DeYoung On The Attraction Of Wilson

I’m convinced the appeal of Moscow is visceral more than intellectual. That’s not meant to be a knock on the smart people in Moscow or attracted to Moscow. It is to say, however, that people are not mainly moving to Idaho because they now understand Revelation 20 in a different way, or because they did a deep word study on ta ethne in the Great Commission, or even because of a well-thought-out political philosophy of Christian Nationalism. Those things matter to Wilson and his followers, but I believe postmillennialism and Christian Nationalism are lagging indicators, not leading indicators. That is, people come to those particular intellectual convictions because they were first attracted to the cultural aesthetic and the political posture that Wilson so skillfully embodies. In short, people are moving to Moscow—whether literally or spiritually—because of a mood. It’s a mood that says, “We are not giving up, and we are not giving in. We can do better than negotiate the terms of our surrender. The infidels have taken over our Christian laws, our Christian heritage, and our Christian lands, and we are coming to take them back.”
…The focus is on Wilson himself—Wilson as rebel, Wilson as gunslinger, Wilson as taboo-breaking cigar smoker, Wilson as the courageous hero we need in a crazy world like ours. No Quarter November is selling a carefully cultivated personality and image—Wilson’s personality and Wilson’s image.
…The video excels at putting off a vibe. And what is that vibe? It’s a vibe that communicates, “Join us if you want to get into a shootout with the culture, join us if you want to poke fun at all the limp-wristed Christians out there, join us if you want to be like Doug Wilson in trolling other people and setting things on fire.”
…No Quarter November does not give us a month of posts on the loveliness of Christ, or the power of prayer, or the finer points of Reformed soteriology, or the wonders of the cross, or the total trustworthiness of the Bible, or the holiness of God, or the glorious intricacies of trinitarian theology. The month is largely about speaking into a host of hot-button cultural issues. Yes, the world is extremely flammable these days. But Wilson also enjoys striking a match. When he makes references to “white babies” or not having sex “with unstable women,” he is not trying to douse the cultural fire around us. He is trying to fan the flames, and usually with a swagger and a self-parading gleefulness. Later he will come back with nuance and qualification once the conflagration—much to his delight—is already out of control. Wilson excels at the motte and bailey approach: make an outrageous statement that fires up the internet, and then when pressed, retreat to a milder version of the same statement, all without ever giving up the original statement.
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Kevin DeYoung | “On Culture War, Doug Wilson, and the Moscow Mood” | November 27, 2023


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13 comments

  1. Two thoughts were simultaneously popping up, actually three.
    How can you describe a person with no self control at the table or any other appetites as evidenced by a midriff that is shaped like Jabba the Hutt as masculine?

    Just finished reading about how it’s the weakest brother who is enslaved to perceived liberty that MUST exercise and flaunt that liberty at every opportunity, rather than deny self for the benefit of the Gospel and the body of Christ.

    The infamous American philosopher Red Skelton said “I’ve seen some funny people in my time, but you just don’t look right to me.”

  2. I am glad that KDY Can pinpoint the attitude that underlies much of DW. That can be difficult for many to put their finger on and articulate it like he did. Many just either accept the attitude as OK and acceptable, whereas others just walk away with a bad taste in their mouth, but unable to give a clear reason why. However, I believe the attitude comes from the heart Mt 7:15-29. I hope KDY would change his mind about the things he praises DW for. I mean, the Mormans do a lot of good common grace things, but why would a christian want to read Mormon literature on family, education, etc? I can only guess, but I have a strong feeling their false theology is peppered throughout. In the same way, DW and his FV is peppered throughout his writings. In addition, his other distasteful ideas about Patriarchy/misogeny, CN, Postmillenialism, as well as his bad morality influence his writings. Denny Burk gave an excellant message on the Serrated Edge, but again, he makes the comment that there are good things coming out of Moscow. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of these influential leaders to fully see the unbiblical stuff coming out of Moscow and to fully call it out. They owe it to the people they influence James 3:1. Thank you, Dr. Clark for your persistence James 5:19-20.

