Saturday, March 22, 2008

The End Thereof

Last weekend a dispute erupted over some of Pastor Lane Keister’s comments about Doug Wilson’s doctrinal orthodoxy. Personally, I don’t agree with any judgment that affirms Wilson is a Christian, orthodox or not, but I know that other men do not see with my eyes and they must judge according to the light that God has given them. Nevertheless, I want to consider Pastor Lane’s comments from another angle, by comparing them to statements made by other leaders during this controversy.

For example, in January 2007, Dr. Scott Clark posted an excellent essay on his blog, which included this paragraph:

The bottom line is that I do not believe that I misunderstand Doug. Doug’s on a journey. He was an Arminian. Then he moved into the Reformed orbit. I think he signed the Cambridge Declaration. Now he’s passing through the outer fringes of Reformed Christianity toward another orbit. He’s a talented and articulate fellow and I guess he’ll take some folk with him. My goal is to try to help folks see clearly what’s happening and maybe to keep a few of them from following him to whatever star he’s heading. (“(Reformed) Christianity and (Quasi-Reformed) Revisionism”)

Please notice these three points:
  1. Doug’s on a journey.

  2. He’s a talented and articulate fellow.

  3. He’ll take some folk with him.
Dr. Clark is correct. Wilson is on a journey (from Arminianism to the outer fringes to Guyana and beyond); he is talented and articulate; and he plans to shipwreck as many souls as possible. But notice also that Dr. Clark didn’t pick a fight with Wilson. Indeed, if I read this post correctly, this was his adieu to the Fearless Leader and the Federal Visionists. Please take the time to read it because he makes a strong case for his refusal to engage them any further and, likewise, for warning others against following them.

This takes us to a statement made by Dr. John Piper during a recent interview:

Dr. Piper in your defense of the gospel against N.T. Wright have you found Federal Vision theology of Doug Wilson to be another gospel?

[John] P[iper]: No. No, that’s easy. Doug Wilson doesn’t teach a false gospel. I don’t think N.T. Wright teaches a false gospel, just a confusing gospel. Doug Wilson is incredibly bright, but he has people around him who are dumb. I think Doug Wilson is more consistent than some of his followers are. But I am concerned about the trajectory. (“Text and Context Conference: Q & A Session with John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Mark Driscoll”)

This is an interesting answer and there is much more here than meets the eye. First, however, please notice that Piper echoed Dr. Clark’s points:
  1. Wilson is incredibly brilliant — “He’s a talented and articulate fellow.”

  2. He has people around him who are dumb — “He’ll take some folk with him.”

  3. I am concerned about the trajectory — “Doug’s on a journey.”
Notice also that while Piper didn’t pick a fight with Wilson, his words are unmistakable. It’s no accident that he juxtaposed Wilson’s brilliance next to his followers’ dim wits. The point is obvious. Wilson knows that he has surrounded himself with pinheads. How else can you reconcile his genius with their stupidity? Honestly, Mark Horne has the IQ of a banana peel and there couldn’t be more pudding in two heads than Xon Hostetter and David Gray who regularly advance dishonest and incoherent arguments on GB to defend the Fearless Leader. Does anyone really believe that Wilson doesn’t know their lofts are vacant? Of course he does. But morons don’t ask hard questions because they lack the mental capacity to observe plain inconsistencies. To be sure, they need spin to stabilize their equilibrium. And the Great Protector knows this, hence the reason he blows so often with such vehemence. He has to fill those black holes in his universe.

Piper continued: “I am concerned about the trajectory.” Well, that’s a no-brainer; Wilson’s drift (moral & doctrinal) has not occurred in a vacuum. As Dr. Clark observed, you could chart it. More importantly, he’s going somewhere. Brilliant people don’t just wander aimlessly; they establish goals and make plans to achieve them. And Wilson is no different. This explains why, on the one hand, he pads his writings with enough orthodoxy to hold men such men as Piper at bay, and on the other hand he keeps company with such scoundrels as Rich Lusk and Steven “Machen” Wilkins, even using his confederation to shelter them from ecclesiastical accountability. It’s all part of the plan. You don’t think these historic facts are coincidences, do you?

But where is Wilson’s trajectory pointed? Well, he’s on record saying that he wants to “close the distance” between the FVists and NT Wright: “I am not talking about creating distance with someone like Wright on the basis of what might happen, I am talking about how fast and how cautiously we close the distance — and I do think we should close it.” So while Piper believes Wilson doesn’t teach a false gospel and Piper believes that Wright teaches a confusing gospel, Wilson understands Wright’s confusion well enough that he wants the FV position to get closer to it.

