Beware of Douglas Wilson: Part 2


This video refutes the claim of Wilson and other Federal Vision proponents who hold that faith must be equated with works, or else it is the faith of devils.

In part one, we covered Douglas Wilson’s equating of law and Gospel.  In not distinguishing between the two, he equates saving faith with works, justification with sanctification.  This is a denial of the Gospel.

An example of where Wilson equates saving faith with works is in an interview with Christian Renewal magazine.

During the interview, Wilson says, “What drives apostasy is unbelief, and the engine that drives salvation is faith and only faith.”

The interviewer then asks, “But not ‘faith only’?” Wilson replies:

“Not bare bones faith.  Not assent.  Devils have that.  True faith is more than assent.  We are being accused of denying sola fide because we deny solus assensus.  This is the rub, since we’re all affirming this.  Why are we heretics because we say faith cannot be separated from trust and obedience, and because we say saving faith cannot be separated from a life of obedience and trust?”

Douglas Wilson, The Monroe Four Speak Out, 5,6.  Cited in John M. Otis, Danger in the Camp: An Analysis and Refutation of the Heresies of the Federal Vision (Corpus Christi, TX: Triumphant Publications, 2005), 335.

In denying a separation between saving faith and works (“obedience”), Wilson redefines saving faith to mean works.  (For a refutation of Wilson’s attack on assent, see Gordon Clark’s piece, Saving Faith.)

He also denies saving faith (where God considers ones sins forever forgiven, cf. Rom. 4:1-12) occurs at one point in time, and instead, holds that saving faith is a lifetime process: “we say saving faith cannot be separated from a life of obedience and trust.”

Thus for Wilson, when one comes to faith, God never considers ones sins (past, present, and future) forgiven.  Rather, forgiveness of sins are conditional upon a lifetime of good works.  

When asked in the interview, “Doug, when you cite ‘continuing in goodness’ in Rom. 11 in your 2002 lecture, is that the cause of our salvation or the fruit of it?”, Wilson replied:

Yes (laughter all around).

Look, in Colossians Paul says as you received Christ so walk in him.  So the way we become Christians is the way we stay Christians is the way we finish as Christians—by faith from first to last.

So we continue in God’s goodness by trust.  We stand by faith—they fell, but you stand—doing that to the end is how you come to your salvation.  It’s the gift of God lest anyone boast.  I believe we are saved by faith from first to last, which is why I have been accused of denying sola fide.  Wisdom is vindicated by her children.

Christian Renewal, “The Monroe Four Speak Out,” cited in The Counsel of Chalcedon, Volume 1, May 2004, 38.

Notice what Wilson does here:  he makes no distinction between saving faith (i.e., trust in Christ), and works (the natural fruit of saving faith).

When asked if ‘continuing in goodness’ is the cause of salvation or the fruit of it, he says, “Yes”—affirming that works (“continuing in goodness”) are just as much linked to salvation as faith.

He then goes on to say “the way we become Christians is the way we stay Christians is the way we finish as Christians—by faith from first to last.”

Obviously what he means by “staying” a Christian is by good works—in the very next statement he says, “So we continue in God’s goodness by trust.”  Trust for Wilson means works, since earlier he said, “as you received Christ so walk in him,” and walking in Christ is works.

And Wilson goes on to further teach a lifetime of works for salvation: “doing that to the end is how you come to your salvation.”  Note the emphasis on “doing” works to the end in order to (“come to”) be saved.

Wilson’s argument that salvation through faith alone is the faith “Devils have” is the kind of argument the Apostle Paul anticipates and rejects in the book of Romans:

“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:27-31)  (see also Romans 6:15-19)

A Christian thus is saved by grace through faith alone, “apart from works of the law.”

Wilson’s argument, that salvation through faith alone leads to a sinful lifestyle, Paul refutes by saying, “On the contrary, we uphold the law.”  Thus all those who truly come to Christ through faith alone naturally live in obedience to the law (albeit imperfectly)—they just don’t do so to earn their salvation (like Wilson).  Rather, they do so because they are saved.

(Posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) (see also Video Versions)

Related Links:

Is the Federal Vision Heresy?
Refutation of the Federal Vision on Galatians

Recommended resources exposing Wilson’s dangerous views:

1. Blog: God’s Hammer (several posts on Wilson can be found via a keyword search)

2. John M. Otis, Danger in the Camp: An Analysis and Refutation of the Heresies of the Federal Vision (Corpus Christi, TX: Triumphant Publications, 2005)

3. Guy Prentiss Waters,  The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2006)

4. John W. Robbins and Sean Gerety, Not Reformed At All: Medievalism in “Reformed” Churches (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004)
A response and refutation of Wilson’s Reformed is not Enough: Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant.

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Published in: on November 6, 2009 at 8:00 pm  Comments Off on Beware of Douglas Wilson: Part 2  
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