Not Surprisingly, Letters

The Head Hohn Cho (and Related)

Re: “A Very Basic Question”: I’m sure you don’t want these comments to become a battleground for the current controversy, but I thought I might comment on the apparent ongoing double standard, which, as far as I’ve read on the Team Pyro blog, has still not been addressed. In Mr. Cho’s response entitled “On the Importance of Reputation,” he quotes: “It is not wise for a pastor to argue with a sex abuse victim in public over the details of her case. It would be better for the pastor to absorb any wrongful accusations rather than engage in this kind of argument (I Cor 6:7).” Yet this is the blog run by the same Phil Johnson where Phil published his own defense of John MacArthur regarding recent allegations that MacArthur lied about his activities following MLK’s assassination. Shouldn’t MacArthur simply absorb the accusations against him? Does a victim of sexual abuse get free rein to publicly accuse and give a one-sided story, and you are obligated to simply “absorb” allegations? Why do sexual abuse victims get their own special standard? It seems to me that allowing accusations to continue on the public interwebs is akin to slandering the church, persecuting Christ, accepting a charge against an elder. And, not least, it seems to me that you are not the one who brought the charges into the public court. I wonder if anyone spoke to the victim about taking charges before unbelievers? In short, this seems to be only more of the double standard issue—that is, the main issue you’ve raised and which I have not seen responded to. Indeed, Mr. Cho continues to try to convince the public to agree to condemn you in these matters, at the same time his condemnation includes that you should not have these matters dealt with publicly. Another double standard regards tone. The Pyromaniacs are notorious for their rather rough and ungracious dealings, not only with liberals and heretics, but also with faithful conservatives in the comments with whom they have virtually complete agreement. Scoffing, sarcasm, dismissive responses, uncharitable interpretations, etc., are part of the accusations against them. But Mr. Cho cites as evidence against you that your tone is not always acceptable to 100% of people, and this “has caused a good deal of anguish among pastors and elders of CREC churches who would otherwise be supportive of Pastor Wilson’s ministry.” If only Doug sounded less like the Pyromaniacs, we would completely support him. How is one to pound out lengthy articles on a snark-a-thon blog while clutching all of these pearls? Indeed, while writing for such a blog, he may very well be describing himself when he accuses you of “eager use of serrated blades on the Internet to propagate his own strong convictions and viewpoints.” I was about to grab a few quotes from the Pyromaniacs blog and its comments to make my point, but soon realized there was simply too much condescension towards honest conservative Christians to choose from. I take no sides here regarding your past controversies or your handling of things. I only call attention again to the question you raised, and the question Mr. Cho seems insistent on avoiding: Why the double standard? And one final observation: These tactics seem to be the very same used by the SJW snowflake crowd: Your tone offends me (as I shout my abortion and have my children calling Trump crass words for female genitalia). Or how dare you pursue truth and facts when a woman says she has been victimized—the Christian thing to do is to simply absorb the allegations. You wouldn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable, would you? That is, unless they’re white, or male, or Christian, or wearing a red hat. And your reputation is terrible, just like those of Mike Pence and those pesky Covington kids, and you must recuse yourself, just like Kavanaugh, because after all, he dared to furrow his brow when answering allegations of being a gang rapist, and no one who would take such a tone should “still consider himself to be well-positioned to speak on these issues.”

Mike

Mike, that’s a whole bunch of reasonable questions, right there.


