Recently Eerdmans Publishing Company discovered that a commentary on Ephesians and another commentary on Philippians by the same author contained a considerable amount of material that was not written by the author. [1] The trouble was not that author made use of the work of other authors to make his book better. Rather, the problem is that he didn’t properly acknowledge his sources and give credit where credit was due. This is known as plagiarism. Plagiarism happens in high schools and colleges across this country. It turns up in research papers, books, magazine articles and online materials. Sometimes this happens accidentally because someone is tired or pressed for time and doesn’t take the time to make sure that quotations from another authors’ work are accurately and properly acknowledged. Other times people plagiarize deliberately. They steal material written by others, perhaps so that they can appear more intelligent and sophisticated, or perhaps to save themselves from doing the hard work it takes to do it oneself.

Regardless of the motive plagiarism is wrong. The trouble with plagiarism is that it’s theft and it’s condemned by the 8th commandment. “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). Plagiarism is also condemned by the 9th commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). Purposely presenting someone else’s materials as your own is deception. “Lie not to one another, seeing ye have put off the old man and his deeds” (Col. 3:9). Authors who deliberately  (or inadvertently) plagiarize someone else’s work can lose their jobs, lucrative book contracts, or professorships at colleges and universities. As for students, you can get kicked out of college for doing this. God has given us minds to write books, articles, and blog posts, and to deliver speeches. Making use of the work of others is not wrong and can be very profitable. However, Christian honesty demands that the sources we use in our work always be acknowledged. When we borrow from the work of others, we must properly give credit where credit is due. Where such acknowledgement is inadvertently omitted, it should be corrected immediately. This is a good reminder. Those of us who are students must be honest and must not engage in this kind dishonest intellectual theft. Even when we are in a pinch and deadlines are pressing down on us, sinfully stealing others work is never the solution. Those who intentionally present another’s work as their own need to repent of this sin and seek forgiveness. May God help us be honest Christian witnesses in all our research and school work!

Kevin Rau


Samples from Seminary-Seeking Excellence

Tomorrow is Sunday. Presumably, each one of us will wake up at an appropriate time, get ready for the day, and go to church. After church many of us will spend time with family eating a nice meal. Later in the day, we will (hopefully) attend church for a second service. It is good that we spend a solid portion of our day going to church and worshiping God. But that still leaves large chunks of time during which we have freedom as to what we do. In this post I would like to encourage you to seek excellence tomorrow as you decide how to spend the “free” parts of the day. Now what do I mean by “seek excellence?”

This past January the students at the PR seminary took a course on Christian ethics. In this class, the professor set forth various guidelines for facing difficult questions about Christian conduct and making moral decisions in a complex world. In the class, we learned the central place of God’s Law, especially the Ten Commandments, as the standard for deciding between right and wrong, good and evil. However, we also noted that there are many areas of life that Scripture does not address with explicit commands or specific instruction. In such areas, the Christian has a level of freedom to choose what course of action to follow.

With regards to Sundays, matters such as what time we wake up or how we spend our afternoon fall under this category of freedom. Importantly, in such areas of freedom, as our professor taught us, the Christian is not satisfied with what is merely allowable. Instead, the professor directed us to Philippians 1:9-10, where Paul prays that Christians might seek the things that are “excellent.” How does this relate to Sunday activities? As Christians we do not view all the possible ways to spend our time as equal, as though one is no better than the other. Rather, on the basis of Philippians 1:9-10, the Christian sorts out from all the legitimate possibilities and chooses the things that are best! Thus, as Christians who stand before Jesus Christ, we should regularly ask ourselves in such matters: “Am I aiming high enough?” So, tomorrow, don’t settle for what is permitted. Instead, seek excellence!

Matt Kortus