18 October 2006

Wednesday Funnies

by Frank Turk

efore you read another word here, I have two disclaimers to make about this post which, if you ignore them, you do so at your own peril. Pay attention to the disclaimers before you read the rest of this post:

[1] Love that Doug Wilson. That’s not sarcasm: that’s honest-to-pete admiration. If there’s one guy who can use a word like a mosquito and fly it into your ear for the sake of getting your attention, and then make a point that will require you to use a flashlight and a Q-Tip to remove it from the inside of your skull, it’s the pastor of Christ Kirk in Moscow, ID. Love ‘im. He’s the Mark Steyn of the theological blogosphere.

[2] I have read, and am now re-reading Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity, and I recommend it. Even with what I’m about to say in this post, I think anyone who wants to have a well-formed understanding of the many ways in which the American church today can and should be criticized, Leithart’s book is a sort of lexicon of complaints made from the contrarian view that everything we know is wrong. I have loved that phrase ever since I first heard the Firesign Theater use it in the album (big, round plastic thing that used to be used to play music) of the same name, and though Leithart never uses it, it’s between every other line in the book.

Whew. OK: there are no hard feelings for me or from me toward these two men in spite of the fact that I am about to complain about them both.

Fellas: use an outline. Maybe a coupla seniors from NSA or something. But the next time you write a book on a topic as critical and as necessary as the failings of the contemporary church, refrain from using the stream-of-consciousness methodology found in Against Christianity.

You know: you are right. Churchiology and churchiness and church-opoly are the pits. It completely caves in on all the things the church ought to be good at and ought to be doing to bring on the Kingdom through the Gospel. But if you’re going to deliver that message to the people who need to hear it most – which, by the way, are probably not guys like the popular heroes of the TR blogosphere, or even the characters at the variously church-Latin-named blogs one might encounter, but are in fact the stodgy pastors of mid-sized megachurches of the FBC and FPC brand name – you need to write in a way they will bother to read.

Isn’t that ironic? A member of teamPyro is here posting about relevance to the members of teamCanonPress. Leithart’s book ought to give every conventional pastor in America a black eye, but because none of them will bother to wade through its extraordinarily-stylized prose – you know: it’s not even written in CT essay-sized bites but in “what occurred to me now” blocks of text – you have fired off a devastating left-hook knockout punch at your own shadow rather than at the head of the guy standing in the other corner.

A couple of weeks ago, I raved about David Wells’ Above all Earthly Pow’rs -- but pointed out to a few people that it’s not for everyone because it’s like an encyclopedia of what’s wrong with evangelidom today. It’s thick with documentation and evidence piled on evidence until the conclusions Prof. Wells makes are so incontrovertible that one has to be either heavily invested or heavily medicated to want to try to put up a fight. This book ought to have been exactly the same kind of thing – theologically if not anecdotally -- but it jumps all over the place and never really delivers the coup de grĂ¢ce.

So my complaint is that you (Pastor Leithart) almost wrote a great book here – it’s definitely worth reading, and I recommend it. But both of you (Wilson and Leithart) need to get out more. If you know what the disease is (I think you do, even if you’d frame it differently than I do), and if you have some pow’rful medicine with which to fix it up (and from a Presbyterian view point, I think you do – even if you guys like Sanders and Dunn), you have to deliver it to the sick people in a way which it’ll get after what ails them. You can’t put it in an inhaler when you can’t make the patient open his mouth, and you can’t put it in an I-V if the patient won’t lie still. You solution should be less-elegant and more functional – and I have a suggestion, but to express it in the medical metaphor will bring on the wrath of the homeschool moms and the language prudes from IP addresses in parts-unknown.

But I’m sure you are both bright enough to get my point. We have a problem in the church which involves the fact that we are sitting on our brains theologically. Putting the medicine in a fancy hat puts the medicine on the wrong end of the problem.

And what I really wanted to blog about today was the Catalyst podcast – which is a product of John Maxwell’s NJOY ministries – because Rick Warren was just the featured catalyst interview, but I didn’t get to it. Eventually, I will get to it.

No, I am not really on a fishing trip. And obviously, I’m not completely detached from the internet. But so far my blog vacation has worked out pretty nicely.

Also important: the t-shirt contest is getting more votes -- and we have had our first purchases from someone who didn't find the site from TeamPyro yesterday. For those who can't wait for the results, as of today the leader by a long-shot is Martyn Lloyd Jones. Like by triple the nearest competitor -- so if we're really a bunch of cessationists, we had better start buying some shirts by somebody who thinks the Gifts have ceased.

Thanks for asking.


Bike Bubba said...

"coup de grace," brother Centurion. (we'll let some actual French speaker correct me for my appalling lack of knowledge of proper accents....I'm waiting!)

Good point; I'm personally torn at times between the need to speak the language of people I'm conversing with, and the need to elevate it. If sometimes the genre is the message, would reverting to "sound bite world" destroy what Leithart is saying?

FX Turk said...

I'm not asking for sound bites: I'm asking for traditional prose. There's no question that if you pass over this text a few times, it's loaded with sound bites. The question is if the people to whom and for whom this text would be the most benefit will bother raking it out from its somewhat-stylized tangle.