I’ve personally met Hohn, he truly is a good gent among other things, in fact I’d say “gentleman” describes him far more so than “lawyer,” so in my book you were on appropriate turf with titles. I think the simple answer to your question is that in this day and age, technology and insta-worldwide-communication calls for something very, very few of us believers have, which is massive, Olympic-swimming-pool-sized discernment. I for one eschew personal social media posts of most kinds, “getting into it” in discussions with friends and family, not because I think it’s wrong to do so or not a great opportunity for the gospel, but because it’s such an unwieldy medium for fires to spread along the entire coast of Webifornia in 5 milliseconds that I don’t see myself as having the necessary comms mastery in sanctification and wisdom to acquit myself well. It seems many other Christian leaders are stumbling over this area these days, caving in to the pressure the entire world is capable of bringing on them in cold, written, pseudo-anonymized form, so as Voddie Baucham once said in favor of very short courtships and engagements, “If the strongest man (Samson), and the godliest man (David), and the wisest man (Solomon) in the Bible all fell to the same temptation (sexual temptation), who am I that I’m going to win?” I feel much the same about adeptly representing my faith before the whole internets. I suspect many of the current battles you face, Pastor Doug, and the seeming inability to wake other leaders up to the reality of this madness, is all due to the little problem of what to do when the entire internet is mad at you. In a day where there is scandal and pressure, not only from left-leaning news that wants to paint us in a bad light (and where at least we have their reporting mistakes to blame), but Joe Smith down the street broadcasting unsubstantiated gossip to the church abroad in Singapore in 2 seconds via his Twitter account, the rise of populism-justice (as opposed to due process) has become so fierce and frothing mad that people hardly know where to start to combat rampant reputation assassination. We could try to appeal to “only things on the public record” but in many cases government law enforcement folds to the pressure as well. Who’s to say anymore what’s on the public record that’s TRUE, and what’s on the public record that A LOT OF (digitally) SHOUTING PEOPLE put there? On the one hand, I can’t really blame the existence of double standards where public opinion crucifies CJ Mahaney and slides off MacArthur’s duck-back, because this has gotten extremely confusing. On the other hand, we all need to step back. Trees—trees everywhere. It’s a forest. A World Wide Webforest. And since it’s world-sized, it’d be good to account for the scope of the challenge before making any more decisions about who did what and how to substantiate that. I think if Christian leaders could have a publicly-broadcast panel/round-table and some meaningful debate around best practices that would be an extremely good thing. It would be great when the next time one of you calls out “gotcha!” to another (doing so in well-intentioned love I presume) the other could be on public record about their views of what constitutes a real gotcha in the 21st century.

Patrick

Patrick, thanks. Good observations.


I heartily agree with your observations that standards should apply equitably, as you point out the double standard Al Mohler uses when responding to SBC issues and those concerning SGC. I also agree with you that the proper jurisdiction for investigating and judging accusations involving leadership in a local church or denomination belongs to the churches involved. The one thing that is troubling about the SGC issue has to do with Al’s statement about the assurances he received about how these matters had been handled internally in SGC. As a former SGC pastor who served on the Regional Judicial Review Committee in CJ’s region, when these issues were first brought to light through the civil law suit, I can attest to the fact that there was never any formal investigation done by the denomination. Our committee had to respond to many other SGC pastors who had concerns regarding these allegations at that time. But because no pastor was willing to bring forward a formal charge, the committee determined that our newly adopted Book of Church Order did give us the authority to take any action. To me, in retrospect, I think that we abdicated our responsibility on this matter. As a result CJ never had any opportunity to either properly defend himself, or to be held accountable, whatever the truth may be. Because the church let these matters be swept under the rug the allegations will continue to swirl. Not that they wouldn’t anyway. But as you point out, regarding the review you received in the CREC (of which I am now happily a part!), at least you can reference that document, and the fact that a formal and detailed process occurred, in order to bring any remaining controversy back down to proper proportions. Ironically, back in 2015, at SGC annual pastor’s conference, CJ during an interview style keynote session, read from and commended your book A Justice Primer wishing that such a resource had been available during all his controversies. But because justice was not done, and because SGC never responded formally with a proper investigation, CJ has been left undefended or unaccountable. And rather than the issues being kept to their proper proportions, they continue to escalate and fuel ongoing speculation and excitement. Sadly, in my role on the RJRC, this was not my only experience with serious failures, involving considerable partiality and an unwillingness to observe formal discipline. In my opinion Sovereign Grace Churches have a profoundly relationship-oriented leadership model. While this leadership culture has many blessed strengths which I have enjoyed in the past, it also has a fatal flaw. When formal justice needs to take place, SGC leaders have neither the heart, nor the will to uphold its own rules of order. This leaves SGC church members with little basis for confidence in their leadership, and gives every reason for critics outside to remain skeptical of the integrity of how such matters are handled. So while Al’s conclusion shows a double standard, his basis for changing his opinion, grounded in unsupported assurances he received regarding how matters were being handled internally, is sadly warranted.

Eric

Eric, thanks for sharing this. I do have one question though. If no one is willing to go on the record with concerns, or if those willing to go on the record with concerns are not individuals with standing (i.e. they are operating on the basis of hearsay), how could a proper internal review take place?


