Category Archives: The Gospel Coalition

Read along as Doug Wilson strains out the gnat and swallows the camel

Have you heard of Doug Wilson? He was sparring partner of the late Christopher Hitchens in the documentary Collision, and he is author of Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning.

Homeschoolers Anonymous has published documents that reveal Wilson blamed a girl and her father* a girl’s father for the crime committed against her. Oh, he certainly blames the criminal, too. But apparently there’s something noble about salting wounds. Maybe he picked that up from Hitch.

When you read the post, I think you’ll agree with me that Wilson’s behavior could become a new analogy for straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel, but in Wilson’s community, all authority belongs to those with sweeping powers of blame.

One can only hope for a genuinely sola scriptura environment around that guy. And you know I’m someone who thinks of Tradition and traditions as ways to prevent people from turning the Bible into a hammer. As a friend of mine once said, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything is a nail.” Maybe Wilson has that figured out, just not in the ironic sense my friend intended.

Another thought (updated): Wilson in the hierarchy of authority:

What kind of Lord of the Flies scenario allows a special council to mull how to best punish the father of a victim? To best punish someone for not being a “helicopter parent“?

For that matter, why shouldn’t Wilson be punished for allowing someone under his spiritual authority to misbehave? Maybe Wilson should no longer be allowed to receive the Lord’s Supper—that’s the exact punishment he considered for the father of the victim, and yet Wilson apparently thinks he has spiritual authority in a community in which one of his own students sexually assaulted someone.

By Wilson’s own reasoning, Wilson should be punished for allowing one of his students to sexually assault the girl. The father has authority over the girl; Wilson has spiritual authority over the community. Spiritual authority is greater than earthly authority, right? (I mean, if you doubt that, read Wilson’s own letter!) By Wilson’s own reasoning, Wilson should be in more trouble with his Lord of the Flies council than the father.

*Another Update:

The girl, now an adult, reveals in a blog post that Wilson and his church are even colder than the Homeschoolers Anonymous post revealed, specializing in precise, technical legalism while tossing any pretense of the Bible’s “Fruits of the Spirit” in their dealings with the victim:

“While I’m pretty certain I know exactly what was in the heart of the criminal who took my innocence and broke my spirit, I can’t pretend to know what was in the heart of Doug and the elders when they stood behind him, and I certainly can’t pretend to know the reasoning behind leaving me out in the cold with no support, no love, compassion, or empathy, not even so much as a consoling pat on the back for all I’d been through. But I have my own theory. There’s a couple of ideas about this lack of support I received floating around and I’ve heard them over the years – one of them is that the church leaders didn’t feel they were in a position to reach out to me because my father had expressly told them to stay away from his family and reaching out to me would be disrespecting his position as head of our household, which may be true, except there’s a problem with that theory, one that thickens the plot. In the letter pictured below from Doug Wilson to my father, Doug, writing on behalf of the elders of Christ Church, clearly places a great deal of blame on my father for the abuse I suffered and treats him with a coldness and severity that I find heartbreaking. I truly cannot image being a father who’d just found out his daughter was horrifically abused for years under his roof and then being told his “sin and folly” of not protecting her is equally as distressing as the sins of the criminal who molested his little girl for years. My father was a destroyed man when I came out about my abuse, and what father wouldn’t be? His tears of sadness and broken-ness went on for years, and still to this day he breaks down on occasion and begs my forgiveness for the hurt I suffered, and I always tell him the same thing: It’s not your fault. Because it wasn’t.”

I’m Just Jealous of Your Success in The Lord

Call it a Throwback Thursday moment, because I still love this:

I’m jealous of C.J. Mahaney’s ability to cover up ugly things.

I’m jealous of Tim Keller’s reasoning skills.

I’m jealous of John Piper’s articulation of positions that implode even as he states them.

I’m jealous of Bill Gothard’s way with the ladies.

I’m jealous of Bob Jones University’s keen identification of the sources of problems.

I’m jealous of Mark Driscoll’s ambition.

I’m just jealous of your success in the Lord.

I think, however, I’ve learned from these men how to be successful in the Lord.

Be forceful, be confident, be uncompromising, be direct, be confrontational.

Be rhetorically slippery; be illogical.

Be anything that makes someone successful in today’s world of marketing and media, for the world of marketing and media is the Kingdom of Heaven.

And I’ve learned you can have a great social club by gathering around the teachings of famous contemporaries.

Just save the discernment for later, when the facts are so obvious no discernment is necessary, which is how discernment seems to work in American churches, especially the most conservative ones, which start by dispatching all knowledge gained by human inquiry because it might get in the way of discernment. (It makes sense because it doesn’t make sense.)

One thing you should do in response to this post: Accuse me of “sour grapes,” because, as Andy Crouch has taught us, diverting attention from facts to abstractions is an easy way to sound spiritually wise.

What John Piper’s selective outrage says about New Calvinists

The blogosphere and Twitterverse move quickly, but perspectives stick around and change slowly.

I went back to the search engines after the recent shocks of learning that disgraced and disgraceful Pastor Mark Driscoll spoke at the Gateway Conference and at Thrive Leadership Conference.

