Plagiarism in the Pulpit

Wednesday, 31 May 2006

I wonder how pervasive an issue this is in the LCMS. Sadly, I am personally aware of it within our ranks. Sermons have been published for centuries, and sermons have been lifted and preached whole-cloth for just as long. The internet simply makes it easier. There are many websites that simply function as homiletical take-a-penny-leave-a-penny dishes, providing packaged preaching for anyone with a credit card and a mouse to take and use. Many are available at no cost. It’s a candy store out there.

As I see it, the concerns are multiple.

1. Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s work as one’s own. It is a matter of lying and stealing.

2. To preach another’s sermon is an abdication of the vocation to which the Lord has called a man. It is to act as the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep, not as the undershepherd of the flock.

3. To preach another’s sermon necessarily stems from either laziness or spiritual poverty, or a mix of the two. Accountability is required.

4. Plagiarism does violence to the pastor/congregation relationship, as well as to the relationships between brother pastors.

5. Preaching another’s sermon throws wide the gate to whatever faulty theology/anthropology the author holds. It is theologically irresponsible.

6. Preaching a sermon written for God’s people in one place to hear does not take into consideration the unique situation of the hearers of the body of Christ in the second place.

7. Preaching a sermon written by another is to steal from one’s congregation. The offerings of the congregation go, in part, to pay the pastor to do the work for which he has been called. He is called to be pastor, not merely preacher (speaker of another’s homiletical work).

This list is not exhaustive.

It’s district convention season. My guess is that this, like internet pornography, is a bigger problem than we’d like to imagine or address, yet likewise dirty enough that we’d rather live in ignorance about it. Yet as I read through overtures and resolutions, I see none resolving that our pastors maintain integrity in the pulpit. Perhaps such measures are greatly needed.


Da Vinci Code etc.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

This past Friday, Dateline on NBC ran a 1-hour program evaluating the Da Vinci Code and its claims. They brought together scholars from both sides of the argument from contemporary theological academia, the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and an art historian. Dan Brown could not be reached for comment, but since he could not be with them he sent his fridge.

In typical Dateline fashion the entire hour (or however minutes actually aired between commercials) was soundbited (soundbitten?) to death, sprinkling dramatic music and video montages over Stone Phillips’ bland interview style.

I was initially frustrated. I was getting exactly what I expected: the series of “what-ifs” and open hypothetical questions designed to cast shadows over every aspect of the person and work of Christ that is confessed by the Church. But then in a flash of journalistic integrity, the tenor of the piece unexpectedly changed. The last thought the program left in the viewers’ minds was that there really was no evidence for any of the book’s claims. And I came away from it relatively impressed. After all, this is the network that made an absolute mockery of the biblical account of the flood several years back. This turned out to be a generally even-handed attempt to deal with the drivel that is once again taking the nation by storm.

I have read the book. I borrowed a copy from a friend. I won’t see the movie until I can do so with no statistical or financial boon to the author. Yeah, my $12 is a drop in the bucket compared to the money he’s raking in hand over fist, but for me it’s about my integrity.

Not only have I read The Da Vinci Code, but I have read two of his other books: Angels and Demons and Deception Point. In the last of these, I ran an experiment for a couple of chapters: I read the first line of each paragraph and no more. Then I went back and read the chapters in their entirety. You know what? I hadn’t really missed anything the first time. The dialog was bland, the plots were predictable, and the characters were two-dimensional at best; most were only really one-dimensional. In short, even only as novels these books were lacking. I came at them with an open mind, but they were, in a word, lame.

I’ll not go into the claims of The Da Vinci Code. It’s been done and redone, and I don’t really have much to add. I’m bored with the whole thing. But I simply don’t buy the bit about, “Well, it’s a really good work of fiction, even though I don’t buy the philosophy of it.” No. No it’s not. It’s pulp fiction. It’s lame and predictable. Here’s the Dan Brown formula for a successful novel: Church = bad. NASA = bad. Government = bad. Any-established-authority = bad. His only draw is the controversy, and the controversy is contrived. Dan Brown took a lesson from the Coen Brothers when they made Fargo. They took a work of fiction and called it a true story–and people bought it. Dan Brown introduces his tripe with a “fact” sheet that his readers simply trust like so many sheep. It’s sad, really.

Take away the controversy. What’s left is predictable drivel by a two-bit crap peddler in a turtleneck and tweed jacket.

Not all bad

Friday, 26 May 2006

I find contemporary Christian music to be generally bad. Yet every once in a while this rule is proved by an exception. This, gentle reader, is an exception. Tangled Blue. They score above the rest of the field in three significant ways: a) The lyrics are doctrinally sound, Christo- and theocentric, and good poetry; b) the music is creative, not a chord progression that has been driven into the ground; c) they’re synodically trained! That’s right. They’re a product of our very own Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. Anyway, check them out. You can preview the latest CD here.

Frequent Flyers Take Heed

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Next time you need to book air fare, try SkyHigh.


Monday, 22 May 2006

I drank kosher beer yesterday. It’s called He’brew, a product of the Shmaltz Brewery. Mine was the beer pictured left, “Messiah Bold” (captioned, “The beer you’ve been waiting for!”). I honestly picked it up for the bottle. But the contents were surprisingly good. It was dark and flavorful–a very good beer, and yes, it would be worth waiting for. We have noted for some time that a rather close relationship exists between fermented sugars and theology. Yet such convergence of malt, barley, hops, and prophecy fulfillment begs a rather interesting question: is all cerevisiology Christology?

Out to Lunch

Friday, 12 May 2006

I’ve stepped out for a couple of weeks. I’m on vacation. I’ve been either too busy or too laid back in the last month or so to be tending my blog. More later. Blessings in Christ to all.