I found Doug Wilson via the treatment of him by Paul VanderKlay. The PVK treatment is here; Wilson’s video being treated is here. I will comment mostly on Wilson’s points, but a few of PVK’s as well. Wilson’s entire video is fourteen minutes, so if you want to skip my comments, it is a short watch.
Who is Doug Wilson?
Douglas James Wilson (born 1953) is a conservative Reformed and evangelical theologian, pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, faculty member at New Saint Andrews College, and author and speaker.
What does he say about himself?
Theology that Bites Back
I want to advance a Chestertonian Calvinism on education, sex and culture, theology, politics, book reviews, postmodernism, expository studies, along with other random tidbits that come into my head. In theology I am an evangelical, postmill, Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian, pretty much in that order.
Not someone the mainstream would embrace. Also, not someone that many Christians would embrace.
To the video. Wilson begins: “One of the things I learned from the late Gary North was the three-fold division regarding the different kinds of religion.” These are: Power religion, Escape religion, and Dominion religion. Reading how Wilson describes himself, one can also see this as pretty-much applicable to Gary North.
Before diving into the Evangelical applications of these, he applies these three subsets to the prevailing “religion” of our broader society. It is power, and he labels these “power monkeys.”
The dominant religion of our day is power religion: they are after control, nothing but control, and no remainder. They want to control everything.
This aligns perfectly with Jonathan Pageau’s view of leaving nothing on the fringe, of a totalizing system of control. It is the desire of Tim Cook, as presented in his speech at the ADL. It is contrary to what is written in Scripture regarding the fringe.
Leviticus 19: 9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
Leave some room on the edge; there should always be a space for the outsider.
Returning to Wilson:
No lovers of liberty here. No sons of liberty will be welcome in the suffocating world they are creating.
Again, sounding like Pageau. Modern society wants total inclusion, an all-encompassing system. And if you don’t completely agree and approve, you will be the one who is excluded.
Returning to Wilson, today’s society has abandoned the belief in a pre-destining God. Now, I will set aside the “pre-destining” part (as the point remains without debating doctrine); we can agree that they have abandoned a belief in God, the God as understood from the Bible.
When a sovereign God goes, these are the kind of johnnies who immediately see a job opening. They want to replace the sovereignty of God with the sovereignty of man, and by “man” they mean some men, and by “some men” they mean them.
This is the current climate. And this current climate calls for “a different sort of climate change.” (Wilson really has a way with words.) “But not all Evangelicals think so.” He then describes these three kinds of Evangelicals, again along the lines presented by North.
First, Power religion. These are the friends of the regime, friends of those who want to control you. They want to be fully cooperative with this regime. They assume the very best of the CDC and the worst of their parishioners.
They believe that helping the tyrants forge your chains should be called something like “loving your neighbor.”
Which coincides with a point I often make – Christians such as these want to take the lazy way out of “loving thy neighbor,” by supporting and even imploring the state to do the work for them.
Returning to Wilson: These are the woke Christians, transformationalists who want the kind of transformations being sought by the commies and the cool kids – “the devil and all his minions.”
They reject transformations that are sought in obedience to the great commission, but accept any transformations that are demanded by the progressive agenda, to which, after the fact, they are willing to attach a Bible verse.
They accept progress without any reference to God, hence progress ends up defined in terms that invariably increases the power of the state.
They attach Bible verses the way a junior high kid in a Christian school attaches them to a science fair project long after the research is done.
PVK sees this as those who are chasing the culture – women’s lib in the 70s comes into their church in the 80s, etc.
Returning to Wilson, these power-religion types are “winsome,” believing that winsomeness can move the Overton Window. It cannot. The Overton Window will be moved only by people who are willing and courageous to speak outside of the Overton window.
Next: Escape religion – waiting quietly until the rapture, wanting to escape this world unnoticed. This includes those who think the world is a place of irredeemable evil. Nothing can be done about this, so these escapists must just figure out how to cope. The world cannot be transformed; our job is to survive this world, not change it.
Third: Dominion religion – those who seek to labor under the grace of God, seeking to load those labors up with Deuteronomic blessings in this life and the life to come. This is the historic Reformed tradition.
They believe that the task of the Church is to disciple all the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus taught.
This group believes that the only standard for conservatism and progressivism needs to be the Holy Scriptures. These are Biblical progressives, progressing toward the work that the Holy Spirit has in mind for the future of our world.
Per PVK, these are the folks that the people on the left fear, the really scary folks. Per me, I see it as filtered through the natural law ethic, which can only be fully achieved if grounded in Christianity. I know North doesn’t see the natural law ethic at all; Wilson, I cannot say.
