Nothing But Cyacowardice

I believe that it is in Screwtape that Lewis says something like the modern man has been conditioned to have a dozen incompatible ideas dancing around in his head. And Lewis himself was not this way, as his friend Owen Barfield testified, when he said that what Lewis thought about everything was contained in what he said about anything.

I don’t pretend to be anywhere near where Lewis was, but I can openly avow that this is what I aspire to.

But I have noticed in my zealous pursuit of this particular desideratum — or is it universal desiderata? — that our modern fragmented world has ways of pushing back. Some of this is just in the nature of the case, and some of it is malevolent. This is what I am referring to.

Because it is not possible to say everything every time you speak or write, that which you would desire to be implicitly connected can easily be denied, misrepresented, or slanderously inverted by your foes (and misguided friends). Multiple flanks are always exposed. You can be associated with people you do not want to be associated with. You can be charged with holding things you do not hold. You can upbraided for your unconscionable sin of omission, in that you did not mention the doctrine of imputed righteousness in your essay on gun control.

Bringing things down to the particular is the beating heart of incarnational Christianity. And when you bring it down to this particular, to this application, not that one, you are not excluding the necessity of coming down on another particular, in another application, on another issue, at another time.

Another difficulty is that the attempt to believe what you believe and live out what you do in terms of a comprehensive worldview, all under the name of Jesus, means that you will be wrong a bunch. This leaves you open to the charge that you are the guy who is “often wrong, but never in doubt.” But this is simply the cost of doing business — a lot of what parades as epistemic humility is nothing other than cyacowardice, a neologism of my own that I respectfully submit to our generation’s leading lexicographers, in the hope that they will see the pressing need for it. Whenever you have a lot of something, you do need a noun for it.

Think of it this way. The attempt to link the lordship of Jesus to whatever the issue is — whether gun control, birth control, border control, or control systems — does have the possibility of error. The refusal to do so has the certainty of error, and shows a distinct lack of self control. Leaving all the definitions under the authority of MSNBC, Google, and the devil is mere capitulation, not wisdom. The path to wisdom means getting out there and putting it on the line. The path to wisdom is a gauntlet, and you are going to get whacked on the head.

But to reapply a comment of D.L. Moody, I like that way of doing it better than other people’s way of not doing it.

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25 thoughts on “Nothing But Cyacowardice

  1. So, in other words, when Mr. Wilson says or does something reprehensible, it’s okay — because he’s further along on his way to Enlightenment and can be forgiven many errors. If only the rest of us were so wise, we’d say and do things just as reprehensible as evidence of our path to wisdom!

    Then again, when other people say or do things reprehensible, Mr. Wilson writes a smug, error-laden (but it’s okay for him!) book in response.

    Got it. You’re the leader of a decentralized cult. Wonderful. The modern age really is giving us such strange blessings.

  2. @Thomas Olney: Not really; if, indeed, there is some specific error he makes, or some crucial teaching absent from all his writings, feel free to call those to his attention. However, ascribing errors to him that are merely the result of natural constraints in writing is dishonest, and expecting a fellow believer to be wholly error-free this side of heaven is unrealistic. That’s not to say that any error is acceptable, or can be tolerated, but the existence of errors, and then the correction of same, is a natural part of grace.

  3. Dear Thomas,
    I think it depends on your definition of reprehensible. Maybe you think Christ Himself, or at least St. Paul, were “reprehensible”. To certain others, they were, indeed; Jesus and Paul upset a lot of apple-carts in speaking in G-d’s name…..but the reason they did and said those “reprehensible” things is that some of those apples being sold were rotten.
    So, if you are going to accuse someone of saying “reprehensible” things, at least you could identify your differences with the pastor…….so he might repent, if necessary, or perhaps correct your mistaken impression of what he said/meant/intoned/implored/proclaimed.
    Hurtful adjectives (name-calling) is also reprehensible. Physician, heal thyself.

  4. “You can be charged with holding things you do not hold.”

