April 18, 2008

Copyright Infringement & Plagiarism, Part 2: Jim Johnson’s series, “Destroying Free Grace Theology”

This is the second installment in the continuing series that exposes the blatant plagiarism of Mr. Jim Johnson (“Instructor”: * Rocky Mountain Bible College). It was our intention to open this series with a review of Johnson’s plagiarism found in his currently **deleted Part 5 of Destroying Free Grace Theology.

In the thread under the first in this series, Jim Johnson’s Plagiarism, Part 1 Greg Schliesmann included this important observation in regard to Johnson’s plagiarism and deleting of the Part 5 article from his series. Greg noted,

Johnson tries to portray his plagiarism (of Bib Sac) as an issue of copyright infringement, which he can rectify by contacting the copyright holders and asking for permission to reprint their articles (probably without fully explaining how he used/plans to use them). However, plagiarism is different than simple copyright infringement in that the author deceptively passes of the work as his own. That is deception. That cannot be rectified.”
Following the posting of the first in this series Jim Johnson’s Plagiarism, Part 1 I had hoped and prayed for Mr. Johnson to confess, repent and seek God’s forgiveness, but his reaction was quite different. Instead he became combative. Johnson’s reaction became absurd including arguing that his plagiarism is acceptable because the word “plagiarism” is not in Scripture. Thus, he implies we are legalistic for employing an extra-Biblical standard.

Let’s begin Part 2 of Jim Johnson’s copyright infringement and blatant plagiarism.
Those of us who reject the teachings of Zane Hodges on the Gospel commonly known as the Crossless gospel (ReDefined Free Grace Theology) initially paid little attention to the series by Jim Johnson, Destroying Free Grace Theology. Ironically virtually no one in the Crossless camp has paid any attention to that series either.

Upon release of Johnson’s Part 5 in his series it was detected that he had plagairized an article from Bibliotheca Sacra (Bib Sac) in its entirety, without proper permission. Furthermore, at various points Mr. Johnson manipulated the Bib Sac article. I made a brief mention of this copyright infringement in previous thread discussions.
While not at first concerned, Greg Schliesmann later took a careful look at Johnson’s article while it was still available to be read at his (Johnson’s) blog. What follows is Greg’s review of Destroying Free Grace Theology, Part 5.
Lou, in regards to the copyright issue, I did not fully realize what you were talking about when you made that comment. Now that I have a copy of Hawthorne’s article that Johnson plagiarized, I now understand the egregious and illicit nature of what Mr. Johnson did. Aside from the issue of Federal copyright law, it is undeniably deceptive.

For others, I will summarize what I see:

1. The original Hawthorne articles at issue were published in a two-part series in Bibliotheca Sacra (Bib Sac) (24 pages total).

2. Johnson copied and pasted ALL of the first Hawthorne article (14 pages) and a section from the second Hawthorne article.

3. Johnson incorporated these articles into his own article in such a way that gave the distinct impression that they were written by Mr. Johnson.

4. The only credit given to Hawthorne was buried in a footnote:
Much of this section is adapted from the following articles, Ralph Rogers Hawthorne, The Significance of the Name of Christ, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 103, Number 410 April 1946; Number 411, July 1946; Number 412, October 1946.”

5. There is no clear break in Johnson’s article where Hawthorne’s articles begin or end.

6. In the section where Johnson copied and pasted Hawthorne’s article, right in the middle of Hawthorne’s own writing, Johnson injects this line: “Hawthorne quoting Walvoord shows that Christ is the Angel of LORD by the use of four lines of evidence.”

This is blatantly and purposely deceptive because he injected that line right into Hawthorne’s own article! He therefore gives the distinct impression that the section (i.e., the words surrounding Hawthorne’s “quote”) is written by Johnson! In actuality, the ENTIRE section is copied from Hawthorne VERBATIM, and so it is extremely misleading to pretend he is quoting him in a particular part of the section, when in actuality, the WHOLE section is directly taken from Hawthorne.

