Now this is a blockbuster.
Warren Cole Smith at World Magazine is reporting today that Mars Hill Church helped their controversial pastor get a spot for his book Real Marriage on the New York Time best sellers list in 2012. According to a document obtained by World, Driscoll and Mars Hill used Result Source to get the job done. Result Source was the subject of a 2013 WSJ story with a focus on getting authors on best seller lists.
The process used to game the system is complex and is the subject of much of the World article.
The book was #1 on the list for one week, Jan. 22, 2012. Around Valentine’s Day it was #12 for two weeks in a row.
The book has received mixed reviews and contains numerous citation errors which I have documented here. The publisher acknowledged the issues and is in process of correcting them. A couple of issues have already been addressed.
Let’s put two and two together. Yesterday, World reported that Mars Hill Church requires employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning they cannot discuss information gained during their employment at MHC. Today, we learn that Mars Hill Church entered an agreement to arrange sales in such a way to secure spots on various best seller lists for Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. I imagine those who thought gaming the system was a good idea would not want such information widely known. Regarding my supposition, I can say that many people I have talked to have expressed a fear to talk, citing their non-disclosure agreement.
See all article relating the Mark Driscoll controversy here.
According to a brief report at WorldMag.com last night, Mars Hill Church and Elevation Church (NC) require staff to sign non-disclosure agreements. Warren Cole Smith has seen one and indicates that it even covers the employee’s spouse. Former elder Dave Kraft said the agreement was like “a gag order.”
I have heard former MHC people talk about these agreements but they were afraid to talk on the record because they feared being sued by their former church. Mars Hill watchers: Has anyone ever been sued over a perceived violation? It seems hard to believe that a Christian church would actually sue someone over discussing factual matters during employment.
“Thanks to Lief Moi and Mike Gunn for helping me plant Mars Hill Church.” (Mark Driscoll, 2004. The Radical Reformission, page 9).
Last Friday, I posted an article by Becky Garrison on Driscoll’s exclusion of two of the founders from the history of Mars Hill Church in his recent materials.
However, in 2004, Mark Driscoll gave credit where credit was due. Now, on the Mars Hill website, one would not be able to discern Moi’s or Gunn’s role. I can find no mention of Moi or Gunn as founders. Before Moi and Gunn left the church, they had prominent profiles on the church website (Moi, Gunn). In 2001, Moi’s said:
How you became with Mars Hill: Joined with Mark (Driscoll) and Mike (Gunn) to plant a church
Now, a site search turns up a couple of references but nothing about them as founders.
Wenatchee the Hatchet (colorful image, yes?) has chronicled much of Mars Hill Church’s history. For more on the departure of Moi and Gunn and others, see that blog (e.g., this post). As far back as 2008, Wenatchee asked this question:
Here’s the question, given that Driscoll’s 2005 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Zondervan) established that Leif Moi was one of the three founding pastors, why has Leif Moi’s name all but vanished from Mars Hill websites?
If you search for Moi and Gunn on WtH’s blog, you can read for a long time about them. What I want to do with this post is to illustrate how far Mars Hill and Driscoll have gone to obscure the co-founders of the church.
First, in Driscoll’s MHC bio*, he is listed as “the founding pastor.” No mention of Moi and Gunn. Then near the end of the bio, MHC claims:
In 1996, at the age of 25, Pastor Mark and Grace started a small Bible study at their home in Seattle, the least churched city in the US at the time. By God’s grace, Mars Hill Church grew beyond all expectations to 13,000 people (and counting), gathered weekly across 15 locations in five states: Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Again, no mention of Moi and Gunn.
On the Mars Hill documentary, God’s Work, Our Witness (transcript), you won’t find them by name. Moi’s theatre, The Paradox is mentioned as a vital part of MHC’s ministry in the early days but Moi is not mentioned by name as the owner or visionary. He is referred to unceremoniously as “an elder.” This is quite an oversight given that Moi was a co-founder and, according to the documentary, Moi’s theatre was a large part of MHC’s outreach and conversion growth.
