Restricting Women to the “Pink Passages”

Recently there have been several articles about Jen Hatmaker’s new support for same-sex marriage, but there was one article in particular that caught my eye. Timothy Hammons, an ordained teaching elder in the PCA (currently without call), wrote a piece, using Hatmaker as an example, on why no women should be teaching the Bible:

Here is the bigger problem: women like Hatmaker, Sarah Young, Ann Voskamp, and Beth Moore have have no business teaching the Bible. I include Sarah Young, who wrote Jesus Calling, and Ann Voskamp, who wrote One Thousand Gifts, in this category of heretical women of the faith as well. I wrote about the error of those two here. These women are having a huge impact with the women of the church, yet they are not trained theologically, they are certainly not called by God, and they answer to no one except themselves, doing what is right in their own eyes, when it comes to leading the women of the church. They are not in submission to the elders of the church, and in their success, have silenced many who might object.

Many would agree with him regarding these particular women who are noted for teaching false doctrine. However, Timothy expands his prohibition to include all women:

What I mean by this is that if the men of the church, especially elders, were serious about our calling as elders and husbands, we would address these issues and provide good solid teaching for our wives. Instead we leave it up to the women to teach the women. No, I don’t believe that the passage in Titus 2:3-5 is instructing the older women to teach the younger women the word of God. … We see no mention of older women teaching the younger women the word of God. …

The role of women in the church is quite clear to those who will actually look at what Scripture says. There is no call for women to be leading large masses of women in Bible studies, or at conferences, or any other such notion. According to the passage in Titus, and the way God created women, they are to be at home serving their husbands.

Let me briefly summarize the rest of his article. After that, I’ll go through point by point and respond.

  • Jen Hatmaker is a false teacher.
  • No woman should teach, not even other women
  • Women should learn from men, particularly elders and husbands
  • Women should be at home serving their husbands
  • Women are delicate, frail, and prone to deception
  • Having a husband read the Bible daily to his wife should be sufficient biblical instruction for women

First, I absolutely agree that Jen Hatmaker and the other women listed above are false teachers. No question about it. Believers should avoid their teaching. Pastors and elders should address their errors and warn their congregations. There is not nearly enough concern over what is taught to women. Aimee Byrd has addressed this in several posts, including this one on Hatmaker and Lifeway.

Interestingly, Timothy’s arguments against Hatmaker, et al, that “they are not trained theologically, they are certainly not called by God, and they answer to no one except themselves, doing what is right in their own eyes” fit many male false teachers too. A notable example is Doug Wilson. who Timothy shows respect for in other posts. So, if the argument was simply that we should avoid false teachers, I would be in complete agreement.

But that’s not where Timothy stops. Timothy believes that women should not teach at all. Now, to be clear, I believe that the ordained offices of the church (pastor, elder, etc) should be restricted to qualified men. I also believe that husbands are called to be spiritual leaders of their homes and that wives are called to submit to their own husbands. But that is not the point that Timothy is making. He says that women should not teach, not even other women.

Timothy does not address whether or not women should be allowed to teach children. From a comment he answers on his blog, it’s not clear. He seems to suggest that the biblical Timothy, who learned from his mother and grandmother, is not a general guideline about women teaching children, but an exception which is allowed because Timothy didn’t have a godly father.

Timothy says that Titus 2 does not mention women teaching other women the Bible. He believes that the teaching mentioned in Titus 2 is limited to loving husbands and children. This is not a common interpretation of the passage. Both John Calvin and Matthew Henry, who lived well before the modern complementarian/egalitarian debates, define the teaching in Titus 2 in a much broader sense. But even if we conceded that Titus 2 was particularly addressing home and family relationships, is this the only passage of Scripture to consider?

Hannah Anderson, in her book Made for More, talks about limiting women to the “pink” passages of the Bible:

Too often as women, we have restricted ourselves to the “pink” parts of the Bible. … And we forget that these “pink passages” were never intended to be sufficient by themselves. (105)

All of the passages addressed to believers are meant for both men AND women. Specific passages to husbands, fathers, pastors, etc. may not apply particularly to women, but the majority of the biblical guidelines for living as believers applies both to men and women. So let’s consider some of them.

The great commission in Matthew 28 is a command for all believers to spread the gospel. Women are not exempt from this:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt 28:19-20 NASB)

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells the believers (brethren) to encourage and admonish each other:

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1Thess 5:14 NASB)

In Colossians, Paul says believers should teach and admonish one another. This would also include women:

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16 NASB)

To proclaim the gospel, to make disciples, to teach them all things, to encourage and admonish one another, all of these are what believers, men and women, are called to do.  And the Scriptures give us examples of women doing these things.

In Acts, we read of husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla, taking Apollo aside to teach him correct doctrine:

and he [Apollo] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:26 NASB)

Also in Acts, we read of Phillip’s daughters who were prophetesses:

On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. (Acts 21:9 NASB)

In Luke, we’re told of Anna, the prophetess who recognized Jesus as the Savior. She “continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Isn’t she an example of how we are to proclaim the good news and share it with others?

And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 NASB)

Next, Timothy writes that women should only learn from men, specifically elders and husbands. He uses 1 Cor. 14: 35 to support his argument. “If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church” (NASB). However, this passage is more about order and decency in public worship than it is about women learning only from their husbands. If Timothy’s point was that women shouldn’t be pastors or elders preaching in church, this passage would be a reasonable one to use. To make this passage into a prescription for women to learn only from men is a stretch.

What about women without husbands or women whose husbands are not believers? How are they to learn? Timothy answers this question posed by a reader on his blog. He says that deacons and elders should take single women and widows into their families so they can be taught by men.

As Christians from the Reformed tradition, we should be very resistant to any attempts to put mediators between believers and Christ. All believers, even women, have direct access to God through Christ and need no other mediator. We are a priesthood of believers, both men and women. We are all called to take person responsibility for our faith and for the exercise of it. We are all called to read the Scriptures and to pray on our own. Yes, women should discuss Scriptures with their husbands, but that doesn’t mean they should ONLY discuss it with their husbands. In a community of believers, where the passages on encouraging and admonishing fellow believers are followed, women are going to discuss their faith with other women. And that’s a good thing.

Yes, women should discuss Scriptures with their husbands, but that doesn’t mean they should ONLY discuss it with their husbands. In a community of believers, where the passages on encouraging and admonishing fellow believers are followed, women are going to discuss their faith with other women. And that’s a good thing.

In our society, with the use of social media and interactions beyond our local church families, it may well be that women will have these discussions through blogs, books, and even conferences.

Timothy also writes that the role of women in the church is “to be at home serving their husbands.” This is a seriously limited view of women. Setting aside the obvious problem of applying that role to single women and widows, Timothy’s prescription for women in the church does not fit with the examples of biblical women we’re given in Scripture. Lydia, Dorcas, Priscilla, Anna, Huldah, and Deborah are described as doing much more than serving their husbands at home. The Proverbs 31 woman is busy both inside and out of her home.