I think it's great to be smart, and great to be a very good writer -- of which, Leithart is both. But show me how smart you are by getting your big ideas in the taxi or on the bus. I am sure I could get a lot of work done at the bookstore if I employed an elephant; the question is if that solution doesn't cause more problems than it solves.

I think the method of delivering his solution causes the problem that nobody is going to read it. Doesn't thaat seem like a (forgive the crass language here) dumb idea when writing a book?

And thank you for the correction. I learned all my French from Looney Tunes, and it doesn't pass the Babelfish test.

DJP said...

So you like Doug Wilson. That's great! So... could you explain him to me?

I cannot get a purchase on him. What's his deal? Where's he coming from, going to -- what's his point? What is he?

He tripled my blog traffic once by linking to one of my articles and, even then, I had no clue what his point was.

So, writing in the way you think he should write, would you tell me what he is, and why you like him?

And try to use the word "mirbhzf" in your response.

FX Turk said...

Dan --

You of all people should appreciate Doug Wilson. I mean, when he says, "mirbhzf", he has proposed something so nuanced that it could take months to unpack.

But that said, I'm going to give you the skinny on him in under 500 words:

-- he's a former baptist who is now a sort of presbyterian. I say "sort of" because he doesn't belong to a historic vein of Presbyterianism -- the CREC was founded in the late 90's, and while it holds (apparently) to the WCF it is really a sort of confederation of people who suddenly found themselves in the position of being covenantalists rather than (a-hem) dispensationalists, and far more Calvinist than not. They don't come from an OPC pedigree, but they think the OPC is keen.

-- Also in saying "sort of", like any good convert he's probably a little more "on" about his presbyterianism than, say, someone who has always been a conservative presbyterian. That is: his views on the "Federal Vision" (you don't know what that is? oy ...) are really the working out logically of the premises behind conservative Presbyterian paedobaptism. In that, he has a very slippery view of "covenant" -- but I don't think it's intentionally slippery. I think that DW sees the covenant as having both eternal consequences (salvation of the elect) and immediate consequences (defining the limits of the church), and we (as baptists) have to be careful when we talk to him about this because we're liable to get confused.

-- he's also quite funny and charming (for a guy who lives in Idaho, anyway). As I say at my blog, he's got quite decent medicine against post-modernism, pride, jealousy, wonkery, prudishness, glummery and frowny-faced "Christian" soldiers. He prolly couldn't be a TeamPyro member for some of his ideas (in particular, his coziness with the Sanders/Dunn/Wright polygon of theological reasoning), but he's no enemy of our side in the debate.

-- he also throws a really big party once a year in Moscow, ID, and somehow people hate him for it. All the right people, anyway -- when you can throw a party that gets the goat of academic liberals and religious conservatives, you must be doing something right.

If I left anything out, I'm sure Trevor will drop by and correct me.

Sharad Yadav said...

I know it's a bit off topic - but I mentioned before that I think you may have spelled a few of the names on the T-Shirts incorrectly (Sibbes and Berkhof are two I caught). In any case, just wanted to let you know!

Oh - and I agree with this post. And I dig Doug Wilson too.

Tom Chantry said...

Cross-Post Question:

On his post this morning, Phil urged primary concern for "the purity of the gospel message." Doesn't "the Sanders/Dunn/Wright polygon of theological reasoning" strike rather directly at "the purity of the gospel message"? How is it possible to "cozy" up to that mess and yet be on "our side of the debate"?

FX Turk said...


I am convinced I didn't spell them all right. I'll check the ones you listed and try to get corrections up in time to keep them in the running for the winner's circle.


D.A.Carson rightly points out that the problem is not the content of Sanders and Dunn (and even Wright as far as he agrees with the other two): it's the extent of their application. They want to make the NT only and exclusively about boundary markers -- that's too much.

Carson says (and I think I gree with him, though I'm still mulling it over) that if these fellows ("Jimmy" Dunn in particular, as he calls the man) meant that boundary markers are an important aspect of the Gospel, they would have been met with no approbation at all -- or perhaps only a small bit which would have helped them fit into the orthodox history of the faith. But to make the Gospel only about inclusion in the covenant people is, frankly, terribly and defectively reductive.

There is no question that the Gospel includes a wider offer of covenant inclusion. The question is "how far do we take that? where are the boundary markers now, and what t=do they mean to the church and to me, the believer?"

Because DW is not a fall-guy for Dunn & Sanders, I think we don't have to write him off -- I think he offers a decent correction (even if I think he doesn't go far enough) to count him in the company of the angels.

FX Turk said...

btw, Raja:

Would you believe that the Sibbes T was spelled right in my original layout, but because the source from which I adapted the portraited named his file "Sibbs" I changed my layour to suit the file name.

Ugh. Pheh.

Tom Chantry said...

Granted, there is a covenantal aspect of the gospel. Where Wilson Canon Press go with that is quite disturbing.

Particularly, their view of the role of baptism in conferring grace upon the "christian" is a spectacular departure from both Presbyterianism and Orthodoxy.

adam said...

Frank, FYI - The OPC just a few months ago issued a report strongly condemning the Federal Vision movement. I know you are not a Presbyterian and probably not up to speed on the issues, but calling the Federal Vision a more a more "on" version of Presbyterianism is quite a stretch.