While searching the Internet for Driscoll-related material, I found a November transcript of a Desiring God audio interview with John Piper in which he claims “no regrets” for partnering with Driscoll.

That should be peculiar. Driscoll’s track record as an untrustworthy, vicious bully has been established by numerous people who used to work in his own organization. Read the evidence here.

It’s extraordinary to hear someone as revered as Piper give a pass to a bullying pastor — while banishing someone who has a different point of view.

Look beneath the surface of Piper’s handling of Mark Driscoll versus his handling of Rob Bell, and you’ll discover the operating principles of so-called New Calvinism as well as old-fashioned fundamentalism.

Those principles may be articulated as follows:

1. If you state the correct beliefs and ideas, you will be forgiven for any ethical violation.

2. If you do not state the correct beliefs and ideas, you will not be forgiven for your incorrectness, even if you have a good ethical standing.

If the above sounds a bit like political correctness or Soviet communism, congratulations; you’ve understood a foundational theme of this blog: instances of authoritarianism might be driven by different ideas, but the methods are still the same.

Piper, you might recall, famously tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell” with a link to Justin Taylor’s blog post entitled, “Rob Bell: Universalist?”

In that post, Taylor quotes — wait for it! — Piper, who once wrote:

“Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Churches that sever the root of truth may flourish for a season, but they will wither eventually or turn into something besides a Christian church.”

That sounds good. But let me point out at least two significant problems.

1. First, Piper’s selective banishment of Bell. Has Piper said “Farewell” to notable Christian universalists like Karl Barth, Jacques Ellul, William Barclay, and George MacDonald? (Notice, too, Taylor’s selective treatment of Marilynne Robinson.)

2. Second, Piper’s self-contradiction when the topic is hurting people. There ought to be no question that bullying and bad-mouthing one’s own ministerial staff and underling pastors “dishonors God and hurts people.” That’s what Driscoll did, according to accounts by more than 21 former underling pastors in his own organization.

In fairness to Piper, he says, nobly:

“My regret is that I was not a more effective friend. Mark knew he had flaws. He knows he has flaws. And I knew he had flaws. He knew that I knew he had flaws. There were flaws of leadership attitude, flaws of unsavory language that I think is just wrong for Christians to use, flaws of exegetical errors, say, in regard to the Song of Solomon.”

I admire this much about Piper: “…I was not a more effective friend.”

However, Piper does not say, “Farewell Mark Driscoll,” despite Driscoll’s horrible behavior. On a separate occasion, Piper said, “Farewell Rob Bell,” never mind how hard it is to love one’s enemies after banishing them.

Maybe all that can be explained. In New Calvinism, only bad ideas, like universalism, hurt people. Nothing sensory, like bullying, really matters.

A fundamental problem underlies that mode. Traditionally, the Incarnation was considered a guide against heresy. Jesus was considered fully God and fully human, the ultimate illustration of humankind’s both spiritual and organic natural.

When emphasis is placed on only the spiritual (including ideas) to the exclusion of the organic (including the senses), humans and the Incarnation are degraded.

The New Calvinist mode degrades the concept of Incarnation, making the sensory world less than valuable. It’s almost ghostly — did Jesus Christ really suffer? Well, only if He had bad beliefs! Nails and flogs and thorns are nothin’. Embodiment is nothin’.

Christ sorta suffered — but then how could He possibly have suffered, when He had all the right beliefs?

Bell causes suffering through expressing Christian universalism, which at least has a precedent in Protestant theology (Barth, Ellul, Barclay, MacDonald).

Driscoll causes suffering through repeatedly degrading his spiritual flock, which has no justification anywhere within Christianity.

By most accounts, Bell is a sweetheart.

By most accounts, Driscoll is a narcissistic, unrepentant sociopath.

But, Driscoll has the right New Calvinist ideas, so who cares what he does?

Sure, Driscoll has faced his critics and lost his post at Mars Hill Church. But then he got speaking gigs at Gateway and Thrive.

And Piper came down oh so softly on him, calling him a friend, admitting he knew about Driscoll’s leadership problems.

Which suggests to me that abhorrent behavior gets a pass from New Calvinists, at least among New Calvinists.

Apparently, sensory suffering under Driscoll isn’t real suffering — otherwise, leadership problems would be seen as a real threat to real people, not a minor issue far, far underneath Correct Belief.

Furthermore, as Piper says, God made it all happen anyway. All sin has its source in God, according to Piper.

So this doesn’t make sense to simple-minded folks like myself: God made Driscoll into a bully, and God made Bell into a heretic, but only one matters to the people who insist God not only predestined individual souls but also preordained everything that happens in this (lesser, non-spiritual) organic realm.

Oh wait — God set up the contradiction, too. My fault.

God set up the selective outrage.

God set up this post.

God set up your reading of this post.

So quit complaining — it’s all God’s idea, from peonies to pedophilia.

He cues the earthquake and then He cues your tears — and He’s creating your sense of outrage at Rob Bell’s universalism and your lack of concern with Mark Driscoll’s vicious bullying.

It’s like your complaints and comments implode into nothingness. They weren’t even yours to begin with.

But rest assured — you’ll be held responsible for what your Almighty Creator made you do, whether He made you believe the wrong ideas or He made you bully people.