Thursday, April 23, 2009

Plagiarism?

Recently we had a conversation in a Chapel interns meeting about pastors and originality. The brunt of the issue discussed was whether it is appropriate for a pastor to use material in a sermon without citing where the information was coming from. For instance, is if appropriate for me to read a book by NT Wright, and then teaching his ideas to a congregation without letting them know where I got it from (implying that I was the original thinker).

Con: The argument for the side that says it is wrong says its dishonest for a pastor to speak something that is not theirs as if it is theirs; this is stealing. This argument is much like the argument against plagiarism in academic, published, and professional writing. For a pastor to get up front and say something and not let the congregation know where they got it from, leads towards a false sense of the pastor's knowledge. There is a responsibility to be people of integrity and let people know when you're 'borrowing' somebody's material.

Pro: The argument for the side that says its not a big deal, comes from the fact that everybody is doing it and we all realize that pastors are reading and studying. If they are studying we should expect them to We realize that what they preach is not original. Its not important they they originally though it. Its important that they are proclaiming it to us. We expect that they got it from some research they found, a book they read or something like that in the hours they spend hiding in their office.

*I personally think both sides are right. I have never assumed when I heard my pastors make comments in church were making stuff up. I guess my understanding has always been they read that somewhere. What I guess I have always questioned is when pastor just straight-up preach somone else's sermons; that's a bit too much. In response to this, it was pointed out by a mentor that the early Methodist ministers simply preached Wesley's sermons...nobody had a problem with that.

What do you think?