    I’ve noticed that, for some reason, this tends to happen a lot to organizations that adopt an open, publicly advertised policy of deception. For example V.I. Lenin told the commies to mask their affiliation, and nobody ever believed a word they said after that. I think perhaps Sun Tzu forgot to explain the next step. First, you adopt lying as a policy; then, the first lie you tell, is to deny the policy.

  5. But the concern in your (Mr. Wilson) case is not any of these things. The problem is that you are advocating a struggle for a heap of rotting junk when eternal treasures are on offer. The problem is that you are unseemly put out by loss of power and privilege when these things should make little difference to you. In our weakness is His strength complete. You are concerned about many things, yet only One is needed. And you advocate too much reliance on our own feeble strengths rather than on Him.

  6. Mr. Wilson,

    As an admirer of yours, I don’t presume to give you advice. However, this concern about being misunderstood by what you don’t mention seems unfounded. If the New Testament is to be our guide, we must realize that Jesus didn’t seem concerned about this problem. He said many things that pastors every Sunday feel like they must balance. If we are misunderstood by those who honestly want to learn what we are teaching, that is one matter. But if we are scared that those who are our opponents may lambast for not mentioning something, we shouldn’t be.

    Thanks for your ministry.

  7. Vishwanath,

    What a bunch of tripe you just posted. Where in the post above, or in any of Pastor Wilson’s other posts, has he done any of the things you described in your post? Show your work.

    Rick Davis hit the nail on the head. That is what Wilson is referring to. People respond the way that Rick Davis was caricaturing when they have the problem, when they try to lay a snare for you, when they have such an axe to grind that they take even the plain meaning of your words and hysterically ascribe the worst meaning possible to them. And when the words are so plain as to not even allow this cowardice, they then claim to detect the faint scent of some impure motive within you.

    Kind of like Vishwanath just did.

  8. BJ, he’s not say he’s concerned about being misunderstood. He’s saying if you get out there and do your duty (“Bringing things down to the particular is the beating heart of incarnational Christianity.”, you will sometimes be misunderstood and sometimes you’ll be wrong, but you can’t be a coward and refuse to get in the game because you’re afraid of that.

  9. Dear Mr. Stewart,
    Perhaps it is as you say. However, whatever I know of Mr. Wilson is from this source (his blog) and I can only respond from that very restricted viewpoint. And what I see puzzles me for Mr. Wilson comes off alternately as a person who smells of Heaven and a person who stinks of the refuse pit. Some of his posts are fantastic expostulations of the Good News – the best I have read. But then, the last few posts (excepting the wedding exhortation which was nice), have been barely Christian – more worthy of a Wahabist mullah than a bearer of the Gospel. Full of us and them and doom and gloom and a call to jihad an so forth. What I put up is a complaint against whatever turn of thought has led him to where he is. It is not a good place.

  10. “… Full of us and them…”
    Us vs Them is surely an unChristian attitude (Matt. 12:30)

    “…and doom and gloom…”
    I’ve heard postmillennialists accused of many things, but doom and gloom is not one of them.

    “…and a call to jihad an so forth.”
    Can you find a place anywhere in any of Doug’s posts where he encourages violence?

  11. Why do you think the Wahabists promote violence either? Haven’t you heard Islam is a religion of peace? You and I and Mr. Wilson, we all know that there are plenty of people just looking for an excuse to righteously vent their anger. By giving the impression that a certain group is less than human – by virtue of being leftist, say, you give these people the excuse they need. A good pastor, a reader of men’s hearts, would know that it is not enough to refrain from violence. One must actively be a peacemaker. This Mr. Wilson is emphatically not. I don’t think you can disagree with that.

  12. “By giving the impression that a certain group is less than human…”

    Once again, I’ve never heard Wilson even come close to doing this. Saying
    “Group X is wrong because…” is not the same as saying, “Group X are monsters and reprobate scum because…” I’ve seen a lot of the former, but none of the latter on this blog. Is it possible that you’re projecting onto Doug what you want to see there?

