Doug Wilson: “I am not defending the rapist.”


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Last week, Doug Wilson wrote a provocative post, A Theology of Slut Walks, where he attempts to Newspeak (Dougspeak?) his way through defending a rapist while claiming not he’s not actually defending a rapist. Without getting into the twisted logic of his post, I thought there were a couple of quotes that were worth considering.

Those quotes are: “I am not defending the rapist.” And, “If somebody kidnapped and raped the most outrageous organizer of the worst slut pride event ever, I would want to see that rapist punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Scripture teaches that we are known by our fruits. While it is commendable that Wilson would write the above, have his actions fit those words? What are Wilson’s fruits in regards to rapists?

Before we move on, we should consider the definition of rape. According to Doug Wilson, “I would define rape as having any kind of sexual relationship with someone apart from or against her or his consent.” I think that’s a good working definition. Given that definition, both Steve Sitler and Jamin Wight would qualify as rapists. They had sexual “relationships” with minors, who by definition cannot consent.

The question, then, is: what did Wilson do in regards to actual rapists in his community, not merely hypothetical ones in his article?

When Sitler and Wight’s actions came to light, and they were brought to court, Wilson chose to sit with the accused instead of the victims. Wilson also appealed to the court on behalf of both Sitler and Wight requesting leniency.

From his letter for Sitler:

I have been asked to provide a letter on behalf of Steven Sitler, which I am happy to do. . . . I am grateful that he will be sentenced for his behavior, and that there will be hard consequences for him in real time. At the same time, I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.

And from a letter for Wight:

We have told him [Wight] that it is appropriate for him to obtain legal representation in order to ensure that his legal and civil rights are fully respected, and to ensure that the punishment given to him is not draconian or disproportionate. . . . I also believe that it requires that I labor to see that justice really is done to Jamin (at the same time excluding injustice through severe penalties), as well as laboring to protect the Greenfields, particularly Natalie. (emphasis added)

Both Wight and Sitler plea bargained down to lesser crimes and received reduced sentences or less time actually in jail. After their brief incarcerations, Sitler and Wight have continued to benefit from Wilson’s support and defense.

Sitler was married off to a young woman from Wilson’s church. Wilson himself performed the ceremony. This was after a judge had to rule over whether or not Sitler could get married. Because in the normal way of things, marriages bring children, and convicted pedophiles can’t be trusted around children, even their own. The judge noted that there was no legal reason to deny the marriage, but that if children were born to the couple, then there would need to be a reevaluation of the living situation.

Last year, a baby boy was born to Sitler and his wife. Sitler has since been removed from the home:

In December 2014, Steven Sitler began failing polygraph questions about pornography. And in July 2015 he snapped the needle, failing multiple lie-detector questions. But polygraphs are not admissible in court and cannot be cause of action to revoke probation. Therefore, in July 2015 the judge put a “line of sight”restriction on Sitler, requiring one of his state-approved chaperones to be in the “line of sight” of Steven Sitler whenever he’s near his child. Sitler’s two chaperones were his mother and his wife.

However, in the last two weeks P&P revoked “chaperone” status from both women because they failed to notify P&P that Sitler advised them of some of his perversions. Consequently, Sitler does not live at his home until more chaperones can be found. Court meets again tomorrow (Tuesday, September 7, 2015).

Wight went on to marry a young woman in the community. They were married at Trinity Reformed Church (CREC) by Pastor Leithart. Wight abused and attempted to strangle his wife. Thankfully she survived and has successfully divorced from him.

But even with these dreadful circumstances, Wilson continues to defend Wight and Sitler and to defend his own actions in support of them. When the Sitler story broke this September, Wilson wrote an open letter defending his actions:

Katie and her family had all the facts when she agreed to marry Steven, which was important, but the decision to marry was the couple’s decision, not ours. That said, I officiated at the wedding and was glad to do so. . .

And when the Sitler story brought up the Wight story again, Wilson has written many, many words to defend himself and Wight and to blame the victim and her parents. Here is a portion of the letter Wilson wrote in 2005 on behalf of Wight seeking to lay the blame on the victim and her parents:

In our meeting the Greenfields (who had no idea of the sexual behavior occurring between Jamin and Natalie) acknowledged their sin and folly in helping to set the situation up. They did this by inviting Jamin to move in with them, encouraging and permitting a relationship between Jamin and Natalie, while keeping that relationship secret from the broader community. They thought (and were led to believe by Jamin) that the relationship was sexually pure, but they did know it was a relationship between a man in his mid-twenties and their fourteen-year-old daughter, and they helped to create the climate of secrecy. At the same time, their folly (as Pat Greenfield has aptly pointed out) was not a felony. It is not a crime to be foolish, while it is a crime to do what Jamin did. I agree with this completely, and in describing this aspect of the situation I do not believe it absolves Jamin of any responsibility for his behavior. But it does explain what kind of criminal behavior it was. For example, I do not believe that this situation in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator. In all my years as a pastor, I don’t believe that I have ever seen such a level of parental foolishness as what the Greenfields did in this.

Natalie, the daughter mentioned above, was 13 years old when the abuse began. Wight, her abuser, was 23:

I was molested as a young teen. A man living under my parent’s roof, paying his rent by helping with the remodeling of our home, in training at Greyfriar’s Seminary to become a pastor , groomed me, sexually abused me, and molested me from the time I was 13 until I was 16 years old. He was 10 years older than me. A true monster; I was made to feel worthless, as though no one but he would ever love me. I was told that if I ever told anyone, it would ruin his life because people simply wouldn’t understand what we shared. I became an expert at lying to my parents. I was forced into sexual acts time and time again that no young girl should ever be subjected to. When I was 17 years old, a friend whom I had confided in (and who I am forever grateful to) convinced me to go to the police and press charges against my abuser.

Besides blaming her parents for “foolishness,” Wilson has also blamed Natalie for being a tall and beautiful young woman:

The reason we did not want it (the crime) treated as pedophilia is that her parents had bizarrely brought Jamin into the house as a boarder so that he could conduct a secret courtship with Natalie. So Jamin was in a romantic relationship with a young girl, her parents knew of the relationship and encouraged it, her parents permitted a certain measure of physical affection to exist between them (e.g. hand-holding), Natalie was a beautiful and striking young woman, and at the time was about eight inches taller than Jamin was. Her parents believed that she was mature enough to be in that relationship, and the standards they set for the relationship would have been reasonable if she had in fact been of age and if the two had not been living under the same roof.

Clearly in these two cases, Wilson has indeed defended rapists and has not sought for them to be prosecuted to the “to the fullest extent of the law.” Despite what he has written on his blog and in his books, Wilson chose to support, defend, and care for the rapists at the expense of their victims. I do not deny that even rapists need pastoral counseling, but taking the side of the abusers and blaming victims is not pastoral care.

In Scripture, Jesus told his disciples that there would be false teachers and that these false teachers would be known because of their fruit. Maybe we should all consider what Wilson’s fruits say about him:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  (Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)

My Experience with Patriarchy


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Since I began writing about the dangers of patriarchy years go, I have had several comments that I’ve completely misunderstood/misrepresented patriarchy and its adherents. I’ve been told that there might be a few abuses of the system, but that on the whole people are happy and well cared for in patriarchal churches, organizations, and families. I’ve been told that women aren’t hurt by patriarchy.

On the other hand, I regularly hear from women, and some men, who affirm that what I’ve described is exactly what they’ve lived through with patriarchy. Occasionally, these comments are made publicly on my blog, but more often, they are sent to me privately. One such comment came in yesterday, and I asked the author if I could share the comment anonymously on my blog. The author agreed.

I want to share it here because it speaks to many of the problems that I’ve addressed about the patriarchy movement. This is not meant to be experiential proof, but it is an illustration of the damage I believe results from patriarchal teachings. I have edited out a couple of details to maintain the privacy of the author.

“I just had a long conversation with someone sparked by your post about Nancy Wilson. My gosh, it’s so exhausting trying to explain how Patriarchy hurts women. I still cry sometimes because I feel inferior to men because of my gender, but I guess that’s just me being an emotional, easily confused woman.

