Is the Good News Bear a Copycat?
Hank Hanegraaff and Plagiarism
1998 updated edition
I. Introduction 3
A. Why This Report? 3
B. Was Matthew 18 Followed? 3
C. What Has Hank Hanegraaff Said about This? 3
D. Why Is This Important? 4
II. Defining Plagiarism 6
III. Hanegraaff’s “Acknowledgement” 8
IV. The Logo 9
V. The Conception and Outline 10
VI. The Contents of EE and PWT Compared 11
VII. Introductory Materials 12
VIII. The Seven Pillars of PWT 13
IX. The Gospel Outline Presentation 14
X. The Gospel Presentation 16
A. Introduction/Relationship 16
B. The Gospel/Good News 17
C. Commitment/Response 19
XI. Testimony 21
XII. Objections 22
XIII. Use of the Diagnostic Questions 23
XIV. The Questionnaire/Survey 24
XV. Other Parallels 25
XVI. Summary 26
A. Why This Report?
In September 1995 an anonymous person or group of persons faxed to numerous countercult ministries and other parties a newsletter called On the Edge charging Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute, with plagiarism. Specifically, they charged that Hanegraaff’s lay witnessing manual Personal Witness Training (1987), or PWT, plagiarized extensively from D. James Kennedy’s lay witnessing manual Evangelism Explosion (3rd ed., Tyndale House, 1983), popularly known as EE.* Hanegraaff was an associate of Kennedy in the early 1980s, making the personal connection beyond question.
Not satisfied to accept the secondhand research of anonymous critics, I decided to investigate the matter for myself. This report, first written in December 1995, is the result. In making this information available, my only interest is in letting the truth be known. Given the widespread dissemination of the plagiarism charge, there is no honorable benefit to be gained by avoiding the issue. I wish no harm to Mr. Hanegraaff or anyone else. However, I do believe that Mr. Hanegraaff ought to be held accountable by his pastor, his Board, and his financial supporters. These responsible parties need to decide, based on the evidence, whether Mr. Hanegraaff has indeed committed plagiarism, and if so, what they ought to do about it.
B. Was Matthew 18 Followed?
It is possible that someone will wonder whether I ever approached Mr. Hanegraaff about this matter. On September 28, 1995, I sent a letter to Mr. Hanegraaff asking him to comment on this and other issues. The letter was returned unopened. I followed up with a phone call to Mr. Hanegraaff, who told me that he would give some thought to whether or not he would agree to discuss any of these issues with me. Through a third party Mr. Hanegraaff later informed me that he would meet with me (or with anyone else) but only to discuss “personal grievances.” Issues such as the plagiarism question were specifically excluded. Hence, I exhausted all attempts to deal directly with Mr. Hanegraaff on this and other concerns. I then sent the report to a senior editor at CRI, to the members of the Board of CRI, and to the members of the Board of the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) in February 1996. A couple of members of the EMNR Board have commented on the report to me privately. However, no one at CRI or representing CRI has offered any response to or acknowledgment of the report.
C. What Has Hank Hanegraaff Said about This?
In May 1996, the report was circulated (without my prior knowledge) to Calvary Chapel pastors all over the country. About a week later, on Wednesday, May 22, 1996, Hank Hanegraaff made the following comments on “The Bible Answer Man” when asked to comment on the ministry of Dr. D. James Kennedy:
James Kennedy – I have utmost respect for him. In fact, I used to work for Evangelism Explosion and patterned my own Personal Witness Training program around the principles engendered in the ministry of Evangelism Explosion. What I did was I took the principles and made them memorable so that people could internalize the process of learning to build a relationship, present the gospel, lead someone in a response, and take them through the basic steps of discipleship and growth as a new believer. But the work that Kennedy has done with Evangelism Explosion has had significant impact throughout the world for many, many years. And he too is a very eloquent preacher. He was a great role model for me in terms of motivating me to memorize Scripture as a new believer.
Is this is an accurate description of the relationship between Evangelism Explosion and Personal Witness Training? In this report I present a thorough comparison of the EE and PWT manuals. It provides incontrovertible evidence that the entire program of PWT is based on EE. Virtually every statement in substance (and often in word as well) that appears in PWT is to be found in EE. In any case, the choice of the term “patterned” reflects Mr. Hanegraaff’s admission that the very structure and plan of PWT is based on EE (although notice his careful avoidance of any mention of the PWT manual itself). The fact is that not merely the “principles,” but the whole substance and much of the wording of PWT came directly from EE.
