Poster Boy for Apostasy – Part One

pope wilson

Working his way slowing through Doug Wilson’s systematic attack on the Christian faith in Reformed is Not Enough, Lane Keister now tackles the question of apostasy.

Pastor Keister asserts — as one would think any Protestant would — that a “church that gets justification wrong is apostate, not merely corrupt.” When thinking of a church that gets the doctrine of justification wrong, there are few that more consistently meets that standard than the Roman church-state. Of course, the major teachings of Rome on justification come to us from Council of Trent, so just to make sure we’re all on the same page here are just a few typical statements from their official teachings concerning justification:

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXI.-If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Those are just a handful, but anyone can pick and choose since there are many more. The Roman church-state has a lot to say about justification and none of it good. While the above are some of Rome’s negative teachings on justification explaining what justification is not, The Second Edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us positively what justification is and that “Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man.” Beyond that, Catechism paragraph 1266 states Rome’s position that very much mirrors the position of the Federal Visionist:

The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
– enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
– giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
– allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism

So, is the Roman state-church apostate? Are these some of the markings of a fallen church by Luther’s measure that justification is the article by which the church stands or falls?

Not according to Wilson. In his reply to Pastor Keister, Saving Faith Shivers at the Spectacle , Wilson tells us that on the doctrine of justification there are really three states of being, standing, falling and fallen. Wilson explains “falling is not the same as fallen” and that by Luther’s and Lane’s “Protestantism 101″ standard not only is Rome not apostate, but, if it were, this dividing line “also cleans out a good portion of the Protestant evangelical world as well,” something Wilson hopes none of his readers can fathom.

All right, so a good portion of the ersatz-evangelical world is apostate and for the same reason Rome is apostate. Would anyone other than Doug Wilson and his FV friends deny this? All one has to do is turn on the TV to see one apostate ersatz-evangelical church after another selling everything from prayer cloths, to the power of positive thinking, to the chance to receive a special anointing for the low, low introductory price of whatever amount the “holy spirit” happed to “lay” on some charlatan’s heart. Beyond that, has Wilson forgotten Machen’s classic, Christianity and Liberalism, where he clearly demonstrates that Liberalism is another religion, just not Christian? I’m quite sure he’s never even read Paul Elliot’s refutation of Wilson’s own religion in Christianity and Neo-Liberalism, but the fact that many churches and entire denominations are apostate, even those calling themselves “Protestant” or even “Reformed” should surprise no one.

While Wilson gets mired in another one of his tiresome and misleading analogies, he remains undeterred, his point is; “we are saved by grace through faith, and not through a [correct] understanding of grace through faith.” Wilson’s point is clear and that a church can teach a completely errant and false understanding of salvation by grace through faith (e.g., Romanism) and yet still be a true Christian church. How is this possible? Wilson explains:

We are not saved by works, and this includes our intellectual and doctrinal works. There are people who would do poorly on the “justification by faith alone” portion of their theology exam who are nonetheless saved people. And there are people who would ace that section who are damned. We are not saved by works.

First, notice that Wilson denies salvation by belief alone, since belief in the gospel message is a purely intellectual act which Wilson identifies with “works.” Of course, in Wilson’s theology this makes sense, because, and for those uninitiated, Wilson maintains that believing is doing, so that by this definition, there really is no such thing as “belief alone.”

Second, notice too that he confuses organizations with individuals who “would do poorly on the ‘justification by faith alone’ portion of their theology exam who are nonetheless saved people.”

Did everyone notice Wilson’s slight of hand? Does anyone really deny that there might be some, even members of the apostate Roman church-state, who actually come to saving faith in the Christ of Scripture and His gospel even in spite of the best efforts of their pope and his prelates? How does this alter what Rome teaches concerning justification? Well, it doesn’t change a thing, but Wilson’s point is clear, Rome is a “falling” and not a “fallen” church.

Yet, in his typical confused and paradoxical fashion, Wilson asserts:

This is not to dispute Luther’s dictum that justification is the article of a standing or falling church. I do believe that.

Just in case you missed it, Wilson’s clear and systematic denial of Luther’s dictum really means he believes it. Huh? It’s a good thing for Wilson people really eat up that “yes and no” theological nonsense he keeps dishing out. It’s a sign of true Christian piety don’t you know.

Next, I plan on exploring Wilson’s failure to understand Jesus’ lesson concerning the metaphor of the vine and the branches.

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One Comment on “Poster Boy for Apostasy – Part One”

  1. kjsulli Says:

    By Pr. Wilson’s definition of “falling,” though, he isn’t disputing Luther’s dictum.

    Like so many these days, he has far too much enjoyment in defining things according to his own personal tastes.


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