Who Is Dr. Thomas P. Roche?

So far all I know is that he taught classics (apparently) at SUNY Buffalo, was in theonomic circles for a while, and wrote one of the more amazing critiques. This is an excerpt from his piece, “Meet the Theonomists” (which is a good read):

SPACESHIP MOSCOW
Twelve years ago, the Rev. Douglas Wilson was quite literally a nobody from nowhere, the pastor of the then Community Evangelical Fellowship in undistinguished Moscow, Idaho, home of his alma mater, University of Idaho. Wilson, the son of the Rev. James Wilson, the local Evangelical Free Church pastor, was, in his father’s mode, an Arminian evangelical. His church was a 1970s-style college fellowship, the pastorate of which he had inherited in the late 1970s, when the previous pastor moved on and Wilson, the guitar leader, was elected his replacement by acclamation, without seminary training, but with a MA degree in Philosophy. Wilson proved a competent replacement, and in 1981 his church started Logos School, the progenitor Christian school in their “Classical Christian School” movement, dedicated to “recovering the lost tools of learning” along the lines of the medieval trivium, following the lead of a famous essay by this name written in the 1930s by the late British mystery novelist Dorothy Sayers, which Wilson himself (who also holds a degree in Classics) later expanded into a book. The school emphasized logic, Latin, etc., as well as theology, and fit well into the university atmosphere of the Moscow, Idaho/Pullman, Wash. (University of Idaho/WSU) environs. Neither the school nor Wilson as theologian gained much influence outside of this area, however, throughout the 80s. Then, in the late 80s, Wilson chose to preach a sermon series on Romans, and through his studies therein, was converted to Reformed soteriology. This event might well have had little effect beyond his local preaching but for reasons I do not understand, Wilson chose to expand his efforts, and quickly began to seek to expand his teachings and influence outside of his local area. I do know that Wilson, presumably in a worthy effort to learn more about the Reformed faith he had recently embraced, began various correspondences with Reformed thinkers elsewhere (James Jordan was briefly one of these), and soon Wilson was joined at his church by Douglas Jones, OPC elder (?) who had been associated with Greg Bahnsen and his ministry in Southern California. Jones became and in my opinion remains the intellectual engine behind the Moscow church; through his influence Wilson would eventually embrace covenant paedobaptism and even become a popularising author advocating the “Thousand Generation Covenant” paedobaptist promise.

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What Would it Take for a Minster to Go to Jail?

These days the short answer has something to do with children (or not reporting someone who had something to do with children). But for high minded ministers, what about the ministering word and sacrament could get you locked up?

Doug Wilson’s recent encounter with FBI agents got me thinking:

A few weeks ago, I got a call from an FBI agent (apparently on the road) to see if I would be in my office later that afternoon. I acknowledged that I would be, and we arranged a time. At that arranged time, two field agents showed up, very personable, professional and polite. As far as I knew, it could be anything from running a security check on someone who had me down as a reference to hauling me off for thought crimes against our Brand New Republic.

I asked them if I should have a colleague sit in, and they said that would not be necessary. So then, we sat down, and though I may not have looked like I was all agog, I was all agog on the inside. Imagine my delight when it turned out that our topic was “No Quarter November,” specifically the first post in that series, and more specifically than that, the first paragraph in that post. As you may recall, the title of that post was “Burn All the Schools.” And here is the offending paragraph.

H.L. Mencken once suggested a shrewd educational reform that has somehow not caught on. He said that there was nothing wrong with our current education establishment that could not be fixed by burning all the schools, and hanging all the teachers. Now some might want to dismiss this as an extreme measure, but visionaries are often dismissed in their own day. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one . . .”

From this Wilson deduce that:

There are two kinds of Christian leaders in the world, dividing them broadly into two camps. Mention that someone has gotten a visit from the FBI on the basis of something he said in a sermon, on a podcast, on his blog, or in the church newsletter, and Christian leaders will sort themselves out accordingly. One group shakes the head disapprovingly, worried about the testimony, and what does this do to the good reputation among outsiders (1 Tim. 3:7)? The second kind of Christian leader hears of something like this, and his heart sinks. “Why can’t something like that ever happen to me?” And his wife says, “Honey, don’t . . .”

