Doug Wilson Insists That the Christian Magistrate Should NOT Enforce Blasphemy Laws

A summary of Doug Wilson’s argument in “Mere Christendom” insisting that the Magistrate should not enforce blasphemy laws.;

 As a theonomist Wilson believes in “the need to restore the Bible as the quarry from which to obtain the needed stone for our foundations of social order” (149), he strongly argues against state imposed punishment for blasphemy. He reminds us that “those who want the government to have the right to kill blasphemers are also asking for the government to have the right to kill those who rebuke their (the government’s) blasphemies” (157), and “When you give the state power to punish a blasphemer, you are giving the state the power to blaspheme with impunity” (171). Since rulers are sinners, a healthy recognition of the depravity of man ought to restrain us from giving them the kind of power that would be required to punish blasphemy. “Whenever you give the state plenipotentiary powers to crack down on x, y, and z, what you are actually doing—please remember this—is giving them plenipotentiary powers to commit x, y, and z” (173). Therefore, “It is better to allow a troubled individual to blaspheme than to give, for the sake of preventing such things, regulatory powers over the definition of blasphemy to the very people most likely to be tempted to get into real blasphemy” (175–76). Wilson calls this “restraining the worst blasphemer first” (the title of Chapter 11). It’s not that we Christians don’t want to eradicate blasphemy—we do. But “we are not waging war according to the flesh” (2 Cor 10:3); “the artillery of the new covenant is more powerful than what the people of God had in their possession in the old covenant” (169). We want to eliminate blasphemy, but “not through the law” (158); rather, we do so through gospel conversion. “The central way that Christians are called to transform the world is not to be found in politics,” Wilson insists (221). “Christ gave us our mission and He gave us our methods. The world is to be brought to Christ, with all the nations submitting to Him, agreeing to obey Him. That is the mission. The method consisted of Word and water, bread and wine” (160).  Wilson argues that inherent protection of free speech by limiting the state’s power “is the theo-political genius of Christianity” (171). He argues that “The founding of our nation really was exceptional, because the men who drafted our Constitution knew that American politicians, taking one thing with another, would be every bit as sleazy as the same class of men from any other clime” (201).


The above argument is the “argument” that Wilson crafts to explain why he does not believe that the State should be given authority to bear the sword against blaspheming the name of Jesus Christ in the public square.

Look, I’m not the sharpest blade in the drawer, and as such, I’m sure I must be missing something here because it strikes me that this argument is so absurd I can’t believe anybody can read it without their eyes bugging out. I mean, on this Wilsonian logic why would the state be given the sword to enforce any of God’s law like “murder,” “rape,” or “kidnapping” since giving the sword to enforce those laws would naturally lead to the state using that plenipotentiary powers to commit x (murder), y (rape), and z (kidnapping.)”

Rev. Wilson’s operating principle at work here is: give no one the power for good if they can use it for evil. Which of course reaches beyond absurd into the zip code of Nutville.

Wilson’s citation of I Cor. 10:3 is complete eisegesis and so is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Doug says that we want to eliminate blasphemy “but not through the law,” which every dispensational and R2K antinomian (but I repeat myself) chap worth their salt would stand and applaud.

Next Wilson sets up a false dichotomy (and nobody sets up false dichotomies better than Doug) by suggesting that we can get rid of blasphemy by law (politics) or we can get rid of blasphemy by gospel conversion. This is not a either/or but a both/and. If we can’t get ride of blasphemy by law (politics) than it stands to reason that we can’t get rid of any crime by law (politics) and so the Christian Magistrate should not legislate against any crimes since do to so would mean we are not trusting in gospel conversion. This is a false dichotomy. We should want both laws that force the Christ hater to not blaspheme and gospel conversion wherein  the Christ lover does not want to blaspheme.

From there Wilson implies that Christianity cannot triumph in the context of a Christian magistrate bringing the sword to bear in order to support God’s law. We do believe that the world will be converted (Wilson’s Word, water, bread and wine) but we also believe that along the way to that converted world the Magistrate will continue to not bear the sword in vain so that when anti-Christs arise who want to throw off God’s law as applied to the social order they will be thwarted.