Now, I’m not saying that wives should NOT serve their husbands at home. Taking care of our families is an important part of who we are as wives and mothers. We should honor that. But just as men are more than their careers, women are more than their familial responsibilities. We are believers and fellow heirs. We may well be called to serve God in additional ways. Taking care of our families can include discipling others as part of the family of God.

Timothy goes on to appeal to the frail and delicate nature of women as the reason why men should step in and teach their wives. He quotes from 1 Peter 3:

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NASB)

It’s certainly true that women are often physically weaker than men, in general. Our bodies are often smaller and due to the nature of childbearing, vulnerable. Men are told to treat women with honor as fellow heirs. It’s a reminder that men aren’t to use their greater strength and power to harm or mistreat women. But that’s not the kind of weakness Timothy is talking about.

Timothy writes that women are more prone to deception than men. Quoting from 1 Timothy:

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1Tim 2:14 NASB)

Yes, Eve was deceived. And Paul uses both that and the creation order to explain his prohibition on women teaching with authority over men. But Paul does not say that women, in general, are more prone to deception. The passage also doesn’t say that therefore women should not teach other women. That is Timothy’s interpretation of the passage.

There are weak women who are easily deceived. Paul talks about them in 2 Timothy 3:6. But notice that Paul describes them as “weak” women. If all women were more prone to deception, there would be no need for the modifier. Given the many passages warning believers, both men and women, to be careful of being deceived, it seems clear that deception is something we all need to guard against.

Lastly, Timothy believes that women don’t need much in the way of biblical instruction:

As for the women in the church, you need to quit looking for star-studded satisfaction in your biblical instruction. If your husband reads the Bible to you daily, that is enough. The word of God is sufficient for you in that category.

Yes, the Word of God is sufficient for all believers. But like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, at times we all will need someone to guide us through the Word. We should look to our pastors and elders to teach us in the local church setting. No celebrity, male or female, should take the place of our local church, the preaching of the Word, or the private reading of the Word. But would we tell men that reading the Bible every day is sufficient biblical instruction for them?

Many men and women have a desire to think about and discuss theology. That’s a good thing, and we should encourage it. As I mentioned before in our modern society, that may include writing articles, books, speaking at and attending conferences. Many believers may write publicly to encourage and admonish others, just as Timothy is doing on his own blog.

To conclude, I think it’s absolutely imperative that we guard against false teachers. For too long, many pastors and elders have turned a blind eye especially to what is being taught to the women in the church. This needs to change. It’s vitally important that men AND women be taught sound doctrine. Pastors should be encouraged to preach sound doctrine. Husbands should be encouraged to study the Word with their wives.

But, we should be careful not to set up extrabiblical hedges. In our defense of qualified men as ordained leaders and husbands as spiritual leaders in the home, we should not restrict women to the “pink passages” in Scripture. Nor should we set up men as mediators between women and God. Christ is sufficient, for men and women.

 

Wilson’s Influence on “Classical Christian Education”

As I noted in the last post, Doug Wilson’s views on theology, history, slavery, patriarchy, marriage, sex, etc. are present in materials that many CCE schools, programs, and homeschools use. In doing my research, I focused on the six-volume Omnibus produced by Veritas Press. Veritas Press is owned by Marlin and Laurie Detweiler who were members of Wilson’s CREC denomination.

The Omnibus Curriculum consists of six volumes covering the time periods from classical civilizations to the modern era. The material is intended for students in grades 7-12. Each volume consists of essays and “sessions” discussing the “Great Books.” The Omnibus volumes range between 500-800 pages in length and cost from $75-$100 each. The first three volumes were edited by Doug Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer. Volumes 4-6 were edited by Wilson, Fischer, and Gene Edward Veith. The first volume was published in 2005, and the last volume was published in 2011.

From the description on Christian Book Distributors website:

In Latin, Omnibus means “all encompassing.”

The Omnibus Curriculum from Veritas Press is designed to help enlighten, train, and develop young minds through the study of everything important, long-lasting, and true: the ideas, arguments and expression of the Western Canon as expressed in the Great Books. …

Each volume features lists of both Primary and Secondary books. Primary books are the traditional Great Books, while the Secondary books provide balance in the areas of Theology, History and Literature …

Each chapter covers a Great Book, examining the author, context, significance, main characters, summary and setting, worldview, and providing an in-depth essay analyzing and teaching the important points of the work. Chapters conclude with five sessions that provide questions to consider, optional activities, reading assignments, cultural analysis, biblical analysis, application, summa questions, recitation comprehension questions, lateral thinking, review questions, and evaluation questions. …

Covering literature, history, and theology from a solidly Reformed perspective, editors Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer weave their understanding of God’s providence and sovereignty throughout history.

In reading through various essays from the Omnibus Curriculum, I found examples of Doug Wilson’s influence throughout. I decided to organize the material here using the list of topics from my post, A Question for Wilson Fans. I’ve made some adjustments, but the basic format was useful in categorizing.

First is the issue of credentials. As Wilson’s own credentials are questionable, he has never been to seminary or been ordained, it seems that many of the Omnibus essay authors do not have the credentials one would expect from this type of curricula. There is no biographical information in the Omnibus for the authors of the essays and sessions. Some of the names were familiar to me as various CREC pastors or members of Wilson’s family. Other names I found through Google, some of them were teachers or administrators at CCE schools, others were former students from New Saint Andrews, Wilson’s college. A few names were of professors from Patrick Henry or other colleges.

The bulk of the essays and sessions were written by Wilson, his family members, and CREC pastors and elders. Wilson wrote over 30 of them himself. Many of his essays were on literature outside the areas of his educational background. His degrees are in philosophy and classical studies. In Texas, in order to certify to teach at the secondary level, a teacher has to have a certain number of college hours in a subject. To use myself as an example, I have the credit hours to certify in History, English, and Spanish.

While Wilson lamented in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning that many teachers in today’s schools are not experts in their subject matter (RLTL, Kindle Locations 1587-1589), it doesn’t seem that the authors of the Omnibus essays and sessions fared much better, with a few notable exceptions. Gene Edward Veith and David Ayers, among other college faculty, are clearly qualified to write on the topics of their essays. Other authors may also be qualified, but without biographical information, it’s hard to know.

The author of one essay, Michael Metzler, wrote that he was asked to write his essay on Oresteiaa group of Greek tragedies, but he “had never even read a greek tragedy”:

A few years ago I agreed with Veritas Press to write for their first Omnibus text book. True, I was an old friend of Marlin Detweiler, and I even remember offering a little bit of volunteer help when the Detweilers were developing those world famous flashcards, but I don’t think this connection has much to do with my obtaining of the assignment. The assignment was an introduction to Aeschylus’ Oresteia … Although the marketing literature of Veritas Press spoke of the “experts” that were writing for this new release, I must confess that I had never even read a greek tragedy.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Wilson’s views on slavery and history show up in the Omnibus curriculum. Those familiar with Wilson’s book Black and Tan should recognize the line of thought in these quotes. I should note that not all of the following quotes were written by Wilson. Many of the examples here and further down will be from other authors, but the point is that views that Wilson has made public through his own writing appear in these Omnibus essays and sessions.