A very deliberate effort to purge the website of Moi can be illustrated by the elimination of Moi’s name from transcripts of sermons where Mark Driscoll mentions Moi’s name. For instance, in 2006, Driscoll preached a sermon on Corinthians in which he discussed the history of the church. On the Mars Hill website, the transcript reads:
We had all the meetings in my house. Gospel class was in my house. Premarital class was in my house. Everything was in my house except for Sunday church. And we had it there for two years and it was really hard, and what happened then, we bought the Paradox – a theater in the University District on the Ave. It had rat poop all over it. It was destroyed, homeless kids living in it. We finally cleaned it up, opened it up as a all-ages venue, and started evening service with 40 people. Within a year it went to two services.
Actually, Lief Moi bought The Paradox Theatre but it is true that Mars Hill ran it as an all-ages venue. The audio of the sermon is also on the website and if you listen to this segment at 43:54, you will hear a truer version of the story because he mentions Moi:
We had all the meetings in my house. Gospel class was in my house. Premarital class was in my house. Everything was in my house except for Sunday church. And we had it there for two years and it was really hard, and what happened then, we bought the Paradox – a theater in the University District on the Ave., Pastor Lief did. It had rat poop all over it. It was destroyed, homeless kids living in it. We finally cleaned it up, opened it up as a all-ages venue, and started evening service with 40 people. Within a year it went to two services.
Although Driscoll barely mentions him, he does acknowledge two things. One, Moi bought The Paradox, and two, Moi was addressed as pastor. Driscoll told Christianity Today in January that he was the only pastor until the church had 800 people. However, Moi and Gunn were both considered pastors at that time.
The first time it happened it freaked me out. I was guest hosting a national radio show. . This guy calls in, I think it was from Cleveland, complaining about his church. His church stinks. Christianity stinks. Everything stinks, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. And I told him, I said, “Look you’ve got a wife and a girlfriend. You’re committing adultery. The reason you don’t like going to church is because you feel under conviction because you’re unrepentant. It’s your hard heart, not your church, that’s the problem. Confess your sin to your wife, dump your girlfriend, or God’s gonna deal severely with you.”
The radio show was Lief Moi’s Street Talk show but you would have to listen the audio to know that. At 34:37 into the sermon, Driscoll says:
The first time it happened it freaked me out. Pastor Lief had a national radio show. I was hosting it for him because he was out of town. This guy calls in, I think it was from Cleveland, complaining about his church. His church stinks. Christianity stinks. Everything stinks, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. And I told him, I said, “Look you’ve got a wife and a girlfriend. You’re committing adultery. The reason you don’t like going to church is because you feel under conviction because you’re unrepentant. It’s your hard heart, not your church, that’s the problem. Confess your sin to your wife, dump your girlfriend, or God’s gonna deal severely with you.”
The same story is told in a 2006 sermon where he mentions Moi (at 37:00) and says he took over the show because Moi was on vacation. In the transcript, Moi’s name is omitted and he is called the “usual host.”
This seems like an extensive effort to purge Moi’s existence from the written part of the website. Why do that?
*As an aside, the bio also claims: “his online audience accesses about 15 million of his sermons each year.” He has 15 million sermons? I suspect they mean something else by that statement.
The following is a guest post by Becky Garrison. Garrison is the author of seven books, including Roger Williams’ Little Book of Virtues, and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church. She has contributed to a range of outlets including The Guardian, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, and The Humanist.
Mark Driscoll’s Revisionist History
by Becky Garrison
Who founded Mars Hill Church? Seems like a simple question and one which Mark Driscoll should be able to answer. However, recently, it appears that Driscoll has crafted a narrative which eliminates at least two early figures from view. In his current sermon campaign titled “James: Jesus’ Bold Little Brother” (January 16, 2014), Driscoll used the illustration of the Apostle Paul submitting to the authority of James, Peter and John to exemplify Driscoll’s role in founding MHC:
When I felt called to plant, I went through a full assessment. Pastors oversaw me, a team interviewed me, a church sent me. An overseer had authority over me.