I’m marrying a wonderful man who will give his life for me everyday. The only time I’ve ever known him to ‘pull rank’ and tell me what I need to do is when he is directly concerned for my well-being. We talked about vows, and I will promise to ‘obey’ him. That doesn’t scare me, but sometimes I’m scared the entire rest of the world has gone crazy.
What I hate about Patriarchy now is how paranoid it’s made me. My guard is always up. The pastor pulls out Ephesians 5 in our premarital counseling, and I’m thinking ‘What’s he going to say? What’s he going to say?’
I have anxiety attacks in some of my classes because I’m afraid that what’s being said about male/female roles will prove that I’m inferior. I had to leave a class one day, because I can’t hear Genesis 3 taught without falling apart.
But to some that’s all in my head. That’s my malfunction. Nothing wrong with teaching that a woman’s identity is in her husband, that her body is his property, that she can never speak up to or disobey him. That can’t be it– it must be me.
I was incredibly depressed as a teen. Okay, I might have been depressed no matter what, but you know what made it the worst? Not knowing what to do with myself. Sure, everything about me was inclined towards academics, but I was supposed to prep for marriage. I was supposed to be satisfied at home: cooking, cleaning, decorating, and I WASN’T. It felt like something was wrong with me. I wanted so much to be a man–because I didn’t feel cut out for whatever it was to be a woman.
I never told anyone what I was feeling either. Because it was sinful and wrong to feel it. I was supposed to be happy with who God made me to be, but I was rebelling.
So that’s a disjointed rant. I don’t know what to do with all these emotions. The fear can cripple me sometimes. I just want to believe that people (well, to be honest, probably specifically MEN) care that that was my experience with Patriarchy. And no, I wasn’t doing it wrong.”

Nancy Wilson: “my ministry is visibly connected to my husband’s and is not seen as a separate work”


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After Dr. Valerie Hobbs and I wrote our article looking at Doug Wilson’s wedding exhortations, we were told that we were wrong in our conclusions about Wilson’s view of women. Several people, Wilson included, wrote that Wilson obviously thinks very highly of women and their abilities. Wilson’s wife, Nancy, and daughters/daughters-in-law and their books and articles were given as examples of how wrong we were in our analysis. Of course, our research was about Doug Wilson’s words not his family.

However, continuing in the research I’ve been doing, I read one of Nancy Wilson’s books, The Fruit of Her Hands. Her book is full of advice for Christian wives. In reading it, I realized that it would be worthwhile to compare Nancy’s advice to that of her husband. Would her words support the conclusions of our article? Or would they contradict them?

In what follows, I will quote short statements in bold from our article. After each statement, I will give quotes from Nancy Wilson’s book that I believe support each of our conclusions.

“At the heart of Wilson’s theology of the wife is the notion of being something belonging to her husband”

Two of the main themes that Valerie and I found in reading Doug Wilson’s exhortations were that women were encouraged to “be” not to “do” and to “respond/receive” not “initiate.”

Taking that first point, in Nancy Wilson’s book she writes that a wife is a garden that belongs to her husband and that a husband is a garden tender:

As a Christian woman begins to see herself as a garden, she can take a more eager interest in making it a lovely garden that her husband delights to spend time in. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 951-952). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


of course a husband is never trespassing in his own garden, though he can be made to feel as though he is an intruder. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 957-958). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


In fact, in many ways, the husband is the garden tender, and the wife becomes a source of great joy and delight to the husband as he spends time in the garden he faithfully tends. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 947-948). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Second, we learn that a wife’s role is one of passive response”

Like Doug, Nancy Wilson writes that women were created to be responsive:

Contemporary Christian women, created by God to be responsive, are vulnerable to temptations to be deceived. We must learn to think like Christians and resist the temptation to believe everything we read or hear. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 656-657). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

But how does “passive response” play out in a marriage? Nancy gives a lengthy example for what a wife should do if a husband doesn’t provide for his family. According to the example, a wife should trust in God to provide, trust her husband to lead, and not work to provide the necessary funds:

What if your husband fails to provide for you? What if you are hopelessly in debt, and he is not bringing home an adequate paycheck? … First, do not seek to protect him from the consequences of his folly. … Of course you must be a support and help and source of encouragement. But that is a completely different thing than trying to shoulder responsibilities that are not yours. When a wife tries to bear the responsibilities that her husband should be bearing, she suffers. … When the bill collector calls, hand your husband the phone. But do so respectfully, praying that God will use it to bring about a change. When there are overdue bills, look to him for his direction—whether or not he provides it. … Quit scrambling, trying to come up with funds to meet deadlines. It is his responsibility. … Are you trying to find an extra job so that you can keep the house, boat, car? Often women rush into jobs to “help out,” thinking it will only be short term. The kids are farmed out because “it’s just until we pay off the car.” But then, after the car is paid for, there is something else. And pretty soon, you are working outside the home full-time, the kids are on their own, and you are still in debt. Then it is too hard to quit—who will pay the bills? You need to get out, go home, and take care of your kids. “But,” you say, “my husband wants me to work.” I have heard this before, when, in fact, the husband wanted very much for the wife to come home, and she was the one resisting the move. … So do not think your happiness lies in how your husband is doing, or in how many possessions you have. Your happiness and joy lie in Christ alone. If you are trusting in Him, He will see you safely through. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 502-523). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Third, we see that, for Wilson, a wife’s function is to take whatever is given to her (for example, money) and transform it into something useful in her appointed station, the home”

In one of Doug’s exhortations, he tells the bride to take what her husband gives her and return it to him glorified. In Nancy’s book, she advises a wife to be creative in the kitchen when transforming a meager income into dinner:

Your finances are tight. You confess your anxiety to your husband and to the Lord. You resolve to trust God and pray for your husband, and you pray for patience. Meanwhile, you show a brave spirit and a joyful countenance to your family, and a creative flair in the kitchen. “I’ve found a new way to cook beans!” You hunker down and think of creative ways to respect your husband.- Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 432-434). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“women’s role in sex is surrender”

One of Doug’s better known quotes about sex speaks of the roles of husbands and wives in terms of colonization/conquering and receiving/surrendering, respectively. Nancy affirms this teaching of sex as surrender for wives. A wife doesn’t need to “feel like it” or consult her feelings:

If a wife is not feeling “in the mood,” she simply has to apply the golden rule. Does your husband always “feel” in the mood for a heart-to-heart chat? Perhaps not. Do you want him to tell you when he is not in the mood but just talking because he loves you and knows you need it? Of course not. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1015-1017). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


Nevertheless, your husband’s desire has probably not suffered a dip [due to pregnancy or breastfeeding hormones]. This is an obstacle, but again, it is not insurmountable. Sometimes you will have to work harder to “feel like it.” It is not always necessary to consult your feelings anyway. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Wilson further highlights women’s passive role in his portrayal of wives as knowing little about sex and even about their own bodies, requiring instruction from their husbands.

Nancy agrees that wives should learn from their husbands regarding what might please them:

Now I am not telling you how to do this [enrapture your husband]. I am simply telling you that you must. It is your duty before God to help your husband in his obedience of this command. You are given to him by God to satisfy him, to delight him intensely, and to rejoice with him. There is an important reason why I am not telling you how. That’s because you need to ask your husband. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 992-995). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Wilson’s image of husband is that of ‘resident theologian'”

Doug also expects husbands to the be ones to teach their wives about theology. Nancy concurs:

We must cultivate a taste for books that will build us up in the faith—not take us to fantasy land. You might want to start with biographies of saints greatly used by God in the past. Be selective. Look to your husband for suggestions. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 171-175). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


If you miss church, request a tape. Take sermon notes, jot down questions, and afterwards ask your husband questions. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 176-177). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


Because women are prone to deception, we must have our guard up. Everything we hear must be weighed in light of Scripture. So what does a wise woman do who needs spiritual help? … Go to your husband first. He is your head and he is responsible before God to shepherd and pastor his home, starting with you. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 206-210). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Wilson’s husbands are created for and called to work, and wives are created for and called to support their husbands in that work. Put simply, his calling becomes her calling”

Here again, Nancy’s advice is consistent with what Doug has written about husbands and wives and their respective callings. A wife is “God’s appointed helper” for the “special work” God created her husband to do:

He is one of a kind, and God has prepared special work for him to do. You have the privilege of being God’s appointed helper for him. … Your husband will appreciate your obedience and be set free to live up to all God has called him to be. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 97-100). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“A wife does not have her own calling separate from serving her husband’s.”

