Doug Wilson on Baptism

Douglas Wilson writes:

“In a sacrament we have a covenantal union between the sign and the thing signified. The Roman Catholic position destroys the possibility of having a sacrament through identifying the sign with the thing signified. The modern evangelical position destroys the definition of a sacrament through divorcing the sign and the thing signified. In this position, the sign is a mere memorial of that to which it points, and thus there can be no sacramental union between the two.”

Taken from —> Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk: Essays and Forays in Practical Ecclesiology (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), p. 93.

Seems neither Catholic nor Reformed to me, maybe Eastern Orthodox? What do you think?



10 Comments on “Doug Wilson on Baptism”

  1. Ben says:

    I don’t think Wilson’s view is outside the bounds of the Reformed Confessional tradition. Perhaps his essay ‘Baptism and Children: Their Place in the Old and New Testaments’ might help clarify the issue.

    He seems, in the quote provided, to be getting at some sort of middle-ground that views neither the Catholic or Baptist expression of baptism to be adequate.

    Chappell has a helpful discussion of the relationship between the ‘sign’ and the ‘seal’ of the covenant as administered in both the Old and New Testaments (“A Pastoral View of Infant Baptism,” in The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism, pp. 9-29).

    The Eastern Orthodox church, along with the Catholic church, holds that baptism removes Adamic sin. That is, they conflate the sign with the thing signified. This isn’t Wilson’s position (as far as I understand it).

  2. He believes in baptismal regeneration… if that view doesn’t remove Adamic sin what does?

  3. Ben says:

    Maybe I’ve fundamentally mis-read Wilson’s argument. Could you point me to where he breaks with the reformed tradition and defends baptismal regeneration?

    I’m not overly familiar with Wilson, just the article I’ve read (indicated in my previous post) and his stuff contra Wright and Hitchens. Let me know if he has stuff online where he clarifies his position on baptism — I would hate to have mis-represented someone!

  4. Ben,
    He doesn’t say it anywhere exactly because he knows the problems he has already. All federal vision guys believe a number of different things, so like emergent’s they are all over in a number of areas.
    He signed the FV statment thou, you can see here…
    Also in 2002 at a conference Wilson spoke on a new paradigm in theology, which people tend to believe started this whole mess… I would read his work on “Reformed” Is Not Enough… although he doesn’t really say everything “he agrees with.”
    I can set up a time about this and speak with you about him and his theology if you’d like since I am extremely unhappy with him being asked to speak at the DG National Conference next Fall. I am not impressed, nor respect his theology. From my understanding and reading of some sermons, some articles on the “puritanboard” and his blog, he is against NPP yes, but seems to be a federal vision guy. He believes in baptismal regeneration, a leading voice for peado-communion (giving his 1 yr. old wine and bread), and he has not said “I am a tritheist” but his view of a covenantal (and not ontological) trinity seems pretty eastern mind-set and heretical. It just seems his MA in Eastern Phil. has gotten in his way of the Scriptures. Rev. Phillips wrote a nice article dealing with him and his heresy called “covenant confusion.” I have the PDF of that, and just read it on my kindle this morning for the second time.

  5. Ben says:

    Dewalt, thanks for the link to the FV statement. Some of their formulations do seem intentionally suspicious and vague — specifically, what is meant when they say baptism ‘formally’ unites one to Christ? Is there any way you can shoot me a copy of that .pdf from Phillips?

  6. Yea, “do seem” is too generous for me, but yea their beliefs contradict the Gospel. I sent the PDF to ya, I meet with Rick last week about this very issue in the OPC and PCA to talk to him about these things so I knew them better.

  7. Michael,

    He actually believes in presumptive regeneration and would therefore probably not be categorized as a baptismal regenerationist, though sometimes he sounds like it. I have a major problem with Piper bringing him on at the National Conference. I wonder how much of Wilson Piper has actually read. I am also noticing a trend to be generous to Wilson and critical of Guy Waters, who I want to remind others is a very careful scholar and a godly man. If being generous to Wilson is the trend, how about people starting to be generous to Waters as well. Is the whole Christian world gone mad. Thank you John Piper for opening the door to the Federal Vision again.

  8. Nick thanks very much for clarifying better. That was my bad, and I knew that, I just for some reason wasn’t thinking. Yes, it seems that everyone is being quite generous with him, and I think the problem is that a number of bloggers, or people that are “popular” read headlines and not theology. Guy Waters has done some great stuff and this is a sad case. More then FV, though is his lack of defining what he believes on the trinity, and that is scary.

    Nick, also I saw the planned list for ThM classes, what is your focus? Post-Reformation History??? Reformation History?? I start mine in July this summer and am doing biblical theology…. and they are having a few classes that look great i that area!

  9. As of now mine is Biblical Studies or Biblical Theology. I need to get moving on it though. I keep filling my time with other studies.

  10. same here! They have 4 BT’s next year on schedule, maybe even 5? I am taking 4 anyways, Issues in NT theology, Issues in OT theology, conversion in the Old and NT, and missions in the Old and NT. I am going to try to do it in a year? maybe im nuts, we’ll see….

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