To Christianity Today in January, Driscoll said he planted Mars Hill and that he was the only pastor until there was 800 people in the church. Nowhere in these retellings does Driscoll reference the late Rev. Ken Hutcherson who pastored Antioch Church, the entity largely responsible for shepherding Mars Hill Church into existence. Also, by presenting himself as the founder of Mars Hill Church, Driscoll fails to mention Lief Moi or Mike Gunn, who were the other two co-founders of Mars Hill. These names have all but disappeared from Mars Hill’s website. Christian publishers continue to play into Driscoll’s myth-making by allowing Driscoll’s bio to now list him as the sole founder of Mars Hill Church (e.g., his bio at Harper Collins Christian).
This is not the first instance where Driscoll presented a revisionist history. The author of the Wenatchee the Hatchet blog points out how Driscoll incorrectly takes credit for founding The Paradox Theatre, an all-ages club in Seattle. On her blog, Wendy Alsup along with her husband cite numerous examples in Real Marriage where Driscoll presented a detailed history of his wife’s sexual sins while obscuring his own sexual history.
More recently, during the Malachi sermon series which ended on January 5, 2014, Driscoll claimed there was no children’s ministry when he started Mars Hill Church 17 years ago because they had no children present. This contradicts earlier commentary in his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Zondervan, 2006) were Driscoll said his co-founders were good fathers, and that the way they parented their children was a reason why he shared the idea of planting Mars Hill Church with them (page 54).
Also, as Mars Hill Church grew from a home church to a megachurch model with multiple campuses, their governance structure moved from Alexander Strauch’s model presented in Biblical Eldership (Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995) that advocates for a plurality of shared leadership to Driscoll’s current “prophet, priest and king” model. Executive elders Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas assume these respective roles as though by divine appointment. Executive Pastor Turner expounds on Driscoll’s metaphor of kingly gifts in Invest (Resurgence Publishing, 2013), Turner’s first book written to aid other executive pastors serving as administrators of megachurches. Nowhere in this conversation will one find references to the work of theologians John Frame or Cornelius Van Til, the men scholars credit with what is called “Tri-perspectivalism”, which in theory is a way of analyzing the effectiveness of church ministry in comparison to the attributes of “prophet, priest, and, king” embodied in Jesus Christ. Although using some of the same words and comparisons, a reader of Driscoll’s and Mars Hill’s materials would never get the idea that the terminology is not originally Driscoll’s. Nevertheless, his application is a deviation from and an extreme application of Frame’s theories.
Driscoll’s problems with rewriting have become well known. As documented in earlierpostings, Driscoll’s books contain numerous acts of plagiarism and other citation errors. At Patheos, Warren Throckmorton provides a chart highlighting all instances of Driscolls’ use others’ work without proper attribution that has been documented so far.
According to an email statement issued by Harper Collins Christian, the parent company of Thomas Nelson, “We are aware of the issues that have been raised about Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage, and we are working with the authors to address them as efficiently and effectively as possible in all formats.” However, they refuse to discuss what steps, if any, they will take to compensate those authors whose work was used without their permission or even proper sourcing. Nav Press will not comment publicly about this issue any further while Crossway has yet to respond to email inquiries.
The Shrinking Best Seller
The one event scheduled in 2014 to promote Real Marriage, a #1 New York Times bestselling book for one week, generated almost no publicity outside of the Mars Hill Church PR machine. But not even their Valentine’s Day giveaway seemed to generate any significant social media buzz.
Despite over 12,000 average attendance at Mars Hill churches, the February 21-22 event to promote Real Marriage (which drew an overflow crowd of 2,000 people to the live event), only saw 180 individuals, groups and churches tap in nationwide through the simulcast, according to The Hub Bible Study Solutions, the group who hosted the event. At a cost of $40 for an individual ticket and reasonably priced simulcast fees, this conference is easily within many people’s budgets. So ticket prices did not appear to be a consideration in keeping people from coming to this event.
Along those lines, there’s been no response from Harper Collins Christian (was Thomas Nelson) regarding why they are no longer promoting one of their bestselling authors. Perhaps their time is being taken up having to revise the revisions.
Although cooling off some, the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll’s publications is not over. Over the last 10 days, two morepublishers disclosed that reviews of Driscoll’s books are in progress. I’ll have more to say about another Driscoll book soon.
