Thursday, August 18, 2011

Questions for Doug Wilson

This is a tag-team post with Phil Johnson's terrific essay today at Pyro. Taking on myself to tag-team with Phil has a long and storied history in this blog, pre-dating our partnership at Pyromaniacs. I write assuming that you, Dear Reader, have a familiarity with the issues Phil takes up in that posts, also expanded on in its linked posts.

Necessary background

In center stage we have falsely-named "continuationism" as represented by Mark Driscoll. In the talks recently discussed at Pyromaniacs, Driscoll positions himself thus:
  1. He has special powers beyond those of mortal man.
  2. These powers are the continued gifts of the Spirit discussed in the New Testament.
  3. One of those powers is that he has X-rated movies of his parishioners playing in his head.
  4. They're not 100% accurate.
  5. Yet, when challenged as to how he knows these things, he says "Jesus told me" — which is to claim that Jesus is saying things directly to Mark Driscoll that He is saying to no one else.
  6. Anyone who denies Driscoll's powers is a materialist, and a borderline atheist — or at least a Deist.

Now, Frank called Driscoll on part of this well and fairly, and Phil flatly called Reformed leaders out for giving cover to such malpractice by coddling "continuationism."

In response to Phil, commenter after commenter thoughtfully showed up and proved his point over and over again. I never cease to marvel at the apparent complete lack of self-awareness among such commenters.

But I do marvel at Douglas Wilson adding his name to their number.

In his characteristically wittily and well-written post, Wilson says many wonderful things, in order to say a really bad thing. Wilson has this C. S. Lewis-like ability to phrase things so well that, once he's said them, it's over, he just can't be topped. I love this phrase: Wilson speaks of "a Christian culture where lots of people think that the revelatory gifts are still operating on all eight cylindars [sic] and yet (mysteriously) without the Bible growing in size." Phil and I have been saying that same thing, but Doug Wilson here says it wonderfully well. And Wilson expresses concern over the resultant "ethos" that "continuationism" has created.


Yet Pastor Wilson is hosting this man, Mark Driscoll, who not only fosters that "ethos," but (A) does so in pastorally alarming ways, and (B) says anyone who doesn't agree with him on those specific claims is a "materialist." You know, like Owen and Augustine and the Hodges and Machen. Materialists, every one of 'em.

In the meta to Phil's post, commenters and I again and again drew out the practical, pastoral implications of Driscoll's claims. We imagined the aftermath of anyone taking seriously Driscoll's claims to Spirit-given supernatural powers beyond those of mortal man — as Driscoll demands that we take them seriously. We imagined scenes like this, which are necessary results of Driscoll's claims:
Woman: Grandpa, did you sexually molest me when I was a little girl?
Grandpa: What?! No!
Woman: OK. Pastor Driscoll says he saw you do it in a movie Jesus told the Holy Spirit to run in his head. But he also says he's not always right. So, never mind.
Or picture this conversation:
Man: Pastor Mark, I'm having a terrible spiritual struggle. I just have these vivid pictures of naked women in my head, sexual imagery, sexual scenes.
Driscoll: Oh, I have that too, but it's a gift from the Holy Spirit. Are you sure it isn't God showing you something?
Man: Um... I... um, I've never thought of it that way... in fact, I never thought of thinking of it that way... but if that's what my pastor says...

The questions

So here are my specific questions for Pastor Wilson. I don't ask them pugnaciously. The answers aren't all simple, though I think some should be. What troubles me in his post is that Wilson side-steps them; so I bring them up for consideration.
  1. What do you make of a pastor saying the Holy Spirit ran X-rated movies in his head by direct revelation from the hand of God? 
  2. What do you think of a pastor telling a furious, abusive husband "Jesus told me," referring to a hunch he had about the husband's abuse, then leaving them to sort it out? 
  3. Are you saying that these occurrences are examples of your "strange things happen" rationale, as set out in your recent post? 
  4. Do you take any responsibility for the certain fact that "continuationists" like Driscoll will use your argument as "cover" for what they do? 
  5. Do you see that that was Phil's point? 
  6. Are Calvin, Spurgeon, Warfield and you materialists and borderline deists? 
  7. Would you ever, ever ordain a man who did or said any of these things even once, and did not repent and show fruits of repentance for some time afterwards? 
  8. What do you think about the clear and intended implications of this position, that preaching the whole Word of God is not sufficient for the salvation and sanctification of believers?
  9. Should you extend the mantle of respectable leadership to such a man? 
  10. Do you think no one has yet tried to persuade Mark Driscoll to leave off his troubling practices before? 
  11. Will you have powers of persuasion far beyond those of mortal man?
Final clarification: do I think leaders are always responsible for every error of everyone with whom they associate themselves? In no way. Were that true, no one could associate with anyone. I would barely  associate with myself.

But isn't it apparent that this is not isolated, inconsequential, minor? This isn't something that some people allege Driscoll said or did 30, 20, 10, or even 5 years ago, and then either repented of or never repeated or never talks about as a central. It's something he insists on as an important, defining issue; everyone who doesn't agree with him are materialists, Deists, almost atheists.

It doesn't seem to me that Driscoll has left the option of chuckling, grinning, and shrugging off his actions as "Oh, that Mark, he's such a kidder!"


Anonymous said...

My friend, it all boils down to this..."Yet Pastor Wilson is hosting this man, Mark Driscoll".

Conferences are costly.

Robert said...

Jules, I agree. In fact, I'd say that said cost is something that Wilson is not willing to pay in order to worship in spirit and truth.

