So Mark Driscoll is in hot water over plagiarism in his books, and using church funds to artificially inflate sales figures to land his marriage book on the New York Times Bestseller List. A few quick observations and comments about this ‘BookGate’ controversy in light of the various reports out there:
- No one should be gleeful about this. That a leader of so many Christians is in trouble like this is no cause for rejoicing, even if you have major issues with Driscoll and his ministry. This is tragic on a personal level for Driscoll, on a communal level for the Mars Hill church, and also on the broader level for the cause of the gospel. There’s no room for Schadenfreude here.
- Protestant Christians believe in the priesthood of all believers, as together we work in mediating the gospel to each other and to the world. This does not mean plagiarism is permitted. We hate it when the media don’t cite sources in their reporting, so we shouldn’t be doing that kind of thing in Christian literature. Academic honesty is always the best policy.
- That Driscoll and/or Mars Hill hired a PR company to boost book sales is neither here nor there. In fact, it sounds like sensible strategy to me. It’s just plain old marketing.
- The use of church funds (or any funds for that matter) to artificially inflate sales and circumvent the ‘rules’ for the New York Times Bestseller List is just plain dishonest. If all this was done without the broad knowledge of those contributing financially to the church, then Driscoll and/or the leaders at Mars Hill have breached their trust and exceeded their mandate. If it was done with broad knowledge, then we have to question what kind of teaching and guidance they issued on the matter.
When Jesus sent out his disciples on public ministry, he told them to be ‘as shrewd as snakes’ (Matt 10.16). They were to use all their skill, wisdom, and cunning to get the message of the gospel out there.
But that’s not all he said. He also instructed them to be ‘as innocent as doves’.
Christians, pray that God would bring good out of this situation, so that the cause of the gospel would be enhanced, and not hindered. And let’s think good and hard about how we engage this world. ‘As shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’