Late last week, Driscoll was briefly in the news for another reason. The New York Times ran a story identifying him as one of a new breed of megachurch leaders who embrace the teachings of John Calvin. While I understand that Driscoll’s teachings on redemption appear to be consistent with Calvinist doctrine, I was surprised to see him in the list of exemplars for two reasons. One, the Gospel Coalition seemed to declare him to be outside their camp via Jared Wilson’s December call to repentance. And two, Driscoll’s teaching on demons and spiritual gifts seems outside the Calvinism mainstream (and as I will show below, his stories don’t always match up). I think he could be called a Calvismatic.
I should mention that I don’t consider myself a student of religious movements and don’t know that much about who is on what Christian team. I am not making a scholarly statement here. Rather, as an evangelical for just over 40 years, I speak from my experience with those who proudly wear the label Calvinist. I can’t think of anyone, other than Driscoll, that embraces both Calvinism and what appear to me to be apostolic spiritual warfare teachings at the same time. There may be many, but in my narrow experience, I can’t think of others. I feel sure my readers will educate me if I am incorrect.
With that said, I will introduce a video that really bothered me when I first saw it last week. Still bothers me. This is Driscoll teaching on spiritual warfare (you can review the transcript at this link):
This video was posted to You Tube by Phillip Johnson in August, 2011. The teaching was originally recorded at Mars Hill in early 2008 as a part of a series on spiritual warfare and as far as I can tell first discussed critically at Here I Blog on August 4, 2011.
In the video, Driscoll says he tells people that they have been abused. The people may have no memory of any such event but Driscoll says he can see it happening. Furthermore, he says that, at times, he sees the sins, specifically sins involving sex and aggression, of his congregation and others who cross his path. In this clip and elsewhere, Driscoll doesn’t claim to always be correct but is clear about his belief that his visions are from God and therefore true. He said he sees the actual acts of others as if on a screen in front of him that others can’t see.
On many levels, I find this problematic and more troubling than the plagiarism controversy. The potential for error, trauma and false reports of assault is great. He even tells his audience that some of them can do the same things he can do. As a psychology prof, I cringe at this video as well as the other similar material I have found on the Mars Hill website.
In my experience, intuitive people do seem to have insight into feelings of others. However, when making interpretations, they respond to non-verbal cues and make inferences from little bits of material presented by clients. It is a natural process, even if not well understood. When pressed, intuitive therapists can tell you what they saw and heard which led to amazing guesses about the actions and feelings of another person. Such experiences happen with Christians and non-Christians alike; one does not need to invoke angels or demons as explanation.
The skeptic in me really wants to meet some of the people Driscoll describes. In his sermons, there are several other illustrations of what Driscoll sometimes calls the gift of discernment, sometimes the gift of prophetic dreams. In November 2013, the blogger Wenatchee the Hatchet described two of Driscoll’s prophetic dreams, both involving worship leaders at Mars Hill. The post raises questions about how both dreams could be true.
Sometimes the accounts differ significantly. For instance, in 2005, Driscoll said that in the early days of Mars Hill, an Asian family drove all night to visit Mars Hill Church because God told them to ask Driscoll what they should do about their current church. Here is the account from the 2005 sermon:
I had one occasion where I actually did interpret a guy’s dream. It was the strangest dream. It was at the old building. We had six services, and I was between services. And this guy drove – he came into the church. And he was an Asian guy from Canada. He had his wife and a few kids. They all looked very, very tired. He came up to me. He said, “I really need to meet with you right now.” I said, “Man, I just preached three. I gotta get a bite to eat. I gotta preach three more. I really can’t leave right now.” He said, “No, we just drove all the way from northern Canada. We haven’t slept all night.” Apparently God’s not in Canada. God has to come down.
So, I tell this guy. I’m like, “All right, cool. We’ll do that. Now tell me your story.” So, he tells me his dream. And his wife’s literally falling asleep. His kids are exhausted. They’ve been up all night driving. It was the weirdest thing cause I don’t know how or why. I just told him. “Well, here’s what it means, and here’s what God’s gonna do. And you need to quit working at this church. God’s gonna have you hired at this church. And these people are hard hearted. And God doesn’t want you to serve them anymore because he’s gonna judge them, but he wants to take care of you and your family. So he wants to move you on before he judges.”