In the essay and sessions on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Toby Sumpter writes:

While Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work was by far the most popular, there were also popular novels of the period written from a Southern point of view, seeking to show that most slaves were treated fairly and compassionately. These stories show many slaves being given opportunities to learn, attend Christian worship services, and in many ways being treated as members of the family. These novels attempted to show how there were often “covenantal” ties that were thicker than blood existing between masters and servants, with mutual love and respect existing between them. (Omnibus III: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, pg. 177)

In the essay and sessions on Slave Narratives, the author (Wilson, Fischer, or Josh Stevenson) writes:

As you read through the Slave Narratives, exclude the abolitionist argument that the relation of master/slave is necessarily wicked. (Omnibus III: Slave Narratives, pg. 201)

And,

The problem the abolitionists had was … they wanted to maintain that the very relationship of slave and master was prima facia, or on its face, immoral. … The abolitionists rejected the authority of Scripture when it came to slavery, and many faithful Christians were right to resist them at this point. (Omnibus III: Slave Narratives, pg. 203)

Wilson’s book, Black and Tan, is listed at the end of this essay as additional recommended reading.

The following quote is from an essay by William Chad Newsom on Battle Cry of Freedom. It also demonstrates Wilson’s influence on the issue of slavery and the Civil War:

But while McPherson acknowledges the presence of complex factors and the reality of Southern ideals of constitutional liberty, and while he is usually careful to avoid coming across as biased, he nevertheless casts his lot with the North, the Union, Abraham Lincoln, and the radical abolitionism and egalitarianism that provoked the war. (Omnibus VI: Battle Cry of Freedom, pg 257)

Wilson’s views on revolution and American independence are also apparent in the Omnibus essays. In Wilson’s essay “American and French Revolutions Compared,” Wilson explains why he calls the Revolutionary War a War of Independence:

Nevertheless, clear-headed Americans knew that what they had fought for was of a completely different order than what the French Revolution was seeking to establish. To blur them together is to be guilty of an historical slander, and it is to throw away one of the great achievements of the American founding—a righteous heritage. So we have already noted that War of Independence is the better name for our founding war. But in conclusion, let’s use the word revolution in order to set the two side by side, that we may look at them directly. The American revolution was legal; the French revolution was illegal. The American revolution was constitutional; the French revolution was unconstitutional. The American revolution was defensive; the French revolution was offensive. The American revolution was conservative; the French revolution was radical. The American revolution fought to preserve the existing form of government; the French revolution fought to annihilate the existing form of government. The American revolution had a clear and definite object; the French revolution never had a clear and definite object. The American revolution was righteous; the French revolution was unrighteous. (Omnibus VI: American and French Revolutions Compared, pg. 137)

It is worth noting that other essay writers in the Omnibus curriculum acknowledge the fact that contemporary sources call it the American Revolutionary War:

Revolutionary War I realize this name is not the best description of this conflict, but it is how Irving himself refers to the war. (O. W. Leithart, Omnibus VI: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, pg. 536 End Note 1)

Next up is the issue of Federal Vision and other questionable theology. Because most of the essays on the books of the Bible in the Omnibus Curriculum were written by CREC and Federal Visionary pastors, various aspects of Wilson’s theology show up in many essays. What follows is some of what I found.

The first two quotes demonstrate the influence of Federal Vision teaching on justification:

Abraham was declared righteous by God before he was circumcised, therefore his right standing before God was based on his faith, not any good deeds. (Etter, Omnibus 1: Romans, pg. 518)

And,

James is significant in that it shapes our thinking in several important areas. First, it provides the perfect balance to the writings of Paul concerning true, saving faith. (Etter, Omnibus 1: James, pg. 527)

This quote from an essay and session on Robin Hood says that Christians can use deceit:

Is it proper to deceive deceitful people? Can we trick the wicked? Although Christians must use it extremely wisely and carefully, deceit can be a legitimate weapon against the wicked. (N.D. Wilson, Josh Stevenson, Omnibus II: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood 370 (teacher’s edition))

Steve Wilkins in his essay On Plymouth Plantation writes that the downfall of the U.S. is partly due to the Pilgrims’ rejection of the liturgical church calendar:

The Reformers … wanted to retain the more historic observance of the Christian calendar. The Puritans saw even this modified position as dangerous and decided it was safer simply to throw out the entire calendar. But this did not mean there would be no “man-made holy days;” it only meant that distinctively Christian celebrations were replaced with other celebrations. Man cannot live without commemorations and celebrations. … The Christian celebrations were replaced with days which celebrated the accomplishments of the state (e.g. Artillery Day, Election Day). The calendar no longer centered around the life of Christ and the church but around the accomplishments of the body politic. Men celebrate what is important to their gods. (Omnibus III: Of Plymouth Plantation pg. 48-49)

N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul have clearly influenced a couple of essays:

Paul was preaching a new cosmos, a new order, in Christ. The resurrection of Christ had already happened, and this reality was going to permeate the old social order and, as a result was going to overthrow it. (Wilson, Etter, Omnibus III: Philemon, pg. 279)

And,

And the gospel is not just about getting people’s souls into heaven when they die. The gospel does promise that, but it also promises far more. That “more” includes the transformation of all the cultures of all men. (Wilson, Fischer, Steveson, Omnibus III: Slave Narratives, pg. 203)

Wright is quoted in a couple of other essays and his books are included in the books recommended for additional reading.

Another example of questionable theology comes from the essay and sessions on The Old Man and the Sea. This is not orthodox, Reformed teaching on Christ’s death:

Hemingway likens Santiago to Christ, who gave His life for the greater glory of mankind. (Newsom, Stevenson, Omnibus III: The Old Man and the Sea, pg. 530).

James Jordan’s teaching on Adam as needing to grow in maturity appears in a handful of essays:

When God created Adam, He put him in a garden, naked as a newborn. He told Adam to carry out the priestly task of “serving and guarding” the garden (Gen. 2:15). Adam was allowed to eat from the Tree of Life, but before he received the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge he had to grow up. Life is for babies; knowledge or wisdom is for adults, who have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14). Eventually, Yahweh would have allowed Adam to eat the fruit of knowledge, and his eyes would have been opened to judge and rule (cf. Ps. 11:4; Heb. 4:13). Eventually, Adam would have grown up from priest to king. (Leithart, Omnibus IV: Proverbs, pg 13)

And,

“Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect,” Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 5:48. When we hear that, we usually cringe, thinking that Jesus is being totally unreasonable. How can we be perfect? Don’t we still sin? Jesus’ demands are too hard for us, and we might decide that Jesus doesn’t really mean what He says. Jesus does mean what He says, but we often misunderstand it. In the Bible, the word “perfect” doesn’t usually mean “without sin.” Instead, it means “mature.” Jacob was a “perfect” man (Gen. 27:25), and so was Job (Job 1:8). Neither one was sinless, but they were both “complete.” They were both “grown-ups.” That is what the Bible is all about—showing us how to be “perfect,” to be “grown-ups.” Adam was a baby in the Garden of Eden, as naked as a newborn. God planned for him to grow up and put on a crown and a royal robe of glory. But Adam acted just like a baby, grabbing the food he wasn’t supposed to have, and so God put him out of the Garden. When Jesus came, though, He came to bring us to maturity. Jesus came to make us “perfect”—all grown up.  (Leithart, Omnibus IV: Phillipians and Colossians, 377)

At one point, the Omnibus session recommends that students debate the issue of paedocommunion. It’s interesting to note the reasoning behind the suggestion:

Paedocommunion In our discussions on the Lord’s Supper, we discussed the differences of opinion between the four groups regarding the presence of Christ. We did not touch upon another debated issue regarding Communion—that is, the question of who should participate in this sacrament. While most churches only allow adults and older children to participate in the Lord’s Supper, more churches are now practicing what is known as paedocommunion, or child communion. Today, we are going to debate the question of who should participate in the Lord’s Supper.  (Wilson, Etter, Omnibus V: Institutes of the Christian Religion, pg 307, emphasis added)

Wilson’s patriarchal views are also frequently seen in the Omnibus curriculum.

