I really like Douglas Wilson.
It’s not like a man-crush level of attraction, but I deeply admire the gentleman and often have opined on the brilliance of his writing (for example, this recent post was just great).
And so, I swallowed part of my tongue in a seizure of surprise to see that an editor on the Rolex of Polemics Blogs posted an article critical of Wilson’s college over the weekend. As you can see in our archives, most of what we write about the Bishop of Moscow is complimentary (especially when he’s slapping around Russell Moore like a rag doll).
However, what my editor wrote was true. New Saint Andrews College, affiliated with Doug Wilson and Christ Church, had invited a pro-gay speaker to address a conference of high school students.
The speaker is conservative commentator, Andrew Klavan, who hosts a podcast on The Daily Wire. As the proud owner of a Leftist Tears (Hot or Cold) tumbler, I hear Klavan mentioned frequently on Ben Shapiro’s podcast (I don’t miss an episode), but don’t ordinarily listen to his colleague Klavan. Klavan is for homosexual marriage, and his quotations on the subject were given here.
New Saint Andrews President Benjamin Merkle reached out to Pulpit & Pen in an email, which we posted at the end of the aforementioned article. Merkle clarified that Douglas Wilson wasn’t pulling the strings for that event and that even though Klavan was invited to speak, they were also going to have him participate in a roundtable discussion in which the Biblical side would be advocated by the college.
Well, egg on my face.
Here New Saint Andrews College was planning to use Klavan’s presence at the conference to juxtapose his flawed views on homosexuality against the Biblical view and my website is criticizing them. We’re a bunch of jerks, that’s for sure.
But then, I heard Klavan address Pulpit & Pen, Doug Wilson, and New Saint Andrews on his webcast (which I’ll review in my own show later today). And to my surprise, Klavan divulges that it was in response to our article that New Saint Andrews then asked Klavan to do a roundtable on homosexuality and if it was okay to give him pushback.
A subsequent email with President Merkle at New Saint Andrews confirms that the roundtable was already planned, but the topic was chosen after our article came out.
A couple of things on this point…
First, that’s all well and good. New Saint Andrews should feel obligated to defend their position on homosexuality after inviting Klavan to impress upon their youth his influence. In fact, I’d argue they have the responsibility.
Secondly, polemical-minded Christians play an important part in the Christian ecosystem, making sure that stalwart organizations don’t slack by making their lives slightly more difficult if they do.
Third and more importantly, I’d like us to consider what we should call the ShepCon Crisis Management Q&A Model.
In what might have been the most grandiose display of foolishness ever to come out of the characteristically unfoolish MacArthur camp, the Shepherd’s Conference folks had some of the strongest proponents of Social Justice come speak at 2019 ShepCon after having marked Social Justice as “the greatest polemical battle of our day.” I was genuinely surprised that they were surprised some people had a problem with this.
Knowing that Duncan and Mohler are running two educational institutions that are fully ‘woke’ and knowing that Dever’s 9Marx parachurch ministry is insanely woke, and knowing that HB Charles is even woker, it was pretty silly having these guys speak so shortly after The Dallas Statement was signed and promoted by John MacArthur. Basically, the council members of the Gospel Coalition – the premier Social Justice institution in evangelicalism – were the main speakers at ShepCon and people rightfully called that stupid.
Somewhere, somebody had a bright idea; do a Q&A in which clarifications (read that: obfuscations) could be made by the Social Justice Warriors, a little bit of push-back could be given by the home team (throwing Phil Johnson completely under the bus) and thereby claiming that it wasn’t compromise having them speak, so much as it was providing an opportunity for “dialogue.”
The end of that story is the most spectacular failure in crisis management history. The Social Justice Warriors came away looking even more radical and angry than they were before, MacArthur seemed shriveled up and scolded on his own stage, and there was zero “fruitful dialogue.” And before it was over, Grace Community Church was filing YouTube copyright claims against anyone who had posted videos of Mohler’s outburst.
To be clear, ShepCon didn’t invent this model of damage control, slapping a last-minute Q&A onto something as a mere afterthought to provide the appearance of pushback (the 2019 G3 Conference did something similar even earlier in the year). It’s just that perhaps more than any other place, it was ShepCon’s attempt to dispel criticism by Q&A kabuki theater that backfired most dramatically.
In Klavan’s response to Pulpit & Pen and the controversy (seen below), he said more Biblically-incorrect and doctrinally-deficient things than you can shake a stick at. He just made it worse for New Saint Andrews College.
Start at about the 41 minute mark.
You can’t come away from Klavan’s comments on homosexuality without thinking to yourself, “This is the guy who will be influencing our Christian youth? Are you serious?”
The Christian conference industry is basically like spring break for evangelicals, in which we cast our doctrinal concerns to the wind and go streaking down the street without our usual theological modesty.
Christian conferences – even by “the good guys” – have a considerably lower bar than the pulpits those organizers climb into on Sunday morning. One wonders exactly when that became acceptable. Like, “it’s only a conference to train young people, it’s not like it’s a church service or anything.”
Evangelicals are weird, our standards of separation are often arbitrary, and sooner or later we’ve got to start guarding the lectern like we guard the pulpit.
[Editor’s Note: Contributed by JD Hall]