And I just talked for about 10, 15 minutes. And he’s like, “How do you know that?” I was like, “I have no idea.” I never met this guy. I don’t know this guy. I don’t know anything about him. And he says, “Well, then that’s the interpretation.” His wife gave me a big hug. She’s crying. She says, “You know, that’s what we needed to hear.” They get in the car and leave. They go back to Canada. I never heard from them again.
In a 2006 sermon, Driscoll tells the story again, but this time he knows how things turned out.
I had another one, when we were over at the old building. The church was just starting to grow. We had a couple services and I remember I did one of the morning services and I was getting ready to do the other one and this Asian family walks in and they all look exhausted and they’re all tired and the kids are kinda falling asleep on mom and she looks tired and dad’s there and he says, “I – we need to meet with you right now.” I said, “I can’t meet right now, dude. I just got done with one service. I’m doing another service. I don’t do meetings right now. I just got, like, a little bit of time between the services.” He says, “God told us to come to you. We need the word from a prophet.” I was like, “Well, if you find one, you know, tell him I said ‘Hi!’ and send him over. I got stuff I wanna ask him, too. I don’t got anything for you, man. I’m not the prophet.” He says, “No, God said you’re the prophet and you have the word for us.” I said, “Well, where are you from?” He said, “We drove all night from Canada.” Apparently there are no prophets in Canada, so they had to come down. I said, “Okay.” I said, “You drove all night?” He said, “We drove all night,” from somewhere up in central Canada. I said, “Okay, so that explains why you all look so tired. You’ve been in the car all night.” So I didn’t know anything about this guy. I said, “Well, I’ll meet with you for a few minutes, pray for you. I mean, least I could do, you drove all night with your family.
Sat them on the couch. Prayed. Looked at them. Then went off on this whole rant. I said, “Look, the church you’re in is a Godless church. They have a hard heart. Some of the leaders have hidden, unconfessed, unrepentant sin. They are just not participating with God. God needs to judge those leaders, remove them, cleanse and purify the church, then if they are repentant, he will grow it. If not, he will shut it down. You’re in the same situation as Revelation 2 and 3. You, however, keep holding on to the church, trying to salvage it and save it and make it work because you’re being proud and you think that it’s a reflection of you. It’s not a reflection of you, it’s a reflection of Jesus. You need to get out of the way. Quit your job. Jesus has another job for you at this other church. You take that job. He’ll bless you there. Get out of the way. Let him deal with this church. That’s what his word is to you. You’re a pastor, right?” I mean, I didn’t know. I gave him this whole thing and I’m like, “Are you a pastor?” He’s like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Then that’s what it is.” So – and he gives me a big hug. He says, “Okay. That’s what we’ve been wrestling with. We didn’t – I want to leave but I didn’t know if it was me or the Lord that was moving me on and I needed confirmation.” His wife’s crying. Gives me a big hug. She says, “In my heart, I knew that’s what God had for us, but I didn’t wanna tell my husband because I wanted him to hear from God. Thank you so much.” I pray for them.
They go home and I see them a few years later at a conference. He said, “Everything happened just like you said. I’m at the other church. We’re happy. It’s growing. God’s blessing it. Massive sin came out in the leadership of the other church. They now are in the process of either repenting or not and the church is gonna live or die. It’s teetering on the edge, just like you said.” I’m like, “Okey dokie. Okay.” You know, I don’t understand this all the time.
In the first account, the man has a dream which Driscoll interprets. In second, Driscoll doesn’t mention the dream but instead provides a prophetic word. More significantly, in the first account, Driscoll says he never heard from them again. In the second, he says he saw them “a few years later” and got confirmation that his prophecy was correct. Which account is true?
Perhaps there is an innocent explanation for the differences. Perhaps, Driscoll’s memory failed him in 2005 but he remembered more of the details when he retold the story the second time. It seems unlikely that one would forget such a thing but I can’t take any position on motive or accuracy. However, I can point out that memory is subject to bias and misinformation and Driscoll’s differing stories provides a caution about relying on the dreams and visions of others. How does one know when he is getting it right or not?