7. Mr. Johnson periodically changes a word written by Hawthorne, apparently in order to “make it his own” and evade copyright infringement. Apparently, this way, Mr. Johnson thought he could say he “adapted” Hawthorne’s articles rather than simply admitting he copied almost 20 pages of Hawthorne’s articles verbatim. To give you an example of how egregious this is:
It is of utmost importance to see that the name of Christ is not revealed in the New Testament alone. There are numerous Messianic passages in the Old Testament—vastly more than it is generally realized. Indeed, one guarantee of the Lord’s Messiahship rests on the unmistakable fact that a considerable amount of prophecy concerning Him has been fulfilled literally in minute detail. Herein lies the proof that further events prophesied also shall yet be brought to pass in their predestined time and order.

It is of paramount importance to see that the name of Christ is not only revealed in the New Testament alone. There are numerous Messianic passages in the Old Testament— very much more than it is generally realized. Indeed, one guarantee of the Lord’s Messiahship rests on the unmistakable fact that a considerable amount of prophecy concerning Him has been fulfilled literally in minute detail. Herein lies the proof that further events prophesied also shall yet be brought to pass in their predestined time and order.
Notice that Johnson changed “utmost importance” to “paramount importance.” The ENTIRE 20 pages are like this where Johnson randomly changes a word here and there to constitute his “adaptation.”

8. Now Johnson issued an apology on his website in which he:

a) characterizes this as a “human” oversight

b) indicates that his apology was prompted by a person who read Lou’s comment

c) indicates he was unaware that this violated Federal copyright law (apparently he thought changing a word in every paragraph made it okay)

d) criticizes Lou for mentioning this issue publicly

e) criticizes all free grace people who oppose the crossless gospel for being unwilling to listen to his arguments (ironically, he is the most unwilling to consider or interact with any arguments that contradict his view! In fact, I quoted him in an earlier post where he directly stated he would not interact with us because we would contradict his doctrinal view).

f) hurls unsubstantiated insults at everybody on our side of the debate as if to shift the blame and placate his own conscience

g) tries to play the issue down by indicating that he called Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) after his plagiarism was exposed by Lou, and the staff person at DTS/Bib Sac did not sound as concerned as Lou!

9. The general character of his apology is anger geared toward us rather than humility for, or even an acknowledgment of his purposeful deception.

Lou, I apologize for suggesting giving him the “benefit of the doubt” without having asked for more information first.

Greg Schliesmann

In the three articles Johnson has posted since withdrawing Part 5 of his series, he has not shown any sign of genuine humility, regret or repentance for his plagiarizing other men’s work. Instead he is combative, and angry that he was caught.

Mr. Jim Johnson is identified as an “Instructor” at the Rocky Mountain Bible College (RMBC). What follows is taken from a tab at the RMBC website labeled: Student Life: Christian Life & Conduct. The exact same wording is contained on page 21 of their 2006-2008 Catalog (viewable on-line) under the heading, “Student Life” on page 21.
Students at Rocky Mountain Bible College & Rocky Mountain Seminary will be involved in a number of activities, including evangelism, Christian service projects, and ministry. Students are expected to work closely with their local churches. Additionally, a faculty member will mentor each full-time student to give guidance in Christian growth and ministry involvement.

We live in a world whose standards are determined by our culture. As believers, our standard is to live in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1) as put forward in the Word of God. We believe that eternal life is a free gift to everyone who believes (John 3:16). We also believe that a close personal relationship with God is offered only to those who abide in God's love by obeying His commandments (John 15:10,14). We call this free grace and full responsibility.

Some of the responsibilities God commands of those who abide in Christ are to put off the works of the flesh, to be an example of the believer, to be holy even as God is holy, to put on the new man, to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to evidence the fruit of the Spirit.

Believers are called to a life of separation from all worldly and sinful practices. Students who demonstrate an ungodly lifestyle will be subject to discipline and dismissal.

Rocky Mountain Bible College & Rocky Mountain Seminary are committed to the same godly standards for its board, faculty, staff, and students
The RMBC standards for Christian Life & Conduct are applicable to “its board, faculty, staff and students.” In light of RMBC’s standards above what would RMBC’s response be to a student who might have submitted a paper the same way Johnson published a work that is not his own?

Should RMBC retain an Instructor who has run roughshod over the standards sets for RMBC students?

