Gospel or Lord of the Rings?

Doug Wilson is a clever fellow and arguably as much fun as a beer-drinking companion as Mike Horton. But his wit may have gotten ahead of him when he responded to Dane Ortlund’s request for a one sentence answer to the message of the Bible (thanks to Justin Taylor). Wilson wrote:

Scripture tells us the story of how a Garden is transformed into a Garden City, but only after a dragon had turned that Garden into a howling wilderness, a haunt of owls and jackals, which lasted until an appointed warrior came to slay the dragon, giving up his life in the process, but with his blood effecting the transformation of the wilderness into the Garden City.

Not only is this reply a little more literary than theological, but it also shows the besetting problem of neo-Calvinism’s attachment to this world, the limits of transformationalism, and the trend to regard redemption as re-creation.

Plus, it demonstrates a cultural insensitivity to those of us who live in the East and have to contend with the New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. Simply slapping “Garden” in front of a polity, whether city of state, does nothing to transform a Garden City or Garden State’s six-lane highway into streets of gold. That will only come with glorification.


11 thoughts on “Gospel or Lord of the Rings?

  1. With regard to “…attachment to this world, the limits of transformationalism, and the trend to regard redemption as re-creation…”: since Doug Wilson isn’t a neo-Calvinist to my knowledge (at least not of the Calvin College variety or Liberation Theology variety), are these besetting problems for some groups of Reformed, conservative Christians, too?

    And does anyone have any reading recommendations for someone who wants to know more about the errors in quotes/eschatological controversies and the correct view/remedy (to give an idea of where I’m coming from, I last got schooled in eschatology by Bill Dennison, unless I’m forgetting someone)?


  2. H., you need to read VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms (if Dennison will let you) to see that all Reformed people in the U.S. are now neo-Calvinist, except for the 2kers. The Dutch ascendancy through Kuyper and Dooyeweerd has significantly undermined the earlier Augustinian instincts of Reformed Protestants.


  3. Does Dennison dislike VanDrunen?

    It’s on my to buy list, along with A Secular Faith, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, and Where in the World is the Church? The OP in me is crying for a Westminster West binge.


  4. Dennison likes DVD, as far as I know. I hear that he does not like 2k. You can also learn some of that at the Christ the Center podcasts on Christ and culture with Dennison, Wilson, Kloosterman, and yours truly.


  5. Darryl.;

    You missed that Wilson missed a very important point in his desire to be so poetic and erudite: Where’s the resurrection of the “appointed warrior?” Where’s the element that the Garden’s Master sent his son as the appointed warrior, who vanquished death itself along with the dragon when he voluntarily died and was triumphantly raised from death.

    I don’t necessarily mind the way Wilson cast his summary, but he missed something really significant by missing the resurrection. It’s one way to open a conversation or season a conversation with the Gospel or Scripture, assuming you know someone well enough to think this might provoke further thought or conversation. It could have been a good one-liner for a specific audience.

    Same would go for all of the one-liner attempts: they are opening or closing remarks, thought- provokers. None of them can substitute for longer statements* and in-depth conversations to communicate the Gospel.

    * was going to write “fuller statements” but didn’t want to get into having to distance myself from a certain Seminary in the shadows of the Rose Bowl in California.


  6. Whatever happened to arguments that seek to determine who is being the most faithful to a traditions historical interpretations of the scriptures which finds expression in the traditions creeds, dogmatics and systematic theologies? Stating that someone is extreme presupposes that the fellow you are arguing with is not quite as level headed as yourself. Is there not a touch of arrogance inherent in that? Maybe it is just the noetic influence of sin which we all fall prey to more often than not.


  7. I think that a few things need to be pointed out here. 1). There is only so much you can say in one sentence without it becoming too clumsy. 2). If the readers here are not at all familiar with James B. Jordan, they might have no idea where Wilson is coming from. 3). The Bible is a story, not a theology textbook. Wilson favors this view, and is seeking to tell the story (in one sentence) and not reduce the message of the Bible to something we might find in a shorter catechism, thus abstracting the message of salvation, and rending it from the space-time-history of redemption.


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