Douglas Wilson, Means, Methods and the American Way

Well, after enduring numerous “hijacking” of posts the guys at the outhouse finally relented and decided to give me the “floor”. As with most endeavors in life, it’s always easier to edit than create and critique than formulate. I imagine the guys knew this truth and thought it was time I got my “comeuppance”. So, here I am on display or better yet taking my turn in the dunking booth. When I was asked to post an article, it immediately dawned on me that I had nothing really new to say. Carl Trueman’s insight that blogging was in large regard an exercise in narcissism immediately resounded in my mind and burned in my bosom, the latter effect an immediate validation of the truth of the statement. If anyone has engaged for any length of time in either blogging or responding to posts you quickly realize that much of what is going on are people, including myself, in love with the sound of their own voice. Much of it seems very akin to primping in front of a mirror (admit it, how many of you, not me of course, have engaged polemically in a combox and merely scanned over the other lesser responses until your eyes fix on the particular brilliance of your own rhetorical paring where you proceed to roll it over and over in your mind like an old love letter, long forgotten, from a first love.) For others it seems to be the shortcut to becoming that romantic tv, novel, movie ideal of the renaissance man or super hero; ” In real life I am ‘fill in the blank’ but on the internet, on my blog, I’m a professional historian, theologian, literary critic, so on and so forth. Need we really bring up the profiles and hopes and wishes one finds on dating sites?!

Such use and engagement reminds me of Calvin’s rebuke/insight that much harm is done in the world by those who decide to act and engage beyond the bounds of their calling. Even now as I write this post, I’m at “work”.

So, what are we observing within this new medium? For the world of religion and blogs, it seems we are in the world of what amounts to “electronic tracts.” We are now essentially privy to millions of electronic diaries, musings and observations and If you’ve enabled a combox on your blog, people can either congratulate you on your brilliance and add some of their own, or pummel you for being dimwitted and ignorant, with a smattering of other observations that fall between these two poles, before they head off to shop or pay their bills, or ogle porn. As someone (ahem) has said elsewhere, “it’s a place to devour and be devoured.” If used and understood for what it is, “musings”, maybe even teasers, propaganda and advertising as in the case of a professional scholar or writer who is announcing and/or giving a foretaste of a “proper” work, I see no harm. But, what do we make of something like federal vision which owes it’s “being” as much if not more to the “blog” than to any pastor’s conference or book? Darryl Hart has observed and I’m paraphrasing; “that the federal vision story is as much about the internet and blogs (or being hashed out on the blogs) as it is about a movement of loosely associated religious formulations.” For “federal vision”, to a large degree, the medium has been the message. It’s a medium which fairly well suits a group which is seeking to be more “organic”, if you will, in both it’s organization, proliferation, and training of it’s leaders. It seems, in other words, to share more in common with, and may be more a manifestation of, a dumbed-down American evangelicalism that’s a mile wide and an inch deep and prides itself on it’s populist appeal and bumper-sticker theology rather than a learned, legitimate corrective to a protestant confessionalism that has supposedly lost it’s way. As Scott Clark has observed of Douglas Wilson, “he’s on a journey” and it’s a journey that for him and others seems better served by it’s existence in the wild wild west that is the internet, where we are all either devouring or being devoured.

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31 Responses to Douglas Wilson, Means, Methods and the American Way

  1. Pingback: Confessional Outhouse Bores One More… « The Confessional Outhouse

  2. Rick says:

    Well, we’ve talked about this event and this post behind the scenes here – but, good post and welcome to the crapper, Sean. We’ve already been enjoying your comments, and we look forward to more of your posts.

    Be sure to leave the seat up.

  3. sean says:

    Thanks Rick.

    No problem on the seat request. Brought my Charmin coupons as well

  4. kazooless says:

    Rick says: “welcome to the crapper,…” and I realize now what all the stuff is that is produced by this blog…. (I am LOL so much right now!)

    And Sean: “I LOVE the sound of your voice”

    Any friend of Rube’s is a friend of mine (to fight with).

