Fifteen Differences between Evangelical and Wilsonian Christianity


In a recent post
(May, 2005) on the Moscow, Idaho list-serve "Vision 2020," a
could not find
any differences between conservative evangelical Christians (CECs) and Doug
Wilson, so he wonders why we single out Wilson and not the others.  In response
I have listed 15 ways that they differ.

having the courtesy to tell me, Wilson did respond on May, 30 on his own blog. 
I have now added his response and my rejoinders on July 25.  Next time,
Doug, please do the right thing and send me a carbon copy.  I had to
autoerotically google myself in order to find your response.  Come to think
of it, blogging without telling your personal targets is a rather blatant form
of autoeroticism.

Note: I draw the following from my evangelical friends and acquaintances as well
as my in depth study of them in my book God, Reason, and the Evangelicals
In the early 1980s when I started my research for this book, I had a rather
monolithic view of CECs, but I was pleasantly surprised at their great
diversity.  The freedom from denominational ties has liberated some of
these thinkers from traditional Christian doctrine, particularly in the area of
divine power and divine foreknowledge.  I also discovered that a strong
minority of them have rejected "detailed inerrancy," a view that leads Wilson to
a form of ethical relativism that holds that slavery is OK if the slaves have
Christian masters, and that any act is right as long as Wilson’s God commands
you to do it. See #5 for details.

Note #2
In a recent post on his blog Wilson defended a position that he called "biblical
absolutism," which I will now consider to be synonymous with Wilsonian
Christianity.  The luxury of biblical absolutism, as Wilson sees it, is
that he does not have to apologize for anything in the Bible, and he is free
from the tedious task of checking every new archeological or historical fact
against the biblical text.  Wilson assumes a priori that nothing can
compete with the truth of the Bible; and nothing, presumably hard facts of the
tomb and corpse of Jesus, could ever contradict it.

Note #3:  In his eagerness to defend himself, alert readers will notice
that Wilson does not answer the main point of my exercise: to wit, to show that
he differs from most CEC thinkers.  By defending his own views, he
reconfirms my original thesis.

Note #4: Wilson suggests that I am out to settle a "personal score." 
This is news to me.  One of my jobs, and it will continue until I die, is
to protect the Academy from its detractors and its fraudulent imitators. 
That is a professional, not a personal, duty.  I find Wilson to be a very
charming person, and I enjoyed him very much as one of my students.  It is
just a great shame that he has not used his philosophy degree very responsibly. 
For more on my personal history with Wilson click here.

1.  No CEC minister I know has declared that he heads up a �New Reformation.� 
Read for yourself the arrogant and self-aggrandizing statements at

or read Wilson’s Reformed is Not Enough (Canon Press, 2002).

DW: Turns out, neither have
I. I don’t think that I head up a New Reformation. But I do think that we can
all learn from and apply in the microcosm what great Reformers have done with
ages and continents. Learning and applying at your own level is what every
Christian is called to do. And as it happens, my level is a small university
town in northern Idaho.

NG: In his early days Wilson called
himself a "New Testament" Christian, following the religion of "historic"
Christianity.  I was surprised to learn that at some point (late 80s?) he
became a conservative Presbyterian.  I listened to a tape of a debate 
that he had with a minister from Grangeville.  Wilson spoke for the
affirmative on the question of "Is Calvinism Biblical?" and I believe that the
bright guy from Central Idaho soundly defeated Wilson.  He was especially
effective in demonstrating that the God of the Bible does not foreclose the
future by damning people before the creation of the world before they have a
chance to act on their own. After reading Reformed Is Not Enough and
after my debate on the Trinity with Doug Jones, Wilson’s right hand man, I’m not
sure he’s a Calvinist at all.  (See this link for
the debate and this link for my
questions about Calvinism.) Jones’ view of the Trinity appears to be Eastern
Orthodox and many conservative Presbyterians are now asking for Wilson’s
excommunication.  Wilson appears to be as free and easy with his theology
as some Unitarians I know.