Since Nancy’s ministry in writing books to women was given as the example for what Doug really believes about women and their abilities, it’s interesting to read Nancy’s thoughts on how to evaluate women in ministry. She asks if there are any limits to the ministry women can have to other women. First she explains how to judge if a woman’s ministry is valid:

The first question to ask and answer is, “Who is this woman’s husband?” Next we must ask many subsidiary questions. Is she fulfilling her ministry to him? Is he her priority? Is she helping him? Is her house in order? Is he leading her in this ministry? Is her identity as a Christian woman centered, under Christ, around her relationship to her husband? … But if the answer to any of the earlier questions is “no,” then her ministry is likely independent of her husband, much like a separate career. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 111-115). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

She goes on to say that a woman’s ministry should be connected to her husband’s headship over her:

In contrast, because Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the wife, a Christian woman in ministry should be seen as under her husband’s visible headship. In other words, her ministry should be visibly connected to him. This can be a real help to him, for her teaching can be a complement to his work. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 116-118). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Nancy explains how these ideas work in her own ministry. Her work is not a separate work, but “visibly connected” to Doug’s work:

When people listen to or read her teaching, it is organically connected to the head God has placed over her. This is obviously difficult if her husband is always across the country, or if his name is merely listed in the book with the other “credits” in the fine print. This is why I rarely travel to speak at women’s conferences, but rather teach where my husband is speaking. Not only does this keep us together, working as a team, but he is then available to continue to lead me and protect me in ministry settings. My teaching role is a support and complement to his, not the other way around. This way my ministry is visibly connected to my husband’s and is not seen as a separate work. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 120-125). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“For Wilson, a happy wife is one who accepts the confines of the housework and childbearing she was made for”

Here too Nancy’s writing is consistent with our conclusions. Modern women, according to Nancy, have been deceived into abandoning their responsibilities of home and children:

The modern woman has been deceived, like Eve, and led away by her own lusts from her God-given domain and he God-ordained responsibilities. Loaded down with sin—discontent and envy—she is promised freedom and happiness if she will just forsake her domain—the home—and neglect her responsibilities—husband and children. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 33-35). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Women don’t need to leave home to do good works for the Lord. The home is the “center of her activities”:

Notice the order of these good deeds. Our children are first. Next is hospitality. Then comes relieving the afflicted. The wife does not have to go outside her domain to “do good.” The home is the center of her activities, and these activities can be and should be pleasing to God. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 384-386). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Nancy also writes about realizing that God wanted her to do the dishes and be happy about it:

Immediately I realized what [God] wanted me to do. He wanted me to do the dishes. But I still wondered if there was something else He wanted me to do. And I realized that, yes, there was something else. He wanted me to do them cheerfully. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 786-787). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“She exists to serve and glorify him.”

We concluded from Doug’s wedding exhortations that, for Doug, wives exist to serve and glorify their husbands. In Nancy’s book, she tells wives that their jog is to be willing servants:

Your job is to be a humble and willing servant, recognizing that God is at work, and He will bring to pass His will, using His appointed means. This should encourage you to pray for your husband, rather than nag him. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, thank God that you have a husband. Thank Him that He is at work to do as He pleases. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 489-491). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Nancy goes on to explain how a wife can honor, glorify, and serve her husband. The wife should cater to her husbands preferences and defer to him in practical ways:

This can mean following through when your husband requests something, instead of putting it at the end of the to-do list. It can include everything from when dinner is scheduled, to what kind of greeting your husband gets, to making him a cup of coffee. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 451-453). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


Respect is a demeanor that should characterize wives in all their conduct toward their husbands and in all their communication to or about their husbands—this means courtesy in the home, where the husband is treated with honor. Remnants of this honor from a previous era are our traditions of Dad seated at the head of the table, Dad carving the turkey, [the American custom of] Dad having his own big chair, Dad leading the family in thanks at meals, and Dad doing the driving on the family trips. These are things that we assume culturally, but they come from the time when everyone knew and understood that Dad was the head of the house. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 445-450). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“For Wilson, the wife has no self and, it seems, no voice.”

When Valerie and I wrote our article, we were told that it was ridiculous that we would say that women have no voice in Wilson’s teaching. After all, his wife and daughters write and give seminars. And it’s certainly true that women can have a voice, as long as what they say is consistent with Doug teaches. However, what if a wife disagrees with her husband? What would Nancy say she should do? Pray for strength and silence:

When you are tempted to criticize your husband (and you will be), when you want very much to “let him have it,” pray for love—“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Prov. 10:12). Turn to the Lord for comfort, strength, silence! – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 495-497). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

But what about if a husband is in unrepentant sin? Then what should a wife do? According to Nancy, she might need to go to the elders, but she should be committed to winning her husband “without a word”:

If you have a husband like the ones described above, you must not make the mistake of trying to undertake to deal with his sins; you must deal with your own. If, however, he is a Christian man who is engaged in viewing pornography, you may need to go to the elders in your church so he can be disciplined. But if he is simply not spending enough time with you (from your perspective), or is not meeting your needs in some other way, you must realize that God is the only One who can bring about change. The Scripture is clear that you may be a potent instrument in God’s hand, if you are committed to being the woman described in 1 Peter 3 who wins him without a word. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1050-1054). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And if a problem isn’t big enough to get the elders involved, then a wife shouldn’t talk about it with anyone. Apparently it can be hard to know whether or not to go to the elders. In this quote Nancy seems to advocate erring on the side of silence:

If it is not big enough to share with the elders of the church (or the police), so that they may step in to deal with your husband, then it is not big enough to share with anyone. And even if you are unnecessarily silent in a situation, you probably need the practice (Prov. 31: 11). – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 217-219). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

In the end, I believe that Nancy Wilson’s words confirm our conclusions from the original article. Yes, it’s true that Nancy and her daughters write, but what do they write, and how do they view their work? Nancy clearly views her writing as an extension of Doug, and her message is consistent with what Doug has written.

Nancy’s message is the same as Doug’s. Wives are to be passive responders and receivers. They are to take what their husbands give them and glorify it. They are to surrender sexually to their husbands. Wives are to learn from their husbands in all things. They are to accept their calling as helpers. They are to serve and defer to their husbands. They are not to have separate careers. They are to keep silent.

Wives should do the dishes and do them cheerfully.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness


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I don’t generally get involved with the various “awareness” months. However, there is one that is very dear to my heart. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Thirteen years ago, Matt and I lost our first baby girl to Turner syndrome. She was born still at 21 weeks gestation. The list of my friends and family who have had pregnancy or infant loss is very long. All of you are in my thoughts and prayers today. If you have someone in your life who has had or is going through this trial, hug them and tell them you love them. Don’t spout platitudes. Just be there for them. They need your love and support. No matter how long it’s been, they have not forgotten the pain. Talking with them about it will not cause them more pain. They will be grateful that someone remembers their little ones. Our babies are gone, but never forgotten.

Here is my story. I pray Bethanne’s short life will be an encouragement to you.

Thirteen years ago, on February 25th, Matt and I were waiting with great excitement for our big ultrasound. I was 20 weeks pregnant and had just started wearing maternity clothes, even though I didn’t really need them yet. We had our VHS tape in hand and couldn’t wait to find out if this was a little girl or boy.

When they started the ultrasound, I knew the tech wasn’t allowed to tell us anything good or bad, except the gender. So, I waited and watched. I knew from friends that they would measure the limbs, get a good look at the internal organs, and other body parts. We listened to the heartbeat. Then the tech excused herself. I began to worry a little bit. My OB had told me that we would talk about the results at my next visit. If there was anything that needed watching she’d call, and if anything was badly wrong she’d meet us there in the room.

The tech came back with the doc that oversaw the radiology lab. They turned the screen and whispered and pointed. The doc agreed with whatever the tech had seen and told us that our OB would be there in a few minutes. They left so I could get dressed. I told Matt something was wrong. This was not good. I called my dad on my cellphone and asked him to pray. I sat on Matt’s lap with tears in my eyes as we waited for the OB.

She came in a few minutes later. She sat down and told us that our baby girl had Turner syndrome. That it was terminal, and that she would advise termination. I looked at her in shock. How did this happen? She assured us that it wasn’t our fault. That it just happens some times. Two days later, at the appointment with the specialist, we found out that our daughter’s heart had stopped in the womb.

On March 1, 2002, my OB started my induction. As I changed clothes into a hospital gown, I cried out to God, “Dear God, I do not want to be here.” Let me tell you, when you are only 21 weeks pregnant, your body does NOT want to go into labor. Hours and hours passed. Nothing seemed to be happening. Physically it hurt, but the worst of the pain was emotional. My parents and Matt were with me through all of it. I know it was hard for them to watch and pray. There was nothing anyone could do for me. Finally, after 28 hours of labor, Bethanne Grace Miller was born on Saturday, March 2, 2002 at 11:08 am. It was a very bittersweet moment.

I got to hold my sweet baby girl. It was so precious. It hurt so much. I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. She was so very tiny. No bigger than a baby doll. I could see that her eyebrows looked like Matt’s. Her little mouth looked like mine. It was joy and agony.

