Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Oxford, Cambridge, Plagiarism, and Christian Worldview

By Rick Pearcey

Those who care about authentic living and the life of the mind may want to consult a report in today's Guardian. (See Pearcey Report link here.)

In a story titled "Their Dark Materials," readers will learn that the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are attacking plagiarism, ghostwriting, and "essay mills." Among other things, the universities condemn the practice of students who buy from -- or work for -- services such as Oxbridge Essays.

Sensitive people are concerned about the presence of this sort of unfortunate behavior not just on the so-called secular campus, but also in Christian circles (as has been reported on from time to time).

One might consider what would happen if one day the Bible-affirming world woke up and all the pretend authors, columnists, "thinkers," publishers, etc., and their staffs of enablers had disappeared. One wonders who in "Celebrianity" might be suddenly missing and how many real books and articles would be left on shelves if works by these "authors" departed along with them.

Imagine also that Jesus of Nazareth said, "OK, people -- from here on only real work by real people is acceptable. Anything else and you get a one-way ticket to AnaniasandSapphiraville." See the unhappy outcome of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.

One way you know the flesh-and-blood Jesus meant business is that he applied truth to both the ends and the means of his methods of ministry. Even if that meant dying painfully and nakedly on the cross as a common criminal and apparent failure.

Nevertheless, he didn't cut corners to win influence, gain a wider audience, achieve access to power, protect his image, or enhance his resume to shape future biographies and the opinions of posterity. He practiced the truth the right way and was killed for it. It was ugly. It was right. And he won.

In contrast, how many books, essays, speeches, blurbs, magnum opuses, and so on would disappear if that same Jesus applied that principle of authentic living retroactively? "Lord, Lord, did we not 'write' wonderful, quiet-time inspired worldview books for you?," might protest the high and mighty after receiving a rejection slip from the Living God.

It's a sobering thought, but there may be some in this world who've so long succeeded at conning others that they even try it out on the Son of God. After all, the well-honed techniques of manipulation and PR have worked on just about everybody else (not really, of course, but in the tiny world of tin-horn celebrity, it may seem that way). "Dysfunctional systems are well-defended," says a book on abuse.

Perhaps the better path is to pull the plug on pretend authorship. Yes, the anti-intellectual money machine may grind to a halt, but a door necessary to a renaissance of authentic thinking (not to mention living) would be opened. The current strategy raises money in the millions, but it's misdirected and loses the spiritual-cultural battle.

What's especially interesting is that similar doors need to be opened in the face of similar challenges in so many other areas of life in this broken world. That doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves along the way, even if honest growth encounters big shots who resist change and try to redefine Biblical challenges and accountability as personal squabbles.

Publishing is just one area among many. In electoral politics, public policy, the arts, philanthropy, and many spheres of life and ministry, authentic Christian worldview remains in its infancy. One hopes it needn't run away from home to survive childhood. Oxford and Cambridge could be just the place for those kind of people.

Additional Resources
Pizza With Michelangelo, by Rick Pearcey
A Review of The Da Vinci Code, by Rick Pearcey
Francis Schaeffer: A Student's Appreciation of a Distinct Approach, by Rick Pearcey

Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report.