Repudiate? – An Open Letter to Danny Akin

Dr. Akin,

You may or may not be familiar with me.  I have, through various means, attempted to contact you many times over the past 4 months.  I have emailed you and even reached out to you on social media, to no avail.  I have sent an open letter to you as a member of TGC’s council.  I know you have many followers and receive a great deal of correspondence on any day.  There is no way you can possibly answer them all, I completely understand why I have not yet heard back from you.  However, due to recent events I wanted to take another opportunity to attempt to establish contact.

Specifically, I want to talk to you about Doug Wilson.  Recently you took Rachel Held Evans to task for the following tweet.

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In response, you claimed that many – including yourself – ardently disagree with Wilson’s view on race.

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You have even gone so far as to state that you find his views despicable.

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For your willingness to openly decry the blatantly antagonistic views Doug Wilson takes toward the black community and his attempt to minimize the systemic oppression they faced in the antebellum South I commend you.  However, I also have a few concerns I hope you will be willing to address.

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  1. Your own association with Doug Wilson

Despite your claims that Wilson’s views on race are particular insidious, I did not have to dig far at all to find direct connections between the two of you.  For instance, in the manuscript copy of a sermon entitled “How Avoid a Bad Night in the Bedroom”, the ninth citation is a positive reference to Doug Wilson’s view on marriage.

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While I could not find a direct date associated with this sermon on your blog – perhaps you can help me out with this – reading the sermon and checking the dates on your sources indicates this sermon could not have been preached any early than January, 2000.

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This is important because Wilson published his first book on the topic of the antebellum South, Southern Slavery: As it Was, in 1996.  As I’m sure you are now aware, Wilson co-authored this text with League of the South cofounder Steve Wilkins.  I’m sure you are also aware that the League of the South is a white Southern nationalist group.  But in case you are not aware, here is a statement by League president Michael Hill:

If the scenario of the South (and the rest of America) being overrun by hordes of non-white immigrants does not appeal to you, then how is this disaster to be averted? By the people who oppose it rising up against their traitorous elite masters and their misanthropic rule. But to do this we must first rid ourselves of the fear of being called ‘racists’ and the other meaningless epithets they use against us. What is really meant by the [anti-racist] advocates when they peg us as ‘racists’ is that we adhere to ethnocentrism, which is a natural affection for one’s own kind. This is both healthy and Biblical. I am not ashamed to say that I prefer my own kind and my own culture. Others can have theirs; I have mine. No group can survive for long if its members do not prefer their own over others.

It was for this reason, and a host of others, the Southern Poverty Law Center declared the League of the South a white supremacist hate group in the year 2000.

Yet, despite the quote above and the designation by SPLC, on January 16, 2004, a staff member of Doug Wilson’s Christ Church of Moscow, Idaho, stated in an email to the entire congregation that League of the South is not a racist group, offering support for their cause – though he slightly disagrees with their methods.  Further, despite the fact that Steve Wilkins was, until 2004, a founding member and director of the League of the South, Doug Wilson himself described him as “one of the most honorable and conscientious Christian gentlemen I have ever met…” in a 2005 blog post defending the fact that a large portion of Southern Slavery: As It Was was blatantly and egregiously plagiarized.

It should be distinguished that, while the League of the South openly adopts the designation of white Southern nationalism, Wilson prefers a different title (with precisely the same meaning) “Paleo-Confederate.”  In fact, Wilson openly defends the Confederate cause and the flag which represents it.

To make this clear, the League of the South is an organization that promotes Southern Nationalism – and in case you were unclear on what Southern means, it is a title intended specifically to exclude “blacks.”  Yet, despite the clear white supremacy at the root of the organization that Steve Wilkins himself founded, it is the official stance of both Doug Wilson and his church that the League of the South is not racist.

It is strange to me, then, that in the sermon discussed above, you reference Doug Wilson’s book Reforming Marriage.  It seems that you were aware of his work dating back to at least 1995, when this book was released – a year before Southern Slavery: As It Was was published.  Further, both books were released by the same publisher, Canon Press.  So I want to give you the chance to clarify the seeming discrepancies here by asking a few questions before I proceed:

Were you, when you wrote the sermon “How to Avoid a Bad Night in the Bedroom” aware of Doug Wilson’s stances on race and slavery?

