Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Sean Mahaffey has to lay off the ganja weed before he posts anymore comments on Green Bagginses; it tends to blur his judgment. For example, two days ago he penned the following comments presumably from a bong-induced mushroom-shaped cloud of calitas rising up through the air:

Sean Mahaffey said,
I don’t think that Pastor Wilson would claim to be in the same league as Dr. Bahnsen as an apologist, but I would claim it for him. Wilson’s debates with Stein, Barker, and Hitchens are first rate. His critiques of Harris and Dawkins are devastating. His book Persuasions is the most practical example of presuppositional apologetics I have read. Granted, Wilson is not as precise or relentless as Dr. Bahnsen was. Wilson’s style is more like Chesterton or Lewis, but he is thoroughly Van Tillian/presuppositional and is actively engaged in debating atheists publicly and successfully.

Who is a living self-conscious Van Tillian who is publicly debating atheists better than Wilson nowadays?



Sean Mahaffey said,

I agree that there is more to life than CVT, but this thread is about CVT. I am not trying to disparage the contributions of classical or evidential apologetics in theory and practice and I appreciate the work of those on your list, but the particular point was concerning presuppositional apologists who are actively engaging unbelievers in the Acts 17 — refute the gainsayer way. Wilson is very effective at this. In my opinion, his debate with Barker is a close second to the Bahnsen-Stein debate and is better than Bahnsen’s debates with Tabash and Smith.

Perhaps the only thing worse than a monkey boy is a monkey boy strung out on some bad skunk. Dude, you are not the Walrus and Paul is not dead — Koo koo ka choo. Put down the Cheech & Chong and pick up the living word while you have a few brain cells left. You still have hope.

That said, Mr. Mahaffey broaches an issue that deserves a little more attention than most folks think to give it and it’s clear that, notwithstanding his fawning praise of the Fearless Leader, he doesn’t have all the facts. Yes, it’s true that Wilson puts himself forward as an apologist for the Christian faith but he also says he’s a presbyterian. Maybe we could cut it down the middle and say that Wilson is a Christian to the same extent he’s a presbyterian and he’s an apologist for whatever sect of Christianity that condones wholesale misrepresentation in order to promote one man’s personal interests.

Let me illustrate the point. In 2003 the citizens of the Palouse learned that Wilson co-wrote (plagiarized) a booklet that defended Christians in the antebellum South who kidnapped, bought, sold, bred, and owned slaves — fellow human beings — as a biblical practice sanctioned by God in the Scriptures. As noted, this staggering revelation about Wilson caused no small stir among the entire population save 800 lost souls of the Kult. And as the scandal escalated, the Fearless Leader did pretty much everything in his power to exacerbate the situation. In fact, he used the exact same M.O. as we have seen in the Federal Vision controversy, all the way down to him demanding a debate — yes, Dougzilla stomped through the streets of Moscow and insisted that two historians debate the thesis of his tawdry little book Southern Slavery As It Was, which he has never repudiated.

On Friday, November, 21, 2003, exactly six weeks into the slavery scandal, the Moscow–Pullman Daily News published an op-ed by Wilson, which concluded,

I am happy to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to a public discussion/debate on this issue with Quinlan and/or Ramsey. Let’s set a date at our earliest mutual convenience.

The two men targeted by this invitation are historians from the University of Idaho who wrote a withering response to SSAIW called Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t: Professional Historians Respond to Neo-Confederate Misinformation, which the UI freely distributed electronically on its website and in hardcopy to whoever asked. And true to form, the moment someone published something critical of the Fearless Leader, he immediately applied Plan A, i.e., seek to vanquish the critic through debate, hence the above invitation. But Drs. Quinlan & Ramsey knew better and ignored the invitation. To my knowledge they never stated publicly their reasons for ignoring him, but I suppose it had something to do with his profound ignorance combined with his equally profound arrogance. As a rule, academics don’t share platforms with blowhards when they have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Had either of these men caved, they would have given Wilson and his racist position instant credibility while simultaneously losing all theirs.

But don’t miss this point: Wilson asked for a debate because he really believed that his preposterous revision of American history was true and he intended to defend it in a public forum against two professional historians, as if his rhetorical skills could somehow overcome reality and change history. And as you contemplate this historical fact, don’t forget that this so-called minister of the gospel intended to fight on this hill because he believed it critical to the gospel. He really thinks that the Scriptures justify the antebellum South and that the slaves got a pretty good shake from their owners. Honestly, at this point normal people should begin acknowledging that there’s something terribly wrong with the man. Indeed, whatever else may be true, this much is certain: Douglas Wilson is one big can of crazy.