FWIW, maybe you haven't noticed, but the same group that regularly tries to dog pile on Phil here at Pyro for most things he writes, contains a large number of Federal Vision / New Perspectivists.

Sharad Yadav said...

Ha! I'll remember that little lesson when I'm posting pictures!

FX Turk said...

Let's make sure we have a couple of things sorted out before this gets too far:

[1] Being "on about [something]" was written to express a sort of (I'll regret using this word, but here goes) fanaticism. If, for example, I'm "on about Santa again," I am off on my own fanatical branch of Santa. In that, saying about DW, he's probably a little more "on" about his presbyterianism is saying, "he's more prebyterian than the OPC".

And, of course, those in the OPC will either see that as a kind of joke or take grave offense at such a thing. Who could be more presbyterian than the OPC, after all?

[2] Yes, I know the OPC has condemned FVism. They have classed it as unorthodox, and I might even agree with them in conclusion. The problem, however, is if they have rightly identified FVism (such as it is) and if they are objecting to the "right" parts of objectionable FVism.

See: as a baptist, I reject FVism -- because it is founded first on an excessive view of the covenant, and then second on an excessive view of baptism and the Lord's table based on the excessive view of the covenant. As a baptist, I can be a mid-to-high Zwinglian on the matter of ordinances and not have to get embroiled in the issue of what "sign and seal" means because, unlike the Presbyterian who has already cashed in on "children of the covenant", I think baptism is for believers only -- not for everyone who has a stake in covenant promises.

FV may or may not violate WCF standards -- that's an inter-presbyterian debate which, I think, the non-FVs are going to have a hard time winning in the long run on the basis of consistency. The reason baptists can reject FV out-of-hand is that we reject all the key definitions which FV leverages into the deep-and-wide applications of the covenant.

[3] I think most critics of FV (especially of DW) don't understand a lot of the things he says, particularly about Grace. I have been chasing him around on that word since he debated James White, and I think that he uses the word "Grace" in a very broad way, and the word "covenant" in a very broad way -- and it may turn out they are unorthodox ways. The problem, again, is that I think they turn out to be more consistent ways of using those words than traditional Presbyterians of the last 100 years might use them. Once you spring the latch on the "covenant" box to baptize babies, you suddenly have a lot more coming out of the box than merely promises and faith -- you have all the consequences of promises and faith, too.

So let me be as clear as possible: DW could not qualify as amemeber of TeamPyro because of his views, particularly regarding FV. No question: we 3-4-5 (how many are we?) reject FV, and we think it leads to problems. I reject FV even if I would say, "if I were a Presbyterian, I'd probably fall for FV because it makes sense given Presbyterian definitions." I know that statement will draw fire from OPCs and presbyterians who are my friends, but I'm a baptist: what do I know, really?

I love my presbyterian brothers and sisters -- I do! They do things I can't understand for the life of me, but I love them. And in that, I'd love to see them overcome FV with a more robust biblical covenantalism (any S. Lewis Johnson fans out there?). But I don't think that's going to happen.

And I've said too much and not enough already. I'm going to leave this as-is, and let's see where the pieces fall out.

Martin Downes said...

Hey Frank, you should write some more on this as it is very enlightening. Not only am I not a presbyterian but on this side of the Atlantic "FV" is just the sound of thunder in the distance. And British conservative evangelicals don't go in for Tom Wright like you Americans do (all of which is quite bemusing).

Is there a lesson here about being an ex-smoker? Aren't the worst kind of presbyterians really the ex-baptists? (By worst I mean "fanatical").

And am I right in thinking that claims are made for infant baptism in the FV that look more like erroneous views of circumcision than biblical ones?

FX Turk said...

Geez. That's a great question, Martin, and I have two choices: try to answer it or just say something snarky and pretend you already know the answer.

Boy, that second choice looks good ... :(

Let me start here: All jews were circumcized, right? All of them including the ones which were faithless. They all got the covenant sign, and as people literally marked they had a stake in the covenant. The bad news for the faithless ones, of course, was that they were covenant breakers, and they got the covenant curses and not the blessings. Those are bad.

So the model of the old covenant is that the sign is inclusive (it tells us who is in, but not who will be blessed or cursed on its face), the sign is actually an effect of the covenant and not the covenant itself, and there are some people inside the covenant who will not be beneficiaries of the covenant -- because they break the covenant and wind up under its condemnation rather than under its protection.

OK: true until Jesus walks out of the tomb. At that point, the law is fulfilled, and there is a New Covenant -- a better covenant, an eternal covenant, one with an eternal mediator and a perfect high priest to offer a perfect sacficie of his own blood. And since it is better, it has to be better in every way.

Now listen: who is in that new covenant? Us baptists, we say, "why, all believers. Everyone in faith from Abraham to Paul to Luke to Phil Johnson." And the discussion meets a pregnant pause.

"But wait," saith the WCF, "that's not right. Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed, are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. That is: what was promulgated by temple ordinances and sacrifices and circumcision, etc., in the OT age is now proulgated by the preaching of the word, baptism and the Lord's supper. There's a one-to-one correspondence between baptism and circumcision in the NC vs. the OC."

