On Satire, Moods, and What We’re Known For 

A Response to Kevin DeYoung

One of the reasons I’ve long appreciated Kevin DeYoung is that he and I both value clarity. That’s why I was eager to read his recent critique of Doug Wilson and the “Moscow Mood.” Having done so, I understand why many folks have found it helpful. He’s raising a lot of the right issues. At the same time, I have some questions about his analysis and some important disagreements with his prescription.

DeYoung’s Critique

Let me begin with a brief summary of DeYoung’s main lines of criticism. He contends that Moscow’s appeal is largely visceral, not intellectual. People are drawn to a cultural, aesthetic, and political posture, a culture-building and culture-warring mood or vibe that says, “We are not giving up, and we are not giving in. We can do better than negotiate the terms of our surrender. The infidels have taken over our Christian laws, our Christian heritage, and our Christian lands, and we are coming to take them back.” 

DeYoung acknowledges that there are aspects of this mood or vibe that are commendable, but he nevertheless foresees “serious problems” with “the long term spiritual effects of admiring and imitating the Moscow mood,” to wit, that it is too often “incompatible with Christian virtue, inconsiderate of other Christians, and ultimately inconsistent with the stated aims of Wilson’s Christendom project.”

To demonstrate these problems, DeYoung highlights two promo videos for No Quarter November (NQN), Canon Press’s annual event in which they give away lots of free books and launch new resources on the Canon+ app, all while Doug Wilson writes weekly blog posts in which he speaks pointedly, with no qualifications, nuance, or hedging. DeYoung sees the promo videos as representative of the concerning aspects of the Moscow Mood. In particular, per DeYoung, the videos display a sarcastic and edgy tone; they take cheap shots at other Christians (such as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and G3 Ministries); they explicitly encourage culture-warring and culture-building; and they are focused on Wilson himself (as rebel, gunslinger, taboo-breaker, and hero for crazy times). 

According to DeYoung, NQN is selling “a carefully cultivated personality and image,” a vibe that is built on a “fundamentally oppositional framework,” “an adversarial stance toward the world” and toward cowardly Christians. “Differentiation is key,” DeYoung says, “and this can only be sustained by a mood of antagonism and sharp antithesis,” one that builds a following through negative partisanship and refuses to link arms with other networks but instead forges an unbreakable loyalty to Wilson as the Outsider-Disruptor. 

Satire as Rebuke

Like I said, I have some questions. For example, what is the proper role of satire and the serrated edge? It seems to me that a number of rhetorical devices are conflated throughout DeYoung’s article–writing with Chestertonian joy and Wodehousian verve, playfully mocking other Christians through memes, derisively mocking the folly and compromise of Christian leaders, shockingly indicting sin and idolatry through carefully deployed obscenities and vulgarities. Distinguishing these different types of rhetoric and their proper use would be immensely helpful and clarifying, but is not something that DeYoung takes the time to do. He opts instead to lump all these styles and strategies together. 

With that in mind, let me take a stab at clarifying a few common confusions about satire. At one level, satire is an appeal to reality over against the absurdities of sin and rebellion. It often appeals to those who live amidst corruption and hypocrisy, while provoking those who practice them. But satire is also a form of rebuke and admonition, deployed to correct and reprove someone when they’re heading down a sinful or foolish path. Like other forms of rebuke, it operates on a dimmer switch. Light satire might be used to reprove the folly of a fellow Christian who needs some prodding to knock it off. Heavier satire might be used to skewer serious compromise on the part of professing Christians, with the rebuke acting as a sifting agent–with some responding to the satirical rebuke with humility, and others hardening their hearts. And the heaviest satire might be used to expose and condemn great wickedness and rebellion. 

With that rubric, let’s consider some of DeYoung’s objections to Moscow’s use of satire. At one point, he argues that satire and mockery are inappropriate when dealing with serious wickedness in the culture. To mock the evil of the world with “Wokey, McWokeface” is “silly, unnecessary, and ultimately undermines the seriousness of the issue they are trying to address.” But wouldn’t this same criticism apply to Elijah mocking the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27), asking if their God is asleep or relieving himself? Wasn’t idolatry “serious wickedness”? Or ask yourself this question: why is it presently culturally acceptable to mock biblical marriage and traditional child rearing, but “hateful” to mock the obvious and immoral absurdities that mark the sexual revolution? Could it be that one of the ways that the world advances its rebellion, its blasphemy and heresy, is by teaching us what to laugh at and by demanding that we take its folly seriously (as this short video on the Moral Imperative of Mockery argues)? Could it be that the Bible deploys satire as a high-stakes weapon, one that is particularly suited for the trenches of a culture war? 

Or what about DeYoung’s objection that the serrated edge should be deployed only against the non-Christian world, and not against fellow Christian leaders. Well, again, if satire is a form of rebuke, then wouldn’t it be appropriate to use it to correct professing Christians? The Bible clearly doesn’t limit satire to the non-believing world. The shepherds of Israel, the priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees–all of these are subject to a variety of caricature, indictment, mockery, and scorn at the hands of the prophets and the Lord himself. And this doesn’t imply that every member of these groups was unregenerate. Some members of the Sanhedrin followed Christ. Did Christ’s satirical rebuke of them as a whole have anything to do with that?  

