Analysis of the Jay Wilson Debate


“Thus, in order to fully become a partaker of the divine nature, we must understand the glory and excellence of the risen Christ; and correspondingly, if we do understand, we shall take on His glorious character!” Jay Wilson, Cleansing the Inside of the Cup, p. 32.

“While here Christ was God and man; but at the resurrection and ascension Christ’s humanity was given the glory of His divinity and is no longer human but divine.  That transformation Christ effects for all His disciples. “From Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine….” Origen, as quoted by Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1918, pp. 76-77.

In the debate on sinlessness between Jay Wilson and Charles Doughty, January 8, 2002 at Hilliard, OH, several doctrinal issues of serious importance were brought to the forefront pertaining to Wilson and his controversial theology, and the following which has sprung up around him.  Though I was on the mission field at the time the debate was held, I have transcribed and thoroughly studied the debate, in addition to recorded meetings which Wilson has led in the past at our own congregation.  I am uniquely qualified to judge this debate as I am the son of one participant and have been a friend and supporter of the other since his pivotal trip to the East in 1986.  It was then that my friend Jerry Hoffman of the then First Christian Church in Glen Burnie, MD, invited Wilson to come to the National Prayer Clinic, and where I made acquaintance with Wilson.

Wilson has been on the mission field to Russia to help us in evangelism, and has held many meetings for our congregation, the Church of Christ at Bridgewater.  Wilson even asked me to be the moderate for this debate, though I declined.  Being a friend of this man, I continued to defend him when many in the brotherhood were accusing him of heresy… (love hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things,) but finally, in the face of mounting scriptural evidence showing Wilson’s theology not to be a theology at all, but an unscriptural false philosophic system, I was compelled, for the sake of the truth, and in Christian love, to publish a repudiation of it.

Evangelist Charles Doughty, a man known as a dynamic preacher and speaker throughout the brotherhood, has also a reputation at his home congregation for being a very loving preacher man.  Doughty preached at the 1990 Montana Family Camp and invited Wilson to speak at Mtn. View in 1987 and 1994.  Doughty long-suffered through the reports of strife which was transpiring at his former congregation, the Lake Mount Church of Christ, where Wilson made inroads, and some of his disciples were wreaking havoc on the congregation, which finally split.  In all of this, I never heard Doughty speak negatively of the preacher from Bozeman, as my father received various reports and continue his work.

But when Wilson’s disciples at the Church of Christ at Mountain View begin to cause disturbances and division; Doughty underwent a thorough process of scrutinizing the Wilson literature, and investigated the causes of other church splits which had transpired.  Believing himself called of God to show the fallacies of Wilson’s deductions, he accepted Wilson’s open challenge to meet in public debate, where he brought serious indictments against Wilson, and a call to repentance.

For Doughty, this was serious business, not simply a Biblical debate, but a church discipline matter.  Titus 3:5 says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject: ”Romans 16:17 says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and to avoid them.”  Such a determination would have to come by a careful cross-examination of scripture, and this is what Doughty determined to do in the debate, not to concern himself with having a strong or emotional oration, but to present his case calmly and rationally from the facts of scripture.  As the prosecutor has the burden of proof, Doughty went first in the opening presentation.

The most serious of Doughty’s indictments against Wilson was the fourth indictment, the charge of Adoptionism.



Adoptionism-The doctrine that Jesus of Nazareth became Son of God by adoption, that is, by exaltation to a status that was not His by birth.  Any of various theories in the first three centuries A.D. that, at first simply a man, He became Son of God by adoption, as at the time of His baptism or resurrection. (Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, p.141.)

In the debate, Doughty referenced the popular church history text by Williston Walker to briefly summarize the Logos heresies of this early period.  Walker, citing the Ante-Nicene Fathers, wrote that the seeds of the Adoptionist heresy were planted as early as A.D. 190.  Theodotus taught, “that Jesus was a man, born of the Virgin, of holy life, upon whom the divine Christ (or the Holy Spirit) descended at His baptism.  Some of Theodotus’ followers denied to Jesus any title to divinity; but others held that He became in some sense divine at His resurrection. (Walker, p. 68.)