    Blessings to you and welcome,


  5. sean says:


    Thanks. Hopefully the banter will be enlightening and amiable, if not consensus forming.

  6. Beth Ensminger says:

    Hi Sean,

    It’s Beth from NC….. that feels like she knows you b/c of our dear sweet friend.. have not read this yet but will….. but thought I would take this chance to say hello!

  7. sean says:

    Hi Beth,

    Boy, the stories I’ve heard…………just kidding. This might be an interesting place to you. May be very different than what you’re used to hearing. Welcome.

  8. RubeRad says:

    taking my turn in the dunking booth

    Yuck! I hope not!

    Much of it seems very akin to primping in front of a mirror (admit it,…

    Zing — you got me there!

    So to the point of the post, what do you think “FV” would have looked like before there was internet? Didn’t it all start with Norm Sheperd and reg’lr books?

  9. sean says:


    Couple things; I think it’s obvious that the theological primers for FV were already out there ala Murray’s covenant of grace, theonomy, and sheppard’s soteriological formulations (as you pointed out). There’s also some illicit appropriation but maybe logically consistent use of Van til’s antithetical, common grace bluring (imo), emphasis in epistemology.

    I think the internet has allowed for two unique events to take place; one, it expanded the community of FVers by providing a very inexpensive way to promulgate their views. It tied these guys together in an electronic community that might have otherwise remained splintered and if not unknown to each other, at least less effectively “congregated”. Secondly, and maybe more indicative of the medium being the message, it has allowed them to remain flexible/fluid in their formulations, they get to “feel” their way through it. They can at one and the same time, get on a blog and ardently and polemically argue for their case while at the same time take advantage of the “nature” of the medium and say; “eh, it’s just a combox or a blog I’m speaking off the cuff, I’m trying to hammer out my position, I didn’t mean that, you’re MISUNDERSTANDING me, yada yada. A book is a much more “positive” articulation of a set of propositions. “Positive” meaning in much the same way one might teach something analytically as opposed to merely polemically.

  10. Zrim says:

    “There’s also some illicit appropriation but maybe logically consistent use of Van til’s antithetical, common grace bluring (imo), emphasis in epistemology.”

    Good point. It serves the interests of all to know that CVT highly regretted the works of Bahnsen and Rushdooney. Whatever else makes me as a W2Ker blanche in CVT when it comes to apparent blurring of lines, I am grateful for his outright clear rejection and regret of theonomy.

  11. Rick says:

    “…theological primers for FV were already out there ala Murray’s covenant of grace…”

    I don’t think Murray ever got that telegraph from the dying Gresh.

  12. sean says:


    No doubt, Murray himself would not have and did not make nor intend the directions that Shepherd headed or those who flattened out the L/G distinctions, BUT that’s what happened. As it’s been said; in an effort to affirm grace everywhere you end up with grace nowhere. Or something to that effect.

  13. Rana says:

    grace everywhere = grace nowhere, from sean’s post reminds me of the PRC.

    how does the above issue relate to the Protestant Reformed view of the non-existence of the common grace realm? is this the same issue? i hope i am make sense since i have no clue what i am talking about but would like to understand somewhat the PRC view and hear critiques from this side (W2K) of the fence.

  14. sean says:


    Help me out here; PRC? I know I SHOULD know but I just don’t

  15. Zrim says:


    Though I live down the street of the PRC sem, I don’t think I have ever heard the “grace everywhere = grace no where” argument from the PRC rejection of common grace. I have only heard it in W2K arguments in everything from the rejection of Orthodoxy’s sacramentalism to neo-Kuyperian notions of cultural transformationalism.

    I think W2K would probably understand the distinction between special and common grace to mean that the latter comports under the old language of “providence.” Some W2Kers actually prefer “providence” so as not to get confused with the controversies in the Dutch Reformed circles that precipitated the PRC (which split from the CRC over common grace, and the free offer of the gospel).

  16. Rick says:

    you need to live in Grand Rapids to know what the PRC is. It’s a small denomination, ‘Protestant Reformed Church.’

    They are on the verge of hyper-Calvinism and deny the existence of common grace.