Genesis 2 describes the origins of sexual difference. How does Genesis 2 define masculinity and femininity? Genesis 2 shows that Adam is created to “cultivate and keep” the garden (2:15) and that Eve is created to assist him in this task. Adam is the leader, initiator, beginner of things. And he is also the guardian who protects Eve from spiritual and physical assaults. He puts his strength to work in service and sacrifice. (Leithart, Omnibus II: Macbeth, pg 195-196)

And,

From a Christian perspective, feminism must be seen as a reaction to the sins and abdication of men. If men were genuinely devoted to Christ-like masculinity, if they truly gave themselves for their wives and daughters as Jesus did for His bride, if men honored women as their glory and crown, the feminist movement would have had very little impact. Feminism is a movement about women, but it is just as importantly a movement that poses questions to men. What does it mean to be a man? Christian men are not supposed to be brutal, but Christian men are not supposed to be stuffed teddy bears either. Where is the balance? (Leithart, Omnibus II: Macbeth, pg 1)

And,

Why is Deborah’s victory over Jabin and Sisera bittersweet for Israel? It was bittersweet because on one hand, it was a great victory for Israel, and Deborah was a godly, decisive, courageous judge and prophetess in Israel. On the other hand, when she implored Barak to lead Israel into battle, he would only comply if she went along. She warned him that a woman would receive credit. The bitterness lies in the cowardice and laziness of the men in Israel. In her wisdom (and subtlety) Deborah praises “the princes of Israel who willingly fought” (5:9). (Lusk, Becker, Omnibus IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, pg. 487)

And,

Egalitarianism can mean many different things. I am here using it to describe the philosophy that, while much more obviously present today, was very much a part of the modern outlook in the nineteenth century: the idea that there must be no (or few) boundaries or hierarchies in human relationships and that all people must be “equal” in every possible way. This goes well beyond equal treatment under the law to include equality of income and lifestyle, and the rejection of traditional, biblical roles that give different, complementary spheres to the work and life of men and women, ruler and subject, master and servant. (Newsom, Omnibus VI: Battle Cry of Freedom pg. 274 End note 5)

Wilson’s teachings on marriage also appear in the Omnibus essays and sessions:

Paul views men and women as equal in worth, but different in nature and function. Men and women are created equally in the image of God; indeed, they can only fully image God in community with one another. Further, men and women share equally in the Fall and participate equally in Christ’s redemptive work. But they are also profoundly different, and those differences are more than just a matter of biology. Men and women were designed to complement one another, with their strengths and weaknesses fitting one another like two pieces of a puzzle. Men were made for taking initiative and exercising responsible leadership in both church and home, which the Bible calls “headship.” Women were designed to be helpers and completers. The woman’s role is different, but no less valuable than the man’s. Further, these roles are not arbitrary; they fit with our God-given natures as men and women. We see these basic orientations laid out in Genesis 1–3, where the man’s primary focus is his work in the world (3:17–19), while the woman’s primary focus is the home (3:16); by fulfilling these roles, men and women together rule over God’s good creation (1:26–28) (Lusk, Omnibus VI: 1 and 2 Timothy, pg. 446)

And,

These complementary gender roles are most clearly seen in marriage (Eph. 5:21ff). The man is the head of his household, taking responsibility for the state of those under his care. He is the primary leader, protector, and provider. The woman is to be in submission to her husband, as his helper, not because she is inferior to him (after all, God is called “helper” more than anyone else in Scripture!), but because he needs her support and aid to fulfill his calling in the world. John Piper defines masculinity and femininity this way: At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.13 These are excellent Pauline definitions. There are biblical/theological models that help us understand how men and woman can be equal yet relate asymmetrically to one another. In the Trinity, the Father and Son share in the same “Godness.” They are equal in every way. But they are not interchangeable pieces because they have different roles to play. In the economy of creation and redemption, the Son submits Himself to the Father (1 Cor. 11:2ff). (Lusk, Omnibus VI: 1 and 2 Timothy, pg 449)

And,

Of course, not all Christian men and women are called to be married, and in those cases, there are opportunities for alternative forms of service outside of home life (cf. 1 Cor. 7). But, statistically speaking, it is obvious God calls most people to marry, and the woman’s role as helper to her husband and homemaker for her children should be honored. (Lusk, Omnibus VI: 1 and 2 Timothy, pg. 456 End Note 10)

The last section I want to cover is the significant amount of disturbing material (sex, nudity, violence) in the Omnibus volumes. Some of it is text that reflects Wilson’s teachings.

All of the Omnibus volumes open with prefaces and information for parents and teachers. One of the prefaces has an advisory that explains the editors’ approach to the subject of sex, nudity, and violence:

Advisory to Teachers and Parents

In the course of history there has been much fluctuation on what has been deemed age appropriate for young students. And for those of us alive today, there remains great variation as to what is considered age appropriate. The material we have created and the books we have assigned address numerous subjects and ideas that deal with topics (including sex, violence, religious persuasion and a whole host of other ideas) that have been the subject of much discussion of whether they are age appropriate. The judgment we applied in this text has been the same as we apply to our own children. In the creation of this program we have assumed that it will be used by students in seventh grade and above. Furthermore, we have assumed that there is no part of the Bible deemed inappropriate to discuss with a seventh grade student. Therefore, the material assumes that the student knows what sex is, that he understands the existence of violence, that he understands there are theological and doctrinal differences to be addressed and that he has the maturity to discern right and wrong. The worldview we hold and from which we write is distinctly protestant and best summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Bible is our only ultimate and infallible rule of faith and practice. We encourage you to become familiar with the material that your students will be covering in this program in order to avoid problems where you might differ with us on these matters. (Omnibus I: Advisory, Preface, xi)

Many of the essays recommend movie versions of the books being read. A couple of essays have warnings (like the one below) about the content of those movies:

View the 1964 movie production Becket and write a movie review, commenting on its faithfulness to the record in Lives. Warning: Within the first hour there is quite a bit of female flesh, near nudity, and immorality insinuated to depict Becket and Henry’s companionship in carousing and hunting during Becket’s days as chancellor. An adult should preview the movie and note the times of the offending portions and be ready with the fast-forward or instead find clips of the significant scenes online. The opening scenes are particularly good in showing the king’s penance and the church’s pressure and power in the aftermath of Thomas’s martyrdom. After viewing the film, discuss the following questions (Doud, Omnibus V: Lives of Thomas Becket, pg 226)