This statement by Theodotus contains at least two heresies; adoptionism, the idea that Christ became divine through adoption, and secondly, what later became identified as Sabellianism, the idea that there was only one person in the Godhead with three forms.

The Alexandrian School of Clement, Origen, and Arius, did more to harm the view of Jesus as the Son of God than their predecessors in Rome and Asia Minor.  They sought to harmonize their view of Christianity with Greek philosophy.  Citing from his Ante-Nicene letters, Walker sums up a succinct view of Origen’s philosophy:

Salvation was wrought by the Logos-Son becoming man, by uniting with a human soul that had not sinned in its previous existence and a pure body.  While here Christ was God and man; but at the resurrection and ascension Christ’s humanity was given the glory of His divinity and is no longer human but divine.  That transformation Christ effects for all His disciples.  From Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine, not in Jesus alone, but in all those who not only believe but enter upon the life which Jesus taught. (Walker, p. pp 76-77.)

Thus Origen, with his notions of Christ being created out of substance, and later becoming divine at his resurrection, and his rejection of three distinct persons in the Godhead, paved the way for Arius, the father of the Jehovah Wittness’ Cult, to deny the eternality of Christ.  Reading Walker’s summary of Origen’s “theology” is almost a carbon copy of Wilson’s Chapter 2 on pages 15-36 of Cleansing the Inside of the Cup.

The Greek word MONOGENES translated “only begotten” occurs five times being spoken of Christ, all by the apostle John, in John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18, and 1 John 4:9.  Vines says, “We can only rightly understand the term ‘the only begotten’ when used of the Son, in the sense of an unoriginated relationship.  The begetting is not an event of time, however remote, but a fact irrespective of time.  The Christ did not become, but necessarily and eternally is the Son.” (Vines Expository Dictionary, Riverside, p. 822.)

Wilson is too smart to advocate that Jesus was not always and eternally the Son of God as Arius did; however, a close scrutinization of his theology proves that his is a de facto Adoptionism, because Wilson wants the Christian, who is adopted (Gal. 4:5, Rom. 8:15, 23) to receive in his new birth, what Christ received in his resurrection.

Having been buried with Christ in the likeness of His death, it is certain that we are raised in the likeness of His resurrection.  Having died with Christ, by faith we now live with Him.  Christ, in His resurrected state, is described as dead to sin, and alive to God.  Even so, then, a Christian is to consider himself as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ—he is to picture himself as already resurrected. CIC, p. 9.

There is an analogy between baptism and Calvary; we are buried, and we are raised up, but Wilson confuses the raising EGEIROS with the resurrection ANASTASIS, blending the present and the future together.  The Christian has been raised up, (EGEIROS), but the resurrection (ANASTASIS) is still future.  The analogy breaks down here.

The Power of God: As was stated earlier, the present, positive, affirmative principle will work for anyone who desires to use it, be he Christian or non-Christian.  This powerful mechanism will get results for athletes, insurance salesmen, big bankers, and New Agers.  It will work because it is a basic spiritual law which is built into man’s framework. CIC p. 9.

“What we have stumbled onto here is the most powerful life-changing, world-changing principle there is.  God is offering us, through the renewing process established in the first chapter, the opportunity to be changed into His likeness by understanding the three phases of Christ, and seeing, with our spiritual eyes, His glory. CIC pp. 31-32.

The grace and peace of God is going to come to us through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.  But we really only know the Father through following Christ in our understanding into His ascended glory.  Hence the apostle Peter speaks of God’s divine power operating “through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” CIC pp. 31-32

The precious and magnificent promises of which Peter speaks include and are predicated upon the true knowledge of God through the three phases of Christ.  Thus, in order to fully become a partaker of the divine nature, we must understand the glory and excellence of the risen Christ; and, correspondingly, if we do understand, we shall take on His glorious character! CIC, pp 31-32.

As his predecessor Origen, Wilson’s  writes that the Christian receives the character of the Godhead.  It is the final pinnacle in his God-making theology.  Are we wrangling over mere semantics here?  No.  The word CHARACTER is the Greek word which comes from Hebrews 1:3. It is the “express image” (KJV) or “exact representation” (NIV).  As he does often, Wilson has changed the vocabulary.  No where in the Bible is the word “character” even mentioned.  While we have the image of Christ (EIKON), the character is strictly reserved for Christ alone.