This takes us to Pastor Lane’s comments that led to no small disagreement last weekend, when he wrote:

My problem with Wilson lies in this: although Wilson says many things that are Reformed in a positive sense, he is not willing to reject the errors of the other FV proponents. I am willing to believe that Wilson holds to justification by faith alone, although he is too ambiguous on the aliveness of faith and its place in justification. He does hold to imputation. But he will not distance himself from any error of the FV, no matter how egregious. That is why, if Wilson were to apply for admission into the Presbytery of which I am a part, I could not vote to approve his transfer of credentials. What I have sought to show is that it is not enough to affirm the truth. One must also reject the errors. This is equally important to affirming the truth.

This strikes me as one of those “half-empty/half-full” observations. Wilson says all the correct things (half full) when he affirms justification by faith alone but he refuses to deny all the wrong things, which is where Pastor Lane sees him half empty. Nevertheless, I can’t think of a bigger slam coming from Lane than when he said he would vote against receiving Wilson into his presbytery. Think about it. Wilson positively despises Lane and the PCA while he thinks he and his CREC are one big mighty vessel of reformation. Could Lane say anything more humiliating to the guitar man than he takes him at his word but would not want him in his presbytery? I think not. WHAP! Pastor Lane body slams Dougzilla.

As the disagreement grew, Lane wrote this:

I was saddened when Doug Wilson signed the FV document. He should not have done so, in my judgment. However, I do not think that Wilson is consistent between his own teachings, on the one hand, and his signing the document, on the other. Apparently, Sean sees no difference between Wilson and the other FV’ers. I do. That is why I do not see Wilson as speaking for any of the others. . . . I said that rejecting the errors that attack the Reformed faith is equally as important as formulating right doctrine. . . But Wilson has said repeatedly (and demonstrated also, I believe), that, on these two points, he holds to Reformed doctrine. If I am to be attacked for so saying, then so be it. But I have not given Wilson a clean bill of health, doctrinally speaking. (emphasis original)

Notice that apart from not picking a fight with Wilson, Pastor Lane took the exact opposite tack of Clark and Piper. First, contra Piper who said, “Wilson is more consistent than some of his followers,” Lane flagged Wilson’s inconsistencies: “I do not think that Wilson is consistent. . .” Second, contra Clark and Piper, Lane made a distinction between Wilson and his circle of idiots: “Apparently, Sean sees no difference between Wilson and the other FVers. I do. That is why I do not see Wilson as speaking for any of the others.” But Wilson immediately corrected Lane:

As for my signing the FV document, you have to understand that I was in an awkward place. I drafted the document, circulated it, and was the editor who included all the great suggestions I received. For me to have thrown down at the last minute, refusing to sign it, would have been outrageous behavior, even for me.

I don’t know if this surprised Lane, but I am happy that Wilson showed where his loyalties lay. This admission should put an end to any questions about Wilson’s role in this doctrinal disruption in the Church. He is the point man and he speaks for them even if they have not publicly designated him their official spokesman. So Lane called attention to Wilson’s blurry language:

I think Wilson does hold to justification by faith alone, even if some of his language is ambiguous. The trouble we are having here is precisely that. Some of us wish to say that Doug’s ambiguity means that he doesn’t hold to JBFA at all. Others of us think that he does, even if it is not as clear as it should be.

This may be a stretch, but when Lane contrasted Wilson’s inconsistency and ambiguity with his affirmative statements, he essentially marked the path of Wilson’s trajectory. In other words, he identified the doctrinal position that Wilson claims for himself (and gladly said he believes him) and he identified the doctrinal position that Wilson left open for himself, i.e. his general trajectory.

Pastor Lane isn’t stupid. He can see what Clark, Piper, and the rest of the planet Earth sees, but he doesn’t have to force the issue. There’s no sin in pointing out that the Fearless Leader — that veritable fount of illumination — is inconsistent. And there’s no sin in erring on the side of charity by letting Wilson have it both ways. Who looks more foolish? — Lane for graciously conceding Wilson’s claims and noting his self-contradiction? — or Wilson for acting brilliant while he holds the absurd? This is good.

Wilson is a shrewd snake; he knows he’s inconsistent and he knows he’s ambiguous. He also knows that he’s going somewhere. Don’t ignore this: Wilson runs with the FVists for a reason; Wilson wrote the FV PR statement for a reason; and Wilson uses the CREC to give refuge to the FVists for a reason. All of these events are by design and all of them account for his inconsistency and his trajectory — Wilson is one of them; he believes everything they believe.

Douglas Wilson is deliberately lying about JBFA but Lane is making a record. This means that when Wilson finally bares his fangs, which is inevitable because he cannot remain in the closet forever, he will have to account for this massive pile of deceit in addition to his massive doctrinal shift. And neither Wilson nor the devil himself could deceive their way out of that.

