The April 28, 2003, issue of Christian Renewal, a Canadian newspaper, carried an interview with the Monroe 4: Steven Wilkins, Douglas Wilson, John Barach, and Steven Schlissel.
The interview reeks of hostility toward thought, especially systematic thought, evinces an affinity for sacramentarianism, and further corroborates what their critics have said: These men do not teach—in fact they reject, as clearly as their deliberately unsystematic thinking will allow--the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are their words:
Schlissel denying the Difference between Law and Gospel:
"Have Reformed folks gotten it wrong? Yes, to the extent that they've followed Luther in an imaginary Law/Gospel antithesis.... The law as God gave it is the gospel.... And the gospel as announced by Paul is the law.... The gospel brings demands.... The gospel has obligations. Always has.... the gospel is permeated with God's good law."
Schlissel asserting that sinners can keep the law, and by keeping it, be saved:
"Rather it was Christ's teaching [in Luke 10:25-28]that obedience to the law was something very do-able and that such obedience, which includes repentance and faith, does save...."
"In Luke 18 we have no hint of a faith vs. works dichotomy, or law vs. grace. Rather we have Jesus pressing the law as containing that which leads to eternal life."
Schlissel denying justification by faith apart from works:
"...we insist that saving faith is an obedient faith."
Schlissel endorsing Norman Shepherd:
"...at the same time a truly Reformed Westminster subscriber such as Norman Shepherd can't even be mentioned there [Westminster Seminary]. But the Baptists are accepted."
Douglas Wilson denying justification by faith alone:
"What drives apostasy is unbelief, and the engine that drives salvation is faith and only faith."
[Interviewer: "But not faith only"?]
Wilson: "Not bare bones faith. Not assent. Devils have that. True faith is more than assent.... we say faith cannot be separated from trust and obedience, and...we say saving faith cannot be separated from a life of obedience and trust."
Steven Wilkins asserting that everyone who is baptized is raised to newness of life, but the baptized person can lose that new life if his response to God is not good enough:
"Romans 6 says that we've been baptized into Christ and his death, burial and resurrection and raised to newness of life. That's objectively true of everyone who receives baptism. That doesn't
mean that they are saved no matter how they live or respond to the grace of God. Indeed, Paul warns them about the possibility of being cut off because of arrogance and unbelief in Romans 11."
Interviewer: Can we be in the church but not united to Christ?
Wilkins: "That's a distinction the Bible doesn't make...the distinction is not biblical. The visible, historic church is the body of Christ, and thus to be joined to it by baptism is to be united to Christ. By baptism God offers and gives Christ to us...."
Steve Wilkins misunderstanding Titus 3:5 and teaching baptismal regeneration:
"If we mean by regeneration a gift of new life that will never die out but produces persevering faith, then no, I don't believe that is necessarily given at baptism. But I don't believe that is how
the Bible uses the term regeneration. Take Titus 3:5. It says God saves us according to his mercy by means of the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Ghost. The word washing plainly refers to baptism. Paul says that this washing is something that results in regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. It seems plain to me that Paul was not operating with our definition of regeneration. It seems to me that our theological definition is too narrow at this point...."
Steve Wilkins asserting the inseparability of water and Spirit baptism:
Interviewer: Can you be baptized by water and not baptized by the Spirit?
Wilkins: "I would say no. We may distinguish the work of the Spirit from baptism, but we should never separate the two."
"Every time we referred to baptism in the conference, we would deny that baptism brings automatic or infallible salvation. Faith is required of all who are joined to Christ in covenant. But we must not separate the work of the Spirit from the visible elements of the sacrament...though we may distinguish between the work of the Spirit and the application of water in baptism, we must not separate the two. When we do so, we become baptistic."
Steve Wilkins misunderstanding what makes a marriage--the intelligent, rational consent of the parties, not the ritual, makes a marriage--and applying that misunderstanding to baptism:
"It's [baptism] like a wedding. There is a transformation that takes place because of the ritual. A single man becomes a married man. He is transformed into a new man, with new blessings and privileges and responsibilities he didn't have before. A similar thing happens at baptism. The one who is baptized is transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, from Adam into Christ, and given new privileges, blessings, and responsibilities he didn't have before."
Steve Wilkins denying that election is a basis of assurance of salvation, and asserting that baptism, which by contrast is "objective and certain," is the basis of assurance of salvation:
"The decree of election is no ground [of assurance] since no one can know if they [sic]have been chosen for salvation. Men must have something objective and certain. But if you refuse to look to your baptism then all you are left with is [subjective] experience....
Steve Wilkins asserting that baptism, not repentance or belief, is what unites us to Christ:
"Paul said you [that is, all the baptized] are all baptized into Christ and members of Christ's body, each of you--no qualifications. He doesn't say, if you sincerely repent of your sins and sincerely believe in Christ, then you're a member of the body."
Steve Wilkins asserting that we ought to tell each man: "Christ died for you."
"We don't have to know the decrees [of God] to state these covenantal, objective realities very plainly and without qualification. Our [Reformed]theology, focusing as it does upon the decrees of God, has made us fearful of saying something that might eventually be contradicted by God's decrees. Thus, we don't want to say, "Christ died for you," in case God actually didn't ordain the death of Christ to apply to that particular individual. Paul wasn't hampered in this way."
Barach asserting that we can tell every baptized person that sin has no dominion over him:
"That's [Wilkin's statement about baptism being like a wedding ritual] why we can say to each person, "Sin has no domination over you anymore" (Romans 6:14). You are now under Christ's Lordship. You've been brought into a new relationship."
Barach asserting that the Bible is not primarily a sourcebook of theology, but a liturgical book:
But the Bible is not primarily a sourcebook for theology. It's a covenantal book, a liturgical book, a book to be addressed to the church."
Barach asserting that we should tell every baptized person that God has chosen him for salvation: "The point is that Paul isn't merely speaking about the elect [in 2 Thessalonians 2]; he's speaking to the congregation. And we should follow his example. We should say to the church, "Brothers, God chose you for salvation."
In these quotes, we can see an incoherent theology--incoherent because it rejects systematic thought--that denies the Gospel. If its proponents become more consistent in their thinking, they will realize--as some of their more intelligent followers have already realized--that they are not theological pioneers offering the church a "new paradigm." As they round that last curve on their spiritual journey they will see Mother Kirk standing there in all her splendor, her purple and red robes cascading to the ground, arms outstretched ready to receive them at last, her lost and wandering children coming home to Rome.
The Trinity Foundation
July 16, 2003