If you were aware of these views, why did you still choose to cite his work?

If not, what have you done personally to decry Wilson and distance yourself from his distinctly white nationalist views since this sermon?

The answer to that final question is painstakingly obvious.  Whether or not you knew about Doug Wilson being a white Southern nationalist when you first delivered this sermon, you almost certainly knew by the time the plagiarism scandal broke in 2004.  This, of course, does not prove you knew anything about Wilson’s views before you preached this sermon, but it does raise some interesting concerns for my next point.

If Doug Wilson does not consider white Southern nationalism a form of racism, is he morally trustworthy as a person or intellectually trustworthy as an expositor of Scripture?

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  1. The presence of material by Doug Wilson on both The Gospel Coalition and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood websites.

The Gospel Coalition

A perfunctory search on both the TGC and CBMW websites reveals that Wilson has longstanding relationships with both organizations.  For the TGC, it appears that his work was promoted on their site as early as 2007.  He also has solo posts on the site as recently as 2012 – posts which remain displayed on the site without any caveats attached.

It seems to me strange that these posts occurred at all after the significant controversy over his white Southern nationalist views had already surfaced – and specifically after the blatant plagiarism of his co-authored book on slavery was brought to light.  It is also notable that Doug Wilson was allowed to publish his opinions on TGC’s site after the 2005 publication of solo project on the topic, Black and Tan, in which he defends his white Southern nationalist views.

To be fair, I realize all of this was before your own election to the TGC council, but I must still ask:

Since you insist TGC has not supported Wilson’s views, were they aware of them during the time Wilson was allowed to post his own thoughts on TGC’s blog site?

Did TGC oppose Wilson’s views on race during this time?

If so, why are there no articles critiquing him before 2013 – a full eight years after the book was written? 

In your opinion, given Wilson’s views on race, should TGC have chosen to associate with him and allow him to present his thoughts on other topics?

Would you consider giving a Wilson such a significant platform to be complicity in his white Southern nationalist platform?

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Image found on TGC’s website at https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/tgc/files/2012/06/doug2.jpg

This last question seems to have been answered when Thabiti Anyabwile’s TGC based blog posted a joint “wrap up” penned by Wilson and Thabiti to conclude their ongoing debate over Wilson’s white Southern nationalist arguments in Black and Tan.  In fact, in the months prior to this post, Thabiti stated that Wilson’s views on race have both deep biblical and logical flaws.  Yet, despite his claim to adamant disagreement, Thabiti still pursued a “gentleman’s debate” which concluded when he allowed Doug Wilson an equal stage in which to present his own brief defense of white Southern nationalism.

This is a particularly important point because you stated that you can say without a shadow of a doubt that many at TGC, including yourself, have openly opposed Wilson’s views.  Yet, despite this claim, the only posts on TGC’s website critiquing Wilson’s view on race are those written by Thabiti Anyabwile, and he chose to end his critique by giving Doug Wilson a platform from which to defend the very position you call “despicable.”

And so I must ask you:

Where is the so-called public opposition you claim exists against Wilson?  Since you joined TGC’s council, have you encouraged any such posts to be written?

If you so strongly oppose Doug Wilson’s views, why is there not a single post by you opposing Wilson on either your personal blog or the TGC site?

Given your own connections to TGC dating back to at least 2009, were you aware of TGC’s involvement with Doug Wilson when you agreed to become a council member in 2014?

Were you at this time aware of the views he held, views you now find despicable?

If so, were there any steps you took behind the scenes to ensure TGC divested itself of Wilson?

If such steps were taken, why did Kevin DeYoung promote his book A Justice Primer in November, 2015?

Further, your claim of direct opposition within TGC is interesting because Doug Wilson claims something slightly different.  In his most recent jab at Rachel Held Evans – ever so originally titled “Racial Held Evans” – Wilson claims that the only “notable” Christian “responsible enough” to challenge his views on race was Thabiti Anyabwile.