Litigation/trial attorney here. What are the odds the SBC, PCA, Boz, etc. etc. could all agree on certain principles about how to handle internet accusations? Your point about skin in the game (or lack thereof) is precisely why blogcusations are useless and a distraction in the legal realm. Unless the accuser is willing to show up for a deposition/trial testimony and subject himself to the risk of perjury, there is no point. Has a public agreement to refrain from considering any accusation not made under oath and subject to cross examination ever been considered in evangelical circles—i.e., churches/denominations and their public leaders?

Dave

Dave, I don’t believe it has. But it needs to be.


“It was so bad that we wrote the board of GRACE to see if they could do something about it. In reply we got a stiffly-worded threat of a lawsuit.” Pastor Wilson, Sir, not sure if it is appropriate to ask, but are either of the two above mentioned documents available for public viewing? I am appreciating your thoughts on standards of justice in general, but I would be interested in seeing the specific concerns raised to the board, and their response, if such would appropriate. It would certainly provide additional context for we who are trying to better understand the concerns you have about the GRACE ministry.

Daniel

Daniel, yes, I believe those are in our files somewhere. And if we were called upon to testify, I would have no problem making them public.


On How to Say “Pound Sand” in Latin I love this: “But sin is defined by the Scriptures, and not by the feelings of those who claim to be offended. Sin is defined by Scripture and not by hurt feelings.” In our culture I think we aren’t training our kids well in this. “Jimmy you need to apologize to Susie because you hurt her feelings.” But does anyone even bother to determine if Jimmy actually sinned against Susie? Even within most Christian settings it seems this is not done. The logic goes: Jimmy did something, Susie has hurt feelings because of it, therefore Jimmy must give Susie an apology. Regardless if Jimmy violated the Word of God or not.

Nate

Nate, yes. This is a common problem.


“. . . more people ought to be ashamed of themselves than are acting ashamed of themselves” is the banner that needs to fly over 2019 isn’t it?

Ed

Ed, yes. Kind of our motto.


Only in reference to your statement: “We do need to trust that our friends will not do wrong, but we also need our friends to trust us to say something if we see things going wrong.” I appreciate this statement and it is very true. Psalm 141:5 says, “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it.” The word translated “kindness” here is hesed or “covenantal love.” Covenantal love involves rebuke. That rebuke is based upon a standard so that, when that standard is met, the rebuke is removed. (Tangent here: one of the key notes that marks hatred is an envy which seeks to destroy the other and against which there is no way to stand because there is no standard of judgment; any stick is good enough to hit someone with because the point is to destroy the person, not to address the issue, e.g., Democrat party loyalty—now back to my point.) Hesed is the covenantal love that God usually shows us. God is the God who shows hesed by going after His sheep when they stray (Matthew 18:10-14), and God’s people are the people who show hesed by going after God’s sheep when they stray (Matthew 18:15-20). And for that reason we must not be the people who refuse to show hesed, that is covenantal love/mercy (Matthew 18:21-35). And why? Because in the fallen world, straying is inevitable (Matthew 18:6-9). I have run into many people who gossip behind someone’s back, and when I mention that they should tell the person that they are talking about what they think, they look at me and say, “That won’t do any good.” In that one statement, they are doing two things: (1) they are saying that God’s Word should only be followed when it pragmatically works, and (2) they are saying that they hate the person they are talking about (because they refuse to show them the hesed that God shows us). Your willingness to rebuke is a sign that you love the people you are rebuking. And as long as there is a meet-able standard, then there is hesed. Indeed may it be as excellent oil that is not refused. Thanks for your post.

DM

DM, thank you.


Regarding : Demands for an apology as weapon. This exact same thing happened to us in the ministry. We were falsely accused and it became so bad that we left the church where we ministered. The accusers were very aggressive, they grouped together and so it was impossible to do anything. They slandered us not only in South Africa where we live, but also in America. Now, my question regarding this is, what about forgiveness for these people? We hold no grudge against them, but we cannot be friends with them. They now want to make as if nothing happened. We feel that we can greet them aloofly, but we cannot have fellowship with them. They want us to make as if nothing happened. Have you got any advice regarding this brokenness?

Antoinette

Antoinette, I agree with you that you cannot have fellowship as though nothing had happened. But instead of being cool and aloof, I would try being warm and aloof. Acting distant can easily be interpreted by them as you acknowledging that you were the one with the problem, and they are being magnanimous now. So your forgiving spirit is fully prepared to forgive them when they seek it, but forgiveness proper is a transaction that requires all parties to participate in.


