An Open Letter to @TyndaleHouse Regarding known liar and plagiarist @PastorMark

Mark Driscoll 2
Mark Driscoll 2 (Photo credit: jrgordon13)

Updated at the Bottom

As most of you know, Mark Driscoll was caught in the middle of a plagiarism scandal that began with one book and went to other books. Now, he and his publisher (Tyndale House) are in the middle of the scandal of the Christian machine. This post pretty much sums up everything at this point:

» Tyndale House Doubles Down on Support for Mark Driscoll Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion.

As I stated publicly on Twitter Friday night, I disagree with the use of the term “partner” to suggest a formalized business relationship where one entity exerts legal control over other, something Jim posted on. Otherwise, Richard’s post is accurate and I concur with it. Which, of course, causes me great sadness.

When I started blogging, rather, when I first got into reviews, I was able to do so generally because of one publishing house — Tyndale. Further, as I have stated time and time again, the New Living Translation, which I was (and to some lesser extent still am) a very enthusiastic supporter of, helped in no small way to save my bible reading. My coming out of the KJV-Only movement coincided with a chance to review the NLT Study Bible. I devoured the NLT and came to love and share it. I gave several dozen copies away. Not a lot, to be sure, but as many of my blogging contemporaries of the time knew, I was the NLT guy — the only one in the blogosphere, mind you.

Tyndale House is an evangelical publishing house and have published books with a more conservative bent to them than I could ever pretend to be. They even flirted with publishing blatant political books when they published the biography of a former Minnesota governor before the 2008 Presidential race. Further, they have taken on the Affordable Healthcare Act because they would like to deny to their employees birth-control coverage, something not historically associated with Evangelicalism. I have not yet said anything about this. The only time I chose to actively blog against one of their releases was Mark Galli’s “God Wins” book.

I have, admittedly, blogged against Mark Driscoll. I find his theology abhorrent to the Christian faith and his personal style a sin. I will touch on this in a bit because it is important.

My complaint comes with the silencing of Janet Mefferd who was the first to call out Driscoll’s plagiarism. They first commented on the tone of Mefferd’s interview with Driscoll and now refuse to even address the issues, instead saying:

It has come to our attention that a radio talk show host has suggested that author Mark Driscoll has committed plagiarism in his recent Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence. Tyndale House takes any accusation of plagiarism seriously and has therefore conducted a thorough in-house review of the original material and sources provided by the author. After this review we feel confident that the content in question has been properly cited in the printed book and conforms to market standards.

This is a poor statement because anyone who knows anything about plagiarism knows Driscoll did not conform to “market standards.” When you discover a case of plagiarism, you need to take into consideration the author’s style, absent-mindedness, and other factors. When I find a student plagiarizing, I examine the student’s body of work. Does the student know how to properly cite? It would appear Driscoll does. How large is the section copied? In Driscoll’s case, pretty large and larger in some cases. Is this the first time? Mefferd has shown this isn’t. Those three things are often enough what I need to decide how to proceed. Driscoll would fail any class in which he submitted his last book in. Assuming the other books are classes, he would be kicked out of the institution with a black-mark assigned to his name.

Mark Driscoll is a known liar. At the recent Strange Fire dust up, Driscoll stated that Security has confiscated his books. This was an absolute lie. He has lied before. It is not just his shameful behavior as a “pastor” where he loves to mock others, punish those who question him, and otherwise insure women stay on their knees in the kitchen — he is a serial liar. And Tyndale House has chosen to stick behind him, attempting to remain as tight-lipped as possible. This is the work course, Tyndale.

I was 6 or 7, I believe. I say this because my memory of where I was was in the “old trailer” I grew up in. This trailer was old in the early 70’s and older still in the early 80’s. My fundamentalist Christian father had once again skipped child support and my and my sister were going to miss another item of clothing or skimp a little on food. I remember my mother and stepfather fighting about it. Finally, she called him. They got into a heated match. She found the only bible that had mattered to her, the green covered Living Bible paraphrased by Kenneth Taylor in 1974. She flipped to 1 Timothy 5.8 and read it to him:

But anyone who won’t care for his own relatives when they need help, especially those living in his own family, has no right to say he is a Christian. Such a person is worse than the heathen.