Doug Wilson is playing game. He’s playing Lane for a fool and for his part Lane appears content to take Wilson on one side of his word while not making him account for the other. But one day the game must end. One day Wilson’s trajectory will finish its course. And when his journey finds its ultimate destination, which is somewhere past Moscow in between Jonestown and hell, he and his brain-dead disciples will learn what all of his non-Christian cultic forbears discovered — that the just live by faith and God is not mocked. On that day, however, Douglas Wilson will finally understand the meaning of wisdom as Solomon taught it when he wrote, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hmm. It should probably come as no surprise that John Piper is unable to bring himself to make a stronger statement than this. Piper was trained by Daniel Fuller, who he holds in extremely high regard, but who, if sites like this - - are accurate, seems to have held to something almost identical to Federal Vision long before FV ever crawled out of DW's brain. It seems to me that if Piper was ever going to call Wilson's gospel false, he would have to do the same thing to Fuller, and everything about JP's past says that that isn't in the cards. A more interesting question, perhaps, is just how much FV there is in Piper's own doctrine, as a result not of Wilson's influence, but rather of Daniel Fuller's Original-Style?

Mark T. said...


I can’t go there because why would Wilson’s trajectory concern JP?

I prefer Occam’s Razor and take Piper at his word. My original essay argued that Piper and Clark have no interest in going to war against Wilson because they saw what he did to Joe Morecraft, but I have no evidence of this (though I suspect it’s the case) and I deleted those points. But I reiterated that all three men refused to pick a fight with Wilson and I really believe that’s a fair observation. The man has demonstrated that he will scorch heaven and earth to exact vengeance against anyone who opposes him and at the same time he will point to his record, which he has laced with enough orthodoxy that you must give him a clean bill of health or call him a liar, as he shouts, screams, pouts, and throws the mother of all tantrums. I think Piper’s soft answer nailed it.

Todd said...


What did DW do to Joe Morecraft?



Anonymous said...

I can’t go there because why would Wilson’s trajectory concern JP?


I prefer Occam’s Razor and take Piper at his word. My original essay argued that Piper and Clark have no interest in going to war against Wilson because they saw what he did to Joe Morecraft,

Did anybody pay attention?

Mark T. said...


You ask, “Did anybody pay attention?” But I do not have a point of reference for your question. Did anybody pay attention to what?

Mark T. said...

Hi Todd,

After failing to pressure the RPCUS into rescinding its resolution, Wilson doctored an advertisement for Macaroni and Cheese by superimposing the words Morcorini and Cheese on it and placed the ad on the back cover of Credenda Agenda. Going off memory, he squeezed the RPCUS for several months into caving and when that failed he isolated Joe Morecraft and blamed the whole thing on him, as if the presbytery did not exist, and began a campaign of ridicule and harassment against him. It’s the same old drill he uses with everyone else, just a different target.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

"I can’t go there because why would Wilson’s trajectory concern JP?"

What do you mean by this? What difference does it make?

Did anybody pay attention to what he did to Joe Morecroft? Did the campaign of ridicule and harassment accomplish anything?


Mark T. said...

Hi Bob,

I think lots of people paid attention and I know that Wilson’s reputation suffered because of it. But as is always the case, he brazened it out, without apology, and somehow the Reformed church still gives him an ear as if he has something legitimate to offer instead of treating him with the opprobrium he deserves. So in the least, Wilson’s unrelenting harassment of the saints has and Church’s refusal to repudiate him has encouraged (enabled) him to continue acting like a jackass whenever he does not get his way; I think that this has had a chilling effect on the saints; I think this is one of his intentions.

I believe he sent an effective signal to anyone else that might be tempted to make public statements against him — “I intend to harass you as much as possible until I get my way and I will use every means at my disposal.” What minister of the gospel wants that? What minister of the gospel has time for that?

Here’s the scenario: Pastor A leads a high-profile ministry known for advancing the gospel. During an interview he declares that Wilson holds a false gospel. Wilson responds with a serious of belittling ads in Credenda; he writes a book such as “Reformed” Is Not Enough to answer you; and engages in a full-court press publicity blitz on the his church website to show the world that Pastor A is unreasonable and dishonest. Wilson did all these things to Dr. Morecraft.

Under normal circumstances, Pastor A’s church occupies itself with doing the things commanded by Scripture, but now it finds itself bogged down with incessant letters, emails, and phone calls from sincere folks who heard such and such rumor about Pastor A being such a bad man. And these letters, emails, and phone calls continue for as long as Wilson bangs his drum. What minister of the gospel wants that? What minister of the gospel has time for that?

So whatever else is true, Wilson’s sin has helped keep him in the center of this controversy instead of the exact opposite.