[On Effectively Neutralized] As I’ve seen the Internet melt down over your CJ Mahaney article, particularly over the phrase “gotten out of her lane,” I wonder if people just aren’t familiar with your strong emphasis on scriptural sufficiency— especially in your recent Theopolis article. If Scripture is sufficient, not just inerrant, then we have no reason to go to Zen or the Desert Fathers to discover “real maturity.” The Bible doesn’t exhort us to hand over the church office keys to psychologists—the real professionals—whenever someone comes crying to the pastor. So maybe people don’t realize that Mrs. Denhollander (who, as far as I am aware, is not an elder nor has been trained to be one) has “gotten out of her lane” in the same way Field’s/Leithart’s Theopolis articles appeared to have gotten out of their lanes. If the Bible nowhere tells us that third-party inquisitions are needed to resolve abuse issues, then maybe that means biblical norms are sufficient for the Church to handle sexual abuse accusations (although maybe the Church could do with a good kick in the pants by a third party every now and again!). Independent third-party investigations are good, but they’re not some magic “Pull If Sex Scandal” fire alarm. Some have also said that Mrs. Denhollander is a lawyer, and so is trained to properly identify ambulance-chasers. But child psychologists are trained to “identify” gender dysphoria, and yet we don’t trust their secular methods and secular conclusions with an audit of our children’s Sunday School classes. Lawyers are good insofar as they go, which the last time I checked did not automatically include biblical wisdom (otherwise Paul would’ve included them as an office in 1 Tim. 3).

Michael

Michael, thank you.


“You can give in to the external pressures while believing that you are following the internal pressure of the Holy Spirit.” PREACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nathan

Nathan, thanks.


Fantastic! Douglas Wilson is a breath of fresh air for those whom prefer to hear clear honest commentary without all of the agenda driven manipulation. Too bad for Mohler—turning his back on a friend. He must be under a lot of pressure. As a long-time member of CJ’s former church, I can assure you that CJ never participated in anything that remotely resembles sexual abuse. He can be hot-headed, but CJ truly loves the Word of God, and preaches with biblical intelligence and a passion that the Word deserves. Hopefully I never have to experience all the opposition and false accusations that CJ deals with.

Michael

Michael, thank you


On the SBC and PCA conceding to the theological left, please see Nassim Taleb’s essay The Most Intolerant Wins, an excerpted chapter from his excellent Skin in the Game. Taleb isn’t a theologian, but many of his insights lend themselves to theological and ecclesial application.

Tim

Tim, yes. I just recently finished reading Skin in the Game, and agree with you that this is the tactic being used on us right now.  


From post “Effectively Neutralized” 18 Feb 2019. “What I have written above is simple biblical justice, 100 proof, straight out of the bottle.” Pretty sure you meant 200 proof, brother. The ratio of Proof/Percent is 2/1. 100 proof would of course be 50% biblical justice, which I gather was not your intent. Yes, I am a picker of nits. Otherwise an excellent post on a subject I too am recently trying to parse through biblically. Blessings;

Geoff

Geoff, what we need is biblical justice, not rubbing alcohol justice.


Thank you Doug for your biblical clarity in A Justice Primer and your defense of biblical standards of justice, it has helped me a, a young millennial—soon to be pastor in Sydney. (Sovereign Grace Church Sydney!)

Riley

Riley, be careful how you apply these principles down there. Everything’s upside down, right? Kind of like our generation.


In affirmation of Doug’s arguments and insights, I am reminded that we at war with a real and devious enemy. My prayer for you, CJ, Al, and myself is: LORD God, “Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man. With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes” (Psalm 108:12-13)

Dan

Dan, thank you.


Theopolis Question

Re: A Theopolis Wrap-Up | Is the Theopolis Institute a part of or under the CREC denomination? What gives the CREC polity in a CREC presbytery the authority to request this of Theopolis? I sincerely am curious because I have no idea how CREC works or what churches or institutions are in CREC. I’m technically not a member of a CREC church. Thanks!

Trey

Trey, Theopolis is a stand-alone organization, and not under the CREC. But the director of it, Peter Leithart, is a member of a CREC church.


