“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” as Ian Flemming once wrote. And if not enemy action then at least something like a trend appears to be forming. At least from the view provided by my place in the cheap seats. Between NBC, Doctrine and Devotion, Theocast, and now Costi Hinn I am beginning to suspect that there are some people who do not exactly like what is going on in the northern regions of Idaho, somewhere in the vicinity of Doug Wilson. This makes me want to take some time to ask what and why.
What is Going On?
This all could be the kind of blip that occasionally appears and goes as follows: feathers get ruffled either by something Wilson says or someone decides that everyone should be reminded that Bearded Blog Man is bad. Next multiple discernment spleens are vented, a few podcasts respond tp the bile and everyone runs around with their arms in the air like a Muppet in a proper panic. And finally Wilson comes out to thank everyone for kindly giving him the spotlight for a bit.
And had NBC lead the charge on this particular round then I would have leaned in the direction that we were just seeing some of the same old. But it was Joe and Jimmy from Doctrine and Devotion, who first kicked the hornets nest (well technically Joe and a guest, Jimmy was out of town). The point of the podcast was to try and unpack Federal Vision and the problems with it. From the episode I was able to glean two things 1. I still do not understand FV at all* 2. Joe Thorn is not a fan of Wilson but there was nothing he said that raised my hackles. And yet the Wilson fanboys lost their minds, as they are wont to do, so D&D took the episode down.** NBC showed up a few weeks later with their Christian Nationalism report to keep the standards of scaremongering high. Which really kicked the Muppets into high gear. Theocast did their own expose on Wilson’s deficient Justification views. Al Mohler denounced Wilson after some old Mohler lectures showed up on the Cannon+ app. And now something is going on with Costi Hinn. Honestly I can’t get a straight answer as to what exactly it was. It would appear that he either went on a tangent on a podcast or twitter, or both. Had to take whatever it was down after the usual suspects rushed to Dougs defense. And did the honorable thing called up Wilson apologized and supposedly Wilson has given the all clear. If any of that is true then I think we are seeing an uptick in the we must shut Wilson down.*** Which also plays into my thinking that we are seeing a rise in a new reformed movement that the old guard is none too happy abut.
Why is This Happening?
NBC was the only one who was truly honest about their fears. They are terrified that something like a real revival may happen and worse a robustly Reformed one. The kind that ends up leading people to repent be converted and then become difficult to control. The dreadful specter of Christian Nationalism was invoked with solemn and foreboding tones. Lesbian lady pastors were interviewed about their feelings and it the obvious conclusion was drawn They hate Jesus so they hate his people.
The Evangelical and those claiming to be reformed, pot shots are another animal. The objections there are fundamentally the same as NBC’s but are cloaked in objections over aspects of Wilson’s theology. Which feels fair, he says things publicly, so he can be criticized publicly. And I suppose there is something to that. But what I think is truly behind all of it is a guacamole of fears mashed together. Things such as: He makes it look like we the Reformed can and should be working harder to do practical things. He handles the texts that make the culture and by extension pastors squeamish and he preaches them with clarity. Such as, yes Christians not only one day hope to see America be a Christian nation, we actually expect that we will rule the world. He brings into sharp relief the lack of spine, mealy mouthedness of the current batch of evangelical leaders and the idea that he might be their replacement makes them squirm.
Rather than attack Wilson on those grounds, we get a lot of straw man arguments, or attempts to discredit him over a particularly opaque form of theology he holds. It is disingenuous and frustrating. It is merely a continuation of the kind of behavior that sends people, like me, to appreciate Wilson all the more. I would sooner listen to and disagree with him on Covenantalism and infant baptism than be condescended to by Russell Moore on how bad the Orange Man is and I am for not hating every little bit of him. What is compounding all of this is that the more the Big Eva chaps try and clamp down on we rubes who just don’t get winsomeness, the more we run to Moscow. Attacking Wilson has proven to only embolden him and his followers.
A Modest Proposal
And therein lies his actual Achilles heel. I have said it many times, Wilson people can be the worst. I was delayed in journey of delighting in the Doctrines of Grace because of Wilson fans. I have personal experience beyond seeing these guys on line, or on Crosspolitic. There is something rotten in the state of Idaho, and Wilson has failed to address it.
Wilson is running a lab up there, he is running an experiment, and it has produced a few diseased rats that escaped the lab and are scampering about the internet. This is not to diminish all of the good he has done. You only need to troll the archives around here for a while to see me waxing eloquent about the man at length. But no one bats a thousand and Wilson has had his share of strike outs. If he is going to be critiqued then what he has produced that is most needing attention are the Wilson wannabes that are gumming up the works.
I think that for the good of the reformed movement, we should all exhort Wilson to get his flock in order. Just because they call their antics, “winsome tartness,” or “Chestertonian Calvinism” does not make it so. It remains obnoxious. The obvious example being, Doctrine and Devotion give a critique, don’t bully them into taking the episode down and then call them weak for doing it. Or don’t say dumb stuff like Baptist theology causes transgenderism, and then double down on the statement before trying to explain it away. Doug has said plenty of dumb things that came back to bite him later(Southern Slavery as it Was anyone?) Why can’t that mistake be learned from. As I have quoted before, “Don’t give the devil a stick to hit yourself upside the head with.”
One of my favorite quotes from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy of books comes after Luke Skywalker has once again escaped the clutches of the Empire. Admiral Thrawn goes to the officer responsible for the failure and asks the following:
“Do you know the difference between an error and a mistake, Ensign?” ‘No, sir.’ “Anyone can make an error, Ensign. But that error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” – Timothy Zahn, Heir to the Empire
Wilson needs to correct the errors of his followers because the current mistakes they make are exactly what the opposition needs to keep happening for their attacks to hold any ground.
I really do think that this new Reformed movement is beginning to coalesce. Aaron Renn cropped up on Kevin DeYoung’s podcast. But it would be a shame for Wilson to squander his well earned credit as a John Knox like reformer, sword and all. If the people around him are clowns. He already has enough baggage and they don’t need to pile on.
If the NBC segment got anything right it was that the Christ Kirk people really to rile Moscow up. Some of the things they do, I support, but chest thumping from a podcast studio is not helpful. In general I think that the better part of wisdom is that Christians should avoid shock jock style podcasting, period. The 24 hour news cycle is cancer and we shouldn’t emulate it with daily shows dredging up or creating small controversies to fill air time. As Solomon counsels there is a season for everything, there is a time to tell a city authority where to shove it, and there is a time to not stir up. And as I wrote just a bit ago. If Wilson and Co. just wait long enough, someone will come along and stir the pot for them. How they respond matters, and maybe in the interim they could consider the wisest approach.
*To me it seems to be such a side show argument along the lines of how many angels can dance on a pin head. Sure it can be important and I am informed that it might lead to Rome, which does not endear it to me at all. The only time I like the first syllable Ro is if it is proceed by Lieutenant and followed by Laren.
**Which I was kind of disappointed about. It wasn’t about to make it into my all time list of favorite episodes, but it wasn’t, bad. It was mediocre, standard, boilerplate D&D. And that is not an insult, it was a fine episode that did not deserve the brouhaha it got.
***But also keep in mind the Costi Hinn thing I find to be dubious, if I see or hear actual tweets or podcasts then I will be more confident. To put together what I think is the story I had to wade through hours of discernment bloggers material, and those guys are not exactly known for their clarity, brevity, or… you know ability to discern. So I consider this instance a developing story.