During the controversy over repressed memories during the 1990s, many therapists told clients that the depression, anxiety or other symptoms were probably related to and could be explained by experiences of child abuse. Even though clients had no memory of such events, therapists pressed on confidently with the narrative. Some clients “remembered” horrible abuse and some had great confidence in their “memories.” Some, like the woman in the video below, lost families over faulty narratives derived from a therapist’s efforts to read their minds.
Even though bloggers and others have raised these concerns previously, I can’t see where they were ever addressed by Driscoll or Mars Hill Church. The sermon material remains live on the Mars Hill website so it seems fair to believe Driscoll and the church still approves it. It is hard for me to see how this teaching can be considered mainstream.
For all posts on Driscoll and Mars Hill, click here.
“Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for,” stated the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church pastor. “As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”
Tyndale House then released a defense of Driscoll which includes an admission by Driscoll that he is responsible for the errors in the Peter study guide. Driscoll also indicated that other books would be reviewed. He could start here.
Tyndale House Publishers Regarding Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Call to Resurgence
Dec 18, 2013
On November 21, 2013 Pastor Mark Driscoll participated in a radio interview via phone to promote his new book, A Call to Resurgence. The interview was arranged by his book publisher, Tyndale House. During that interview, the talk show host accused Pastor Driscoll of plagiarism in his new book, claiming that he had not properly cited ideas that originally came from Peter Jones, Director of truthXchange and Adjunct Professor at Westminster Seminary in California. In the days following the interview, the talk show host posted on her blog further allegations of plagiarism against Pastor Driscoll, complete with screenshots of other books where she alleged he had committed plagiarism. She later removed all of those posts and issued a public apology.
Since that time, both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale House have been asked to make statements addressing this issue. While Tyndale has made two brief statements, it has spent much of the past three weeks looking carefully into these claims, as has Pastor Driscoll. Tyndale House and Mark Driscoll take any claims of plagiarism seriously. Tyndale does not condone it in any of its works, and if discovered, the company takes action to correct it immediately. Driscoll has consistently spoken out against plagiarism in his writing and publishing. If any mistakes are ever made in that regard, he is equally committed to correcting such errors as soon as they are discovered. Pastor Driscoll has fully cooperated with Tyndale and both have worked together to carefully investigate the issue with respect to A Call to Resurgence.
After taking the necessary and important time needed to investigate all aspects of this issue, Tyndale House Publishers has concluded the following:
1. Pertaining to his Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence, Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll did indeed adequately cite the work of Peter Jones. While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source. Both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale completely agree that the above definition describes an ethical breach and therefore work hard to provide proper citation and to give credit where credit is due in all their works. Tyndale rejects the claims that Mark Driscoll tried to take Peter Jones’s ideas and claim them as his own. Moreover, at Pastor Driscoll’s invitation, Peter Jones has written on the Resurgence website, and spoken at a Resurgence event, as well as a Mars Hill workshop. Quite the opposite of trying to take Peter Jones’s ideas, Mark Driscoll has provided several opportunities for Peter Jones to publicly express his ideas to a large audience.
2. In a separate issue unrelated to any Tyndale title, the radio host also made an allegation with regard to a study guide that was published in-house at Mars Hill. In this instance, Pastor Driscoll agrees that errors were made. He says:
In recent weeks, it was brought to my attention that our 2009 Trial study guide on 1&2 Peter contained passages from an existing work for which no proper citation to the original work was provided. The error was unintentional, but serious nonetheless. I take responsibility for all of this. In order to make things right, we’ve contacted the publisher of the works used in the study guide, offered an apology, and agreed to work with them to resolve any issues they had. Also, I personally contacted one of the editors of the work that was not rightly attributed. Thankfully, he and I have a longstanding relationship, which includes him teaching at Mars Hill and publishing a book with us through Resurgence. He’s a godly man who has been very gracious through all of this. I am deeply thankful for his acceptance of my apology, as I deeply grieve this mistake with a brother in Christ whom I appreciate very much.
Our Full Council of Elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability have all been thoroughly informed, as I am gladly under authority both internally at Mars Hill to a team of Elders, and to a formal leadership team from outside of Mars Hill.