Viewing satire as a form of rebuke helps to answer the particular examples that DeYoung highlights from the video–the jab at the ERLC and the shot at G3. In the first case, the Bible uses satire to rebuke the compromise and misplaced priorities of the leaders of God’s people (think of Christ’s criticism of the Pharisees for straining gnats and swallowing camels (Matthew 23:24)). The ERLC, which DeYoung commends as an allegedly conservative Christian bulwark, has arguably demonstrated precisely those kinds of misplaced priorities and compromise, whether it’s lobbying for liberal immigration reform and gun control or opposing anti-abortion legislation in Louisiana. It has decidedly not been on the same side as conservative Christians in key cultural battles. I suspect that DeYoung’s assessment of the NQN shot at the ERLC is owing both to a mistaken view of the appropriate targets of biblical satire as well as different assessments of the fidelity of that particular institution.

As for G3, the men associated with that ministry have publicly misrepresented and attacked Moscow (and Christian Nationalists more broadly) in various ways over the last six months while steadfastly refusing to have any clarifying conversations or discussions (despite repeated invitations to do so in a variety of formats). It’s ironic for DeYoung to chide Moscow for a playful jab when it’s Moscow who have repeatedly sought to find common ground with G3 (to no avail). A playful swipe is perhaps a good way to prod them to conduct themselves with greater charity and clarity when it comes to representing the views of fellow Christians.

In a slightly different category is the use of meme-making that playfully pokes fun at fellow believers. Think of the kind of banter that groups of men regularly engage in as a part of masculine friendship. In such circumstances, you earn the respect and trust of other men by being willing to take your lumps and to give as good as you get. Such playfulness is a sign of health, humility, and camaraderie. Even insults can be a sign of affection (and no, this isn’t an excuse for “locker room talk”). 

Which brings me to the heaviest kind of satire–the use of vulgarities and obscenities to expose gross rebellion. Wilson has recently responded to another reasonable criticism of his (very rare) use of such rhetoric. Some critics give the impression that Wilson casually cusses like a sailor for the fun of it. While he admittedly did do a stint in the Navy, this characterization is simply untrue. His use of obscenities and vulgarities ought to be regarded as an intentional act of translation, one that he deploys sparingly and in particular contexts. When sin, folly, and idolatry are unrecognized for the evil that they are, the use of vulgar and obscene language translates the evil into a form that is both accurate and shocking, as when Ezekiel likens the idolatry of Israel to a woman who lusts after the genitals of donkeys. To use one of the more infamous examples, when the apostate Lutheran lady pastrix gave Gloria Steinem that award, she was saying something with the statue. Wilson simply translated it into English.

In all my years of discussing the use of satire, I’ve yet to hear one of Wilson’s critics provide an example of a faithful imitation and application of this prophetic mode of speech. If Wilson is doing it so wrong, where are the examples of Christian writers and preachers doing it right? Has DeYoung (or others who share his criticism of Moscow) ever used satire, mockery, and the serrated edge to rebuke the folly and rebellion around us? Both the Old Testament and New Testament are filled with the serrated edge in various forms, from short rebukes (“you foolish Galatians”) to imprecations to caricatures to scathing indictments to derisive mockery, and all of it undergirded with a deep joy and gratitude for God’s kindness. And yet outside of Moscow and the Babylon Bee, I can’t think of anyone attempting to deploy that kind of biblical speech in confronting worldliness and rebellion. 

What’s Front and Center?

But I have more questions. DeYoung contends that Moscow does not put the right things “front and center.” He claims that Wilson’s online persona is not about introducing people to Reformed creeds and confessions, or explaining the books of the Bible, or about global missions to the uttermost parts of the earth, or about liturgy, preaching, prayer, and the ordinary means of grace. Now perhaps DeYoung might respond, “Yes, those resources are available, but they are not emphasized in Doug’s online persona.” But how are we assessing that? How many times does Canon have to tweet something before it is sufficiently front and center? How many times does Doug need to feature his commentaries in the header of his blog? How many bread and butter expository sermons does Doug need to preach for that to be a defining mark of his ministry? How many global missions conferences does Christ Church need to host in order to satisfy critics like DeYoung? 

DeYoung does gesture toward a means of evaluation later in that same paragraph: “If Wilson and Canon Press believe that their bread and butter is about all those things (creeds, confessions, Bible, missions), then they should devote an entire month (or even a whole year) to just those things without any snark, without any sarcasm, and without any trolling of other Christians.” There’s the rub. Despite his acknowledgment that satire is “a holy weapon in the Lord’s army,” at the end of the day, it seems there is little to no place for satire and jocularity in “culture warring rightly understood.” Or to put it another way, the underlying assumption throughout DeYoung’s article is that Moscow engages in satire “too much,” and doesn’t accent basic Christian teaching “enough.” But I’m still left with “What’s the right ratio, and how do we know?”

Vibe Check

We can press more deeply into the ratio question. Consider DeYoung’s criticism of the Moscow Mood, which he describes as pugnacious and jocular. DeYoung’s criticism boils down to this: “The main thing Wilson (and Canon) do is fight, and they really seem to enjoy it.”