One of the books that 9th graders (generally ages 14-15) are expected to read is the play, Death of a Salesman. The play contains profanity, suicide, adultery, and call girls. The Omnibus essay has an end note warning teachers. Note that the warning only mentions the “vulgar and profane language”:

Teachers should be forewarned. This play contains vulgar and profane language. Common wisdom has been to avoid these realities. We think it is more righteous and wise to deal with such matters as God’s Word does: carefully, yet forthrightly and honestly. (Leithart, Omnibus III: Death of a Salesman, pg. 554 End Note 1)

What follows are examples that are representative of the many disturbing images used in the Omnibus curriculum.  It is especially disturbing because of how many there are. As a student of Medieval and Renaissance history, I know that there are many paintings and stories that are troubling. The issue is that there are options when choosing what to use in curricula. That they chose so many creepy images to highlight is troubling. (Each image can be viewed in full size by clicking on the image.)

O1-Samuel-74

(Leithart, Omnibus I: First and Second Samuel, pg. 74) Michelangelo’s David. While there are many nudes in the various Omnibus volumes, this one is particularly noticeable for the angle of the image. For whatever reason, this image was chosen when other angles are more common.

O2-Incarnation-62

(Dawson, Omnibus II: On the Incarnation, pg. 62) The Sacrifice by Edward Knippers. This image has the distinction of being disturbing, nude, and a violation of the second commandment. There was considerable controversy at Covenant College over an exhibition of Knippers work several years ago.

O-2-Beowulf-123

(Merkle, Omnibus II: Beowulf, pg. 123) Artwork by Matthew Clark. The monster’s detached arm is vivid and disturbing.

O-2-Inferno-232-233

(Vest, Omnibus II: The Divine Comedy: Inferno, pg. 232-233) Arwork by Matthew Clark. The caption for this image reads:

Judas, Brutus and Cassius get their just desserts for being traitors to both Lord and empire. Judas is head first as the worst sinner, Cassius the Epicurean screams in his torments forever and Brutus the Stoic suffers but utters no sound. He has a stiff upper lip for all eternity.

O4-Proverbs-20

(Leithart, Omnibus IV: Proverbs, pg 20) I do not know whose artwork this is. If you do know, please let me know and I’ll add that information. This image appears to be a depiction of the adulterous woman from Proverbs based on the surrounding text.

O-4-Apocrypha-245

(Wilson, Gore, Omnibus IV: Apocrypha, pg 245) Susanna and the Elders by Anthony van Dyck. There are other representations of Susanna and the Elders that are not quite so disconcerting, although the theme of the story is disturbing in itself. This is one of several images that depict violence towards women.

O5-Summa-112

(Clark, Dennis, Omnibus V: Summa Theologica, pg. 112) The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. From the description on Wikipedia:

Animals are shown punishing humans, subjecting them to nightmarish torments that may symbolise the seven deadly sins, matching the torment to the sin. Sitting on an object that may be a toilet or a throne, the panel’s centerpiece is a gigantic bird-headed monster feasting on human corpses, which he excretes through a cavity below him,[49] into the transparent chamber pot on which he sits.[53] The monster is sometimes referred to as the “Prince of Hell”, a name derived from the cauldron he wears on his head, perhaps representing a debased crown.[49] To his feet a female has her face reflected on the buttocks of a demon. Further to the left, next to a hare-headed demon, a group of naked persons around a toppled gambling table is being massacred with swords and knives. Other brutal violence is shown by a knight torn down and eaten up by a pack of wolves to the right of the tree-man.

O5-Decameron-515

(Tillman, Omnibus V: The Decameron, pg 515) The Banquet in the Pine Forest by Alessandro Botticelli. The caption reads:

The Banquet in the Pine Forest by Alessandro Botticelli (1445–1510) shows a portion of this story where, witnessing the horrible suffering of some ghosts, a young maiden realizes the cruelty with which she has treated a suitor and so consents to marry him.

Another source I read describes the image and the story behind it:

Directly after what we see in the second panel, the woman who has just been slaughtered rises up as if nothing has happened and Guido mounts his horse and begins to chase her all over again. It is explained that both Guido and the woman are dead. Guido killed himself over his unrequited love for the woman and he is doomed to hunt her for all eternity. The woman, due to her cold heart is doomed to flee from him. The scene Nastagio has witnessed will occur every Friday at the same time, without end.

Nastagio himself loves a woman who does not love him back. The third panel depicts the setup Nastagio has created to win over the woman he loves.
The dinner party depicted is “dedicated to frightening women into sexual submission” (Ricketts, 79) and we can see this through the way the women have all been seated together and have a front view of the gruesome scene.

It is also important to note that the women at the table have similar features to the nude woman Guido pursues and kills. Botticelli uses this resemblance to “imply that all the women were collectively affected…and that they were all potential victims.” (Ricketts, 85) Because of the possibility that they too could end up like this nude woman, the women’s response is exactly what Nastagio intended, which was “deferring to the men’s desires.”(85)

O6-Revolutions-137

(Wilson, Hensley, Omnibus VI: American and French Revolutions Compared, pg. 137) The Able Dr. or America Swallows the Bitter Draught. Particularly disturbing is the lecherous guy looking up “America’s” skirts.

O6-Huckleberry-218

(Iverson, Etter, Omnibus VI: Huckleberry Finn, pg. 218) I’m not certain where this image originates. There wasn’t a name for artist or painting in the caption. But it is clearly meant to depict the torments of hell.

O6-Dreams-621

(Dawson, Omnibus VI: The Interpretation of Dreams, pg. 621) Oedipus and the Sphinx by Gustave Moreau. Again there are other images of Oedipus and the Sphinx that are less disturbing. This one is worse than most, even given the nature of the Oedipus story.

There are other images and more quotes that I could have used here. This is only a small sample. My purpose is to illustrate that the content of the Omnibus Curriculum has been influenced in many ways by Wilson and his heterodox views. I would strongly caution any family or school against purchasing and using this curriculum.

My Experience with Patriarchy

Since I began writing about the dangers of patriarchy years go, I have had several comments that I’ve completely misunderstood/misrepresented patriarchy and its adherents. I’ve been told that there might be a few abuses of the system, but that on the whole people are happy and well cared for in patriarchal churches, organizations, and families. I’ve been told that women aren’t hurt by patriarchy.

On the other hand, I regularly hear from women, and some men, who affirm that what I’ve described is exactly what they’ve lived through with patriarchy. Occasionally, these comments are made publicly on my blog, but more often, they are sent to me privately. One such comment came in yesterday, and I asked the author if I could share the comment anonymously on my blog. The author agreed.

I want to share it here because it speaks to many of the problems that I’ve addressed about the patriarchy movement. This is not meant to be experiential proof, but it is an illustration of the damage I believe results from patriarchal teachings. I have edited out a couple of details to maintain the privacy of the author.