2.  No CEC pastor I know would
sanction an April Fool�s stunt, complete with stealing UI letterhead and using
some else�s FAX line, to announce an alleged UI sponsored lecture entitled
�Topless and Proud.�  He tells us how proud he was of his son-in-law�s actions:

�By the time you receive this, our local police will probably have forgotten all
about it, so a little bragging is now safe, and perhaps it is even in order. But
first some background. Our local city council, through a series of ridiculous
circumstances, decided to quit restricting female toplessness. The noble senior
editor of this journal [Wilson�s son-in-law], encouraged by some winks and
nudges from me, not that he needed any, made up a flyer which announced a
topless and proud lecture series by topless feminist scholars.�  See the full
text at
and the police report at
at the bottom of the page.

DW: Gier takes umbrage at my
sanctioning of an April’s Fool’s joke of some years ago, in which flyers were
distributed all over the UI campus, announcing a series of lectures by top
feminist scholars. In the advertisment, the top feminist scholars were to
deliver said lectures while topless, making them top topless scholars. The
lectures were on things like "breasts as embodied intuitions," and other such
post modern hoohah. Anyhow, because these are difficult times to be a satirist
in, a bunch of people thought the lectures were for real, and it caused quite a
commotion for a day. Gier is quite right that I thought it was a hoot, and even
aided and abetted somewhat. But he is wrong that the main perpetrator was my
son-in-law. The senior editor of Credenda at the time was Doug Jones, and
he was the evil genius behind the real time reductio.

NG: Wilson condemns himself out of
his own mouth.  I repeat my original claim: no self-respecting CEC minister
would sanction such an act against the major university in her town.  Doug:
that was university letterhead that Jones used and a departmental FAX machine!

3.  While most CEC ministers believe that homosexuality is a sin, very few join
Wilson & Co. in calling for their execution.  The Daily News caught
Wilson in a generous moment when he admitted that the Bible would also sanction
exile rather than death. Wilson repeated this clarification
in the Idaho Statesman (10-12-03).
Two articles
written by Greg Dickison
in Wilson�s Credenda Agenda (vol.
3: nos. 9, 11) supported capital punishment for �kidnapping, sorcery,
bestiality, adultery, homosexuality, and cursing one’s parents.�
In a debate with Wilson on January 31, 2007, I asked if
Wilson rejects the contents of Dickison’s articles, but he declined to answer,
which I’m taking as consent.

DW: Gier maintains that I
support capital punishment for any number of things, including bestiality,
adultery, cursing one’s parents, and homosexuality. The fundamental mistake that
Gier makes here is in failing to distinguish a refusal to apologize for those
things being capital offenses in the Bible, and wanting to impose such
legislation now in the modern world, across the board. I will not do the former,
and I don’t want to do the latter. Because those things are in the Scriptures,
and because we are called to be biblical absolutists, there is clearly no
inherent injustice in such sanctions. At the same time, Christ came to save
sinners from their sins, and from the consequences of their sins. This includes
the sin of homosexuality, and the consequences of homosexuality. Christ is the
Savior of the world; He came to bring mercy to the world. As a minister of this
gospel, I preach forgiveness of sins, including homosexual sins, and invite
everyone to come to the mercies of God in Christ. I do not want to send
homosexuals to their deaths. I want them to turn from their sins, turn from
death, and come to Jesus Christ. But does their sin deserve death? You
bet. But so do my sins deserve death. The prophet Ezekiel put it well —
the soul that sins shall die. There are no exceptions to this reality, for all
have sinned, and Christ is the only Savior.

NG: Presumably with the sanction of
Wilson himself, Greg Dickison (
vol. 3: nos. 9, 11) states that "if we
could have it our way
(my emphasis), then there
would be capital punishment for �kidnapping, sorcery, bestiality, adultery,
homosexuality, and cursing one’s parents.�  Dickison also quotes biblical
passages (without qualification) that support slavery as "ordained and regulated
by God," death for apostasy (Deut. 13.6-9), and cutting off a woman�s hand for
touching a strange man’s genitals (Deut. 25.11,12). 
When Christianity rules Moscow, the USA, or the world, then these will be the
laws.  Furthermore, if Wilson’s sins are equal to the homosexuals’, why
then are they the only ones who are denied basic civil rights?  Wilson can
change his arrogance and intolerance, but gays and lesbians cannot change their
God-given attraction to the ones they love.  It is execution or banishment
for them only that Wilson recommended.