PVK on the seeming contradiction of dominion vs. liberty:
It will be tough for Doug Wilson to square his dominion posture with this tradition of [classical] liberalism, even though you will hear Doug Wilson talk about liberty.
I don’t see it this way. I don’t know what Wilson thinks on this, but one can have Dominion without theocracy (i.e., limiting liberalism). The Church can speak the truths as Wilson describes without taking political power. As politics is downstream of culture, if the Church does this duty (instead of chasing the culture or asking the state to do the work of the Church), the politics will follow.
Which comes to Wilson’s thoughts on how to break free of the Overton Window. Many Christians, especially in the second category of Escapists, just go along with this current slide into oblivion, thinking that they will get chances to occasionally push back against it – although it really doesn’t matter, because the world is irredeemable anyway and they will soon enough be freed from it.
What [these Christians] do not realize is that the Overton Window cannot be moved from inside the window. That can only be done from outside the window, by people who are willing to say things that are outside of the acceptable range of discourse.
If the Overton Window is to be moved back in any way, it will have to be done by someone very disreputable. The appetite for this can be found in the popularity of Donald Trump (what he said, far more than what he accomplished).
Wilson then offered another of his very colorful metaphors for what the Evangelical leaders have been doing: he is writing these words while on a flight to the northwest. How much will it change his final destination if he gets out of his seat and walks in the opposite direction, to the southeast? Well, obviously, not at all.
From my little exposure to Doug Wilson (so far, one video), I like this guy.
Another metaphor, from Wilson:
The now thoroughly discredited leadership of the Evangelical movement has been our Neville Chamberlain, and our last two years of chaos have been our Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
The Reformed leadership (and I would say that Christian leadership of virtually all traditions) has abdicated this field in all ways. There are some who have been addressing these issues capably (he cites a list of names, none of who I have heard of – yes, my fault, but also reflects the reality of what Wilson would next say).
Christian leaders such as these were delegated to the backroom at the Evangelical conferences.
VanderKlay does a follow-up video where he touches on Gary North, and discusses his “Specific Answers” website. He reads a portion of North’s essay, The War Between Three Types of Religions. He doesn’t see any potential for success here. Yet, he knows he hasn’t really presented any alternative.
A Church teaching Scripture, good tradition, and natural law ethics – willing to speak against violations of same – is the only alternative.
Doug Wilson is a treasure on a great many issues. He's not (recently) good on money, though. I didn't listen to the whole discussion but he was tired of the gold bugs always talking doom. Odd time to say that, given the current monetary/economic environment.ReplyDelete
I have listened to several of Doug Wilson's videos. I like him on culture and politics. He is postmillenial, which informs his views of Dominion religion. I can't behind the motivation part biblically though I do agree with the strategy.ReplyDelete
Other Christian pastors that I have listened to which are good on these issues are James White, Joel Webbon, Jon Harris, John MacArthur, Darrell Harrison, and Virgil Walker. There are both pre and postmil guys represented in that list.
On the bad side of the equation are Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, and David Platt. I used to really like some of Keller's stuff.
Doug Wilson is a powerful writer but he is assuredly a theonomist, specifically a Christian Reconstructionist. As a Reformed Christian, I must advise that his doctrinal position on justification has been found heretical by several denominations within the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council. There is a 4th position that Gary North did not identify—Two Kingdom Theology. It avoids immanentizing the eschaton as the Reconstructionists do. Similar to Aquinas, we do not see nature as evil but as perfected in Christ, already and not yet. So, the Christian engages in this kingdom alongside unbelievers for the glory of God.ReplyDelete
Never heard of the 3 divisions, but it makes sense and can see that.ReplyDelete
Where my fit is with the Dominion.
Not Dominion over other people. But the first Dominion is over my own self. Then to spread this Dominion also know as the Kingdom of God At hand not in the future. Spread not by telling people what to do but my living out my life as a servant. Meeting peoples needs.