“I just had a long conversation with someone sparked by your post about Nancy Wilson. My gosh, it’s so exhausting trying to explain how Patriarchy hurts women. I still cry sometimes because I feel inferior to men because of my gender, but I guess that’s just me being an emotional, easily confused woman.

I’m marrying a wonderful man who will give his life for me everyday. The only time I’ve ever known him to ‘pull rank’ and tell me what I need to do is when he is directly concerned for my well-being. We talked about vows, and I will promise to ‘obey’ him. That doesn’t scare me, but sometimes I’m scared the entire rest of the world has gone crazy.
What I hate about Patriarchy now is how paranoid it’s made me. My guard is always up. The pastor pulls out Ephesians 5 in our premarital counseling, and I’m thinking ‘What’s he going to say? What’s he going to say?’
I have anxiety attacks in some of my classes because I’m afraid that what’s being said about male/female roles will prove that I’m inferior. I had to leave a class one day, because I can’t hear Genesis 3 taught without falling apart.
But to some that’s all in my head. That’s my malfunction. Nothing wrong with teaching that a woman’s identity is in her husband, that her body is his property, that she can never speak up to or disobey him. That can’t be it– it must be me.
I was incredibly depressed as a teen. Okay, I might have been depressed no matter what, but you know what made it the worst? Not knowing what to do with myself. Sure, everything about me was inclined towards academics, but I was supposed to prep for marriage. I was supposed to be satisfied at home: cooking, cleaning, decorating, and I WASN’T. It felt like something was wrong with me. I wanted so much to be a man–because I didn’t feel cut out for whatever it was to be a woman.
I never told anyone what I was feeling either. Because it was sinful and wrong to feel it. I was supposed to be happy with who God made me to be, but I was rebelling.
So that’s a disjointed rant. I don’t know what to do with all these emotions. The fear can cripple me sometimes. I just want to believe that people (well, to be honest, probably specifically MEN) care that that was my experience with Patriarchy. And no, I wasn’t doing it wrong.”

Nancy Wilson: “my ministry is visibly connected to my husband’s and is not seen as a separate work”

After Dr. Valerie Hobbs and I wrote our article looking at Doug Wilson’s wedding exhortations, we were told that we were wrong in our conclusions about Wilson’s view of women. Several people, Wilson included, wrote that Wilson obviously thinks very highly of women and their abilities. Wilson’s wife, Nancy, and daughters/daughters-in-law and their books and articles were given as examples of how wrong we were in our analysis. Of course, our research was about Doug Wilson’s words not his family.

However, continuing in the research I’ve been doing, I read one of Nancy Wilson’s books, The Fruit of Her Hands. Her book is full of advice for Christian wives. In reading it, I realized that it would be worthwhile to compare Nancy’s advice to that of her husband. Would her words support the conclusions of our article? Or would they contradict them?

In what follows, I will quote short statements in bold from our article. After each statement, I will give quotes from Nancy Wilson’s book that I believe support each of our conclusions.

“At the heart of Wilson’s theology of the wife is the notion of being something belonging to her husband”

Two of the main themes that Valerie and I found in reading Doug Wilson’s exhortations were that women were encouraged to “be” not to “do” and to “respond/receive” not “initiate.”

Taking that first point, in Nancy Wilson’s book she writes that a wife is a garden that belongs to her husband and that a husband is a garden tender:

As a Christian woman begins to see herself as a garden, she can take a more eager interest in making it a lovely garden that her husband delights to spend time in. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 951-952). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And,

of course a husband is never trespassing in his own garden, though he can be made to feel as though he is an intruder. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 957-958). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And,

In fact, in many ways, the husband is the garden tender, and the wife becomes a source of great joy and delight to the husband as he spends time in the garden he faithfully tends. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 947-948). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Second, we learn that a wife’s role is one of passive response”

Like Doug, Nancy Wilson writes that women were created to be responsive:

Contemporary Christian women, created by God to be responsive, are vulnerable to temptations to be deceived. We must learn to think like Christians and resist the temptation to believe everything we read or hear. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 656-657). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

But how does “passive response” play out in a marriage? Nancy gives a lengthy example for what a wife should do if a husband doesn’t provide for his family. According to the example, a wife should trust in God to provide, trust her husband to lead, and not work to provide the necessary funds:

What if your husband fails to provide for you? What if you are hopelessly in debt, and he is not bringing home an adequate paycheck? … First, do not seek to protect him from the consequences of his folly. … Of course you must be a support and help and source of encouragement. But that is a completely different thing than trying to shoulder responsibilities that are not yours. When a wife tries to bear the responsibilities that her husband should be bearing, she suffers. … When the bill collector calls, hand your husband the phone. But do so respectfully, praying that God will use it to bring about a change. When there are overdue bills, look to him for his direction—whether or not he provides it. … Quit scrambling, trying to come up with funds to meet deadlines. It is his responsibility. … Are you trying to find an extra job so that you can keep the house, boat, car? Often women rush into jobs to “help out,” thinking it will only be short term. The kids are farmed out because “it’s just until we pay off the car.” But then, after the car is paid for, there is something else. And pretty soon, you are working outside the home full-time, the kids are on their own, and you are still in debt. Then it is too hard to quit—who will pay the bills? You need to get out, go home, and take care of your kids. “But,” you say, “my husband wants me to work.” I have heard this before, when, in fact, the husband wanted very much for the wife to come home, and she was the one resisting the move. … So do not think your happiness lies in how your husband is doing, or in how many possessions you have. Your happiness and joy lie in Christ alone. If you are trusting in Him, He will see you safely through. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 502-523). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Third, we see that, for Wilson, a wife’s function is to take whatever is given to her (for example, money) and transform it into something useful in her appointed station, the home”

In one of Doug’s exhortations, he tells the bride to take what her husband gives her and return it to him glorified. In Nancy’s book, she advises a wife to be creative in the kitchen when transforming a meager income into dinner:

Your finances are tight. You confess your anxiety to your husband and to the Lord. You resolve to trust God and pray for your husband, and you pray for patience. Meanwhile, you show a brave spirit and a joyful countenance to your family, and a creative flair in the kitchen. “I’ve found a new way to cook beans!” You hunker down and think of creative ways to respect your husband.- Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 432-434). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“women’s role in sex is surrender”

One of Doug’s better known quotes about sex speaks of the roles of husbands and wives in terms of colonization/conquering and receiving/surrendering, respectively. Nancy affirms this teaching of sex as surrender for wives. A wife doesn’t need to “feel like it” or consult her feelings:

If a wife is not feeling “in the mood,” she simply has to apply the golden rule. Does your husband always “feel” in the mood for a heart-to-heart chat? Perhaps not. Do you want him to tell you when he is not in the mood but just talking because he loves you and knows you need it? Of course not. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1015-1017). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And,

Nevertheless, your husband’s desire has probably not suffered a dip [due to pregnancy or breastfeeding hormones]. This is an obstacle, but again, it is not insurmountable. Sometimes you will have to work harder to “feel like it.” It is not always necessary to consult your feelings anyway. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Wilson further highlights women’s passive role in his portrayal of wives as knowing little about sex and even about their own bodies, requiring instruction from their husbands.

