Writing Recycling: A New Wrinkle in the Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Controversy?

In 2012, journalist Jonah Lehrer came under fire for self-plagiarism.* Lehrer eventually lost his job due to recycling and inventing material, notably attributing false quotes to Bob Dylan. While writing for the New Yorker, Lehrer posted a column which began in nearly the same manner as a column published by the Wall Street Journal during the previous year. Jim Romenesko first reported Lehrer’s recycled material. To see how similar they are (nearly identical), you can go to Romenesko’s blog and/or compare the Wall Street Journal article with the New Yorker version. A lengthy description of recycling is provided by the Reluctant Habits blog.
Once the New Yorker learned of the reuse of material, the editor posted the following statement:

Editors’ Note: The introductory paragraphs of this post appeared in similar form in an October, 2011, column by Jonah Lehrer for the Wall Street Journal. We regret the duplication of material.

Eventually, it was learned that Lehrer had double dipped on other occasions. Although some complained about the term, “self-plagiarism,” his conduct was of intense interest to his peers. Lehrer eventually said about his actions, “It was a stupid thing to do and incredibly lazy and absolutely wrong.”
In summary, the publishers involved took the recycling seriously, they made readers aware of the duplication, and Lehrer said what he did was stupid, lazy and wrong.
It is unclear to me how the Christian publishing world regards recycling material when multiple publishers are involved. In this post, I am simply going to point out an occasion of recycling in Mark Driscoll’s books. I have been reading several of them, and I can tell you there are more instances. For now, I will stick with the case of Driscoll recycling material from Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions published by Crossway Books in 2009 into Real Marriage published by Thomas Nelson in 2012.
First, both books contain a description of pornography. They are nearly identical.**

In both books following the description of porn, Driscoll provides a summary of the aspects of pornography.  In Real Marriage, it comes on page 143.

As an aside, no experts are cited and I haven’t figured out where he got that list.
Now, here is the same material from Religion Saves published earlier by Crossway Books.

The passages are identical. Perhaps there is some undisclosed arrangement between the publishers, but I can’t find any permission or acknowledgment in Real Marriage that this material comes from a book published by Crossway.
In Real Marriage on page 113, Driscoll writes:

The life of a prostitute is incredibly dark: 62 percent report having been raped in prostitution. In one study, 75 percent of women in escort prostitution had attempted suicide; prostituted women comprised 15 percent of all completed suicides reported by hospitals.

On page 140 in Religion Saves, the same opening sentence is written (“The life of a prostitute is incredibly dark”) with the same statistics, albeit with a few additional stats.
On page 112 of Real Marriage, Driscoll writes:

The sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s radically altered the sexual landscape of our nation, so that today sex before marriage and viewing pornography are the culturally accepted norm.

The identical sentence can be found on page 130 of Religion Saves.
Much of chapter 5 in Religion Saves is recycled in Real Marriage. In both, Driscoll cites Jim Dobson on the story of Ted Bundy, and Patrick Carnes on sexual addiction. He recycles the material on sexual addiction with the same sexual addition criteria list from Carnes. He has identical statements about pornography and lust. Much of the same ground is covered in both books with no mention in Real Marriage of the exact same material being first published by Crossway in 2009.
Jonah Lehrer found that recycling material (and other misdeeds) caused quite a stir among journalists and led to publishers pursuing vigorous public actions to protect their interests and reputations.  To me, the situations seem quite similar. It remains to be seen how Christian publishers will view extensive recycling of material from one publisher’s book to another by the same author.
*I first learned of the Lehrer story from Jake Dockter at The Great White Whale. In his piece Dockter asked many pointed questions based on what was known at the time. Many of those questions remain unanswered.
**I added this image as an update to the original article.

