Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why Mark Driscoll Probably Didn’t Plagiarize Peter Jones

fs17-plagiarism-cb0fbecThere’s a story going around about Mark Driscoll being accused of plagiarism in a couple of his books.  The evidence that he copied directly from Carson’s New Bible Commentary are pretty damning, since they’re word-for-word, but I’m going to do something utterly unprecedented here and defend him against the charge that he plagiarized from Peter Jones.

The similarities between their books are indeed striking.  I’ll reprint some highlights from Janet Mefferd’s evidence (all italics and grammatical oddities are in the originals).  Here, from Jones’ Pagan Lies, Gospel Truth: Can You Tell the Difference?

Monists believe the distinctions between Christianity and paganism are short-sighted, mean-spirited and intolerant.  Only a deep communion between all forms of spirituality–Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, witchcraft, nature worship, worship of the body as a self-healing, godlike organism–can bring the world together and promote a common spirituality for the good of all.

And from Driscoll’s A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?

There is no distinction between religions.  One-ism usually results in a vague pagan spirituality.  As a result, a Christianity that makes distinctions (such as those listed above) is considered a fundamental threat to the entire worldview of one-ism.

More Jones:

On the monistic circle, all points are relative.  If you realize that your own evil is not really evil, you will know freedom. … Many people classified as sinful, (such as pro-abortionists and homosexuals) can find a guilt-free place in society.  The spiritual and mystical experience of monism frees you from a guilty conscience because your own evil is good. …

Measuring behavior against God’s objective standards is too constraining.  We will have a better chance at peace if we make up our own, less rigid standards.  As long as everyone is happy about an action, it can’t be wrong.

More Driscoll:

There is no distinction between good and evil.  All we have are perspectives, opinions, and culturally embedded subjective values.  There’s no such thing as timeless moral truths that apply to all peoples, times, and places.  We’re left with shifting situational ethics, building a moral house on sand.

One last bit of Jones:

Seeing such injustices as the mistreatment of women throughout the world, and violence done to homosexuals, monists propose two solutions:

  1. eliminate our definition of humans as male or female, which is really a way of maintaining old-fashioned patriarchy, and

  2. tolerate all sexual choices, emphasizing androgyny (being both male and female) as the ideal expression of of monistic spirituality.

And Driscoll:

There is no distinction between men and women.  One-ism replaces God-given gender with culturally created gender: transgenderism, bisexuality, homosexuality, and the like.

Have a look at Merrell’s original document (PDF) for some more pairings, such as creator/creation and man/animal.

At this point, if you’re not familiar with Driscoll and New Reformed thought, you’ve probably gotten distracted and are mostly wondering: Who are these monist/one-ist people?  They seem to have massively specific beliefs that don’t sound much like anyone’s real-life beliefs.  Now, if you happen to “worship of the body as a self-healing, godlike organism,” go for it, but you’re probably not part of a large, well-defined movement that also follows all the other beliefs that Jones and Driscoll list.  And you probably don’t call yourself a “monist.”

In fact, it’s questionable whether anyone identifies as a “monist.”  It’s a real term, but it comes from philosophy, and it’s rarely used outside academia.  Again, should you happen to call yourself a monist, more power to you, but on any list of words people use to describe their belief system, it’s got to fall pretty low.  And “one-ism” is, of course, a made-up Anglicization of “monism.”

So Jones and Driscoll have taken the same philosophical term and created very similar belief systems, both revolving around a fundamental denial of the differences between anything, to apply the term to.  They couldn’t have separately reached this conclusion through observation of the outside world, since few or no people both believe precisely what they say and call themselves “monists.”  So the natural conclusion would be that Driscoll got his ideas from Jones.

I think this natural conclusion fundamentally underestimates how insular the Reformed corner of evangelicalism can be.  The New Reformed movement rests on a narrative that their branch of dualistic Christianity stands opposed to a big, unified, amoral Other Belief System that just about everyone else subscribes to.  Over time, this narrative has become more detailed.  The Other Belief System has gained both a name and a long list of attributes specific enough to look authoritative, yet general enough to be creatively applicable to almost anyone (environmentalists, trans* people, Hindus, anyone who believes in evolution, etc).

So while the idea of a dominant cultural ideal that denies all differences might seem unusual to you, to Driscoll, Jones, et al, saying “monism teaches that man is God” is as pedestrian as saying “math teaches that 2+2=4.”  It’s not based on the real world, but it’s based on their idea of the real world, as filtered unconsciously through dozens of sermons, seminars, books, and private conversations with other members of the same echo chamber, who themselves got their ideas from all the same sources.

I don’t think Driscoll did consciously plagiarize from Jones.  He just wrote down what he really, honestly thinks the real world is like.  Jones did the same.  Given the nature of the ideas, it’s reasonably probable that they would choose to organize their thoughts similarly and express them in similar words.  Theirs is just a small world filled with small minds and an extremely limited number of ideas.

The real problem here isn’t that Driscoll might have copied from Jones.  The real problem is that he thinks he’s describing reality.

There are many things in this story to get distracted by, from “Jones needs his comma key privileges revoked” to “scanned pages from a print book pasted into a Word document are Mefferd’s idea of evidence?”

Comic from Filly Sunnies.



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This Week in Cats

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update about my assorted furballs.  The tiny-kitten days are over, but I still have a variety of adolescents and young adults.  All would make great pets and all are looking for permanent homes in the Los Angeles area.  Click to enlarge all the images.

