05 March 2013

Doug Wilson bears witness to Andrew Sullivan; plus an aside on passion

by Dan Phillips

Please sit down, for your own safety.

We open with a Startling Insight that (I say, intending very little snark) a surprising number of people don't seem to grasp: I preach to be heard, and write to be read.

Yessir, there it is. As you know, unless this is your first visit (Welcome!), we here at Pyro write from deep conviction. "We" includes me. When it's about any of the issues of the day and not mere trivia, what I preach and write comes from 40 years of seeking the Lord, seeking to know Him and walk with Him and be of fruitful service to Him. This desire was born in my heart literally the day He saved me, and what you're reading right now is a fruit of that.

That being the case, probably like most sane males, I do what I do aiming at an impact. I neither preach nor write solely to amuse nor please myself (though there is the Jer. 20:9 factor). Writing to no readers, preaching to no hearers, would be the sound of one-hand-clapping, an exercise in futility.

So I preach and write because I'm convicted that I'm communicating some portion of God's truth. This rests on the deeper conviction that nothing matters more than God's truth. Put them together and you have the driving imperative that's moved me for forty years: to know Him and make Him known. To study, do, and teach (cf. Ezra 7:10; 1 Tim. 3:1).

That said, I was very grateful to God that so many found last week's thoughts on Gen. 1:1 to be true and useful, and expressed their desire to put it to use.  (See, there it is again: true, useful, used; there's my aim.) I always smiled when folks asked my permission (!) to make use of it; and I always said "Yes, thank you, please do! That's exactly why I write this stuff: to glorify God, to inform and instruct and equip and arm His people. When you take what I give and use it, I'm a happy man."

Many gracious and kind readers and Tweeters and others echoed the word of the post, to my grateful surprise. Among their number were Challies and the TGC home page. To say that none of this ruined my day would be sheer litotes.

And so it was a pleasure to see Doug Wilson also tweet kindly about the post. Then to my even greater surprised gratitude, a reader pointed out that Wilson elected to make use of the post in his debate with Andrew Sullivan about homosexual "marriage." And  so he did:

(You can get the whole deal right here.)

Now, I suppose that, were I a Big Name, I'd strike a jaded pose, sniff indiffferently, murmur "Quite," and reach for another pinch of snuff — as if this happens every day, and is only what one should expect.

But I won't. Why not? See above. When I Tweet something I feel deeply is vital, maybe I get a few, or if I'm "lucky" a dozen retweets. When Doug Wilson Tweeted about my post, he got 76 retweets and 56 "Favorites." The mentions on TGC and Challies drove our traffic up to 8-10X its already-generous normal rate.

Why do I care about that? Again, see above. That's why.

It's a funny thing; when I do something I care deeply about, and then share it, or share others' appreciation, some unkindly sneer that it's "self-promotion." Yet when John Piper and others constantly Tweet about their talks, conferences and articles, I don't see the same. Why not? Because we know Piper's very passionate about his message, and because most of us are glad to know about what he's doing.

Yet John Piper (unlike most of us) has his own instant-promotion machinery. He doesn't need to promote his work. So why don't we accuse him, who doesn't need to promote his work, of self-promotion? Because we know why he's doing it. He is completely sold out for his message, and he wants everyone to hear it. To which we say, "Amen, me too."

In that way, I'm no different... except for not having the built-in megaphone Piper has. So I have to work harder to get out the word I care about so dearly.

That being the case, I really have a special place in my heart for anyone who does what he can to use his own means to share the message I'm trying to broadcast.

Bringing me back to Doug Wilson.

I confess, not for the first time, that I don't completely "get" Doug Wilson. I haven't made a study of him. I know there are some areas where we absolutely do not agree: his postmillennialism, his baby-sprinkling, some of what he says about how parenting. Then in other areas, I just don't think I yet understand where he's coming from. But thirdly, in other areas, I think I do get him, and agree, and in those areas Wilson is absolutely brilliant. He expresses the truths I adore in simply sparkling, exquisite terms. I have used his insight (down to the very wording) again and again, usually with credit.

Now think a bit further. I say that to say this. If I were to use the cool hipster term I despise — "tribe" (eugggh)  — Wilson's not exactly my "tribe." When my first book came out, many other highly-visible folks one might see as being more in my "tribe" opted not even to publicly acknowledge its existence. Yet at that time, Doug Wilson was kind enough to reach across "tribal" boundaries to pick it as his first book of the month, and recommend it heartily. That I wasn't an A-lister like Wilson, nor a dead-center member of his "tribe," didn't stop him. He shared my passion about the message, and used his megaphone to commend it to others.