Part of the issue is that Chestertonian joviality pervades the ministries here in Moscow, and that Doug always writes with Wodehousian color, including in his use of satire and polemics. The common mistake is to conflate these Chestertonian and Wodehousian elements with the polemics and satire. Given the millions of words that have come out of Moscow over the years, satire is only a small portion of the output.

But this is only part of the issue. The other has to do with restricting the criticism to Doug’s online persona and to Canon’s social media. As DeYoung acknowledges, Wilson and company have built an “ecosystem of schools, churches, media offerings, and publishing ventures.” Wilson, thus, wears a number of different hats: pastor at Christ Church, board member and fellow of theology at New Saint Andrews college, and so forth.

But one of Wilson’s particular callings is a writer. In general, he writes books and he writes articles. A generation ago, he would have had a side hustle as a columnist in a newspaper. In the internet age, he has a blog, and he writes roughly two columns a week commenting on various and sundry matters, whether theological, cultural, or political. In writing those columns/articles, he frequently employs satire, as a deliberate rhetorical strategy in a particular medium. This is a particular calling, and one that he manifestly enjoys. “Blessed be the Lord my strength, who trains my hands for [culture] war.” Like the warrior in Psalm 19 who runs his course with joy, Wilson does wield his keyboard on the battlefield of the internet like D’artagnan and the musketeers. 

So when DeYoung singles out Wilson’s “online persona” and criticizes all the constant fighting, he’s unfairly stacking the deck. It’s like going to a football game and concluding, “All those guys do is hit people. And they really seem to enjoy it.” Well, yes, that’s what happens at a football game. In other words, DeYoung has singled out two places where fighting most frequently occurs (social media and Doug’s blog) and presented that as the defining mark of Moscow. DeYoung must either believe that we should not fight at all, or that we should fight in some other place (and perhaps with a long face).

This is why DeYoung’s criticism of Moscow will inevitably strike many appreciators of Moscow as hollow and unfair. They know that, while fighting and sparring in the culture war is one of the things we do (and one of the things that we enjoy doing), it’s not the main thing that we do, or the only thing that we enjoy (consider one representative testimony). Because the fact is, we enjoy a lot of things out here. Joy in Christ pervades this community. We enjoy big meals and block parties. We enjoy drinking beer and singing psalms. We enjoy making children and raising children (we’ve even been known to discipline them with cheerfulness and joy). Most especially, we enjoy worshiping God with his people, renewing covenant with him and delighting in all of his kindness to us. It’s simply false to say, as DeYoung does, that we enjoy the fight itself more than what we’re fighting for. 

Whatever our hands find to do, we try to do it with all our heart, because we are doing it for the Lord. And this extends to all manner of labor and vocations. Some of us enjoy teaching college students and coaching high school football. Others enjoy interior decorating and cooking Sabbath meals. Still others enjoy making documentaries and selling books that will help you Apocalypse Proof Your Family. And yes, some of us enjoy skewering folly and unbelief and occasionally wielding a flamethrower. We do all of these things in obedience to Jesus. We sincerely want to serve the Lord with joy and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things.

What We’re Known For

But I know that at this point, some will say, with DeYoung, “Yes, but that’s not what you’re known for.” Which brings me to my larger concern with DeYoung’s criticism of the Moscow Mood. Does DeYoung recognize that he and his circles also have a “carefully cultivated personality and image,” a brand that they seek to display to the world? The circles he inhabits are governed by a mood of respectability, credibility, and responsibility. And in and of itself, that’s fine. Those are biblical principles (just like courage and satire). But does he recognize that the appeal of that mood is “visceral, not intellectual?” And that it has particular temptations associated with it? More importantly, has he sought to publicly address those temptations in the ministries he’s associated with?

And lest I be accused of simple whataboutism, let me clarify the argument I’m making. DeYoung identifies his intended audience as “those who appreciate some of what Wilson says but also feel like something isn’t quite right.” DeYoung writes in order to validate that feeling and to identify what that “something” is. I’m suggesting that instead those who feel that something is off should interrogate the feeling itself. They should examine whether that feeling is actually grounded in the Scriptures or whether it’s driven by the wrong kind of desire for respectability, what we might call the Respectable Mood.

But at this point, I need to draw attention to my chief difficulty in warning about the “long-term spiritual effects of admiring and imitating” the Respectable Mood. The challenge is that while DeYoung can dissect a public NQN video in order to issue his warning, the temptations and dangers of Respectability are largely behind the scenes. 

What do I mean? I mean the concerned emails from a fellow pastor if you recommend a Wilson book on parenting. I mean the Christian academic who has his footnotes policed and scrubbed of references to anything from Moscow. I mean the Christian scholar who is warned that he will struggle to get a teaching job if he accepts an invitation to give a lecture at New Saint Andrews. I mean the enormous pressure brought to bear on Christian leaders to not publicly express gratitude or appreciation for Moscow. Contrary to DeYoung, differentiation doesn’t merely happen by sharp antagonism in public; it happens by passive-aggressive pressure, tone-policing, and piles of angst and “concern” expressed in private, all in service of maintaining that “carefully cultivated personality and image” of Respectability.

