A couple weeks ago I commended Kevin DeYoung’s critique of Doug Wilson’s sinful and worldly speech (a post I later updated with some thoughts on Joe Rigney’s response). I had one reservation about DeYoung’s article which I did not mention in the post. DeYoung concludes:
“One can only conclude that he prefers to write in a different way. Wilson could keep all the good stuff on classical Christian education, all the helpful material on family formation, all the countercultural advice on being old school men and women. He could explain the Bible. He could highlight heroes from church history. He could blog about the Great Books…. He could use the eighth decade of his life to devote his considerable writing talents to persuading unbelievers to consider Christianity, to passing on the Reformed faith, and to offering a deep, penetrating cultural analysis. I believe he could do all this if he wanted to.”
I commented to a friend about this paragraph:
I think this underplays two things: (1) Wilson’s bad doctrine seeps through into these other areas of writing. Not that he never says anything helpful. But having appropriately bracketed doctrinal concerns about Wilson, I don’t think DeYoung can suggest that a simple change in tone will fix Wilson’s problems. (2) The more I read Wilson the more I realized that he’s a popularizer who was out over his skis on too many issues.
DeYoung mentioned several doctrinal areas that he was going to bracket in his article: “I won’t be touching on Federal Vision, or paedocommunion, or his views on the antebellum South, or his arguments for Christian Nationalism, or his particular brand of postmillennialism.”
Tom Hicks and Garrett Walden have now addressed the first of these, Wilson’s view of Federal Vision. Here is their conclusion:
But the theological issues can’t be so flippantly dismissed because of a commitment to “own the libs.” More is at stake than that. And regardless of how effective his opposition to wokeness is, Wilson isn’t the hero we need to follow into battle. A significant error on the doctrine of justification isn’t merely a distraction.
Whereas some might (mistakenly, in our view) dismiss DeYoung’s critique as BigEva pearl-clutching because of Moscow’s “serrated edge,” our concern is anything but that. It’s not a disagreement about tone, emphasis, or “knowing what time it is.” It’s a fundamental disagreement about the heart of the gospel, about the doctrine Luther called “the article by which the church stands or falls.” For whatever “visceral” appeal “the Moscow mood” might present, we implore you to flee from the very real spiritual danger embedded in “the Moscow doctrine.”
UPDATE 12/12/2023: In response to a question regarding Wilson’s reply to Hicks and Walden:
I read it, and I’m glad that Wilson is affirming what he is affirming in that post. And yet, Wilson won’t repudiate the Federal Vision (though he has explained why he no longer uses the label). I followed the Federal Vision controversy closely while in seminary, reading a fair bit from the FV’s, especially Wilson, as well as the responses. It was that reading then that convinced me that Wilson (1) wasn’t entirely orthodox and/or (2) was out beyond his knowledge base. Because he won’t repudiate his earlier teaching, it’s hard to know what to make of his current professions of orthodoxy. It would really help if he paired his affirmations with denials. This morning I read back through the Hicks and Walden piece. They were interacting with statements that Wilson had made which were either erroneous or made with a misunderstanding of the theological terminology being used. Further, there is a history of him affirming justification by faith alone when challenged—and then also still affirming the statements that are in problematic tension with those affirmations (see, for example, here: Re: Sumpter, White, & Wilson on “Federal Vision Baptists?” – Contrast (wordpress.com)). This is why I’m saying some denials of past errors and/or a track record getting things right going forward is necessary. In other words, I don’t think it accurate to say that the charge made against him was untrue. At best, the charge made against him may no longer be true. I hope that is the case.
I view Wilson similarly to N. T. Wright. Both have a way with words, and when either of them are fighting on the side of truth, I’m happy for the way they are using their powers of communication. But neither of them are faithful teachers, and I think that faithful shepherds need to warn the flock about them.