Mark Driscoll and Peter Jones: Unfinished Business in the Plagiarism Controversy

The controversy over Mark Driscoll’s use of material written by others started with Janet Mefferd’s accusation that Driscoll plagiarized Peter Jones concepts and descriptions of one-ism and two-ism. According to Jones in his book One or two: Seeing a world of difference (see how easy that is!), one-ism is the view that everything is of one essence. As Jones says in the book, “everything is a piece of the divine.” Two-ism recognizes a distinction between the uncreated (God) and created (everything else).  The self-contained, uncreated God determines the course of the creation.
Jones claims responsibility for coining these terms. On page one of One or Two, Jones claims:

I briefly examined this issue last month by asking plagiarism expert Neil Holdway to comment on Driscoll’s use of Jones material in Driscoll’s book, A Call to Resurgence. Holdway opined that Driscoll’s brief note citing Jones was insufficient given Driscoll’s extensive use of Jones’ material. Furthermore, Driscoll’s use of Jones’ work is not limited to A Call to Resurgence. Without citation of Jones’ books, Driscoll refers to one-ism and two-ism on the Mars Hill and Resurgence websites. He also covers the same material in his 2011 book with Gerry Breshears, Doctrine. While he refers to conversations and audio of Jones in Doctrine, for some reason, Driscoll fails to cite sources which would make clear that Jones’ coined the terms and developed the concepts.
First, on The Resurgence website, Driscoll is credited with authorship of a post which appears to be the basis for a similar section in his Doctrine book.

The truth is what we will call two-ism. Two-ism is the biblical doctrine that the Creator and creation are separate and that creation is subject to the Creator. Visually, you can think of this in terms of two circles with one being God the creator and the other containing all of his creation…
The lie is what we will call one-ism. One-ism is the pagan and idolatrous doctrine that there is no distinction between Creator and creation, and/or a denial that there is a Creator…
To learn more about one-ism and two-ism and see how it plays out in all kinds of ways in our church and culture, come to the Exchange conference. Mark Driscoll, Peter Jones, Francis Chan, Kevin DeYoung, and others will teach you how to distinguish the Truth from the Lie in all of life.

The only reference to Jones is in the commercial for the Exchange conference. If one didn’t know better, one would think that Driscoll (“we will call…”) and/or the others were co-creators of the concepts.
Another reference to Jones’ work can be found on the Mars Hill website (May, 2010).

Pastor Mark has been examining the idea of One-ism vs. Two-ism recently over on The Resurgence. Make sure you check out his previous post, in which we saw how the Truth and the Lie of Romans 1:25 can be understood as a simple contrast between one-ism and two-ism. As a worldview, one-ism is antithetical to Christian two-ism because it seeks to place everything in the one circle.

Driscoll then reproduces a long section from his book Doctrine, where he lists many of the same concepts that Jones does in his books. At the end of this excerpt from Doctrine, Driscoll sources his book but not Jones:

From Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, pp. 344–346. To learn more about one-ism and two-ism and see how it plays out in all kinds of ways in our church and culture, come to the Exchange conference. Mark Driscoll, Peter Jones, Francis Chan, Kevin DeYoung, and others will teach you how to distinguish the Truth from the Lie in all of life. Exchange is June 17 & 18 in San Diego, California. Find out more.

Then in the book Doctrine on pages 342-346, Driscoll and Breshears use the material from The Resurgence website. This same material, paraphrased lightly, can also be found in A Call to Resurgence.

The truth is what we will call two-ism. Two-ism is the biblical doc-trine that the Creator and creation are separate and that creation is subjectto the Creator. Visually, you can think of this in terms of two circles with one being God the creator and the other containing all of his creation (seeChart 11.1).
The lie is what we will call one-ism. One-ism is the pagan and idola-trous doctrine that there is no distinction between Creator and creation,and/or a denial that there is a Creator.

In Doctrine with footnote 10, Driscoll and Breshears do give some credit to Jones:

10 Peter Jones has spent a great deal of his time explaining this issue to me (Mark). Jones is one of the leading experts in the world on paganism, and much of what ensues in this section has been gleaned from time with him, for which I am very thankful. His thoughts on one-ism can be found at and peter_jones_2008-01-08_video_ walking_in_the_land_of_blur

Driscoll and Breshears published their book in 2011. Jones’ book One or Two was published in 2010. How hard would it have been to cite One or Two? Instead, Driscoll sends the reader to Mars Hill’s Resurgence website. Currently, the first link works but doesn’t mention one-ism or two-ism. The second link has been scrubbed. What is missing in all of this is a clear statement that the terms were coined by Jones with citations to Jones’ books properly crediting him.
As I noted in my first post on this subject, Driscoll does not ignore Jones. In fact, the conference referred to above featured Jones and Driscoll directs people to The Resurgence website where Jones’ audio and video can be found. A persistent reader might eventually figure out that the material credited to Driscoll in his website posts and books directly come from Jones. However, it is hard to see how one could come to this conclusion easily. In fact, it is unnecessarily difficult.

