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Pastors and Plagiarism—Sermon Prep or Sermon Theft?

The Christian Worldview / David Wheaton
The Truth Network Radio
July 9, 2021 8:00 pm

Pastors and Plagiarism—Sermon Prep or Sermon Theft?

The Christian Worldview / David Wheaton

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July 9, 2021 8:00 pm

GUEST: JUSTIN PETERS, founder and preacher, Justin Peters Ministries

Just days after our recent program on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting, which in part focused on the election of new president, pastor Ed Litton, and where he stands on various issues, it was revealed that Litton had for many years been plagiarizing sermons nearly word for word from immediate past SBC president, pastor JD Greear, and that Litton’s church had removed over 140 sermons from their website.

The story is receiving widespread coverage, even in mainstream outlets such as the New York Times.

The dictionary definition of plagiarism is "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.” Biblically speaking, plagiarism is stealing and is an egregious sin, particularly for a pastor and preacher of God’s word. While Greear says he gave Litton permission to use his content, Litton never publicly credited Greear. That is blatant plagiarism.

So far, Ed Litton has not resigned, and based on a recent interview, doesn’t seem inclined to do so. More troubling, there has not been a universal call from the SBC or Evangelical leaders for him to step down.

Justin Peters, evangelist and preacher of Justin Peters Ministries, joins us this weekend to discuss what is being called “Sermongate”. For if Christian leaders are now able to skirt past plagiarism, where does that leave the reputation and influence of the body of Christ?

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Pastors and Plagiarism, Sermon Prep or Sermon Theft. That is the topic we'll discuss today right here on the Christian Worldview Radio Program where the mission is to sharpen the biblical worldview of Christians and to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The Christian Worldview is a nonprofit ministry. Thank you to our listeners for your encouragement and support and also to our national sponsor Samaritan Ministries who provide a biblical solution to healthcare. You can find out more about the Christian Worldview and Samaritan Ministries at our website Now just days after our recent program on the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, which in part focused on the election of new president pastor Ed Lytton and where he stands on various issues, it was revealed that Lytton had for many years been plagiarizing sermons nearly word for word from immediate past SBC president pastor JD Greer and that Lytton's church had removed over 140 sermons from their website.

This story is receiving widespread coverage even in mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times. Now the dictionary definition of plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own. Biblically speaking plagiarism is stealing and is an egregious sin particularly for a pastor and preacher of God's Word. While JD Greer says he gave Ed Lytton permission to use his content, Lytton never publicly credited Greer.

That is blatant plagiarism. So far Ed Lytton has not resigned and based on a recent interview doesn't seem inclined to do so. More troubling, there has not been a universal call from the SBC or evangelical leaders for him to step down. Our guest today in the program is Justin Peters. He's an evangelist, preacher, and founder of Justin Peters Ministries. He joins us this weekend to discuss what is being called sermon gate for if Christian leaders are now able to skirt past plagiarism, where does that leave their reputation and influence of the body of Christ? Now before we get to the interview with Justin, I want to play a soundbite of what this plagiarism sounds like from Ed Lytton. You're going to hear a side-by-side comparison of JD Greer giving a sermon on Romans chapter 8 and then you'll hear that Ed Lytton borrowed the content directly from JD Greer's sermon. You're not going to have trouble identifying the plagiarism and there are lots of videos like this online.

This is just one example of what has been taking place. The first voice you'll hear is pastor JD Greer and then pastor Ed Lytton. All right, Romans chapter 8, which many people regard to be the greatest chapter in the Bible. As a matter of fact, the title of this morning's message is the greatest chapter in the Bible. John Piper says the greatest book in the world is the Bible. The greatest letter in that book is the book of Romans. The greatest chapter in that letter is Romans chapter 8 and I would add the greatest verse in chapter 8 is verse 1. As a matter of fact, I love what John Piper said.

He said the Bible is the greatest book, Romans is the greatest letter, chapter 8 of Romans is the greatest chapter, and chapter 8 verse 1 is the greatest verse. Let me ask you a simple logical question. When Jesus died on the cross, how many of your sins had you committed yet?

Let me just ask you a question, just on a practical, logical note. How many sins did you commit when Jesus died on the cross? Jesus' death wiped out not only the presence of existing condemnation, he wiped out the possibility of future condemnation. And that means there is literally nothing that you could do right now that would make God love and accept you any more than he does and nothing you could do that would make him love you any less. Jesus wiped out the present, the past, and the future condemnation that my sin brought upon me.