A very healthy and loving approach.Delete
Another one who is good on these issues is Gregory Williams.ReplyDelete
Their website is here http://www.preparingyou.com/wiki/Free_Church_Report_Study
Most of what Wilson, and even North, say has been informed by a post-Cajetan, post-Denis the Carthusian take on Nature and Grace, a reading of Thomas Aquinas that has now been discarded by most, even Dominicans (Edward Feser seems to hold to it still, but the leading English Dominican theologian Fr. Aidan Nichols does not). Ref Rat speaks of Wilson and North and immanentizing the eschaton, but in the sense that Eric Voegelin used it, I don't think this right, as EV was aimed at the Gnostic utopians of modern progressivism, whereas Wilson/North always attached justice and "progress" first to righteousness. Cards out, I once was a theonomist, though always a bit of an uneasy one (even when I was a Calvinist greater than which could not be thought), as I wanted as well to be catholic, and saw that Christian Reconstruction did not sit at all well with the Tradition (however much Leithart wanted to massage St. Constantine or St. Athanasius). The tri-partite paradigm of North completely bypasses a different way fo viewing the world one finds in St. Athanasios, St. Maximos the Confessor, and others, the world is called to be a symphony of interests aimed at the same telos (the image of symphonia goes back to St. Ignatios of Antioch), namely the kingdom of God. Symphonia was hardly reached within the eastern Roman empire (Byzantium), but a number of its emperors did make some good faith attempts at it (St. Justinian, Constantine VII). North's paradigm does have a good explanatory power, especially when understanding those who think that both men and creation are both malleable and perfectible without the grace of God.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this thoughtful comment.Delete
Good article. My son was a Pastor of our Church (CREC) Along with sitting under the tutelage of Greyfriars in Moscow Idaho. I've known Doug for 15 years now. He's got a lot to say. Check out his books as well. I think you might like his take on the church. Blessings, Byron Heward. Our church is Redeemer Church Lynnwood WA.ReplyDelete
"Which coincides with a point I often make – Christians such as these want to take the lazy way out of “loving thy neighbor,” by supporting and even imploring the state to do the work for them."ReplyDelete
This is my exact beef with Progressive Christians I know. They think of the State as some kind of partner with God in doing His work in the world. I always counter that the State is not a partner with God. The State thinks it is god. I can't think of two more diametrically opposed entities than God and the State.
I also often point out that there is nothing to prevent you from doing more to help the poor, etc. Why does the State have to compel everyone to help, especially when the State has its own reasons for wanting to "help" the poor?
I like Douglas Wilson, too. I am sure I disagree with him on some points, but he is far batter than most Christian leaders on just about everything.
"I can't think of two more diametrically opposed entities than God and the State."Delete
Yes. Especially given the reality of the current state faced by all in the West. It is a state that actively is working to remove Christ and Christianity from all spheres of life.
BM: A Church teaching Scripture, good tradition, and natural law ethics – willing to speak against violations of same – is the only alternative.ReplyDelete
Travails: This isn't enough. Humanity is weak and always seems to fall into the "something for nothing" trap. What is also required is sound money. Debased money increases the time preference to consume. Only today matters, tomorrow does not. No civilization, Christian or not, survives debased money. Christianity couldn't stop Rome from falling during its massive third century debasement leading to the splitting of the empire. The Eastern empire adopted hard money again and survived for another thousand years.
Fortunately, we have bitcoin. The Bitcoin protocol is strong enough to withstand all attempts at debasement as it decentralizes power by placing it in the hands of the holders. I view it as the most important thing to ever spring from the mind of man. If man is to focus on his immortal soul, it will require bitcoin as well as Christianity and natural law.
Debased money is a violation of natural law ethics. So I have that one covered.Delete
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and the video. Our family used to attend Matt Chandler's Church, but decided to leave when it became apparent that we didn't share their views on the "Big Issues" affecting our Country. It's been hard to find a new church. I'm looking forward to learning more about Doug Wilson.ReplyDelete
Our Pastors have truly lost their sheep.
I agree, this is a very difficult issue and a difficult time.Delete
It is rare to find a church community led by a pastor / priest who is not afraid to speak from outside of the Overton Window (as Wilson puts it) and also presents doctrinal teaching in a manner that one would understand and also functions with good governance.
Lynn, my church has been involved in Acts 29 which Chandler has been leading. I just now heard some very disturbing things about his views on race.Delete
As I have been saying for decades, if we Christians would spend even 1/10th the time, energy, and money spreading God's word that we spend trying to elect some sleazy politician, we wouldn't have to care WHO was elected. Our world would be in a condition that cultural norms would have more influence than politicians.ReplyDelete
After all, politics is Satan's game. He offered Jesus political dominion over the world, but Jesus refused. So why are we, as Christians, trying to gain political dominion? Surely, if Jesus wouldn't accept political rule, we should not either. After all, the servant cannot be more than the master.
Amen. Well said, and true.Delete
Yes, He did not go out to change the Roman Government or the Pharisee Government of the day. The Government on His shoulders runs by faith hope and charity not force fear and fealty.ReplyDelete
Love God and Love one and each other All the law hangs on that.