Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beware of Doug Wilson: Part 3: Wilson's Neo-Popery

Douglas Wilson's neo-popery
is seen in his conflation of
justification and sanctification
--the same soul damning error
peddled by the Roman
Catholic Church itself.
by Steve C. Halbrook
(posts in this series: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

In part two, we covered Douglas Wilson’s interview with Christian Renewal where he equates saving faith with works.  This was not a unique incident.

In vol. 15, issue 5, of his magazine Credenda/ Agenda, he states:
Now this fides salvifica does not cause obedience in the way that a billiard ball striking another one causes it to move. It is not mechanical. Rather, it brings about obedience organically, the way life in a body causes that body to breathe. As a body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26). This is why saving faith necessarily lives and acts One of the principal acts performed by such saving faith is the act of trusting in Christ alone for both justification and sanctification.[1]
(For a refutation of Wilson’s interpretation of James 2:26, see “Does James 2 contradict Romans 4?,” by John MacArthur.)

On Wilson's comments, Sean Gerety writes:
The central deadly error of Rome is the conflation and confusion of justification and sanctification. The genius and great blessing of Reformation was the correction of this deadly conflation by drawing the necessary, logical and biblical distinction between justification which is by belief alone and works done in sanctification as the result of belief. For Christians works done in sanctification are the result or the fruit of justification. The latter is quite properly the cause of the former.
However, for Wilson, “fides salvifica does not cause obedience in the way that a billiard ball striking another one causes it to move.” For Wilson, there is no causal connection between justification which is by belief alone and obedience or works done in sanctification. They’re the same thing and are all part of Wilson’s doctrine of faith, which, as he already made clear, is different from belief.[2]
Back to Wilson, who goes on to state:
Think of it this way. Saving faith is a mother who always bears twins——justification and sanctification, in that order——so that we can see easily that when justification is “born,” his mother does not die, but rather brings his younger brother “obedience” into the world. But we cannot forget an important part of the illustration. The “mother”——faith——is trusting and obedient in how she gives birth.
Saving faith is the alone trusting instrument of justification, and, immediately following, that same saving faith the alone trusting instrument of sanctification, and reveals itself always as a faith working through love. Saving faith that does not trust and obey is a saving faith that does not exist. We never have raw faith without trust, and then, a moment later, trust arrives.[3]
Gerety notes that “While Wilson talks in terms of justification and sanctification as being twins, notice that the ‘mother’ which is faith ‘is trusting and obedient in how she gives birth.’” [4]

So for Wilson, works are the cause of justification and sanctification:  “The ‘mother’——faith,” performs acts of obedience (“obedient in how she gives birth”) in order to give birth to (i.e., produce) justification.  Wilson thus denies the biblical truth that justification is by faith apart from works (Romans 4:1-12).

Gerety further points out Wilson’s denial that sanctification results from justification:
“Remember, [for Wilson] justification and sanctification are the identical twins from the one mother ‘faith.’ Justification does not give birth, to use Wilson’s metaphor, to sanctification. The one is not the cause or the result of the other.”[5] 
Thus for Wilson, salvation is the work of man, not the work of God.  Wilson states, “Saving faith that does not trust and obey is a saving faith that does not exist”; in other words, for Wilson, since without obedience saving faith cannot exist, saving faith isor at the very least is in part, works.

While Wilson collapses saving faith and works together, the Word of God separates them:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
In light of this, Wilson’s view that Christians are saved by works is a boastful, works-righteousness, legalistic view. It is  neo-popery, a return to the Roman Catholic soul damning doctrine of justification by works.

     [1] Douglas Wilson, “A Pauline Take on the New Perspective,” Credenda/Agenda vol. 15, issue 5 (2003):8.
     [2] Sean Gerety, The Fiducial Road to Rome, Part 2.
     [3] Wilson, “A Pauline Take on the New Perspective,” 8, 9.
     [4] Gerety, The Fiducial Road to Rome, Part 2
     [5] Ibid.

Doug Wilson: Heretic or Reformer? (Part 1)


von said...

A quick question. Is the Federal Vision controversy just between paedobaptists? I am still struggling to understand the whole thing, but a lot of it seems to not really fit baptist theology, one way or the other.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Von, all the Federal Visionists I know of are Presbyterians, or at least Paedobaptists. However, Federal Vision theology could easily influence baptist circles as well. The dispute is not just about baptismal regeneration (which the Federal Vision holds to), but about about the nature of saving faith, as the Federal Vision heresy redefines the meaning of saving faith to include works. Also, Baptists could conceivably be influenced even by the Federal Vision's baptismal regeneration heresy by modifying it to be a believer's only form of baptismal regeneration. (We already have the Campbellites who hold to believer's only baptism as well as the view that water baptism saves.) It doesn't help that the influential baptist theologian John Piper has endorsed Doug Wilson and had him at one of his conferences.

von said...

I guess I'm still figuring this whole thing out... certainly most of what I have read focuses a ton of the WCF 'standards' and Paedobaptism. There was something about Adam as well that I really didn't get.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that Romans 1 says is that all of life is ethical. People will adapt a theology that goes with their lifestyle. I don't believe these people want for one minute to earn their salvation by works that is a big mistake in understanding the FV in my opinion. I think it comes down to eternal security through the sacraments. Baptism gets you in and Mass/Supper keeps you as long as you don't get excommunicated. I also believe this teaching is a big attraction to the leaders because they can be mini-Popes. Sacraments hold key to eternal life so therefore they "hold the keys." So in my opinion it is security with the congregation and power with the leadership.