    • Anthony Bradley and John Reasonor have each published helpful replies to DeYoung. Bradley asks, in light of KDY’s criticisms, why so many organizations have platformed him?

      Reasonor writes:

      The Moscow Mood is Rotten Fruit From a Rotten Tree 🧵:

      As much as I appreciate most of this article, I think Kevin does a disservice to his readers by ignoring the theological underpinnings of Moscow.

      This is true in more than one way.

      There’s a sort of pop-theonony that’s popular in Moscow and, sure, this adds to some “mood” issues.

      But a much more central issue is how they think about the Gospel.

      In short, they fundamentally distort the Gospel by confusing the meaning of faith by slipping in man’s works into the equation.

      Though they adopt Reformed language, they also ADAPT Reformed language. For example, faith in Christ is adapted into “faithfulness”, which is a reference to our obedience. Though, yes, the affirm standard Reformed phrases, they modify the meaning of key words.

      This is sometimes done subtly and other times not. Perhaps the most clear example of this departure from the Protestant and Reformed understanding of the Gospel is Doug Wilson’s standing affirmation of the Joint Federal Vision Statement.

      Though referencing the Federal Vision has sometimes elicited scoffing as if the error is just some obscure nuance that makes little real difference, we should remind ourselves that it’s significant enough for numerous Reformed denominations to denounce.

      Though referencing the Federal Vision has sometimes elicited scoffing as if the error is just some obscure nuance that makes little real difference, we should remind ourselves that it’s significant enough for numerous Reformed denominations to denounce.

      Concerning this “Moscow mood”, it’s not a coincidence that a teaching that focuses on law and adds works into justification will have a heavy handed and harsh spirit.

      They attach heavy burdens onto salvation and therefore attach heavy burdens onto everyone else.

      It is exactly this sort of thinly veiled works-salvation that produces pride, legalism, and harshness. They have the “secret sauce.” They have the formula to leading a materially prosperous life. They have the rules that everyone else should live by.

      And like any culture that focused on law, power becomes a core value. After all, if God is primarilya law giver, earthly leadership should emulate that.

      So, flowing from this idea, the ‘Moscow mood” includes strict adherence to their social hierarchy.

      And herein we get systemic teachings regarding obedience and submission that teaches obedience and submission for the sake of obedience and submission. Behavior modification training that could be ripped straight from the pages of a dog training manual is taught.

      Needless to say, this matters.

      More than one sexual abuse survivor of this “Moscow mood” has said that she, at the time, didn’t feel like she could disobey her abusive “authority” and that she needed to simply submit.

      So, while I also think this “Moscow mood” is a problem, DeYoung is taking a swipe at a branch of a bad tree. He’s rightly noting bad fruit, and wants to do some trimming.

      Instead, we need to take an ax to the root. And the root isn’t having a bad attitude or a bad mood.

      And though DeYoung doesn’t want to talk about slavery, patriarchalism, sexual abuse, and so on, all of these issues, in one way or another, are downstream from doctrine and ideology.

      They’re not random disconnected errors that just so happen to accumulate in Moscow.

      Rather, these ideas flow from a theology that esteems the works of man. It’s a theology that glories in the power of man and demands submission and obedience to man as chief virtues.

      It is graceless and, ultimately, is not the theology of the Cross.

      And that’s why I’m so disappointed in DeYoung’s article. While much of his criticism is certainly well deserved and helpful, he takes what should be seen as a symptom and pushes it onto center stage.

      In doing so, he makes what could have been a very valuable article into, essentially, a piece about tone policing. It will be panned by fans of Wilson as exactly that and those on the same page regarding tone will simply nod along.

      Already DeYoung’s article is being called “hand wringing” “pearl clutching” and “effeminate.” Others are saying he doesn’t understand that we’re in a “negative world.”

      One last thing about the DeYoung article on Wilson’s Moscow.