Nevertheless, Drs. Quinlan & Ramsey gave Wilson all the attention due a man of his intellectual achievements — zip, zilch, nada — and he wasted no time switching to Plan B, which calls for persecution, bullying, and harassment of his critics. For example, he posted the following email on the local listserv:

From: “Douglas”
To: “Vision2020”
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 4:07 PM
Subject: [Vision2020] Proposed debate


In my newspaper column a week or so ago, I concluded by inviting Drs. Quinlan and Ramsey to debate. Not hearing anything back from them, I emailed them privately last week to reiterate the offer. After making that second offer I have not heard back either.

I must now take an interesting (and perhaps courageous) step. At the top of their paper is the most interesting copyright notice I have ever seen. After the normal copyright dealies, it says, “Please do not cite, quote, summarize, or otherwise reproduce without permission of the authors.” Not being a professional historian myself, I am unfamiliar with this kind of restriction. I was somewhat surprised that they did not also include “or refer to the existence of” as one of the restrictions.

Here is the courageous step. I am now going to quote from their paper, and I did not get permission. On the second page, the writers say that it “is imperative, therefore, that real historical scrutiny be focused on this unusual performance.” I agree! Well, here is a golden opportunity for professional historians to focus some more real historical scrutiny on my little putt-putt scholarship.

This being the case, why the silence? Perhaps there is an explanation to be found in Ambrose Bierce’s incomparable Devil’s Dictionary.

Valor, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler’s hope.

“Why have you halted?” roared the commander of a division at Chickamauga, who had ordered a charge; “move forward, sir, at once.”

“General,” said the commander of the delinquent brigade, “I am persuaded that any further display of valor by my troops will bring them into collision with the enemy.”


Douglas Wilson

P.S. Chickamauga was a battle in the War of the Roses, although professional historians take a different view.

Gee, there’s a surprise; the Fearless Leader resorted to Tarzan-like chest-thumping when he called out Drs. Quinlan & Ramsey to oppose him in a debate on the biblical merits of Southern slavery. Apparently he hoped that his cry of the jungle would somehow persuade them to change their minds (please don’t forget that he posted this email to a public list where the majority of subscribers are unbelievers). Perhaps this is his application of St. Paul’s command, “Let your gentleness be known to all men” (Phil. 4:5). Or else this is another example of him believing he’s above Scripture.

Either way, I don’t think it’s possible for a grown man in a position of responsibility to be more detached from reality than this. Not only did he hold an impossible position historically, but he adopted a biblically untenable posture to defend it. And don’t kid yourself that the harassment ended here; he was just getting warmed up (which you can read about here, here, and here). If Wilson ever had any respect in Moscow, he lost it all during this scandal.

Now to point: It’s possible that at some level Wilson really believes that defending the mythological honor of the Confederacy and abusing his critics in public glorifies Christ, but if we’re honest about it, there’s something else happening here. There is nothing noble about economic systems predicated on kidnapping and enslaving other human beings and there is no connection between the integrity of the gospel and the South’s wicked culture.

To be sure, the Fearless Leader’s call for a debate had nothing to do with presuppositional apologetics defending the gospel of grace and it had nothing to do with refuting the gainsayers. In fact, just the opposite was true. This public offense happened because one man resolved to scandalize the gospel with his outrageous statements and sinful behavior; this disgraceful controversy took place because one man defended the indefensible for no other reason than self-will and pride; and this scandal came about because one man rebuffed every effort of Christians who pleaded with him to stand down and shut up (and I know many Christians who did this).

And in the end this scandal provides a glimpse of Douglas Wilson’s true apologetic, which has only one objective — compel the world to see the Fearless Leader’s magnificent genius in any and all fields of study. Douglas Wilson is no more a Christian apologist than he is a Christian. If he happens to defend the gospel in a debate with an atheist, it’s because he managed to grab the spotlight so that others could admire his greatness, not because he wants to glorify the Savior. We see this historical fact demonstrated by his demand for a debate on Southern slavery where he deliberately sullied the gospel in order to make himself appear illustrious. If anything, his apologetic is the exact opposite of John the Baptist’s — “I must increase, but He must decrease.” And the best way to account for this is to remark the obvious: he’s a dougsuppositionalist.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

I've not heard this view advocated before (which doesn't mean much, ignorant of the wider world as I am), but I've always thought of the OT slavery regulations as being "limiting ordinances" that permitted an objective evil, because of the hardness of men's hearts, but restrained its worst abuses. Divorce, for example, is an objective evil that God hates, but God also permitted and regulated it, according to Jesus, on account of the hardness of men's hearts. It has been suggested that the "lex talionis", "eye for eye", rule be interpreted in the same way, not as mandating vengeance, but limiting it to no more than the harm suffered. In Christ we have been shown a better way. The theonomists are a scary bunch, I think.

Which brings me to an interesting question. If theonomist DW thinks slavery is righteous in principle on OT precedent, then he must also regard polygyny and concubinage as "in principle righteous" on as strong or stronger precedent. So the question is then: is the ultimate goal of FV union with Rome or with Salt Lake City?