Well, ok. That's why they baptize babies. But after Dunn and Sanders (and Wright) get through with this idea, we are talking about "boundary markers" in the sense that the signs set a people apart, and that the markers of the NT/NC are also actually inclusive markers meant to expand the boundaries of the Kingdom and not exclusive markers necessarily meant to set a people apart. The sign is meant to get all kinds of people in.

So in that, baptism becomes something more than a rite of initiation, more than a sign of one's confession and repentence. It becomes the boundaries of the Kingdom of God, and so anyone baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is in the Kingdom and therefore in the New Covenant.

This is where the sparks start to fly. See: when someone like DW gets to the "in the New Covenant" part, someone like me who hears that at first blush says (either internally or externally), "egads! the man has just said that baptism confers salvation on all who receive it! BRING OUT THE TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS!!"

But you know what: that's not what he has said at all. Because what he has said is, frankly, a summary and not a great detailed picture of his view. In the details, we find out that this kind of talk can come from one of two places: the dark, sad place which has denigrated the Gospel to a merely-political or merely-incarnational declaration of the end of an old political order; or the significantly-brighter, post-millenial world Doug Wilson is trying to populate in which the New Covenant has both an eternal effect (salvtion of the elect) and an immediate or temporal effect (the church) -- and one can be in the latter without necessarily having all the benefits of the former. See: in that view, it behooves us to baptize our children into the church to spread the kingdom here and now -- because it brings them into the covenant based on God's promises and not based on man's stingy little confessions. And once in the covenant, there is an authority to which they ought to comply -- or be under the condemnation of the covenant rather than under its eternal blessings.

You know: when the laughable Kevin Johnson figured this out, he said that it was the most cruel thing he had ever heard (or words to that effect) -- because in this view, people who bury statues in their yard to help their house sell, or people who are worshipping bread, or people who are praying to the dead are in worse shape if they are baptized than if they were merely people without the Gospel -- because these people are people who ought to know better.

And I tell you all this to tell you one last thing: while a lot of words show up in common between the DW view and the FV view, you have to watch how they are used. The view which denigrates the atonement of sin in the New Covenant is the damgerous one -- and that's not DW's view.

Now, before anyone tries to post a refutation or critique of this particular comment I am wrapping up, this is a fundamentally reductive and inadequate summary of ths issues. You personally should go and listen to or read D.A. Carsons lectures on variagated nomism and the New Perspective on Paul before you think you know anything about this subject. And if you have already read that and are now reading this and think I have not done the subject any justice, listen: I admit it -- this isn't even the Cliff's Notes version of the subject. It's not even a blog entry. It's a comment in the meta of a blog, which makes it the lowest possible form of communication in the galaxy.

So that's it. That's all I'm going to say. Go read something substantive on this subject and don't make me into your gate-keeper for information on ecclesiastical controversies.

Martin Downes said...


You did a good job. Thank you.

And I'm glad that Martyn Lloyd-Jones is winning the t-shirt competition, for now, and for obvious reasons.

Luke and Rachael said...

I agree that Wilson has the ability to get a fly in one's ear. Unfortunately, anything that fly buzzes is likely to be long on rhetoric, hand-waving, and fallacious reasoning; short on actual substance.

I'm actually with Dan on this one; I can't figure the guy out. Divining the coherence of Wilson's strictly theological views is hard enough (though for me his sympathy with Wright/Dunn/Sanders is a--perhaps his only--saving grace). But factor in his (theologically informed, no doubt) cultural views on slavery and the 'serrated edge'--the whole thing becomes passing bizarre.

He knows how to get our attention, that's for sure. Whether he deserves to keep our attention is far less likely. Really, does anyone who writes a book with the intent of showing that slavery in the pre-Civil War South wasn't that bad after all deserve to be taken seriously?

Al said...

This is why DW links to your these here blogs. You spill the bits and bytes in such a winsome way that even when you are deconstructing the man's arguments you make him sound good. You are ecumenical in a good way.

We (Providence Community Church) are up in PA right now joining the CREC. All the points about former Baptist going head-over-heals for the biblical covenantal position are spot on! Most of the pastors in the CREC are former Baptists.

Anywho, this was one fine piece of writing! You are cool like the other side of the pillow moy droog.

If you say those last two words like they’re spelled they say something in Russian. Take that all you Frenchies.

al sends

Al said...

oh yes, Luke and Rachel... The intent of the book you mentioned was not to show that slavery in the Pre-Civil War was not that bad. It had much more to do with not getting all squishy on the hard parts of the bible.

And you really should take him serious. He is leading the next reformation or haven't you heard?

al sends

Michael Metzler said...

I've never heard Frank say anything correct about Doug Wilson's critics or the local controversies here in Moscow Idaho; this thread no acception. For the other side of the story, I would reccomend:


There are hundreds of posts with many Moscow locals or X-Christ Church members contributing; many of the posts present primary documents or summary of events.

Michael Metzler

Gryphonette said...

Frank, let me ask you this regarding Leithart's book...did he support his statements more assiduously than he did in "The Kingdom and the Power"?

I tried to read that one, really I did, but his tendency to Make Grand Statements without any substantive Scripture to back 'em up, quite bothered me. (An example or two can be provided if desired.) So I quit reading before my blood pressure rose higher than my b/p meds can handle.


Michael Metzler said...

