You don’t have to belong to the Southern Baptist Convention to have heard that its newly elected president, Ed Litton, preached a sermon almost word for word that outgoing SBC president J.D, Greear had previously preached. A simple Google search will verify this fact. Justin Peters put out a video showing both sermons, which you can view here. And this scandal most assuredly needs much discussion, especially because (in the words of the more liberal element of the SBC) the world is watching.
Although the concept of the watching world was used at the SBC meeting in June primarily to excuse a refusal to deal with Critical Race Theory directly, I believe more conservative Christians should turn it around. The world is indeed watching, and it sees a new SBC president who passed off another pastor’s sermon as his own. My educated guess is that the world will see this situation as evidence of Christian hypocrisy. But others have already written about that aspect of Litton’s actions, so I feel no need to join that echo chamber.
Instead, I want to apply this situation to Christian bloggers. I’d already been thinking about writing an article on the matter, and a recent email Justin Peters sent to me and a few others confirmed to me that such an article should be written.
Bloggers, my sisters, aren’t pastors. But because we supplement the ministry of pastors, we must hold ourselves to the moral and ethical standards that God expects of pastors, elders and teachers. James 3:1 states that teachers will incur a stricter judgment. Writing a Christian blog, regardless of how small a readership one has, demands moral integrity.
Let’s start with the proverbial elephant in the room: plagiarism. I have never personally been tempted to copy and paste from other blogs or online articles without citing their original authors, but I saw a post once that pretty much did so. The citations were so obscure that I honestly believed the writer had produced the work herself. She sincerely wanted to warn women against a popular false teacher, but the bulk of her article quoted other bloggers so extensively that it all appeared to be her writing.
Again, this blogger did cite her sources. Plagiarism certainly wasn’t her intention, so I don’t want to imply that she deliberately took material from other people and passed it off as her own. But neither was she careful in her presentation of that material. Consequently, she unintentionally plagiarized several bloggers without adding anything of her own to the conversation. And so she ended up inadvertently stealing their intellectual property.
Now, I admire several Christian bloggers and teachers, beginning with the two men who pastor my church. Many of these bloggers and teachers influence my theology, and their influence has been wonderful. Not surprisingly, my blog is very much a product of the Scriptures they have taught me as well as their perspectives on those Scriptures. So yeah, a lot of what I write comes out of what I’ve learned from each of them. Any honest writer will admit similar experiences.
However, no honest writer will take a teaching verbatim and misrepresent it as something they’ve composed — at least not deliberately. Such behavior breaks God’s command against stealing (Exodus 20:15). Therefore, the Lord calls Christian bloggers to carefully cite all our sources and to contribute our own input into the articles we write.
In addition to avoiding plagiarism, Christian bloggers also bear a responsibility to live in ways that correspond to the Gospel we proclaim (Romans 2:17-24). When we urge readers to obey God’s Word, we must first make sure that we also obey it. Yes, we will fall into sin, and those falls will most likely happen on a daily basis. But are we confessing our sins with a resolve to repent? Or are we playing footsie with them, thinking that no one will ever know?
Ed Litton accepted the presidency of the SBC under the assumption that no one would know that he plagiarized that sermon. Often, the Lord faithfully exposes the sins of visible Christian figures in order to warn the rest of His people not to live in hypocrisy. From the president of the SBC down to the most obscure Christian blogger, He calls His people to holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Every Christian should engage regularly in self-examination, actually. Each of us represents the Lord Jesus Christ, and the world definitely watches us to see whether or not our lives match our profession. So when we brazenly walk in habitual and unrepentant sin, they use our hypocrisy as an excuse to reject the Gospel. All of us — and bloggers in particular — must learn from Ed Litton that God demands integrity.Follow my blog with Bloglovin