Posts Tagged ‘Douglas Wilson’

medieval priest
Doug Wilson wrote a mid-summer post , giving tactical advice for the Christian resistance.  It’s pretty good stuff, much of it unexpectedly calls the church back to its distinctiveness; some concerns itself with our handling of current issues that touch the character of God. 

As much as there is something tantalizing about being part of a resistance (I mean, they’re usually the good guys in any tale of history), my battle cry has been changing a bit this past year, especially since the last election and the bombshells of the last two Supreme Court sessions.  I see a great need for the American church to take care of its own orthodoxy and equip the saints for our day, a day that is increasingly becoming antagonistic to the one, true God.

The medieval church of old, which governed every aspect of village life, performed their Masses in Latin and established themselves as the sole arbiters of the Word of God.  They denied the peasantry direct access to the Word and warned them that it was only the clergy who were qualified to read Scripture accurately.  Instead of first-hand biblical knowledge, the ignorant common man was reliant on the priests to tell him what he should or should not believe.  Unfortunately, the modern American church looks very different, but acts under much the same mentality.

Biblical literacy in America is at an all-time low.  As pollster George Gallup summarized:

Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.

Virtually every home in America has at least one Bible. Four Americans in five believe the Bible is the literal or inspired word of God, and many of those who do not, still regard it as the basis for moral values and the rule of law.

A percentage of Americans who believe the Bible is the word of God, only one-third of Americans read it at least once a week—15 percent read it daily and only another 18 percent read it one or more times a week. Another 12 percent read the Bible less than weekly, but at least once a month. More than half of all Americans read the Bible less than once a month, including 24 percent who say they never read it and 6 percent who can’t recall the last time they read the Bible.


For the sake of gaining appeal, many American churches have willingly tossed aside their distinctiveness and have not valued the sacred trust they’ve been given from past generations, that of rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) and implanting it in the hearts and minds of those in their seats every Sunday.  The message conveyed is that “we love the Bible, we talk about the Bible, but it’s not so important that we need to teach the Bible.  We’ll be sure to let you know ‘the good parts,’ the especially good nuggets we think you should know, but further than that, don’t worry about it.”  The clergy in these churches convey the belief that the Bible is too stodgy for everyday fare and fear it will keep folks from streaming in, those who come for the dramas and the “lights and big drums” (see previous post, Choosing a Church).  They redefine terms in the hope of making the gospel relevant and palatable for the unbeliever in their midst, thus effectively denying that “faith comes through hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).  As Mark Dever has said in his book The Deliberate Church, “What you win them with is likely what you’ll win them to. If you win them with the Gospel, you’ll win them to the Gospel. If you win them with technique, programs, entertainment, and personal charisma, you might end up winning them to yourself and your methods (and you might not!), but it’s likely that they won’t be won to the Gospel first and foremost.”      

The American church has re-embraced the ideology of the late 19th – early 20th century, German theologian, Adolph von Harnack, who reduced the whole counsel of God to two precepts, believing the essence of the Christian faith to be (1) the universal fatherhood of God and (2) the universal brotherhood of man.  In other words, God’s love gives us all value and we’re all brothers in Jesus; we just need to love one another.  In these churches, the gospel lacks urgency, because there is no mention of God’s equally-true natures of holiness and justness.  If sin is spoken of at all (usually in terms of “brokenness” or “faults,” or “mistakes” etc.), it is only in terms of God’s over-riding love for us.  The second precept plays out in the oft-repeated message of service as the main method of sanctification for the believer (and unbeliever too).  Social justice is their battle cry and in an environment bereft of Scriptural grounding, the book of James, alone, keeps resurfacing in sermon series’ and Bible studies from year to year.                 

So even while embracing Wilson’s call to be calm and carry on, I am finding my heart for Christian resistance to be more about whats happening inside our church walls than outside them.

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Douglas Wilson has written thoughtfully about marriage and family in the past and his newest book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Thomas Nelson, 2012), tackles such weighty subjects as masculinity, marriage, fatherhood, and authority.  I am gleaning from excerpts compiled by Tony Reinke in “20 Quotes from Father Hunger”.

Wilson’s definition of masculinity is surely counter-cultural.  Simply put, he defines masculinity as “the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.”

