[#] Clean up: the Trick Question

Last week, before we rolled down the gates on Friday, I asked the astute readers of the Blog to take a look at a blog entry by Pastor Doug Wilson regarding his view of things, and asked you all to think about what the implicit question was that he was asking and why it is a trick question.

Well, that's what I get for linking to one post after reading a second post. It turns out I was thinking about the other post when I was blogging. So let's try this again:

Pastor Doug Wilson has a interesting post on "asking questions about the 'minimum amount' of orthodoxy it takes to get somebody into heaven" which he expands into a whole metaphor of a meal with cooks and people at the table. In that article, Pastor Wilson demonstrates why Wile E. Coyote frequently gets crushed by his own boulder. Sometimes we are victims of our own metaphors and idioms.

Pastor Wilson starts here:

When [God] saves us, and we go on to live our lives, we know from the Scriptures what sort of thing to expect, such as the fruit of the Spirit. In cases where these are egregiously absent, and the works of the flesh are egregiously present, all said works of the flesh drunk and downtown, shooting out the street lights, the Church has the authority to declare that such a person is outside the communion of the saints. But even there, the Church does not have authority to pronounce on that person's election. That is not within our competence to know.
Fair enough, right? Election is God's prerogative, but the church has the authority to exercise right judgment on disciplinary matters. Who can have a problem with that, really?

Then pastor Wilson goes on to say this:
Whether someone has a correct grasp of the gospel matters a great deal -- at his ordination exam. At the great presbyterial banquet, I wouldn't let anybody into the kitchen to cook if he did not know all about the Deity of Christ, the hypostatic union, the triune nature of God, the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and so on. But would I let people into the banquet to eat if they did not know about these things? Absolutely -- the more they come, the more we feed them. And because we keep a close eye on the cooks, we feed them good stuff. {the bold is my emphasis; italics are in the original}
Well, maybe there's not so much there to grouse about. The point Pastor Wilson is making is that there is a great gap between discerning who the properly-equipped teachers are and who the faithful in Jesus Christ are. That is itself a pretty fair distinction because nobody I know is going to say that Abraham could enumerate all the nuances of Trinitarian theology without a fault, but indeed Abraham has saving faith. It would be a mistake at this point to try to force from Pastor Wilson's metaphor something he's not saying, like "and then we can say that it doesn't matter at all what you believe in order to know you are saved in the way that Jesus saves." Because at this point he has said no such thing: he's saying that we need to be stringent when we are assessing the teaching of teachers, and perhaps forgiving when we look at those who are also inside the church who haven't had time to read or write a systematic theology because our theology stinketh, too.

But then he goes on to this:
This is the besetting sin of conservative Reformed evangelicals. They think you are not qualified to eat until you are qualified to cook. And we scratch our heads over the dismal results, and conclude that we need to pray for revival. But, as Tozer once put it, if revival means more of what we have now, we most emphatically do not need revival. We don't need revival at all, frankly. What we need is reformation. One of the prophets condemned those shepherds "who feed only themselves." And we won't have reformation in the historic evangelical world until the trained cooks stop stuffing all the food into their own pie holes, and show some kind of willingness to feed and nurture the ignorant. But we are stiff-necked, and refuse to waste any food on him. Why? He's too skinny.
So Pastor Wilson's complaint here is that "conservative Reformed evangelicals", apparently, don't want to feed anybody anything about the Gospel unless they do not appear to need to know anything else about the Gospel.

The first problem with this assertion, unfortunately, is that I can't think of anybody it applies to. I am certain that Pastor Wilson's first answer would be, in a very loving way, "that is because you are a credobaptist: Let me suggest to you that credobaptism is itself a method by which the cooks are only feeding the other cooks – even if we are only talking about the souce chefs among you. To baptize only those with a confession of faith is to exclude from the benefits of the covenant, by God's view of things, those who are covenant members."

Since my Pastor Wilson puppet has provided an answer, let me not think less of him but thereby respond (and scare Jack Russell at the same time): "sez you, raghead." The only way to say that is to say that the bases for demonstrating any other method of "feeding" are the sacraments – that is, baptism and eucharist. So, for example, in this view of "feeding", those who have not been baptized do not receive a proper formation when they are taught in Sunday school – somehow they cannot. Those who cannot receive the Lord's Supper apparently cannot be taught the meaning of Romans 1&2 or John 6 in a satisfactory way.

Those assertions – which are what is left when you boil down the broth of Pastor Wilson's assertion to a gravy which can actually be applied to something without running all over the plate – don't make any sense. Nobody believes that we don't teach catechetical points to unbelievers because they are unworthy – and there is no way to make a cook out of the busboy (or, to be consistent with the metaphor, out of the delivery guy) without first serving him the milk, then the mush, then the lumpy bits, then the whole veggies, then the meat of the word.

In the view Pastor Wilson is proposing here, because someone is available we ought to give him better than the benefit of the doubt regarding his spiritual status. Let's be fair to him that, in his post following this one, he does say that you haven't saved someone from drowning unless you have actually fished them out of the pool – meaning that those who come from an inherently-false confessional view of God have to repent of that view in order to get a seat at the table. But in saying that, we find that Pastor Wilson wants to have it both ways. The coyote, as I opined earlier, finds himself in the ever-expanding shadow of the falling boulder.

On the one hand, for the adult who is not born in a Christian home, the personal confession is necessary in order to demonstrate the effects of God's grace in one's life; on the other hand, he also wants to say that for anyone who is born into a Christian home does not need to demonstrate the effects of God's grace to get a seat at the table.

It seems to me that this view has a much harder time freeing itself from the accusation that those who are the skinniest are not getting fed. Surely the question is not whether those without faith are any more needy than those who actually have faith? Because, I think, that we can admit that all men are of equal need of the Gospel and of grace. So by "getting fed", what does Pastor Wilson mean?

Unless he can clear that up, I feel like he's standing out there with a little sign ...