Today when we go to her grave and put some beautiful tulips there to remember, I am sad as I always am this time of year, but I rejoice knowing that I will see her again.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ” Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4 (NAS)

A Question for Wilson Fans


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[Update: Some have questioned whether or not it’s accurate to say that Wilson is self-ordained. I have added a quote from Wilson on how he became a pastor. Many thanks to the reader who shared the quote with me.]

There are many articles right now about Doug Wilson and his role in the court cases and subsequent marriages of two pedophiles who attended New Saint Andrews in Moscow, ID. This is not the first controversy that Wilson has faced, and many of his supporters are adamant that he has done nothing wrong. I know that there are many people who are members of CREC churches who have chosen to align themselves with Wilson and his denomination. This question is not particularly for them.

My question is for those in the Reformed, Presbyterian world who say they really like or appreciate what Wilson says/has written/teaches on various subjects. My question is: what exactly do you like about Wilson?

Is it his credentials?

Doug Wilson is self-ordained, has never been to seminary, founded his own denomination, publishing house, university, seminary, and classical school curriculum. He is the head of his denomination. He is under no authority but his own.

Wilson’s explanation of how he became a pastor:

Having written this book, I must now apologize, at least in part, for how the book came to be written by someone like, as the Victorians used to say, the present writer. At the time of writing, I have been a minister of the Word for twenty-three years. But how that came about contains more than a few ecclesiastical irregularities.

I came to the University of Idaho in the fall of 1975, fresh out of the Navy, and ready to study philosophy. My intention was to study various unbelieving philosophies and to then get involved in some kind of evangelistic literature ministry in a university town somewhere. Right around the same time, a church was being planted in our town by an Evangelical Free Church in a nearby community. The fellowship was successfully planted, but this new church never affiliated with the Free Church. This was not due to any doctrinal or personal differences; it was due mostly to the fact that it was the seventies. I was at the organizing meeting for this church and wound up as one of the guitar-playing songleaders. The best way to describe this would be to say that it was some kind of “Jesus people” operation.

After about a year and a half of meeting, the man who had been doing the preaching (ordained by a Baptist denomination) announced that he had gotten a job elsewhere and that he was moving. We were on our own the following Sunday. As I said, it was the seventies. The idea of going into pastoral ministry had not occurred to me, but when it did, I didn’t like it very much. Nevertheless, as things turned out, I was up in front with the guitar. That was my call to the ministry; I knew all the chords. I began to preach.

Our church had been planted by an established denomination, but we had no constitution, no doctrinal standards, no established leadership. I started what we called a “responsible brothers” meeting to fill the void of leadership — ad hoc elders. We knew from the Scriptures that we needed to be governed by elders, but we didn’t have any. We received some teaching on elder qualifications from the pastor of the Evangelical Free church that had established our church, and as a result different men among the responsible brothers removed themselves from consideration. In this situation, I presented myself to the congregation and asked them to bring forward any objections to my holding office of elder within the next few weeks. If no one did, then I would assume the office. As it turned out, no one did, and I have been working with this congregation of faithful and longsuffering saints ever since.

All this, as I said earlier, was highly irregular, and I would rather be dead in a ditch than to go back to that way of doing ecclesiastical business. . . . (Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001] 267–268)

On the formation of Christ Church:

In early 1993, Doug advised the elders of CEF of a shift in his understanding of the nature of the church, of the means of entry into the New Covenant, and of the proper subjects of baptism. Those views became what he now calls the “Federal Vision.” After many months of joint discussion and study, the elders of CEF concluded that Doug’s emerging hyper-federalism contradicted the CEF Statement of Faith and Constitution at key points, and that, according to those documents, Doug was no longer qualified to hold office at CEF. In early December 1993, Doug was informed in writing of the conclusion regarding his qualifications, and advised of the following choice; either return to fidelity to the CEF doctrinal and constitutional standards, or be removed from office in three months. The families of the congregation were also informed, of this course of action. The elders of CEF called a meeting for December 10, 1993, to discuss the contents of the letter, answer questions, and receive comments from the men of the congregation. Almost to a man, those in attendance at the meeting rejected the conclusions and leadership of the CEF elders, and affirmed their confidence in Doug Wilson and intent to follow him. At this point the CEF elders could have simply changed the locks on the door, removed Doug from office, and continued to meet as CEF, with an albeit smaller congregation. Instead, they chose to yield, with  Bob Callihan and Terry Morin resigning office and leaving the congregation, and Fred Kohl remaining in office in semi-retirement. New elders, supportive of Doug, were installed to take their place and the CEF Statement of Faith and Constitution were revised to eliminate the confessional and constitutional issues.

Is it his views on slavery?

In 1996, Doug Wilson published a pamphlet, Southern Slavery as It Was, with Steve Wilkins, a former board member of the League of the South, a Southern nationalist organization. The pamphlet generated a good deal of controversy. Here are some quotes from it. (HT: Libby Anne)

Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates. This happened to such an extent that moderns indoctrinated on “civil rights” propaganda would be thunderstruck to know the half of it.

Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care.

With the slave trade, the vast majority of the slaves had already been enslaved in Africa by other blacks. They were then taken down to the coast and sold to the traders. The traders transported them, usually under wicked conditions, to those places where a market did exist for their labor, but where the civil leaders had repeatedly and consistently tried to stop the slave traders. One of those places, Virginia, had attempted on no less than twenty-eight occasions to arrest the slave trade, but was stopped by higher (non-Southern) authorities. If the slaves were not sold in the South, they were taken on to Haiti and Brazil, where the condition and treatment of slaves was simply horrendous. The restoration of these slaves to their former condition was a physical impossibility. Now, under these conditions, was it a sin for a Christian to purchase such a slave, knowing that he would take him home and treat him the way the Bible requires? If he did not do so, nothing would be done to improve the slave’s condition, and much could happen that would make it worse. 

Is it his plagiarism?

The other controversy over Wilson and Wilkins pamphlet on slavery was over plagiarism:

As they prepared Southern Slavery As It Was for publication, Douglas Wilson and his co-author, Steven Wilkins, plagiarized extensively from Fogel and Engerman’s “Time On the Cross,” a book that was highly criticized by historians of the South.

Another source explains:

Professor Robert T. McKenzie, a civil war expert at the University of Washington and a member of a sister Christ Church in Seattle, urged Wilson to withdraw the book for another reason other than its ugly, unsupported thesis. McKenzie knew Time on the Cross very well and he was able to determine that about 20 percent of the slavery booklet had been lifted from the book.

Wilson first explained that it was sloppy editing on this part, but Wilkins finally came clean and admitted that it was his entire fault. …

The original slavery booklet was republished as it was (the footnotes were fixed) in The War Between the States: America’s Uncivil War(Bluebonnet Press, 2005), John J. Dwyer, general editor.

Is it his Federal Vision beliefs?

In 2007, Wilson co-authored and signed “A Joint Federal Vision Profession.” There have been numerous articles and books on the Federal Vision. Nearly every NAPARC denomination has a statement on it explaining why it’s contrary to the Bible and to the Westminster Standards. For this article I’ll focus on two crucial points, the denial of justification by faith alone and baptismal regeneration. Because Federal Visionists deny the distinction between the law and the gospel and because they teach that all who are baptized are united to Christ, they deny justification by faith alone and teach baptismal regeneration.

The denial of justification by faith alone:

This means that every proponent of the Joint Federal Vision Statement denies sola fide. They will, of course, claim the opposite. And they will also claim that denying the distinction of law and gospel in the text of Scripture does not mean that they deny sola fide in justification. This will have to be a difference between them and me. For if there is no difference between law and gospel in the text of Scripture, then faith is no longer what the Reformers said it was: which is opposed to works in justification.

Baptismal regeneration:

Baptism formally engrafts a person into the Church, which means that baptism is into the Regeneration, that time when the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne (Matt. 19:28).

Many might wonder what in the world this means. Happily, they define this “regeneration” elsewhere:

In establishing the Church, God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham and established the Regeneration of all things. God has established this Regeneration through Christ — in Him we have the renewal of life in the fulness of life in the new age of the kingdom of God (p. 4).

This “regeneration” is the renewal of life in Christ. That’s what all the baptized receive at baptism.

Is it his teaching of paedocommunion?

Connected to the Federal Vision teachings is the belief in paedocommunion. Because baptism unites a person to Christ, and babies are baptized, then why deny young children, toddlers or even younger, their place at the communion table?

Wilson writes:

We cannot argue for paedocommunion, urging that little children be allowed to come to the Table that disciplines us all, and then protest if when this discipline starts to take effect. Just realize that it takes effect, in this instance, with the parents. Bringing your children to the Table involves far than bringing them to bread and wine. It means bringing the whole family, heart and soul, hugs and swats, mom and dad, the whole fam, to the Lord Jesus, and He receives us here. So come and welcome.


