When I came back to the surface after nearly drowning in the month of September, I was astonished to find that I had any readers left. I had had two classis meetings and a Presbytery meeting in September, all one week right after another. I was even more astonished to find that I made the top five list of Keith Mathison’s favorite blogs. All sorts of astonishing things have been happening recently.
Another astonishing thing that I found out recently was that I figured rather prominently in a recent book by Sean Gerety, entitled Can the Presbyterian Church in America Be Saved?. The book is 130 pages, if you include the index, but not the extras at the back that are usually included in Trinity Foundation books. Of those 130 pages, I am mentioned on a whopping 17 pages. The reason that this is astonishing is that I am a nobody. My blog has a few readers, but I am not exactly what you would call a heavyweight in the PCA. I do not figure at all in the inner workings of the PCA. I know many who do figure in those inner workings, but I am not usually included in the “inner circle,” if one could call it that. At least, that is my impression. I’m not a speaker at conventions or conferences. And I’m only 31 years old. Obviously, Sean Gerety takes me a whole lot more seriously than I take myself, especially in terms of my importance. I’m flattered, in one way, that he would consider my position that important. I will take his position equally seriously. A quick note to moderators: Sean is allowed to respond to these review posts of his book either on my blog or on his own blog. I promised him that.
I am going to respond mostly to Sean’s assessment of my position. Firstly, on page 34 of this book, Sean says,
To give another example of the inability of Vantilians to effectively deal with the contradictory doublespeak of the Federal Visionists, and what is easily the most disturbing recent development in the battle to stop the spread of the Federal Vision, was the clean bill of health self-professed Vantilian and PCA pastor, Lane Keister, gave Doug Wilson on his “Green Baggins” blog.
Sean goes on to quote Doug Wilson as saying that “[Keister] has not found anything that would place me outside the pale of Reformed orthodoxy” (the quotation is from here).
Sean asked me then if I agreed with Wilson’s assessment.
This was my answer:
My problem with Wilson lies in this: although Wilson says many things that are Reformed in a positive sense, he is not willing to reject the errors of the other FV proponents. Personally, I am willing to believe that Wilson holds to justification by faith alone, although he is too ambiguous on the aliveness of faith and its place in justification. He does hold to imputation. But he will not distance himself from any error of the FV, no matter how egregious. That is why, if Wilson were to apply for admission into the Presbytery of which I am a part, I could not vote to approve his transfer of credentials. What I have sought to show is that it is not enough to affirm the truth. One must also reject the errors. This is equally important to affirming the truth. That is my answer, Sean.
Sean’s assessment of Wilson is well-known, and can be summarized by what he says in the book:
It was unfathomable to me that any Christian man, much less a minster (sic) of the Gospel and someone even considered a recognized and respected foe of the Federal Vision, could read Wilson’s book and conclude anything other than Wilson was a very skilled false teacher who has replaced the Gospel of Christ with a clever fraud (p. 34).
His ultimate conclusion (at least he strongly hints in this direction) is that the ambiguity in Wilson’s position is a mask for deception, and that Rick Phillips (whom Sean also attacks for reading Wilson charitably in the Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons book) and I are just dupes (p. 36).
How does one respond to all this? Well, first of all, let me admit right off the bat that I have been duped by people in the past, and that it is possible that Doug Wilson duped me. I’m not convinced just yet that that is true, because I am not convinced that Sean has read Doug Wilson correctly. Sean Gerety and John Robbins co-wrote a book that also went into great detail about RINE (Wilson’s book Reformed In Not Enough). I have read Gerety/Robbins, and am not convinced that they have read Wilson correctly. We’ll get into more of that later, however. At the moment, however, I want to respond specifically to the claim that I have given Wilson a clean bill of health. Now, admittedly, different definitions could possibly exist for “clean bill of health” ranging from “I would barely let him into my church” to “I would ordain him without a second thought,” and everything in between. My position is this: Wilson does not belong in the PCA, but I would not call him a heretic. I said it a little differently before, in that I said I would not vote for him to come into my Presbytery.
Sean seems to think that if someone is sound on justification by faith alone, then that is the only important issue. He says, “Sorry, Lane, you’re wrong. You did give Wilson a clean bill of health on the central question — and frankly only question — of Christian orthodoxy and his teaching in RINE concerning JBFA.” My response would be, “So what about baptism, assurance, visible/invisible church distinction, paedo-communion, perseverance, and covenant?” Are those issues ones that we should shunt to the side when considering the Federal Vision, and whether or not someone is confessionally orthodox? JBFA is certainly the main hinge, as Calvin would say, or the article by which the church stands or falls. But these other issues are quite important as well. Consider this post part 1. We’ll get to Wilson’s doctrine of JBFA, don’t worry.