A Year Ago Thomas Nelson Lost Confidence in The Jefferson Lies

This week a year ago, Thomas Nelson publishers pulled David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies from publication. As I recall, I first learned of the event from Tennessean reporter Bob Smietana who called me to ask for comment. I think the first to get it on the web was probably Thomas Kidd at World Magazine on August 9. The news broke the day after a major NPR expose on Barton’s historical claims. A day before that World posted an article citing Jay Richards and others who had raised concerns about The Jefferson Lies. There were many stories at the time on the removal of the book, an event which Thomas Nelson described as “extremely rare.”
Two of the stories World did on the constroversy (David Barton Controversy – #3; Lost Confidence – #5) were in World’s top 25 news stories for 2012.  In the aftermath, World magazine hosted a debate of sorts involving Barton, Glenn Frazer, Michael Coulter and me.
Another surprising source of coverage was The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s web presence. Without taking sides, Billy Hallowell made a good effort to present our concerns about Barton’s claims, and then allowed Barton to respond.  The Blaze also did two webcasts, the first with Barton and then with us. In the end, Beck allowed Barton to present his claims unanswered on his television broadcast. Since we were not invited to rebut those claims on the air, we addressed them in a  series of posts here (on Jefferson and slavery, part 1; Jefferson and slavery, part 2; Jefferson and slavery, part 3; Jefferson and the Bible, part 4; Jefferson and the Bible, part 5).  As I post these links, I notice that Beck’s network has removed some of the Barton videos.
Since then, a few Christian groups have reviewed Barton’s materials and made edits or ceased using his materials. Most notably, Family Research Council made Barton’s Capitol Tour video private on YouTube. Barton then made audio edits to the video to repair some of the errors and posted the edited version on his Wallbuilders’ account without explanation.
The Barton controversy continues to expose the gulf between evangelical scholarship and evangelical participation in the culture war. Just recently, Barton incorrectly said that out of 60,000 professors, just four criticized his book. He also said that “Christian professors were basically trained by pagan professors who hate God, and they’re just repeating what they’re been told.” Over the past year, Barton and his defenders have portrayed critics as academic elites who are using the strategies of Hitler and Alinsky. All because evangelical academics want to get the facts right.
For evangelicals to truly defend religious liberty and retake some moral high ground, there must be a truce in the war between culture warriors and evangelical scholars. Academics shouldn’t be judged by the academic cover they give to culture war talking points or icons. Nobody is really fooled anyway, and increasingly, younger people are just checking out. Hopefully, the ripples have not stopped rippling and there are more important lessons to learn from the controversy over The Jefferson Lies.

Dizzy Up the Book: Amazon Switches Jefferson Lies Publisher Again

Even though neither Wallbuilder Press nor Thomas Nelson are currently publishing The Jefferson Lies, Amazon.com has switched the publisher from Wallbuilder Press to Thomas Nelson again on their page for David Barton’s book.
Yesterday, I pointed out that Amazon had switched the publisher designation to Wallbuilder Press. Today, it is back to Thomas Nelson.


I acknowledge that the situation with this book makes it difficult to assign a publisher but something should better than what is up there now or was there yesterday.


Perhaps this is a Fringe event in honor of the next to last show tonight. Maybe Wallbuilder Press publishes the book in one universe and Thomas Nelson in the other. The universes are coming together at a weak point in space-time — The Jefferson Lies Amazon page — resulting in alternating publishers.

Now Amazon Lists Wallbuilders as the Publisher of The Jefferson Lies

As Chris Rodda pointed out after Christmas, Amazon listed Wallbuilders as the publisher of The Jefferson Lies after Thomas Nelson dropped it. However, after she informed Amazon that Wallbuilders did not publish the book, the bookseller changed the publisher to Thomas Nelson. Read her post here.
When it comes to The J-Lies, one thing is sure: nothing is sure.
Now Amazon has changed the publisher designation again and lists Wallbuilder Press as the publisher.


As Rodda pointed out in her post, this is a misleading designation. Wallbuilder Press did not publish the book in April of 2012 and Barton has not revised and republished the book. I don’t know what designation could be supplied in this situation.

