Doug Wilson and the Neo-Reformed

So here’s something we learned last week…

Neo-Reformed theologian and self-described “paleo-Confederate” Doug Wilson thinks slavery was basically all right.

In fact, he wrote a whole booklet about it, Southern Slavery As It Was, in which he erroneously claims:

  • That most enslaved blacks were happier and better off than most free blacks and even many urban whites.
  • That Southern slavery created a veritable multiracial utopia. Quoting Wilson: “Slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that… has never existed in any nation before the [Civil War] or since.”
  • That slavery is biblical and abolitionism nothing less than “rebellion against God.” Again, quoting Wilson: “The New Testament opposes anything like the abolitionism of our country prior to the War Between the States.” (“War Between the States” is how neo-Confederates refer to the Civil War.)

Conveniently, Wilson relies almost entirely on pro-Confederate, pro-slavery revisionists like 19th-century theologian R.L. Dabney to lend a veneer of credibility to his questionable history.

But Wilson has already been vetted and debunked by properly qualified historians. (See, for example, Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t.) So enough about his historical malfeasance. For those interested, Anthony Bradley and The Wartburg Watch have done an excellent job shining a light on the real Doug Wilson — bravely so, considering Wilson’s history of going after anyone who dares to criticize him.

Wilson’s views, abhorrent as they are, aren’t what I’m wondering about. What I want to know is this:

Why does the neo-Reformed community embrace Doug Wilson as one of their own? Why are they giving this guy a platform? Jared Wilson is hardly the first neo-Reformed blogger to get mixed up with the other Wilson. The Gospel Coalition features several articles and resources from Doug Wilson. He is a recurring speaker at John Piper’s Desiring God conferences. The only person with more stage time at the 2012 conference was Piper himself. And when Piper invited Wilson to speak at the 2009 conference, he introduced Doug Wilson with this video:

“Doug gets the gospel right,” Piper said. Namely, because Wilson affirms “substitutionary atonement and justification by faith alone.”

Never mind that Doug Wilson tries to justify slavery, directly contravening Jesus’ inaugural sermon in which he announced that he had come to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and to “set the oppressed free.”

Is this what it’s come to? Is it really OK for Doug Wilson to get Jesus categorically wrong, so long as he ticks John Piper’s “substitutionary atonement” box? Is it really OK that he defends the oppression of an entire race, so long as he whispers “sola fide” in John Piper’s ears?

I think it’s unlikely that most members of the Gospel Coalition share Doug Wilson’s thinking on slavery. (At least I hope they don’t.) So why are they giving him a free pass? Maybe they weren’t aware of his views before, but they sure as heck are now.

What does it say about their priorities that they have refused to denounce Wilson for his reprehensible views? What does it say if they’re more comfortable associating with someone who rationalizes slavery but adores Calvin than someone who may not be a Calvinist in good standing but has the good sense to admit slavery was and is a horrendous evil?

8 thoughts on “Doug Wilson and the Neo-Reformed

  1. “….slavery was basically a dumb idea?”

    “dumb idea” is putting it mildly… way too mildly imo. Other than that, great post!


    1. LT, I have read Doug Wilson. I read Southern Slavery As It Was in its entirety before commenting on it. And I never suggested he endorses racially-based slavery. However, he does defend the institution of slavery in general, and that is shameful enough. Plus, there’s no getting around the fact that Southern slavery, which he singles out for particular defense, was racially-based.

      Beyond that, no… I don’t feel the need to engage with someone who uses a stunningly selective reading of history to misrepresent Southern slavery as a generally benign institution. People like Wilson don’t deserve to be taken seriously — apart from the danger they pose to others, that is.


  2. Have you, by chance, kept up with the dialogue between Thabiti Anyabwile and Douglas Wilson over at the Gospel Coalition? Any thoughts or comments on that exchange?


    1. Hi Rick, I’ve seen a bit of the exchange, but I haven’t followed it that closely. From what I did read, I was grateful to Anyabwile for some of the points he raised but felt he could’ve gone further in his critique. I believe Wilson is guilty of gross historical mispresentation.

      But as I said, I only saw part of the exchange. I was glad to see someone affiliated with the Gospel Coalition challenging Wilson, even if it was (from the bit that I saw) a pretty soft challenge.


      1. Thanks for the response. Also, I apologize for necroing an old post. I came from Anthony Bradley’s twitter, and assumed the post was new without checking the date.


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