Which of them should be the greatest...
(Tim) Here’s how Turretin begins his 223 pages on the sacraments:
As God willed to enter into a covenant with the church…in order to apply to her the salvation purchased by Christ, so (such is his goodness) for the greater confirmation of faith, he has condescended to seal this covenant by sacraments as seals, that by them as badges he might distinguish and separate his people from the rest of the world. On this account, the necessity to consider them is incumbent upon us. No only to ascertain more distinctly their nature and use; but also to unravel more easily the numerous and most important controversies which are wont to be agitated about them by various adversaries.
For we cannot behold without grief that those things which were instituted by God to be bonds and symbols of union and concord among Christians, have been made (by the depravity of men) the seed plot of contentions and the apple of discord which has torn asunder Christians by a mournful divorce. (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology)
David and I realize we’ve lost friends by defending Doug Wilson, but this isn’t the first time. Ten years ago when, in addition to serving as pastor of this church, I also served as Exec. Dir. of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a theologian with whom I worked sent me a nine page letter seeking to demonstrate the many errors of Wilson’s Reforming Marriage. After reading the letter, I realized The Guild would never acknowledge Doug’s faithful work guarding the good deposit, and that my time working with CBMW was over. It took a year or so to extricate myself, but during that time it was clear I couldn’t continue to stand with this theologian and the other professional academics at the center of the council unless I was willing to change my sphere of reference from the Church to the academy.
What am I insinuating? Nothing, really. Rather, let me explicitly state my own conviction...
(which I believe David shares) that much of the opposition Doug has suffered over the years, both locally and nationally, has been the product of the normal sins that corrupt communities and the Church: jealousy, anger, envy, gossip, slander, and pride.
Anyone who’s spent time in the academic world knows the jealousy that gives birth to the political infighting candidates for post-baccalaureate degrees (particularly doctoral candidates) are tormented by. I’ve lived in four places where higher education is the predominant cultural context—Boulder, Colorado; Madison, Wisconsin; Boston, Massachusetts; and now Bloomington, Indiana—and the stories of jealousy and petty intrigue are constant.
Yesterday, for instance, I listened to the account of a young woman at IU’s Jacobs School of Music who decided to take a semester break from her studies here in Bloomington to attend a folk music program at an eastern university. But when she asked her voice professor/teacher here at IU for a recommendation, the professor refused to give one and she had to find another professor who was willing to write one.
Why did her own voice teacher refuse her request? Because Jacobs profs are commited to highbrow music and voice training, not folk music for the masses. And it didn’t even matter that the young woman was planning to return to IU after the semester out east; there would be no compromise. Such stories are a dime a dozen and in no way peculiar to musicians.
Can it really be that officers of Christ’s Church who believe in man’s depravity and the necessity of sanctification of life and doctrine can’t see the jealousy, anger, envy, gossip, slander, and pride that permeate our discussions? Brothers, are we completely blind to it in ourselves or others? And if so, what does this indicate about our shepherding of our flocks or the state of repentance and sanctification in our own hearts?
Yes, of course Doug Wilson is guilty of these same sins. I am, too—more than Doug ever has been, I’m sorry to admit. But Doug is also the victim of these sins, and has been suffering attacks motivated by them for years now, going back long before the Federal Vision movement began.
It should be a truism. But for the record, let me say that it’s David’s and my judgment that the community of reformed biblical and theological scholars has about the same temptations and sins we all grew up with on school playgrounds where Johnny and Stephen were cool, but Jacob was a dork; then in high school where Frank and Kyle were on the varsity basketball team but Jon was alternative, spending his free time tearing up Library Mall on his skateboard; in college where Jake and Sam were frat boys who had nothing to do with the emo crowd; in the Upper Room where they began fighting about which of them was the greatest.
Yes, some of what Doug Wilson has written has been uncharitable, misleading, unwise, heterodox, and pugnacious. But what of us? Can it really be true that Doug has a log and the rest of us only a sliver?
I’ve never been much for moral equivalency, but in this particular battle I’m willing to run the risk of sounding like it’s my modus operandi for the sake of causing us all to examine ourselves. Should Christ be divided?
Yes, there is a battle that needs to be fought again over such issues as the nature and meaning of the sacraments; the covenant status of children of believers; the significance of works in the coming judgment of believers; and the place of the Church in the salvific work of the Holy Spirit within “those who are being saved.” But that battle should be fought in a way that at least tries to demonstrate to the watching world that truth matters to Christians more than status and cliques; and that we still believe church councils and general assemblies and presbyteries and sessions err.
When have reformers ever been embraced? When have they ever escaped being associated with men they’d have preferred keep silent? And of course, we'd all do well to keep in mind the old adage that it’s very hard to hold a minority position with equanimity.
May God bring us back to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace His sacraments were intended to produce.