Question on Plagiarism

Charles writes Expository Thoughts with the following question. Everyone is welcome to respond in the comments.

A question about preaching sermons. Since plagiarism has come up from time to time. And the idea is to give credit for quotes, etc that you use in your sermons. How do you give credit to Greek Workbooks, Theological Dictionaries, Linguistic Workbooks. You can footnote those in your sermon notes, but how do you address the references to the people? I might use more than ten references in one sermons.



6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kevin McAteer on February 13, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I type my sermon notes for a number of reasons (fodder for another post, Paul!). In doing so, it is very easy for me to insert footnotes. However, I rarely, if ever, draw attention to these. I may say something like, “A.T. Robertson defines this word in this manner…” But I don’t think that a proclaimed sermon is the place for extensive referencing of page numbers, books, chapters, etc.

    After preaching the message, I go back through and revise my sermon notes. I then convert them to a .pdf file and upload them to the church’s website. That way, if someone missed something during my proclamation, they can go back and re-read if they so desire. As they read through the sermon, they can also see the footnotes that I have inserted but deliberately did not bring attention.

    A few random thoughts,

  2. Good thoughts Kevin,

    Your solution answers the documentation issue for those who desire such a thing. S. Lewis Johnson would do a similar thing and provide his congregation a full manuscript that was fully footnoted…of course he was S. Lewis Johnson!

    I also like your point that the sermon is “proclamation” which is a helpful reminder to our congregation that’s it’s not a lecture series.

    I think there needs to be balance in this area and I could see how one could err to either extreme. However, “speeches” are given in many segments of society (business, politics, education, etc.) and no one expects the speaker to document every thought. Preaching answers to a higher standard but not a wholly different one. We still speak within a context that people can understand and are familiar with (i.e., public spoken word).

    Also, if it’s the text we’re preaching then the majority of our thoughts should be evident in the text with any outside testimony only providing clarity or sharpness to a preaching point. Therefore quoting should probably be kept to a minimum and the congregant should come away with a profound sense of God and His Word.

  3. Posted by Rev. Dr. Peter L. Riquelme on February 14, 2007 at 3:56 am

    I have to admit that I struggle to place before G-d’s people a well exegetical/expositional sermon. Exactly, it’s a struggle. Reading someone else’s struggle is not authentic preaching or teaching. However, reading someone else’s sermon for insight into a particular text or doctrine is in fact commendable, no commanded by the best expositors in the world (Spurgeon, Stott, Macarther, etc…) Preparing a sermon is in actuality preparing a thesis. A thesis is basically a research paper. As a Pastor I need to research the text and context. That requires reading the the thoughts of others. Yes, there are no new ideas. The only being in this universe with original ideas is G-d. Humans work with concepts that are generated by general concepts. These general concepts are heard, read and experienced and eventually they are regurgitated. Now, when we share thoughts we usually dont offer a footnote in the middle of the conversation or communication of the idea. However, when we publish ideas in writing it usually is common academic courtesy to share where we obtain the concepts. Think about it! A sermon is merely the re-communication of the G-d’s revealed original ideas that were communicated through His Apostles. When we communicate G-d’s word dont we usually cite it. When we say “For G-d so loved the world that He….” don’t we end it with John 3:16. Hey isnt that citing an original work. Therefore, when we preach or teach it is common courtesy to cite where we obtained the original work. If a shepherd chooses to read someone elses original idea (that includes the scriptures) it is his responsibility to inform the audience where he recieved his concepts. Now, if the world holds academic professors and students to a standard why is the Church not upholding a higher standard? Steve Sjogren is simply upholding his own standard. A standard based upon his moral framework. What moral framework? It’s the moral framework of pragmatism. Hey, if it works it doesn’t matter if it was someone elses original idea, just rob your neighbors intellectual property. But, hey whos to say that we are to keep G-d’s moral commandment to respect our neighbors property. Enough, of my babbling. As I stated before as a Shepherd I am required to exhort, correct, and encourage G-d’s people. That requires sound doctrine. That requires communicating clearly the word of G-d. The process of exegetical examination. That requires work. That requires research. That requires citation. Why? It’s the socialy accepted academic norm, and its the biblical norm as well. To all of the shepherds in the world. Remember, yes there are no original ideas. Only G-d is the originator of ideas. Yes, its ok to read someone elses work. But, it is our moral responsibility to let our people know that there humble servant did obtain what he is communicating from various resources (bible, commentators, lexicons, concordances, dictionaries, sermons).

    Pastor Peter

  4. Interesting comments. Scott Hoezee at Calvin Theological Seminary said, “My off the top of my head hunch on a technical book like that – a book that informs the sermon’s scholarship – – is not the kind of work you need to cite as you go in a sermon.”

    The documentation of these books would be good in your personal footnote I would think.

    I liked the idea of a full manuscript that was fully footnoted for the website.

    I have never seen a footnote from any of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons? Wonder why?

    Just another thought. What is the definition of the term “orginial thought?” If our sermons are
    to be orginial in thought, what does that really mean?


  5. Posted by Kevin McAteer on February 15, 2007 at 2:34 am

    I heard something during Bible college that has stuck with me for years – there are probably not many original thoughts! Dare I have the audacity to think that I have come up with something that no one has ever thought of before?

    This is honestly why I footnote much of what I type in my footnotes. I am not so clever to pretend that I have all the wisdom and skill to examine a passage without consulting other sources. In no way does this undermine the incredible, awesome ministry of the Holy Spirit. He assists us in so many ways, and yet we oftentimes take credit for His work!

    After I have studied to the best of my ability and time restrictions, I begin typing my sermon notes. By this time in the process, I am “full” of information about the text. However, I have to assimilate it into a form that will be presentable to the local church. After I have typed as much as I can (normally 50-70% of the body of the sermon), I then go back through specific resources (commentaries, reference books, lexicons, etc.) and “fill in the blanks” with specific information. As I do that, I give credit where credit is due.

    As Randy said in a previous post on the value of using Hebrew (if my memory is correct), we can become too tied down to reading what other humans have written about a text instead of consulting the original sources. But when I use the wisdom that God has entrusted to others, I want to give credit.

  6. Kevin

    Thank you. You have clearly given a good explaination to my questions. THANK YOU FOR SHARING. Its refreshing.

    As a matter of fact Expositorythoughs preachers have been refreshing to read, and learn. You are never too old to learn how to better preach and learn God’s Word.


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