I finished The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill last week (I know, I’m behind on the times, please bear with me), and the reformed world is currently re-embroiled in staving off Federal Vision for a second time, as Doug Wilson is experiencing a resurgen…no, that’s too on the nose. A renaissance…that’s it, as Doug Wilson is experiencing a renaissance. So I have found myself wondering recently: why do we keep doing this—why does the church keep listening to wolves? What is it that we believe the wolf has to offer that faithful shepherding does not? Let us consider that very notion under the following 5 reasons why the church keeps turning to un-Christlike examples to lead us:
- Wolves fight back, hard. And they play offense. Like literal wolves, the proverbial ones in the church are ferocious. They come at the church’s cultural opponents with a vengeance. They fight fire with fire. The world may play dirty and unfair—“but so what?” the thought would go, “at least my wolf comes back swinging and is leveling some serious damage against Christ’s opponents.” What we are given, then, is a macho version of Jesus, not weak and pacifist Jesus, but a Jesus who wins my battles in a way I can relate to. (We needn’t worry that this is not how Christ tells us to “fight”, or that these are not our particular weapons — cf. 2 Cor. 6:7, 2 Cor 8:10)
- Wolves are entertaining. They are bold, brash, and often edgy. There is something alluring and attractive about these big personalities. They grip our attention, they are larger than life, and they aren’t afraid to show it, nor are they ashamed to let you know it. They are far more often than not, quite gifted in their style and presentation, and as a result, they are popular, well-known, and well-respected. (It needn’t matter that such personalities and showmanship are more like the super apostles than Paul or Jesus (2 Cor. 11:5). Paul, after all is no-show and all Christ— cf. 1 Cor. 2:1,2, Isaiah 42:2)
- Wolves offer us hope, eschatological hope, and they offer it in the here and now. We are presented with an over-realized eschatology, where things that will only be the case in the consummation are promised here on earth. It is alleged that we can have cultural and societal dominance if only we will follow the wolf or emulate his tact. In such cases, we get to see with eyes of sight, not with eyes of faith, which is far more palatable to our fleshly instincts and desires. (Never mind that Christ’s pattern is a deferred hope, a patient spirit, and a delayed gratification of seeing a better country with eyes of faith—cf. Ecc. 7:8, Heb. 11:16)
- Wolves get results. Who wants to patiently plod along with the foolishness of preaching, going through books of the Bible at a snail’s pace, when there is work to be done—real work we could be doing. Who cares that it may not be the Lord’s work, the Lord’s way. It’s work, and we see the results. With faithful gospel preaching, what are we accomplishing anyway—those are basic truths we’ve already mastered—we have to do more! (It needn’t worry us that Christ has ordained a different path to transform the world—cf. 1 Cor. 1:20-21, Gal. 3:5)
- Wolves are persuasive. They come to us with human cunning and good sounding speech. They are articulate and their eloquence appeals to our fleshly instincts. This skill of speech is often used for nefarious and duplicitous purposes, because when needed, they can verbally walk themselves out of nearly every corner—making firm denials and nice-sounding apologies. (Disregard the fact that Peter and Paul explicitly denounce coming to the flock of God with cleverly devised speech or human cunning—cf. 2 Pet. 1:6, 1 Cor. 1:17)
I was speaking to a young man recently who is a fan of Doug Wilson. He asked me “besides Wilson’s heresy, what issues do you have with him?” I hadn’t said anything about “heresy.” This young man freely offered that Wilson holds to heresy. He said this, not me. And yet the fact that the likable wolf holds to damnable distortions of the Gospel is not enough, there must be more to discount and disqualify him. It is at this point that one realizes how impossible it is to dissuade someone from following wolves. If recognition that someone gets the one true Gospel wrong is insufficient reason to avoid the person’s teaching, what more could be said? Sure, you could highlight the wolf’s character, or his consciously aiding and abetting abusers, his trajectory, his playing fast and loose with the truth, and his un-emulatable presentation so that it could not rightly be said of him: “follow me as I follow Christ.” But if a denial of the Gospel is not enough—what else could possibly rise to a higher height than this one point?
That is to say, the wolf brings this young man, and many others like him, benefit. And that benefit justifies the means—even if those means are a denial of the one true Gospel.
Aesop told one of his many famous stories about how a wolf infiltrated a flock of sheep. The wolf ingratiated himself to the shepherd-boy by protecting the sheep from other predators. He aided the shepherd-boy so often, that the boy began to let his guard down and be thankful for the wolf. One day when the boy needed to run an errand, he left his flock with the wolf, thinking him to be a protector and a helper. Upon returning, he discovered just how foolish he was to ever trust a wolf.
So, friends, why do we keep following wolves? Because look at all the good that the wolf is accomplishing! And sadly, that can be used to excuse literally anything—even denying the very Gospel itself.