Does anyone who trully understood Leithart's book and read it all the way through have a criticism? Funny, Leithart's book reads somewhat like Wittgenstein, and Wittgenstein has gone down in history as one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century for it. It is also curious that many folks who are not very intelligent, even RC Sproul Jr [defrocked] like Leithart's book a lot. I hope to write up a crticism of this post soon, but for now I wanted to point out how this book is used more as a sociological tool than a source of wisdom, as I noted here:


Gryphonette said...


"...many folks who are not very intelligent...like Leithart's book a lot."

I daresay you didn't mean it the way it came out.

Michael Metzler said...

Oops. : -)

Just take this to be a statement within a very narrow argumentative context: the book is "accessible" was my point. Intelligent people liked it too. Well, I think they did.....shoot, now I'm wondering how great my argument was. I'll fall back on premise number one: the style is no worse than Wittgenstein. Of course, this argument doesn't fair very well either since Wittgenstein refused to publish his writing for this reason....

Gryphonette said...

I see what you mean, truly!

It just was awfully funny, the way it was phrased. ;^)

If only I had a five-spot for every time I've done something like that....!

I know it's earlyish in your neck of the woods, but it's almost bedtime in Texas. G'nite!

Anne in Fort Worth

Stephen Dunning said...

On writing quality: I am the manager of a small Christian bookshop in North Wales.

It seems to me that there are few modern Reformed writers writing with the sort of style that means they get read by ordinary people who often don't come from clearly Reformed churches. People look at their books and then select something else as being easier to read.

It is no use criticising the readers - we may wish their reading habits were different, but many are not willing to tackle books they perceive as hard.

As CS Lewis said, it is easy to get published - it is harder to get read.

FX Turk said...


I don't really know how to answer that question. This book really isn't about cataloging the errors of the American church. It sort of assumes you know there's a problem. And it applies the Wilson/Leithart covenantial logic to the assumed problem with the obvious results.

FX Turk said...


One warning only. Steer clear of the behavior that got you banned at DW's blog. If you go there, you'll wind up in the same place that the trip got you the first time.

FX Turk said...

For those of you who are still reading this comments thread, I have a little experiment I'd like to try regarding Michael Metzler.

Here's the test:

[1] copy that link to Metzler's blog into your browser.
[2] You can read the essay it links to or not -- I suggest you read it just for effect. If you read it, you'll want to leave comments, so reading it is a good idea in that respect. It makes the next step in the test more enlightening.
[3] Try to leave comments on that post.

Then come back here, read Metzler's criticism of DW again, and leave a comment based on your experience in dealing with the beloved Pooh. I will be very interested to see if your reactions are like the one I'm having right now ...

4given said...

I quoted something from Doug Wilson in an article I wrote a bit ago... and got the most egalitarian hate mail on record. I even had to delete more comments ever in one post due to cuss words, accusations and name-calling. At first I said... "I deleted so and so's comment because..." But then there were so many comments to delete after that I just had to hit the delete button... often. It didn't stop there. The flood of e-mails came and I again had to hit delete.

It was this quote from him that caused so much anger: We cannot resist the demand to let pretty women lead us for the simple reason that we are currently being led by pretty men.--D. Wilson

One woman in particular said I was degrading women by calling men pretty. -kay??? It was a post about The Slippery Slope of Evangelical Feminism I actually like most of his books but I learned the hard way that Doug Wilson has some interesting "friends"

Luke and Rachael said...

I'm not sure exactly what feelings the 'Metzler experiment' is supposed to elicit. From my own experience interacting with Wilson's pseudo-academic brand of thought, I found Michael's post spot-on; Wilson does quite often mis-represent his opponents in the service of rhetorical effect. Unfortunately, many people don't seem to notice, or just don't care.

As for posting to the Woods, there's another experiment we could try. Shoot Michael off an email w/ your thoughts and ask him to post it. Then paste that email into the comments section here. If that email seems like one that should be posted (e.g., it disagrees w/ him in a civilized way), but Michael refuses to post it, there's cause for concern. I'm not saying this as a full-tilt defender of Pooh; just as one interested in fair play.

I also tend to agree that the fact (if it is one) that the majority of laypeople would have trouble w/ Leithart's book is almost entirely irrelevant. Most Christian academics recognize John Milbank's Theology & Social Theory as one of the more important books in anglo-speaking theology in the last fifty years. This despite the fact that it's uber-abstruse, and very few non-academics know what he's talking about.

Lindon said...

I'm with Dan, I don't understand the guy at all. Where he is coming from or what point he is trying to make.

Luke and Rachael said...

Al said: "oh yes, Luke and Rachel... The intent of the book you mentioned was not to show that slavery in the Pre-Civil War was not that bad. It had much more to do with not getting all squishy on the hard parts of the bible."

Hi Al,

You're probably right to say that, strictly speaking, Wilson's intent was more to write a book about 'not getting squishy' than slavery. However, no doubt he knew before writing the book that his view of 'not getting squishy' entailed his views of the not-so-morally-regrettable institution of slavery.

For most people, I venture, this would constitute a reductio ad absurdum of their view of 'not getting squishy'; if not getting squishy entails that slavery ain't so bad, something's probably wrong with your view of not getting squishy. Since Frank's post wasn't about slavery, I won't tread any further down this path.

My point is just that if A entails B, and one intends to write a book defending A, one also intends to write a book endorsing B. So I don't see how what you say makes it much better.