DeYoung fears that Moscow appeals to what is worldly in us. I have the same fear about the circles that DeYoung runs in. DeYoung worries that the world is burning and Moscow is lighting things on fire. I worry that DeYoung is bringing out a fire extinguisher in the middle of a flood. Because what the concern about Mood betrays is an overweening concern with “what we’re known for,” with a craving for respectability. This is the besetting temptation of evangelicals, and if you doubt its danger, ask yourself this question: How far did Wokeness penetrate into various conservative churches and ministries (including ones that DeYoung is associated with), and how was it able to do so? And did a desire for respectability, reputation, credibility, and “being known for the right things” have anything to do with it?

To return to the earlier point about satire, I recall showing NSA’s “Wokey McWokeface” ad to a pastor friend and asking his thoughts. He responded very simply: “There are some problems that that school will never have.” Indeed. Could it be that the satirical element in the Moscow Mood is part of a healthy immune system, preventing certain respectable kinds of ideological rot from ever taking root? 

Because here’s the reality: you cannot control what you’re known for. And this is one of the key benefits of the Moscow Mood to those who will receive it. Moscow has had years of practice in doing many good and faithful things which even sober-minded critics like Kevin DeYoung will only hat tip on the way to insisting that what we’re really all about is snark and pugnaciousness. And so we’ve resolved to continue to do all of those good and faithful things anyway, and not worry about what we’re known for, either in the eyes of the world, or in the eyes of Respectable Christians. As the fellow said, “Let the chips fall where they may.” We’ll leave our reputation in God’s hands.

And in all sincerity, I would appeal to other Christian leaders to adopt the same mentality. Don’t make “what you’re known for” the lodestar for your community. If you do, you’re opening yourself to being steered. You may want to be known for your care for the poor and for your joy in Christ. But in our present cultural context, what you’ll actually be known for is your “hate” for homosexuals and your opposition to women’s “rights.” And since you’ve made “what you’re known for” your guiding light, you will go to enormous lengths to avoid the bad reputation.

Linking Arms and the Right Hand of Fellowship

Which brings me to my last response. DeYoung laments that Moscow has not sought to link arms with other networks, instead opting for cavalier repartee and antagonism toward other Christians. In DeYoung’s mind, the barrier to Christian fellowship lies primarily on Moscow’s side, since Moscow has made fun of some who could be allies.

When I read that, I was quite frankly astounded. I’ve been involved in seeking to build bridges among Reformed evangelicals for over fifteen years. I have friends in a lot of places, from Bethlehem to The Gospel Coalition to 9Marks to the SBC to the Davenant Institute and beyond. I have sought to maintain those friendships and to foster friendships among my friends for that entire time. I helped organize the Evening of Eschatology. I moderated multiple discussions between John Piper and Doug Wilson that focused in detail on the different “moods” or ethoses of their respective communities. In all of these efforts, my aim has been to show and foster a deep fellowship in the gospel and the Scriptures among people with differences in temperament, ethos, and ministry philosophy.

I can honestly say that in all of my efforts the fundamental barrier to linking arms has come from outside of Moscow. The Moscow mentality has long been that of the Narnians in The Horse and His Boy who were “ready to be friends with anyone who is friendly and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t.” The main obstacle has been that others have deliberately sought to avoid friendship and association with Moscow, and they have policed their communities accordingly. And they have done so almost always out of a concern for respectability, credibility, and reputation. “Don’t stand too close to Moscow because you’ll get too much Doug on you.”

Yes, Moscow differentiates itself from others in various ways, but without expecting anyone to imitate all of its methods. As we’ve said before, we’re building and defending our portion of the wall in our way, and we are happy that others are building and defending their portion of the wall in theirs. Our attitude toward certain kinds of differences in ethos and approach is well expressed by C.S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm.

Broaden your mind, Malcolm, broaden your mind! It takes all sorts to make a world; or a church. This may be even truer of a church. If grace perfects nature it must expand all our natures into the full richness of the diversity which God intended when He made them, and Heaven will display far more variety than Hell. “One fold” doesn’t mean “one pool.”

So let DeYoung be DeYoung. Let Piper be Piper. Let Mohler be Mohler. Let Wilson be Wilson. We can even offer criticism and challenge each other as friends. But it’s difficult to “link arms with other networks” when the leaders in those networks continually and repeatedly decline invitations to come out and speak at a conference or to participate in an online discussion or to be seen in any way as friendly to Moscow and instead exert substantial peer pressure on others to do the same.

So let me renew an offer that others here in Moscow have made in various ways over the years. We actually think that these discussions matter. We also think that there are opportunities to find a lot of common ground and to disagree with warmth and affection (and some playful jabs). But we think that finding that common ground will actually require some conversations, discussions, debates—the kind of back and forth that brings true clarity to folks in the Reformed world. And so the offer is still open, to DeYoung, to the guys at G3, to Rod Dreher, to any other critics who think these issues matter. Just shoot me a DM. We’re happy to host you, whether in person or online. Or we’re happy to join you on your turf. But either way, as far as Moscow is concerned, the right hand of fellowship is cheerfully extended in all directions.

A Word of Encouragement for Friends of Moscow

Finally, let me say something to those who appreciate the Moscow Mood but who live in communities where such appreciation is a problem. You and I both know that, whatever his intent, DeYoung’s article will be wielded as a tool of keeping you in line, to pressure you to mute your appreciation for Moscow. In some cases, it will be used by friends and colleagues who still recommend resources from Russell Moore and David French, two evangelicals who practically make their living criticizing other Christians to NPR and the New York Times. And, no, they won’t see the irony.