Nothing you do will ever make God love you more and nothing you do will ever make God love you less. You need to let that sink in for a minute because when you do that will free you from the performance trap. The Holy Spirit relieves us by the grace of God from a performance trap. That then frees me from the pretending trap.

The second thing is the Holy Spirit not only delivers from a performance trap, he delivers us from a pretending trap. Joby Martin, a friend of mine, describes this kind of religious life like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. If you've ever tried to do that, you know, you gotta really concentrate because the beach ball is always trying to wriggle out and pop up. It's like the guy standing in a pool on a beach ball.

He doesn't want it to hit the surface, he doesn't want it to come up, he's acting like it's not there, but it takes all kinds of concentration, all kinds of work, and it's always trying to make itself to the surface. Let's read verse 1, excuse me, therefore, therefore, he says, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Has there ever been a more powerful therefore in the entire history of the English language?

Let's just read it again. There is therefore now. Has there ever been a greater therefore in the Bible? How do I know that there is no condemnation for me? It is because I see the Spirit of God at work in me. You see, how can I know that I'm no longer under any kind of condemnation?

The Spirit of God lives in you. Now this is textbook plagiarism. And by the way, it's not just one sermon, this goes on and on and on over the course of many years, and the church has removed 140 sermons. So this is not just a one-off thing with Pastor Ed Litton and plagiarism. And maybe this next soundbite explains how he got to this point of plagiarism when he admits that he used to lie about his sermon prep. To be very honest, I used to lie, I used to tell people, you know, 24, 24 hours of sermon. If you're, you can, you can spend too much time.

You're dorking around doing something else with your head, but, but I actual, and by the way, let me say this too. When you're younger, it's going to take longer, right? The older you get, and it's not that you're pulling up old stuff, but there is a resource of material, and there's connectivity there that will come.

But I would say eight to 10 hours average. That's exegetical work, getting in the dirt. Some of it is organizing the thought. Keep in mind who you just heard there, Pastor Ed Litton, saying that he used to lie about his sermon prep time, is now the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Well, let's bring Justin Peters on the program now. He is a preacher, an evangelist, and the founder of Justin Peters Ministries, and he is going to add some biblical insight to what's being called sermon gate. Justin, thank you for coming back on the Christian worldview radio program. My first question is, before we get into some of the soundbites today, because you've obviously heard the side-by-side comparison that we played earlier in the program with the new SBCC president, Ed Litton, basically almost verbatim preaching, according to the immediate past president J.D. Greer's sermons, on a scale of one to 10, Justin, how surprised were you that the newly elected president of the SBCC, Ed Litton, was found only days into his term to have plagiarized, and dating back many years, maybe 2013, 2015, over 100 sermons that we know about at this point from the immediate past president J.D.

Greer, without giving public attribution to where he got his content. Not only that, but the church where Litton Pastors in Alabama has removed 140 sermons at least from their website. On a scale of one to 10, how surprised were you that this came out?

David, good to be back with you, brother. I would have to say, on a scale of one to 10, I would probably be nine to 10 on surprised that it came out, but nowhere near that high on the scale, surprised that he does it. If the question is, how surprised are you that he does it, it'd probably be about a two or two or three, maybe. I say that because plagiarism in the SBCC, in the evangelical world at large, is rampant. Ed Litton is taking all of the scrutiny right now, but there's a part of me that in a weird sort of way almost feels a little bit badly for him because he's not the only one doing it. In fact, you can go right now to James Merritt's website, I think it's, don't have it in front of me, but Ed Young Jr.'s website, Rick Warren's website, and all three of these, and these are just the ones that I know of off the top of my head, they sell sermons, complete sermons, manuscripts, outlines, PowerPoint presentations, slides, everything, the whole nine yards for download. For X number of dollars, you can download a sermon, you can download an entire series of sermons. This is like a cottage industry in the SBCC, so I'm not at all surprised that he's done it.

I am surprised that it's come out and it's actually turned into an issue. Dr. Justin Marchegiani Justin Peters with us today on the Christian World View Radio Program. He's the founder and evangelist preacher at Justin Peters Ministries.

