Doug Wilson in his own words

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

8 thoughts on “Doug Wilson in his own words

  1. Jason Springer says:

    Rachel,

    Two points.

    1.There was an execution for Sitler’s crime’s.
    Sitler’s Judge pronunced a sentance of death for Sitler’s sins and crimes.
    Then The Judge offered to step down from the bench,
    and if Sitler repented,
    The Judge would take Siltler’s due execution upon Himself.

    I don’t know if Sitler has repented, though The Judge does.

    I do know that I have repented from my sins and That Same Judge took my due execution upon Himself.

    I know He would do the same for anyone who repents, and I am thankful that we have such a Judge.

    2. Is abuse about “control” or “lust”? Both? Or a combination of other things?
    Who, besides The Judge is an “expert” on these things?

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Yes, I do believe that Jesus died to pay for the sins of all the elect. That does not mean that all temporal consequences of those sins have been removed. A murderer may still face the death penalty for crimes committed, even if she becomes a believer after her crime.

      As for your second point, abuse is usually about control. But in this case, Sitler is reported to be having sexual stimulation from having contact with his infant son. Based on Wilson’s own definitions, that is lust.

      • Jason Springer says:

        Rachel,

        Thanks so much for allowing my comment. That was an answer to prayer!

        I do think my second point requires further emphasis. We all have our own definitions of issues and even legitimate, dissimilar understandings of The Word of The Judge. At the risk of “prooftexting”, a word I learned from your firend Sarah:

        Luke 11:
        9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

        11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

        You and I appear to have accepted the sentence of The Judge that our sins must be punished by execution. We also, with weeping repentance, accepted that The Judge took our due execution upon Himself.

        You and I have sinned again since the time that execution took place. You and I have also asked and recieved, we seek and find, we knock and some doors are opened.

        In these things, The Judge continues to handle my case, your case, Sitler’s case and Wilson’s case.

        Barabra’s case and Jeff Crippen’s case.

        We should do our obediant best at justice, but The Judge is still the Expert.

        In every case.

  2. Still Reforming says:

    A lot of great points here, Rachel. Thanks for this post. I’m really glad to be receiving your posts in my in-box. You do the due diligence of the research required and I appreciate your perspective. I’m not sure about the Biblical principle posited “to support pedophiles being punished to the full extent of the law,” but I do think that the Spirit of the Biblical Law here with respect to lust is obviously not confined to simply to lust after women. Lust is lust whether the focus is opposite sex, adults, same sex, children, animals, and whatever other lust human beings can concoct – and the correct Spiritual response, which can only be done by those who have the Spirit (the elect), is indeed to flee. To grant access to individuals who have a track record of child sexual abuse (even those saved by God, who can still give in to temptation and put another human, especially a defenseless child, at risk) is wrong.

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