Unless I am missing something (and that is real possibility) this reasoning by Wilson in Mere Christendom is embarrassing.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

22 thoughts on “Doug Wilson Insists That the Christian Magistrate Should NOT Enforce Blasphemy Laws”

  1. I love Pastor Wilson. Fellow Reformed. Agree with him on a ton.

    But man, he can be such a boomer… and I know he hates that because he attempts to deride the “OK Boomer” meme, as well as actual (read: ethnic) nationalism, the JQ, etc. He doesn’t do a good job of representing the position he is refuting. Perhaps if he understood it better.

    1. Wilson is losing credibility across the board by sticking his heels in the ground on issues like

      1.) Federal Vision
      2.) Ethno-Nationalism
      3.) And now theonomy

      1. I’m leaning towards general equity theonomy, being post mil.

        But I admit it’s a newer space of exploration for me. I’ve listened to Apologia ‘s take and it seems reasonable vs. Two Kingdoms.

        Is theonomy not supported by Scripture and reasonable logic? I’d like to hear thoughts.

  2. I completely agree, I owe Doug Wilson a great debt in helping me develop as a Christian man, but lately on this stuff it’s been nothing but boomer cringe.

    I haven’t read this book but as I thought about the thesis its untenable nature becomes readily apparent. It pays lip service to Christendom and advocates for a renewed Christendom but then guts it of any real force.

    Doug and the Moscow guys have been failing miserably as well in addressing the JQ, and actual ethnic issues surrounding nationalism by resorting to a tiresome line of “If we see nationalism as having an ethnic or racial component to it we are actually agreeing with critical race theory and giving them the victory.”

    It’s baffling and embarrassing how bad the thinking is here. The only real reason I can see is a boomer commitment to the 1960’s civil rights narrative that Doug just can’t bring himself to give up.

    1. Well said Bob. I completely agree. Wilson and the CREC brand is being destroyed by Wilson and his fanboys (Toby Sumpter, Steve Hemmke, Uri Brito, Michael Foster, etc.) over the issues you mention.

      But its not like some of us are not trying to get them to see the light.

  3. I don’t think this is fair. The point Wilson makes at (157) is that Christ (Mark 14:64) and St. Stephen (Acts 6:1) were both convicted of blasphemy by the State. He states plainly at that point that “our deep suspicions about the depravity of human nature… begin with our _rulers_, and not with their subjects. I am far less concerned about the blasphemy that might come from some impudent and sophomoric atheist with a web page than I am about the blasphemy that might come from the powerful and well-connected, those who have complete and absolute control of those blasphemy laws.”
    The dichotomy he presents is between the arch blasphemies of our rulers, against the petty cursing of the everyman.

    Swing and a miss.

    1. Tell me Fozzy Bear… does God think that any blasphemy of his name is petty? Allow me to submit that there is no such thing as “petty blasphemy.”

      And technically neither Christ (Mark 14:64) nor Stephen (Acts 6:1) were convicted of blasphemy by the State. They were convicted of blasphemy by the religious infrastructure. So, you are in error there as well.

      Finally, in a Constitutional Republic there are no subjects.

      And folks that ball is going


      and it’s out-a here. A grand slam homer folks and the game is over.

  4. It annoys me the book has no index, I expected better from Wilson. What I dislike about the article is the way you make it sound as if Douglas Wilson somehow akin to David French, making “the conservative case for” genital mutilation. Instead, Wilson makes clear (158) that blasphemy must be eradicated.

      1. Instead through repentance and belief? That’s what Wilson preaches on that same page (158). Legislation is honored more in the breach, than the fulfilment.

      2. There is that false dichotomy again.

        Why can’t it be both simultaneously? Reformation is both bottom up and top down at the same time.

        Thanks for holding up your end of the conversation,

  5. Notice, Wilson said the “state” shouldn’t enforce blasphemy laws, not the magistrate. We commonly make the mistake of equating the two. The modern overarching concept of the state that is involved in almost every aspect of our lives is not found in the Bible. Until we get to a government that is essentially radically libertarian like that described in the Torah, I don’t think we want a tyrannical state making decisions about what is blasphemy.

    1. LOL… Libertarianism is the EXACT reason why we are where we now are.

      A pox upon all movement Libertarianism.

      The minimalist Christian State(s) led by Christian Magistrates should enforce God’s law against blasphemy.

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