The following is my edited transcription of a recent “Ask Doug” from the CanonWired website (my comments interspersed below):
Questioner: Do you think that J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton were saved?
Douglas Wilson: Well, let’s just put it this way. If they were not, then I’m in a lot of trouble…Some people, some Protestants — rock-ribbed Protestants — think that if you start allowing Catholics to be saved (like Chesterton and Tolkien), then you’re going soft in your Protestantism. You know, you’re trying to do the rapprochement thing. But the reason I believe that Roman Catholics can be saved is because we’re not saved by works. Protestants are right.
Those with eyes to see and ears to hear will affirm the antecedent here. That is, they will judge righteous judgment (John 7:24) by the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will say that Chesterton and Tolkien were NOT saved, seeing that they were ignorant of Christ as the end of the law for righteousness (Romans 10:1-4). There are multitudinous blasphemies which fill the Roman Catholic cup. I will mention the primary one that vitiates the very heart of the gospel: Universal atonement (i.e., the belief that Christ died for everyone without exception). Their (Chesterton and Tolkien) belief that Christ shed His blood for those who perish in hell reveals their unbelief in Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice (cf. Romans 3:20-26). Most Tolerant Calvinists like Wilson began their supposed “Christian” life profaning and vitiating the blood of Christ as propitiation. Hence, they are quite reluctant to condemn those certain influential men who believed much the same. Wilson:
In other words, I think a lot of the diehard Protestants who say ‘we’re saved by grace through faith not of works lest any man should boast’…and then turn around immediately and then say, ‘and you Catholics over there, you are saved by works.’…We’re not saved by works. We’re not saved by doctrinal works. Suppose I get up to the pearly gates and God says ‘Okay Wilson, before we let you in we’re going to give you a justification by faith alone test. These are your comprehensives. And you’ve got to get a hundred percent…Who is going to get one hundred percent?
I am certainly NOT equating “diehard Protestants” (whatever that epithet entails) with saved persons (true Christians), but Wilson’s assertion that “diehard Protestants” who judge Catholics lost are implicitly affirming salvation by works is a clear non sequitur. When the apostle Paul judges certain zealous persons lost in Romans 10:1-4, does that mean he is implicitly teaching justification by the “doctrinal work” of submitting to God’s righteousness (Romans 10:3)? What does getting “hundred percent” on a justification by faith alone test mean? If a one hundred percent score means submitting to the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel of Christ, then those seeking to establish one percent of their own righteousness reveal a zeal for God that is not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2-3). Wilson continued:
…Justification by faith does not mean believing justification by faith. Justification by faith means that Jesus saves us…and here’s how we explain what He’s doing from the Scripture…If you stop a five year old and say, ‘Is the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed or infused?,’ I bet you could get a bunch of saved five year olds to answer that question wrong…Well, alright. Great. Don’t ordain them.
From the Scripture:
“Brothers, truly my heart’s pleasure and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for it to be saved. For I testify to them that they have zeal to God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Romans 10:1-4).
Wilson believes that those whom Jesus saves remain ignorant (at least for a time) of Him being the end of Law for righteousness.
Questioner: If you ask that same question of Chesterton and Tolkien, what level are you going to hold them at?
Douglas Wilson: Basically what I want to know…is the grace of God present in their life? Is the Spirit of God active in their life? If someone says, ‘How could that be when they sinned over here…or when they’re sinning doctrinally?’ Chesterton exasperates me…he edifies me and exasperates me at the same time. Whenever he gets onto Calvinists he…
Questioner: He hates them.
Douglas Wilson: …he talks nonsense. But the reason that’s so glorious is that we’re not save by works…he’s failing, he’s sinning, he’s stumbling at that point. And I don’t approve of that at all. But is the grace of God, is the Spirit of God evident in his life and his demeanor and his work and his insight? You bet. If that’s not the Spirit of God, then…like I began with…we’re not…we’re in a lot of trouble.
I am NOT equating the Calvinists whom Chesterton hates as true Christians, but let us consider what John says concerning those who hate true Christians:
“We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. The one not loving the brother remains in death. Everyone hating the brother is a murderer, and you know that every murderer does not have everlasting life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14-15).
Now what would Wilson say in response to John? Wilson would PROTEST against John’s words, saying that all this hating and prating against true Christians with malicious words is manifestly glorious since we’re not saved by works. Of course, we are NOT saved by works. But love of the brothers is a fruit or result of passing from death to life (regeneration). A consistent Wilson would tell John that he is implicitly teaching salvation by the “work” of loving the brothers. Contrary to Wilson’s irksome chain of logical absurdities, the Scriptural teaching concerning love of the brothers is that it is a FRUIT of salvation, and NOT a condition or prerequisite.
The Spirit of God was NOT manifest in any way, to any degree in Chesterton. Wilson correctly infers that they’re “in a lot of trouble”:
“And I will petition the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may remain with you to the age, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He abides with you and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17).
“But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world” (1 John 4:1).
“And every spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God; and this is the antichrist which you heard is coming, and now is already in the world. Little children, you are of God and have overcome them, because He in you is greater than he in the world. They are of the world; because of this they speak of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God; the one knowing God hears us. Whoever is not of God does not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:3-6).
Doug Wilson (and those who believe like him) cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because he does not see Him or know Him.