PLAGIARISM - does God care?

Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by Tom Roach, Apr 15, 2007.

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  1. Tom Roach

    Tom Roach Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi, this is the first time I am starting a thread on the PB. I apologize if I'm posting this in the wrong area but I took my best educated guess. I want to thank anyone who takes the time to read this.

    I have some important questions that I couldn't seem to get a clear answer on elsewhere. There are various forms of plagiarizing, and I realize it may be more of a sin to steal the work of others in one subject than in another. For example, if I took Matthew Henry's commentary on some book and added his words into the mix of my own commentary--that would be far worse than if I copied someone's term paper and submitted it as my own for a class. Or are both equally offensive to the Lord?

    My main questions are:
    1. Does God even care that we do it?
    2. Is plagiarism a petty sin?
    3. Does someone who plagiarizes tell us anything about that person or do we just give them the benefit of the doubt and let it go?
  2. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    The two examples you give are equivalently wrongful acts (presuming when you talk about using Matthew Henry's "words" in your commentary that you meant doing so without quotation and attribution). Each is a lie, and each is plagiarism. Any time that words of another are taken and presented to the world (read: anyone reading the words that you presented them) as one's own words, it's plagiarism - and it is, in my opinion, a clear violation of the 9th commandment. One who is plagiarizing is falsely saying that the words they write are his own - it's misrepresentation of something, which is the root of bearing false witness.

    In this regard, God cares, yes indeed; it isn't petty (which sins are 'petty'?); and if plagiarism is a common practice for someone, then it tells us the same thing as if the person is a chronic liar - which may be that they simply do not understand that it is sin, and should be taught otherwise. If, when taught that it is in fact a sin, and they continue, well, you can judge for yourself what that says about the person.

  3. etexas

    etexas Puritan Board Doctor

    I would say without trying to sound overly harsh, that it might be viewed as a theft. An intellectual theft of ideas. God cares about that sort of thing. Grace and Peace
  4. Tom Roach

    Tom Roach Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for your replies. I have confronted the person but they ignored me and excused what they did. I am not sure if they understand it is a sin but they did it again after I approached them about it.
  5. etexas

    etexas Puritan Board Doctor

    You did well. Pray for the person! Grace and Peace.
  6. Tom Roach

    Tom Roach Puritan Board Freshman

    I didn't do as well as I should have. It was a blog post and I first confronted them by making a comment to the post--listing the sources of where they got what they claimed to write on their own. I clearly violated Matthew 18:15 and following because I did not confront them privately first. I also could have been more mature and sent them a private message.

    How I picked up on it was that I read their blog entry and as I was reading I said to myself, "I've read this before!" Last year, I did a lot of research on exactly what the post was about, and I recognized pieces of the post from an article. I then looked up the article and there was part of the blog entry, word-for-word. I then googled once and found the other source they copied from. I was so annoyed I sinned and made it public. So, I was wrong in how I handled the situation. The day after I made the comment, I was reading Matthew and came across chapter 18. Coincidence? I think not.
    Grace be with you all.
  7. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Tom, I don't think you did anything wrong. His words were posted publicly, he was rebuked publicly. It may be a harsh lesson, but it should be learned. Plagarism in our day is a big deal. Even prominent law professors have been caught out. I'd like to see everyone take it seriously.
  8. Tom Roach

    Tom Roach Puritan Board Freshman

    Do you believe it is still plagiarism if one does this?:
    Takes a paragraph and chooses half of its content and slightly rewords and reorders the sentences so that it's difficult to trace.
    I believe that if one does this, it's semi-OK if it's summarization as long as the source is stated. But is it OK if say I took a Chuck Missler article and picked out the pieces I could put into my own article, then reordered Missler's words, and surrounded his statements with my own?
    Thanks again. I just want to understand how this could be seen as an OK thing to do. I've been told by some Christians that it's OK if they reword it, and it's not a big deal if they don't give credit to the source because it's only a blog post.
  9. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    I struggled with "re-wording" in school. The teachers would tell you to "re-word" the info you found in articles, etc. My problem was doing that well, especially if it was a subject I was not the least bit interested in. I did indeed "re-word" but that always seemed to be a cheap out to me.
  10. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    I believe it's still plagiarism. It's one I think student's stuggle with since they are often writing on ideas that are very new to them, and have trouble using thier own words. But the answer is this - if you can't put ideas into your own words - then quote the words and give a citation. Students are pushed to put things in their own words - when some things are said some much better by other people. So they take those words and rearrange them. It's still another persons words. If they want to avoid plagiarism and still put things in their own words, they need to take more time digesting the ideas and concepts so they understand them well fully enough to not copy the words other's wrote. This is difficult and takes time, but the whole reason teachers want students to do this.

