Justice & Injustice
I recently read A Justice Primer in conjunction with a couple weeks of leading a study of biblical justice in a Bible study. One question that came up was from my wife, who is a victim of childhood sexual abuse. By their very nature, crimes of abuse are carried out in secret. How should the standard of multiple witnesses be upheld in the situation of a child or children bringing accusations of abuse against a person? How does one balance protecting children and the presumption of innocence?As an example, Larry Nassar had many accusers, but none of them to my knowledge had corroborating witnesses. Had he not confessed, would that be an instance where a criminal conviction would not be possible according to a biblical standard? Thank you for your writing and ministry. It has challenged my thinking on many points over the years. And thank you for your recent generosity during No Quarter November. I am stocked up on new books for awhile. Hope you have a Merry Christmas! Regards,
Anthony, merry Christmas to you also. You are correct. The presumption of innocence and the requirement of Dindependent confirmation of charges means that when injustice happens, it will be likelier that it will happen in the direction of the guilty going free. If we dispense with these standards, there will still be injustice, but it will be in the direction of the innocent being punished. Scripture teaches us that we should far prefer the former to the latter. But keep in mind that there will be a Day of Judgment,when absolutely every injustice will be rectified.
Associated with that Wilson Character:
As a regular reader and a public supporter, the flak I receive for being associated with you is expectantly for the “tone.” No surprise there. But second only to the “tone” is the post-millennialism. In my experience, this is especially true among ministers.
Brandon, yes. Postmillennialism is the kind of doctrine that gets into everything.
I have a theory that came to mind after reading your post about flattening sins. I believe the Western church had an intuitive understanding that not all sins were equally the same. Some sins are so heinous they show that if someone walks in them without repentance, they show you aren’t regenerate. But this correct understanding eventually morphed into mortal and venial sin, which is itself incorrect. While I don’t have direct proof, does this sound plausible?
Geoff, part of it sounds plausible. The mortal/venial distinction is partly common sense, and partly dependent on a particular view of merit and the afterlife.
Re: “The Sin of Flattening Sins” This is a bit of a tangential question, but it’s one I’ve been wondering about. You mention the sin of pedophilia at the end of your post. While obviously sexual contact with anybody outside of marriage is a sin, I’m wondering what the biblical basis for calling pedophilia a sin is. Does the Bible have a minimum age for marriage or dating/courtship? (I have never seen one, but I’m wondering if it’s one of those things phrased in a weird way.) Perhaps more relevant would be the question of marriage and teens. Culturally, a 20-year-old guy who has a15-year-old girlfriend would be considered a pedophile, regardless of whether that is accurate or not. And, legally, they not only couldn’t have sex (which would be a sin) but also, in many states and countries, could not marry. It’s the second part I’m trying to understand if there is a biblical basis for. Is there a biblical warrant for saying, for example, that a 15-year-old should not be able to marry a 25-year-old if the15-year-old wants to and their family is on board? In a nation ruled by biblical law, would there be a minimum age for marriage? How would that be determined? I realize, again, that that is a tangent, but I recently read Joel McDurmon’s The Bounds of Love, and I was surprised that he didn’t mention sex crime laws much at all, and issues of statutory sexual offenses not at all. I have been pondering whether there is a biblical basis for statutory sex offenses and whether the Bible gives warrant for setting a minimum age on marriage.
Lori, I am comfortable with the general range of our age of consent laws. And also happy with the requirement, state by state, to require parental permission within a certain range under that age of consent. That said, different cultures set different ages and then rear their children with those ages in mind. The Lord’s mother was probably in her mid-teens if she were typical for her time. So in an agrarian society it is quite possible that a couple of teens could be ready for adult responsibilities while in ours that same degree of responsibility would require a few additional years.
Merry Christmas, All You Reformed Types!
I would be curious as to your nutshell answer to an anti-Christmas Reformed type, that respects the other person’s conscience yet sets him straight on why his view is objectively errant. Assume that the person is arguing in good faith, not merely showing his badges, and honestly believes that Scripture disallows any observance of Christmas. From the above post, I gather that you don’t really think it is optional in the broad sense to hold some sort of observance of the season, or at least that not doing so is objectively inferior to doing so.
Jane, two things. In our church we have 54 called meetings of the church a year—on the 52 Lord’s Days, and on Good Friday and Christmas Eve. For those who have conscience issues over regulative principle issues,they are free to miss those last two. We think they are missing out, but we don’t bind their conscience over it. We don’t require anything that we can’t prove from Scripture is mandated. We think those two services are allowed, but not mandated.
