On Why I stopped being a Wilson Fan

Chris Coldwell of Puritanboard asked me what made me switch.

I was newly married around 2008. My wife and I were not going to attend AAPC (and not just for theology reasons). We were going to a PCA church 45 minutes away. At the same time Steve Wilkins had left the PCA for the CREC, which led the La. Presbytery to implode. So we were in denominational limbo. At the same time I was exploring some claims made by Eastern Orthodoxy. I knew Wilson at the time was interacting with some guys who just swam the Bosporus. He was completely out of his depth. Instead of analytically dealing with the issue, he just inserted the theological equivalent of a laugh track every few paragraphs.

I realized then that he is just not very good at theology. A good rhetorician, to be sure, but that’s it. In any case, I was disillusioned with him. He couldn’t give theological guidance when it mattered most.

Around 2012 I swung back to a Reformed mindset and was in email conversation with R. Scott Clark on the covenants and justification. That’s what really let me see how wrong the Federal Vision was. I started reading Richard Muller’s works (ALL of them) and well, you don’t leave filet mignon for hamburgers.

Around 2015 the abuse scandals from Christ Kirk (Sitler, Wight, Jim Nance–that one’s really bad) started coming to light. That also revealed the Hive Mind among many Kirkers and Wilson apologists.

While Wilson wasn’t front and center in the Trinity War of 2016, he still aligned himself with the wrong side and hasn’t repented of that.

That’s pretty much where I am today.


Bredenhof’s booklet on Federal Vision

Bredenhof, Wes. Federal Vision: A Canadian Reformed Pastor’s Perspective.

This is a decent primer. From what I can tell, as an outsider to Pastor Bredenhof’s denomination, this is somewhat a defense of Klaas Schilder from the interpretations given to him by some Federal Vision proponents.

Bredenhof has a helpful discussion of Schilder’s view. While Schilder did reject the language of internal/external relation to the covenant, he nonetheless held to a legal/vital distinction. It appears to be the same thing. Federal Visionists such as Wilkins completely reject that, as Wilkins defines the covenant as union with Christ (The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros & Cons, ed. E. Calvin Beisner (Fort Lauderdale: Knox Theological Seminary, 2004), 262).

Schilder said we make a distinction between sharing in a promise and sharing in what is promised. The former we partake of through baptism. The latter is a gift of the Spirit. This involves a vital union with Christ. I completely agree. I just don’t see how it is different from traditional formulations. Instead of internal/external, there is a new division between promise/what is promised.

Van Bruggen suggests it is the difference between being entitled to a check for $1,000 and having the actual $1,000 (or better yet, having real money like gold). Will you take the money to the bank?

Bredenhof clearly and carefully notes that Schilder uses neither the words nor the content of Wilkins’ definition of the covenant. He simply does not identify it with union with Christ.

Pace Theonomy

Schilder was more about cultural formation than transformation.

Bredenhof suggests that their theonomic hermeneutic played into a rejection of the law-gospel paradigm. That seems accurate.


Most of this discussion is fairly standard, but what is new calls attention to Leithart’s subsuming “loyalty and allegiance” under faith (Leithart, Baptized Body, 84). Faith is acting. This just seems wrong. Even Rome isn’t this crass

Does Doug Wilson make the case for Christian Ed.?

Wilson, Douglas. Why Christian Kids Need a Christian Education. Athanasius Press.

Disclaimer: Christian education stands or falls on its own merits. Although I think Wilson failed miserably, I think there are good resources for Christian education. Circe institute and the like.

If your goal is simply to write a basic worldview book, say so. Most of this book is generic worldview stuff, and even though it is by Doug Wilson, it isn’t technically wrong (well, it is but for different reasons). Because of Christian worldview or something, Christian kids need a Christian education. On one level, that’s fine. In terms of making a case for a distinctively Christian education, Wilson is less than persuasive.

I understand that this is a pamphlet and was meant to be read in under an hour. I also realize that Wilson has written larger treatises for a Christian education. Nonetheless, we must still examine whether he makes his case. In a way he does make the case for a Christian education, but he makes himself look silly in the process.

My initial review was openly hostile and I attacked Wilson for failing to prove his case for a classical education. To be fair, that wasn’t his thesis, so I have modified some things.

Of his general definition of education I have no problem with. Education is a passing down from one generation to another. The rest of the first half of the book is worldview talk. Take it or leave it for what it is. I do think he sometimes confuses “neutral” (which is bad) with “common” (which is good).

Around page 39 he starts to torpedo his own project. Wilson is committed to “biblical absolutism,” which sounds great. After mocking old earth Christians, he then walks into a trap he set for himself. The larger context is God’s two books, Bible and Nature. The Bible should interpret nature. That sounds great. Wilson then raises the question (which he fails to answer), “What about geocentrism, since the bible clearly speaks of a stationary earth?” He says the clear should interpret the unclear. That’s great, but it tells me nothing on who gets to determine what is clear and what isn’t.