He asserts that a “man who assumes responsibility is learning masculinity, and a culture that encourages men to take responsibility is a culture that is a friend to masculinity. When a culture outlaws masculinity, they soon learn that such outlaws are a terrible bane to them, instruments that destroy civilization with their mutant forms of masculinity. Every society needs masculine toughness, but it needs a toughness that lives and thrives and is honored within the boundaries of the law. And if we want this kind of toughness in the men, we have to teach it to the boys, and cultivate it in them. Like a concrete foundation, masculine toughness has to lie underneath masculine tenderness. (51–52)  When masculinity is not taught and disciplined, boys grow up thinking that it means selfishness instead of sacrifice.” (53–54)

This concept of masculine toughness reflects that glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.  Lest the reader fails to apply this to life’s biggest decisions, Wilson drives the idea home by stating, “A man who takes a woman to the altar is going there to die to himself.” (126)  This sacrificial view of masculinity necessarily redefines the concept of authority.  “Authority flows to those who take responsibility. Taking responsibility is the foundation of all true authority. This means that reestablishing authority is accomplished by taking responsibility. (208)

This strong but safe masculine authority is fully aware of his responsibilities in all his spheres of influence including his call to fatherhood.  “What are fathers called to?” he asks.  “Fathers give. Fathers protect. Fathers bestow. Fathers yearn and long for the good of their children. Fathers delight. Fathers sacrifice. Fathers are jovial and open-handed. Fathers create abundance, and if lean times come they take the leanest portion themselves and create a sense of gratitude and abundance for the rest. Fathers love birthdays and Christmas because it provides them with yet another excuse to give some more to the kids.”

But the masculine man is no mere Santa-figure.  He knows his authority is a call to other forms of responsibility.  “When fathers say no, as good fathers do from time to time, it is only because they are giving a more subtle gift, one that is a bit more complicated than a cookie. They must also include among their gifts things like self-control and discipline and a work ethic, but they are giving these things, not taking something else away just for the sake of taking. Fathers are not looking for excuses to say no. Their default mode is not no.” (158–159)

Men may wish to embrace this type of masculinity, but lack a model or mentor; women may wish to find such a masculine man who exhibits sacrificial responsibility, but they’ve never seen it from the men in their lives.  To these, Wilson shares his own father’s advice.  “Suppose that someone is converted to the Christian faith, and he wants to be a good husband and father. He thinks of it as a good thing, and so he is all for it. The only problem is that his father ditched when he was only two, and he doesn’t have a good grasp of what fatherhood is even supposed to look like. My father has often told young men and women in this kind of position to read through the gospel of John, taking special note of everything that is said about God the Father. We learn what tangible fathers are supposed to be like by looking to the intangible Father. And we look to Him by looking at Jesus, the one who brings us to the Father.” (200)

It is God’s good pleasure to split his image into two genders.  It is also his good pleasure to place his creatures in families.  Although almost any man can become a husband or a father, it is by the Holy Spirit that men are directed to their proper, God-given purposes of masculinity, responsibility, authority, and sacrifice.

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A quote from Douglas Wilson’s new book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Thomas Nelson, 2012), caught my attention:

“When a man opens the car door for his wife, he is doing far more than just getting the door open. It is not a matter of utility. It is not a question of pragmatics. Granted, we could save energy all around if both individuals opened their own doors. But he is making a statement in addition to getting the door open. He is disciplining his own heart and soul, which need it, and he is honoring his wife, who is glorified by it. The role of the man here, if we may speak this way, is not just to get the door open. His central role is the liturgical act of saying that women everywhere should be held in honor by men, and that he adds his amen to this, as everyone in the parking lot at Costco can now see.”

At some point in the past, my husband began opening my car door for me.  I must admit that I’m often uncomfortable with it to varying degrees.  I often feel uncomfortable because it does seem inefficient and it causes my husband to be inconvenienced and to endure poor weather longer as he waits for me to get in.  At the risk of sounding self-effacing, well…I am.  I tend to aim to be inconspicuous in public and do not usually seek public attention.

What Wilson helped me understand is that my husband’s gesture, makes him conspicuous and declares to believer and unbeliever alike a created order.  This stood out to me yesterday.  It wasn’t Costco, but the local movie theater.  My husband opened my door as usual.  Just a few seconds later a young man and woman and a couple children got out of the car near us.  I was keenly aware that it couldn’t help but be obvious to this young couple that despite women’s “liberation,” despite the new casualness, despite the hardening of the womanly spirit in our country, here was someone who displayed a manliness not often seen anymore and demonstrated his acknowledgement of his creator’s order…and His grace to womankind.


“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).


[Illustration: Tom Lovell]

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