You can find out more at Before we get to some of the soundbites of Ed Litton's interview, talking about this scandal, what is the significance, Justin, do you think, of the new president, Ed Litton? The sermons were taken from the immediate past president, JD Greer. That seems unbelievably ironic that they were taken from him, the immediate past president.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani Yes, indeed, very ironic, you almost can't make this stuff up, it almost seems like a Babylon bee kind of a thing, but it's real. The plagiarism is horrific enough, David, in fact, while I'm thinking about it, JD Greer said he gave Ed Litton permission to use his sermons, well, even if that's true, and I'm assuming that it is, it's still plagiarism because Ed Litton took that material and he got up and looked his entire congregation in the eye and portrayed that information, the sermons that he was presenting, portrayed it as his own material and it wasn't his own at all. So, I mean, he's lying to his congregation, he's lying to God and lying to his people and it is hard for me to wrap my mind around what it would take for a pastor to get up and look his congregation in the eye, knowing full well that he is bald face lying to them.

That is just unbelievable to me and troubling on so many levels. And then there's the theology of the sermons in and of itself, I don't know if we'll have time to get to that or not, maybe we can if we do, but just the theology that is in the plagiarized sermon is absolutely horrific. As I mentioned earlier, Ed Litton, Pastor Ed Litton, who pastors at, he's a senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama. He did an interview very recently, just days ago, with a podcast called SBC This Week or Southern Baptist Convention This Week. I'd like to play a few sound bites from this particular interview he does where he's asked about this plagiarism and get your comment on these sound bites and his response and what they say about the current worldview of those in evangelical leadership.

Here's the first one where he's asked about his own statement regarding this plagiarism. You know, a lot of things going on in the SBC, one of the big ones revolves around a statement that you made last week after a video popped up showing some similarities of a sermon that you'd preached with that of J.D. Greer, and you released a statement last weekend, and I'm going to read a part of the statement and we'll jump into the interview right out of that. Like thousands of other Southern Baptist pastors, I labor every week preparing to stand in front of the congregation God has called me to serve. In preparation for our series on Romans, I use several resources to help me think through how to structure the series and how best to communicate the profound truths we encounter in these passages. Now, one of those resources you used obviously was a sermon series from 2019 by J.D.

Greer. So I know a lot of people have read your statement and still a lot of questions out there. So should we just start this good, let you address that right out the gate.

Yeah, no, I appreciate the opportunity. I stand by the statement. It was a part of our study and it wasn't just one sermon. I mean, you can hear illustrations and different statements throughout several of those sermons.

And I had J.D. 's permission, but encouragement. The other thing we did is we were trying to outline the book of Romans, which is a challenge. We finally looked at it and looked at what they covered and felt like it was sufficient. And we also received permission to use the passages from week to week.

And so that makes it look even more similar. But what I'm stating is that we did our Greek work, we did our commentary work. And then usually I'll have someone I listen to and I exercise when I'm doing something traveling to help reinforce and give me thoughts and creative ideas.

And there's a lot of reasons we do this. In part, I do it to stay fresh, listen to new voices. Sometimes I listen to older voices, but to help me communicate to my people the essence of what the word of God is saying. I guess what you're kind of saying, in essence, is that the sermons from J.D. would just like another commentary for you in the preparation, that kind of thing. A lot of them I didn't really even listen to. I would go straight to his written out notes that he provides. And so, yes, very much like a commentary in that sense.

And you know what you know as well. When you listen to R.C. Hughes or when you read R.C.

Hughes' commentaries and you listen to a sermon like on Gospel Coalition, you'll find that the commentaries are going right out of that sermon work, which is understandable. The Christian Worldview with David Wheaton returns in just a moment. At Samaritan Ministries, our members are passionate about being part of a Christian community that shares one another's medical needs without the use of insurance. But for Samaritan members Tony and Ginger Malek, that passion to share health with others is a way of life. Well, it was my wife's dream to come back to the farm. She wanted to be able to do sustainably raised vegetables and teach people where their food comes from.

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It is 264 pages, hardcover, and retails for $18.99 plus shipping. For a limited time, we are offering it for a donation of any amount to The Christian Real View. Go to or call 1-888-646-2233. That's Welcome back to The Christian World View.

Be sure to visit our website,, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email and annual print newsletter, order resources for adults and children, and support the ministry. Now, back to today's program with host, David Wheaton. What are your thoughts on Ed Litton's response that he had J.D. Greer's permission and encouragement?

Of course, he never attributed it to him publicly. There's the plagiarism side of it. But that this is, you know, this is just kind of like pastors, you know, referring to commentaries and using it in their sermons.

Yeah, that is such an absurd thing to say, David, because to say that he is using J.D. Greer's sermons almost like a commentary, no, a sermon is not a commentary. A sermon is kind of the end product of the research that you have supposed to have already done, part of which is consulting commentaries.