    They are monocovenantal – so they have that in common with the FV. But to them Covenant = Election. It’s all election. Their bibles start with Romans 9.

  17. Rick says:

    You can do the Grace Everywhere = Grace Nowhere equation with the PRC because every covenant is the covenant of grace to them. There is no such thing as a ‘conditional’ covenant in their view.

  18. Zrim says:


    Some more background for Sean…not that it’s directly relevant, but didn’t you also recently mention some recent local controversies about education? I think a local PRC pastor took his kids out of Xian schools to home school and the PRC apostles are going around to pulpits decrying the sins of HSing.

  19. sean says:


    Thank U Zrim, now I’m tracking. Yep, this is where my RC upbringing leaves me wanting.


    I’m barely even aware of that argument much less engaging it. I’m talking about ideas of merit, condign, congruent, pactum and the like. Murray’s covenant of grace as I’m referencing it, has to do with whether merit is even possible before God and trading on creator-creature distinctions. Murray didn’t like the idea of a meritorious arrangement between Adam and God, thought it violated creator-creature distinctions and made God a debtor to man. Problem is, in the federal head scheme if Adam can’t earn it, than what is it exactly that Christ has earned? Murray didn’t follow out the logical implications of his system, others have.

  20. sean says:

    Thanks Rick,

    Didn’t see your post before. I’ve heard of the hyper guys, just don’t know any.

  21. Rana says:

    Zrim, a prof at the PRC sem in your ‘hood was supposed to come by yesterday and clean out our stock of theology books/ commentaries/ references. Anyone want to buy my Dictionary of American Presbyterianism copy? Yep! Still available.

    The Mr. estimates 2,000 books on our shelves.

    No we don’t take Visa or MC, but would consider some type of barter in exchange for books.

  22. Rick says:

    Yes, there is a controversy presenly in the PRC over schooling. Home schooling = bad. PRC school = the only good option for the covenant youth.

    They seem to put private PRC schooling on the same level as the means of grace.

  23. RubeRad says:

    As it’s been said; in an effort to affirm grace everywhere you end up with grace nowhere. Or something to that effect.

    One of my favorite articles! It lives here and the quote is:

    The irony of all this is that a position that asserts a continuum of “grace” everywhere ends up with no genuine gospel grace anywhere. An approach that starts out by claiming that a works principle operates nowhere ends up with a kind of works principle everywhere.

  24. sean says:


    Amen, and Amen.

  25. Rick says:


  26. Zrim says:

    Speaking of the CoW, someone give Rube a dime for finding this and Kline, like, a dollar for writing it.

  27. sean says:

    Interesting caveat about that article, the New Horizons omitted Kline’s reference to Murray’s Mono-covenantal scheme. The complete text is on Iron’s site

    OK, I still don’t have this linking stuff down. Sorry.

  28. Rick says:

    No worries, linking on a comment box is more tricky.

    Yeah, I like the original of the article better.

  29. Rana says:

    speaking of Lee, he has clarified some of what some of us may have misunderstood regarding his reformed/ evangelical comment. i have to agree with him in regards to what he says about the term reformed having lost its meaning.

    when i attended community bible study and ask for prayer that we would find a reformed church, all my Baptist sisters would chuckle, “that should be easy”, knowing that there is an RCA or CRC on every corner. i would go on and explain, “no, like *really* reformed”, eventually it hit me the word, in GR at least, had lost its meaning.

    then i came upon zrim and the OH and have been using the terms confessionally reformed, but apparently the PCUSA even considers themselves that, no?

    there is an anglican lesson in keeping the unity/ communion in all of this …

  30. sean says:

    “Speaking of the CoW, someone give Rube a dime for finding this and Kline, like, a dollar for writing it.”

    Well, lucky for you he’s passed on to glory, cuz I’m sure he’d demand his “two dollars”.

  31. andrewbuckingha1 says:

    Great stuff.

    Didn’t read the comment boxes (after all, there’s so little of ME in this section (insert emoticon)) but looking to earn my keep, I thought I would update the RSC link, for posterity, nothing more.


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