Tyndale House Publishers or Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association?


The topic: Pastor Mark Driscoll’s citation problems — which have continued and continued and continued — which were first identified on a radio show.

The issue at hand: Tyndale House Publishers’ decision to defend Driscoll, one of the publisher’s authors, against plagiarism charges in a specific book, A Call to Resurgence. Three excerpts from the statement as it appeared on a Christianity Today website:

[1] “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.”

[2] “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.”

[3] “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.”

Before we look at the publication manual: In this last section, Driscoll’s invitations and provisions to Peter Jones have absolutely nothing to do with how the latter’s work is used in publications. There is no way to guarantee that every person who picks up A Call to Resurgence knows who Peter Jones is, or how many times he has spoken at Driscoll’s churches and conferences, or when Driscoll is extending Jones’ ideas or using his own. That much of Tyndale House’s argument is completely irrelevant.

In the following, I consult the section on plagiarism in Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th edition), a style and citation guide used in publishing for numerous academic disciplines (not just psychology).

I then compare its view with Tyndale House’s comments on the “deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source” — as well as its rejection of “the claims that Mark Driscoll tried to take Peter Jones’s ideas and claim them as his own.” (Also see “Tyndale House Publishers or Chicago Manual of Style?“)

On page 349 of the Fifth Edition, under the subheading of “Plagiarism (Principle 6.22),” the APA Publication Manual says, “Psychologists do not claim the words and ideas of another as their own; they give credit where credit is due. Quotation marks should be used to indicate the exact words of another. Each time you paraphrase another author (i.e., summarizing a passage or rearrange the order of a sentence and change some of the words), you will need to credit the source in the text.” (The italicized “each time” is in the original.)

After providing a few more words and an example, the Publication Manual says, “The key element of this principle is that an author does not present the work of another as if it were his or her own work. This can extend to ideas as well as written words.”

With that in mind, read the following account of  the radio show confrontation that started this controversy, as reported by Jonathan Merritt:

Syndicated Christian radio host Janet Mefferd accused Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll of plagiarism on her Nov. 21 broadcast. Mefferd claimed that Driscoll quoted extensively from the work of Dr. Peter Jones for at least 14 pages in his book, A Call to Resurgence, without direct or proper citation.

“In this book,” Driscoll responded, “I took [Jones’] big idea and worked it out through the cultural implications but I wasn’t working specifically from his text.”

Peter Jones is an author and adjunct professor at Westminister Seminary California whose areas of interest include “ancient and medieval paganism.” Driscoll said that most of what he’s learned from Dr. Jones was acquired in conversations over meals where Driscoll was not taking notes.

“Don’t you think that it’s important when you’re using someone else’s materials that you footnote the person?” Mefferd pressed.

Driscoll acknowledged that he, in fact, did make mention of Jones in the footnotes once, though it was an unspecific citation without page numbers.

“If I made a mistake,” he said, “then I apologize to Dr. Jones, my friend…that was not my intent, for sure.”

Consider that account in light of professional publishing guidelines like those found in the Chicago Manual of Style and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

Of special interest ought to be Driscoll’s comment, “I took [Jones’] big idea and worked it out through the cultural implications but I wasn’t working specifically from his text.”

That seems to suggest Driscoll’s intent to use Jones’ ideas. Actually, it seems to be an implicit confession that his design and approach was to use Jones’ ideas without adequately “credit[ing] the source in the text,” as the APA Publication Manual says.

After all, the complete sentence of that excerpt is, “Each time you paraphrase another author (i.e., summarizing a passage or rearrange the order of a sentence and change some of the words), you will need to credit the source in the text.”

Sure, that might be difficult, but again, there is no way to guarantee that every person who picks up A Call to Resurgence already knows who Peter Jones is, or how many times he has spoken at Driscoll’s churches and conferences, or when Driscoll is extending Jones’ ideas or using his own — even with some citations of Jones’ work in the book.

Sources must be clearly identified. Derivative and synthesized ideas must be acknowledged.

Perhaps Driscoll used Jones’ work in a naive way. Maybe he didn’t understand basic publishing standards about plagiarism, citation, and paraphrase.

That, and Mefferd’s original claim that 14 pages were not properly cited, seem to provide a basis to say that Driscoll and Tyndale House violated the spirit of publishing-industry plagiarism standards, and probably the letter of those standards, too.

If Tyndale House really wants to stand by its ideas on plagiarism, then it is at odds with the practices and dispositions found within the Chicago Manual of Style and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

Why does all this matter? It matters because statements by Tyndale House reveal the wealthy, influential publisher does not have a good or ethical standard on plagiarism.

It also matters because Pastor Mark Driscoll is starting a seminary, which is an academic institution, which ought to have clearly defined ethical standards on plagiarism and citation. But Driscoll’s understanding of plagiarism is about as advanced as my freshman students’ — and that’s the beginning rung for undergraduate education. A seminary is supposed to be graduate education.

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