    I suppose a compromise is to make sure you give a citation if the words you use are very close to the original authors. This means you are still giving credit where it is due. It may mean more writing, but it's worth the effort. One thing nice about blog posts is you can give a link to the origial artical. But a citation is still best policy since articles on the net are not static and links go bad. If you make sure you give a citation when you are using Missler's idea, then you will avoid plagiarism.
  11. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Yep. :up:
  12. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    Yet I know for a fact that many high school teachers still tell students to do that. I guess it's easier than teaching them to write.
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I think pelagianism is a very serious sin. Those that trust in their own righteousness for salvation are truly lost. In fact, even semi-Pelagianism may be damnable. I recommend you stay away from both!
  14. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor


    I've read that somewhere before!!
  15. Tom Roach

    Tom Roach Puritan Board Freshman

    Is pelagianism the same as plagiarism? :) Please correct me if I am wrong in saying they are very different. On a side note, I think stealing and bearing false witness could be rooted in pelagianistic beliefs, which I understand to be humanistic. Am I correct in stating that?
    Thank you for your replies.
  16. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    You're right! However, the topic is plagiarism.:D
  17. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    No. The former is a theological heresy; the latter is what you call it when someone writes a term paper about the former and steals someone else's words about the subject and puts them in his paper without attribution.
  18. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Excellent post, dude!*

    *dude = California surfer expression
  19. Tom Roach

    Tom Roach Puritan Board Freshman

    OK, I was just checking. I think SemperFideles made a mistake and misread my post title as "pelagianism PELAGIANISM - does God care?" without reading the post ;) It's OK, SemperFideles! But I do want to thank you for bringing my attention to pelagianism, because I just learned that it is the same thing as arminianism, which I am going to write about in a paper on for school this week (the paper is on the Will of God in human relationships, using modern-day Jewish beliefs and modern-day Christian beliefs).

    btw I agree pelagianism is a heresy :handshake:
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Where is that leg-pulling smiley when you need one?!

    I agree with those who simply state that re-arranging words that others use is plagiarism. A few years ago, it was discovered that a fairly famous author had lifted merely a few poetic lines about an air battle for one of his books. He lost a ton of credibility.

    For all the wickedness now in society, taking others' thoughts and representing them as your own is universally condemned.
  21. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Wow, I found some really good examples of plagiarism in this article:

    Some of you might have known about Martin Luther King but that was news to me about his doctoral dissertation and his(?) famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
  22. satz

    satz Puritan Board Senior

    Just to stir the pot a little...

    I agree with everyone's condemnation of plagiarism thus far.

    I am wondering if there might be a slight difference to be made when it comes to christians works, and especially to writing about the bible. Can't any correct exposition of a particular verse or correct biblical analysis of a particular issue be rightfully regarded as God's truth, and hence not for men to 'copyright'? Don't get me wrong, using the exact words or illustrations another person did and passing it off as your own is still plagiarism, but if say Matthew Henry expounds the truth of the word in one of his writings, and you simply use that knowledge of truth he reveals to you, can it really be considered plagiarism even if you never attribute it back to him?

    Any thoughts?
  23. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    I would like to add that self-plagiarism is a sin also. An example of self-plagiarism would be to write a paper for one class and then turn in that same paper for another class.
  24. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    It's not always clear. If you are simply reading Matthew Henry and the writing his ideas in your own words, it's still plagiarism if you don't give him a citation; you are taking someone else's thoughts and passing them off as your own, and you might not have had that idea if not for reading Henry. However, if Henry's thoughts are the same as yours on the subject prior to reading him, then you might be safe.

    So, if the the ideas you are writing about are new to you, even if you fully agree with them, then you should give a citation of the source. Besides, in doing so, you are probably pointing people to a resource that is superior than yourself.

