Broken Bottles of Extra Spicy Serrated Edge Sauce
UPDATE: Costi has since deleted his critiques of Doug Wilson, and has begun a correspondence to work through some of the concerns.
I’d like to address the recent dustup over on the Evangelical Aisle of Twitter, sparked by Costi Hinn accusing Doug Wilson of dropping one jar of Heresy Jam and a Bottle of that Extra Spicy Serrated Edge Sauce, and asking the piety janitors to come and clean up the mess. And while they’re at it, can they remove Doug from the premises? Then the discernment podcasters dutifully fired up their Røde mics, cracked their knuckles and did literally dozens of minutes of research into Doug’s writings, in order to find what they’d already concluded: HERETIC!
Now, I should be up front. I am a pastor on staff at Christ Church (the church Pastor Doug is senior pastor of). So, when I see the evangelical piety police coming with their politeness cuffs for Doug, I realize that the rest of us aren’t far behind. But we are building something here, and God’s blessing is abundantly seen. Along with all that also come the snarls that arise from discipling the people of God to walk in all His ways. The Evangelical world has sought for years to ignore what has been being faithfully built here in Moscow, and now that the likes of MSNBC is taking notice, they’ve decided now is the time to warn everyone of the “concerning things” about Moscow ministries (i.e. Doug’s blogging, Canon Press, CrossPolitic, etc.).
Thinly Sliced Heresy
The issue at hand in this recent scuffle is that we apparently deny justification by faith alone. This is the accusation because Doug has insisted that the same faith which begot us will be sustained through the whole of the saint’s life, and bring them at last to glory. As one hymn writer put it,
Without thy sweet mercy I could not live here;John Stocker
Sin soon would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.
To which we all here in Moscow, to a man, say one of our hearty “Amens.” You would be not only hard pressed to find anyone here denying that our salvation is entirely due to grace, but I think you’d find nary a church mouse who would deny such a glorious doctrine. But what we insist upon, and which draws the ire of the discernment podcasters is that that grace bears fruit. That grace which produces faith is the same grace which sustains our faith, and causes us to persevere in faith and good works.
Over in the deli section however, some of the evangelical butchers are slicing the Ordo Solutis so thin so as to be transparent. They insist that we are conflating faith and faithfulness, and tsk tsk tsk, that is a thing which must not be done. But I would ask, if it is genuine faith (the noun pistis) what else should be expected but faithfulness (the adjective pistos)?
We are being faithful (pun intended) to the WCF:
SECTION III.-Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Here is AA Hodge’s comment on this section:
In regeneration the Holy Spirit implants a permanent holy principle or habit in the soul. which ever continues the germ or seed from which all gracious affections and holy exercises do proceed. In respect to the implantation of this permanent holy principle by the Holy Spirit the soul is passive. But the instant this new moral disposition or tendency is implanted in the soul, as a matter of course the moral character of its exercises is changed, and the soul becomes active in good works, as before it had been in evil ones.AA Hodge
And Doug himself in his commentary on WCF: “These good works are not the ground of salvation, but they are the ground of assurance of salvation. They are the fruit of the tree, not the cause of the tree. They are the clear evidence that the tree is alive and growing. They are fruit and evidence of a true and lively faith.” We are justified freely by the grace of God. But those who are leveling the charge of heresy at us seem to make the grace of God out to have all the potency of a spit-wad. What we’re insisting upon is that the grace of God which begets living faith in us has the potency of ten-thousand Suns. This grace changes us by imparting a truly lively faith. It is only by this freely given faith that we have any power to go about doing the good works which are commanded to obey.
So, to those who insist we are making a heresy mess in their pristine aisle of Christendom, I would ask a question in return. Is the Christian’s obedience something which he must thank God for? If yes, then is that not the fruit of a lively faith? If no, then a saint obediently carrying out faithful good works is garbledy-gook.
The temptation within the evangelical world is to preach such a nebulous grace so as to neuter it. Their assertions that Moscow is denying justification by grace through faith is because they have been sneaking sips of that Antinomian liquor, which they smuggled in from another aisle entirely. In other words, if the grace you preach doesn’t enable you to do the good works which God prepared in advance for you to do, then you are not in fact preaching grace. What you’re preaching is a what Leonard Ravenhill would call a milquetoast Gospel.
The good works of faithful obedience are the result of God’s kind outpouring of grace to the saint. Our works are to be in faith. If this is to mean anything it must mean that the faith which arose thanks to the Spirit’s regeneration is the same faith, by the same Spirit, which enables us to obey God. To call this heresy is to resort to the sort of name-calling that we see on the left. Anything to left of Liz Cheney is racist, fascist, neo-nazism. What our brothers who are wringing their hands in concern over “everything Moscow” need to come to realize is that we are more than happy to engage and answer and debate in good faith. But we aren’t gonna hang up our cleats. We’re just getting started.