David Barton says he has another publisher for The Jefferson Lies

That was fast.

On the Wallbuilders Facebook page, Barton writes the book will rise again. See also this email to his supporters.

I might have more to say when the publisher is announced but until then, consider this an open forum on the matter…

John Fea has some thoughts on those rising to Barton’s defense.

There are many reports on various facets of this story. I hope to bring all the links together on Monday. If Barton does get another publisher, the story will revive with fresh controversy. My hope is that Christian leaders who know the issues will step forward and speak clearly.

Thomas Nelson Pulls David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies

World Magazine is reporting that Thomas Nelson publishers has ceased publication of The Jefferson Lies by David Barton. Thomas Kidd reports:

Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s director of corporate communications, told me the publishing house “was contacted by a number of people expressing concerns about [The Jefferson Lies].” The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”

There will be more on this development which I will add through the afternoon.

UPDATE: The Nashville Tennessean has an extensive report here where Barton calls me “nuts.”

NPR has a report here with more from Thomas Nelson.

In the Nashville Tennessean article out this afternoon, Barton says I don’t understand how complex Virginia slave laws were and that I am “nuts” for saying Virginia law allowed Jefferson to free his slaves.  We document the laws on slavery in Getting Jefferson Right and have looked at this issue several times in blog posts. I invite readers to read those posts, paying particular attention to Robert Carter’s Deed of Emancipation, and the way Barton selectively quoted Virginia law in The Jefferson Lies. Next, consider a webpage posted by the Library of Virginia on manumissions of slaves. On that page is another Deed of Emancipation for a Francis Drake who was freed in 1791. The transcription is here. According to this source (consistent with other sources we consulted), “After the passage of the 1782 manumission act, many slaveholders privately manumitted enslaved blacks.”

Barton says there were fines against freeing slaves. We cannot find evidence for this and Barton provides none in The Jefferson Lies. Masters had to guarantee the care of slaves above and below certain ages (see the text of the law below), but these were not fines. As you can see from the text of the law, there were penalties for not following the law properly, but not for emancipating slaves legally. Clerk’s fees applied but these were minimal. Here is the 1782 Virginia Law of Manumission:



An act to authorize the manumission of slaves. [Ch. LXI. in original.]

[Chan. Rev. p. 159.]

I. WHEREAS application hath been made to this present general assembly, that those persons who are disposed to emancipate their slaves may be empowered so to do, and the same hath been judged expedient under certain restrictions: Be it therefore enacted, That it shall hereafter be lawful for any person, by his or her last will and testament, or by any other instrument in writing, under his or her hand and seal, attested and proved in the county court by two witnesses, or acknowledged by the party in the court of the county where he or she resides to emancipate and set free, his or her slaves, or any of them, who shall thereupon be entirely and fully discharged from the performance of any contract entered into during servitude, and enjoy as full freedom as if they had been particularly named and freed by this act.

How slaves may be emancipated.

II. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That all slaves so set free, not being in the judgment of the court, of sound mind and body, or being above the age of forty-five years, or being males under the age of twenty-one, or females under the age of eighteen years, shall respectively be supported and maintained by the person so liberating them, or by his or her estate; and upon neglect or refusal so to do, the court of the county where such neglect or refusal may be, is hereby empowered and required, upon application to them made, to order the sheriff to distrain and sell so much of the person’s estate as shall be sufficient for that purpose. Provided also, That every person by written instrument in his life time, or if by last will and testament, the executors of every person freeing any slave, shall cause to be delivered to him or her, a copy of the instrument of emancipation, attested by the clerk of the court of the county, who shall be paid therefor, by the person emancipating, five shillings, to be collected in the manner of other clerk’s fees. Every person neglecting or refusing to deliver to any slave by him or her set free, such copy, shall forfeit and pay ten pounds to be recovered with costs in any court of record, one half thereof to the person suing for the same, and the other to the person to whom such copy ought to have been delivered. It shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit to the gaol of his county, any emancipated slave travelling out of the county of his or her residence without a copy of the instrument of his or her emancipation, there to remain till such copy is produced and the gaoler’s fees paid. and on the slave travelling out of his county.

