It won’t come as a surprise that the more I dialogue with Douglas Wilson on RazorMouth, the less sharp I see our differences. Still, differences persist, and I’ll mention them briefly.
While I agree with Douglas in wanting to avoid the fallacy of affirming the consequent, I don’t believe this is at issue here. We both agree that prosperity no more ipso facto “proves” divine favor than calamity ipso facto “proves” divine judgment. I further agree with Douglas that the issue is the original premise — “America deserves God’s judgment” — not the reasoning itself. What we do not agree on (I believe) is whether this “America deserves God’s judgment” tells the whole story. Douglas, it appears, believes it does. I do not. I believe there are wider questions, some of which I mentioned in my previous installments.
For instance, is there a sufficient number of righteous in America to avert the hand of God’s judgment? With a more godly (though still deeply flawed) man in the White House than his predecessor, could we perhaps expect God to show leniency? With the recrudescence of active Reformed (and other) Christianity in the last 30 years, can we detect a minuscule but growing leavening that may (to mix metaphors) cast a seedling of reformation? Why have abortions and crime rates and some other social sins steadily declined in the last few years?
My only rationale for adducing these issues is to suggest that saying, “America deserves God’s judgment” does not tell the whole story. We must be careful not to seize only on the bad news, though there is truly more of it. This is why in my original RazorMouth series I took time to recount a few of the virtues of the nation. I think Douglas’ assessment, while accurate as far as it goes, does not go far enough.
So, I do not question his impeccable logic; but I do question what I see as his incomplete premise.
One Man’s Prophetic Utterance?
Douglas and I agree that no one man is authorized to speak for the church catholic, just as we agree that before she can issue such authoritative pronouncements, there must be the sort of dialogue in which he and I have engaged. My initial concern was that Douglas seemed to have preempted just this sort of dialogue by issuing such sweeping declarations as:
This [9-11 attack] is what it looks like when a people drink from the cup of God’s wrath. Throughout Scripture, God frequently speaks of striking the pundits, seers and prophets of an idolatrous and wicked people with this kind of judicial blindness, with this kind of blind stupor. There are many things about this whole event that are screamingly obvious, and yet virtually no one is willing to say them in public. So we must understand that this is what it looks like when a people drink from the cup of God’s judgments.
I could be wrong in suggesting that he was making a sort of individual (or presbyterian) prophetic utterance, but it appears this is just what he was doing.
In my view, it was unwarranted to speak of those who disagreed with his “screamingly obvious” opinion as suffering from “judicial blindness” and “blind stupor.” His, after all, was a tenuous interpretation at best. But I am relieved at the mollified language of his most recent installment, and I agree heartily that the issues he raises are worthy of the present RazorMouth dialogue.
I note Douglas’ comment about David Hume’s radical skepticism, which neither of us endorses. Without wanting to delve into deeper issues that may divert us to an endless rabbit trail, I do think I am slightly less confident about one Christian’s (or one presbytery’s) certainty on such issues as 9-11 than Douglas appears to be. I hold a “communal” view of knowledge, what Thomas Sowell terms the “unconstrained vision.” I don’t think each of us cogitating alone (or in a single presbytery or church or denomination) can know a great deal of much of anything; but I do think accumulated knowledge over many generations is rather trustworthy. This is why I am such an exponent of catholic orthodoxy, and why I tend to trust the knowledge transactions of a catholic consensus of millions of Christians over time much more readily than the dazzling conclusions of a few very bright Christians at any one time.
Douglas seems quite confident that the 9-11 attacks are God’s judgment. I am not only questioning his assurance; I am questioning whether he should seek or even whether he needs such assurance. Where the Bible speaks, I am certain. But the Bible does not tell us that 9-11 was God’s judgment. There is plenty in the Bible about which to be certain and which we can prophetically proclaim without declaring that 9-11 is certainly God’s judgment.
But, I must hastily add, these are issues on which godly, reasonable men may disagree.
And Douglas Wilson is surely a godly and reasonable man.
The Sandlin-Wilson Debate Continues, Douglas Wilson
Playing Umpire to God's Judgment, P. Andrew Sandlin
Covenant Blessings And Curses, Douglas Wilson
Sept. 11 in Focus, Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, P. Andrew Sandlin