I know you feel frustrated by the pressure and angst that these sorts of discussions bring. But if you’re looking for empathy from me, well, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Instead, I want to encourage you to take advantage of the pressure. To borrow a phrase from John Piper, “Don’t waste your angst.” 

In particular, don’t grumble or complain or whine about how frustrating the pressure is. Instead, give thanks to God for it. You and I both know that the bread and butter of the Moscow Mood is actually gratitude to the living God in all things and for all things. That includes giving thanks to God for the ways that the family of ministries out here have been a blessing to you. And it includes giving thanks to God for the unwelcome pressure from your friends who are concerned about the fact that Moscow has been a blessing to you. If God is gracious, the long-term spiritual effect of that pressure will be to make you a more steady, patient, and grateful person, and that will be a blessing to those around you (whether they appreciate Moscow or not). And if nothing else, your continued cheerful appreciation of Moscow (especially in public) will act as a disinfectant for your community, keeping various progressive cancers from finding a home among your people. This too is a blessing of the Moscow Mood–you don’t have to imitate all of it in order to get the health benefit. You just have to stand close enough and refuse to budge. 

Second, resist the temptation to partisanship. Just because others want to police the teachers who help you love Christ and your family and your neighbors better doesn’t mean that you need to respond in kind. Over the years, I’ve benefited greatly from a variety of Christian leaders, including both Doug Wilson and Kevin DeYoung (and John Piper and Mark Dever and Al Mohler and Tim Keller and so on). One of the most refreshing aspects of the Moscow Mood to me is the freedom to benefit from these men for what they’ve done well, and to publicly commend them without any hesitation, and to do so while disagreeing with them when appropriate and necessary. Others may regard these types of difference and disagreement as a barrier to fellowship and Christian camaraderie. But you need not. So don’t be ashamed to acknowledge the teachers that have helped you to follow Christ more closely.

Finally, remember that the proof is in the pudding. Out-rejoice the critics. Love Christ. Delight in your family. Love your neighbors. Rejoice in your tribulations. Cultivate patience and long-suffering when you’re misunderstood. Remember that you can’t control what you’re known for; you can only control what you do and how you live. So walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, calibrate your standards by the word of God, and just keep doing what you’re doing. And don’t forget to chuckle along the way. After all, Jesus is Lord. 

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Joseph Rigney

Joseph Rigney serves as Fellow of Theology at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. He is the author of numerous books, including Courage: How the Gospel Creates Christian Fortitude (Crossway, 2023).

31 thoughts on “On Satire, Moods, and What We’re Known For 

  1. Well said, Dr. Rigney.

    I spent 5 years in Moscow during the height of the Federal Vision controversy. Since then, one question I’ve gotten more than once is, “What was it like living around so much conflict and controversy? Did it get exhausting?”

    My honest answer was that, unless I deliberately chose to follow the controversy online, I would never have known about it. Our day to day life in Moscow was crammed with fellowship, worship, discipleship in personal holiness, singing, hospitality, and devotional exercises. Like Knox said of Geneva, it was a wonderful school of Christ.

    From Pastor Wilson I learned that worship of God is the center of all of life, and that gratitude and cheerfulness for ordinary things is the indispensable attitude of the Christian.

    The culture warring flows inexorably from the pursuit of holiness, but culture warring itself was never the raison d’etre of the Moscow Mood. The chief end was always the love of God in Christ and the desire to push this love into every corner of private and corporate life.

    Probably 95% of the content coming out of Moscow is doxological and practical piety. To miss this fact argues either ignorance or spiritual imperceptiveness.

  2. Bravo! Let us remember Jesus’ rebuke to the pharisees and examine ourselves.

    “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the seat of honor in the synagogues and personal greetings in the marketplaces.”

  3. Rule of thumb: if someone offers criticism along the lines De Young does here, i.e., “There’s a place/time for doing/saying X, but here/now isn’t it,” check to see if 1) they have articulated an allegedly appropriate time/place X, or even better, 2) one can point to an example of them actually doing/saying X.

    If nothing comes readily to mind, then they’re just tone policing. What they’re really saying is “I don’t think anyone should do/say X ever, because X makes me uncomfortable.”

    Note: even if the answer to 1) is in the affirmative, don’t stop the analysis there. Check to see whether the criteria under which they’d allow doing/saying X make any kind of sense. I think you’ll find that there’s a lot of critics allowing that closing the barn door might be necessary under certain circumstances, just not while the horse is still in the barn.

    Ironically enough, I’m increasingly inclined to think that mockery may well be the best possible response to such posturing. . . .

  4. Thank you Mr. Rigney.
    I don’t know you personally but as an evangelical generalist, armchair theologian, missionary, church musician, elder, yadda yadda….all I can say is you nailed it. Thank you. (Sorry for the weak credentials, I truly hate that stuff).

    Exposure to Moscow’s culture (via the CREC and Canon Press) has been a transformative re-awakening that my entire family draws deeply from each day. I’ve worked with excellent missionaries who labored with a long term view and who developed societal “infrastructure”. Pastor Wilson and others have done just that and, no surprise, it will draw ire from all quarters, including churchmen who think it okay to beat up on the servants while the Master is away. In spite of this, infrastructure endures, and prayerfully it will land in the hands of worthy stewards for generations who are bold enough to believe Christ is Lord Now.

