Defending Wilson?


Most of the time we should ignore the ugliness on twitter where people say or imply things that simply don't deserve a response. But occasionally one needs to draw attention to the silliness that goes on from time to time, if only to keep others from joining in such foolishness. 

Many months ago I spent some time with a friend of mine who is on the OPC study committee on republication. We were reading some documents on republication, and eventually came across Vos and Berkhof. I had made the point to him that Berkhof had borrowed quite heavily from Bavinck. So we decided to see whether there had been any borrowing from Vos on republication. And voila

I don't believe I was too hard on Berkhof, nor was I too soft. But I did call him out. I am not comfortable with what Berkhof did, and I would fail a student if they did something similar today. I have friends who agree and disagree with my position. 

After posting my piece, which I had run by several very able scholars, some in the social media universe opined that this was a subtle defence of Doug Wilson. Some claimed on twitter that it does seem to be the implication of my piece, and that I was simply justifying a paycheck. (BTW, NSA asked me to lecture on Thomas Goodwin's doctrine and life view to their student body. I'd be silly not to give 150 + students some good Puritan theology, but I digress...).

I don't know all of the details regarding Doug Wilson and his plagiarism. But I am aware that he apologized. So who in their right mind would go and try to defend someone who has just said he was in the wrong? It is politically stupid and, more importantly, morally wrong. 

But what occurred to me is how those who have an intense dislike for Wilson can end up reading a piece, and instead of actually reading the piece they read many things into the piece instead. You know things are weird/bad/crazy when people see things in an article that even the author didn't conceive of.

Interpretative subjectivism in bible-believing Presbyterianism = Non sequitur after non sequitur ... And then published in less than 140 characters in a mind-blowing tweet. 

Now I don't know how my piece in any way helps Doug Wilson. I'm still waiting for someone to explain that to me. How does my piece actually help him? Did I not say that if my students did what Berkhof did they would end up having an uncomfortable conversation with me? The point of the post was actually to also engage in some historical theology, that is, consider the context for the "borrowing" from Vos. 

So here's something to think about: if you dislike someone a lot, you need to be very careful that it doesn't lead you to a type of thinking that makes you look borderline insane or paranoid. Disliking someone or hating something can cause us to act very strange at times. I once accused my wife of supporting Man Utd because she was wearing red and black. 

We all need to guard our own hearts. If we can castigate someone, perhaps even rightfully so, then we also need to remember that we have our own personal sins that need to be dealt with as well; and we all attend churches that are not free from (sometimes serious) issues. Pergamum and Laodicea both had problems. Self-righteousness is never far from any of us. I know from my own personal sins and mistakes in this area. 

If your interpretation of an article means you have to make several big leaps and jumps for the conclusion to follow, and in doing so you impugn the motives of another minister, and also accuse him of justifying a paycheck, you might wish to think about whether it is really worth it. Perhaps try a private email, if anything. But when you do so publicly, you may have to deal with the fact that others will see your folly and it will be plain for them to see.