IMG_7509Sweet Pea

All the kittens were adopted long ago, but I still have my mommy cat, Sweet Pea.  She is only 1 1/2 years old.  She’s incredibly outgoing–when we have a visitor, she’s always at the door to say hi.  Small children and babies have met her and she is very patient and gentle with them.  IMG_7349She also gets along great with other cats.  Duke thinks she’s his mommy!  The only thing she doesn’t like is dogs.  She’s our most playful kitty at the moment, but she also loves cuddling.  She would be a great cat for a family with children as long as they don’t have a dog.


Our newest arrival is this awesome American bobtail about 2 years old.  She is a complete ham who loves being the center of attention.  When she wants a tummy rub, she’ll make sure she gets one!  She loves chasing the laser pointer.  It’s hilarious to watch because her feet are so fuzzy that she is always skidding on our IMG_7231wood floors.  Her naturally bobbed tail is adorable, popping up over her back when she’s happy and waggling when she’s annoyed.  She is friendly with people, including children, but doesn’t get along with other cats.  She would be an ideal only cat.


Duke was part of a family of feral kittens who were trapped at a young age, but never properly socialized.  They spent their first five months shut up in an atrium, exposed to nobody except the man who fed them.  As a result, at 8 months old, he’s very frightened of strangers.  However, once he warms up to you, he’s a calm, well-behaved kitty with no bad habits.  IMG_7275He loves snuggling on the bed with us or with his adopted mommy, Sweet Pea.  He would be a great cat for someone looking for a quiet pet who won’t be any trouble, but he would also get along in a household with other pets.  His siblings, Marquis and Princess, are with other fosters and are also looking for permanent homes.


Our youngest kitty is 6-month-old Tawny.  She is a formal feral who got ear tipped before she was won over by the easy indoor life.  She is still shy and easily startled, especially around people she doesn’t know, but when she feels safe, she will cuddle and demand attention.  I’m constantly feeling her little wet nose poking into my hand.  Doad is very attached to her.  She would do best in a quiet home.

IMG_7445Duke and Tawny are having trouble finding homes because they are shy and so people who see them at adoption events don’t get to experience their real personalities.  Since we’re a no-kill rescue, they will stay with me for as long as it takes to find them all permanent homes, but the time they spend here is time I can’t spend helping any of the other thousands of homeless cats in Los Angeles.

If you are interested in adopting any of these cats, or if you know someone who is, please leave a comment.  Please share this post to help them find permanent homes.

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Why Do People Buy New Cars?

1976 Triumph TR6: $12,700

1976 Triumph TR6: $12,700

Doad has been tossing around the question of whether we need a second car, so I not-too-seriously suggested we get a Triumph TR6.  Loads of TR6s were sold in the United States, so they’re easy to find.  A good-quality one runs from about $10,000 to $25,000–similar to the cheapest new car you can find–and you’re getting a guaranteed head-turner with an actual engine under the hood.


1963 Mg Midget: $10,250

When I was younger I’d labored under the impression that classic cars were inherently expensive, so to me, the possibility of getting a trim little British convertible is hard to pass up.  You boring folks are already blathering about things like “reliability” and “safety” and “working brakes,” and Doad brought those things up too.  If airbags are important to you, then yes, 40-year-old roadsters are not for you.

2002 BMW Z3: $6500

2002 BMW Z3: $6,500

But maybe a 10- to 15-year-old car might be more your speed.  Yes, this is the car-age ghetto, too old to pass as new or even newish but too young to be classic, but that means you can finally snag those mid-range luxury cars that you always wanted but couldn’t afford.  My high-school object of lust, the BMW Z3, is now less than $10,000, and that’s a car James Bond drove.


2002 Mercedes Benz S600: $7,600

If my choices are looking a little impractical and you’re about to suggest that it might be nice to fit your husband and a bag of groceries in the car at the same time, you could get a nice new Corolla…or you could get a 10-year-old Benz or Lexus for half the price and then you’ll be prepared not only to drive your kids to school, but also to escort foreign dignitaries, should the need arise.

2004 Toyota Prius: $5825

2004 Toyota Prius: $5,825

Since these were high-end cars when they came out, they’re generally equipped with the features that were luxuries then but are common now: Airbags, sat nav, and so on.  Plus the features that were luxuries then and are still luxuries now.  Hybrids aren’t new anymore, either; for those keen to get 50 mpg, a reliable second-gen Prius is easily within our price range.  The only important technology that you’ll miss out on are the all-electrics.

Which raises, to me, a truly baffling question: Why do people buy new cars?

1969 Ford Mustang Hardtop: $14,300

1969 Ford Mustang Hardtop: $14,300

What motivates people to take out hefty loans on new cars when they could buy outright far nicer cars from a decade ago?  What inspires them to spend thousands of dollars extra on this year’s model when the exact same car costs a third less if it’s a couple of years old?  How do people forget that the classy car they once couldn’t afford is still classy–and now affordable?  Why did anyone ever buy a new Chevy Aveo as opposed to, I don’t know, absolutely anything else?

Maybe, when someone driving that new Corolla pulls up beside me at a light and compliments me on my Triumph, I’ll ask.

All images from Wikimedia Commons.  All car values are average value from NADA Guides.

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