Closing note to Mr. Johnson
Jim, the 8th Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” is still in the Bible.


*RMBC is a small Bible College that is staunchly dedicated to the Crossless interpretation of the Gospel, the teachings of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society.

**Once the copyright infringement and plagiarism of Hawthorne’s Bib Sac article was uncovered Mr. Johnson removed the article from his blog. Johnson said he would be reposting it in the near future. We will at that time review and compare it against the original he published, which we have archived. We will look to see just how much of the original has been altered. Once the review is complete, if we find that it is strikingly different than the original, we will forward it to the editors at Dallas Theological Seminary’s Bib Sac to assist them in protecting Bib Sac from Johnson’s misuse of their articles.


  1. Lou,

    Thanks for this post. Earlier this week I sent two emails to RMBC. The first email concerned the theological views of Mr. Johnson which are in direct contradiction to the RMBC doctrinal statement! The second email concerned the ethical issues of Mr. Johnson's blatent acts of plagiarism which are in direct contradiction to RMBC Christian Life & Conduct! (You do a fine job of documenting this in your latest post.) To date I have received absolutely no communication from RMBC regarding these emails! Unless this changes I will loose complete respect for this institution, and even now feel that their reputation is beyond saving.


  2. Jon:

    I know Greg also wrote RMBC.

    The RMBC rules for conduct are clear, but I think they may be selectively applied in this case.

    IMO, the RMBC administration has no intention of even investigating Johnson's plagiarism. I want to be proven wrong about that, but as far as I can tell, as long as a man supports the Crossless gospel his bad behavior is an acceptable norm.


  3. These situations are never easy for an organization.

    Let's be in prayer for them. Discipline is often the right solution not expulsion.

    Do not misread this as being soft on the issue. I'm just hopeful that RMBC will not be painted something wrong if they choose to carry out such discipline in private. If that discipline is effective or not will be something we will have to watch and evaluate.


  4. Kev:

    Thanks and I appreciate you sharing that.


  5. Kev, I agree with your encouragement for prayer.

    I think an instructor's actions (especially like plagiarism) reflect on a Bible college. If they do not respond publicly (especially when Johnson maintains a non-repentant, hostile, combative, defensive attitude and portrays himself as a victim) then they have at least tolerated this sort of behavior. It is not illegitimate for people to judge a Bible college by its response or lack of response in such a case.

  6. Dear Guests:

    I am preparing the third example of Johnson's plagiarism. It will post Monday or Tuesday.


  7. All:

    It is common courtesy even among the unsaved to reply to inquiring emails, especially when concerning serious allegations of this nature. To date, RMBC has not even given me the courtesy of a response! Their silence speaks volumes.


  8. Greg/Jon/Kev:

    As I mull over this issue and RMBC situation I have this thought.

    Johnson’s plagiarism was posted in the public forum. That in my mind necessitates a public reaction from RMBC since they employ him. Not because I say so, but they really need to make their feelings known about plagiarism or the perception is that RMBC does not take it very seriously.

    Imagine prospective students considering RMBC and find that they have a known plagiarist on staff who was never reprimanded. Time to keep looking for a respectable Bible college.

    I just tried a Google search. I typed in “Jim Johnson Plagiarism.” The first four hits on page 1 were about Jim’s plagiarism. Like it or not, this is going to follow him and RMBC.


  9. Lou,

    Another thought that comes to mind is that online, in the public, you have a man who not only committed plagiarism but also continues to defend it.

    In fact, it is glaringly obvious to everyone I've interacted with that Mr. Johnson is in denial. Even when he got caught and "apologized" for his first instance of plagiarism, he did not even admit to or take down the other articles he plagiarized in the same series. His so-called apology went only as far as he thought you revealed.

    Now, keep in mind, Mr. Johnson is in a position where Rocky Mountain Bible College is asking Bible students to submit to him as a Bible instructor. How can any Bible college administration ask their students to submit to a teacher who is delusional, who has a martyr complex, who displays a lack of ability to understand an article he critiques, who is promoting the crossless gospel, who displays elitist and self-glorifying behavior, and who is defending his own plagiarism with a combative attitude?

    Mr. Johnson should be an outstanding example for his students. Instead, he is a plagiarizer.

