(From The Table of Duties: To Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers)
Pastors who Plagiarize: An act of infidelity toward the Preaching Office -- continued
In Part 1 of this series of blog posts, we discussed the first part of the first of two issues involved when considering the nature of plaigerism in the context of the pastors Office: the fraudulent nature of plagiarism itself. We concluded that
- A plagiarist is one who knowingly quotes or uses a source other than himself while concealing the identity of that source. The result of this theft is misrepresentation and fraud: that is, the plagiarist’s audience concludes that he is the author or creator of the quoted or used material (misrepresentation) and uses this conclusion as a basis for trust in the plagiarist (fraud). He takes on an identity that is not his – that of the original author – and uses that identity against the consciences of those who hear or read his work. That is the seriousness of plagiarism.
- [(1b)] the meaning of this fraud within the context of the Office of Representational or Public Ministry, and (2) the added offense of plagiarizing sectarian sources.
In the modern church, the pressure to plagiarize has never been greater. The affluence of the West has inculcated a cultural expectation that achievement is easy, and the proliferation of Arminian thought among Christians, particularly in the American church, has made the conversion of souls into the object of the Christian’s achievement. Popular evangelical mantra has creative and “winsome” ministers leading “real, relational, and relevant” ministries in a culture that changes so swiftly that the nature of “winsomeness,” “real-ness,” “relational-ness,” “relevance,” and every other characteristic of man’s ability to positively engage others, is increasingly impossible for any one human to fulfill. No one has the breadth of life experience to appeal directly to a society whose cultural cross-section grows more complex by the day – particularly with the exponential growth of virtual sub-cultures made possible by collaboration and social-networking applications, and various other forms of internet technology, which are continually evolving. A single identity is insufficient. For a pastor to fit the mold demanded by Arminian priorities in the West, for him to be both relevant and relational, he must be several people at once. Several real people, that is, complete with varied ideas and experiences that can only be gathered from the lives of multiple individuals. It is impossible for one man to be several people at once, and the solution for an increasing number of pastors is not to gain wider perspectives through personal experience or through broad contact with quality literature, but is to resort to bald plagiarism. Indeed, that this is increasingly recognized across American evangelicalism is evidenced by the proliferation of internet services facilitating such misrepresentation and fraud, justifying and encouraging it in the name of evangelical necessity.
Lutherans, however, free from the captivity of an Arminian angst which drives them in their quest to alter the will of their fellow man in favor of a decision for Christ, are not so deluded as to think that anything about themselves will hinder or help the Holy Spirit in His work. They rely on what is completely outside them, on the message of Law and Gospel through which the Holy Spirit exclusively works to call, gather, and enlighten his people, producing and strengthening their faith, and teaching and reminding them of all that Christ taught (SC:2:5-6 – Small Catechism, Third Article of the Creed). They rely on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, who, through Law and Gospel, works uniquely in each individual “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Ph. 2:13; see also Ep. 2:10). They rely on God’s calling to their various Vocations in life, in and through which He providentially works as they work in the interests of their neighbor for the sake of Christ. For the Lutheran, there is no need to take the advice of the Arminian and make himself “real, relational, or relevant” for the sake of Christ and the Gospel – the Holy Spirit manages it all through Vocation and through the message of Law and Gospel in Word and Sacrament. The Lutheran, according to the doctrine he confesses, is free to be who God has prepared him to be, and does not need to resort to fraud in order to win souls.
How disappointing it is, then, when Lutheran pastors, seduced by Western affluence and/or the false teachings of the Arminians, find it necessary to reduce themselves to fraudulent misrepresentation in order to meet man’s expectations of appeal, supposedly for the sake of the Gospel. The pastor is Christ’s Representative. He has been called by the congregation on the basis of who the Holy Spirit has prepared, and continues to prepare, him to be. His duty is fidelity to Christ as His Messenger, His Ambassador, His Representative. One cannot represent through misrepresentation. Misrepresentation has no part of the pastor’s duty, and constitutes infidelity to his Call.
When a pastor knowingly quotes or uses a source other than himself while concealing the identity of that source, the result is misrepresentation and fraud – a case of clear infidelity to his Call. When he quotes or uses sectarian sources, the depth of his fraud is compounded. Not only is the pastor Christ’s Representative to the congregation, he is the congregation’s Steward of pure Scripture doctrine. When he commits misrepresentation using sectarian sources, he not only passes off sectarian teaching as his own, but, on the basis of his role as steward, passes off sectarian content as pure Scripture teaching. The fraud associated with this misrepresentation is no longer merely that others trust his teaching on the basis of his misrepresentation, but that they trust sectarian teaching as orthodox on the basis of his misrepresentation. In stealing and applying to himself the identity of the sectarian author, he disgraces his Call, which requires that he “[hold] fast the faithful Word as he has been taught.” Using borrowed sectarian identity against the consciences of those who hear or read his work is tantamount to false teaching. That is the seriousness of pastoral plagiarism.
Next in this Series: “Plagiarism from Sectarian sources in the WELS.”