One kind of Christian leader thinks that it is an honor to be honored. The other believes that it is an honor to be dishonored, a grace to be disgraced. There is obviously more to it, but that basic division explains a lot of other things too.

Now someone might be ready with a quick comeback. “Yeah, Wilson, but you didn’t get visited by the FBI because of Jesus. You got visited because you quoted that old reprobate Mencken.”

To which I reply that perhaps a lot more pastors ought to be quoting Mencken.

That’s a strange admission that preaching Christ and him crucified will not land you in jail. It may in China. It may in Eritrea. But in the United States it won’t. Even the little old ornery OPC, for all of its warts and few crackpots, is able to minister scripture as a confessional Presbyterian communion without fear of police raids or federal penalties. Is the United States great, or what?

And yet, to maintain the narrative that the United States (and liberalism) is the second coming of the fall, and to prove their bona fides as “real” male ministers, some pastors get Chris Matthews tingle up the leg at the thought of going to jail.

Now, I like Mencken as much as the next white male Protestant, but I have never advocated preaching him. Yet, while Wilson entertains preaching Baltimore’s bad boy, Tim Bayly reached for Herman Melville:

In my first message at the conference, I quoted Melville’s maxim, “the pulpit leads the world.” During the Q&A afterward, a pastor ministering in a hipster neighborhood of an eastern seaboard city was quite exercised over the statement, calling out “what’s your authority for saying ‘the pulpit leads the world’?”

I answered that I hadn’t cited it, but my source was Melville’s Moby Dick, leading him to interrupt saying he didn’t care where the quote came from, following with “where does it say that in the Bible?”

To which I responded that the entire Bible says it, from the prophets through the book of Acts where we read of the preaching of the Gospel turning the ancient Roman Empire on its head and getting the Jewish leaders to gnash their teeth.

He continued adamant in his denial, at which point I probed whether he was an R2K acolyte of men like Darryl Hart and David VanDrunen?

Bingo. And later in the conference, this pastor interrupted my message on the sin of effeminacy, saying I should stick to preaching the simple Gospel. He was quite adamant about it and I had to ask him if he’d please let me finish and we could talk afterward?

This is the preaching of Reformed pulpits in our nation today, and it leads me on this morning following our midterm elections to make the obvious point that everything going on in these United States right now, from our White House to our Congress and Supreme Court down to our state capitals and governors’ mansions down to our mayors and school district superintendents, even to the words squawking in our police cars and the smiles and frowns of our crossing guards, is the product of our pulpits.

Notice the concession to the spirituality of the church (and its foundation in the sufficiency of Scripture). If you want to preach about politics, you need to look beyond the Bible to American authors. Mencken and Melville are preferable to Charles Dickens and Flannery O’Connor, though Christians reading non-Christian fiction is generally a good thing. But not in the pulpit, not even The Wire.

Total Lordship of Christ = Christ Tells Us Everything

Thanks to another of our southern correspondent comes Doug Wilson’s latest sovereignty-of-God brag. He faults Russell Moore for only wanting a Christian public square about race but not about sex:

The theological problem has to do with how we define righteousness for the public square. Russell Moore doesn’t want to build a Christian nation except on racial issues, which is like wanting a nation to be Christian every day between 9:45 am and 11:12 am. If Jesus is Lord of all, we must listen to Him on racial issues in the public square. If He isn’t, then we don’t have to. What we don’t get to do is pick and choose. Under the new covenant there is no unique chosen nation, of course. In the new covenant, every nation must be discipled, and there is no exceptionalism there. But whether you want righteousness in tiny slivers, or righteousness across the board, you still have to define it.

