I picked up a copy of Doug Wilson’s book Reformed is Not Enough.
Briefly put, the book is diluted Catholicism cloaked under a Genevan gown. Even the title of the book is a tribute to Thomas Howard’s classic Evangelical is Not Enough.
Mr. Wilson has a history of shuffling the deck of history and theology to prove his pet doctrines – whether it be spinning federalism to endorse his interpretation of the Calvinistic magisterial confessions or his glorification of southern principles and slavery. [Wilson’s co-authored book Southern Slavery, As It Was was pulled from the shelves after it became clear that the book contained historical mistakes and factual blunders.]
Mr. Wilson also has affection for things that sound “medieval”. He has founded “New St. Andrew’s College” which is not based on devotion to the saint, but does sounds old-world and sounds oh-so-ever cool to post-modern Protestants. He also founded “Greyfriars Hall” – a three-year seminary. Again, Greyfriars Hall has no connection to the Franciscan order (greyfriars is a nick-name for the Franciscans - click here for examples of true Catholic greyfriars), but the name also sounds very cool – especially to Calvinistic twenty-two year olds who are looking for the Hogwarts experience.
Reformed is Not Enough is essentially a manifesto on baptism. He speaks about the "Lord's Supper" but he is primarily trying to establish baptism establishes the boundaries of the Church. However, Mr. Wilson won’t come out and admit that he is essentially endorsing what amounts to the historic Catholic doctrine of baptism. Sometimes Mr. Wilson wears his Catholicism on his sleeve (New St. Andrew’s! Greyfriars!), and yet when he comes too close, he mocks and misrepresents the Catholic Faith. He defends his Reformed credentials while lurking in the shadows of crypto-Catholicism (e.g. resurrecting for Calvinists the category of catechumen). Take for example p. 54 where Wilson writes:
“And although I hold to sola fide as the right scriptural interpretation, I have to do so recognizing that the only time the Bible uses the phrase “faith alone,” it does so I order to deny it. ‘Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only’ (Jas 2:24).”The book makes a case for Mr. Wilson’s (right) conviction that baptism is an objective, performative act that communicates grace in the context of the New Covenant of Christ. He rightly shows how there are infidels, catechumens, covenant keeping baptized persons, and covenant breaking baptized persons. Catholic swould call the last two categories “Christians in a state of grace", and "Christians not in a state of grace", respectively.”
Wilson does a great job of laying out his argument, but he feels the need to distance himself from the Catholic Church on p. 99:
“Of course this baptism does not automatically save the one baptized; there is no magical cleansing power in the water. We reject the Roman Catholic notion that saving grace goes in the water goes on. We deny any ex opere operato efficacy to the waters of baptism.”Since when do we Catholic believe in the magical cleaning power of water? The ex opere operato efficacy of the Sacraments is firmly established, not in the water, but in the person of Christ administering His Holy Spirit. Sanctifying grace is communicated through the instituted sacramental signs not because of the worthiness of the minister or the recipient, but on account of the righteousness of Christ. That is what we mean by ex opere operato. Isn’t this what Wilson is trying to articulate? Why then portray the Catholic Church as teaching what amounts to magic?
I try not to be overly polemic and I feel that I may have been too harsh to Wilson. Still, a man who claims to be a curator of souls should be more careful in how he presents the teachings of the Catholic Church. Even more so for a man who trains tomorrow’s Calvinists in a seminary that he has christened as “Greyfriars’ Hall.
St. Francis, pray for him.
St. Bonaventure, pray for him.
Bl. Duns Scotus, pray for him.
St. Benedict the Black, pray for him.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for him.
St. Pio, pray for him.
All Holy Greyfriars, pray for us.
[Also see: Catholic Perspective of the Federal Vision Debate in the PCA]