    Now, if you are writing about something and you have looked at many resources, and have a solid background in the subject, and have worked out these ideas for yourself, and are satisfied that you can present them and explain them - then you can freely write about them without giving a citation. But it's still a good idea to let people know some of the places you learned about these things. I think a lot depends on how new the idea is to you. If this is a recent discovery, then give a citation. If this is something you've understood for a long time, and your completely understand, then there's no harm in presenting the idea as your's. It is your's even if it is not original to you.

    There's no difference if you are talking about Christian works. If the idea is not yours, then don't pretend it is.

    Another thought - it depends on the idea itself also. If the idea is generally known and accepted, then no citation is required. If the idea is something associated to an individual or two, and is not generally known (or new to you) or generally accepted, then give a citation.

    When in doubt, give a citation.
  25. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Context is a big consideration. If I casually write a note to a friend with a quote from Matthew Henry, but I forgot it was from him, it is not a big deal. But if I post an article or submit a paper even summarizing his thoughts, I should give attribution.

    Rewording someone else's writing (or even your own) is plagarism, pure and simple. If you try that in a professional or graduate program and get caught, you will almost certainly be expelled. I had a classmate in law school who was expelled in the last semester of his third year for submitting a reworked undergrad paper for some minor assignment. It was his own paper, but the professor had happened to read it before when he was teaching an undergraduate class. The classmate was blacklisted for dishonesty and not allowed to graduate. He therefore could not even apply to take the bar exam. Almost three years of law school down the tubes.

    The best approach is simply to note attribution. It isn't that hard. Most scholars and professional writers know very well that an "original" thought is rare. Their job primarily is to synthesize.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the standards for plagarism have changed over time. Back when only perhaps 50 people in the world were familiar with Plato, one did not have to attribute quotes because those in the know already knew were the quotes came from. Same with music. Bach borrowed heavily from other composers, but everyone who knew music recognized where the themes came from.

    Nowadays, there is so much out there than there is no longer a closed knowledge base. That is why attribution is the rule. It points people to other streams of work that they may never have heard about.
  26. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I meant to address this question in my previous post but drifted off.

    The simple approach would be something along the lines of, "I've read Matthew Henry and he has influenced me heavily." You might even add that you can't remember where he left off and where you started, but at least people will then think, "hey, I guess I should read Matthew Henry", which is the whole point of attribution.
  27. JonathanHunt

    JonathanHunt Puritan Board Senior

    When I preach, and there is a particular phrase or expression that I feel is beneficial to the congregation, I credit the author. If I am just using some general ideas, well, it is hard to credit the entire reformed tradition!!

  28. puritan lad

    puritan lad Puritan Board Freshman

    This is so easy to do, especially on the blogosphere when you forget to add footnotes. (I've done this myself, and now the post is too old to change).

    Also, we are all influenced by someone, and it is very easy to quote someone else's thoughts as your own, actually thinking they are your own.
  29. Tom Roach

    Tom Roach Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you everyone for your responses! :)
    This morning I in my Biblical Ethics class, the professor coincidentally brought up how we are not to steal another's work or ideas and he mentioned Proverbs 22:22-23, which states "Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them."
    Yes, I realize this Proverb is talking about poverty-stricken people being targeted and taken advantage of, and God will avenge those who do so to them. However, when people steal intellectual work (writing, art work, jokes, sermons, etc.) knowing exactly whose they are, but using them as their own, they are victimizing the owner of that work. There have been plenty of small-time writers, comedians, artists, musicians, who have had their work outright stolen from them, and the thief not only gets credit but achieves success! We are to give credit in order to redeem the name of whose it is. When we quote Jesus Christ, we are redeeming His name. Imagine finding a lesser-known statement by Christ and telling it to someone unfamiliar with the Bible, and saying "yeah, I came up with that."
    Matthew Henry on Proverbs 22:22-23:
    "He that robs the poor will be found in the end a murderer of himself."
  30. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Yeah, that business about plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation came up probably about 10 years ago now. There were calls to have his Ph.D revoked but, in the end, the school put a note regarding the plagiarism in King's permanent school record. Don't know about the "I Have a Dream" speech.
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