Despite the fact that this is a blatant lie from Wilson – he was also engaged in a public debate with Dr. Anthony Bradley for instance – and an utter whitewashing of the numerous historians and other scholars who have thoroughly debunked his work,[1] it is none the less an interesting claim.  In fact, it appears to leave only a handful of options.  Either

  1. There are further critiques of Wilson from TGC members that he is unaware of.
  2. There are no further critiques of Wilson from TGC members.
  3. Wilson is lying on all counts.

I was hoping you could clear this up for me, which is it? 

You claim to have repudiated Wilson’s racial views.  Are you aware that repudiate means to both reject the views and to have demonstrated them untrue? 

Can you point me to a publicly available statement in which you have done these things?

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Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

I would be happy to read such a document or listen to such a speech if it exists, but your history with Wilson at CBMW leads me to doubt you have done so.  For instance, the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood from October, 1996, lists you among the Board of Reference for CBMW.  By Fall of 2004, you were listed as a council member, a position you hold to this day.  Further, you are also listed on the CBMW site as a member of the Board of Directors.

This means that you were active on the Board of Reference when CBMW chose to endorse Doug Wilson’s book Future Men, in 2002.  As you well know, Wilson’s book on slavery had been available for six years prior to this endorsement, and available from exactly the same publishing house which produced the endorsed book.

Were you, at this time, aware of Wilson’s views on race? 

Did you find them despicable in 2002, and if so, did you actively oppose the fact that CBMW was endorsing him?

Also, you graduated to council member for CBMW around the same time when the plagiarism controversy surrounding Southern Slavery was brought to light.  You were most certainly serving on the council when 2005’s Black and Tan was published.  This brings to mind a question that I cannot emphasize enough:

When precisely did you become aware of Wilson’s views on race?

And returning to your claim that you have repudiated Wilson’s white Southern nationalist ideology, I must also ask:

When precisely did you offer this repudiation?

Had you repudiated his views by the time he published the article “Brothers, we are not sisters” on CBMW’s site in 2012?

Had you done so by the time Candace Watters positively quoted Wilson’s views on education on CBMW’s site in 2014?

This of course leads me to a further questions involving your affiliations with TGC and CBMW.  Namely:

If you consider Wilson’s views on race so despicable, how does this affect your willingness to affiliate with organizations who appear to openly and publicly support his ministry, such as TGC or CBMW?

Does it not bring into question the basic discernment and commitment to the Gospel if these organizations are willing to give Doug Wilson a platform from which to preach, long after his views on race had become publicly known?

As a council member for both organizations, what steps have you personally taken to ensure that these organizations practice better discernment in 2016 than they have in previous years?

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  1. The clear connections between Doug Wilson and John Piper.

It is quite notable just how recently John Piper has chosen to give Doug Wilson a platform.  In fact, as recently as June 29, 2016, Doug Wilson was allowed to publish his own opinions on the Bible and morality on the Desiring God blog site.  This is important because you serve on the councils of TGC and CBMW with Piper.

During the time you have known John Piper, have you ever attempted to dissuade his open and continuous endorsement of Doug Wilson?

More interesting still is your own endorsement of John Piper’s ministry.  In fact, on January 26, 2016, you recommended John Piper’s work on your own website.  This endorsement occurred less than a week after Doug Wilson was allowed to publish his first post of 2016 on Desiring God.

Are you aware of Piper’s relationship with Wilson?

How, if at all, has this influenced your opinion of Piper’s discernment? 

You said on Twitter that Wilson’s views on race are antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus.  Would you then agree that Wilson is disqualified from all forms of ministry?

This last question is of particular interest, as in 2013, you contributed to a Desiring God e-book alongside a number of persons, including Doug Wilson.

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By the time this book was released in December, 2013, Wilson’s views on race were definitely a matter of public conversation.  He and Thabiti hand concluded their public internet debate on the book Black and Tan in April of that same year.  This raises even more questions:

Why was Wilson allowed to contribute to this work?

Were you somehow not aware of Wilson’s views on race at this point?

