The fact that a couple people defended Alister McGrath’s self-plagiarism in response to my previous article forced me back to the text of Christian Theology: An Introduction (5th ed.) to look for more examples of plagiarism.
I begin with a quote from Historical Theology: An Introduction. McGrath writes:
“The book makes use of some material already present in the best-selling work Christian Theology: An Introduction, which has been reconfigured with the specific purpose of introducing students to the discipline of historical theology. Although much new material has been added and some existing material rewritten, the basic approach and some contents of this earlier work have been retained.” (Historical Theology, 2nd ed., xii).
Now this is really interesting. McGrath doesn’t tell us here how much material has been recycled from Christian Theology. (And one wonders how many readers will even come across this introductory proviso, let alone bother to inquire as to the extent of the recycling.) But after going through both texts I can confirm that virtually the entire first section of Christian Theology, that is, approximately one hundred pages, is reused in Historical Theology. For point of comparison:
Just look at the first chapter of Christian Theology. Virtually the entirety of chapter 1 “The Patristic Period, C. 100-C. 700, (pp. 5-20) also constitutes chapter 1 of Historical Theology (2nd ed.) entitled “The Patristic Period, C. 100-451”.
Next, compare chapter two of Christian Theology, titled “The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, C. 700-C. 1500,” pp. 22-42 to chapter 2 of Historical Theology. Again, virtually the entire twenty pages is copied with only minor changes in titles and arrangment of text.
Now turn to chapter three of Christian Theology titled “The Age of Reformation, C. 1500-C. 1750,” pp. 43-64 and then turn to Historical Theology, p. 125 and start reading.
Next, let’s turn to chapter four of Christian Theology, “The Modern Period, C. 1750-to the Present,” p. 66 ff., and compare that to Historical Theology, pp. 183 ff.
Now I have an obvious question for McGrath. Does he believe it is moral to take approximately twenty percent of Christian Theology and repackage it to make up approximately 30% of Historical Theology? (Incidentally, while McGrath refers to text being “rewritten” and “reconfigured”, by comparing the two books you can see just how little change there is.)
Incidentally, significant portions of Part 1 of Christian Theology also appear in Christianity: An Introduction, but I didn’t bother to note those examples.
Now let’s note some other examples of recycling of material. All these examples are drawn from the next thirty pages.
Turn to Christian Theology, p. 102, the section beginning “The word ‘theology’ is easily broken down into two Greek words” and compare it to Historical Theology, p. 1 ff. and Christianity: An Introduction, pp. 111 ff.
Next, turn to Christian Theology, p. 115 ff. (the section with the title “Justin Martyr”) and compare it to McGrath, Nature: A Scientific Theology (Eerdmans, 2009), 11 ff.
Next, turn to Christian Theology, p. 121 ff. and compare it to McGrath, In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture (Anchor, 2002), pp. 228 ff. and Christianity: An Introduction, p. 121 ff.
Now compare Christian Theology, p. 130 ff. (the section beginning “We open our discussion by dealing with the patristic period…”) to Historical Theology, p. 112. and Christianity: An Introduction, p. 130 ff.
I could go on, but why bother? McGrath recycles the vast majority of the first one hundred thirty pages of Christian Theology: An Introduction in other publications, sometimes more than once. This is misleading and dishonest behavior, unbecoming of any academic or any author, let alone a self-described Christian theologian and apologist.