Why did I care? Well, of course, first, because it was simply kind and gracious of Wilson. Also, it gave me some insight to what Wilson must see as the Gospel, if he thinks that book represents it faithfully.

But, again, why did I care?

Once last time, see above. Wilson took the book in which I pulled out every stop and gave everything I had to give to convey a message I was and am dead-earnest about and wholly devoted to, and he raised its visibility. By doing so, Wilson used the platform God had given him to assure that others who otherwise would not have heard of the book would give it a look and PUT IT TO USE.

For that, I'll always be grateful; and this use vis-a-vis Andrew Sullivan is yet another example.

And then there's this bonus. Andrew Sullivan hears the name "Dan Phillips," and thinks... "Who?"

What's not fun about that?

Dan Phillips's signature


Leslie A @growing4life.net said...

Aahh...the whole question of self-promotion. I know that John MacArthur says he has left all promotion up to God. I have not decided where I come down on this topic yet. I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place in regards to promoting my blog-- I don't want to promote ME but I DO want to promote the TRUTH. It's a hard conundrum and your blog helped me sort through it a bit. So thanks! :)

DJP said...

Quite right, Leslie. I didn't say it was simple! But if I've helped, I'm glad.

Robert said...

I'm glad to hear that your audience is growing. I hope that both of your books are being read more and more because they are both great. I am quite thankful that Aaron pointed me to this blog because I have grown greatly from reading what y'all (including commentors and other bloggerss you have pointed to) have written.

Eric said...

What, Dan, you don't write and preach for therapeutic release? Or simply as a matter of creative artistic expression that may or may not convey truth (let the consumer decide)? Boy are you missing out on a lot of fun and self improvement.

More seriously, Dan, I always appreciate you writing and passion, even though I also am not of your (here it comes...) tribe (ouch, that hurt). I have learned much from reading at this blog. My senior-in-high-school son is reading TWTG right now, and I hope to have some edifying discussions with him about the content. Thanks for your kingdom service. May you be counted worthy of double honor as one who labors faithfully in the Word, and may you lay your crown at the feet of our Lord and Savior on that blessed day.

DJP said...

Robert, you're one who's done everything he can think of to get the word out, and I appreciate it.

Eric, that's great news about your son. I'd love to hear about the discussions you have.

Maybe I should create a new tag...TribalTalk?

Eric said...

Please. Don't.

Scott Welch (formerly Scooter) said...

You lost me at "tribe." But you didn't call Osteen a "pastor" so it's all good.


I admit, I was a little bothered by your seeming self-promotion. Once it set in that God's truth is not something that floats in the ether but is something given to men to be proclaimed, my objections quickly dissipated.

Thanks for all that you do. You're clarity and insistence that the truth is worth strong words over is refreshing.

Frank Turk said...

So your point is that even though you write to be read, and you preach to be heard, you are happy that Andrew Sullivan has no idea who you are?

I'm not bothered.

DJP said...



Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

10 bucks says he googled Dan after the debate.

Anonymous said...

Eric, thank you for openly mocking those of us who have found writing to be a learning process to better understand what we truly believe.

At least all Dan did (in the OP) was tell me that I am insane -- but I already knew that.

Eric said...

Sorry Ted, I don't understand your offense. I didn't mock anyone that found writing to be a learning process. Perhaps you might examine whether or not you read into comments and take personal offense too easily.

DJP said...

You're an Orthodox Presbyterian? What? I'm lost.

Eric said...


You want to be really confused? Ted recently opined that in your Gen 1:1 post you are "driving people further from Jesus".

Anonymous said...

OP = Onion Picker. You don't think those thins got on your burger by magic, did you? :)

By the way, in case someone truly doesn't know (I suspect Dan does and was just poking a little light-hearted fun -- good form), in blogland parlance, OP stands for Original Post.

Anonymous said...

Eric, I don't have an offense. Perhaps you might examine whether or not you read into comments and get defensive too easily.

Rob said...

Just finished listening to that debate and I don't think Pastor Wilson did all that well. I'm side-tracking though...

DJP said...

I haven't listened to all of it yet. But if all he gave was all those prepared remarks, I can't imagine Sullivan besting him. I mean, does he have anything beyond "I really want to, so I really should be able to"? Not that I've ever heard from him.

Jennifer said...

Here's where I think your excitement over the recognition may have caused people to look on with some disdain:

When you sit at "the nerd's table" (I think that's what Frank has called this corner of the Internet) continually poking fun of the popular kids - and all of a sudden you get excited to point out that a jock says you're cool, it makes other nerds uncomfortable and suspicious.

I'm not saying that I agree with it - that's just my 2 cents for perhaps why some may be upset.