In fact, the more I reread page 41 I couldn’t see any reason to suppose that Wilson isn’t a geocentrist. It’s rare that you get to watch an author shoot himself in the foot.

The next chapter on covenant nurture could read as a defense of homeschooling, which is odd since Wilson isn’t really a fan of homeschooling. Around page 56 he hints at a defense of classical education: you have to have a classical education because other models are sectarian. That’s rich, coming from Moscow. Classical education, by contrast, offers a robust Trinitarian education. I’m not sure why he thinks classical alone gives that. When we homeschooled my daughter I can assure you it was Trinitarian.

He says Christian education is too important to be relegated to the edge of town (56). I’m not sure what that has to do with the price of tea in China. He ends with a great quote from Eric Hoffer that is so rich in irony that I will just leave it as it is: “First you have a movement, then a business, then a racket.” Indeed.

Federal Vision’s bad Trinitarianism

Leave aside the abuse scandals.  Leave aside justification by faithfulness alone.  Let’s just take the Trinity.

So Fatherhood is ultimate, and Fatherhood is ad intra. The Fatherhood of the Father did not come into existence after the decision to create the world. It is not in any way dependent upon the decision to create the world. And so there should be no more difficulty in saying that the Son is eternally obedient than there is in saying that He is eternally begotten. His existence is obedience — eternal obedience, obedience that could not be otherwise. The Father’s existence is authority.

Here is some basic Patristic theology:  anything that is ad intra applies to the being of God.  Wilson is saying that Fatherhood applies to the being of God.  Since the Son isn’t the Father, then that excludes the Son.  This is why you don’t project human analogies onto the Trinity.

Besides being a complete break with Nicene Christianity, it is also a break from Reformed teaching.

Subordination:  talk of Christ’s subordination referred to his mediatorial kingdom, when he handed it over to the Father (115).

Richard Muller, Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics.  Triunity of God.

Good Advice =/= universal law (on the debt free virgin thing)

I feel like I have to add my .02 to the “Men Want to Marry Debt-Free Virgins without tattoos” article.   On the most basic surface level, that’s fairly good wisdom.  But here is the problem with the prairie muffin/RC Sproul Jr/Doug Wilson/Doug Phillips crowd:  there is no distinction between good advice and binding ethics on the church (or home church, what have you).


Why do I care?  Because people will see these deviant ideas as reflective of Christianity and then become atheists.

Thesis 1: I am going to critique the background ideas but in doing so I am not attacking the idea of debt-free virgins.

Thesis 2: You can’t separate the transformed wife’s theology and ethics from that of the Pearls, whom she admits she follows.

Let’s look at the background worldview. What does this background worldview entail?  The following quotes are from Created to Be His Helpmate.  I won’t bother to refute them.  Just read them out loud.

“If you want to keep your man and the father of your children, you are going to have to forget about your rights as a wife and forget his Christian obligation to his vows.” (pg 30)


more gems.  This might be one of the  more brutal line-by-line takedowns I’ve ever read.

Debi Pearl’s “Created to be his help meet” — a review by Avid Reader

I’m not a feminist.  But at the same time I don’t want Christian sisters to get shacked up and misled by teaching that has resulted in child-abuse deaths, incest, etc.  Have you ever seen a doormat woman?  Now you have.

Thesis 3: Virginity and economic sanity are good things.  Don’t make them idols.


Upcoming post on the Federal Vision

Yeah, that’s a dangerous title.  The short of it will be this:  Doug Wilson’s distancing himself (de jure if not de facto) from the Federal Vision is actually good for FV.  It will allow some to do theology and try to work out hard knots without having some chucklehead throwing time bombs into the arena.

My own theology is something akin to a postmillennial Schilderite.

Leithart isn’t Wilson

This is a dangerous post.  I believe I can now quote and interact with Leithart’s scholarly works in good conscience.  True, he was involved in the Sitler affair, and he made some bad decisions.  But he repented of them publicly.  Wilson hasn’t.

And James Jordan kept himself from that whole fiasco.

Leithart and Jordan are public theologians.  Jordan forces me to wrestle with the Hebrew text.  I can respect that.

What a joke

There is a thread on gnosticboard Puritanboard about Wilson’s non-repentance.  I just gave them the facts based on over a decade of interaction with the Wilsonistas/CREC.  I then started quoting police documents, eyewitness testimony, etc.  I said “hide ya womens” because they might get married off to child rapists and pedophiles.

I got a warning saying my post was deleted because it “scoffed.”

Ultimately, it shows you that no matter how much Puritanboard might reject Wilson’s theology, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.  You only see outlaws like me and others engaging the Wilsonistas (and keeping legal documentation of it as well).  If you guys can’t handle a low-energy guy like me when it comes to just giving the facts, how on earth will you stand in a real debate?  I think God said something like if running with men tires you, what will you do against the horses?