My toddler grandchildren coming to the Table have true faith — but it is blade faith. We’re not anywhere near done.

Is it his views on patriarchy?

Wilson says patriarchy is “inescapable“:

Patriarchy simply means “father rule,” and so it follows that every biblical Christian holds to patriarchy. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23), and fathers have the central responsibility to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Children are required to obey their parents (both of them), and since the wife is to follow the lead of her husband in all things (Eph. 5:24), this means that the father is responsible to provide for and protect his family. Father rule. That’s the good part.

The point is that patriarchy is inescapable, and our only choice is between men being faithful, for blessing, and men failing, for humiliation and chastisement. The thesis is not that men are good, but rather that men are crucial. When they are crucial and selfish, a lot of bad things happen. When they are crucial and obedient, a lot of good follows.

Is it his views on marriage?

Wilson has written several books and numerous articles on marriage. Valerie Hobbs and I wrote an article looking at way Wilson addresses husbands and wives in wedding sermons. Here are some other Wilson quotes on marriage:

He has created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord—Dominus—at the cross. – Wilson, Douglas (2009-04-01). Reforming Marriage (p. 24). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Nevertheless, the dominance of the husband is a fact; the only choice we have in this regard concerns whether that dominance will be a loving and constructive dominion or hateful and destructive tyranny. – Wilson, Douglas (2009-04-01). Reforming Marriage (p. 25). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Second, wives need to be led with a firm hand. A wife will often test her husband in some area, and be deeply disappointed (and frustrated) if she wins. It is crucial that a husband give to his wife what the Bible says she needs, rather than what she says she needs. So a godly husband is a godly lord. A woman who understands this biblical truth and calls a certain man her husband is also calling him her lord. It is tragic that wholesale abdication on the part of modern men has made the idea of lordship in the home such a laughable thing. – Wilson, Douglas (2009-04-01). Reforming Marriage (p. 80). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

A man may not be a vocational theologian, but in his home he is still the resident theologian. The apostle Paul, when he is urging women to keep silent in church, tells them that “if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home” (1 Cor. 14:35). The tragedy is that many modern women have to wonder why the Bible says they should have to ask their husbands. “He doesn’t know.” But a husband must be prepared to answer his wife’s doctrinal questions, and if he cannot, then he must be prepared to study so that he can remedy the deficiency. – Wilson, Douglas (2009-04-01). Reforming Marriage (pp. 40-41). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

The first time the dishes are not done, he must sit down with his wife immediately, and gently remind her that this is something which has to be done. At no time may he lose his temper, badger her, call her names, etc. He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance. He does this, without rancour and without an accusative spirit, until she complies or rebels. If she complies, he must move up one step, now requiring that another of her duties be done. If she rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate. ‘Not Where She Should Be

Is it his views on sex?

Another area that has drawn controversy for Wilson is his teachings on sex. Here is one of the most frequently quoted passages:

In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed. But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 978-985). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Is it the way he treats women who disagree with him?

Wilson frequently responds to critics with sarcasm and sharp words. Here are some examples for how he’s talked about women who disagree with him:

the clueless women who blindly liked Wilkin’s article on Facebook, but who are themselves pushy broads, twinkies in tight tops, or waifs with manga eyes ‘Waifs With Manga Eyes

So feminism — smash the patriarchy feminism — wants us to be ruled by harridans, termagants, harpies and crones. That sets the tone, and the pestering is then made complete by small-breasted biddies who want to make sure nobody is using too much hot water in the shower, and that we are all getting plenty of fiber. ‘Smash the Complementarity

Unbelieving women either compete for the attention of men through outlandish messages that communicate some variation of “easy lay,” or in the grip of resentment they give up the endeavor entirely, which is how we get lumberjack dykes. ‘On Why Christian Women are Prettier

The silly women here are perpetual students — bluestockings — and they are constantly learning, but never getting the point. It would be hard to come up with a better modern example of this than the evangelical feminists. ‘Bluestocking Feminism

Is it the way he never apologizes or admits he’s wrong?

Given the number of controversies that Wilson has been a party to, it would makes sense for him to have apologized at times for saying or doing the wrong thing. Everyone makes mistakes. However, aside from a handful of posts that apologize for wording things in an awkward way, Wilson has not apologized.

I know that every man is a sinner and that even my favorite pastors/theologians are almost certainly wrong about something. And we certainly shouldn’t dismiss every author out there because we disagree on a point or two. But is there a point at which the depth or breadth of the problems becomes significant enough that it’s time to rethink defending a man?

To all those Reformed, Presbyterians out there who are willing to look past the recent Wilson controversies, is it time to consider if what you like is worth defending? For anything that he’s written that you’ve appreciated, isn’t there someone else who has said something similar without all the baggage? Are the qualifiers worth it?

Doug Wilson in his own words


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There has been much discussion recently about Doug Wilson’s participation in the Steve Sitler’s wedding. Sitler is a convicted pedophile with a long history of sexual attraction to and abuse of very young children. In June 2011, Doug Wilson presided over the wedding of Steve and Katie Sitler. At one point during the wedding, a man prayed that the couple would be blessed with “the gift and heritage of children.”

Before they could get married, Sitler needed approval from a judge. At that status hearing, the concern was raised about the potential for children:

The discussion amongst Latah County Prosecutor , Bill Thompson; Judge Stegner; and Mr. Wallenwaber, focused, in part, on the legal consequence if/when Steven Sitler and Katie Travis have children. It may be the case that Mr. Sitler will not be allowed to share a home with his wife and child or children. This remedy may be utilized in Idaho when the father is a convicted pedophile. Judge Stegner ruled that the wedding could go forward and issues regarding the protection of children will be addressed if and children are a factor in the marriage.

Earlier this year, Sitler had his first child, and there are significant concerns being raised about his interactions with his son. The question being asked in many places is should a pedophile be encouraged to marry and have children. Given the nature of the sexual perversion and the risk to any children he might father, was it wise to marry Sitler and for someone to pray that he might be blessed with children?

I recently read Doug Wilson’s book, Fidelity, and I think it’s worthwhile to consider what Wilson writes in his book about lust and fleeing temptation.

First, let’s consider Wilson’s definition of lust. Even though he speaks of lust as imagining a “woman” in some sexual way, I think it’s reasonable to include “man” or “child” or “animal’ or anything else:

The answer is that lust is in a man who imagines or sees himself to be with a woman in some sexual way and who consequently has a physiological reaction, usually manifested by an erection. He is aroused and is physiologically interested in sexual intercourse of some description. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 132-134). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Having described what lust is and explained why it’s sinful, Wilson sets out various ways to fight against the problem of lust:

I want to outline a biblical response to the problem of lust which will apply equally to men who are single and men who have a wife. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Location 315). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

What is one of the ways men are to respond to lust? Run away:

The fifth thing men must do is run away—flee the occasions of sin. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Location 357). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And he means it very literally. Men are to actively fight the temptation by doing something about it:

You cannot fight something with nothing. Those who want to fight the temptation to watch some topless women on HBO by sitting on the couch with the remote in hand are likely to be disappointed. Flee. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 361-362). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Not only should a man flee, he should be careful never to look at images that could be used for lust at a later time:

Third, a man should not ever look at images which could serve as lustful fuel at any time. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1275-1276). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Wilson repeats his exhortation to flee, making it even stronger. Get rid of the things that tempt you:

At the same time, one of the important means for mortifying our internal lusts is to flee the external occasions of lust. So, if you cannot resist the temptations created by the technology in your home, you must get rid of that technology. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1832-1834). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

What would temptations and external occasions of lust be for a convicted pedophile? From what I’ve read, repentant pedophiles are aware of their struggle and are the first to say that they are not safe to be around children. If children are the temptation, the previous quote would read:

“So, if you cannot resist the temptation created by [children] in your home, you must get rid of [children.]”

It is certainly a hard thing to tell someone that it isn’t wise for them to marry and have children. In the case of a pedophile, it might mean never marrying. However, it may be the wisest and most God honoring decision.

Wilson addresses the issue of a homosexual man who is not attracted or able to have a appropriate sexual relationship with a woman. He concludes that celibacy may be the wisest course of action:

God requires sexual purity, both in thought and deed, and such a man is like a man with heterosexual temptations with no immediate possibility of marriage. Lust is always prohibited. If it is true that such a man could not be interested sexually in a woman, then he needs to come to understand that God’s will for him is celibacy. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1186-1188). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Granted these examples from Wilson’s book are not specifically about how to manage the lust of a pedophile, but Wilson argues that we should use biblical principles to address those situations that are not specifically covered in the Bible. Surely the same principles apply here:

In many cases, it is necessary to reason biblically from the examples given in Scripture. This is because not every situation is covered, and we have to learn to think like Christians when it comes to situations that do not receive specific attention in the Bible. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 827-829). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Given Wilson’s teachings on the subject of lust, it seems odd to me that no one sat Silter down and counseled him against marrying and having children.