4.  Very few CEC pastors lead their congregations in imprecatory prayers against
their enemies.  According to a former church member, Wilson�s favorite seems to
be �Break their teeth, O God, in their mouths� (Ps. 58.6). 

DW: Of course, this is what
is involved in psalm singing. It is not possible to sing psalms without noticing
that the psalmist had enemies, just like we do. And so we do sing, and pray, in
an imprecatory way. We also sing and pray in line with the instructions of the
rest of Scripture, which includes the injunction to love our enemies.
This is harmonized by asking God to destroy our enemies, and our first request
is that He would destroy them as enemies by turning their hearts, and
making them our friends. But if that is not His pleasure, we still ask God to
deal with His enemies according to His Word, and the lies that they tell.

NG:  Come on, Doug, you can’t
be serious!  Millions of Christians sing the psalms without a single hint
of cursing their enemies. (Literal interpretation of scripture once again runs
amok!) My Unitarian choir sings sacred lyrics all the time, knowing full well
that we are engaged in an aesthetic exercise, not a theological one.  I
don’t know how many Christians have told me that they go to church to sing and
socialize not accept dogma.

5.  Most CEC theologians, such as Stephen Davis, consistently reinterpret
biblical passages that impugn Yahweh�s moral integrity, but Wilson revels in
pronouncing that every immoral act seemingly committed by Yahweh was indeed
committed by him.  Commenting on the stories of Abraham and Job, Douglas Jones,
Wilson�s right hand man, actually admits that God is "morally insane" and
"dangerous and unpredictable" ("Playing with Knives: God the Dangerous,"
Credenda Agenda
In his book Debate about the Bible, Davis wisely argues that it was
sinful Israelites, not God, who carried out the genocide of the Canaanite


Gier objects that I do not explain away the passages that teach that God
commanded the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites. He refers me to the high
example of Stephen Davis, who says that it was the sinful Israelites, not God,
who carried out the genocide of the Canaanite people. The problem is that the
Bible says that God commanded it, and a problem related to this first
problem is that I know how to read.

NG: Yes, I know
that you can read.  (We would have not have accepted you into our graduate
program if you could not.) It is the way you read the Bible that is the problem.
If given enough time to reflect on the implications, I’m certain that most
evangelicals would side with Stephen Davis on this important point. Wilson’s
concession that God commands genocide undermines the moral foundations of
Christianity, and makes it impossible for Wilson to condemn any action as

6. No CEC minister that I know has paid the gambling debts of errant college
students out of church funds.  Even though the IRS requires that a 1099 be filed
for any payment over $600, no such document exists for this $1,000 transaction. 
For the entire story, as yet to be covered by the local press and complete with
letters, e-mails, affidavits, tape recordings, see

DW: Gier objects to the fact
that I paid the gambling debts of errant college students out of church funds.
Except that I didn’t.

NG: Is Wilson now telling us that he
paid these debts out of his own pocket?  That is not how anyone privy to
this scandal understands it.  People can read all the documents at
to judge this piece of historical revisionism, at which Wilson is getting very

7. Very few CEC ministers who run their own schools would openly deny that they
have these schools, but Wilson, who accredits 157 schools, regularly speaks at
their commencements, and requires that they read his textbook on Christian
schools and buy his books, said the following:

�Do your schools support neo-Confederate and Christian nationalist views? Yes or
ICKY VIEWS. NEVER HEARD OF ‘EM.�  Wilson�s full caps in his reply to my
questions, posted on Vision2020 on December 9, 2003 at

One of Wilson�s Moscow graduates is principal of Carey (NC) Christian School and
he was forced to withdraw Wilson�s booklet Southern Slavery as it Was,
whose co-author is a founding director of the neo-Confederate League of the
South.  For more see

DW: Though I am on the board
of ACCS (Association of Classical and Christian Schools) I am an ex officio
member, meaning that I don’t have a vote. There are about ten other members
of the board who do vote. I have not been on any accreditation visits. Gier
knows not whereof he speaks.

