Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Re: “Attack from Moscow”

I lifted this post from an exchange addressing the recent “Attack From Moscow” from the The Warfield List. I rejoice to see that the number of Christians who see through Wilson and his Kirk Klux Klan appears to grow everyday.

Hi Jeff,

I’m currently in NJ visiting with family and trying desperately to get the evening sermon finished before drive-time tomorrow, so technically I shouldn’t even be writing any non-essential email, but I did want to add a few quick comments.

For several years after I became Reformed, I was an avid reader of Doug Wilson’s books and Credenda Agenda. I particularly appreciated his and his wife’s books on marriage and family, and recommended them to others. I frequently got a good chuckle (usually at the expense of others) from his witty but acerbic letters and columns. In time, the chuckling became something I began to feel guilty about, and I became more and more concerned about the acid and the trajectory of his overall theology. In particular, his veneration of all things medieval began to really bug me, and even though I am an opponent of federalism and a fan of southern Presbyterian theology, the pro-slavery kick was much more than I could bear. The various public scandals and then private conversations with ex-Christ Kirkers were the icing on the cake (for documentary and audio evidence of what I’m referring to, please see dougsplotch). “Reformed” is Not Enough only serve to confirm my growing concerns. Today, I neither recommend his ministry or his writings to others.

I have no doubt that a minister in a connectional denomination that had effective oversight, review and control would have either been removed from his position or caused to resign a long time ago. Had not Wilson worked hard to ensure that he is functionally accountable only to himself, that might have already happened. Additionally, the current practice of growing the CREC by “crash landing” (to use another blogger’s apt phrase) churches from other denominations and ministers who have either been or are about to be or have been disciplined by their mother denominations is hardly a safe or advisable practice. Obviously it’s hard for a Reformed church to become cult-like, but sadly Christ Church has already accumulated many of the marks. Unfortunately, Jeff, your comments and the comments of others pointing out the obvious and growing problems with Wilson’s ministry and denomination will only garner you more “attacks from Moscow,” experience has shown that infallibility is merely one of many RC doctrines that Wilson has co-opted.

Anyway, I’m saddened by the recent beyond-the-pale lashing out at Mattes, but not surprised, there is much more where that came from, I just hope that this might precipitate the moment where we finally have the public equivalent of the McCarthy/Welch exchange. Mattes’ best response to Wilson’s libelous blog post might simply be Welch’s famous rejoinder, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb

Hi Andy, all:

First off, I wanted to post a short (1:56) MP3 of an arrangement/orchestration of Bach’s Brandenburg No. 4 in G Major (up until the violin [or harpsichord, depending on which version one prefers] solo) I arranged to offer to the list for a happy Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how to this, or even if I have access to do so. I’ll take a shot at it, bit if you or anyone has sage wisdom as to how to do this before I descend into the time-consuming abyss of the Yahoo cyber-maze, I’d appreciate it. If anyone wants to request it, I’ll send it directly to you. I hope that you enjoy it.

But what you and Jeff write is not a surprise is it? For years now, it has been apparent that the FV really is just the Reformed equivalent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Check out the parallels between the agenda of the main cult leaders and Wilson and you can get the flavor (Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults is great for background on these leaders). This is one small reason why, as helpful as the liberal model is in helping to understand the FV (particularly as it affects established conservative denominations), the cult model, with its ability to analyze integrating the post-modern theological syncretism (the FVaries demonstrate with no regard at all for systematic context), will inevitably be more helpful in understanding the error of the FVaries.

Wilson, I have heard, is absolutely irate about having his views marginalized. We can certainly expect more rants from him and his buddies. So far (until the series of reports condemning the FV from conservative denoms and seminaries), the FV existed being viewed by many as somewhat akin to an eccentric cousin within the Reformed family. Now, it is outed as simply a bastard son pretending to be THE heir, a self-deluded pretender to the throne. This is the fount from which the venom spews.

In Christ,

Dan Landis
Church of the Covenant OPC

I find it interesting that the response to Wilson is to attack and discount him rather than even attempt to deal in any serious way with the substance of his arguments. I thought his questioning of basic fairness and burden of proof were troubling and would welcome meaningful interaction with them rather than personal attacks and name-calling.

Jack Wilson
Covenant OPC

Hi Jack,

Sorry about the lateness of this reply, I have been incredibly busy of late.

Jack, what I wrote was not intended to be an ad hom against Wilson. I have nothing against the man personally. Rather it was intended to be an appeal to a wise maxim that your mentor R.C. Sproul long ago taught me when considering an assertion: “consider the source.”

As one of the primary promoters and publishers of the Federal Vision, Doug Wilson is hardly an unbiased observer of the current process of church discipline against FV advocates in the PCA, especially given the CREC’s “odd” (to put it very mildly) practice of church discipline and respect for the discipline of other denominations. Additionally, as the scorn liberally heaped on your own denomination’s report on the FV shows, the advocates of the FV have made clear that any action of any church court that condemns them or their theology will be attacked and vilified and the bona fides and intelligence of those who prepared it shredded. For instance, after the OPC report was released, we watched as the men who prepared it went from being scholars to disingenuous buffoons. Simply put, the only way the FV community will consider a report “fair” and the scholars who prepared it “wise” is if it approves of their theology, or at least doesn’t condemn it. So it really doesn’t matter what process is used by the courts of the church to discipline FV advocates, the very fact that the process is underway will always be “unfair” because there can never be merit in a case that attacks their orthodoxy. Under normal circumstances, when a doctrine is overwhelmingly condemned by every orthodox Reformed denomination and seminary that studies it and produces a report, you would expect that assertions that the study process is always unfair would begin to sound hollow even to those promulgating them, but instead we still hear all the time from the FV that the real problem is a “vast TR conspiracy” and not their own unscriptural and unconfessional (to use the declaration of the OPC report) theology.