Interestingly, Wilson does specifically address the issue of sexual abuse of children in his book:

[W]hen we are dealing with young children who are abused by adults (pederasty, child porn, etc.) the penalty for those guilty of the crime should be death. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 961-962). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Obviously our laws do not give the death penalty for convicted pedophiles, but wouldn’t the Biblical principle here be to support pedophiles being punished to the full extent of the law? Sitler was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Wilson wrote to the judge asking that the punishment be “measured and limited“:

I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.

A few years later, Wilson presided over the marriage of Steve and Katie Sitler. I wish Wilson had followed his own advice and told Sitler to flee temptation. As Wilson noted, the marriage was certainly a legal one. There wasn’t a legal reason not to marry the couple. However, legal doesn’t always mean wise:

 ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

Theology has consequences


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One of the reasons that Reformed theologians consider good doctrine important is that what we believe about God has a direct influence on how we act and behave. My college RUF pastor would say, “Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy.” The corollary is that bad doctrine also has an effect. And it can show up in interesting ways.

Recently there have been news stories about Doug Wilson’s involvement in the wedding of a known, convicted pedophile. There is quite a bit of information out there regarding this, but I want to highlight just a few things. There will be many links that have more details if anyone is interested. [Probably the best summary is found at Wartburg Watch. Many of the links below come from that post.]

First, though, I want to consider some of what Doug Wilson has written that might give clarity to his actions. Not that I agree with his actions, but that it might help us understand what he’s done.

Doug Wilson teaches, in numerous places, that the cure for sexual temptation is marriage and having sex frequently with one’s spouse:

3. I am beset with sexual temptations. Does God have a solution for me? Yes. The love of a good woman who is willing to make love to you for the rest of your life. 4. But I am not married. What should I do about sexual temptation in that case? You should find out her name, and ask her. – Wilson, Douglas (2015-02-04). How to Exasperate Your Wife (Kindle Locations 951-955). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


Now God has provided a very practical help for Christians as they struggle with sexual temptation; that help is called lawful sexual activity. In order to provide satisfactory protection, sexual relations with a godly spouse should be robust and frequent. There needs to be quantitative protection, particularly for the husband. At the same time, the benefit of sexual relations should not be measured merely in terms of frequency or amount. There needs to be qualitative protection, particularly for the benefit of the wife. – Wilson, Douglas (2009-04-01). Reforming Marriage (p. 22). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Doug Wilson also explains that in criminal issues in the church, like child abuse, the church decides whether or not to involve the civil authorities:

He [the pastor] should always (of course) be discrete, but there will be times when he has a moral obligation to inform the elders of his church, or in drastic circumstances, the civil magistrate. If a man has molested children who are in his home, then those children must be protected from him. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the social workers who rescue the children might treat them as unbiblically as their foster father did. This adds to the weight of the man’s sin—he has left them horribly unprotected. But there is a sense in which there is a biblical confidentiality. The decision to inform the civil magistrate is a decision which is made by the church and not by the magistrate. A worthy pastor would defy any subpoena which tried to force information from him. But if the situation warranted it, the subpoena would have been unnecessary because he would have already presented the information. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1748-1757). Canon Press. Kindle Edition. (emphasis added)

What does this have to do with the wedding of a convicted pedophile? Well, I believe that Wilson’s ideas concerning the curative powers of marriage, and his belief in the primacy of the church in deciding how to address criminal behavior may have influenced his actions in the case of Steve Sitler.

In 2005, Steve Sitler was a college student at New Saint Andrews College. He had been boarding with area families while he attended college. In March 2005, he confessed to Doug Wilson to having molested very young children over a period of years, including in the homes he had boarded or visited. According to an article from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Wilson and college officials told the newspaper that they had immediately kicked Sitler out of school and notified police of his crimes, but decided not to inform members of the public because of concerns for victims’ privacy.

Another news article from 2006 reports that Wilson requested leniency in Sitler’s case:

On August 19th, 2005, three or four months before notifying his parishioners of Sitler’s crimes, Doug Wilson wrote a letter on Christ Church letterhead to Judge John Stegner. In that letter, Wilson requested leniency for Steven Sitler, writing:

‘I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.’

Steven Sitler is sitting right now in the Latah County Jail, serving a one-year sentence. Twice a week, Sitler drives himself, unsupervised, to his court-ordered therapy in Clarkston and Pullman. For 18 months, Sitler was a member of the Moscow community. He was a student in good standing at New St. Andrews College. He was not then and is not now a registered sex offender: his face won’t appear on websites like Watchdog until he’s released back into the community — a community Doug Wilson seems to believe should welcome the return of Steven Sitler not as a criminal; not as a serial pedophile; not as a dangerous man, but as a repentant sinner.

Doug Wilson has written that he believes Sitler was delusional when he was molesting children. Wilson has no training in psychology or counseling, not even ministerial training. Wilson is not ordained. In response to criticism that he did not warn his congregation or the greater Moscow community in an adequate or timely fashion, Wilson writes: “I am a pastor. I cover up sins for a living.

According to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Sitler was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 but only served one year:

Sitler, 30, of Moscow, was sentenced to life in prison, with retained jurisdiction, in September 2006 under a Rule 11 plea agreement with the state for lewd conduct with a child under 16. He served one year with the Idaho Department of Corrections’ retained jurisdiction treatment programs and less than a year in the custody of the Latah County Jail before being released onto probation. Under the terms of his probation, Sitler is prohibited from associating with anyone under the age of 18 without supervision of an approved chaperone.

In 2011, Steve Sitler became engaged to a young woman from Christ Church, Doug Wilson’s church. Because of the terms of his probation, concern was raised about him marrying and having children:

The discussion amongst Latah County Prosecutor , Bill Thompson; Judge Stegner; and Mr. Wallenwaber, focused, in part,  on the legal consequence if/when Steven Sitler and Katie Travis have children.  It may be the case that Mr. Sitler will not be allowed to share a home with his wife and child or children.  This remedy may be utilized in Idaho when the father is a convicted pedophile. Judge Stegner ruled that the wedding could go forward and issues regarding the protection of children will be addressed if and children are a factor in the marriage.

On June 11, 2011, Steve and Katie were married by Doug Wilson. Last year, Steve and Katie had a baby. The terms of his parole required that Steve be chaperoned at all times when with his child. His wife, Katie, was one of the approved chaperones. It appears that these measures were not successful in protecting their child.

The news story this week states:

During Tuesday’s review hearing, Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson said the state originally requested a review of Sitler’s conditions of probation to provide guidance on how to move forward given the fact Sitler had fathered a child and the results of a polygraph test had disclosed concerning actions.

Thompson said information the court now has “shows (Sitler) has had contact with his child that resulted in actual sexual stimulation” Thompson said the incidents in question occurred while Sitler was chaperoned.

“In some extent the state’s worst fears appeared to be realized by some of the recent disclosures in the polygraphs,” Thompson said. “The actions that he has engaged in and disclosed are a compelling basis that he cannot have anything close to a normal parental relationship at this time with his child,” Thompson said. “Everybody would love for Mr. Sitler to become a normal person, but the fact is he is not. He is a serial child sexual abuser.” The best way to protect is to prohibit contact except in direct line of vision with a responsible, approved chaperone. At this point in time, that means he would not be able to reside with his wife and child.”

During a review hearing Aug. 1, Sitler was allowed to continue living with his son until a second review hearing could be held. However, during the past month, Thompson said, Sitler’s wife was disqualified as an approved chaperone for failure to report disclosures related directly to the couple’s son and Sitler was required to move out of their home.

This is a very sad and disturbing situation. Doug Wilson has promised that Christ Church will release a statement regarding these new developments. But at this point I’m not sure how his actions can be defended. I hope Wilson will reconsider his teachings on the sexual temptation and marriage as a cure. I hope he will reconsider the primacy of the church in deciding how to deal with these types of cases. And I seriously hope someone will act to protect this child.

If Jesus Commended Mary, Why Can’t We?


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A Sunday-school teacher asks the class of young children, “What is little and gray, eats nuts, and has a big bushy tail?”