The sermon is not in and of itself a commentary. And when Ed Litton says that he does the Greek, he does the work in the languages, I almost laughed out loud when I heard him say that, because I had already seen the video in which he says, I don't know if you've seen this yet or not, but he actually says the Bible does not differentiate between homosexuality and heterosexuality, he says the Bible doesn't even have a word for homosexuality. And that is gobsmackingly either ignorant or disingenuous, because the Bible absolutely does have a word for it. Paul uses it in First Corinthians, Chapter six, verse nine, Arsinocoitae, it literally means the word, it's a word apparently that Paul himself coined, but the word literally means men bedding men.

That's what the word means. And so, yes, the Bible does have, it's just astonishing to me that he could say something like, oh, we do the work in the languages. Well, apparently he doesn't. And just because he gets permission from J.D. Greer does not absolve him of the offensive plagiarism. For example, when I was in seminary, and I actually attended the same seminary that Ed Litton did, we were there at different times, but if I was back in seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I went to one of my buddies in the men's dorm and said, hey, Lance, Lance, I got this paper coming up and I don't have time to do it, I know you've already written a paper on this, can I use your material?

And he said, sure, feel free, here you go. And I were to take his paper and basically rewrite it, maybe change a few words here and there, but same basic stuff, and turn that in, it's still plagiarism. It doesn't matter if I had Lance's permission, it's still plagiarism. And you'd be kicked out of school for that seminary. I would have been kicked out of Southwestern Seminary on my ear. They would have kicked me out so fast, it would have made my head swim. And yet, and Ed Litton would have been kicked out for doing the same thing.

Any student would. And yet, he's the president of the entire denomination for doing something in a voluminous way. As you said, he's taken down 140 some odd sermons, and even some of the sermons that are still up there, there's plagiarism in those too. I mean, we're talking hundreds of sermons that he has plagiarized, and yet he's the president of the entire denomination.

How does that work? It's just unbelievable. Justin Peters with us today here on the Christian Realty, the founder and evangelist preacher at Justin Peters Ministries, is their excellent website. Let's go to soundbite number two from this interview with Ed Litton on SBC this week. And this is where he describes what I really hadn't heard of before this whole thing broke, that pastor, some of these bigger pastors, use sort of a team approach to preparing their sermons.

Here's that soundbite. And in your answer, you mentioned we a lot. I know you talked about in the statement, you employ a sermon team approach to help you collaboratively create these sermons. So can you talk to us, what does that look like at Redemption Church? Well, let me tell you why we started doing it.

And it's one of the best things I've been a part of a long time. We have a lot of young men on staff, and we have young people that feel a call, young men that feel a call to the Lord and laymen in our church, at least on occasion to preach the gospel. And so our purpose was to raise up a new generation of gospel communicators, gospel preachers. And then every week we have a we have a planning meeting. Now that planning meeting, I lead the planning, but it's based on the sermon is gonna be based on my work in the text. But when we get together, all the other parts of that team are also sometimes given separate commentaries to study.

And they bring something to the table so that we're not an echo chamber, and we're looking at the text, we break it down. A lot of times we get out of that meeting with a very clear outline, or illustrations, and then we finish the rest of the week building that out for whoever the preachers are going to be. And again, I lead that process because I am discipling young preachers and well, of course, you know, from all that people have assumed about this, that people would say don't disciple anymore because you're messed up.

But the reality is, it's a very effective way and for me, it's been a powerful tool because I'm listening to other voices. Dr. Justin Marchegiani Okay, again, that's Ed Litton, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention. And Justin, I really had never heard about this team approach, we have a team of researchers and writers, putting together a sermon for a pastor, I always assumed it was the pastor himself, maybe an assistant would look up a little bit of research here and there on something and help out in some regard or something like that. But what is your response to this, this quote unquote, team approach to preparing sermons? Dr. Justin Marchegiani Yes, Dave, that is that is one of the more egregious issues here in this related to this topic. I couldn't believe that Ed Litton actually openly admitted this. And apparently, there was no hesitation on his part at all, thinking that maybe that maybe this isn't right, maybe this is not a good thing. And in fact, we just heard him say it's one of the best things that they've, that he's been a part of is this team approach to writing sermons.