We’ve removed the free PDF version of Trial from our website, and we are reviewing the rest of our self-published materials to ensure that no similar mistakes have been made elsewhere. We are also making changes to our content development process to avoid these mistakes in the future. In addition, we are working with all of our past publishers to review other books we have published. If other mistakes were made, we want to correct them as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, when we removed the Trial PDF from the Mars Hill website, we replaced it with a statement that claimed the book was never sold. That study guide was originally created for in-house small group use at Mars Hill so we gave it away at our church. We first believed we did not receive any revenue from this, but we later discovered that Trial was in fact previously sold on the Resurgence website and by Logos Software. To the best of our knowledge, total profits to Mars Hill from these sales are $236.35. We have corrected the previous statement on our website, and apologize for this error as well.
Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for. As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”
“To his credit, Mark Driscoll has moved quickly to make all necessary changes where mistakes were made in the study guide” said Ron Beers, Senior Vice President and Group Publisher for Tyndale. “Moreover, he has assured us that he has personally spoken with the primary editor of a commentary that was inadvertently used in the study guide without adequate citation, and all parties spoken to have told Pastor Driscoll that they are satisfied with the steps he has taken to correct the errors. Because of the biblical manner in which Pastor Driscoll has handled this situation, Tyndale strongly stands behind him and looks forward to publishing many additional books with him. Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll has provided a significant call to Christians to unite together in translating the message of Jesus faithfully to a post-Christian culture, to proclaim clearly, loudly, and unashamedly the Good News of Jesus.”
A good beginning but there are otherissues which were not addressed by this statement.
Last week, I noted that a study guide on 1 & 2 Peter with Mark Driscoll’s name on it as the author improperly copied material from a publication by InterVarsity Press (see IVP’s statement to Christianity Today). Driscoll (or someone) took the material from a report by the Docent Group. The Docent researcher provided footnotes and references but these were not carried over into the study guide titled Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter. See here and here for more on that matter.
Now, I have found a similar pattern within Driscoll’s recent book, Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ. Prior to the publication of the Ephesians book, Docent Research Group produced a 290 page research report for Mars Hill Church which contains a “best hits” of materials relating to the New Testament book of Ephesians. Many sources are cited verbatim with footnotes and reference material provided, although as I point out, some of the sections are quite lengthy. I have found several sections in Driscoll’s book which borrow directly from the research report. Although I have not done a complete analysis, I can report that the same problems acknowledged by Mars Hill regarding the 1 & 2 Peter book show up in this book as well. Below are just two examples.
First, note in the left column a section from 1993 InterVarsity Press reference book, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. The material in the red box shows up first in the Docent Research report and then is reproduced without citation in Driscoll’s book (on right) via a sentence in the body of the book and then in a footnote. The flow of ideas is similar and then beginning with “Egyptian colonists,” the material is essentially the same as in the Dictionary. The footnote does not cite the IVP reference book.
Below is another instance from earlier in the Dictionary entry on Ephesus. In this case, the verbatim uses are spread throughout the section of Driscoll’s book (see the image below). As in the 1 & 2 Peter book, a citation used by the original source author (Strabo) is used as a footnote in Driscoll’s book but without mentioning where he found Strabo (the Dictionary).
Also of concern is the fact that much of the entries for Ephesians and the city of Ephesus from the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters is reproduced verbatim in the research report from the Docent Research Group. For instance, pages 249-250 of the Dictionary are copied verbatim directly into the Docent report.
Given that this was apparently intended to be a private report for Driscoll’s use, one might wonder why the wholesale copying is of concern. One reason is that Mars Hill Church sent this report to churches free of charge if the church signed up to be in a Mars Hill campaign promoting the Ephesians series and the book Who Do You Think You Are? The general guideline for fair use (using copyrighted materials without permission but with citation) is about 500 words. The portion of the entry on the city of Ephesus from IVP’s Dictionary is over 1700 words and that is not all of the Dictionary that was copied (substantial portions of the Dictionary entry on the book of Ephesians was also copied into the research report and then used in Driscoll’s book). While I can understand that Mars Hill would want to share the research, I question the distribution of that much of IVP’s reference book without permission (none was noted).
Although Mars Hill and Driscoll clearly sing the praises of Docent, there is no mention of Docent research in the acknowledgment section of the book.
In a related development, Jared Wilson at the Gospel Coalition issued a public call for Rev. Driscoll to account for issues raised by recent controversies, including the one surrounding allegations of plagiarism.