Why do we think they are allowed? The Westminster Confession cites the establishment of Purim as a proof text for the calling of stipulated feasts or fasts, and that was an annual holiday. And the Lord went to Jerusalem for the festival of Hanukah. These were the two holidays of the Jews that were not required by the law of Moses.
Take Me Instead
It sounds like many don’t have a good grip on the difference between “responsibility,” “blame” and what “taking responsibility” looks like in your example couple. With regard to the financial debts of the wife: “She has disregarded her husband’s financial parameters over the years and run up their credit cards over 100K.” Wouldn’t all of the below be responsible actions by the husband? A. Close the credit card accounts? B. Pay off the debts, albeit at the expense of the entire family? (with a no future debt agreement) C. Ask the wife to go into personal bankruptcy? D. Family bankruptcy? This is all with the understanding that the wife was financially abusing the husband.
Jason, depending on the laws of the state you are in, yes to all.
Good article, thank you. But, methinks that the husband is responsible for all his wife’s actions with one exception: adultery. When a married woman joins herself with another man, she breaks covenant. In the same way that Christ is not responsible for the apostatizing of the apostate, the husband is not responsible for the woman’s act of covenant breaking. One sees this by implication in the husband head of wife/Christ head of church similitude (Eph. 5:23). For in this, Christ is head of church, which by definition does not include apostates. In the same manner, the husband is not the head of the now apostate (covenant breaking) adulterous woman, although he is responsible for all leading up to that moment. Thus, he is now free to divorce and remarry, if he so chooses (Matt. 19:9). For if he is responsible for her adultery, how can he be free to divorce her and remarry? Rather, if he is responsible for her adultery, then it seems that he must take the initiative to restore, and not dissolve, the relationship. What say ye?
Paul, some men virtually chase their wives into the arms of another man. Some men abdicate in such a way as to create a vacuum of leadership. Other men are simply wronged. I believe men in the first two categories should take responsibility for their own contributions to the crack-up, but you are right—even if the husband is being a lout, that doesn’t justify adultery.
Re: Take Me Instead This is the most constructive article I’ve read on husbandhood for a while. To anyone who contends this article doesn’t say enough, could I direct them to a book where you’ve written about masculine responsibly a bit more?
As a married woman, this topic interests me very much. I’ve been reading Dalrock for a couple years, and I was raised in a home that prized your work. I have since come to prize it even more on my own. I was originally a bit distressed to discover that someone I was beginning to greatly respect(Dalrock) disagreed with someone I already greatly respected (you). However,after reading this post, I’ve forgotten where the disagreement was. Dalrock seems to have objected to your supposed ignoring of women’s sins and responsibilities. And before reading this post, I was beginning to agree. Now,post this post, it would appear that your position has grown. I wouldn’t really say it changed, but it doesn’t seem to be the same as it once was. So my question is: has there been any change in your views on this subject? Because,from what I can understand, this post is beautifully unobjectionable.
Grace, thanks for the kind words. I would have to say that there hasn’t been any change in my thinking on this topic for decades. I have written other things that, if taken in isolation, could lead someone to think I have been changing, but I really haven’t. I would file this appearance under “you can’t say everything every time.”
Thank you very much for this article, Pastor Wilson. I wonder what you say to the idea (that I thought I learned from you, actually) that Adam sinned by allowing the serpent into the garden—by not protecting his wife from the serpent? I like the cleanness and straightforwardness of what you argue here—that Adam was sinless while his wife was sinful. In a sense, this is the most straightforward reading of the text in my mind. But do you also think that Adam may have sinned prior to his wife by allowing the serpent into the garden? And if so, would that change your argument in this article at all?Thanks so much for the help!
Robert, I don’t think Adam handled the serpent the way he should have, but he didn’t fall until he ate the forbidden fruit. In other words, up to that point, everything was salvageable.
Re “Take Me Instead” What is the Dalrock route? You laid out a scenario but never actually specified what would you have the husband actually do. The Scripture does in fact give options. If she has cheated, he may divorce her. If she overspend, he may stop working to allow the consequences of her sin to engulf them all. If she is unruly, he may walk away from her emotionally or physically and “live on the rooftop” as Proverbs advises or leave her as the husband left the Shulamite for refusing him (Song5). What did Christ do with disobedient Churches? We can read it in the first few chapters of Revelation. Ephesus He removed, and Laodicea He vomited out. If the treatment of Christ for the Church is a picture of marriage then, is there not a time to remove or even vomit her out? All you wrote evades what to actually do when a wife will not submit chronically, defiantly and repeatedly. Wilson is better than many, butstill not biblical in refusing to correct the sin of a wife.