I am absolutely appalled at that, David. When I sit in a church on a Sunday morning, and I'm listening to the pastor, I want to know that that man that I'm listening to preaching God's Word has been in his study, has studied to show himself approved unto God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. I want to know that that man has studied the text, that he has put in the time that he has wrestled with it, that he has gleaned everything that he can, I want to know that the truth of God's Word that he is presenting to me has impacted him has saturated his mind has filled his heart. And what we just heard from Ed Litton is the polar opposite of that. He has a whole team to write his sermons.

And apparently, I guess each member of this eight man team contributes a little bit and they somehow cobble it together. That is, that flies in the face of how studying and preaching should be done. Ed Litton's not being impacted by the Word of God. He's not being impacted by the text because he's not studying it, as evidenced by the horrific theology in the sermons that he's plagiarized. I mean, if he was really studying the text, he would have alarm bells going off in his head immediately knowing like, wait a minute, the Bible actually does have a word for homosexuality.

What is this? So it's just unreal and what a terrible disservice, not only to his church, but what a terrible disservice to these young men who are helping him write these sermons. He is training them to do the same thing when they have their own churches, their own ministries they're going to do the same thing.

They're not going to think that there's anything wrong with it. I mean, it is the levels of deception and error here are just mind blowing. It really is. It is. And he's calling it discipleship. Yes, he calls it discipleship.

I mean, that is just unbelievable to me. That is not discipleship. You are training young men how to deceive their churches and how to dishonor Christ.

That's what you're discipling them in how to do. And then the senior pastor is nothing more than a editor of content he's given to kind of cobble it together to collate all these different things. It really seems to me it takes away the leading of the Holy Spirit as a pastor spends time alone in his office in the word and in prayer, asking God to help him understand and interpret and then preach the truth of his word. Justin Peters with us today on the Christian Real View, talking about pastors and plagiarism in light of this scandal within the Southern Baptist Convention with the president, Ed Litton, plagiarizing—we don't even know how many sermons it is now—many of them from the immediate past president, J.D. Greer. Let's go to the next soundbite from this interview on SBC this week with Ed Litton, where the interviewer basically gives Ed Litton the opportunity to apologize for what took place.

Here's what he said. So with all the discussion here, what's the impact been on you and maybe even Kathy? Well, I appreciate that question. What God has made very clear to us is that we are, according to Isaiah 48, 10, in a refiner's fire.

Malachi 3 tells us the same thing, that God is—it doesn't matter where the heat's coming from—God being sovereign and intimately involved with our growth is helping us be refined. And I just want to say I apologize to anybody who has been offended, and rightly so, and hurt. And some of the things have been represented in such a way, but I'm not denying that we borrowed these things. And I want to say this, too. I'm asked by good people and good-willed people, why didn't you just credit J.D.?

I want you to hear my heart. This is not an excuse or justification. I am sorry I did not. I had a preaching professor in seminary that we would preach in front of, and he would evaluate us. And he was one of the kindest people I've ever met for evaluating. But a student got up, probably the smartest guy in the class, and every citation from ICC, Linsky, from any critical commentary, he made any commentary, he cited all of them, and even his illustrations. He said, I got this from that book and a thousand illustrations or whatever.

When he got finished, the professor very kindly said, that was a good sermon. But he said, I'm going to just tell you something. When a diamond miner goes looking for diamonds, he doesn't hold up the pick in the shovel.

He holds up the diamond. Now please hear my heart, Jonathan. I am not excusing myself or explaining. I'm just explaining my heart. I love my people and I want them to see Jesus.

He is the diamond. This has opened my eyes and it's opened concerns and will I do it differently? I promise you I'm going to do it differently. And even my preaching team has been uncomfortable for the last two weeks because we are engaging this subject. They know what their pastor is going through and they have, I'm sure, doubts, I know they do, doubts themselves.

And we were able to talk about those things and we're making this a growing experience because our God is a refiner. Okay, Justin, I just have to use the texting acronym, SMH, shaking my head when I listen to that. I mean, again, he kind of apologized, but then went into this rationalization basically that, you know, the guy who's looking for the diamonds doesn't hold up the pick and the ax and I promise not to do it again. And was that even an apology? What was that? That was a train wreck is what that was.

This whole thing is a train wreck. But boy, if that didn't sound like a Hollywood apology, I don't know what does. You know, from time to time, these Hollywood celebrities, they say something stupid and they've got to come out and they, you know, I apologize if my words offended anyone. You know, blah, blah, blah.

We all know those are fake. Well, that's what that sounded like. That was no apology. And he says, my preaching team has been troubled by this for the last two weeks. They should have been troubled by this from the inception of the plagiarism.

