Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Federal Vision
was all a Big Joke!

 “It just got out of hand,” says Douglas Wilson

One of the most vigorous in-house controversies within the Reformed theological tradition has taken a bizarre turn.  Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, one of the forefathers (and we do mean fathers) of the Federal Vision, has revealed that it was all an elaborate prank, one which got seriously out of hand over the past decade. Rev. Wilson graciously agreed to an interview with Sergius Martin-George, the Steam Tunnels Editor in Charge of Editing Operations, via Skype™, from his home in Moscow, Idaho.

SERGIUS MARTIN-GEORGE: Douglas Wilson, thank you for joining us at The Steam Tunnel.

DOUG WILSON:  Serge, it’s my pleasure.  I really enjoy your blog.

SMG:  Really?  Because that’s high praise coming from someone who has written a book on satire.

DW: Well, you guys have done some really funny stuff.  Loved the pieces on Rick Warren, by the way. 

SMG:  Thanks.

DW:  Rick Warren reaches out to extraterrestrial aliens—I loved it.  And the Saddleback-haters conference!  Great stuff.

A treatise on Christian satire, Doug
Wilson's book, A Serrated Edge, is 
required reading at The Steam Tunnel
and is available at (link)
SMG: Well we definitely cop to taking a page or two out of your playbook, Doug.  And by that I mean A Serrated Edge, of course.  

DW:  Well thank you for mentioning that.  But you know my son Nate is the real satirist in the family.  Maybe you two should talk. 

SMG:  Maybe.  But for now, of course, we’re happy to have the elder Wilson all to ourselves.  And speaking of jokes, Doug, I mean….this one’s a whopper, isn’t it?  Federal Vision.  Who knew?

DW:  (laughs).  Well, yes.  Sometimes things just get out of hand.  But you know, G.K. Chesterton once pointed to the salutary effects that the great agnostics had on himthe effect being that of “arousing doubts deeper than their own.”  I like to think that promoting something like Federal Visionwhile being completely bogus, nonetheless had an “iron-sharpens-iron” effect on the Body of Christ.  Well, on the men, at least.

SMG:  Okay, fair enough.  But this was no flash in the pan, Doug.

DW: That’s right.  Ten years.

SMG:  And, I mean, you took a lot of heat for this.

DW:   I did.  Well you know, Ambrose Bierce said that a Christian is one who believes that the New Testament is “a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.”

SMG:  But 10 years?  Why did you wait so long?

DW:  Inertia, mostly.  You know, P.G.  Wodehouse said, “It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”

SMG:  So what convinced you to finally come clean?

DW:  It was a cartoon, actually.

SMG:  A cartoon brought you down?

DW:  Well I got “poped” in this one.

SMG:  You got “poped?”  That’s a verb? 

DW:   Yes.  In this case, it amounts to being placed in the same league as the pope.

SMG:  Fascinating.  But whose cartoon was it?  I mean, last I checked, your son Nate does children’s books, not cartoons.

The cartoon that made Doug Wilson
come clean on Federal Vision,
by James Lawson (link)
DW: No, it was a young guy named James Lawson at Reformation Cartoons.

SMG: And that’s all it took?  Must have been some cartoon!

DW: Well, he’s a talented guy.

SMG: Must be.

DW:  A picture may be worth a thousand wordsin this case, it may have been worth 10 years and hundreds of thousands of words.

SMG:  So what is your major take-away from this experience?

DW:  It certainly was an experience, Serge.  And C.S. Lewis once called it, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
SMG:  Hey was that a minced oath?

DW: Goodness, I don’t know how to answer that one.

SMG: Well, then, can we ask you about some other stuff?

DW:  Sure.  I’m an open book.

SMG:  No doubt a book published by Canon Press™.

DW: Touché.

SMG: You’ve got a big talk coming up in just a couple of days.

DW:  That’s right, on Friday I’m going to be speaking in Bloomington, Indiana, on God’s design for sexuality.

SMG:  Well sex and gender have been a major source of controversy for you over the years.

DW:  Yes.

SMG:  And by pointing this up I’m not claiming, like Darryl Hart and some of the critics of your friends, the Bayly Brothers, that you are obsessed with sex and that it’s the only thing you really care about, but…

DW:  Thank you.

