All right. Three basic points, and then I think I will try to bring this in for a landing.
First, just as a practical matter we need to distinguish between anonymous scurrility and mainstream misbehavior. It is not that anonymous scurrility is okay, but you do kind of know what to expect. We are not really upset when tabloids claim that Billy Graham was found in a love nest with Hitler’s granddaughter, and we do not lose sleep over the troubling erosion of “journalistic standards.” Take, for example, @StopTheCREC’s claim that I have been “conspicuously silent.” Ze is troubled by the fact that I have not responded to their claims despite the evidence. Given that one of those claims is hashtagged #DougWilsonSupportsRape, is it truly a wonder that I didn’t join in with the spirit of investigation?
But there have been other individuals going under their own names, individuals associated with ostensibly responsible outfits and institutions, who apparently got swept up in all the excitement. Having done so, they then linked their names up with outrageous accusations, which they really ought not to have done. I am thinking here of Anthony Bradley, Ryan Sather, and Boz Tchividjian. The only thing I will do here is issue a public invitation to talk offline, or in person. I would be happy to do it.
Second, at different times in the life of the church different kinds of sins present themselves. There are times when sexual sin must be confronted for what it is, there are other times when the lust for mammon has to be addressed, and so on. This is a time when we can see why certain passages about bile are in the Bible.
“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:15).
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8).
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit. 3:3).
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1).
This is a common phenomenon, particularly online. People in the grip of this wickedness love to accuse and quarrel, they love to bite and devour, and they love to give free rein to their malice and envy. The end result is a carnival of rancor.
But this leads to the third point. When such a hate-fest breaks out, we see the need for sovereign grace here as well. Christ did not just die for the designated sinners, for traitors, embezzlers or cheats. He also died for the angry, the bitter, and the self-righteous. So the blood of Christ is offered to drug addicts and Sunday School superintendents, to meth heads and makers of memes, to the vilified and to the revilers both. To bring it down to the point, take the person out there who is full and overflowing with malicious hatred for yours truly, and who has done his level best to circulate every plausible lie about me that he can think of. Christ offers the blessing of free forgiveness to that man as much as He offered it to me, and for the same reason.
Look again at what Paul says in the Titus passage. “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit. 3:3). The recipient of slander has nothing to boast of in himself over against the one who slanders. But for the grace of God, our positions would be reversed, and I would be the one wronging and reviling him. This is why I don’t want to play Jonah to their Nineveh. This sin is not sinful because it attacks me; it is sinful because all sin is defined by the absolute words of God.
But we want to be able to fix all our problems with the words of men, with counseling or with therapy, with training or with education. This is because we want to manage our own salvation. But there is absolutely no hope to be found there. Christian pastors do provide teaching and counsel, and they should know what they are talking about, but it must be that kind of counsel which is built squarely on the fact that Christ died for sinners. There are no programs that will save us from our father Adam. There are no experts who can deliver us from that serpent gnawing on our hearts. There are no certified workshop leaders who can extract the lust for preeminence from our overheated brains. The old gospel song rightly asks, “What can take away my sin?” and replies wonderfully — “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
My daughter Rachel mentioned an apt comparison to me last night. A few weeks ago, the Pacific Northwest was covered with wildfires, and for a few weeks our small town was blanketed in an acrid haze of smoke and ash. It was heavy and oppressive. The blazes were elsewhere, but the smoke was everywhere. So it is with this. The open blaze is with those who slander and lie and spit venom. But this does not leave everyone else unaffected. Smoke can travel where there is no fire.
When we were in this strait, our prayer was for rain, which God did eventually send, and it cut through our smoke like wet glory, and gave us the stupendous gift of dirty rain — resulting in dirt on the ground where it is supposed to be, and not in the air, where we kept having to breathe it.
The gospel is a gospel rain, and it cuts the smoke. In some cases, it puts out the fire, but it certainly cuts the smoke. And so here is that rain.
This is a gospel issue, and it is not a peripheral gospel issue. To turn away any repentant sinner from Christ for the sake of Christ’s “honor” is to deny Christ. The right of any penitent son or daughter of Adam to come to the Table of the Lord, and to be welcomed there by a minister of the gospel, is a right purchased by a bleeding Christ on a wooden cross. As such, it is an absolute right. It is not a right that we fashioned with our hands, for our hands do not have nail prints in them. The absolute right to come is a right grounded on the invitation of Christ Himself, and that invitation is one that must be repeated by the Spirit and by the Bride.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
Have you molested children? Then come. Have you vilified repentant pedophiles? Come. Have you stolen money? Come. Are you a slave to the bottle? Come. Do you despise drunks? Come. Do you hate people who preach the gospel? Come. Does racial animosity have you by the throat? Then come. Do you sell the message of grace for ready money? Come. Do you hate the idea of coming? Then come.
To realize you are a sinner is not the one thing that prevents you from coming. Admitting you are a sinner is actually the only thing that enables you to come. Are you a wretch? You qualify then.