Al said...

I went to Mr. M's blog and boy is he busy...

One thing I notice about his blog is how dismissive it is. That has carried over into these comments as well. "It is also curious that many folks who are not very intelligent... like (his) book" Anyone want to defend the book now?

al sends

FX Turk said...

Luke & Rachel:

I see -- the way to interact with Metzler's public ravings is only through private criticism which, if you ask him, he'll post. As opposed to what he demands from everyone else he interacts with.

I'm sure that's not a double standard. In Idaho.

Luke and Rachael said...

Well, you could just post your criticisms of him here on your blog. Also, in my limited experience with the Michaeland the Woods, I've never seen him demand that everyone else have an open posting policy, while maintaining that only he has the right to privately screen emailed comments. Can you substantiate this claim?

I take it that if you were to implement Pooh's policy, which includes (or ought to include) posting non-virulent emails from detractors, he would, on pain of consistency, happily approve (or at least not complain).

The real question is whether or not Michael's screening process is even-handed, or whether he only posts emails that make him look good, or agree with him, or whatever. In my experience, he has no problem posting critical emails; ten minutes in the Woods is enough to see that. But anyways, this is why I proposed the experiment I did.

Michael Metzler said...

Luke & Rachel seem right here Frank. It seems your criticism amounts to little more than pointing out that I don't currently have comments activited. I have explained why I have done this a couple times. However, because of this, what I offer is even better. If you send me an intelligent comment, I'll give it full primary post status. This is better than responding in a thread. You get the same exposure to my readership as I do on my blog. So I just don't see what your criticism could be here.

Michael Metzler
Moscow, Idaho

FX Turk said...

That's right Michael: the things you demand and expect of others which you yourself do not do -- those things are inconsequential to the matter of whether you should be taken at face value or not.

Or whether the face value you present is the value you demand.

Make sure I get my own category of hit pieces at your blog, bub. I'd hate to be lumped in with the Baylys by mistake. I'd rather it was on purpose.

Michael Metzler said...


I’m not sure I understand your follow up here. Could you clarify? What is it that I demand from others? Also, are you saying you want to be identified with the Baylys? Have they been mentioned on this thread? What about them do you identify with?

It now seems certain you are trying to just poison the well (let me know if you have any other intentions), but I guess I am not clear how you are attempting to do this.

Michael Metzler

Michael Metzler said...

Oh, and by the way, to my knowledge I have never not posted a comment that a critic wanted me to. Just asking for an actual post from critics seems to be a huge filter on what folks will send me. Sometimes I'll post stuff from critics, non-damaging to them, that they do not even ask me to post.


Luke and Rachael said...

Does TeamPyro really align themselves with the Baylys? Do TeamPyro's curiously strong opinions significantly overlap with the patrialchal domination-ese spewing from the Bayly brothers' blog? Really?

Al said...

Wow Frank... I didn't know you were aligned with the nefarious Baylys... oh wait, just read what you wrote. Never mind.

al sends

Michael Metzler said...


regarding your note up a bit: If you are going to criticize the 800 posts on my web site, a citation would be nice. I don't have a clue what you mean about being "dissmisive." I would have thought my eagerness to interact with anyone would have suggested the precise opposite. This is a word that seems better suited for some of my, umm, critics. Never heard this criticism before actually. And as for your misquoting me here, I should note that the first person who did so intentionally misquoted just to be fun. But this is usually the only kind of critism I get: either bald, unsupported assertions, or else a libelous misquoting of something arbitrarily selected.

Michael Metzler

FX Turk said...


You wanted a list? Well, here goes:

-- 24/7 availability so that you can criticize them
-- whatever it is that is two rungs below abject humility so that when you criticize them they don't fight back
-- the highest standards of personal accountability, including ...
-- 100% personal disclosure (you know: like not using false names on the internet)

That would account for 97.33% of all the trashy things I've seen you do on the internet, Metzler. The other 2-2/3rds percent is just immaturity on your part.

Do you follow now, or do you have to move in across the street from me to get the full picture?

Be warned: you're on the edge of getting bleeped here. Figure out why you're bothering to post here and get inside the topic, or go find someone's trash to pick through for incriminating evidence.

Luke and Rachael said...

Wow, Frank: You have been reading Wilson lately.

chamblee54 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Metzler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
FX Turk said...

Metzler and Chamblee are personae non grata. Nice work, guys.

Luke and Rachael are next on the list.

Warnings are issued to keep the cards on the table. Yoiu want to play on the floor, expect the house to fold your hand.

Anonymous said...

Blogs like this that ban people at the drop of a hat for disagreeing or causing discussion/debate have no respectability with me. Pathetic.

Dave said...

Disclaimer: I attend Christ Church.

If you listen to Wilson’s sermons his books are enjoyable to read and make more sense. The sermons are on line at the church web site.

If you read Blessed are the Hungry you will want to have communion every Sunday instead of once a month or once a quarter.

I recommend reading Against Christianity quickly the first time and then rereading it more slowly after you have had a chance to think about it.

Centuri0n thanks for keeping this discourse polite.

adam said...

I say "sort of" because he doesn't belong to a historic vein of Presbyterianism...