Anti-Plagiarism Campaigner Says Mark Driscoll Did Not Adequately Cite The Work Of Peter Jones

Yesterday, I highlighted the work of the American Copy Editors Society against plagiarism. I learned about their work from Neil Holdway, treasurer of ACES and editor of Chicago area paper Daily Herald (incidentally, where Janet Mefferd once worked. Holdway was her boss there). I asked Holdway about the Mark Driscoll controversy and specifically about the initial allegations of his old colleague regarding Mark Driscoll’s use of Peter Jones’ work. In his response, Holdway took issue with the results of Tyndale House’s investigation, saying

I disagree with Tyndale’s assertion that Peter Jones was adequately cited in the 14 pages called into in question in “A Call To Resurgence.” As written in our task force’s e-book on fighting plagiarism in journalism, “Telling the Truth and Nothing But“:

“We broadened our definition of plagiarism to cover the realm of ideas, encouraging practitioners throughout the industry to more generously and forthrightly cite the seminal, distinctive work of others from whom they draw inspiration in creating their own original works.”

Specifically, Holdway disagrees with the following claim in the Tyndale statement:

Pertaining to his Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence, Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll did indeed adequately cite the work of Peter Jones.

On page 320 of A Call To Resurgence, Driscoll includes this footnote:

See, for example, or Peter Jones, One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions, 2010).

According to Holdway, this one citation wasn’t adequate to give credit for the 14 pages of material which relied heavily on Jones’ writing and ideas.
Holdway also addressed Tyndale’s findings regarding Driscoll’s intent by citing the following passage in the ACES ebook:

“An unavoidable complication in any discussion of plagiarism is intent. Was the plagiarism deliberate? Was it inadvertent? Any effort to define journalistic standards must, in our view, consider the recipients of the journalism, not just the producers. Plagiarism harms the creator of the original material, our craft, our industry — but just as crucially, it is a violation of the audience’s trust. Whatever the motivation, the outcome is the same: Everyone suffers.”

Holdway added:

The controversy could have been avoided so easily with more, well-placed, what I would consider proper attribution — saying the outline was “inspired by Peter Jones” or “presented by Peter Jones,” for example, or of course in a footnote as he had done elsewhere. Again, as the e-book on plagiarism says:

“Journalists might understandably start the conversation with a question: How much information — a word, a phrase, a sentence — can be copied without committing plagiarism? That’s the wrong approach. It is more productive to look for reasons to attribute information more often, more clearly, more generously.”

In my opinion, Tyndale’s statement is inadequate in at least three other ways.
The extent of the problem was not addressed adequately by Tyndale or Mark Driscoll. Neither Driscoll nor Tyndale addressed the many other instances of plagiarism and recycling which have come to light. The closest the statement came to such an acknowledgment was a vague reference to a review of other books.
Driscoll did not take direct responsibility for his books (“mistakes were made” – see also). According to the statement still up on the Mars Hill website (click Downloads), responsibility for the “citation errors” in the book on the Apostle Peter was assigned to a research assistant and a team of people. However, Driscoll’s name is on the label as the author. Furthermore the Tyndale statement refers to a review of Driscoll’s books that involve others:

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.

What is a “content development process?” Is that the same thing as authoring a book? How many people are involved and what are they doing? If anything, this statement leaves unanswered many questions about ghostwriting and authorship by committee.
In my opinion, Tyndale’s investigation should have involved independent scholars/experts. When Jonah Lehrer was being investigated by Wired magazine, an independent scholar reviewed the allegations as well as other columns written by Lehrer. The independent investigation turned up many instances of plagiarism and recycling of previous material. For understandable reasons, Tyndale House had an interest in cleaning up the situation as soon as possible. They have financial interests in A Call to Resurgence and future books by Driscoll. Even with the best of intentions, these factors make objectivity difficult to achieve.
From a public relations standpoint, Tyndale House’s December statement may have helped quell media interest in the story, it did not adequately address the scope of the matter. It seems to me that there are still important questions to explore.
Next week, I intend to provide additional instances of inadequate citation and recycling without disclosure in the Driscolls’ book Real Marriage.
To see the material in A Call To Resurgence compared to Peter Jones’ work, click here.
For all posts on this topic, click here.