    For this pilgrim, exposure to Moscow and the CREC will likely prove to be the most major shift in “applied theology” I will experience in my 3 score and 8. This is also true of a growing number of my community, young and old, way back east in Maine. I’m grateful for a friend who ultimately became my pastor. He did yeoman’s work to see where the flame of Christian love and truth was burning brightest before pointing his finger towards Moscow and the CREC for a (now) thriving church plant.

    As a church elder who has had the pleasure (sarcastic emphasis mine) to call out awful apostasies in a small town (think theologian sex offenders, open rebellion and schisms), I can tell you that even conservative theologians will hate you and present you as “Beelzebub the 2nd” for upsetting the cherished status quo. We may be a small time Moses but the problems are, in principle, the same.

    That said: Go for it Moscow! Go for it CREC! Go for it Canon! Hand me a cigar! Joy to the world, the Lord has come !

    Thanks again.

  5. I’m constantly amazed when someone publicly calls out Doug Wilson how quickly they rally the troops. He’s a grown man. He can respond for himself. The main thing that stands out to me regarding all of the blogs and articles that have been written since DeYoung’s criticism is this – finger pointing! As a parent, I have never allowed my children to do that. If one of them has done something inappropriate or in any way offended another, we make them own it! All Mr. Rigney and the rest of the troops have done is – well, let me tell you about DeYoung, ERLC, TGC. I am in no way a fan of any of the aforementioned but I think it’s important to take responsibility. Once again, this is so juvenile. I expect more from my young children. Shouldn’t these grown men be more mature? Own it and stop deflecting. Also, when did Ezekiel become the standard? Aren’t we to emulate Christ?

    1. Mr. Rigney is responding to Mr. DeYoung and ERLC and TGC are some of the topics. Thats not finger pointing, thats communicating. And John the Baptist calling the religious leaders a “brood of vipers” is probably more poignant than calling baby murdering wokesters “Wokey-McWokeface”.

      1. You missed my point. No problem with calling out the brood of vipers – although are you saying deyoung is the brood? Instead of taking deyoung’s criticism as constructive and seeing if there might be any truth there, they are deflecting to someone else’s faults. Once again, I don’t let my children do that. If you’re going to call out deyoung, erlc, etc do that at a different time, which of course we know Wilson and his guys have already done. I never hear public figures say – you know, you might be right about this, I was sinful. It’s always – well, I disagree and you did x, y, and z. And then they all go back to their corners. Until the next round.

        1. You’re correct, I do not see your point. You are reading things that are not there.
          Lets look at the facts. Mr. DeYoung posted an article, not just about Doug Wilson, but the whole “Moscow mood”. Mr. Rigney replied directly to that article. Nobody even eluded to Mr. DeYoung being “the brood”. Therefore, the article is not deflecting as you say, but instead is a direct response. If you don’t let your kids do that, then they will never have any constructive argument in their lives.
          Just because you do not hear public figures say, “you were right about this” does not mean that they do not do so. I have even seen Doug Wilson post these on occasion. However, it is not right for one to say they were wrong, when indeed, they were not.

          1. I for one heartly rejoice in all the good I see happening in Moscow and in the various helpful resources that work to strengthen the family, church, and our worship of God. But, I also see Hanna’s point entirely and stopped to appreciate it. This is not a false dilemma. Imperfection can exist in balance and on level ground (there is level ground at the cross), and that is a more persuasive description of reality, given that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Prove there was no possible overstep, insensitivity, heavy handedness, lack of the utmost ministry of Charity, or wrong in any sense, in any way, at any time, and you may have made a point of your own that persuasively inclines me to see that people who question some of Moscow’s methods are simply operating on feelings, too sensitive, reading into things, or perhaps misunderstanding Moscow, due to being “uncomfortable.” Why can’t healthy, omnidirectional self examination produce a tenderness and humility in Christ in the responses that come from Moscow’s ardent defenders, as well as others? I often observe a striking resemblance of bias coming from Moscow rather than an abundance of super obvious, self-effacing Christian humility and Charity. My suspicion of this does not give safe harbor to the issues I also see them working to defeat: woke culture, spineless Christianity, sinful culture, and so forth. I stand with them in all of that, and with others who do the same but are not considered part of the Moscow’s tribe (for whatever reason), but I am calling for a balanced delivering of humble self-examination (the kind that has a spine and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable in public). I am also not saying that this posture has never come from Moscow in any sense, at any time, or in any way. I am saying that I can relate to people who may be stepping back, scratching there heads and asking if the “Moscow mood’s” way of doing things is always best, and I categorically reject the idea that someone is merely being “uncomfortable” and needs to get over it, if they question Moscow’s approach (the tone police line has worn itself out and needs to be retired). This whole we do it our way, and you do it your way, and let’s all hold hands and sing hallelujah while it happens, seems to miss the point that there is such a thing as being too harsh, too rough, too dismissive, etc., just like there is such a thing as being too weak, too aloof, and too accepting. This is not a false dilemma.