Were you aware of Wilson’s involvement in this book?

If you were aware of these things, then why did you choose to contribute to the book?

It is further strange to me that, as recently as April, 2016, you spoke at the CBMW 2016 pre-conference to T4G 2016.  In doing so, you appeared at the conference alongside John Piper.  This seems an odd move for someone who so strongly opposes the views of Doug Wilson on race.

If you see his views as incompatible with following the teachings of Jesus, then why would you have anything to do with persons who promote his work?

Do you see any conflict between your own public actions and endorsements of persons/organizations who promote Wilson and your claim to have “repudiated” his work?

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Concluding Thoughts

As I’m sure you are well aware, the Southern Baptist Convention has recently condemned all usage of the Confederate flag and its inherent ideologies.  In the wake of this decision, many critics (including myself) have wondered if this decision will lead to any practical changes in the way Southern Baptist leaders address the white nationalism of various Confederate ideologies. As the President of Southeastern Baptist Seminary, you have the opportunity here to send a clear and resounding message to all within your sphere of influence that – as a prominent leader within the SBC – you will no longer tolerate white Southern nationalism either within SBC ranks, or among those persons with whom you professionally associate.

Such a move seems to be entirely in line with both the ethical positions of the SBC and, more importantly, the “way of Jesus” you used to critique Wilson’s views on race.  In fact, it is my hope that we can both agree that no Christian institution can claim to advance the Gospel while allowing injustice to prevail within its own ranks.  This, of course, applies not only to the SBC as a denomination, but also to such organizations as TGC and CBMW as well.

It must be remembered that the cross of Christ uplifts the marginalized and humbles their oppressors (1 Cor 1:18-31).  As Jesus tells us in Luke 4, his mission was to bring about justice for the marginalized, reversing oppression as he inaugurated the kingdom of God.  All who would follow Christ are thus called to serve our neighbor as Christ serves us (Matt 20), to understand the uplifting of the least of these as a condition of discipleship (Matt 25:31-46),

Further, it is important to consider the centrality of love to the Christian ethic.  In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul states that no amount of “proper” doctrine or external piety can serve as a substitute for a cross-inspired love.  In fact, Paul states that all our pontification and pomp amount to precisely nil if love is not directly centered in our word and deed.  In accordance with Philippians 2, such a love considers all others better than self.  And in the very words of Christ, his followers will be known primarily by their ability to practice this love (John 13:35; cf 1 John 4).

If we agree on nothing else, let us agree that these passages (and so many more) demonstrate there can be no place for white Southern nationalism within the Christian ethic.  I implore you as a brother in Christ to take a stand.  You are a man of influence within conservative Evangelical Christianity, and yet your peers continue to give legitimacy to the teachings of a white Southern nationalist by lending him their platform.

Please, if you truly despise these ideas, then make a public statement on your blog admitting your own past involvement with Wilson and decrying his views.  If you believe his ideas must be publicly repudiated, then encourage TGC and CBMW to publicly decry Wilson’s white Southern nationalist loyalties and remove his teachings from their websites.  Lastly, if you consider white Southern nationalism an ideology opposed to the way of Christ, then encourage your peers to cut all ties with him as well.

I thank you for your time and pray you will consider my words prayerfully.  I hope this can be the beginning of a fruitful dialogue, I would truly love to discuss this with you.

I bid you the grace and peace available only in the cross and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

Nate Sparks

 

 [1] See here, here, here for starters

**Cover image from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/gJrjQ6_oHEE/maxresdefault.jpg**

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4 thoughts on “Repudiate? – An Open Letter to Danny Akin

  1. I am so glad that you are taking on this subject, Nate. TWW has written extensively on Wilson and his disturbing views of slavery. What bothers us the most is the continued support for Wilson. It reminds me a bit of their support for CJ Mahaney. They talk out of both sides of their mouth.

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Thanks for taking the time to read and engage. I look forward to your feedback, I welcome any criticism. However, as my goal here is mutualy respectful, beneficial conversation, I only ask that we keep civility in mind with our words. Grace and Peace.

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