Memo to Doug Wilson, Classical-phile: How Not to Argue

Let’s give Doug Wilson his due in fostering a return to classical education. But beyond that, he seems to have lost his mind in his recent adolescent rant.

I say adolescent because that’s about the level of argumentation he displays. He presents not a true picture of Orthodoxy, but a caricature. None of his straw men are evidenced by any citations of authoritative Orthodox sources. Nor his is “argumentation” (and I use that term loosely) substantiated by the critique he presents. Any of my freshman logicians could do a better job of representing Orthodoxy, and most could at least adequately analyze the arguments. And if they could not do so, they’d most surely be failed.

Wilson does nothing more than present what he thinks Orthodoxy is, then knocks it down. But he fails to actually engage with the Orthodox belief in a) theosis, and b) the Trinity. He claims the former violates the Creator-creature distinction, but gives us no reason why, nor any evidence that Orthodox do, indeed, so violate such a distinction. He then claims, on the basis of this unproven criticism, that Orthodox somehow violate Trinitarian belief by elevating the Church into something like a divine Quarternity. (And if you can follow his non sequitur leap there, I’d appreciate a hand in seeing how he jumps so far afield.)  If you can take it, this all leads to an explanation of why the Orthodox Church continues to exist at all: inertia and authority. (Huh? Where’d that come from?). Can you make the jump: theosis-Trinity-inertia. Whatever.

The funny part (as in funny ironic not funny ha ha) is that Wilson fails to do the very thing he faults Orthodox for failing to do: make distinctions. Theosis, after all, is built on the essence-energies distinction, something Wilson fails to get right (because his “Western argumentative rationalist” mind cannot make such distinctions?). Wilson also fails to articulate (that is to say, fails to make the appropriate distinctions) how it is that Orthodox theosis leads to an imbalance in the Persons of the Trinity, nor how the Church becomes that fourth Person.

Wilson’s “argument” strikes one rather like the worst of a freshman argumentative paper: equivocation, straw man, diversion, and who knows what else. But his post does serve one purpose: it shows most definitively how it is that one should not argue.

A fuller reply is given by James Condra: part 1, part 2 (via Mind in the Heart).

6 thoughts on “Memo to Doug Wilson, Classical-phile: How Not to Argue

  1. When he claims that the doctrine of theosis blurs the Creator-creature distinction, Wilson is probably following the line of Rushdoony who criticized Athanasian soteriology for doing the same. It is an empty claim based on willful ignorance; the essence-energies distinction is no secret and its centrality to Orthodox theology proper and soteriology is crystal clear. It reminds me of an Orthodox who might accuse Lutherans and Calvinists of being antinomians. Even if Orthodox soteriology logically boils down to a violation of the Creator-creature distinction, this needs to be demonstrated rather than merely asserted. That is, Wilson needs to show us why, given the essence-energies distinction, theosis is practically idolatrous; but of course this requires familiarity with the essence-energies which would necessitate that Wilson read something about Orthodoxy other than popular works, or read anything at all about it before launching a tirade. But then, what am I saying? When it comes to Orthodoxy, Wilson deals in egregious and infantile misrepresentations and mischaracterizations. Just see his work on icons, for example.

  2. He gets the first part right.

    The West is wedded to modernity, which places a higher value on logical argumentation than the Orthodox do, because logical argumentation is a product of the human mind, and the human mind has limitations.

    What he gets exactly wrong is the notion that Orthodoxy blurs the distincion between creature and Creator, because that is precisely what the Orthodox do NOT do, and are concerned that the West has apparently replaced that distinction by one between the natural and the supernatural.

    For the Orthodox, gods, angels, demons and spirits of various kinds are all part of the created universe, and therefore distinct from God, the Existing One. But the West classifies all these things, together with Almighty God, as “the supernatural” — and THAT blurs the distinction between creature and Creator.

  3. Another thing which comes to mind: what the blank is the analogia entis (“analogy of being”) if not a blurring of the Creator-creature distinction? Last I checked, it was the Orthodox which affirm that God is “beyond being” and the West (read: Franco-Latins and their heirs) which speak of God as a supreme being, thus indicating that no matter how far he transcends our understanding, God still essentially belongs to this same chain of being and may therefore be understood in His essence by us, albeit analogously. Oh, pardon me: a blurring of the Creator-creature distinction? “Analogia entis,” I say.

  4. Ah, where to begin?

    There are so many things that this nearly-30-years-as-an-argumentative-apologetical-Evangelical-Charismatic-now-newly-Orthodox-Christian could say in response to Wilson’s diatribe, and against almost every one of his sentences, but … well, once I was baptized and chrismated, I lost my ability to argue, as well as to think and reason and communicate intelligently and intelligibly. (It must have been something in the water.)

    So I have nothing to say. ;^)

    (Memo to Doug Wilson: It’s hard to kick against the goads.)

  5. Pingback: Spera In Deo

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