Sorry, Pastor Wilson, but you are picking and choosing all the time. Welcome to the novos ordo seclorum; find your inner 2k self. What is Christ’s will about the military? Read the Old Testament for “holy” war and invade Mexico? What does Christ reveal about idolatry and blasphemy? Send Jews and Muslims packing (the way King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella did)?

Theonomists are all bluff. They don’t virtue-signal. They obedience-signal. Worse, they know they’ll never have to live with their braggadocio.

In a Wilsonian Frame of Mind

That is Doug as opposed to Woodrow (to whom Mencken is giving it good and hard in my morning readings).

Our Pennsylvania correspondent sent me a piece that Doug Wilson posted about church officers who voted for President Obama:

Any evangelical leader — by which I mean someone like a minister or an elder — who voted for Obama the second time, is not qualified for the office he holds, and should resign that office. Unless and until he repents of how he is thinking about the challenges confronting our nation, he should not be entrusted with the care of souls. A shepherd who cannot identify wolves is not qualified to be a shepherd. . . .

Neither am I saying anything about the average parishioner. No doubt, he should be up to speed on biblical engagement with the issues of the day, and I would want to urge him to grow in his abilities to do so. But shepherds of God’s flock have a moral responsibility in this that is directly connected to their ability to discharge the responsibilities of their office. If a man is a pastor, and he voted for Obama in 2012, then his cultural astuteness is about as sharp as a bowling ball.

A generation later, it is easy for us to cluck our tongues at the German leaders who did not see what Hitler was doing, but it is very hard for us to see our complicity in things that are every bit as atrocious.

See, I did it. I mentioned Hitler, which is going to cause someone to appeal to Godwin’s Law. In Internet debate, according to the law, the first one to make the Nazi comparisons loses. This is apropos and funny in multiple situations. But if we live in a world in which genocide can and does occur — and we do — a supercilious appeal to Godwin when someone invokes the Holocaust when talking about Cambodia’s killing fields, or to the Rwandan slaughter, is to be too clever by half.

In Northern Ireland, that sort of assertion coming from the likes of Ian Paisley could reignite the troubles. Heck, I don’t think Doug could have gotten away with this during Woodrow’s administration. So perhaps a minister of the gospel should refrain from throwing verbal Molotov Cocktails?

But on the plus side, what a great country we live in even though Wilson is loathe to express proper gratitude. We may have Protestant ministers who are capable of Paisleyan fustigation, but Americans are loathe to shoot guns at each other for a group cause. As I write I can hear the snickers from Canada and Europe about Americans and their love and use of guns. But for a country that lacks Europe’s traditions of culture and settlement, this greatest nation on God’s green earth remains remarkably free from ethnic and religious civil war. (The real Civil War was different and may have spooked Americans from ever taking up arms against each other.)

In other words, Wilson can get away with this kind of verbal gun play because he enjoys a relatively peaceful and liberal society that gives everyone the chance to spout off (Wilson couldn’t get away with this in China or Turkey). In fact, he benefits from the full protection of the secular government that he so often denounces. Meanwhile, his denunciations are just so many words that government officials can ignore. The only things words like these break are not my Democratic neighbor’s bones but the endurance of Christians who might be better advised to live and act like they are in exile.

Tim Asks, I Respond

Instead of a call to communion, Tim Bayly calls for clarity:

After years trying to explain Federal Vision to confused souls, I’ve taken to putting it this way: “Federal Vision theology is a program being carried out by certain men of Lutheran background, tastes, or sensibilities who are working to import Lutheran errors into the Reformed church.” Join me in this effort to promote clarity, will you?

So here goes:

First, the Reformed folks who the BBs most associate with Lutheranism have been (by virtue of the priority of justification in understanding Reformation teaching on salvation) the most critical of the Federal Vision.

Second, the rise of Federal Visionism has much more to do with Reformed teaching on the covenants than with Lutheran sacramental or liturgical or theo-political notions.

