[Posts in “fictional conversations” are sometimes (but not always) adapted and edited from non-fictional correspondence. They are usually lightly edited with intelligibility in mind.]
“And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. And it had two horns like a lamb, but spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11; emphasis mine; cf. 2 John 7-11).
Christian: Thanks for joining me in this round table discussion, guys. Here’s the question. Do you believe this felicitously inconsistent fellow in Revelation 13:11 is a saved person? Doug, I’ll have you go first if that’s alright?
Douglas Wilson: Yes, that’s fine. Thank you for the opportunity to answer. Here goes. Well, let’s just put it this way. If this fine Christian fellow is NOT saved, then I’m in a lot of trouble. What I mean is this. The reason I believe this felicitously inconsistent brother is saved is because works do not save; Jesus saves. Human works do not save. We’re not saved by our doctrinal works, we’re not saved by our ethical works. We’re saved by the grace of God. Period. Of course, I would certainly not ordain him to preach. But my refusal to ordain is quite different than sacrificing my credibility in the responsible Reformed world over his happy incongruity. And the reason the beast’s blessed inconsistency is so manifestly glorious is that we’re not save by works!
Christian: That was painful, Doug. Didn’t you co-write an Introductory textbook on logic?
Douglas Wilson: Aye. That I did.
Christian: Umm, okay. Yikes. Wow. Well, let’s move on to Dr. James R. White. Same question for you, Dr. White.
James White: Well, to borrow a phrase from one of my fellow elders, God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.
Christian: That is an intellectually shallow and facile argument, James. Could you offer something a little more substantive?
James White: Sure. Yes. Fine. You asked for it. God the Holy Spirit is NOT dependent upon the perfection of the beast’s understanding and articulation in bringing about regeneration to his heart. The Apostles did NOT preach this sickening form of doctrinal perfectionism. Many years have taught me that by approaching the Revelation 13:11 fellow as a dear muddled believer, I will get a better response. He (at whatever rate and speed) may or may not finally grow into a full-orbed knowledge of the gospel. But ultimately it’s NOT my job to look into his heart — even though I kind of just did that very thing by answering your question, didn’t I?
John Piper: Doug said that he wouldn’t ordain the beastly brother who has the semblance of a lamb, but the speech of a dragon. I am certainly sympathetic to that view. However, there are multitudes of non-Calvinist or non-Reformed denominations that not only would have no problem with allowing this muddled brother to preach, they have had such occupying their pulpits for hundreds of years.
I have now answered your question regarding the Revelation 13:11 fellow’s spiritual state. But I would like to briefly add a few more questions and comments of my own concerning this beast of a brother.
Now, I admit the dragon-like preaching does give me some pause — but the important question is whether or not he can preach the gospel effectively despite the imperfect theological speech? My answer is: Yes, he can.
Now please notice that I didn’t say the lamb-dragon hybrid could preach the gospel fully; or without implicit or explicit theological defects; or without tendencies that lead the church in harmful directions; or that this inconsistent type of preaching would be the most Christ-exalting. In short (and to clarify a bit), the dragon-preach is sufficiently effective, but not optimally effective.
Christian: Here’s a question for the audience of this round table discussion. Given their arguments in defense of the earthly beast who has two horns like a lamb but speaks like a dragon, WHICH GOSPEL do you think they believe is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes? Is it the true gospel of Romans 1:16-17 or the false gospel of Galatians 1:8-9?