D. Why Is This Important?
Some readers may also wonder how important this issue is. After all, it may be thought, perhaps Mr. Hanegraaff did not intend to commit plagiarism. Besides, wasn’t he simply using the information in another ministry setting? Who cares who gets the credit, as long as the work of the Lord is being done? These are legitimate questions, and they deserve straight answers.
As to intentions, in one sense it is beyond our capacity or responsibility to determine what is in anyone’s heart. However, this does not and should not stop us from determining that a particular action was wrong. Mr. Hanegraaff himself has expressed the judgment that others were guilty of plagiarism (see the next section for an example), and that is perfectly appropriate if the evidence warrants such a conclusion. Moreover, it is completely proper to conclude that a plagiarist is dishonest if there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that judgment. Since Mr. Hanegraaff has been made aware of the charge of plagiarism, he has not made any attempt to clear the air. He has not admitted inadvertently plagiarizing, or even admitted copying material from EE into PWT. Instead, he issued a vaguely worded statement on the radio that acknowledged a relationship between EE and PWT but did not make clear what that relationship was. If PWT was plagiarized from EE, for whatever reason and with whatever intent, Mr. Hanegraaff has not given an honest account about that plagiarism.
As to the ministry use of the material in PWT that originated in EE, certain facts about PWT need to be kept in mind. Mr. Hanegraaff established two organizations in 1985 (four years before he became President of CRI). The first, Memory Dynamics, Inc., was incorporated in Georgia in January 1985. The second, Memory Development International, Inc., was incorporated just four months later in May 1985. Memory Dynamics was incorporated as a for-profit business, not as a non-profit ministry organization. It had no religious or ministerial purpose stated in its incorporation documents, but was established as an educational business marketing memory enhancement products and services. Memory Development International was incorporated as a 501(c)(3), non-profit charitable organization, with the stated purpose of evangelism and discipleship training. Now, here is the crucial point: PWT is wholly owned and operated as a product of Mr. Hanegraaff’s for-profit business Memory Dynamics, Inc., not as part of a non-profit Christian ministry. Contrary to the widespread belief among CRI’s constituency that PWT is part of a Christian non-profit ministry, it is part of a for-profit business owned by Mr. Hanegraaff. (The two organizations could easily be confused even if one knew about both of them. Indeed, it is striking that both organizations could be represented by the initials “MDI.”) Thus, it appears that if Mr. Hanegraaff did plagiarize PWT from EE, he did so in order to launch his own personal business. While Memory Development International was apparently allowed to go defunct some time after Mr. Hanegraaff became President of CRI, he continued to operate Memory Dynamics, Inc., which produced the PWT seminars. Although I have not been able to confirm this as definite fact, it appears from the back page of Christianity in Crisis, the book that Hank Hanegraaff authored with the considerable help of CRI staff, is owned by Mr. Hanegraaff’s business, Memory Dynamics.
The importance of PWT for Mr. Hanegraaff’s reputation in Christian apologetics ministry prior to his tenure at CRI, the close relationship between CRI and PWT, and the fact that PWT is a product of a for-profit business having no stated religious or ministerial purpose, all constitute reasons for taking the plagiarism charge seriously.
II. Defining Plagiarism
It is possible to define plagiarism in narrowly legal terms, i.e., as an act of intellectual property theft for which the rightful owner seeks redress through the courts. Arguably in this narrow sense plagiarism is a charge that can be made only by the injured party or his or her authorized representatives. If one insists on this specific connotation of the term, then the charge of plagiarism against Hank Hanegraaff in this instance would have to issue from D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion, or Tyndale House.
On the other hand, it is perfectly legitimate for other parties, who have no financial interest in the matter, to allege that plagiarism in some slightly less narrow sense has occurred. In this sense plagiarism may defined as any use of someone else’s intellectual property which would be judged as plagiarism if the original author were to bring a complaint. This definition is little different in practice, since it simply acknowledges that there is some standard that would have to be used by the courts to make a determination when plagiarism was alleged.