Third — and here’s the kicker, Doug Wilson, one of the BBs favorites, has been one of Federal Visionism’s greatest proponents.

You want clarity, Tim? You got it, sans limp wrist or moisturizer.

Who Made Doug Wilson Judge and General?

I suppose Doug Wilson thinks he won a battle since one of his posts about Duck Dynasty made it on the radar of Rush Limbaugh. The gist of it — as we’ve heard so many times from the BeeBee’s — is that if you’re not fighting the culture war the way Doug Wilson does, you’re gutless, have let your education run rough shod of your love of Jesus, and have taken vows to the church of respectability.

The need of the hour is Christian leadership that is willing to show some intelligent fight. As Chocolate Knox put it in a recent tweet, “Homo’s know what Christians believe there’s no secret, yet they get surprised every time they hear us say it. Time to lean in.”

Time to lean in. This is why I want to come back to the third point I made about this imbroglio yesterday. This whole thing makes me think it is some kind of reprise of the Chick Fil A uproar. Somebody strayed from the Appointed Way, the homolobby flexed in order to shut up a critic, middle America responded by buying so many metric tons of chicken sandwiches, and then sophisticated Christians sneered at this inadequate and “entirely predictable” and “red statey” response. . . .

So what do we need? We don’t need generals. We have that. We need generals who fight. We don’t need leadership councils. We have those. We need national leaders who fight. We don’t need pretty boy preachers. We have those. We need preachers who fight. We don’t need evangelical regiments of pajamaboys. We have that. We need fight, and we need to fight with everything we have — heart, strength, and brains. All in.

Show me your forearms. Unless there are scars all over them, then I honestly don’t want to hear your views of the inadequacy of these cultural clashes (Gal. 6:17). When the barbarians are throwing their scaling ladders against the city walls, if the only defenders at the top of those walls are Chick Fil A employees in paper hats and hot grease from the deep fryer, and rednecks with their beards and shotguns, and nobody at all there from Red Brick Memorial Reformed, Rev. Forsythe P. Snodgrass, D.Min, minister, then let us be frank. We shouldn’t blame the folks who are there.

This is, by the way, the same tactic used by the left. Unless you conceive of a woman’s freedom, or race relations, or global warming the way we do, you are a mysoginist, racist, and ignorant. Fundamentalism is the word often used to describe this kind of all-or-nothing w-w. But I think, having been reared by two of them, fundamentalists were smarter than this. At least my parents didn’t blog.

What Doug Wilson fails to see is that many other believers do fight but some of us don’t evaluate the enemies the way Wilson does. Some us actually contend with our own demons — we struggle against the flesh. Some of us also fight the principalities of this age by supporting the Christian ministry. Some of us also think that a cable television show and the star’s contract is going to amount to a hill of beans in six months, let alone two millennia.

So go ahead, Doug. Fight your battle. It’s a free country (irony noted). And I’m going to fight your inadequacy to discern the times and your capacity to distract your followers from the less obvious but more serious battles that confront the gospel. And please note. I am not fighting Phil Robertson. From some 700 miles away and not having cable television (boo hoo), I don’t know enough to evaluate Phil’s situation. (Not sure you do either.)

Postscript: Geography and denomination alert!

Wilson adds:

The contrast must not be between how unsophisticated Christians fight and how sophisticated Christians . . . what do they do? At most, they demur, with a throat-clearing caveat or two. Theologians and ecclesiastical eggheads can make merry over this kind of pop culture melee if they like. The material is there — “look at those rubes, standing against the principalities and powers with their duck calls, zz top beards, and chicken sammich haute cuisine, hold the mayo.”

But the lack of self-awareness in this criticism is staggering. These are shepherds who feed only themselves (Ezek. 34:2). When shepherds have neglected the flock for so long, and the wolves are ravaging them, and the sheep come up with some kind of strategy to defend themselves, and the shepherds sit up on the ridge, laughing at the tactical inadequacy of what the sheep are attempting, what shall we call that?