Nancy agrees that wives should learn from their husbands regarding what might please them:

Now I am not telling you how to do this [enrapture your husband]. I am simply telling you that you must. It is your duty before God to help your husband in his obedience of this command. You are given to him by God to satisfy him, to delight him intensely, and to rejoice with him. There is an important reason why I am not telling you how. That’s because you need to ask your husband. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 992-995). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Wilson’s image of husband is that of ‘resident theologian'”

Doug also expects husbands to the be ones to teach their wives about theology. Nancy concurs:

We must cultivate a taste for books that will build us up in the faith—not take us to fantasy land. You might want to start with biographies of saints greatly used by God in the past. Be selective. Look to your husband for suggestions. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 171-175). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And,

If you miss church, request a tape. Take sermon notes, jot down questions, and afterwards ask your husband questions. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 176-177). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And,

Because women are prone to deception, we must have our guard up. Everything we hear must be weighed in light of Scripture. So what does a wise woman do who needs spiritual help? … Go to your husband first. He is your head and he is responsible before God to shepherd and pastor his home, starting with you. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 206-210). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“Wilson’s husbands are created for and called to work, and wives are created for and called to support their husbands in that work. Put simply, his calling becomes her calling”

Here again, Nancy’s advice is consistent with what Doug has written about husbands and wives and their respective callings. A wife is “God’s appointed helper” for the “special work” God created her husband to do:

He is one of a kind, and God has prepared special work for him to do. You have the privilege of being God’s appointed helper for him. … Your husband will appreciate your obedience and be set free to live up to all God has called him to be. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 97-100). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“A wife does not have her own calling separate from serving her husband’s.”

Since Nancy’s ministry in writing books to women was given as the example for what Doug really believes about women and their abilities, it’s interesting to read Nancy’s thoughts on how to evaluate women in ministry. She asks if there are any limits to the ministry women can have to other women. First she explains how to judge if a woman’s ministry is valid:

The first question to ask and answer is, “Who is this woman’s husband?” Next we must ask many subsidiary questions. Is she fulfilling her ministry to him? Is he her priority? Is she helping him? Is her house in order? Is he leading her in this ministry? Is her identity as a Christian woman centered, under Christ, around her relationship to her husband? … But if the answer to any of the earlier questions is “no,” then her ministry is likely independent of her husband, much like a separate career. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 111-115). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

She goes on to say that a woman’s ministry should be connected to her husband’s headship over her:

In contrast, because Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the wife, a Christian woman in ministry should be seen as under her husband’s visible headship. In other words, her ministry should be visibly connected to him. This can be a real help to him, for her teaching can be a complement to his work. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 116-118). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Nancy explains how these ideas work in her own ministry. Her work is not a separate work, but “visibly connected” to Doug’s work:

When people listen to or read her teaching, it is organically connected to the head God has placed over her. This is obviously difficult if her husband is always across the country, or if his name is merely listed in the book with the other “credits” in the fine print. This is why I rarely travel to speak at women’s conferences, but rather teach where my husband is speaking. Not only does this keep us together, working as a team, but he is then available to continue to lead me and protect me in ministry settings. My teaching role is a support and complement to his, not the other way around. This way my ministry is visibly connected to my husband’s and is not seen as a separate work. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 120-125). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“For Wilson, a happy wife is one who accepts the confines of the housework and childbearing she was made for”

Here too Nancy’s writing is consistent with our conclusions. Modern women, according to Nancy, have been deceived into abandoning their responsibilities of home and children:

The modern woman has been deceived, like Eve, and led away by her own lusts from her God-given domain and he God-ordained responsibilities. Loaded down with sin—discontent and envy—she is promised freedom and happiness if she will just forsake her domain—the home—and neglect her responsibilities—husband and children. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 33-35). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Women don’t need to leave home to do good works for the Lord. The home is the “center of her activities”:

Notice the order of these good deeds. Our children are first. Next is hospitality. Then comes relieving the afflicted. The wife does not have to go outside her domain to “do good.” The home is the center of her activities, and these activities can be and should be pleasing to God. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 384-386). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Nancy also writes about realizing that God wanted her to do the dishes and be happy about it:

Immediately I realized what [God] wanted me to do. He wanted me to do the dishes. But I still wondered if there was something else He wanted me to do. And I realized that, yes, there was something else. He wanted me to do them cheerfully. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 786-787). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“She exists to serve and glorify him.”

We concluded from Doug’s wedding exhortations that, for Doug, wives exist to serve and glorify their husbands. In Nancy’s book, she tells wives that their jog is to be willing servants:

Your job is to be a humble and willing servant, recognizing that God is at work, and He will bring to pass His will, using His appointed means. This should encourage you to pray for your husband, rather than nag him. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, thank God that you have a husband. Thank Him that He is at work to do as He pleases. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 489-491). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Nancy goes on to explain how a wife can honor, glorify, and serve her husband. The wife should cater to her husbands preferences and defer to him in practical ways:

This can mean following through when your husband requests something, instead of putting it at the end of the to-do list. It can include everything from when dinner is scheduled, to what kind of greeting your husband gets, to making him a cup of coffee. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 451-453). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And,

Respect is a demeanor that should characterize wives in all their conduct toward their husbands and in all their communication to or about their husbands—this means courtesy in the home, where the husband is treated with honor. Remnants of this honor from a previous era are our traditions of Dad seated at the head of the table, Dad carving the turkey, [the American custom of] Dad having his own big chair, Dad leading the family in thanks at meals, and Dad doing the driving on the family trips. These are things that we assume culturally, but they come from the time when everyone knew and understood that Dad was the head of the house. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 445-450). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

“For Wilson, the wife has no self and, it seems, no voice.”

When Valerie and I wrote our article, we were told that it was ridiculous that we would say that women have no voice in Wilson’s teaching. After all, his wife and daughters write and give seminars. And it’s certainly true that women can have a voice, as long as what they say is consistent with Doug teaches. However, what if a wife disagrees with her husband? What would Nancy say she should do? Pray for strength and silence:

When you are tempted to criticize your husband (and you will be), when you want very much to “let him have it,” pray for love—“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Prov. 10:12). Turn to the Lord for comfort, strength, silence! – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 495-497). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

But what about if a husband is in unrepentant sin? Then what should a wife do? According to Nancy, she might need to go to the elders, but she should be committed to winning her husband “without a word”:

If you have a husband like the ones described above, you must not make the mistake of trying to undertake to deal with his sins; you must deal with your own. If, however, he is a Christian man who is engaged in viewing pornography, you may need to go to the elders in your church so he can be disciplined. But if he is simply not spending enough time with you (from your perspective), or is not meeting your needs in some other way, you must realize that God is the only One who can bring about change. The Scripture is clear that you may be a potent instrument in God’s hand, if you are committed to being the woman described in 1 Peter 3 who wins him without a word. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1050-1054). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And if a problem isn’t big enough to get the elders involved, then a wife shouldn’t talk about it with anyone. Apparently it can be hard to know whether or not to go to the elders. In this quote Nancy seems to advocate erring on the side of silence:

If it is not big enough to share with the elders of the church (or the police), so that they may step in to deal with your husband, then it is not big enough to share with anyone. And even if you are unnecessarily silent in a situation, you probably need the practice (Prov. 31: 11). – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 217-219). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

In the end, I believe that Nancy Wilson’s words confirm our conclusions from the original article. Yes, it’s true that Nancy and her daughters write, but what do they write, and how do they view their work? Nancy clearly views her writing as an extension of Doug, and her message is consistent with what Doug has written.