    Recently, Mr. Johnson called us "terrorists". Now surely this is absurd. And I would never imply the same thing about Mr. Johnson. But, ironically, a funny comparison comes to mind...

    If you pay attention to current events, you'll often hear Iranian President and terrorist vasicallate between denying the Holocaust and admitting it happened (but claiming Israel still shouldn't exist). Recently, he questioned whether the terrorist attacks of Septemer 11th really happened. Well, that reminded me of how Jim Johnson simultaneously denied and defended his plagiarism. Right in the same paragraph, he denies it (as though it did not happen) and defends it (as though he admits it happened but should not be blamed since he is not financially profitting from it). These men just cannot face reality.

    How can a Bible college ask its students to submit to such as a man as their instructor in the Word of God?

    4/18/2008 10:22 PM

  10. Greg:

    You wrote, "Another thought that comes to mind is that online, in the public, you have a man who not only committed plagiarism but also continues to defend it."

    Honestly, he is so all-over-the-board I can't be sure if he is denying or defending his plagiarism. Seems to be a combination of both.

    His ego is so huge, and he lives within an aura of theological greatness he has boasted of himself that I think he is unable/unwilling to accept that he is mortal. This is why he fights and attacks, when humility and repentance would be the reaction of a Spirit-filled man.

    Antonio da Rosa has long since destroyed his own reputation, but it took months for him to do it. Johnson did it in a week. My point is that the behavior, character and reputation of the Crossless men is in steady decline.

    They are their own worst enemies and a blight on the name of Christ.


  11. Greg,

    You make a good point that Johnson is trying to deny and defend all at the same time... which is it?

    Although, it seems that he is not actually teaching the Bible to any of the students at RMBC. According to the online schedule for the spring semester, the only course Johnson taught, ironically, was "Computers and Internet Research". Perhaps he is slated to teach actual Bible or theology courses in the future, or maybe he has done so in the past, but apparently he isn't this semester.

    Of course, your point still stands that he is an "instructor" at a Bible college, and as such is likely sort of lumped in together with actual Bible professors from the students' perspective. And certainly he should still be held to the same standard. For that matter, no one should be allowed to plagiarize and get away with it. That is one of the top "sins" in academia. I certainly hope that RMBC takes appropriate action.

  12. Rachel, thanks for the correction. I did not look at the RMBC course schedule prior to writing that. Aside from the RMBC listing him as instructor, Johnson has used this status to add credentials to his writing. For example, the 5-part series we're commenting on has this heading:

    Jim Johnson, MSCS, MABS Candidate, Rocky Mountain Seminary

    Adjunct Professor Rocky Mountain Bible College

    The impression I get when someone says he is a professor at a Bible College when writing a theological polemic like this is that he is a professor of the Bible. In any case, like you said, the point still stands, especially when he is using this position as a credential and a platform to gain an audience for his theologically-related writing.

  13. Rachel/Greg:

    You may have noted in this series that when I use a title for Mr. Johnson I have used, "Instructor." That has been with a purpose in mind, which you have just detailed.

    This is the subject of another entry I have alreday written for this on-going series. I will post it later in the up coming week.

    Ironic that he teaches "Internet Research." It is partially due to "Internet Research" that his mass plagiarism was discovered.


  14. Even the secular Universities will terminate a professor for such egregious actions.

    The University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria convicted Ernst Haeckel for Academic Fraud when he published his famous "embryos" proving evolution by using pig embryos and claiming they were human.

    I wonder if Rocky Mountain Bible College will show the same integrity as secular institutions?

  15. H Elijah:

    First time here? Welcome.

    Plagiarism is a serious matter, and as you noted typically draws serious consequences.

    Anyway, it is up to RMBC to address and deal with Johnson and his plagiarism.

    I am hopeful they will put emotions and allegiance aside to do the right thing. First to confront him for the purpose of gaining his repentance, and then work toward restoring his walk with God.

    The RMBC reputation is on the line. How they handle this will be a testimony about their character and willingness to do what is right for years to come.

    IMO, it is very possible they will ignore this and hope it goes away.

    We'll see.

    Thanks for stopping by.