Is Doug Wilson, a CREC minister in Moscow, Idaho, feeding Phil Robertson, a professing Christian in Louisiana who attends White’s Ferry Church of Christ? Talk about self-aware.

When Luther Sounded Constantinian

From Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate

We see, then, that just as those that we call spiritual, or priests, bishops, or popes, do not differ from other Christians in any other or higher degree but in that they are to be concerned with the word of God and the sacraments—that being their work and office—in the same way the temporal authorities hold the sword and the rod in their hands to punish the wicked and to protect the good. A cobbler, a smith, a peasant, every man, has the office and function of his calling, and yet all alike are consecrated priests and bishops, and every man should by his office or function be useful and beneficial to the rest, so that various kinds of work may all be united for the furtherance of body and soul, just as the members of the body all serve one another.

Now see what a Christian doctrine is this: that the temporal authority is not above the clergy, and may not punish it. This is as if one were to say the hand may not help, though the eye is in grievous suffering. Is it not unnatural, not to say unchristian, that one member may not help another, or guard it against harm? Nay, the nobler the member, the more the rest are bound to help it. Therefore I say, Forasmuch as the temporal power has been ordained by God for the punishment of the bad and the protection of the good, therefore we must let it do its duty throughout the whole Christian body, without respect of persons, whether it strikes popes, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, or whoever it may be. If it were sufficient reason for fettering the temporal power that it is inferior among the offices of Christianity to the offices of priest or confessor, or to the spiritual estate—if this were so, then we ought to restrain tailors, cobblers, masons, carpenters, cooks, cellarmen, peasants, and all secular workmen, from providing the Pope or bishops, priests and monks, with shoes, clothes, houses or victuals, or from paying them tithes. But if these laymen are allowed to do their work without restraint, what do the Romanist scribes mean by their laws? They mean that they withdraw themselves from the operation of temporal Christian power, simply in order that they may be free to do evil, and thus fulfil what St. Peter said: “There shall be false teachers among you,… and in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter ii. 1, etc.).

Just trying to complicate the minds of those (the BeeBees, the Reformed Rabbi, Doug Wilson, and William Evans) who think that 2k and Lutheranism are responsible for secularism, materialism, and Obamacare.

Christendom without Christmas?

One of the remarks that Doug Wilson made in his lectures last weekend concerned a defense of Christmas trees in the local town square. The superiority of print to sound recordings is that you can find a statement much quicker with your eyes than your ears. So I was too lazy to go back and listen for the remark. But the interweb is a remarkable device and I found the following:

The Anti-Christian Liberties Union (ACLU) knows that getting Christmas trees off public property is well worth fighting for. This is why we as Christians have to learn that saying “merry Christmas” is an act of insurrection. How do we define our lives? More than this, how do we define our lives as a people? Far from retreating into a minimalist celebration, or no celebration at all, we as Christians must take far greater advantage of the opportunity we have in all of this. Now the Lord Jesus is on His throne. And His government will continue to increase. But He works through instruments, and one of His central instruments for establishing His kingdom on earth is the faith of His people. Why is it that Christians shopping at WalMart are being reminded over the loudspeakers that “He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” Why are they telling us this? It’s our religion. Why don’t we believe it? But if you believe it, then say merry Christmas to somebody.

But the stakes of Christmas are even higher:

To be fair, we ought not to be too hard on the secularists for their ongoing war against Christmas. Because Christmas started it.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there were no doubt people in the surrounding neighborhoods who drank too much, or who quarreled with their wives, or who sometimes shaved the edges of their business dealings. And Jesus came for that sort of thing, no doubt. His authority is exhaustive, and so no sin, however petty, is outside the reach of that cleansing authority. He came to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found. He doesn’t overlook the little things.

But He doesn’t miss the great things either. It is interesting to note where the initial conflict was. Jesus had Herod’s attention right away. The first clash was a political one, right out in the public square. The very first battle was what sort of display was going to be allowed on the county courthouse steps. And that issue was important enough, crucial enough, that Herod was willing to shed blood over it.