On Wilson’s faux-repentance

Doug Wilson says he dropped the label of Federal Vision.  What those giddy for church unity fail to see is he maintains he is keeping the content.  I suggested he should resign from the ministry and join a church body that holds him accountable.  Repentance in the abstract isn’t real.

The problem is that the CREC can’t hold people accountable.  As Butler and Harris note,

The McPresbytery may

by two-thirds majority vote and pending judicial process, censure a member church or a CREC officer. A censure under this provision does not affect a member church’s voting rights or appeal rights in the broader assemblies. (IV.A.2.n)

I thought the two-thirds majority vote would be the result of judicial process, not “pending” on it (and what pray tell is the judicial process that it pends upon?).

Worse yet, the “Presiding Minister” of a McPresbytery or a McGeneral Assembly can censure another minister without process, provided only he get approval from “two other Ministers”!

Additionally, prior to a Minister censuring a CREC church or officer he must receive approval from two other Ministers. (IV.C.9.c)

If the bulk of the constitution is congregational, this provision is episcopalian on steroids. In a true presbyterian constitution, censures are the result of a trial, in which the cognizant court sits as judges.

Turretin vs. Doug Wilson on Calling

I do not know if Wilson has since gotten a legitimate calling and ordination from an established church body.  But he explains in his own words.  (I thank Rachel Miller for finding this.

I also recommend this post by Rev. Lane Keister.

Having written this book, I must now apologize, at least in part, for how the book came to be written by someone like, as the Victorians used to say, the present writer. At the time of writing, I have been a minister of the Word for twenty-three years. But how that came about contains more than a few ecclesiastical irregularities.

I came to the University of Idaho in the fall of 1975, fresh out of the Navy, and ready to study philosophy. My intention was to study various unbelieving philosophies and to then get involved in some kind of evangelistic literature ministry in a university town somewhere. Right around the same time, a church was being planted in our town by an Evangelical Free Church in a nearby community. The fellowship was successfully planted, but this new church never affiliated with the Free Church. This was not due to any doctrinal or personal differences; it was due mostly to the fact that it was the seventies. I was at the organizing meeting for this church and wound up as one of the guitar-playing songleaders. The best way to describe this would be to say that it was some kind of “Jesus people” operation.

After about a year and a half of meeting, the man who had been doing the preaching (ordained by a Baptist denomination) announced that he had gotten a job elsewhere and that he was moving. We were on our own the following Sunday. As I said, it was the seventies. The idea of going into pastoral ministry had not occurred to me, but when it did, I didn’t like it very much. Nevertheless, as things turned out, I was up in front with the guitar. That was my call to the ministry; I knew all the chords. I began to preach.

Our church had been planted by an established denomination, but we had no constitution, no doctrinal standards, no established leadership. I started what we called a “responsible brothers” meeting to fill the void of leadership — ad hoc elders. We knew from the Scriptures that we needed to be governed by elders, but we didn’t have any. We received some teaching on elder qualifications from the pastor of the Evangelical Free church that had established our church, and as a result different men among the responsible brothers removed themselves from consideration. In this situation, I presented myself to the congregation and asked them to bring forward any objections to my holding office of elder within the next few weeks. If no one did, then I would assume the office. As it turned out, no one did, and I have been working with this congregation of faithful and longsuffering saints ever since.

All this, as I said earlier, was highly irregular, and I would rather be dead in a ditch than to go back to that way of doing ecclesiastical business. . . . (Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001] 267–268)

To be fair to Wilson, a calling is not a necessary condition for a true church. However, as Francis Turretin notes, if one doesn’t have a proper call from a true church (word, sacraments, discipline), then that is because there is no true church from which to receive a call.

Was the Calling of the Reformers legitimate?

If ministers ought to be called, and we reject the Anabaptists who reject this, then were the Reformers legitimate ministers since they did not receive their call from an ordained ministry (in this case, the Roman Catholic Church)?  Turretin makes a distinction between a church constituted and a church to be constituted (III: 239).  In a constituted church, we expect a call because we want to maintain good order.  However, if we find ourselves in an area with no constituted church, granted it is an extreme example, no call is needed.

Here is the problem for Doug Wilson fans:  were there no true churches?  Were there no Reformed churches?  What was wrong with joining the OPC or PCA, both of whom had witnesses in that area of America?  If Presbyterian government is true, and I think it is, and it is really important, as I think it is, then surely there is no harm in seeking out proper order.

For Turretin the only way to justify this situation is that there are no other witnesses around.  In other words, all of the other churches are fornicating, preaching false doctrine, and openly persecuting the true faith with the sword.  Obviously, this wasn’t the case in the Pacific Northwest.

Therefore, I cannot in good conscience call Wilson a pastor, nor can I affirm that Christ Kirk (Moscow) is a true church.  At best it is an irregular gathering.