      Oftentimes the moral issue with the “Moscow mood” is less about the mood but rather who the “mood” is directed at.

      KDY’s article will be met (and already has been met) by Wilson supporters with references to the biting harshness, sarcasm, and combative nature of certain Reformers, Old Testament prophets, and even Jesus.

      And… these Wilson defenders are right. Or, at least, half right.

      Because, after all, biblical and historical examples can certainly be found of a particular “mood” that is similarly combative, joking, and sharp as Moscow’s.

      But both KDY and Wilson’s defenders are simplifying things far too much.

      It’s not harshness or sarcasm that’s the problem. Rather, it’s who it’s directed at and how these tools have become standard procedure rather than rare exceptions.

      For Wilson and Co., harsh criticism and sarcasm is the first tool they reach for. That’s a problem.

      And more than simply the frequency of using these negative “Moscow mood” tools, they’re often aimed at the wrong people. E.g., the abused, the downtrodden, earnest brothers and sisters, and the lost.

      In contrast, when you look into who Jesus was most harshly condemning of, it was religious teachers who tied up heavy burdens and focused on outward appearances.

      It was, in many ways, people who share more in common with Wilson than those he criticizes.

      So, perhaps it would serve the church to be more harsh. But not with people that society already mistreats. Rather, with those who distort the Gospel and bring harm to the weak.

      The shepherd gently guides the sheep. He is not gentle with wolves.

      Of course, all of this is still simplifying things a bit. There’s not enough space to really parce out all the ethics of Christian communication. Suffice it to say, the audience matters to the tone. The mood should fit the occasion.

      Source

    • Dr. Clark, it’s disheartening that you would give clout to the opinions of random men on Twitter who have their own theological baggage. The guy you cited is not an ordained reformed churchman but rather a disciple of Gary North. He’s a self proclaimed Theonomist. His critique of Kevin should not even be given the time of the day. That little Twitter rant was a swipe at Kevin from a man who’s unqualified to offer it.

      • John,

        I know who Reasonor was, is, and where I think he’s going. He’s part of a group that has left behind some of the nastier parts of the reconstructionist movement. Indeed, at times, they write almost like the so-called “woke.” I wonder how much longer he and the others with him will remain reconstructionist etc. It’s pretty difficult to square what he’s been saying for the last couple of years with the stuff that North et al. wrote. When people are headed in the right direction, I try to help them along.

        As a matter of logic your critique is known as the ad hominem fallacy. His credentials don’t much matter if he’s right. If a fellow tells me that my hair is on fire (had I hair!) should I disregard him because he’s neither a firefighter nor a physician? No, I shouldn’t.

        I thought his response was helpful. I appreciate that Kevin is critiquing Wilson but much of what Kevin says can be reduced (and has been by the Wilsonite’s) to “tone policing.” Kevin has (so far) skipped the substantive pastoral and theological issues in Moscow, as so many seem to do. I thought that Reasonor did a good job of connecting Wilson’s theology to his tone.

        I agree entirely with Kevin, however, that Wilson’s “edgy” tone is what attracts the frightened to him and to Moscow and thus I called attention to his critique but there is more to be said.

  3. Francis Schaeffer opens his book, How Shall We Then Live, with the words: “There is a flow to history determined by what people think. What people think determines what they do.” I may be misremembering, not having the book at hand to check on specific words, like “what.” In any case, the deepest, most fatal problem with Doug Wilson’s mood, tools, and self-aggrandizing worldliness is that he teaches “another gospel.” He promotes and takes delights in cruelty; he assaults, demeans, humiliates with ad hominem personal diatribes; he redefines sheep and goats; he stands atop his mountain, overalls, cigar, booze, shotgun and all, laying burdens on those who are intrigued by his disdain for civilized discourse. In using KDY’s initials, I’m plagiarizing Reasonor: my dismay with KDY’s article is that all that he finds admirable from Moscow is available in the eternally inspired Word and in Jesus’ own words and life, and that Word of life is untainted by the wicked, the false, and the ugly. Why bother with a distorted vision, when the good, true, beautiful source is right at hand? I try to use reason to assess Wilson and his work, but it is true that I am passionate in rejecting the pyro on the Payouse, because I have experienced the harm wrought on persons and indeed a church family who qualified holding forth the Word of life, because they were beguiled by antics, childish behavior, and word play. By the way, Wodehouse is never crude or debased.