  6. I have lived in nearby Spokane, WA and also now live near to Matthews, NC and served as an elder in a local PCA church.

    We have perhaps a unique experience and perspective.

    I would encourage the spirit of examining the fruit. Moscow life is refreshing, God honoring and anyone visiting will see the joy in God that pervades the Moscow culture. You will also hear that joy loudly if you happen to be a little late to Sunday services. Yes, Men (and their families) sing joyfully, loudly and (gosh!) in 4 part harmony. Not the choir, the congregation.

    In my PCA church, they haven’t practiced discipline in years and when my teenage son fell into serious sin, after many months of periodic meetings with him, returned him to table fellowship with no repentance, ignoring all evidence and witness testimony to the truth. They did not follow the PCA book of Church Order in discipline and ignored the dark sexual sin evidence, returning that to the Lord’s table.

    This is not DeYoung’s church, but when my wife and I sought counsel of two of his Elders, their advice was to just walk away. No follow up regarding a sister church that might be in trouble. No wonder ReVoice was birthed in the PCA.

    Wilson does not stop at the weak theoretical. Moscow demonstrates the power of God in confidence. I would suggest that before criticizing Moscow, any pastor should be asking – do your Men sing? Do you practice discipline to save souls through showing the real seriousness of sin? Do you care about the purity of the church above church growth and offerings?

    Do you do more than deliver a well done presentation of the text each Sunday? Do you know how many of your families are suffering with more than obvious medical concerns and what the key areas of soul support they need? How many lost children? How do you know?

    Do you know in any way other than if a family in distress comes to you? Do you maintain a Sanhedrin like lofty ignorance?

    If so, then well and truly done, good and faithful servant. I’d love to visit your church.

    If not, perhaps a little Matt 7 reading might be indicated – further than verse 5, all the way to the end of the chapter if you dare.

    All this to say, if you have not visited the Moscow (and Spokane) culture, in the middle of a very hostile humanistic culture, be careful you are not following the same errors of second hand testimony that is rife in our cancel culture?

    To Kevin, I would ask have you visited Moscow to see the fruit?

    Do you know the PCA church of which I speak (hint: it’s a very short drive). Does your presbytery not do an annual review of fruit?

    And perhaps return to Matt 7, log and speck – and recall that the Pharisees were the conservative leaders of the time, some being faithful Jews. Not very nice, sounds pretty sarcastic to me.

    Would you counsel the same regarding Jesus talking to the “church” of His incarnation? Hmmm. Isaiah, Elijah, used naughty words too. What was their fruit?

    1. I hope the root of your bitterness does not take more of a hold than it already has. Blessings to you sir.

  7. This was a spot-on and respectful take down, and absolutely necessary. Evangelical elites, and many in the Reformed camp, have become co-conspirators with the secular left. Like Uniparty Republican RINOs, they are most adept at losing, and giving ground in culture and politics by being “respectable.” Wilson has been hugely influential on my life since I embraced postmillennialism in August of ’22, the very last thing I ever thought I would do. The revival of what was once thought a discredited eschatology is probably the most encouraging thing to have happened in my Christian life of 45 years, and I’m not exaggerating.

    I personally know a young man who came to Christ from atheistic agnosticism through men associated with Wilson’s ministry, and he’s gone to one of the churches their churches for several years now. He speaks with such an amazing passion about the fellowship and atmosphere of the place it makes me jealous. The critics like DeYoung and others don’t have a clue about how God is using Wilson to help people see what Jesus meant teaching us to pray, Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May his tribe increase!

  8. What Kevin DeYoung is missing is that there a great many Christians of all types who are sick and tired of the lead-from-behind, be nice at all costs, wussies (yes, I said it). The kind that do not rebuke the fools and subsequently lead their own flocks astray. We are tired of the Ned Flanders Christians who admonish their brothers for their subjective interpretations of their own language, drinking, or smoking laws (as DeYoung did) and ignore the mission drift of their own organizations, denominations, and friends. This is why the church is in the state that it is in today. Winsomeness is not winning.
    It seems DeYoung’s main issue with Wilson is that Doug is a meany and says things that make him uncomfortable and of course, a flame-thrower. How can you be a Christian today and not realize that the culture IS on fire and that the metaphor of firing back (with a flame-thrower) at the cultural icons (Disney, social media, the “woke”, etc…) that are destroying our civilization is a good one?
    Maybe Doug Wilson isn’t your cup of tea, but embracing the nice, pleasant language of Joel Osteen is not an acceptable alternative.

  9. While I have followed Doug for decades and agree with him on many things, one of my disagreements with him is making light of the sin of cursing. It’s a sin when those words are used outside of a very very small context ( which is not theological discussions)

  10. The “Moscow Mood” has done more for me to sanctify than my years with the URC, OPC combined. The Spirit is working in this “Mood” while exercising in and around all doctrines, a to z , soup to nuts. Here too I have learned and have valued the instruction especially that of Doug Wilson himself. He and the Moscow Mood are truly for Christ for all of life, mine included.

    On another note [and I might be mistaken] I think the saying is “the proof is in the eating of the pudding” so correct me if I am wrong but it does make sense that Deyoung, TGC, Westminster Escondido, G3 often won’t even taste the pudding cuz they already know everything. “Come taste and see that the Lord is good…”

  11. “ready to be friends with anyone who is friendly and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t.”