Within hours of my post on Mars Hill Church’s statement about “citation errors” in Mark Driscoll’s book Trial: 8 Witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter, the church altered the statement and removed a web page which offered the book for sale.
The original statement said that the book was never offered for sale. However, the book is currently being offered for sale by Logos Research Systems (now removed, see Google cache) and was at one time offered for sale in bulk by Mars Hill Church.
On the church website (click Downloads), Mars Hill Church has responded to the controversy over plagiarism. In a statement about the book Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter, Mars Hill blames researcher mistakes:
In 2009, Pastor Mark preached through 1 & 2 Peter in a sermon series called Trial. To help our small groups, a team of people including a research assistant, put together a free study guide that was produced in-house and was never sold. About 5 years later it was brought to our attention that it contained some citation errors. We have discovered that during the editing process, content from other published sources were mistaken for research notes. These sentences were adapted instead of quoted directly. We are grateful this was brought to our attention, and we have removed that document from our website to correct the mistake. Additionally, we are examining all of our similar content as a precautionary measure.
I examine this statement below, but one claim in it appears not to be accurate. The statement says the study guide was never sold. It is being sold presently by Logos Research Systems as a download. Product details are listed as:
Mars Hill’s statement comes as publisher Intervarsity Press weighs in on the sections of their New Bible Commentary which appeared in the Mars Hill study guide without citation. According to IVP, material from the New Bible Commentary “improperly appeared without quotation or attribution” in Mark Driscoll’s book Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter. In a statement released to Christianity Today this morning, IVP said:
Several paragraphs from the New Bible Commentary edited by G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson and R. T. France published by InterVarsity Press appear in Mark Driscoll’s now out of print book Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter. These improperly appeared without quotation or attribution. With proper citation the material would have been a case of fair use.
InterVarsity Press believes all writers should use great care as they do research and prepare texts for any use to make sure that proper acknowledgement is given to source material.
One can see the side-by-comparisons of Driscoll’s book with the New Bible Commentary below:
In this second image, one can see that notes 10 and 11 are drawn from the New Bible Commentary text and presented as if Driscoll researched his information from Against Heresies and Ecclesiastical History.
The Mars Hill statement references “a team of people” who put together the study guide (which isn’t available on the church website now). However, Driscoll is clearly listed as the author. Brad House is listed as an author of the section on “community group resources” but Driscoll is the only other author listed. See below:
Thus, a reader would certainly assume Driscoll authored the section in question. If the statement can be taken at face value then it appears that Driscoll took credit for authorship of a book authored by a team of people and a research assistant.
I was a part-time, topic producer for Janet Mefferd until yesterday when I resigned over this situation. All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.
I’ve read much speculation online, which is understandable given the confusing situation, most of it dead wrong. Being limited in what I can share, let me just say that truth tellers face multiple pressure sources these days. I hosted a radio show for 23 years and know from experience how Big Publishing protects its celebrities. Anything but fawning adulation for those who come on your show (a gift of free air time for the author/publisher by the way) is not taken well. Like Dr. Carl Trueman so aptly asked yesterday in his column at Reformation 21, does honest journalism have any role to play in evangelicalism now? (It was rhetorical.) My own take on that question is, no, it does not. The moment hard questions are asked, the negative focus goes on the questioner, not the celebrity, when there is something that needs scrutiny. Those who have the temerity to call out a celebrity have tremendous courage. The easiest thing in the world is to do fluffy interviews with fluffy guests on fluffy books. So hats off to those like Janet who have the courage to ask at all. And my own opinion on Mr. Driscoll is that despite the bravado, despite the near silence of his Reformed peers and enablers, his brand is damaged, and damaged by his own hand.
To follow the conversation, go on over to Spiritual Sounding Board.
Earlier today, I asked Janet Mefferd for an interview regarding her statement yesterday. In an email, she declined to comment.
UPDATE: The comments have now been removed with comment from Julie Ann at Spiritual Sounding Board.
Here is another side-by-side comparison of material from Trial: 8 Witnesses from 1&2 Peter and New Bible Commentary. This image contains different material from what I posted earlier this week.