More broadly still, plagiarism might be defined as any unethical use of someone else’s intellectual property. Such a definition still begs the standard by which usage would be judged unethical. Various definitions might be cited; here is one from The Oxford Companion to the English Language, edited by Tom MacArthur (Oxford University Press, 1992), page 784:
The appropriation of someone’s artistic, musical, or literary work for personal ends. . . . The term is usually reserved, however, for the flagrant lifting of material in an unchanged or only slightly changed form and its dissemination as the plagiarist’s own work.
In CRI’s own publications we find examples of this judgment being made against other authors to which Hank Hanegraaff, as the president of the Christian Research Institute, should have no objection. For example, a 1988 article in CRI’s Journal charges that Victor Paul Wierwille, the deceased founder of The Way International, was “an eclectic plagiarist.” It explains the reasoning for this charge as follows:
In addition, anyone who is well-acquainted with Wierwille’s writings and reads Kenyon’s and Bullinger’s books is struck by the close parallels, even though one cannot always trace exact word-for-word plagiarism. . . . Almost every one of Wierwille’s teachings can be traced to other sources. . . . When Wierwille wrote, he commonly used these men’s writings and copied them, idea by idea and often word by word. He never credited these sources, in effect lying to his readers by leading them to believe that he originated his teachings under God’s direct tutelage.
Closer to home comes the following statement from Hanegraaff himself in a 1993 article:
Hagin, who popularized and plagiarized Kenyon prolifically, not only expanded Kenyon’s perversions but added to them as well. . . . . Kenneth Hagin, to whom we next turn our attention, plagiarized much of Kenyon’s work. . . .
Hanegraaff’s statement is important because it illustrates a key point: It is possible to plagiarize someone while also adding to what he wrote.
Obviously, there can be degrees of plagiarism. However, this fact should not be allowed to obscure the fact that plagiarism can be a serious and well-substantiated charge. It is not necessary for borrowing to be 100% of someone else’s exact words for it to constitute plagiarism. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum are occasional snatches of words or phrases picked up from various authors. These are not true examples of plagiarism.
Related to the matter of plagiarism is the question of fair use. The concept of fair use has to do with the extent to which an author may legitimately quote from the work of another, with full credit given, but without permission, without violating copyright law. The assumption here is that there is no plagiarism (excessive borrowing without proper credit). Even fair use has its limits, though. This is important because borrowing that exceeds fair use and is done without giving any credit to the original source would surely constitute plagiarism of an actionable kind. In this light it may be helpful to refer to the authoritative discussion of fair use given in The Chicago Manual of Style. That work explains the nature of fair use as follows:
Essentially the doctrine implies that authors may quote from other authors’ work to illustrate or buttress their own points. They should transcribe accurately and give credit to sources. They should not quote out of context. . . . And quotations should not be so long that they diminish the value of the work from which they are taken (4.45, emphasis added).
Fair use is simply that – fair. Uses that are tangential in purpose to the original, such as quotations for the sake of criticism, will always be judged more leniently than uses that are parallel, such as relying on quotations to prove one’s point rather than putting it in one’s own words. Use of anything in its entirety – a poem, an essay, a chapter of a book – is hardly ever acceptable. Use of less than such a discrete entity will be judged by whether the second author appears to be taking a free ride on the first author’s labor (4.47, emphasis added).
The reader is invited to consider the evidence as it is presented here. I am satisfied that unbiased persons examining the evidence will have no trouble arriving at a conclusion.
III. Hanegraaff’s “Acknowledgement”
A third party, speaking to me on behalf of Hank Hanegraaff, informed me that the charge of plagiarism in On the Edge overlooks the fact that Kennedy is credited in the “Acknowledgement” in PWT.
Indeed, on the “Acknowledgement” page in current editions of PWT, Hank offers “A Special Thanks” in which he expresses his “indebtedness to Dr. D. James Kennedy,” and goes on to acknowledge that he grew “by reading his books and memorizing many of his lectures.”
However, nothing is said here or anywhere else in PWT about any dependence of that book on Kennedy’s EE. The fact that Kennedy is given such glowing thanks only makes matters worse, because it now makes it impossible to excuse Hank’s failure to mention EE as an oversight.
Worse still, this word of thanks to Kennedy is absent from the earliest editions of PWT. An edition published in Georgia, dating from before Hank moved to California to become president of CRI, has the same “Acknowledgement” page with the “Special Thanks” to Kennedy absent.