After a moment one child replies, “I know the answer’s probably supposed to be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”

There are many books and articles and sermons these days that seek to remind us that all of Scripture ultimately points to Jesus. I have benefited from these very much. It’s important to remember that the stories of David and Jonah and Samson aren’t simply children’s tales or morality plays. The point is not to “Dare to be a Daniel!” but rather to see God’s work of salvation through all of Scripture.

However, when we consider examples of faithful believers in Scripture, we shouldn’t lose sight of the lessons we are meant to learn from them. Granted the examples are as much “don’t do this” as “do this.” But there is a way to consider these lessons without forgetting that Jesus is the focus of the Bible. If we aren’t careful, our attempts to highlight Jesus in every passage end up like the old Sunday School joke.

Tim Challies has a post this week about who the true hero is in the Mary and Martha story:

The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 is one of those accounts from the life of Jesus that is in danger of becoming cliché. And it will become that if we fail to see the true hero of the story. …

And so we learn that we are to be like Mary in a Martha world, people who prioritize spending time with Jesus instead of allowing the cares of life to overwhelm us. Mary is the hero.

Or is she? …

When we see Jesus sitting in Martha’s home, we see the true hero of the story.

Now, first things first, Jesus is absolutely the true hero of the Bible. That is one of the greatest truths of the gospel. All of the Biblical “heroes” point to the ultimate hero: Emmanuel, God with us.

However, I have some concerns about Challies’ attempt to refocus our attention in the story away from Mary and Martha. First, even though Jesus is the hero of all Bible stories, there are still important lessons to learn from the account. Why does Luke (and ultimately God) include this account? I don’t think it’s an accident that the story of Mary and Martha comes just after the “Good Samaritan” and before the Lord’s prayer. All three are instructional.

The “Good Samaritan” story ends with the command, “Go and do likewise.” The purpose of the story is to teach us about who our neighbor is and what our duties are towards our neighbors. Ultimately Jesus is the hero who rescues us from our sins and heals us by his own sacrifice. But there is an application for us too.

In the story of Mary and Martha, Mary is commended for choosing the “good portion.” What did she choose? She chose to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His teaching instead of being anxious and troubled over “much serving.” Her priorities were right, and it’s not wrong to point that out.

Choosing the “good portion” is a real challenge for most of us. We are often busy and anxious and troubled over many things. We are often distracted from listening to His teaching. We often need to remember what our priorities should be.

This is not to add more work or weight or guilt to our lives. It’s to free us from our running around and trusting in our own activity to save us. Because that is the problem with Martha’s actions. Martha’s heart wasn’t in the right place. She was more concerned about the serving than she was about listening to the guest of honor. Her “faith” or “trust” was in the wrong thing. Mary, on the other hand, is commended for putting her faith in the right thing. She was trusting and resting in Him.

Now, why does it matter whether we commend Mary or diminish her importance in the story? Well, my concern is that there is a strong movement within conservative churches that teaches that the home and domesticity are the ultimate callings and places of service for women. In True Woman 101, Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss write:

The woman, on the other hand, wasn’t created out in the field. She was created within the boundaries of the garden — the “home” where God had placed her husband. This detail is intriguing, since Scripture indicates that managing the household is a woman’s distinct sphere of responsibility. … The Bible teaches that God created woman with a distinctively feminine “bent” for the home. “Working at home” is on its Top Ten list of important things that older women need to teach the younger ones (Titus 2:4-5). Scripture encourages young women to “manage their households” (1 Tim. 5:14). It praises the woman who “looks well to the ways [affairs] of her household” (Prov. 31:27). And it casts in a negative light women whose hearts are inclined away from the home — those whose “feet” are not centered there (Prov. 7:11). (72)

They go on to say:

[C]reating a place to beget and nurture life is at the core of what it means to be a woman. … It’s about creating a warm, nurturing, orderly, stable place that promotes well-being and fosters physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth. It’s about welcoming others in. It’s about ministering to the soul. It’s about community. It’s about cultivating relationships. And that’s something God has particularly equipped women to do. (73)

If Kassian and DeMoss (and many others) are right that domesticity and caring for the needs of others are inherently what women are made to do, then shouldn’t Martha have been commended for her efforts at hospitality? Martha was just going around making sure her home was nurturing and ministering to others. Mary’s the one avoiding her God-given purpose, right? Why is Mary commended and Martha corrected?

Obviously I’m exaggerating a bit here. But there are many voices today encouraging women to accept that domesticity and motherhood are the highest calling. And much like Challies is concerned about in his article, when we tell women that, we are taking the focus off of Jesus. Domesticity, hospitality, and motherhood are all wonderful things, but the highest calling and purpose for all mankind (male and female) is found in glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

Our first and greatest priority must always be Jesus. Many women will serve God through their families and homes. Other women will serve God in their callings outside the home. In all that we do, we seek to glorify Him.

In Luke’s account, Mary chose the “good portion” and demonstrated that her priorities were correct. Jesus commended her for it and told Martha that Mary would not have this taken away from her. If Jesus commended Mary, and did so for our instruction, shouldn’t we also commend her and teach the lesson Martha learned?

No Adam, No Fall, No Original Sin, No Substitutionary Atonement


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How you interpret Genesis 1-3 is about more than just the length of the creation days. What you believe about how the world began has ripple effects throughout Scripture. If Genesis 1 and 2 are metaphorical or allegorical and not meant to be understood literally, then that affects many other parts of Scripture. For example, was there an actual couple, Adam and Eve, from whom all humanity are descended? How were they created? Were they created perfect and without sin? Did they sin and fall from that perfection? Was there death before the Fall?

Some Christians who believe in theistic evolution work hard to show that their views on the origin of the world and mankind do not mean abandoning a belief in Adam and original sin. For some Adam was a de novo creation, for others he was a hominid adopted by God and given a soul, and for another group Adam is merely a metaphorical figure who represents the origin of man and sin.

The problem with these attempts to reconcile evolutionary teachings on the origins of man with the Bible is that for each “conflict” they solve more difficulties are created down the line. Many Young Earth Creationists (YEC) are belittled for being concerned about the dangers of the “slippery slope” that starts with accepting evolution. However, there is a very real problem with how to interpret Scriptures dealing with Adam, the Fall, sin, etc. And many theistic evolutionists agree.

BioLogos, a foundation that exists to promote theistic evolution, regularly runs articles from various scholars on how to reinterpret these issues and how to reconcile them with evolutionary teachings. The latest series discusses the doctrine of the atonement. BioLogos wants Christians to believe there is a rich history of differing opinions on the atonement. In fact, they want you to believe that there is no one accepted position:

The work of Christ must be understood as a response to the reality and universal extent of sin among human beings. And, of course, our understanding of the nature of sin is affected by different models of human origins. Many theologians think that the substitutionary model of atonement requires something like the Augustinian view of the Fall. But there are other models of atonement, and other models of the Fall. Substitutionary atonement is questioned these days on grounds other than evolutionary understandings of human origins, but many evolutionary creationists have added their voices to those concerns.

The atonement is one of the easiest examples to give for there being considerable theological diversity in the church over these 2000 years. From christus victor and fishhook theories, to penal substitution and moral exemplar theories, we can’t say there is one doctrine of the atonement that has stood the test of time.

This is disturbing to say the least. While it’s true that there are various other “models,” none are Biblical. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement is, and has been, the one orthodox position. Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins. That’s the gospel. This is clear in a number of passages:

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 ESV)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV)

But substitutionary atonement is dependent on Adam and the Fall and original sin. If evolutionary views on origins move one away from these doctrines, then the atonement needs to be reworked too.

The first attempt to do so in BioLogos’ new series is by Dr. Joseph Bankard, an associate professor of philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University. In part 1 of his essay, Dr. Bankard explains that he was raised to believe in substitutionary atonement, but after he accepted evolutionary views on origins, he decided to rethink the atonement. He was particularly bothered by two aspects:

From my perspective, Substitutionary Atonement creates two potential problems for Christian theology. It seems that if substitutionary atonement is true, then God is either severely limited in power or unnecessarily cruel. If the only way God can forgive or reconcile is through blood and sacrifice, then God’s power is limited. Why is sacrifice the only way God can forgive? If God is all powerful, then there should be a number of ways to reestablish right relationship with humanity. If God can’t forgive without blood and sacrifice, then God is limited in power.

On the other hand, if God can forgive humanity in many ways and simply chooses to use blood as God’s means of forgiveness, then God seems unnecessarily cruel. Why would God will the torture, humiliation, and death of his son, if there were other ways to redeem humanity? One could even argue, as Gregory Love does in his book Love, Violence, and the Cross, that substitutionary atonement makes God look like an abusive father.