NG: John Calvin was not a citizen of
Geneva and could not vote, but he was the absolute authority and all things
moral and theological.  The Provost of the University of Idaho is an ex
member of the Faculty Council and because of that Council members
rarely ever vote against the administration.  Defending Wilson on this
point, Dale Courtney states on his blog that these schools are not required to
read or assign Wilson’s writings.  But the Cary Christian School Board
have read, and be able to articulate the key concepts and principles of
Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson,
Crossway Books."  I would like the
e-mail addresses of all the other schools so that I can check to see if this is
really the only Wilson school that makes this requirement. It’s too bad that I
can’t trust Wilson if he says that it is.

8.  Not many CEC churches, even in the South, support neo-Confederate views, but
one of Wilson�s best friends Steve Wilkins is a founding director of the
neo-Confederate League of the South (LOS).  The LOS has been declared a hate
group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the LOS is taking more control of
the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who just elected Kirk Lyons to its national
executive board.  An outspoken racist, Lyons was married by neo-Nazi Richard
Butler in 1990, when Butler still had his compound in Hayden Lake. 

Neo-Confederate, etc. But Gier has an interesting way to finally
nail me on this one. One of my best friends is Steve Wilkins (true). Steve is a
director of the League of the South (was true). The LOS has been infiltrating
the Sons of Confederate Veterans (I dunno). The SCV just elected Kirk Lyons to
its national executive board (did they?). Lyons is an outspoken racist and was
married by Richard Butler of the Aryan Nation in 1990 (whoa). And Richard Butler
was once involved in a love triangle with Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lopez. Okay,
I made up the last one.

NG:  Again Wilson does a clever
dance around this one.  If Wilson is not a neo-Confederate, why is it that
it is Lee’s birthday, not Washington’s or Lincoln’s, that is celebrated in Logos
School?  Why is it that Lee portrait is proudly displayed in classrooms and
the Confederate flag displayed at social functions?  Why is it that a
conservative Presbyterian minister wrote to the Moscow Pullman Daily News
that he saw a Confederate flag in Wilson’s office, along with other Civil War
memorabilia?  And why is it that Wilson wrote an editorial for Credenda
supporting the general idea of seccession?

Why is it that Christ Church member and Moscow Chamber of Commerce executive
Paul Kimmell featured Lee in a leadership conference that he held for the
Chamber?  In his PowerPoint presentation he had the
audacity to show the Confederate flag and Old Glory side by side as if they
should be given equal value.

attended the Fourth Southern Heritage Conference and has written four articles
for the neo-Confederate journal Chronicles, whose editors have boasted
that they are all members of the League of the South.

 The last article appeared together with an ad
announcing a conference in which Lincoln would be condemned and the right of
secession would be defended.  The ad also contained a false parallel
between states leaving a crumbling Soviet Union and rebel states leaving a solid
Union. Finally, Wilson is contributing editor for The War Between the
States: America’s Uncivil War
(Bluebonnet Press, 2005),
John J. Dwyer, general editor. 
Historian Ed Sebesta claims that
"this book seems to incorporate every
‘Lost Cause’ and modern Neo-Confederate idea." In their
book Angels in the Architecture Wilson and his co-author Douglas Jones
describes the Antebellum South as "the last nation of the first Christendom,"
and they predict that by God’s will "the South will rise again" (pp. 203, 205).

With regard to Steven Wilkins, he was a
founding director of the League of the South, but when we made it an issue in
the Wilson Saga, he became a consultant to the Board of Directors, and when we
continued to make that an issue, he is now an Affliated Scholar.  Even if
he disappears from their website, he is still connected to a Southern hate group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (I dismiss Wilson’s slurs in this direction) has
documented the League of the South’s attempt to take over the Sons of
Confederate Veterans and this has now been confirmed by the Associated Press.  Yes, Kirk Lyons was elected to the latter’s
executive board and yes he was married by Richard Butler.

In an article in the Spokesman Review (Oct. 22, 2006), Wilson confessed that he was a

"Paleo-Confederate," just after NSA President Roy Atwood said that any connection between

NSA and the neo-Confederates was "laughably stupid."  The distinction Wilson tries to draw

between neo- and paleo-confederate is one without a difference. Steve Wilkins, Founding

Director of the neo-Confederate League of the South, has been keynote speaker at Wilson’s

Moscow conferences for 12 years in a row. Wilson also admitted that Robert E. Lee’s portrait

and the Confederate flag have been displayed in church and school functions, in spite of

Logos principal Tom Garfield’s claims to the contrary.