DJP said...

Fair enough, Jennifer. May I respond?

We've never poked fun at anyone FOR being popular. Phil works for a pretty popular guy. He and Kerry and I (at least) love Charles Spurgeon, who was a pretty popular guy. Every one of us LOVES it when folks who teach truth do so effectively and with as wide a reach as God can give them.

Further, when the popular kids do something right, we don't refuse to recognize, share, or laud it.

Further-further, I trust you read this whole post? You'll note that I — even while expressing gratitude and appreciation — noted areas where I either flat-out don't agree with Doug, or don't understand him?

What have we criticized in the past? Daintiness, elitism, timidity about important things, putting image over substance, playing down inconvenient truths. Is Doug Wilson noted for any of those failings? Boy, not that I've ever heard. In fact, one of the points I made in this post is that he clearly is not an elitist.

Anyway, I'm in danger of heading off-topic myself. But I thought your point worth hearing and worth a response.

MTHudson said...

I listened to a snippet of the debate, and I was glad to hear the post referenced, the offense of Gen 1:1 is a crucial point too rarely made.

I also found myself wishing he'd continued with the direct quote through: "That is, I believe in a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another."

He made the same point, but you really had said it so well that it's been ringing in my mind's ear since last week. Thank you for the post.

Kerry James Allen said...

Dan, this might become a Phillip's axiom. "Those who abhor promotion and advertising usually don't have anything to promote or advertise." Or something like that.

If people understand the hundreds and even thousands of hours that go into some of this work, they would also understand the desire to get it into as many hands, heads, and hearts (apologies to David Murray) as possible.

DJP said...

That's kind of you to say. Whatever I've learned of speaking memorably and concisely has been at the feet of my betters.

DJP said...

My last was to MT.

Now, to Kerry: I have noticed consistently that not one critic has offered to take over the task of getting the word out so that I don't have to.

Kerry James Allen said...

"Jealousy digs the mud that envy throws at success."

Or, as I used to hear from the Chancellor in college: "Anybody can criticize."

threegirldad said...

I have noticed consistently that not one critic has offered to take over the task of getting the word out so that I don't have to.

Look: I don't like what you're saying, so you should just stop.

DJP said...

Wow. When someone remembers, and appositely cites, a post of mine I didn't think of or remember...

You're awesome. If only it were a marketable talent!

Kerry James Allen said...

Hey, he's an underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated very junior member of TeamPyro. We expect lofty contributions from David.

Jim Pemberton said...

So I have a question. If you wrote and no one read or you spoke and no one heard, yet you know you had something valuable to offer by way of writing or speaking, would you give up or try to figure out how to be better "heard"? I know of many who have far fewer, if any, readers and listeners than you do who likewise have valuable things to communicate.

DJP said...

Me personally? I'd probably give up. As long as I could stand it. Then I'd try something else when I couldn't stand it any longer.

Jim Pemberton said...

Sounds good to me. So would you agree that some Christians have a very low teleological value, i.e. they're fairly useless? That's not to comment on their ontological value, assumed they are truly redeemed by Christ and otherwise regenerated by the Holy Spirit. They simply don't have what it takes to minister very effectively as a member of the Body of Christ.

Now I understand this could be a dangerous admission for those who desire not to use the gifts that God has given them to contribute who would otherwise be effective. It's a good admonition for every Christian to try one's best to minister most effectively.

On the other hand, it could be a comfort to some who try and typically fail to know that they can relax in the knowledge that God probably doesn't have plans to use them in a significant way right now. Pray, study, hang tight, and wait to see if an opportunity comes along because making opportunities doesn't work for such a person.

Anonymous said...

Self-promotion is a tricky thing indeed. You feel like you've gleaned something from the Scripture that will actually help people. You pray about it. You decide to publish/post it (often with a tag line that says "glory to God alone,") and yet you almost can't help feeling sinful pride and consequent conviction when you garner some praise or acclaim for it. Sort of like the old saw about the gentlemen who was awarded a plaque for "Most Humble" student in his Sunday School class. (The teacher immediately confiscated it when he reached out to accept it.) At least we can keep our publicly-aimed thoughts Biblical, amen? I'd hate to be known for promoting my private "fresh revelations." (Btw, my wife says that this very comment is disingenuous to the extent that I'm hoping it will draw attention to my own site - what she calls "trolling.) Sorry.

semijohn said...

Kinda don't pay so much attention to Douglas Wilson since I heard about his writings on Southern Slavery and lost quite a bit of respect for him. Though I am coming back perhaps the other way ever so slightly on him lately. He referenced DJP? Good for him.