SMG: …but you do seem awfully concerned with sex roles, and the “Creation order,” which some of your critics have claimed is basically just an all-purpose excuse for hegemonic patriarchal masculinity.

DW:  Those are big words, Serge.

SMG:  Well I’m sure you don’t need a glossary.

DW:  (laughs).  No.  No, I’ve come across those before.

SMG:  But there’s a series of blog posts you did a number of years ago that I found fascinating then and I still do, and I was hoping to use this interview as an opportunity to ask you about it.  

DW: Sure.

SMG: Okay, the blog post is  21 Questions for a Prospective Suitor, and we have a link to it that our readers can click on so they can read it for themselves.  

DW: As I hope they will. 

SMG:  This is a post you wrote to suggest questions for fathers to ask young men who are interested in courting their daughters, right?

DW: Right.  And I’m pleased to hear you use the term courting.   

SMG:  Got some pretty heavy-duty questions, here, Doug.  And we’re talking about questions for a kid who hasn’t even taken your daughter out on a date yet, let alone…

DW:  ….a date?

SMG:  Oh, right—that’s right.  Dating is a dirty word.  Not a big fan, myself, actually.  Okay, well, they haven’t even started “a-courtin’” and you’ve got the poor boy before a Grand Jury.

DW: Oh come on.

SMG:  Well, wait —listen to some of these questions:

“Describe your parents’ marriage for me. What are the most valuable lessons you have learned from your parents? [In cases of divorce, or other severe marriage problems] What did you learn from these problems? Have you learned what not to do? [In cases where dad wronged mom] What did you do to support and encourage your mother?”

“What is your relationship like with your dad? With your mom?”

“If I were given a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of a typical conversation that you might have with your mom, would you agree that this will likely be the way you will be treating my daughter ten years from now? Why or why not?”

DW: All right, so far so good.

SMG: Really? “What was your GPA in college?”  Are you kidding me?

DW: No, not at all.

SMG:  Actually, I kinda like that one, because it kind of gives us a nice break before getting back to questions like these:

“Do you have a problem with pornography?”

DW:  I would hope that any caring father with a backbone would ask that.

SMG:  Okay, fair enough.  Continuing:

“If you do, please describe the nature and extent of the problem.”

 “Is there anything in your sexual history that I need to know about?”

And then you list a series of items, which, you know, to me, seems reasonable.

DW: Thank you.

SMG: But then it gets even more interesting:

“Have you ever participated, whether experimentally or otherwise, in any sexual perversions? Homosexuality? Molestation of children? Bestiality?”

(pause, silence on Skype).

DW: Yes?

SMG:  (sarcastically) Hello?

DW: Sorry?

SMG: Is there a gas station between here and the end of these questions, cause I’m thinking, somebody’s gonna need a break.  Or this kid’s going to wet his pants.

DW:  I’m not sure what you mean by that.

SMG:  All right, we don’t have time to get into all the ins-and-outs of this whole courtship thing that you and the I-Kissed-Dating-Goodbye guy have been advocating.

DW: Josh Harris.

SMG:  Right, Josh Harris, thank you.   But all the problems of dating aside, you simply have to see that there are huge problems with this whole courtship thing and especially this ownership transfer model that you emphasize in your book.

Her Hand in Marriage, avail-
 able at (link)
DW: Such as?

SMG:  Let’s say you have one of these Mark Driscoll types….

DW: (chuckles) What do you mean by that?

SMG:  Oh let’s just say someone with a “robust interest” in micromanaging his wife’s sexual performance.

DW: Ouch!  Not sure that’s fair.

SMG:  And he comes to you after the marriage to express his disappointment in the progress of the couple’s, uh, intimate experience.

DW: Oh come on.

SMG:  Come on why?

DW: This is totally out there.  Inappropriate.

SMG:  But why is it inappropriate?   Is sex inappropriate?

DW: No, of course not.

SMG:  And talking about it can’t be inappropriate, right?  I mean,  you’re the one who brings it up in the first place, right?  I mean, on behalf of “the father,” you bring it up.  So, if you open the door….

DW: ...Well, no but that’s between the couple.

SMG:  Is it?  Is it really? Because during your 21-question interrogation it sure came up and it wasn’t between the couple then, was it?  Then Daddy sure was involved.

DW: But that doesn’t make what you’re talking about appropriate.

SMG:  Really? Why not?

DW: Because it doesn’t.  That’s totally different.