Here the God-makers festers to the surface.  In the debate, (page 77), Wilson asked, “Did Jesus have an edge?  Did He really have the Spirit without measure… in the sense that that ‘without measure’ is going to produce in Him a character that can never be produced in his children?  Or is, in fact, the fullness of God dwelling in the Christian.”

Wilson is severely deluded in his mind if he believes the fullness of God dwells in the Christian.  This statement is a perversion of Colossians 1:19 “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell,” and 2:9, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”  These are two Christological passages, the latter being one of only three “Godhead” passages in the scriptures.  This is nothing short of blasphemy!

In the past, I had blindly given Wilson the benefit of the doubt when he made his exaggerated statement here to our congregation in 2000, “The Mormons are half right when they say ‘as God was once so is man, and as God is so man shall become.”  We had excused many of these assertions as hyperbole, now we know it was meant literally.  In the context, Wilson was affirming the second half of the proposition of the Mormon slogan by citing 2 Peter 1:4 where Peter wrote, “ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”

In the debate, Doughty mentioned that Wilson had invited one Frank Hicks, author of a track entitled, “Ye are Gods,” with a capital “G” and humanist interpretation.  Again, Wilson builds his theology on a translation, and his whole theology unravels in rightly interpreting the word “partaker” is KOINONEA, which means “fellowship.”  We have fellowship with the divine nature, and are not partakers, as the word “joint partaker” suggests co-ownership, and Vines clearly distinguishes between the two words and ideas.

There is an analogy between the cross and the new birth, Romans 6:1-6, but that typology is limited because Christ possessed all the attributes of Godhead before his resurrection.  Christ was not adopted; the Christian is.  In his Romans 6 analogy, we do identify with the cross of Calvary in baptism, but there are some things we do not.  Wilson does not distinguish between EGEIRO (raising up) and ANASTASIOS (resurrection), blurring the present and future together into one package.

In his writings, Wilson seems confused himself over the blending of present and future.  On page 30, in his summary deductions, wherein lie the greatest fallacies, he writes:

We are already, in one sense, raised from the dead and in a state of glory.  But at Jesus’ second coming, the last trumpet shall sound, and this mortal shall put on immortality, and the body of this humble state shall be transformed into the likeness of the body of His glory.

Note the confusion of Wilson’s deduction, as especially seen by his use of the phrase, “in one sense.”  Why not clearly delineate from the two distinct Greek words.  The problem is that Wilson is attempting to “appropriate” in the first event, that which belongs to the second.  Hence the need for “in one sense,” which is a re-occuring phrase in Wilson’s thought.


In his prosecution, Doughty claimed that Wilson’s presentation of Christ was Adoptionist in that it had Christ becoming the Son “at His resurrection.”

In his Cleansing the Inside of the Cup, page 25, Wilson quotes John 3:16 and asks about the only begotten son, “in what sense is He “begotten”?  And, after citing Psalm 2:4-7, he asks “When was the ‘today’ in which Jesus was begotten?”  Upon referencing Acts 13:26-35, Wilson concludes, “And through His inspired usage, we know understand that Jesus was the “begotten Son” in His resurrection from the dead!”

Doughty highlighted this quotation and stressed that the “today” of Psalm 2:4-7 was an eternal day involving the whole contemplative counsel of God, including crucifixion as well as resurrection.  He said that picture of the lamb slain in Revelation emphasizes the eternal aspect of the whole propitiation.

Wilson did not use the word “at,” (which indicates a point in time) in the Cleansing the Cup passage cited above, however, he used the word “was” which, as a past tense form of the verb “to be,” is just as inexcusable in lieu of Christ’s eternal Sonship.  When Wilson responded to the charge, he referenced Christ’s declaration as Son of God “at that point,” speaking of the ascension; “But at that point, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God,” he said.