  13. “Can you find a place anywhere in any of Doug’s posts where he encourages violence?”
    Rick, ‘Pastor’ Wilson wrote an entire book, called ‘Black and Tan,’ whose theme was the retroactive encouragement of the firing on Fort Sumter, “So I also take it as a given that the South was right on all the essential constitutional and cultural issues surrounding the war, and this is my reason for calling myself unreconstructed.” (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 267). While he pointedly calls himself a ‘paleo-Confederate’ to differentiate himself from the more forward-looking ‘neo-Confederates’ running around out there, a man of peace he is not.

  14. I do believe the Christian is called to do more than merely preach the Gospel. In which case, whenever a Christian has the opportunity to speak up publicly (as is uniquely the case in the US, for one), he should, and this may include disagreements. Peacemaking doesn’t involve ignoring differences.

  15. To be at peace with God necessarily means to be at war with His enemies. But “…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ….”

    Vishwanath, since you are a Christian, I am assuming you believe that passage of Scripture to be one we should obey. Yet I think you are lumping carnal warfare and spiritual warfare into the same pile, and setting fire to the whole thing. In doing so, you are demanding that Pastor Wilson be an unfaithful Christian and an unfaithful shepherd.

    Since you only know him from this blog, might I suggest that you check out some examples of how he interacts with the enemies of God? A good place to start is with these clips of his debates with atheist Christopher Hitchens as well as his reflections on Hitchens’ death. Their debates were warfare, indeed, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to describe Pastor Wilson’s methods and attitude as “carnal.”

  16. Hi Valerie. According to Mr. Wilson, God’s enemies include the U.S. Government, the northern population, and the Union Army, because he quotes with approval Robert Lewis Dabney, his main man, saying, “‘A righteous God, for our sins towards Him, has permitted us to be overthrown by our enemies AND HIS.’” (Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan, Kindle location 232, emphasis added). Do you agree that the Union was an enemy of God? The warfare, by the way, was anything but spiritual.

  17. Fredericka, I think you’re confusing and conflating the cultural warfare that Pastor Wilson’s been addressing in recent posts with actual war or self-defense or other types of physical conflict. Fredericka — There’s a Venn diagramish sort of relationship, to be sure, but not a complete sameness. Are there occasions when violence is called for? Sure. Throw this in the mix if you want another example of when Pastor Wilson thinks it’s necessary. But that doesn’t mean that calls to be on the offensive in regard to cultural warfare are calls to Wahhabist-style violence. A Wahhabist wouldn’t cheerfully sit back and let commenters on his blog say the stuff that gets said here all the time.

  18. Hi Valerie, isn’t it striking that the commentator who accused Mr. Wilson of Wahabist attitudes can ‘see into the past,’ because his only knowledge of Mr. Wilson’s views is from the current blog. Perhaps the past isn’t vanished.

  19. Hi Valerie. The tendencies Vishwanath noticed are certainly there; Mr. Wilson wrote an entire book demonizing and vilifying the Union, whose victory in the Civil War was, according to him, the cause of virtually every bad thing which has happened since. But, by your account, Vishwanath should not have noticed them, because Mr. Wilson is writing now about the culture war, a non-violent endeavor in which we should seek to convert and correct our adversaries, not leave a smoking crater where they were standing. It is important to Mr. Wilson that his enemies should also be God’s enemies; the same is true of the Wahabists. It seems as though you can apply cosmetics over these tendencies, but they re-appear. Hope that is clearer.

  20. OK, I understand your meaning now, but I’m not hearing Vishwanath saying what you’re hearing him saying, so I’ll wait till he comes back and speaks for himself. As for your take on Black and Tan, I think you’re off-base, but it’s not a topic I want to spend time rehashing. I’d recommend Pastor Wilson’s online discussion with Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile on the subject. A search on this site or via Google should quickly lead you to their respective posts. Pastor Anyabwile provides a fair and gracious summary of his opponent’s views, providing as fine an example of Christian discourse on a challenging issue as one might hope to find.

  21. Hi Valerie. That is how I first came across ‘Black and Tan!’ I was surfing the web and stumbled upon the post wherein Thabiti Anyabwile summarized Mr. Wilson’s views. I thought, ‘is it possible someone wrote a book like this?’ and downloaded the Kindle version. I really did not care for it at all.

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