David wouldn't take the free offer of oxen and sledges from Araunah to make his burnt offerings because he did not want his worship to God to cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:18-25). We should follow his example and make sure that we are not trying to side-step paying the cost of true worship. I would think that is part of offering our lives as a living and holy sacrifice that is acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

jbboren said...

And folks got mad at Piper when he hosted Warren?

(freudian word verification alert- 'layin' this the kind of thing Driscoll would see?)

Anonymous said...

Well said, Robert.

The recurrent, nagging question I have regarding the continuationist position overall is, "Where does the continuationist draw the line?" It seems to me that the line is fluid, if men like Doug Wilson can wink at behavior like that of Driscoll.

I'm writing a brief post about it for my blog and would love your input.

David said...


Help me!

I'm looking for your post (or posts?) in which you show how Piper, et al, "give cover" for Hinn, Bentley, etc. Don't mean to be lazy, I just can't find it.

DJP said...

Maybe someone else has more time to search and read though old posts before I get around to it, David. It's all over Pyro and here, in the Da Gifts posts.

DJP said...

Unless my own memory is playing tricks, in that I-meant-to-say-it-so-intently-I-must-have-done-so way.

David said...

Oh, duh. I was just looking here. Thanks.

DJP said...

Here, too. Here's one.

DJP said...

Very clever, David! You imply that this blog's never visited the issue, and thus sting me into searching! Well-played, sir!



David said...

OK, sure, I'm willing to pretend I'm clever.


DJP said...

Dude, it's what I've been doing for yea-many years.

Tell no one.

Our little secret.

Chris H said...

Jesus will tell Mark Driscoll your secret....

OR maybe not.

And he might be wrong.

But it's all okay, because it's spirity, and he'd rather be devastatingly wrong 100 times and right 4 times than keeping his trap shut...

Carmon Friedrich said...

"Wilson has this C. S. Lewis-like ability to phrase things so well that, once he's said them, it's over, he just can't be topped."

My husband replies..."With great power comes great responsibility." Those with such influence need to be very careful at how they wield it. Your comment about the commenters makes that point. Most folks don't follow the convoluted (or complex) argument. They see: Wilson invited Driscoll to come...he must be all right!

DJP said...

Yes, I'm afraid that is to be filed under the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Anonymous said...

Friends...please bear with me as I try to construct this question. It's been ricocheting around in my mind all morning.

At what point does the continuationist draw the line between genuine prophecy and counterfeit prophecy? And, if they do draw a line, on what basis do they draw it?

Is that a fair question?

Scot said...

My sarcastic answer to Jules would be to look to the Brian Regan pain scale. Something with that level of objectivity.

My more genuine answer would be "I'm not certain there is one." Mark's video is the first "prophecies" where sin is being called out. Normally the "prophecies" seem to be a holdover of evanjellyism-speak, like "God is going to bless this ministry" or "We believe God is going to do great things in us very soon"

Doug Wilson's article reads well as sound-bites, but as a whole sounds very emergent. It concerns me not because I'm a leader or pastor or someone with influence but I'm flesh-warring saint. I use those leaps of logic when I'm about to do something brainless and stupid.

Eric said...


For my part I think that is a very fair question and one which many of us share.

I can only offer that it seems to me that the answer would have to be subjective, as there is no objective way (that I can see) to answer that question. To me this is the basis for greatest concern. It may be easy to say that all prophecy should be measure against the Bible, but "visions" such as Driscoll purports to have had are not subject to such review, because the Bible cannot tell us whether "person A" was molested as a child. It seems to me that all that is left is subjective impressions and "trial and error", neither of which sounds like a very good option.

Unknown said...

"At what point does the continuationist draw the line between genuine prophecy and counterfeit prophecy? And, if they do draw a line, on what basis do they draw it?"

The continuationist stands atop his heap of anecdotes, liver-quiver moments, and hearsay, and then he draws a line juuuust out of reach to his left.

Aaron said...

I know I skip over the whole x-rated vision thing, but how can a person claim to have a "gift of discernment" and yet display such an amazingly casual attitude towards counseling. Add to that the profound ramifications of being wrong and you have a recipe for disaster regardless of whether the visions were from God or not.

I can't in good faith support an accusation that this about money either.

Dave Miller said...

Here is an excellent article that God providentially revealed to me today The Morning I Heard The Voice of God by John Piper. Well worth the time to read the whole thing. It kind of caught me by surprise, and kind of didn't.

Jay said...

Are there people actually taking this man seriously? Crowds of people didn't immediately walk out of his church after the whole "I see things" bit (seriously, did he just watch The Sixth Sense or something?)

The responses here and at Team Pyro are excellent. What's baffling me is that there are any other responses to a man like this. Who can take someone seriously when they say, "Oh, I have secret divine visions about potentially damaging and life-changing sins, but they aren't always accurate."

I don't interact with too many Charismatics, but I would hope that even they would go, "Dude, that kind of talk could really ruin someone's life." It just floors me that there isn't any kind of accountability coming from sane Charismatics. Or are there none?

Unknown said...

Just a comment. I am not saying I agree with Mark's viewpoint. The audience for the session was MHC staff. They probably should not have posted it. Just thought I would point out that clarification. It's always a good idea as a commentator to review the original source of a video and not the clipped version.

trogdor said...

If the audience was the church staff, they should have been more discerning than the general congregation (you would hope!). That makes it even more disturbing that this nonsense not only went unchallenged but was actually chosen for promotion.