Gummit Ed

Regarding “pull them out now” and public education: I agree in my gut that what you write is right. And after teaching a couple years at university during my grad studies and having peers who are now teaching the teachers, I have no doubt that the education system is anti-Christian. (We pulled after first grade in the first kid and never looked back.) So granting that it is wise to pull based on the merits of the argument citing the evidence of the bad stuff, it seems that much of your biblical argument relies on the rendering to Caesar passage and an application from the image on the coins to the image of God on our kids. Seems like an exegetical stretch from the passage to infer we render our children to whatsoever. Is there more in the text to support your view than what it seems on the English language surface of the translation? Am I missing a context clue? Thanks to you and your church leaders for all your outside the pulpit teaching. Sincerely appreciate all the pixels you’ve hammered into words.

Bryan

Bryan, yes. The point has to do with what the government schools are attempting to do. They are engaged in the creation of secular man. They are trying to imprint their image on our children, who actually bear God’s image. To render them, therefore, is to veer off from Jesus’s instructions. He said that if the government successfully gets its image onto something, then it is lawful to render that thing to them. But our children are not in that category.


Yeah, Well

Actually, if using the third conjugation verb pello/pellere, it would be pellite harenam” (assuming a plural subject, or pelle harenam for singular).

Matt

Matt, thanks!


Hey Jude

Pastor Wilson, in reference to Jude 23, a number of questions have befuddled me. (1) Is the fear that of God’s judgment or of the contaminating nature of sin?; (2) does flesh refer to “the principle of sin,” or the physical body (or both)?; (3; and most importantly) is Jude concerned about the leaven of sin in general OR sexual sin in particular? IOW, are we to hate the contaminating nature of sin (and thus be afraid of falling prey to the same sort) OR are we to particularly hate sexual sins? Why the “garment” analogy? Thank you brother. I see the danger of flattening sins.

Jim

Jim, I believe that fear of God’s judgment and fear of sin’s contamination are all of a piece. I take flesh there to refer to the sin principle, not the physical body. And I believe that it is most likely that Jude has sexual sin in mind there, given his earlier illustrations. The garment illustration appears to be an early Christian trope for conversion—the way Paul tells us to put off the old man, and to put on the new.


Love and Respect Issues

I read your post today about love and respect. I am a single woman who’s a member of a wonderful church, where I am well led and well loved. I would like to be married someday, but to tell you the truth…I’m getting kind of old. I’ve started to wonder what the hold-up is. The single Christian men I know respect me, I think— they ask for my opinion and input and seem to regard me as a wise person and critical thinker. They don’t really seem to see me as lovable, though, as far as I can tell. I sense more admiration than affection from them. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about this dynamic. I think the men around me are obeying Paul’s advice and treating me with purity, like a sister. But I have sometimes heard that I am intimidating (and I’ve heard it from people who know me and love, who I don’t think are trying to find an underhanded way to insult me). Do you think it’s possible for women to sometimes communicate that they are respectable but aren’t lovable? Is there anything a single Christian woman should do to counteract that, or is it probably a good thing? Thanks for any advice you have. I’m a big fan of your daughters, and have started reading your blog mostly because I think so highly of them.

Krystal

Krystal, I obviously don’t know the dynamics of your personal situation, but I will say that your circumstance is not at all uncommon. It is part of a much larger set of issues, having to do (in my view) with a society-wide disrespect of men. Delayed marriages, and less frequent marriages, are the result of men and women, all together, not knowing what their roles are. So, to your question, them respecting you as “one of the guys” could certainly be part of it.

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Robert
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Robert

Since skin in the game is required, the only independent third party investigative service is the police. It is not perfect, but since suing a professing believer is forbidden, it is the only game in town that has teeth.

kyriosity
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Krystal, I used to hear the same thing. I know it’s disheartening, but I want to encourage you not to try dumbing yourself down or anything along those lines. Don’t pretend to be less than you are in order to catch a man. (Unless you’re trying to catch a Sisera, but that would be for rather different ends. ????) You can ask yourself if you’re being too ungracious or proud, but don’t second-guess being too smart or wise or capable. If God does have marriage planned for you, it’s marriage to a man who will need the woman you are,… Read more »

Seneca the Younger
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Seneca the Younger

If you liked Taleb’s ‘Skin the Game” at all, read “Fooled by Randomness,” “The Black Swan,” and “Antifragile.” I liked SITG but the other books in his “Incerto” collection are better by far.

trey
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Gotcha, thank you. Trey