  4. I beg your pardon. I think they word “qualified” in the next to last sentence doesn’t say clearly what I intended. The church body turned to weakened and altered understandings of the Word of life, because they were beguiled.

  5. Having seen a second generation follow up to Doug Wilson’s ideas about masculinity, femininity and scripts of adulthood here in the Pacific Northwest via Mark Driscoll, what DeYoung articulates well is that Wilson works via “mood”. What Wilson is selling (literally) is books like Get the Girl, Federal Husband, and related titles. Heaven Misplaced is another example. Wilson’s postmillennialism becomes a springboard for an approach to culture war via American Redoubt where the key practical strategy is to form communities that outbreed their culture war enemies. Driscoll has been more overt with Tweets saying Christians multiply babies (if they’re obedient) while the godless multiply STDs.

    Scripts of adulthood are not the Gospel.

    That for Doug Wilson the scripts of adulthood are more important than doctrinal distinctives is best illustrated, in my neck of the woods, by the fact that Wilson ultimately said “I liked Mark Driscoll then and I like him now” despite differing over cessationism. Macarthur has his problems but he staked out a consistent cessationist position. What’s the point of Doug Wilson claiming to have theologian distinctives if he deliberately throws them aside to lend moral support to preachers who are on the same team, in his estimation, in promulgating scripts of manliness? If Canon Press published a book warning against the use of recovered memory counseling approaches circa 2012 why would Wilson still be okay with Driscoll who has admitted since 2008 healing of memory techniques and anecdotes of repressed memory counseling methods factored into his pastoral counseling and views of spiritual warfare? If Wilson and Canon Press were consistent about these issues they’d regard Mark Driscoll as teaching errantly.

    The mood prevails over Wilson’s fans paying attention to whether he and Canon Press actually have a coherent set of doctrinal views undergirding all their would-be practical advice.

    • Absolutely! You nailed it! The problem is with Wilson’s false doctrine, that it has its root in failure to understand justification, by grace alone, through faith alone. He teaches “another gospel” of self aggrandizement, as Lola points out.

  6. Great critique!

    Does DW have a gift? Yes, this is obvious, but he does it in a way that is damaging to the church. At your church there is probably a family who is gifted at hospitality that is fairly obvious to the rest of the congregation. However, this gift would become damaging to the church if the family took particular glee at point out the weaknesses of the other members who did have this particular gift.

    I have spend about 20 years detoxing from a similar church culture to Moscow. The denomination had a corner on truth on some point and they are loud and proud to call out everyone who does not agree with them. For me it created a toxic spiritually that went beyond us vs them mentality, and to the point where the Holy Spirit was not convicting me of my sins. Does this mean everyone in this denomination suffered from the same problem I did and to the same extent? No! However, the denomination as a whole is guilty of creating a spiritual environment where my though process was able to thrive.

    Perhaps DW is able to make much of Jesus Christ and not be tempted with the seduction of the entire church eco system centered around his personality. However, this would be a rare spiritual gift indeed, but would be VERY damaging to normal Christians who are seduced by this cult of personality and want to ride on the coattails.

  7. KDY has gone for a timid poke approach, but at least its a start. But thank you Dr. Clark for your consistently bold stance against DW & FV, etc. I’m sure it comes with a cost, but there are so few places that the church can find reliable help and protection from heterodoxy these days, so keep up the good work. Is Big Eva that confused about justification by faith that it cannot denounce them, or rather are they terrified of the backlash if they try?

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