Thus, originally PWT was published with absolutely no acknowledgment of D. James Kennedy at all. Evidently, at some point later, probably after becoming president of CRI, Hank added the “Special Thanks.” It can hardly be doubted that this late word of thanks was included because in fact PWT borrows from EE, though the precise circumstances prompting this change are unknown. Yet even then he did not choose to acknowledge his dependence on Kennedy’s EE. Therefore, if PWT is excessively dependent on EE, the lack of any acknowledgment of EE cannot be explained as an oversight.
IV. The Logo
It is striking that both EE and PWT use the ichthus or fish symbol on the cover and title page. Although Hank replaced the Greek word ichthus inside the fish symbol with the initials “PWT,” it is clear that the symbol is the same. In fact, on page iv of PWT we are told that the PWT logo “was designed using an ‘Ichthus’ which is Greek for the word fish. This is the oldest Christian symbol.”
Ironically, Hank obtained a trademark for his PWT logo, as the letters “TM” under the corner of the fish’s “tail” indicates. (The position of the “TM” indicates that it is the logo, not the title “Personal Witness Training,” that is trademarked. The title is covered by a separate copyright that applies to the book as a whole.) Yet there is really very little if anything original about the trademarked symbol. In short, Hank managed to obtain a trademark for what he admits is “the oldest Christian symbol,” and the use of this symbol on the cover of his book was evidently inspired by Kennedy’s EE.
V. The Conception and Outline
A. The Basic Conception
There can be no doubting that the basic conception of PWT is essentially that of the EE. Both are manuals for training lay Christians in witnessing or evangelizing non-Christians. Both are part of a larger ministry that seeks to prepare lay Christians to multiply themselves through training other Christians in lay evangelization. Both present sample dialogues and specific points to be learned and used in witnessing encounters.
The major difference between the two works is that PWT makes use of mnemonic devices to facilitate learning the material. While this difference should not be minimized, it does not negate the fact that the two manuals have substantially the same purpose and conception.
B. The Outline
A careful study of the outlines of the two manuals makes it clear that PWT is based on EE. In many cases the terminology is even the same, although variations in terminology do occur. The two manuals follow roughly the same plan, and both even have twelve lessons or chapters! Both begin with a gospel presentation, move to the use of a testimony, illustrations, and answers to objections, set forth the goal of lifestyle evangelism, and conclude with two chapters dealing with utilizing the program to become trainers, with forms and other material in Appendices. The details of the two outlines furnish additional evidence confirming the dependence of PWT on EE, as the chart on the next page makes clear.
VI. The Contents of PWT and EE Compared
The following chart is based on the Table of Contents of EE and PWT. The chapter order of EE is followed, with corresponding lessons or sections of PWT placed alongside.
VIII.The Seven Pillars of PWT
Comments: As the above analysis demonstrates, six of “the seven pillars of PWT” are taken directly from pages 2-5 of EE. The concepts, biblical proof texts, lines of reasoning, and even some of the illustrations are the same. In one case the wording of a complete sentence has been used.
IX. The Gospel Outline Presentation
(EE, 16-17; PWT, 1-2)
Comments: The preceding chart leaves absolutely no doubt – the “PWT Good News Outline” is based in general and in detail on Kennedy’s “Outline of the Gospel Presentation” in EE. Hanegraaff follows the same four-part outline, follows Kennedy in breaking each of the four parts into five points, and the treatment of each of the four parts is virtually identical in substance. Only one out of Kennedy’s 20 points does not make it into Hanegraaff’s outline!
The importance of the outline for Hanegraaff’s PWT should be put in perspective. Lessons 2-8 of PWT are essentially an expansion of the outline that Hanegraaff took from EE. In short, the core of PWT is directly based on EE.
In pointing out this fact, I do not deny that Hank introduces some original devices for memorizing the various points in the outline. I am simply pointing out that the substance of the book comes from another source — one for which no credit is given.
X. The Gospel Presentation
We now turn to the sample dialogues found in EE and in PWT as models for presenting the gospel. Keep in mind that it has already been established that the framework of both presentations is identical. This means that where the two books use similar or identical wordings, that fact has greater significance than if the basic structure of the presentations were different.