Jesus, first I think I should frankly acknowledge that my practice of having letters signed with just a first name has come into tension with the common practice in Latin America to giving boys the first name of Jesus. Still,it makes replying awkward, especially in disagreement.
That said, some of what you say is right. If she has cheated, he may divorce her. If she won’t stop overspending, he can take measures to adjust their income. But we have to distinguish what a husband may do when a society backs a husband’s authority, and what he may do when it doesn’t.In the latter case, which is where we are, his practical options are limited,and he has to be creative. But before that, he needs to run a robust spiritual inventory to make sure he is not the problem.
Take me instead Fascinating look at taking responsibility. I would be greatly blessed to hear how that same posture may be lived out in pastoral ministry. Thanks
Pat, yes. I want to develop something along those lines, but haven’t done it yet. Moses prayed that way for his people, and the apostle Paul did the same. I think there is something there.
Dear Pastor Wilson re: Take Me Instead. You wrote, “Do I then embrace patriarchy? Yes, I do. I accept that the Scriptures teach father-rule. But this is to be distinguished from a cheap knock-off, what might better be tagged as lunkhead-rule, about which more later.” I miss No Quarter November already.
Three things. First, I am a frequent reader. Second, except for the free e-books at the end of each post, I couldn’t tell a difference between November’s posts and your normal blog posts. Now this is not a criticism, because I think that the other 11 months are already overflowing with plenty of no-holds-barred writing. There was never a need for you to be more direct in your writing, because that dial is already turned all the way up. So keep up the great work. Third, I think there’s another category of your readers, of which I am a group. I actively read, but as general practice, don’t share articles of any kind. It’s not that we’re scared of being shamed by your writings. It’s that we don’t see value in sharing articles on twitter or Facebook.
Roger, thank you. I can assure that there was a difference because it really was hard work keeping the qualifications out. I will grant that there are plenty of times throughout the year when I am on a toot, but almost always that post will have a paragraph crammed full of ameliorative balms.
The Couch Thing:
I watched the trailer several times, and showed it to friends, with hearty enjoyment. My big question is: How? How did you time the speech to the conflagration? Did you need an accelerant? Did you do several test burns? Did you estimate the rate of engulfment via combustion theory? Did you adjust the length of your speech on-the-fly, informed by the glow in your peripheral vision? Or, did you employ some post-production digital juju?Inquiring minds . . . Oh, I also enjoyed the articles. Hard to pick a favorite,but quite possibly “Against Justice.” The whole “Serious Person” thing reminds me of a saying I first heard attributed to Colonel John Boyd, fighter pilot and originator of Energy-Maneuverability theory used in analyzing fighter jet performance, as well as the famed OODA loop. He said, “You can be Somebody, or you can Do Something.” Just so.
Matt, here’s how the couch thing was done. First, I sat on the couch and talked for a bit, cameras fixed and rolling. Second, we soaked the other end of the couch with lighter fluid, which was pretty much worthless because of how safety conscious our national bureaucrats are. So there was a nearby fire pit, just a going, so they put a burning log under the other end of it. That got the fire crackling, and it got fairly close to me, but not as high as in the video. The third stage was after I departed from the couch, and they filmed it burning away. They then took footage from stage 3 and used to enhance what was going on with the other end of the couch in stages 1 and 2.
I am a teacher at a Christian school and have heard you speak at the Repairing the Ruins conferences the two times I have been privileged to attend. Your work with the Omnibus texts and Canon Press have been extremely influential and helpful in my classroom. However, I had never come across your blog before until a friend sent me the burning couch video advertising the No Quarter November posts, and I simply wanted to say thank you. They were refreshing to read and find someone who is not afraid to tell the truth in a world where truth has become a hated thing. On a side note, please encourage your son to write more books like Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl and Death by Living. They are two of my favorite reads.
Tyler, thanks much.
Gah! Boom. Mic drop. I loved No Quarter November, and I thank you for your unvarnished generosity in both word and deed (those free books, tho). Please make this an annual event? Or just continue writing this way without the warning flags? Maybe you should publicly post to your blog whilst lying on your side for a year? Maybe that’s a little too far, but this was good stuff. Thanks,
Whitney, thank you very much.
Merry Christmas! I just want to let you (Doug) know you are very appreciated. Your No Quarter posts have been deeply satisfying, edifying and have been the grounds for many a good strong scriptural conversation. Further,thank you for all the free books. That’s mighty generous of you. I hope you know—and with a lot of satisfaction—how much good you are doing with all the blog writing, books, media, sermons, conferences—all the mountains of godly output you provide. Though beyond repayment, I should owe you a few beers, and a handshake or two. If I ever get to stop into Moscow, I’ll make good on that if you allow it. The Lord be with you!
