Ed Litton plagiarized Tim Keller sermon on marriage

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A comparison of a 2012 Ed Litton sermon shows heavy borrowing from a 1991 Tim Keller sermon on marriage.

Previously, SBC President Ed Litton admitted to uncited borrowing only from J.D. Greear sermons.

Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton plagiarized a Tim Keller sermon about marriage. Litton preached a sermon in May 2012 called the “Priority of Marriage” that lifted significantly from a Tim Keller sermon on Ephesians 5:22-33 preached September 1, 1991.

Litton is pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama. Keller is founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and a globally recognized apologist.

A review of the audio of Keller’s sermon posted to YouTube and video of the Ed Litton sermon posted online—but recently hidden by the church “because people were going through sermons in an attempt to discredit and malign our pastor”—reveals many areas of similarity in the sermons. Too many to be coincidental. Large sections of Tim Keller’s sermon were quoted without attribution by Ed Litton.

The sermon utilized many similar points including Keller’s definition of marriage, advice on how to use Jesus to overcome criticism and even Keller’s definition of what shows a servant’s heart.

According to Tim Keller, “It is the ability to hear criticism without being crushed that’s a lack of self-defensive nestle; secondly, the ability to give criticism without being without crushing; thirdly, the ability to forgive people without residual anger in other words to forgive people and really let it go.”

The Litton sermon at about the 5:30 mark highlights the same three points as the first “the ability to hear criticism or correction without crushing.” And, “the second indicator is the ability to give criticism or correction without crushing.” Lastly, “the ability to forgive without lingering anger.”

Expanding on this theme, both talked about how a focus on Jesus can aid in one’s ability to overcome criticism—even criticism from one’s spouse.

Tim Keller: “So how can you receive criticism without being crushed in your marriage or anywhere? The way is because in your heart you’re thinking this: Well, Jesus is my priest. Jesus is my friend. Jesus is my King. Jesus is my brother. I can handle this. He loves me. He cares for me. He’ll show me. and so, you can take criticism without being destroyed. You’ve got a cradle of security for your moment of great vulernability.”

Ed Litton: “How do you overcome criticism or correction without being crushed? In your heart, this is what you have to say, Jesus is my King. Jesus is my brother. Jesus is my helper. I am totally accepted by Jesus on the Cross. What he did for me, I am totally accepted. You say, ‘Wait, are you serious? When my wife yells at me or corrects me, or says I am not doing something I ought to be doing, you are saying, I am to go, oh wait a second, Jesus is my helper. Jesus is my brother. Jesus is my friend. He loves me.? It doesn’t feel right but it is exactly right because that is what centers you in Jesus. It brings you back to the Gospel.”  

The sermons included a discussion of how love must replace like since everyone falls out of like with someone once they get to really know the person.

Tim Keller: “You will start to fall out of like with that person in most cases before you marry them. In the courtship or in the engagement that’s where most people say I guess I shouldn’t marry this person I fall out of like with them.”

Ed Litton: “You are going to fall out of like for one another. As a matter of fact, it is going to happen before you get married just in the process and the minutiae of trying to get ready for a wedding.

Even the introductions to the main biblical text shows signs of borrowing without citation.

Tim Keller: “We’ve come to maybe the classic text, the longest and the most famous text in the entire Bible on the subject of marriage.”

Ed Litton: “Ephesians chapter 5, the greatest passage in all of Scripture on the issue and subject of marriage.”

Tim Keller: “So far, we’ve only looked at the first two…Tonight I want to get to the third. And the first two are the power of marriage and the definition of marriage.”

Ed Litton: “We are going to recap the last two messages…the Power of Marriage and the Definition of Marriage and the Priority of Marriage.”

Litton gives a definition of marriage that is drawn from Keller’s definition. Keller also explains why Protestants typically have viewed marriage as not a sacrament of the church—thus allowing anyone to officially marry someone and not only a priest.

Tim Keller: “The essence of marriage is a covenant a legal, a legal commitment.”

Ed Litton: “The essence of marriage, we said last week, is a legal commitment, a binding covenant.”

Tim Keller: “What makes a marriage a marriage?”

Ed Litton: “What makes a marriage a marriage?”

Tim Keller: “A priest can marry. A minister can marry. A justice of the peace. Marriage is marriage. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a captain on a ship. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a justice of the peace marriage is marriage.”

Ed Litton: “Some people say, well, I got married by a priest, do I get married by a pastor, a justice of the peace, a judge or a sea captain? I mean does it matter where I get married? I don’t think that it matters who performs the ceremony.”

Tim Keller: “When marriage pops up, originally was given to Adam and Eve. It wasn’t given to only Christians it was given to human beings as human beings.”

Ed Litton: “God created marriage and gave it to mankind. The first man and first woman were the only man and only woman. And God said, ‘Here, I give you marriage.’ So, marriage is for all groups, all races, all nationalities, all nations and frankly all religions.”

Tim Keller: “What is it that makes you married? What makes you married is this: a permanent and exclusive public legal commitment to share your lives together—all aspects of it. It’s got a permanent. It’s got to be exclusive.”

Ed Litton: “What is marriage? It is a permanent, exclusive legal relationship.

There are many other points that show a heavy reliance on Keller. For example, both sermons mention how everyone is religious—something that flows naturally out of Keller’s presentation but appears unnecessary to Litton’s sermon.

Tim Keller: “The Bible says every human being is religious. It says this in Romans 1.”

Ed Litton: “The problem is that every human being at their core is religious. They are religious. Romans chapter 1 tells us that.

Litton takes a comment Keller made in 1991 about renewable contract marriages and asserts this is something being promoted by Generation Y.

Tim Keller: “Some people say it’s time to have renewable contract as you get married for three years and you have an option for three more. You’ve heard that. Now that might be interesting but that’s not a marriage.”

Ed Litton: “We are now hearing it suggested that what marriage needs now to be defined as is a three-year contract with a three-year option. In other words, a three-year contract with a three-year option for good behavior. That’s not biblical marriage.”

This 2012 Ed Litton sermon shows a broader pattern of borrowing than previously admitted

Ed Litton admitted to uncited borrowing from J.D. Greear’s sermon series on Romans. However, Litton’s admission came only after Sermongate allegations surfaced online thanks to the work of Internet sleuths.

Redemption Church removed at least 140 older sermons from its website and YouTube channel after videos surfaced showing Litton’s plagiarism. The church released a statement saying this was done to protection their pastor from those going through old sermons and attempting to malign him.

Litton told the Washington Times another story—entirely different. Litton told the Washington Times that the church was changing web hosting and so the sermons were removed to save space.

This was an obvious conflict. We argued the statements could not both be true.

Litton told SBC This Week that the statements were both true.

However, a deeper review of Litton’s older sermons shows why the sermons were removed. He borrowed from other sources—many times uncited—and preached the sermons as his own.