I recently got to meet Mark Taylor, Kenneth Taylor’s son, at SBL. I imagined the moment a little differently, but I was rushed and he was speaking with Keith Williams, the energetic editor at Tyndale House. Keith has edited the Mosaic bible, they best devotional bible on the market. The Mosaic bible introduced me to the Church calendar, to a proper appreciation of the Saints and Church History, and sustained my family and I as we moved from fundamentalism to mainline Christianity.

You understand my emotional attachment to Tyndale House. This is one of those odd quirks of my personality often misunderstood. I sincerely appreciate Tyndale House for the quality materials presented to me throughout my life that have helped in no small way to me being the believer I am today. I believe the NLT is a fine translation and a trend-setter even if I do use it less these days. I appreciate Tyndale House and those people I know because of the New Living Translation.

But, don’t misunderstand this. Tyndale House, I am severely disappointed, no — dismayed and disgusted at your protection of Mark Driscoll. I will reserve condemnation of any silencing of Janet Mefferd and hope you are not part of the mafia machine behind Driscoll. There is nothing Christian about institutionalized power and such power used to silence the voice of truth.

I will make no threats. They are silly. I will only ask for your reconsideration of your denial of wrongdoing. I do not believe Tyndale would knowingly allow plagiarism; however, it is clear it did occur and has occurred in other publications. I will further ask that you make it clear you did not silence Janet Mefferd and would not attempt to use any influence in attempting to control negative publicity regarding Driscoll that was fairly leveled. I will ask that you, now, take care of all of your family, as Christians, else we consider you worse than the heathen. If there is no resolution, I will pull down every post praising Tyndale and the NLT and encourage fellow bloggers to refuse to review for them and to reconsider any past reviews.

Perhaps this is nothing but spitting in the wind, but I do not believe we should allow those we love to harm themselves and others, else we would be worse than the heathen.


  1. Intervarsity Press has responded
  2. For those of you wondering, Mefferd had to take down her work, but Google has preserved it for the time through the cache system. It is difficult to read, but you can still figure it out.
  3. As I said above, below in the comments, and maintained on Twitter, Tyndale is a not a business partner with Salem, the network that silenced Mefferd. A new statement confirms that.
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Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to @TyndaleHouse Regarding known liar and plagiarist @PastorMark

  1. What’s the problem? For get love! All is fair in war and making money. Beside, as L. Ron Hubbard famously observed, religion is a real moneymaker. Of course, never mind that latter day Capitalianity isn’t all that different from the old Pharisaic moneychangers or that, as Paul succinctly pointed out in I Timothy 6:10, the love of money is the root of all evil.
    Now, let us all join the choir as they sing Give Me That Money-making Religion.
    Give me that money-making religion.
    Give me that money-making religion.
    Give me that money-making religion.
    It’s good enough for me.
    It was good for L. Ron. Hubbard.
    It was good for L. Ron. Hubbard.
    It was good for L. Ron. Hubbard;
    And that’s good enough for me.
    I love filthy lucre.
    I love filthy lucre.
    I love filthy lucre.
    It’s all that I can see.

  2. First of all, thanks for the kind words about me and my favorite project (Holy Bible: Mosaic). Your story of exposure to the church calendar, appreciation for the Great Tradition, and personal/family spiritual growth is exactly the kind of thing I hoped would come from that project, and even if your story is the only one then I consider all my work worthwhile.

    Second, I should probably make it clear that this is a personal response rather than an official response from Tyndale House Publishers. I am a senior editor for Bibles and Bible reference works, and have been working within the editorial department at Tyndale since 2005. Obviously, I have a bit of an insider’s perspective; but I am one person, and my comments haven’t been reviewed or approved as the response of Tyndale.

