Listening to this critique of Roman Catholicism is like listening to a critique of Wilson’s Federal Vision theology. Like Romanism, the Federal Vision teaches initial salvation by water baptism and final salvation by a lifetime of works.
One way Douglas Wilson attempts to escape the charge that he teaches salvation by works is to redefine the meaning of “works.”
In a blog posting, Wilson, after quoting one of his critics, writes:
“But here are some terms that one ought not be allowed to interchange as though they were synonyms — obedience and works. Not one of us believes that the WCF was wrong to say that Adam had to obey. He disobeyed, and here we are in a sinful world.
“Had he obeyed, we would not have been. We all hold to the necessity of that obedience, as the Confession says. So when we deny that the gift was conditioned upon Adam’s “moral exertions or achievements,” we are denying the idea of autonomy. We are not denying the idea of trusting obedience, upon which continued bliss absolutely depended.”
Douglas Wilson, “Obedience and Life.”
In the comments section of this post, Wilson similarly writes:
“We distinguish between obedience and works because Paul does. In the Pauline vocabulary, deeds without faith is works. Deeds done in faith is obedience.”
So for Wilson, obedience and works are two separate things.
But the Bible makes no such distinctions:
“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19)
“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name …” (Philippians 2:8-9)
(special thanks to “rgmann”)
Between these passages it is clear that “works” and “obedience” are one and the same. Christ came to do works for God the Father, that is, to obey Him.
Thus there is no distinction—to obey God’s commands is to do God’s commands, and to do God’s commands is works by the very nature of the case.
Wilson nowhere demonstrates that works and obedience are different—he merely asserts this to be the case. In fact, when Sean Gerety challenged Wilson on the comments section of Wilson’s post to prove the Apostle Paul makes a distinction between works and obedience, Wilson was nowhere to be found.
(Of course, Wilson’s argument that obedience and works differ is also absurd, for if works are not obedient, then they are disobedient. Thus works would mean to disobey God’s law.)
What Wilson is simply doing is giving himself cover for teaching salvation by works by calling works “obedience” (as opposed to works) whenever it suits him.
But there is also a blasphemous implication of Wilson’s theology.
This is not to say that Wilson intends this to be the case, but nevertheless, since the implication of Wilson’s theology is that works are disobedient, then Wilson’s theology says Christ was disobedient to God the Father, since Christ, as we have shown, performed works. But saying Christ was disobedient to the Father is blasphemous.
(For another critique of Wilson’s attempt to redefine works, see “Hunting Wolves” by Sean Gerety.)
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.