So when Doug Wilson comes into his Christendom with Peter Leithart as his Constantine and James Jordan as Leithart’s Eusebius, will they make room for Reformed Protestants who don’t celebrate Christmas or don’t buy Christmas trees? (But we surely do take the holidays granted by civil and private authorities, thank you, very much.) I mean, judging by the behavior of Old School Presbyterians and secular libertarians, one might think they are on the same side of the culture wars — opposed to public religiosity. Of course, Old Schoolers object to the kind of religion that passes for public consumption, and secularists object to the kind of public that includes religion (whether orthodox or adapted). But can Wilson see the difference between those objections? More important, can he admit that his mere Christendom will be as difficult for orthodox Protestants as it will be for Jews, secularists, and Roman Catholics?

If You're the One Throwing Stones, Can You Still be a Martyr?

The BeeBee’s latest swipe at 2k involves a couple of oddities. The first is their identification with Deacon Stephen, arguably the first Christian martyr:

Hart and VanDrunnen are identical in their commitment to avoid the slightest appearance of triumphalism. You need know nothing more about the R2K error than that. And nothing more about true Christian faith than that, in the pursuit of the triumph of the Cross of Jesus Christ, millions of men and women of God across two millenia have been martyred for their public witness to the holiness of God, the conviction of sin and righteousness and judgment of the Holy Spirit, and the universal Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Starting with our beloved Deacon, Stephen.

It sure seems to me that Tim Bee is doing a better impersonation of the persecutor Saul than Stephen. I mean, the aggression he dishes out is always going in one direction, with sweeping condemnations not only of 2k ideas but also of 2kers’ character and motives. Tim and David are hardly suffering from 2kers attacking them. And if Tim Bee wants to identify with triumphalism, then he has not listened very carefully to the guy who went from Saul, the guy holding the coats of stone throwers, to Paul, the martyr:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor 1:22-25)

The BeeBees seem to think that public life, where the power is, is also a sign of the gospel’s power. No Christian witness before the magistrate, no triumph. It does explain their fondness for Doug Wilson who pines for a Christian society (Constantinianism) where faith came by conquest. I wonder if the Bee Bees are Christian enough to call for another round of Crusades.

The second oddity involves the Moscow Muhammad himself. I did listen to Doug Wilson and Dave VanDrunen’s lectures from last weekend at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Christ and culture. I was disappointed that recordings of the question and answer session were not available. But Wilson out of the blue in an entirely unrelated kerfuffle reported on a part of those exchanges which became fodder for the BeeBees:

This last weekend… I asked David VanDrunen …what God would think of a nation whose magistrate and people had become overwhelmingly (and sincerely) Christian, and who decided to confess Christ in the common realm, in the formerly secular realm. I asked if God would be displeased with that, and VanDrunen said yes, he thought God would be displeased with that.

When asked about VanDrunen’s follow up, Wilson replied:

. . . he said that it was because he wanted minorities (in this case, non-believers) to not be mistreated. The assumption behind that is that the secular state is more to be trusted with treating people right than Christians would be. But of course, Christians were the ones who invented civil liberties for all.

And with that, BeeBees and their minions are satisfied with Christian superiority, 2ker cluselessness, and the world’s debauchery. Never once did they consider, or Wilson with them, how silly such triumphalism is. I understand Wilson is a bit touchy about slavery, but he did bring the subject up once. At the conference in Vandalia, OH he also brought up segregation and how Christians were wrong to accept or defend the division of the races into separate public schools under Jim Crow. Perhaps he also knows something of the way that European Christians treated Jews, what Protestant magistrates did to Anabaptists, or what Constantine’s enforcers did to Arians. All of that goes away with an assertion that Christians invented civil rights? Did he learn nothing about rhetorical excess from his debates with Chris Hitchens?

Such dishonesty seems to go with the territory of thinking yourself a victim when you are really a bully.