Dr. Bankard doesn’t believe that substititonary atonement is consistent with God as revealed in Jesus. He also doesn’t believe that it fits well with evolutionary theory:

First, what happens to the doctrine of the Fall of humanity in light of evolution? If evolution is true, then the universe is very old, humans evolved from primates, and the historical accuracy (but not the truth) of the Genesis narratives is called into question. Because of this, many who support a version of theistic evolution argue for a metaphorical or allegorical interpretation of Genesis 1-3.[4] In this view, the Fall is not a historical event.


However, if denying the historical Fall calls into question the doctrine of original sin, then it also calls into question the role of the cross of Christ within substitutionary atonement. If Jesus didn’t die in order to overcome humanity’s original sin, then why did Jesus die? What is Jesus, the second Adam, attempting to restore with the cross, if not the sin of the first Adam?

So, according to Dr. Bankard, no Adam, no Fall, no original sin, no substitutionary atonement.

In part 2 of his essay, Dr. Bankard attempts to answer why Jesus died if not to “save His people from their sins.” He believes that instead of Jesus’ death, we should focus on the incarnation:

Jesus doesn’t become human to die. Jesus takes on flesh and bone to show us how to really live, how to be fully human.


First, the incarnation is not primarily about the cross. God does not send Jesus to die. God does not require Jesus’ death in order to forgive humanity’s sin. As a result, God is not motivated by retribution or righteous anger. Instead, the incarnation is motivated by love.

So, Jesus came to show us how to be fully human. He is then our example. But if so, then why did He die?

I argue that God did not will the cross. An angry crowd, a prideful group of the religious elite, and a cowardly Roman prefect, put a perfectly innocent man to death. They willed the cross. And I believe this act is an example of sin. But God is holy, loving, and just. Thus, God cannot will or condone sin. Instead, I argue that the incarnation is about life, revelation, and inspiration—not death. I believe that God knew Jesus would be killed. That’s what happens when the kingdom of God collides with the kingdom of this world. But Christ’s death was not part of God’s divine plan.

Dr. Bankard believes that Jesus died because bad men killed Him, but that it was not part of God’s plan. I’m not sure why he finds this lack of God’s sovereignty and power to be a more comfortable position. He goes on to explain that God’s love is the heart of the atonement:

God promises to absorb violence and death and replace it with reconciliation, forgiveness, and love. This revelation, this vision, is the reason for the incarnation. It is the power behind the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And it is the method and the means of our atonement and ultimate salvation.

So, all we need is love. All we need is love. All we need is love, love. Love is all we need … . (My apologies to the Beatles, and their fans.)

I believe that Dr. Bankard is correct that God’s love was the impetus behind the whole plan of redemption. John 3 is pretty clear on that:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:14-16 ESV)

But God’s love for us doesn’t change the fact that Jesus came to die for our sins. Both are true. God loves us, therefore Jesus came to die to pay the penalty for our sins. As Romans 3 says:

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:22-26 ESV)

He is just and the justifier. God is love, but leaving us in our sins would not have been love.

Dr. Bankard closes with explaining again why his view of the atonement is preferable:

This view of the atonement is important for several reasons. First, it doesn’t require, though would be compatible with, a historical Adam and Eve and a traditional view of original sin. The substitutionary view argues that Jesus’ death redeems the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the garden. To adopt this view, one must read Genesis 1-3 more literally. At times, this kind of biblical hermeneutic may run counter to evolutionary theory. The view sketched above does not require a historical Adam and Eve or a traditional concept of original sin, making it more compatible with evolution. Additionally, my view of atonement argues that Christ’s death was not part of God’s plan. This helps preserve God’s power (God can forgive in many ways, he doesn’t require blood) and God’s goodness (God doesn’t will the cross).

Dr. Bankard’s understanding of the atonement is certainly easier to reconcile with evolutionary theory. But that seems to be the wrong way to go about interpretation. Reading Scripture so that it fits within your own paradigm is eisogesis, reading into the text. When you start with the view that evolution is correct and then decided how to read Scripture so that it fits with evolution, you will end up doing some interesting hermeneutical gymnastics.

No creation, no Adam, no Fall, no original sin, no substitutionary atonement, no Christ? How far do we go to accommodate what evolutionary science says is and isn’t possible? It really does come down to “Did God really say?”

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:31 ESV)

Theological Fitness: A Review


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Ah, fitness. Such a hot topic these days. It’s everywhere: from exercise routines to the latest diet trends to electronic gadgets and apps to keep track and stay focused on your goals. Everyone wants to be fit, or at least, laments that they aren’t as fit as they’d like to be. Fitness can be a controversial topic because everyone has a different opinion as to how to go about it.

For example, I hate to run. If you ever see me running, please stop and help me, someone is chasing me. I do, however, enjoy working out in water. This is for three reasons. You don’t get all sweaty. If you make a mistake, no one can see it. And most importantly, if anything jiggles that shouldn’t, they can’t see that either.

Kidding aside, fitness is an important concept in our society. But what about theological fitness? Are our bodies strong, but our “theological muscles” wasting away? Does it matter if they are? What can we do about it? This is the focus of Aimee Byrd’s new book, Theological Fitness: Why We Need a Fighting Faith. Aimee Byrd, also known as the Housewife Theologian, is part of the team of contributors for the Mortification of Spin podcast. She and her co-hosts, Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt, regularly discuss topics of interest in the Reformed world.

One of Byrd’s recent concerns has been the lack of discernment and doctrinal precision in many of the popular Christian books. I share her concern and am thankful for her solid and helpful contribution in her most recent book. Theological Fitness is an excellent study, and not just for women.

At the heart of Theological Fitness is a discussion of Hebrews 10:23 and what it means for believers. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Byrd writes about how, why, and what we’re to “hold fast” to:

Are you tempted to backslide? Hold fast! Are you being persecuted? Hold fast! Through suffering, fear, and chastisement, and in the ordinary, everyday life of faith and obedience, we are encouraged to hold fast. It may sound like an easy adage, but my goal in this book is to show you that it is a workout. And this kind of workout, this exhortation, in fact, promotes a theological fitness. (14)

What is “theological fitness”? Byrd says, “Theological fitness, then, refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God’s Word. (16)” Fighting, exercise, actively engaging … these words emphasize the effort we are called to make in our daily walk. It’s about the process of sanctification.

There are some today who prefer not to talk about our efforts as part of sanctification. They point to Christ’s work and our inability. But the idea that we are called to strive towards holiness is not unbiblical. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Question 35) defines sanctification this way:

Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Sanctification is God’s work of making us holy, but part of that work is making us able to “die unto sin and live unto righteousness.” And Paul uses frequent examples from sports and warfare to illustrate that this means effort on our part.

Byrd makes this point in Theological Fitness:

We persevere not because of our own faithfulness, but because he who promised is faithful. … Only Jesus had the fitness for the work of our salvation. But he has now qualified us for the race of the Christian life. (17)

I love the image of Jesus having qualified us for the race. It’s God’s work, and He will finish it. But we are called to work, and work hard, in this life. And that is what Byrd focuses on in her book. Using many fitness metaphors and examples, thankfully well-explained for those of us less fitness savvy, Byrd encourages us all to struggle and to fight the good fight.

Because we have been justified by God’s grace and Christ’s death and resurrection, we are now free. Free to struggle against our indwelling sin and free to struggle for growth in holiness:

We are new creations under the reign of grace! Sin no longer reigns in us, and knowing this new status changes everything. We are not fighting to improve our old selves, but we are striving to live as new creations in Christ. (46)

And the struggle is a good thing! It’s a gift:

The great gift of faith doesn’t stop at our justification, but it causes us to continue to trust in God to sanctify us as we press on. That same faith that looked to Christ for a declaration of holiness now looks to him for the strength and ability to live in holiness. Surely, sanctification is not passive process; it is a daily struggle. But the struggle is part of the blessing. (50)

What I loved about this book is that it’s an encouragement, even an exhortation, to be serious about our sanctification, but it’s not a burdensome checklist kind of book. It strikes the right balance between struggling against our sin and resting in the finished work of Christ. Our efforts cannot save us, but we are called to “hold fast” because “He is faithful.”

If you are looking for a good study for yourself or a group, I highly recommend Theological Fitness. There are even study questions that can be used in a small group setting. It may not popular these days to be serious about holiness and piety (not to be confused with pietism), but we are in a very real struggle and need to be encouraged in our own fight and to encourage others. This book helps us do that. I am very thankful for Aimee Byrd and her work.


Note: I was given a copy of this book to review. I was not asked or expected to review the book in a positive light. Other than the book, I received nothing in exchange for this review.


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