Wilson did not seem to have his “begotten” scriptures worked out; starting off his opening presentation by saying that “Jesus was born of the virgin Mary as the begotten son of God.”  In his opening presentation Wilson admitted, “Now there’s a sense in which Jesus was the Priest from all eternity, just as He was the Word from all eternity…”  (note the phrase, “Now there’s a sense,” in his theological writings, as if he acknowledges an apparent contradiction.)  Yet, said Wilson, speaking of the resurrection and ascension, “But at that point, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God,” Debate, page 42.

Wilson denied the adoptionist charge, “Now I have never, ever, maintained that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God prior to His coming to earth.  Wilson indicated that he did not teach Jesus became the Son of God, but rather that He was declared to be the son of God at the resurrection, according to Romans 1:4.  Yet, nowhere in his writings, nor in his three editions of Cleansing the Cup, Chapter 2, nor from quotations from of that chapter in his weekly bulletins had Wilson ever stressed the “declaration.”  He had simply lumped begotten and resurrection together, as he did in CIC on pages 26, 27:

“And through His inspired usage, we now understand that Jesus was the “begotten Son” in His resurrection from the dead!”

“God wants the “begotten-ness” of Jesus to be the definition of His divine power.”

“God defines His strength in the expressions connected with raising Jesus from the dead and seating Him at His right hand; His begotten-ness, in other words.”

“Jesus was begotten-glorified-to be a priest forever”

Doughty charged in the opening round that Wilson had created his own theological vocabulary, as seen first of all, through his word “begotten-ness,” in which, he said, Wilson was attempting to create a quality, state, or condition in time in which this state may begin.  Wilson also used the word “at” in his opening presentation, speaking of the resurrection; “But at that point, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God,” which suggests a point in time.  Wilson asserts in his book, Cleansing the Cup, page 26, (without Biblical support) that God “defined” his power through Christ’s resurrection, and, finally, when he talks about the “expressions connected” with the resurrection.

Again, the word “only begotten” in Greek is MONOGENES, and is used six times in the New Testament, five times of Christ, which, according to Vines, is the special case indicating a “fact irrespective of time.”  To fit his New Creation concept, Wilson needed to pinpoint Christ’s being the only begotten to the event of the resurrection, hence his adding of the “ness” suffix to the word.  According to Websters Dictionary, when Wilson does this, he is creating a state, or quality, or condition in which the begetting takes place.

Wilson writes on page 26 that “God wants the “begotten-ness of Jesus to be the definition of His divine power.”  But, this is a poor prooftext, because the passages Wilson cites do not prove that God defines his power here.  To be sure, the resurrection was a great triumph of God’s DUNAMIS power, but so also was the creation, the mighty works of God, the Word of God that was given (Heb 4:12), the apostolic miracle working (Acts 8:13), the gospel which Paul preached (Romans 1:16) …  Again, Wilson desperately wants this power of God limited to the resurrection, because it is only there, that he can call for it  to be transmitted to every immersed believer.  But Christ had this power before His resurrection.

Technically, we might mention that Wilson does not assign the power and glory to each and every immersed believer, but rather, “those who understand,”  Wilson writes:

“Thus, in order to fully become a partaker of the divine nature, we must understand the glory and excellence of the risen Christ; and, correspondingly, if we do understand, we shall take on His glorious character!”  CIC, p. 32, (emphasis his.)

This is why Wilson is compelled to seek the “re-baptism*” of those who were immersed into Jesus’ name, if in his opinion, they did not understand the “gospel of glory.”

What are the “expressions connected” to the resurrection, according to Wilson?  He writes on pages 29, 30, “But remember this, the nature of the glory of God is such that whatever sees that glory is transformed into the likeness of that same glory.”  What he is after here, is he wants us to receive in our baptism, what Christ received with his resurrection.  Here the typology breaks down.  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and entered into his glory?” says the Lord in Luke 24:26.

But the typology breaks down here; we Christians will not enter this glory until the day we are taken to heaven or the day Christ returns, (which makes the glory of which Wilson speaks all the more absurd considering he believes that the spirits of departed Christians await the Lord with Abraham in the holding tank of Sheol.)

This is the crux of Wilsonian Adoptionism: we receive in our “raising up” what Christ received in His “resurrection.”  Yet, the glory, divinity, and power of Christ belonged to Him before He resurrected.  We never had it, nor will we have.  The “expressions connected” theology of Wilson prove that his is a de facto Adoptionism.  Wilson wants the transformation of the immersed believer to be equal with the resurrection of Christ.  We are adopted in our immersional “raising up” (John 1:16, Gal. 3:27), Christ was not.