That's what should have troubled them. It's been going on for years. I mean, we know now, at least back to 2014, I think it is, 13 or 14. Film sermons by Lytton have now been discovered to have also been plagiarized. So this has been going on for many years.

And who knows how long before that? So you know, these are crocodile tears. If this was something that really bothered their consciences as it should have, they would have done something about this years ago. And they're only changing now simply because they got caught. That's not a godly sorrow per 2 Corinthians 7.

Had they not been caught, they would have been rocking along just doing the same thing that they've been doing for years. Well said, Justin. And if it sounds like we're being hard on Pastor Ed Lytton, well, I think this warranted in this situation. After all, he is one of the most influential now positions in all of evangelicalism, at least in this country and perhaps even around the world, as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, what this states, what this message this gives to other pastors, gives to the name of Christ, what the response is going to be within the Southern Baptist Convention, whether this will be swept under the rug and just justified and let's move on here, there's nothing to see here.

This is a very serious situation. There's no more important place in the world than in the pulpit. And that is why this needs, I think, careful scrutiny in a biblical worldview applied to what took place here. The Christian Worldview with David Wheaton returns in just a moment. David Wheaton here, volunteer host of the Christian Worldview radio program. Listeners are often surprised to learn that we as a ministry pay for airtime on the radio station, website or app on which you hear the program. The primary way this expense is recouped is through listeners like you donating to the ministry or becoming a monthly partner.

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Short takes are also available and be sure to share with others. Now back to today's program with host David Wheaton. I'm going to skip the next sound bite where they talk about, he talks about, you know, why did you remove the sermons?

We'll just skip that one for now just for the sake of time. Let's get to the last one, Justin, where he's asked about the contentious nature now of, you know, within social media and the criticism going on over this particular scandal and so forth. And if you listen closely, this is where the race card gets pulled in. You know, a lot of this I think has shown us really the hostility of the day online, both inside and outside of the Southern Baptist Convention. It's happening not just in our convention, it's happening in other conventions, other denominations.

The PCA is going through theirs right now with our General Assembly in St. Louis. We see it a lot really in secular politics. I mean, that's been like the last five or six years in secular politics.

It's gotten to a point where it's almost unbearable. How do we like work with one another across these sides, so to speak, I put that in air quotes, but how can we see each other, you know, and really improve on this culture that seems to be driven by attack, attack, attack, rather than grace and unity and mercy? Again, that's a great question.

I'm going to say this, I applaud the people who are trying to do this. And there are good people trying to bring a civility to this on Twitter, other social media. We need to learn how to be civil in our conversation, because for a lot of reasons, because Christ commands it, but secondly, because the world is watching this. The hallmark of scriptural debate conversation among believers is honor first, respect for one another, listening without condemnation, Romans chapter eight, verse one. We need to assume the best of each other and leave room for repentance when there is a need for genuine repentance. The assumptions on each other's hearts are just wrong and we need to humble ourselves at that. How have you seen that maybe impact your church?

You've been there 27 years. I know, you know, I want to talk a little bit about your pastoring at Redemption Church there in Mobile, but how have you seen your church maybe work through maybe some of this hostility that maybe it's related to secular politics? That seems to be the kind of the way it really creeps into the local church, I would think, especially in the South. Well, I think a lot of times we've realized our people, because we do talk about this, that there's a false narrative.

And in my particular case, it's about me, that I've been called woke up and called because of my work in racial reconciliation. But they know it and the people know it. And that's one of the reasons they stand behind me. It hasn't been 27 years of perfection.

It's been 27 years of pain and suffering and difficulty together. But what happens is people learn to trust. And that is a core issue here.

And that's why this conversation is so important, because we automatically are distrustful of each other, and especially if we're strangers to each other. Okay, that was Ed Litton again, explaining away this whole plagiarism scandal and the interviewer saying it's become so critical back and forth and you know, we need more grace and mercy and Ed Litton agreeing to that. And then kind of implying that the reason that there's been so much controversy and criticism is because he's considered woke and his work in racial reconciliation. Your thoughts on this final soundbite, Justin?

Yes, David, you're right. He came very close to playing the race card here. I know I can speak for myself that my concerns here have absolutely nothing to do with race one way or the other. This is not about, in and of itself, social justice, although you see his supporters are coming from the social justice proponents of the SBC, but all SBC people from the presidents of the seminaries all the way down to all the delegates, everybody sitting in the pew, regardless of where you come down on the social justice issue, and I've planted my flag very firmly in that issue on the side against it, but regardless of where you come down on it, this is a character issue. This is a matter of character, integrity. This is a matter of lying to your people. It speaks to his character regardless... Look, I would be saying the same thing if he was on my side of the social justice debate.