9. Most CEC ministers would support the international genocide treaty, but not
Wilson. �Do you support the international conventions against genocide? Yes or
Notice Wilson�s flip style in this exchange: This is typical of the way he
debates.  As I liked to say: those who live by the flip will die by the flip.

He draws this conclusion from the fact that in a previous
exchange, when he asked if I supported international conventions against
genocide — "Yes or no?" — I replied with a question of my own. "This isn’t a
pro-life trick question, is it? It is? Then no." Gier does not like my "flip"
style. And I don’t like it when pro-abortionists like Gier posture as though
they were against genocide.

NG:  When I asked him those 12
questions back in December, 2003, I expected serious answers. But Wilson cannot
restrain himself, and I told him then that I would take him at his word, even
his famous Flip Wilson word.  But wait, Wilson has answered seriously: God
commanded genocide so it must be right (not wrong).

By the way, it is a
recent development in Protestant and Catholic Christianity to claim that the
fetus is a person from conception on, and since 91 percent of abortion occur
during the first trimester no act of murder has occurred.

10.  All but a few CEC pastors would defer to CEC scholars in their
congregations, but not Wilson. When Tracie McKenzie, a University of Washington
civil war expert and a member of the Seattle Christ Church, dared to object to
the errors in the slavery booklet, Wilson rejected his advice to withdraw the

DW: Gier objects to the fact
that I differed on a question of history with a history professor within my own
denomination. And I did do this, I acknowledge it. But lest there be no
accountability at all, I submitted the manuscript of my forthcoming book on this
vexed historical question to one of the top historians in the country, and he
gave the book the mother of all blurbs. I hope Gier will approve of this as a

NG:  One of my prized pieces of
correspondence is from F. F. Bruce, a CEC Bible scholar, who admitted that a
prominent British historian destroyed his credibility by supporting the
historicity of Luke census.  (Yet another top CEC who has the intellectual
integrity to reject "detailed inerrancy.") In a similar way, I believe that
Prof. Genovesse will live to regret writing a blurb for Wilson’s re-write of the
slavery booklet. (Perhaps he thought that his professional colleagues will not
be reading titles from Wilson’s home grown press.) The Southern Poverty Law
Center has noted the good professor’s growing affiliation with the neo-Confederates. 
We should all admire Prof. Tracie McKenzie for standing up to Moscow’s John
Calvin and having the courage to call him an intellectual fraud.

 Incidentally, the charges of plagiarism in the first
edition still stand, and the authors who were copied (20 percent of the booklet)
reject outright the thesis that is presented without shame in Wilson’s second
edition.  We are confident that all professional historians will follow

11. Very few CECs would support Wilson�s practice of infant baptism, an act that
makes them, according to Wilson, Christians in more than just a nominal way. How
much more nominal this state of grace is, is hard to determine in Wilson�s
writings. Personally, I believe Wilson has switched from adult baptism so that
he has more control over these children and their parents.

Most CECs do not support infant baptism, and I do.
Further, Gier thinks he knows why I support infant baptism. This
particular ecclesiastical practice gives me "more control over these children
and their parents." Jeepers. I don’t know where to start a reasonable response
to this line of attack, so I will just move on before Gier accuses me of spiking
the communion wine with arsenic and laughing bwaa ha ha ha during the

NG: Please note that Wilson confirms
my thesis that he differs significantly from most other CECs.  Both Luther
and Calvin joined Catholics in liquidating those who believed in the reasonable
proposition that people should be consenting adults before they confirm
themselves as Christians.  If it had not been for religious liberals in
America, Baptists and many other evangelicals who follow them would not exist
today. Finally, now that I know more about how Wilson operates than I previously
and naively assumed, I stand by my claim that Wilson made this doctrinal turn
primarily out of a desire to control, a sin that will bring him to the lowest
levels of Dante’s Hell.  The sexual sinners he condemns will forever chase
their lovers at the second level, their only punishment being that they will
never catch them.