Tim, thanks very much.
I wanted to say thanks for all the free Kindle Books. My wife and I have been downloading furiously this week. We have shared quite a few laughs reading Flags Out Front,which got me thinking: have you ever considered writing some short stories? I am thinking in the vein of the “Father Brown” mysteries, but with your simple,down-to-earth Reformed Baptist pastor-type. Thanks for all that you do on the blog. Blessings,
Kyle, thanks for the suggestion. But my short stories always seem to me to be kind of stiff, like a board left outside through a Wisconsin winter.
Thank you for all the free books in November. That was generous and my family and I are enjoying the gift. I’m a pastor too and in my own small way I have dealt with (and am dealing with) controversies. I have been truly helped by your example of grace, humour and back-bone in the face of opposition. My question is this, how much sleep do you get at night? It’s a serious question. I’ve done the math and I just don’t understand how you get done what you get done. I understand that we have all been given different levels of gifting and we’re accountable to God for that which has been entrusted to us. But seriously, any tips for us one-talent pastors. Thank you.
Jason, thanks for the question, but I am afraid that any tips I might have aren’t related to losing sleep. I usually get 7-8 hours.
Federal Vision Clarification
I hope you can help my troubled spirit. In your Dec. 4 Letters to the Editor, Nathan wrote “Sermons which warn of the dangers of hell for covenant children are hard to come by in my circles. We like to think that those Federal Vision people are in deep danger, but we need to remember not to just call Federal Vision people to believe in Christ but also ourselves.” To which you replied “Nathan, thanks and amen.” I have never taken sides in the Federal Vision controversy—I could never wade through all of the blog posts arguing for or against some position or another within Federal Vision. But I have found myself genuinely appreciating many of the (I guess you would say) “pro-FV”authors. I have enjoyed their insights and their love of Scripture. In all of this, though, I never thought that their teaching would earn them eternal damnation—or even the danger of it. I know you are an “amber ale” with regard to FV; should I avoid reading the “oatmeal stout?” I am not trying to be flippant, but are we generally concerned that there are those in the “pro-FV”camp who are leading other people into eternal damnation? The same could be said for the “O’Doul’s” authors, who only look to scripture for easy life lessons (best obtained from The Message Bible). The reason I write is that as a layperson, I am trying to do my best in being taught by other faithful Christians. I did not imagine that there was that much peril in “pro-FV” thought. Am I being led astray? It leaves me confused, especially as it seems that so many people I have respected seem to have been compromised by or have capitulated to the Spirit of the Present Age—pro and con FV. Hopefully you can clarify your response to Nathan.
David, sorry I didn’t make myself clear. I was not referring to FV advocates being damned for being FV advocates. I was talking about the relative efficacy of different pastoral strategies. Assuming that covenant children are saved come hell or high water leads to a spirit of complacency in those children—just as the assumption that all covenant children are just vipers in diapers leads to a crisis of assurance for many of them. There needs to be balance.
Envy and Economics
In your article “In Hell Where They Already Have It” on Nov 30, you said: “But whether or not you think it is politically feasible to address the problems with any form of economic redistribution(which is simple theft, fueled by envy), the envy is still there, doing its destructive work.” I agree with the main point that envy is often the fuel and it needs to be killed. I notice it in myself sometimes, and it has deeply infected much of the UK where I am from. BUT: Is all economic redistribution theft? I get that impression listening to evangelical Americans, and I am so glad you stated it baldly like that. But what about the land redistribution laws of Leviticus 25? If the law wasn’t in Scripture, I could just imagine an evangelical American condemning it, or like a Southern slaveowner who finds his slaves are about to be freed, yelling ‘Theft!’ (see same chapter of Leviticus). The underlying theology is that God owns each person, and he also owns the land. He owns the rest of the economy too. There is ownership but not absolute ownership: at very least certain kinds of accumulation are forbidden. Obviously these laws are a million miles away from the welfare state, but isn’t there some possibility of further application in the modern world? The Economist tells me that Americans used to care about this stuff too; they even used to encourage land redistribution around the world: https://www.economist.com/asia/2017/10/12/for-asia-the-path-to-prosperity-starts-with-land-reformCould it be that secular state socialism is winning because the church is not teaching the whole truth?
Andrew, sorry, I don’t think so. First, it has to be remembered that the land laws were tied to the coming of the Messiah. But even with that recognized, the land laws for Israel were in fact an instance of hyper-private property. Apart from property in the cities, land could only be leased for a stipulated time, and never sold. The results were the opposite of redistributing.