Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cain and Abel — and Gary

Over at Green Baggins a thread emerged addressing Douglas Wilson’s public controversy with his brother Evan, which resulted in a comment/question from Pastor Gary Johnson that I shall answer:

Look fellow critics of the FV, what if after pondering my appeals to DW shortly after the Knox colloquium, Doug responding along these lines — “Gary, thanks so much for taking time to write me personally and to express your concerns over the FV. I very much appreciate it and I intend to convey these concerns to my fellow FVers and to take the necessary steps to publically distance myself from views held by some of them that I likewise am very uncomfortable with.” And so instead of taking the position that he has, Doug does just the opposite and refuses to be identified with the FV. IF that had happened would Mike T. and Kevin Johnson be dredging this stuff up about DW and his brother and other rumors that have circulated around Moscow? I seriously doubt it. I am all for criticising DW for his role and views on the FV, but taking cheapshots at him outside that context is reprehensible.

I have five observations and one answer.

First, Gary asks a question predicated on a hypothetical scenario that denies real-life circumstances: If DW repudiated FV etc., would we care about the issue between him and his brother? But I could just as easily ask, If Douglas Wilson had a long-term, highly public, and oftentimes nasty controversy with his brother and he joined the anti-FV ranks, would Gary still not care about DW’s relationship to his brother? I seriously doubt it. Either way, neither question matters because Douglas Wilson never repudiated FV and he has not aligned himself with those who oppose his doctrine.

Second, Gary presupposes that the NYT Magazine biased its report on the estrangement between Douglas Wilson and his brother. However, when I asked him to explain how the reporter biased the story, he did not answer. Nevertheless, I honestly don’t know how anyone could construe this quote as “biased”:

Evan Wilson, 52, has been estranged from his older brother’s church and college ever since a theological quarrel in the late 1980s that he dubs “the Great Unpleasantness.”

Even Douglas Wilson described the piece as “a fair-minded article.” And when you consider that few people scream louder than Wilson when he thinks the media has wronged him, it’s safe to say that he thinks the article is fair minded. To be sure, Wilson only took offense that his conflict with Evan appeared in the NYT first notice of Jim Wilson’s ministry:

Suffice it to say for now that I believe it is really sick that the first notice that my father’s extremely fruitful ministry got in the NYT was notice of a conflict between his sons.

Wilson wasn’t offended that it was noticed; he was offended that the NYT included this in their first notice. And Evan Wilson, in his usual understated manner, took no offense at all:

The Great Unpleasantness is in ways like Barfield and Lewis. In this case both sides have espoused Christ though you could not get further apart within that camp. On one side Calvinist, Sacramental, Ritualistic, Covenental, and crypto-Catholic, while on the other Open Theist, Anabaptist, and Low Church. I still can have enlightening conversation with members of the first group (two of which commented graciously above) but the ecclesiastics of that set have banned me. They have decided that I am in the thrall of bitterness and envy (for they have certainly been more successful than I) which has left me no place to call mine own except heresy. I haven’t really posted on it but some things have been vaguely on that stage.

So I’m not sure why Gary calls Wilson’s fractured relationship with his brother a “rumor” since neither Douglas nor Evan denied it and both men actually confirmed it.

Third, the name of this blog is “Federal Schism” and I have identified its theme as “Plain words addressing the rank hypocrisy of the disingenuous men behind the Federal Vision.” Therefore, I did not hesitate to observe the rank hypocrisy of Douglas Wilson’s comments on his blog and on Green Baggins, however I left it to the reader to make the proper inferences relative to Wilson’s schismatic personality. Perhaps I should have drawn the conclusion. Regardless, I see an organic connection between dishonesty, false doctrine, and schism. I am not a Gnostic.

Fourth, as noted, Douglas Wilson wasted no time dragging innuendo about a former member’s private life into the conversation, writing,

Or third, you can stay on my blog as is with the proviso that that you formally waive all pastoral/parishioner privileges, granting me permission to respond to your assertions via reference to your full history with us.

So, by Douglas Wilson’s standards a person’s “full history” is fair game when settling controversies, unless, of course, he exempts himself from having to live by his own standard.

Fifth, I agree with Gary that no one should take “cheap shots” at anyone, but he has not identified the sleaze factor here. He continually ignores that Douglas Wilson made his conflict with his brother a public scandal. Douglas Wilson is the only one taking “cheap shots” here; he has taken them at his brother for about 20 years and prosecuted them with no less zeal than we see in the FV controversy (which is a pattern worth noticing).

So, given these five observations about Gary’s position, the answer to his question is, yes, if Douglas Wilson aligned himself with the anti-FV advocates, I would call attention to his terrible relationship with his brother, if the occasion arose (as it did in this case), because his bad reputation with those outside the Church (1 Tim. 3:7), which is due in part to the way he has treated his brother in public, would pose a huge liability to the cause of sound doctrine. In other words, you really don’t want this man on your side.