily on the Gospel of John, about the 8th or 9th section, he declares: “While this age endures, it is necessary that the Savior be on high…his body which ascended into heaven [is] in one place….” How will you then reconcile the view that the body appears on all the altars, is enclosed in all the little boxes, is every day and at the same time in a hundred places…? In the book De fide ad Petrum Diaconum, chapter 19, Augustine says [he then paraphrases this source]. In the epistle ad Dardanum Augustine testifies [he then paraphrases this source]. The whole world is easily able to understand with what audacity you reproach us with being contrary to the ancient doctors. Certainly if you had seen some of their pages, you would not have been so foolhardy as to pass such judgment as you have done, not even having seen the evidence. I advise and beseech you to charge us no longer with contradicting the ancient doctors in this matter with whom we are in fact in such accord. (In R. Raymond, John Calvin: His life and influence.)
Lausanne voted to become Protestant.
You invite people like John Calvin to Elephant Rooms at your own risk.