This is simply not true. Doug is a traditional protestant. The problem is, we wouldn't recognize a traditional protestant if it took center stage at the super bowl half-time show!" The federal vision is nothing but a reformation of traditional protestantism followed out consistantly so that it doesn't look like what we think is traditional protestantism followed out consistantly. For example, most assume that traditional covenant theology assumes that the covenant includes only the elect. They would be wrong. Now, the covenant theology of the last 200 years would propose this view, but not Calvin.

As you later admit:
"his views on the "Federal Vision" are really the working out logically of the premises behind conservative Presbyterian paedobaptism."

Yes. And his views are substantiated in Church history. Baptized children ARE true members of the covenant.


donsands said...

"at the drop of a hat"?


What do you mean by that phrase?

FX Turk said...

Don --

He means that unless I allow someone like Metzler to demonstrate the full measure of his depravity, I am an unjust judge. Seeing a discussion going exactly where it always goes even after warning a guy that his history is well-known and it puts him on-notice, and then banning him for ignoring that warning as if he was Alfed E. Newman -- that's unjust.

I'm unjust. I'm a bully. Metzler is a saint and a martyr, and I'm the scum of the earth. Just ask me.

Gryphonette said...

Admitting you have problem is the first step toward overcoming it, Frank.

Perhaps there's hope for you yet, you big bully, you.


Anne in Fort Worth

(who is kidding, of course)

Anonymous said...


Your false show of piety and egotistical writing makes it clear you want this to be all about you. A truly humble spirit indeed.


What I mean is there are clearly posted "rules" for posting on this blog. They consist of things like staying on topic, and refrain from vulgar language. That's all very appropriate and needed.

But men like centurion, who apparently help moderate this site, when he wants to "throw a little weight around" (this is probably all the authority he'll ever have over others) sees something he doesn't like or rubs him the wrong way, disregards all the posted rules and like a tyrant, just starts banning poeple and deleting post. Who, if not Chrisitans among themselves should not be able to disagree and forebare one another through disagreement? If Metzler wants to defend Leitharts book and will do it in charity, why ban him?

I fear people refuse to do things "by the book", because they no longer care about following "The Book".

Just like this post will probably get deleted and I'll be banned for stating something with boldness in faith, and within the posted guidlines, yet not to his liking.

Phil Johnson said...

David McCrory: "Your false show of piety and egotistical writing makes it clear you want this to be all about you. A truly humble spirit indeed. . . . this post will probably get deleted and I'll be banned for stating something with boldness in faith."

As far as I can tell, David, you have posted precisely two comments here in your whole lifetime, and both of them make the same basic complaint: "Blogs like this . . . ban people at the drop of a hat for disagreeing or causing discussion/debate."

Let's look at that accusation dispassionately, shall we?

In the whole history of this blog, no more than 4 people have been banned from commenting.

1. One of them, "Carolyn Trace" has used half a dozen or more pseudonyms, but he/she/it still counts only as one individual. That creature was banned for (among other things) posting vile profanities—repeatedly.

2. In all honesty, I don't recall whom the second ban was issued to. Was it someone from the white supremacist side of the blogosphere? Or was it white supremacists in general? Could have been either. I would definitely be inclined to cancel anyone's ticket who likes to insult whole groups of people on racial grounds. On the other hand, I have no clear recollection of expressly issuing such a ban.

(It's possible that whoever said there were four bans may have miscounted; or perhaps the person who was Number Two was unremarkable; or I might have even subconsciously blanked that whole memory from my mind. It doesn't really matter.)

3. Chamblee's banning was inevitable, because he's an anti-Christian who has been trying for a very long time to get himself banned. He accidentally discovered we're far more patient than our reputations would suggest. Back in May, an open discussion arose about whether we ought to ban Chamblee or not. I went to bat for him. But when he realized he had got under Frank's skin, he became relentless. I marvel that Frank took so long to give him the boot.

(So long, Chamblee. I will truly miss your barbed comments, and I won't let your absence stop me praying for you to have your eyes opened to the glories of Christ and His power to redeem sinners.)

4. Now, David, the incident that seems to have you torqued is Frank's banning of the Pooh-bear. Indeed, that was the most rapid banning in the history of our blog, but Frank did say at the very outset that he would not permit PyroManiacs to become a forum for the extension of Mr. Metzler's personal campaign against Doug Wilson. He was duly warned.

You, Mr. McCrory, are not going to be banned automatically for one or two comments that are generally critical and disparaging of our blog—as long as you don't get overly personal or overtly unrighteous in your behavior—or try to import a more or less personal conflict from someone else's blog.

Keep posting in the same vein, and you might earn yourself some terse replies. But (contrary to your accusation) we don't ban people automatically merely for disagreeing with us. Search and see. If we think critical arguments are invalid, we usually disagree right back. We can be as persistent as our critics. And we're usually a lot more candid than our postmodernized critics like us to be. We don't "contextualize" our contempt for falsehood and bad doctrine just to keep the pomos content.

In other words, while we rarely resort to the ban, we don't just roll over and give every opinion equal respect.

So fair warning: Be sure to wear steel-toed boots if you are going to hang around here and continually make posts about how "pathetic" and "egotistical" and falsely pious people around here are. Just this week, I've heard from some rather angry folk who apparently think answering a fool according to his folly is a more cruel tactic than waterboarding a terrorist. But we nonetheless are convinced that sometimes—not always, but lots of times—answering a fool according to his folly is the right thing to do (Proverbs 26:5-6).