If you could find his name on the statement on social justice and the gospel that I helped to formulate and put my John Hancock to, if his John Hancock was on there, I'd be saying the same thing. It doesn't matter. For him to try to pawn this off as, excuse it, well, it's just my enemies, people view these things differently than I do, they're the ones that are trying to bring me down so the other guy can get in, that kind of thing, that's not the issue. David, I've heard it said, and if you have to, and I don't know the primary source for this, so it's not my own, but I've heard it said, anytime you say, I am sorry, I did such and such, but here's why I did it, then whatever follows the but negates the I'm sorry. If you make an excuse for your sin, then you're not truly sorry for your sin.

That's what we're dealing with here. Do you think this is a disqualifying, I'm assuming you think this is a disqualifying, repeated sinful pattern of him as a pastor, and if so, what does the response that you're reading so far from other evangelical leaders about it, what does this say about the evangelical movement today? Yes, it is disqualifying, absolutely disqualifying. He should not be in the pulpit, he should not be in the ministry at all, much less the president of the SBC. As I said earlier, I would have been kicked out of seminary for doing 1% of this. So would he have been kicked out when he was in seminary. So yes, it is morally disqualifying.

As far as what is going to shake out, my guess is that he will remain as the president of the SBC, that's my guess. I guess I'm somewhat encouraged that people are still talking about it, because I know that they're wanting it to just go away, but I just learned today that this has apparently made the front page of the New York Times even. So the world is watching, as they say, the world is watching, but it really does seem to break along the fault lines of the social justice issue. Those who are on his side of it, who have dipped their toes in or fully committed to the social justice movement to one degree or another, they are defending him. Those of us who are not are rightfully calling this out.

But as I said, this issue should transcend the social justice debate. This is an issue of character and integrity, and Ed Linton has failed it. I would love to know just how many Southern Baptist pastors are doing the same thing he is.

As I said, this is a cottage industry in the SBC, it's a widespread problem. Perhaps the dirty little secret going on within evangelicalism right now, and Justin Peters with us today here on The Christian Worldview, talking about this situation of pastors and plagiarism. You alluded to this earlier, I think, in our conversation, they had just a couple more questions for you, just for the sake of time here, but you did an interview recently on your own website, your own podcast, and listeners can go there to your website, I'm assuming it's there or linked from there, where you brought up this research group called Docent, and on their website it says, here's what they do. They partner with pastors to provide research assistance to lighten their load and help them serve their churches more effectively. This assists with both sermon and sociological research, offering consultations with experienced ministry leaders and producing curriculum. The website Patheos says this service docent is used and or endorsed by Tim Keller, John Ortberg, Mark Driscoll, Craig Groeschel of Life.Church, and of course J.D.

Greer. He has an extensive quote praising this organization, Docent, that people remarked to me, how many hours did you spend on that sermon? Where did you get time to do all that research?

He says, thanks guys for making me look so good. What did you find out about this organization called Docent? Why is this a very bad thing, bad sign for the pastors to be using? Yeah, I had never even heard of Docent until four or five days ago as of this recording. A friend of mine texted me a link and so I clicked on it. You have to go to the Wayback Machine to see the endorsement of J.D. Greer because that's apparently been removed now from their website.

I never even heard of them until less than a week ago. Yeah, they have a team of seminary trained guys and maybe gals too, I don't know, but you can basically, as a pastor, you can say, I need help with this, I need understanding on this text, I need you to do research on this, anywhere from just some basic research into an issue or a topic or an event or something like that, all the way up to completely writing your sermon for you. I was struck by the website because they actually say on there, this is on the Wayback Machine again, it might be on the current website now, I don't know, but they actually say that we will tailor your message to your particular theological commitments. In other words, you tell us what your theology is and we'll massage the text to fit your theology. That is the exact opposite way that you're supposed to study the Bible. When I study God's Word, I cannot come to God's Word with my preconceived theology and enforce that onto the text. My theology is supposed to be shaped by the text itself.