12.  Not very many CEC ministers start their own denomination when their current
sect criticizes them.  Conservative Presbyterian denominations are notorious for
their strict discipline, but it appears as if rules are broken left and right in
Wilson�s Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches.  See

problem here is that the formation of our presbytery had nothing whatever to do
with any controversy. But to buttress his claim that in our presbytery "rules
are broken left and right," Gier refers us all to that unimpeachable web-site This is a website you can rely on — it is what they call a
smear-reviewed journal.

NG: According to standard conservative Presbyterian rules, elders, such
as Roy Atwood, who lose control of their children must be removed from their
office.  In the Morton Street Casino scandal this did not happen.  I
grant that Dougsplotch is not a refereed journal, but neither is Credenda
or Canon (Vanity) Press, but it contains documents, most on Christ
Church letterhead, which Wilson has not denied or disputed.

13.  Most CEC pastors would respect other CEC colleges, but Wilson believes that
very few of them meet his standards of true Christianity.  Wilson states that
�evangelical establishment, particularly the evangelical establishment as now
represented by its flagship colleges and publications, is completely adrift� (Credenda
17:1).  See also his �Classical Learning and the Christian College�
at  Finally, check out his article �Why Evangelical Colleges
Are Not� in Chronicles (September, 1998).

When it comes to colleges, I am critical of the mainstream
evangelical establishment. That is true. I am. Is that bad?

NG:  Once again Wilson has
confirmed the fact that he stands apart from most CECs.  These fine
Christians send their children and their financial gifts to these well respected
liberal arts colleges, where I have had the privilege to lecture and whose
faculty I meet every year at meetings of the American Academy of Religion and
the Society for Biblical Literature.  They have my respect and admiration;
Wilson does not.

14. Most CEC theologians would reject Wilson�s �Federal Vision� in which the
individual self is supplanted by a collective self and where women would lose
their right to vote.

I am terribly interested in how Gier concluded that the
individual self is supplanted by the collective self in the Federal Vision, and
I am further interested in why he, a student of Buddhism, would have a problem
with it. Couldn’t it just be a John Knox meets Siddhartha kind of thing? But it
isn’t, and Gier’s dog is biting the tires of the wrong car again. And on women
voting, Gier also has it wrong. In our church polity, we have a system of
household voting, and we have women who vote. Gier needs to do some actual
research before pronouncing on things like this.

If Wilson will withdraw his omelet analogy that he uses to explain the Federal
Vision, then I will reconsider my objection.  (Obviously, individual eggs
do not preserve their identity in the mix.)  But we now have it on the film
My Town (scroll
down to #2) that he, along with Steve Wilkins and George, believes that only
propertied males should vote.  Wilson’s example of a few female heads of
households voting in his church is better evidence for his clever definition of
democracy: two coyotes and a lamb deciding what to have for lunch. Furthermore,
households are abstract collectives not real individuals. In my church all
members, real individuals, get to vote.

Finally, Wilson demonstrates once again why he got such a low grade in my
Buddhism class.  The first half of the class is devoted to the study of
Pali Buddhism, which does not dissolve the individual self into the Dharmakaya,
but presents a view of the self that is significantly similar to the Hebrew view
of the self. A graduate student and I have just finished a paper entitled
"Hebrew and Buddhist Selves," which I have sent to Atwood, Jones, and
Wilson.  (No reply of course.)  At first we vetted the paper with the
best Buddhist and Bible scholars we know, and now it has been reviewed by at
least two
anonymous scholars chosen by the editors of Asian Philosophy.  After
18 months of deliberation and judgment the article is now in press. Would that Canon Press had such a
review mechanism for its submitted manuscripts. 

15. Most CEC colleges and universities in the Pacific
Northwest regularly attend and participate in the regional meetings of the
American Academy of Religion and Society for Biblical Literature.  At the Moscow
meeting in April 2003, 40 percent of the papers were presented by faculty from
these schools.  As president of the region that year I invited faculty and
students from Wilson’s New St. Andrews College (NSA) to participate.  No one from NSA
showed up, even though there were no travel expenses. Later NSA Dean Roy Atwood
responded that they had better things to do.

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