By the way, now that Chamblee's gone, we do have an opening for a full-time gadfly who will badmouth every other post we make, by complaining about our "tone" or "attitude"—preferably framing the criticism with a nasty tone and bad attitude—without really interacting with the actual point under discussion.

You might apply for the job. So far, I'm impressed with your qualifications.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Johnson,

A few things, if I might.

First, I appreciate your implict acknowledgement of the "unjust" (according to your own rules)banning of Metzler over centurion's ad hoc rule. It is commendable of you to admit your own egregious hypocrisy.

Secondly, I commend your "track-record" on not banning people. I did assume, considering the treatment of Metzler, the "rapid fire 'ban' button" had been replaced several times from over use. Apparently I'm not here enough to see otherwise. Please accept my apology.

Finally, your condescending remarks generalizing my character as less than Christian only stregthens the argument you normally conduct your in such a flippant manner. I always seek to speak the truth in love. Love sometimes, not always, takes the form of criticism as it did on this occasion.

Unfortunately, considering your last paragraph and it's presumptous uncharitable nature, it appears your not overly concerned with either the truth nor love (I Jn 4:7).

David McCrory

kyle said...


There's probably little hope in recovering anything of interest from this thread, but here goes:

Your summary of the FV stuff above, which is very clear I think, makes a few claims about consistency with a particular understanding of the covenant. Wilson is probably wrong, you think, but more consistent with the WCF on the covenant than presbyterian anti-FVers are. So one has to pick (and you thought you were being reductive):

1. Reject the WCF on the covenant and go baptist.
2. Go FV.

You go for 1. and avoid many thorny issues (but don't be smug -- others await). Wilson goes for 2. The thorniest issue for FVers is in another choice that has to be made between:

1. There's a kind of universalism within the sphere of the covenant -- everyone with a valid baptism is saved.
2. The covenant is conditional.

Wilson goes for 2. Actually, he says the covenant is conditional for covenant breakers, which I think amounts to the same thing. This is what most presbyterian-type critics of FV are (often ineffectively) bucking against. It strikes many as contrary to other parts of WCF, like the ones that talk about faith and grace alone.

If they're right about that, and Wilson is right that the FV is more consistent with the WCF on the covenant, then it would mean that there's a big problem with important bits of the WCF. Yea for baptists! (Now the real reason you like Wilson comes out.)

But I haven't seen a great argument for the idea that FV really is more consistent with the WCF on the covenant. Why not simply say, as many anti-FVers do, that "they are not all Israel which are of Israel"? On the most natural interpretation of this, any consistency problems presbyterian anti-FVers are thought to have go away.

Matt Gumm said...

David McCrory: Let's make an assumption for a moment that Frank is open to changing his mind about the ban, and let's say hypthetically that he does let Pooh back into the ranks of Pyro commenting.

What purpose would this serve? What, indeed, would it prove?

By the way, I loved your attempt to get the Pyro guys to "play by their own rules." How did you put it? Oh, yes: I appreciate your implict acknowledgement of the "unjust" (according to your own rules)banning of Metzler over centurion's ad hoc rule. It is commendable of you to admit your own egregious hypocrisy.

What always cracks me up about statements like this is that they ignore the fundamental nature of blogs--they actually belong to someone. I wonder if you go to someone's house for dinner and then complain if they take an extra piece of chocolate cake for dessert or drink the last of the coffee.

What is especially ironic in this case is your characterization of this blog at all, given the fact that you yourself acknowledge that you're not here all that often.

Here's a little suggestion, FWIW: why don't you try reading the blog for a little while before you cry foul. That will exponentially increase the likelihood of you sounding like an intelligent critic, instead of simply an ungrateful houseguest.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your reply. A couple of things;

If during the course of visiting someone's home I found them to have various rules for guiding the house, I would certainly try to keep them. There is certainly nothing wrong with having rules and going by them.

But, even in someone's home, to clearly make a certain set of rules known and then act contrary to them is still hypocrisy, no matter how you slice it (no pun intended). In other words, justice is still justice no matter where you find it.

Matt Gumm said...

David: The key point is this: the rules are there to keep the conversation productive. I think you're stuck on the letter, instead of looking at the spirit.

Can you point out to me how making the sidebar rules more stringent in an attempt to keep the discussion productive (which, and I'm sure you can agree, is the whole point behind the rules which Phil has put into place), makes Frank a hypocrite? It seems to me that Frank interpreted how those rules applied to a specific situation, where someone who has a history of doing something in the blogosphere which would be counter-productive to the discussions here. He gave a warning, and when it was ignored, he banned him.

It would be no different than if one of those atheist guys came over and started trying to do on this blog what they do on their own. I'm almost certain they would get one warning, and then the hammer would fall. I don't think it's personal--there's just too much ground to cover without getting into unproductive discussions like that.

And, though I don't know for sure, if Metzler could avoid mentioning DW, he might be allowed back. Do you think he could?

In any case, as I re-read your other comments, they show how little you know about Frank and the blog, if you think that either one are averse to contrary opinions and heated debate. I hope you'll rethink your position and join in for some productive discussion.