III. And be it further enacted, That in case any slave so liberated shall neglect in any year to pay all taxes and levies imposed or to be imposed by law, the court of the county shall order the sheriff to hire out him or her for so long time as will raise the said taxes and levies. Provided sufficient distress cannot be made upon his or her estate. Saving nevertheless to all and every person and persons, bodies politic or corporate, and their heirs and successors, other than the person or persons claiming under those so emancipating their slaves, all such right and title as they or any of them could or might claim if this act had never been made.

Getting Jefferson Right is available here.

Associated Baptist Press Reports on the Pastor’s Boycott of Thomas Nelson

A group of evangelical pastors in Cincinnati says a popular but controversial book about Thomas Jefferson rewrites history and excuses the founding father for owning slaves.

Read the rest…

Cincinnati Area Pastors Urge Boycott of Thomas Nelson Publishers Over David Barton’s Book, The Jefferson Lies

This release from a group called the Cincinnati Area Pastors briefly outlines their objections to The Jefferson Lies. As I understand it, there are more people involved in the group than are listed here. I have spoken at length to Ray McMillian. Most of the ministers in this group have carefully reviewed Barton’s claims about Jefferson and have contacted Thomas Nelson and parent company Harper Collins about their concerns. Mr. Barton cannot continue to complain that his critics are all leftists and secularists. These ministers are all serving in evangelical churches.



Christian Leaders Urge Boycott of Thomas Nelson Publishers Over David Barton’s Book,

The Jefferson Lies

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 11:00 am – 11:30 am

Cincinnati area African-American, white, and Messianic-Jewish pastors and church leaders are meeting at New Jerusalem Baptist Church (26 W. North Bend Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45216) to announce their boycott of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Their reasons are rooted in their opposition to the recently published book, The Jefferson Lies, by David Barton.

Bishop Dwight Wilkins, president of The Amos Project, said, “We have privately approached Thomas Nelson about our concerns, with no resolution.” The pastors/church leaders pointed to four major concerns the group has with The Jefferson Lies:

  1. It glosses over Thomas Jefferson’s unorthodox and heretical beliefs about Jesus Christ;
  2. It minimizes and justifies Thomas Jefferson’s racism;
  3. It excuses Thomas Jefferson’s practice of enslaving African-Americans.
  4. The Jefferson Lies is riddled with factual distortions and falsehoods.

Rev. Damon Lynch said, “David Barton falsely claims that Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves.” In fact, Jefferson was allowed to free his slave under Virginia law, but failed to do it. The Jefferson Lies glosses over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views.

Rabbi Michael Wolf charges that David Barton also minimizes Jefferson’s unorthodox views of Christ, his negative views of the Jews, and his contempt for the God of Abraham.

Historian, Dr. Troy Jackson, says, “This book is inaccurate, this book is offensive, and this book is dangerous.”

Presbyter Chris Beard said, “We are protesting as concerned believers in the evangelical Christian community, who believe that many are being misled by David Barton’s teachings.” Rev. Ray McMillian added, “You can’t be serious about racial unity in the church, while holding up Jefferson as a hero and champion of freedom.”


Media desiring to attend the press conference should contact Rev. Damon Lynch, New Jerusalem Baptist Church, 513.821.0704, or Rev. Chris Beard, Peoples Church, 513.673.7405, chris@peopleschurch.co. (not .com) More information will be provided at that time.


In the Cinci area? I hope they have a good turn out.

Man sues Bible publishers over references to homosexuality

Actually, what I think he is saying is that the Bible doesn’t really mean homosexual when in I Corinthians 6, homosexual is listed. As I understand it, from this USA Today article, he is arguing that the publishers used the term homosexual in the translation with intent to harm him as a member of that class. I think Zondervan and Thomas Nelson will prevail…