Posted by: mattcolvin | August 20, 2011

Doug Wilson and I

Over the course of several years, I’ve damaged my public relationship with Doug Wilson by my own sins of the tongue. I have made certain criticisms of his views and writings, most of which I still believe to be valid. But the manner in which I have written and delivered those criticisms has not been loving or respectful.

Specifically, I have imputed motives to Doug — accusing him of teaching and writing things for ignoble reasons that I really didn’t have any way to know. This was is a form of slander. I spoke with him this morning on the telephone, and asked his forgiveness for that, and for harboring resentment against him.

I think this is also the place to make a clarification and retraction. In the course of our discussion of paedocommunion, I said that Doug was reasoning in a “semi-Marcionite” manner, and that his view was “gnostic.” These two labels were rather inflammatory, and I think I was all too happy to let them start fires.

The “semi-Marcionite” label is one I took from Peter Leithart’s dissertation, The Priesthood of the Plebs. Leithart uses it to denote the methodological mistake of thinking that we cannot look to the Old Testament’s rituals to learn about the mechanics of the New Testament’s rituals. Leithart says that Luther, Calvin, and the entire Reformed tradition are all semi-Marcionite in their way of thinking about the sacraments. So it is a widespread error, but in Leithart’s usage, a very narrowly defined one. I still believe that Doug Wilson is making this mistake, but he certainly does not reject the authority of the Old Testament. My choice of label was an inflammatory one, and the criticism would have been better made without the label.

The gnostic label was a similarly poor choice. I used it to denote the idea that men are saved by thinking, rather than by covenantal union with Christ. Again, I believe that the amount of attention that Wilson thinks is necessary to profitably receive the Lord’s Supper is basically a low-grade requirement of thinking. But he has clarified that he is not a “cognitivist”, and that the attention he wants children to pay is only an enabling condition, not an efficient one. At any rate, the discussion was not helped by my use of the “gnostic” label. It served only to increase heat and tension, and I didn’t use it out of love for Doug, but in an attempt to make my criticism more “damaging.”

Thank you, Pastor Wilson, for being a gracious gentleman, and for forgiving me and praying with me.



  1. What a refreshing blog post to read, Matt. I hardly know what to do with it. This kind of post is so rarely found on blogs. Disagreement over at least some things is unavoidable, and one would think–since the advent of the blogosphere–that the only kind of disagreement that is possible involved name calling, uncharitable attribution of motives, and most of all determining to dig in and never back down, apologize, or retract. Thank you (and Doug) for handling your disagreements (which still exist) in a more mature fashion, for being humble enough to admit that you’ve not always handled them so, and for talking about it and not just firing blog posts back and forth at one another. Finally, I appreciate you making public the way that you handled this, and therefore modeling better behavior for the rest of us to aspire to. (By the way, I was completely unaware of these particular disagreements between the two of you and the way that you had handles them…so I wasn’t “aching” for these things to be resolved, just impressed and pleased to hear of your agreeable disagreement).

  2. Matt- I am very gratified to read this. Very pleased. Very thankful. Very proud of you.

  3. Matt, thanks very much for the call, and for this. May God bless you and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you.

  4. Matt,

    I often get into arguments with some of my “friends” on FB – usually non-christians. Your words here are a healthy reminder to always remember gentleness and wisdom, and not rely on distortions or label throwing. You and Doug continue to give me hope that our Lord is light; His word is clear, and it is He who opens the eyes of the blind. Also, behold how good and our pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity – not always agreeing in the details – but striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Blessings to both of you.

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