SMG:  Oh I see so it was all right for Dad to be involved then, but not now, right?

DW: Exactly.

SMG:  So he has all the power and none of the responsibility, then.

DW: I don’t follow.

SMG:  Well, you’re a civics-minded guy, Doug, right?  I mean, that must be a big part of your classical education curriculum at the New St. Andrews College, right?

DW: Yes, so?

SMG:  Well remember in Civics class how the “price of power is responsibility?”

DW: Yes.

SMG:  So how is it all right for the father to have all that power but none of the responsibility?

DW: Because that’s not how it is.  This is not a level playing field situation.  And besides, I fail to see what this has to do with the father after the marriage takes place.

SMG:  Exactly.

DW: Beg your pardon?

SMG:  You don’t see.

DW: Don’t see what?

SMG:  What that has to do with the father.

DW: Right.

SMG:  And that’s the problem, Doug. 

DW: I hope you’re not going where I think you’re going with this. 

SMG: Well, I’m not an attorney, mind you, but you have to admit, you open yourself up to these kinds of questions and concerns when you post this kind of stuff.

DW: Hey, I thought we were going to talk about Federal Vision!  This is totally off the rails.

SMG:  Oh, come on, Doug, it’s not like I tried to railroad you into talking about slavery or something.

DW: That would have been easier.  Look, what’s your point? 

SMG:  My point is that this courtship arrangement and ownership-transfer deal you are advocating may seem like an upgrade from dating in a lot of ways, but it’s hardly complication-free.  And you seem to want to invest certain parties with almost all the power and almost none of the responsibility if things don’t go right, which—I’ve got a news bulletin for you, Doug—they often do not. 

(Pause. No response).

SMG:  Do you see my point?

DW:  I think I see your point.  But I’m reasonably sure I don’t agree with it.

SMG:  Fair enough.  Want to talk about something else?

DW:  Sure.  What did you have in mind?

SMG:  Your novel.

DW:  Uh-oh.

SMG:  Loved it.

DW:  Really? 

SMG:  I thought it was terrific.  Mind you, I’m not ready to hand you the Pulitzer for this, but it is some sorely-needed, good, Christian fiction that made me laugh many, many times.

DW: Thanks.

SMG: By the way, we’re talking about
Evangellyfish, Doug’s recently published novel—available on, including in Kindle form, which, I believe is at a discounted priced of $3.99 for the time being, by the way.

DW: Well, thanks.  Though I’ve got to admit, Nate’s the real fiction writer in our family.  Did you see the reviews he got for Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl?

SMG:  Yes, I’m one of your Facebook friends, in fact, so, yes, I saw them when you posted them.  Every one, in fact.  Every.  Single.  Time.

DW:  Great.  So you know he’ll also be joining us at our September conference, right? 

SMG:  I do now.   Okay, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about the conference.  Grace Agenda 2012, right?

DW:  Right.

SMG:  So what’s it all about?

DW:  Well, it’s a funny story how we came up with the idea for this conference.  You know, Ambrose Bierce once said that “a Christian is one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.”

SMG:  Yes, I’m aware of that, Doug.  In fact, you’ve already used that quote earlier in the interview.

DW:  Just once?


  1. Didn't see the disclaimer until now... Thought this article was real... Didn't think I needed to wade through Wilson's sexuality... God knows. God will avenge. You should have let me know Sergius! I appeal to the Court of Heaven!

    James M. Lawson

  2. See UPDATE on Doug Wilson and Cartoon:

    James M. Lawson
    Philippians 3:8
    (317) 430-5704

  3. Doug! Call me!
    James M. Lawson

  4. Hi

    Tks very much for post:

    I like it and hope that you continue posting.

    Let me show other source that may be good for community.

    Source: Pilot interview questions

    Best rgs

  5. We orthodox Lutherans are THRILLED to see the rise of the "Federal Vision" in Reformed circles. However, we Lutherans have another term for it: Lutheranism!

    God be praised that the Reformed are coming back to accepting "Repent and be baptized...for the forgiveness of sins" as EXACTLY what God meant and not a mistranslation by Catholic/Anglican/Lutheran translators.

    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

  6. Still wish this article were true!
    See my LATEST toons on Doug Wilson!

  7. Like I've always said...,
    All "Roman Carholics in Reformed clothing!"