The heretics of the second and third centuries analogized themselves to Christ just as Wilson does, and believed in a transformation to a divine status in relation to His.  To justify the contradiction of the adoption, however, they simply made Jesus a man at birth, like themselves, or a created being, and had divinity descending upon Him sometime in His later life (Origin) or not at all (Arius).  Hence the first part of the Mormon quote, “as God once was… so is man” shows that the Mormon movement are modern day Adoptionists.  And what Satan gave to Origen and Arius in the Third and Fourth Centuries, he has given to Jay Wilson in the 20th Century.

Wilson is too smart to deny the eternal MONOGENES directly.  But his resurrection/glory/transformation/character/divine nature theory, a misinterpreted amalgamation of Romans 6:1-6, John 1:14, 2 Cor. 3:18, Heb. 1:1-3, and 2 Peter 1:4 brings him back to the same dilemma.  This Adoptionist dilemma is the whole crux of chapter 2, “The Image of Christ.”

Wilson is a perfect fulfillment of those Peter described as wresting Paul’s scriptures “unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15, 16.)  Wilson knows very well that the “character” of God, Cleansing the Cup, page 23, is the “exact representation…”  He writes, “This is an extremely significant point.  In order for us to understand the nature of God-which is why Jesus came-we are going to have to be able to comprehend Jesus in glory.”  And yet, at the conclusion of this chapter in his summary, on page 36, it is not enough just to understand this nature and character, but we must acquire it to be “perfected in unity.”

“-By acquiring that glory, and by becoming partakers of the divine nature through the true knowledge of Jesus, we can be perfected in unity.”

“-The principles of imaging and change developed in the first chapter are to apply to the ultimate goal and challenge of taking on the character of Christ in glory.”

And yet, most of the battles which Wilson is waging have already been settled in the theological controversies of the second, third, and fourth centuries.  W.E. Vines was well aware of these controversies, and in his Vines Dictionary, he provides the results of these famous investigations, the difference between the EIKON and CHARACTER, the first was used of the image stamped upon coins, this is what Christians have, the image or representation, what we are not allowed to have is the CHARACTER which is reserved for the Godhead alone.  Vines also distinguishes the difference between THANATOS and NEKROS, the difference between EGEIROS and ANASTASIS.  He details what is involved in the word MONOGENES, the “only begotten.”  With Wilson’s having created his own vocabulary, and changing the meanings of words, it behooves us to go back and define from the Greek.

Wilson’s term     Wilson’s agenda          Biblical word/meaning


“likeness”            (essence)                       EIKON image or representation, coin

“character”          (sinless behavior)        CHARACTER, God’s nature or essence

“mere” men        (infer supermen)          italicized word in NASV, not in original

“onus”                 (legal burden)              not in original


And so, Wilson insists upon “re-baptizing” those who were already immersed in Jesus’ name for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, because Wilson believes that even these people are lacking something, and so he will recommend “re-baptizing” those people whom he believes, after reading his New Creation series, now have a full understanding of the power and glory of Christ, and whom he claims will now have the character of God.

“Re-baptize” is a false idea and a contradiction in terms, because just as there is only one birth, there is only one new birth.  Wilson would agree with this.  He would simply conclude that the aforementioned person was not truly immersed.  Wilson believes that many preachers in the Churches of Christ are not Christians, because he believes that they had a bogus spiritual birth. Wilson is actually “un-baptizing” many souls, not necessarily in evangelism, but those from other congregations.

Charles Doughty believes that this is a serious crime, because those who do submit to baptism in Jesus’ name receive the Holy Spirit, which is the seal of our salvation, according to Ephesians 1:13.  “To tamper with that lock, and break it open, or to regard it as an unworthy or unholy thing is close to committing blasphemy,” he says.  (I use the contradictive “re-baptize” to illustrate the contradiction in Wilson’s theology.)

Keywords: adoptionism, Begotenness, Debate on Sinless Perfection, Jay Wilson, re-baptism
Categories: Perfectionism