    OK, is your definition of “friendly” agreeing with you on absolutely everything? Because it’s hard for me to take this seriously when you list abortion (a cut and dry moral issue), immigration reform (something you can make arguments for or against from a Christian perspective) and gun control (something that…honestly has nothing to do with the Bible at all) as equally nonnegotiable issues, this statement is pretty laughable.

    (No, I do NOT want more gun control. Hunting is the only real sport people have in my neighborhood. Getting rid of it would be a loss to the community. But I’m not going to treat anyone who disagrees with me as an enemy of Christendom.)

    I can accept the argument that Wilson’s “playground insults,” to use DeYoung’s term, are an example of biblical rebuke but I disagree with both DeYoung and Rigney that he’s much of a fighter. If defeating his enemies is his goal, he’s not accomplishing much. As far as I can tell, his ideological opponents ignore him and only his supporters read his stuff. The main thing it seems to accomplish is making them feel good about themselves.

    I’m a bit sorry to say this since I’ve appreciated some of the arguments that Wilson has made and some of Rigney’s writing too. But my respect for the former anyway has been on a downward spiral for a while.

    1. See, where I’m coming from is that I’m no real fan of Wilson’s, but not for any of the reasons KDY lays out. I just can’t take the man seriously. He’s a great rhetorician, but a pretty lousy theologian.
      But that doesn’t mean I have to appreciate criticisms of his “Mood” from men who by all rights should be doing what Wilson is trying to do without all of Wilson’s baggage.
      The fact that we’re even having this conversation is, if anything, a serious indictment of leaders like KDY. Cowards don’t get to hold forth on the difference between courage and recklessness. If more serious, reputable leaders–like KDY!–were doing their jobs, Wilson wouldn’t have a fraction of the audience he does.

  12. I’m a Baptist who has appreciated a fair bit of Wilson’s writing over the years. I tell people, “I disagree with 50% of what Doug writes, but the 50% is better than 100% of a lot of other guys I read.” I’ve quoted him from the pulpit. I recommend some of his books. We use Logos curriculum with our kids. So I’m no victim of Moscow Derangement Syndrome.

    Rigney makes some good points in this article, but I have a hard time taking the “What You’re Known For” section seriously, particularly when he dismisses DeYoung’s “concern about Mood” as betraying “an overweening concern with ‘what we’re known for,’ with a craving for respectability.”

    What a way to dodge the real issue. It’s like if I walked outside with no pants on, and my wife scolded me, and I told her she was too worried about what other people think of us. I mean, maybe? But I should probably still put on some pants.

    Maybe DeYoung is too concerned about respectability. I wouldn’t know; I can’t read hearts yet. But even if he is, does that mean we can wave away his criticisms like they’re nothing? Despite Rigney’s conscious attempts to avoid “whataboutism,” it’s hard to not see that criticism finding some purchase here.

    My jaw literally fell open at this sentence: “Because here’s the reality: you cannot control what you’re known for.” I can’t imagine that Rigney really believes what he wrote here. Not in the internet age; not with Canon Press’ savvy marketing; not with Doug’s patent self-awareness.

    We’re not talking about a private person, minding their own business. We’re talking about a public figure who has been responsible for putting out a lot of carefully-crafted content with a fairly deliberate tone.

    I’m sure Christ Kirk is a great church, and Doug is a wonderful pastor, but on the internet, he’s known for being a bit of a jerk. He writes like Titus 3:2 isn’t in the Bible. And he’s had a fair bit of control over coming to be known that way. DeYoung is on firm ground to criticize that, no matter how great the block parties in Moscow are. (Which I say without sarcasm. I’d like to visit sometime.)

    1. The quoted sentence in the first paragraph should have said, “I disagree with 50% of what Doug writes, but the other 50% is better than 100% of a lot of other guys I read.”

  13. I don’t want to mindlessly defend Kevin DeYoung or anything but it’s hard for me to allow that he just doesn’t understand satire when to my mind, he’s written a satire of modern liberal thought that’s way funnier than anything I’ve read from Douglas Wilson. It’s an article by him called We Live in Confusing Times. Give it a google if you haven’t read it.

    To me, Wilson’s liberal-baiting just sounds like he’s saying (and encouraging his fans to say), “Lord, I thank you that I am not like that Woke person.”

  14. I thought Kevin DeYoung’s article was well written, well supported, and biblically God centered. Now Joe, you are attacking Kevin and mocking him (“And perhaps with a long face”). I lost respect for you here. I feel like you misrepresented the central thrust of Kevin’s article.

  15. Speaking as a member of the PCA. I’ve visited all of the CREC churches in Moscow as well as several PCA churches around America. I can assure you that I prefer the mood in Moscow to the mood in my home church and most of the PCA churches I’ve been to. The joy, the obvious love of Christ, the family atmosphere, the vigorous singing and much more are things to be emulated from Moscow, not criticized.

    This whole debacle has really knocked KDY down a few notches in my eyes. KDY seems to have the mood of “fear of man”.

  16. This was an excellent response. Normally, I would say that De Young is one of the few orthodox Christians at The Gospel Coalition, so I was confused why he hates Doug Wilson but sits happily beside Russell Moore. It’s not a good look at all.

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