But setting aside the source of the criticism for a moment, and the impossibility of there ever being a “fair” method of condemning their theology (theoretically, if they all condemned themselves, that might be considered fair) let’s try to lay out some broad outlines of the case against Wilkins with some background that seems to be frequently omitted, please keep in mind that the following is all from memory:
  1. Steve Wilkins is a member of Louisiana Presbytery (hereafter LA Presbytery) a tiny Presbytery of 8 Churches with a great deal of theological affinity and considerable support for both the NPP and FV. For instance, Jeff Steel, former pastor of an LA Presbytery church, went on to become Father Jeffrey Steel and an assistant to N.T. Wright. Simply put, this is not a Presbytery where an attachment to the FV or NPP is considered odd.

  2. Steve Wilkins own attachment to the FV is unquestionable. Before the FV was called the FV it was generally known as the “Auburn Avenue Theology” after Wilkins church which sponsored conferences promoting it. The name Federal Vision was coined by these advocates and used as the title of their manifesto, The Federal Vision printed by Athanasius Press, the publishing arm of Auburn Avenue PCA. Wilkins has an essay in this book.

  3. Despite the size of the Presbytery attempts have been made to bring charges against Wilkins by members of the presbytery. These attempts have never produced a trial because the Presbytery has consistently refused to do so.

  4. In January of 2005 Central Carolina PCA Presbytery wrote to LA Presbytery expressing their concerns with the published statements of Steve Wilkins and requesting that his views be formally examined. This was done by means of questioning Wilkins, and despite giving several answers that either contradicted or substantially revised the Westminster Standards, LA Presbytery determined there was nothing chargeable in Wilkins views.

  5. Given that no action against Wilkins was available from within the LA Presbytery, several Presbyteries determined that it was time to use the BCO 34-1 clause, this clause presses the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction because a presbytery has refused to act in a doctrinal case or a case of scandal. (The clause was written into the BCO at the founding of the PCA because of memories of the old PCUS “rotten presbytery” problem were liberals became the majority in a particular presbytery and did whatever they wanted.) They include written evidence from Wilkins published writings showing where he was manifestly out of accord with the Standards. This attempt to use 34-1 failed because the SJC determined that the investigation by LA Presbytery met the requirement to “act” of 34-1.

  6. Central Carolina Presbytery however, in its memorial to the General Assembly also memorialized the SJC (BCO 40-5) calling upon them to look into the actions of LA Presbytery regard Wilkins as matters of important delinquency and/or grossly unconstitutional proceedings. This call was taken up and the LA Presbytery was called to account for its actions in re: Steve Wilkins before the SJC.

  7. The LA Presbytery defense of their actions was unsuccessful, and even the representative they sent expressed his own reservations in regard to the incongruities between Wilkin’s published statements and spoken testimony. The SJC determined that our memorial was in order, and that LA Presbytery had erred both in the methodology of their investigation and in their decision to exonerate TE Wilkins. The SJC then voted unanimously to redress the situation, instructing LA Presbytery to reinvestigate using the new guidelines they were given by February of 2007. The SJC decision on this point was unanimous.

  8. LA Presbytery again examined and exonerated Steve Wilkins by a 13-8 vote in January of 2007. The following month 7 members of LA Presbytery filed a complaint (43-1) regarding the decision of LA Presbytery to exonerate Wilkins. This also went to the SJC.

  9. In the meantime, the PCA in June of 2007 overwhelmingly condemned the FV theology at its GA by accepting a study report which judged it to be unscriptural and unconfessional just as the OPC, BPC, RPCUS, RCUS, etc. already had.

  10. In October the SJC decision in favor of both the members of LA Presbytery who complained against the decision to exonerate AND the original Central Carolina memorial and have indicted LA Presbytery calling it to appear to explain its actions in this matter.
In short brother, this has been a long and by-the-book judicial dealing with a man who unquestionably holds to the FV — a doctrinal system that both your and my denomination have already overwhelmingly condemned in their published study reports. The idea that this is “unfair” can only be cogent if like most FV advocates you reject all processes that have condemned the FV and utterly reject the idea that the FV could ever be unorthodox. But to turn this GLACIAL, plodding, step-by-step, vote-by-vote, reaffirmation-by- overwhelming-reaffirmation process into some sort of modern day Council of Constance is just silly. (Not that it’s relevant but it strikes me that had the Roman Catholics been using this process during the Reformation, most of the martyrs would have died not at the stake but of old age.)

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb

Andy Webb and Dan Landis, to you I wish to say,

Thank you.


Publius said...

Look at the Thanksgiving post on Doug's blog. He includes "neo-Confederates" in with the "feminists, abortion-rights advocates, lesbians, radical secularists" and others plotting his downfall. I guess the Southern Heritage stichk went down the memory hole.