    I have never worked with Mark Driscoll or any of his content. In fact, I’ve never read any of his books, and I don’t think I’ve every interacted with anything he has done on more than a cursory level. I’ve watched some of his videos (probably never more than 10 minutes) and read some of his blog posts. My overall evaluation has been that I don’t really like the style or substance of his message. I wasn’t excited when I heard that Tyndale had decided to publish him; but I wasn’t ready to quit either. I don’t think people deserve to be published only if I like or agree with their message.

    On the other hand, I do know and respect the people in the editorial department at Tyndale who worked on this book. They are not sloppy, nor are they ignorant of copyright laws.

    When I heard about Mefford’s claims against Driscoll’s book, I was concerned and examined the evidence. When I saw the PDFs that she posted on her site (since taken down), I was somewhat perplexed at how she viewed the situation in the Tyndale title as plagiarism. Driscoll clearly used the categories laid out by Jones, but seemed to be explaining the concepts in his own words and did mention Jones as the source of the ideas, at least in a footnote. I didn’t see plagiarism there. The examples she gave from Trial, however, were clear instances of plagiarism from IVP’s New Bible Dictionary. But that is not a book that went through Tyndale’s editorial and publishing process. As far as I know, it was self-published by Mars Hill (and also distributed through Logos Bible Software). It has nothing to do with Tyndale, and to hold Tyndale responsible for its content strikes me as extremely unfair.

    IVP’s response has to do with this non-Tyndale title; Tyndale’s response is only addressing the book that we published. Much of the conversation I’ve seen, especially in the articles you link to, don’t seem to recognize the difference and seem to imply that Tyndale and IVP are somehow in disagreement over this issue. In fact, the two publishers are responding to different things.

    I also know people in Tyndale’s publishing groups and the publicity team, and I can say that I would be shocked to learn that any effort was made to silence Janet Mefford. I know Tyndale and Salem have a working relationship, much like Tyndale has with other Christian media channels. I am not involved in those relationships and deals directly, so I have no particular insight there; but again, I know the people at Tyndale and don’t believe they would engage in strong-arm tactics to bury the truth.

    I understand the strong and vitriolic responses that Mark Driscoll elicits, but I really think Tyndale is getting dragged into the mud on this unfairly.

    Grace and peace.

    1. Keith – thanks for the clarification on the IVP/Tyndale bit.

      I do not believe the editing department messed up, as I understand somewhat the nature of editing and the responsibility of the author. I further do not believe Tyndale would strong arm another’s voice.

      I am still in strong disagreement, however, over the nature of Driscoll’s work lifted from other sources.

      Thank you for your kind and patient response.

      1. Perhaps I’m being obtuse, but can you explain to me precisely what you find objectionable in the Tyndale title, A Call to Resurgence? Where do you disagree with anything Tyndale specifically has done with regard to publishing Driscoll?

        I’m honestly asking these questions. If you can point to things we need to fix, I will address them as best I can.

        1. Keith,

          I am not speaking specifically to any publishing choice, expect that I believe (along with others of course) Driscoll creatively lifted from another source for some of this book.

          I have significant issues with Driscoll’s theology and presentation of the theology, as I am plainly stated, but the only issue with the publishing is the material. I mean, if publishers refused to publish authors I find objectionable, it’d just be me and John Wesley on the market! 😉

          Of course, I realize and accept that you will disagree with this.

  3. It takes guts to take on the establishment, ANY etablishment, especially if they have a big legal department.
    Cut & paste operations are so easy to do. Plagiarism is lying and thieving, and unchristian to say the least. This is a “tip of the iceberg” as was implied in a previous comment.
    Our whole American society is lately based on deceptions and frauds practiced by mean-spirited people backed by huge amounts of cash. The present day is too much akin to the time of Jesus. It’s the Christian agape against the Caesar coin. Kudos and God’s courage to you.

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