I'm supposed to get the meaning out from the text. That's exegesis, that's what we should be doing. In Docent's website, they brag about eisegesis, reading theology into the text. If I say, hey, I'm a charismatic and can you help me craft a sermon from 1 Corinthians 13 because I'm a charismatic, apparently they will do that for you for a price. Or if you say I'm a cessationist, you help me with a message from 1 Corinthians 13 from the cessationist perspective, they would do that too. I just shake my head at the layers of deception and error and sin involved in this.

It is just a deep, dark well that we have begun to peer into through all this. I heard someone or read someone on the internet, a pastor himself, say that this turns pastors from being theologians getting into the Word and mining out God's truth led by the Holy Spirit for their congregations, from theologians to thespians, makes them basically actors up there. They have the content fed to them, they memorize it, and they regurgitate it out to the congregation. Just last question for you, Justin and Justin Peters has been our guest today here on The Christian Real View. Their website is Just really encourage you to get in touch with this ministry, sign up for their e-newsletter. It'd be a great way to stay informed with the preaching and teaching that Justin does all over the world. We haven't even got into many of the topics that we often discuss with him, the health, wealth, and prosperity movement.

We'll have to do that for another time. But the final question, Justin, is God rejection in this country seems to have accelerated in the last year and a half. It's always been there, always humanity is rejecting God, but there seems to be an increase, just an acceleration of it with regards to COVID-19 and the way that's been used to consolidate government power and racial animosity and resentment and critical race theory. That's in the mainstream society, and we see some of that bleeding into the church, but just with a situation like this going on in the evangelical church, where you just really want the church to be a beacon of light and hope and truth and grace in a darkening culture was where it needs to be. So as we conclude today, what is your encouragement to pastors as they hear about this plagiarism scandal? What is your encouragement to Christians in this moment for how we can stand strong and be everything that God wants us to be during this darkening time? My encouragement to pastors would be to do your own study, your own writing. You've got to be in the Word of God.

You've got to wrestle with the text. And it's not a chore, David, it's time consuming, but this is what we as preachers do. It's a joy. It is an absolute joy to be able to study God's Word and plumb the depths of it. This is why pastors are paid, basically. So it frees them up to have the time to do that important and precious work of studying God's Word. That's why pastors get paid so they don't have to be a mechanic or an electrician or a dentist or whatever. They have the time to study God's Word, to feed their flock.

So never lose sight of what an unimaginable and unspeakable privilege it is as it is ours as preachers to do that. As for the broader evangelical world as a whole, and you see just the spiritual climate, things are bad and they're going to get worse. The Bible does not paint a pretty picture of the spiritual climate as time goes on. It's not going to get better. It's going to get worse.

Days will get darker. Persecution will come. There's going to be a lot of apostasy. You're going to see some big name preachers fall away. It can be discouraging when you see all this, but God is in control. Christ has his church.

And David, one of the blessings that has been mine as an evangelist, by God's grace, I've preached the gospel now in 27 different countries, and everywhere I go, I find good, solid churches pastored by faithful men that are doing their work, that are shepherding their flocks, studying to show themselves approved. They labor away in the Word, and they're not known. They don't have the platforms. They don't have the spotlights. They're not being asked to do interviews, but they're out there. They're known only to their little flocks and to the good shepherd himself, Christ.

But they are there. Jesus' church is safe. Christ will build his church, and none of this will hinder that process. Christ will build his church.

And so it can be discouraging as you see the headlines in the papers and on Twitter and all that kind of stuff. But rest assured, God is in control. There are good churches out there. There are faithful shepherds out there, and the work of the gospel and the progress of the church goes on. Justin, thank you for that truthful reminder, that encouragement here at the end of the program when it's so easy to get disappointed and discouraged by Christian leaders in compromise.

But to know there are those out there, and there are probably many who just, as you say, don't make the headlines, are faithfully mining the truth out of the Word each week and preaching it, which is the power for regular Christians listening out there to stand strong and live a sanctified life. So Justin, we thank you for coming on the Christian Real View today. We thank you for all the wonderful, God-glorifying work you are doing at Justin Peter's Ministries. We wish all of God's best and grace to you. David, thank you so very much, and may God bless you as well.

I appreciate your work. We're almost out of time, but let's remember what James chapter three says. That not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such, we will incur a stricter judgment.

There is a higher standard for those who preach the Word of God in their lives, their character, and their doctrine, and this is a test of the situation with Ed Litton of whether those in Christian leadership still believe that and about the qualifications for a pastor and Christian leader. Thank you for listening to today's program. You can hear past programs, order resources for adults and children.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-02 06:30:45 / 2023-09-02 06:51:21 / 21

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