B. The Gospel/Good News
XIII.Use of the Diagnostic Questions
Both EE and PWT include an analysis of the “four possible combinations of answers which may be obtained to the two diagnostic questions” (EE, 53). As EE explains, the first question can be answered “Yes” or “No,” while the second question can be answered in terms of “Trust in Christ” or “Trust in self” (53). PWT retains the analysis of the first question and rewords the answers to the second question as “Christ” vs. “Works” (PWT, 38). These two sets of two possible answers yields four possible scenarios, which the two books analyze as follows (EE, 53-55; PWT, 38).
It should be noted that the EE Questionnaire has an explicit statement of copyright on it. This implies that the Questionnaire was not supposed to be used outside of the EE program.
I believe that the evidence presented in this report is sufficient for anyone who wants to arrive at a conclusion on this matter to do so. In closing I will simply summarize what we have seen.
1. Mr. Hanegraaff once worked for Dr. Kennedy, so we know he knew about EE.
2. At first, PWT contained no reference to Dr. Kennedy at all. Later, a paragraph praising Dr. Kennedy’s ministry and acknowledging his personal influence was added, but with no mention of EE.
3. After the first version of this report was made public (by others, not by me), Mr. Hanegraaff publicly acknowledged that PWT was based on the “principles” of EE, but did not mention this report or the EE manual.
4. Mr. Hanegraaff started PWT as part of a for-profit business, not a non-profit ministry. This establishes that Mr. Hanegraaff benefited financially from whatever use he made of EE in PWT.
5. The logo of PWT was inspired by or based on the cover of the EE manual.
6. The basic conception and outline of PWT is based on EE, as a review of the tables of contents of the two manuals reveals.
7. The Introductions to EE and PWT make several identical points, often in distinctive expressions that are identical or nearly so.
8. Six of “the seven pillars of PWT” are taken directly from pages 2-5 of EE. The concepts, biblical proof texts, lines of reasoning, and even some of the illustrations are the same.
9. The Gospel Outline in PWT has exactly the same structure as in EE – four parts, each of which is divided into five points. The treatment of each of the four parts is virtually identical in substance. Only one out of the 20 points in the EE outline does not make it into the PWT outline.
10. The sample dialogue in PWT (that illustrate how the first three parts of the Gospel Outline is to be presented in the field) closely parallels the sample dialogue in EE, both conceptually and verbally. The questions asked by the Christian, the responses by the non-Christian, and the concepts presented and illustrations used by the Christian, are all very similar, often expressed using nearly identical wording.
11. The instructions for sharing one’s personal testimony are the same in PWT as in EE, including the same three essential elements of a testimony and giving the same counsel on the fine points.
12. PWT uses the same strategy for handling objections as EE, and presents this strategy using much of the same wording as in EE.
13. PWT uses the same two diagnostic questions, although they have been reworded, as EE, and like EE reviews the four possible replies and how the Christian should then respond.
14. PWT uses a Survey Form that is based on the EE Questionnaire (which has an explicit copyright notice on it).
15. There are other verbal parallels between PWT and EE, in some cases extending to whole sentences.
Are there differences between the two manuals? Certainly. On the “macro” level, PWT uses the device of “Evangel the Good News Bear” to review the content and as a mnemonic device. PWT is also slimmer than EE, representing a more simplified version of the same material. On the “micro” level, PWT rewords many of the statements taken from EE, sometimes only slightly, sometimes in significant ways. These differences do not diminish the significant similarities between the two works, nor do they undermine the case for plagiarism.
Again, I leave it up to the reader to draw your own conclusions. This report should be viewed as just that, a report presenting an objective analysis of the contents of PWT as compared to EE and an explanation of the issues involved in determining plagiarism. I leave it to CRI’s Board, its personnel, and its financial supporters to consider this evidence fairly and take whatever actions are appropriate.
Should anyone wish to contact me regarding this report, they may do so by E-mail at email@example.com.
*I use italics with EE and PWT when referring to the manuals, and with no italics when referring to the ministry programs bearing the same names.
John P. Juedes, “The Way Tree Is Splintering,” Christian Research Journal 11, 2 (Fall 1988) 10, emphases added.
Hendrick H. Hanegraaff, “What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement? Part One: E. W. Kenyon and the Twelve Apostles of Another Gospel,” Christian Research Journal 15, 3 (Winter 1993) 18-19, emphases added.
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