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Volume 14, Issue 3: Anvil

Son of Fort Sumpter

Douglas Wilson

By now it is no secret that the RPCUS has declared Steve Schlissel, Steve Wilkins, John Barach, and me to be heretics. This was done on the basis of conclusions drawn from the tapes of the pastor's conference sponsored by Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, pastored by Steve Wilkins. No single issue in this collective charge is very complicated, but, taken all together, things get significantly tangled. This is because this was a heresy trial on the cheap—it was a veritable boardside of charges, with no apparent need to contact us to get any clarification, no need to document the charges with quotations, no need to distinguish four men with different emphases, and so forth. Simple issues collectively can still make a big mess.

The sessions of the four churches pastored by these men have formally responded and it is not my purpose to go over that ground again. And with regard to the exegetical spade work on the doctrinal disagreements involved, we intend to address the question thoroughly in different ways.
At the same time, an initial response here is necessary, a response which seeks to name this imbroglio appropriately. Apart from the specific charges, what exactly is going on here? What worldviews are colliding? This might seem like a nonsensical question to some—"what do you mean worldviews?" Both sides of this dispute hold to some variation of postmillennial, Calvinistic, presbyterian, VanTilian, theonomic, and reformed thought, with additional areas of agreement standing off to the side. I bet none of us voted for Clinton. How could there possibly be enough material left over for a fracas?
The answer is found in a contrast we have used many times in these pages—medieval vs. modern. We believe ourselves to be in the process of recovering what our fathers taught from the Reformation down to the Enlightenment, that is, a reformed and medieval mindset. We believe our opponents to be sincere and honest Christians, but men who have erroneously made a bad truce with modernity, and who have accomodated their theology to the dictates of the Enlightenment. This is why we have been laid on the Procrustean bed of a particular understanding of systematic theology, and have had our heretical feet cut off. The irony is that the standards used to judge us (in this case, Westminster) were written with the mindset we are returning to, and which are drastically misunderstood by the mindset we are rejecting. More on this later.
So the dispute is not imaginary—there are real and important differences between us. We do not believe the differences to constitute heresy—any of the men who have taken this action against us would be welcome to worship at any of our churches and commune with us in the Lord's Supper there. Nevertheless, the differences are real and deep.
So names? If it were up to me, I would suggest this is a debate between the Enlightenment TRs (ETRs), and the historic reformed.

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