Nancy’s message is the same as Doug’s. Wives are to be passive responders and receivers. They are to take what their husbands give them and glorify it. They are to surrender sexually to their husbands. Wives are to learn from their husbands in all things. They are to accept their calling as helpers. They are to serve and defer to their husbands. They are not to have separate careers. They are to keep silent.

Wives should do the dishes and do them cheerfully.

My 2 Cents: Feminism, Stereotypes, and Experiences

Last week, I read a post “If I Had a Million Dollars (Why I’m Not a Feminist)” by Shannon Popkin. It’s an article written in response to another post, “If I Had a Dollar (Why I Am a Feminist)” by Anna Fonte. Both women wrote about their experiences: growing up, fathers, mothers, daughters, families, men, fulfillment as a woman. Both articles make some interesting points, but each falls short of getting to the heart of what feminism is and why it should be embraced or rejected.

The terms “feminist” and “feminism” are used often but the meaning is variable. Most historians consider there to have been three waves of feminism. First wave feminism took place in the late 1800s to early 1900s. It was mainly concerned with legal rights. Most people are familiar with the suffrage movement to give women the right to vote. But there were other legal rights that the first wave feminists sought. These include: the right to inherit property, shared ownership of their children, the right to own property, the ability to execute wills and make legal decisions for their children, and the ability to be a legal witness in a court case. The first wave feminists also wanted to improve opportunities for women in education and in the workplace.

While some may argue with me about this, these goals were admirable ones. Before this time women were truly at the mercy of others and often unprotected. A woman whose husband died or left her might find herself with no money, no shelter, and very few good options for employment.

In the 1960s, a second wave of feminism began. While these feminists were also concerned about inequalities in the workplace and in the laws, many were pushing for what would be called “reproductive rights.” Abortion, contraception, and less restrictions on sexuality were part of what this wave is known for. Not all women agreed, however. Many women who were for “equal pay for equal work” were not in favor of abortion. There is still a significant group of feminists who are pro-life.

Other goals from the 1960s-1980s include ending discrimination in the workplace and courts, awareness of domestic violence, and confronting the objectification and exploitation of women through prostitution and pornography.

Second wave feminism is more of a mixed bag when considering the good and bad of the movement’s goals. Abortion and “casual sex” have, and continue to, hurt many women. No fault divorce, along with these, has allowed many men to abandon women and children with little responsibility for their welfare.

Interestingly enough, it was a disagreement among some feminists over issues such as prostitution and pornography that lead to a distinct third wave. The third wave of feminism began in the 1990s and has been well-known for it’s focus on gender and sexuality. Many third wave feminists embrace a very fluid definition of gender and an unrestrained and open sexuality. There is nothing that I can commend in these goals.

Considering the three waves of feminism, there are some good things that have come from the first and second waves. If you are a single woman who lives on her own, owns her own home, and has a good job you have these women to thank for much of that. If you have never been asked in a job interview when your last period was (they wanted to know if you might be pregnant and likely to leave the job) you owe that to these women. If you are a woman who has an education and job opportunities for decent employment, you are benefiting from the work of these women.

But it isn’t all good. As I pointed out above, there are some really awful things that have been brought about by the various waves of feminism. Abortion, casual sex, open sexuality, fluid gender: these are wrong and have brought about nothing but hurt.

There is also a very ugly side to the modern feminist movement: the demeaning and devaluing of men. It is very common today to hear women say that men are worthless, that women don’t need men, that women are better than men. Men are often the butt of jokes as clueless or useless. This is very ugly and completely wrong.

Back to the two articles I mentioned at the start. I believe that both articles are weak because they focus mainly on experiences and on stereotypes. Anna (why I am a feminist) explains how men have hurt her and her mother. She chooses abortion because of what was happening in her life at the time. She uses her life history to show that she doesn’t need a man because from her history men are not to be trusted.

Shannon (why I am not a feminist) explains from her own history how her dad and her husband have cared and provided for her and her family. She and her mother embraced traditional roles as homemakers and mothers. She feels happy and fulfilled because being a mother and homemaker is better and more fulfilling than any career or other way of life. She sees feminists as angry and less happy. She uses her life history to show what it means to be “not a feminist.”

Anna’s piece is very sad to me. She has been hurt by men and lied to by those who told her abortion was the answer. She has scars from her childhood and needs desperately to be loved and forgiven as only Christ can. She’s wrong about men. Some men are wicked and untrustworthy. But that’s not the way it should be.

Shannon’s article is frustrating to me. She’s had a good life. She has a husband and children. Her husband has been able to provide in such a way that she is able to be at home and care for her family. But I’m concerned that her emphasis on fulfillment through husband and children will hurt women who do not have the same experiences.

Is this the only way or even the best way for Christian women to find fulfillment? There are many single women around, godly women who would love to be married and have a family. But God has not provided that for them. Are they less fulfilled? Do they have less value if they serve God through their career and friendships? What about women who help to provide for their families through their work? Are they less worthy of praise? Are they “feminists” because they work outside their homes? And what about the barren women? Are they less fulfilled because God hasn’t filled their arms with children?

While I think it’s very important to stand for good things life family, homes, marriages, and child-rearing, we should not created a checklist of what it means to be a good woman beyond what Scripture teaches. The Proverbs 31 woman, among other examples, was a woman of many talents who was busy providing for her home as well as caring for her household.

So as far as feminism goes, I’m thankful for the good, and I reject the bad. Would I call myself a feminist? No, especially not given the modern feminist movement. My life experiences, both good and bad, are not the reason I’m “not a feminist.” My reasons are based not on stereotypes, but on objective truth.

My own list would look like this:

  • Men and women are both created in the image of God and equal in Christ
  • Husbands and wives are different and need each other
  • Husbands are called to be the spiritual leaders of their homes and wives are called to submit to that leadership
  • Ordained leaders in the church should be men
  • Men and Women are fulfilled by glorifying God in all they do through the callings and gifts that God has given them individually
  • What that looks like will be different for each man and woman
  • Abortion is always to be rejected.
  • Sexuality is to be expressed in marriage.
  • Marriage is between one man and one woman.
  • Divorce should only be the result of adultery, abandonment, or abuse.

When we move past experience and stereotypes to biblical truth, we find that there are some things that are absolutes on which we should not budge. And there are other things that are matters of discernment and liberty. We should be kind but firm on the one, and gracious and flexible on the other. May we build each other up in Christ.

The He-Man Women Haters Club has met again and declared me an “angry feminist”

The boys over at the “Blog-that-must-not-be-named” have their shorts in a knot again over things I’ve written. Their most recent concern is a small excerpt from The Soul-numbing Dangers of Patriarchy where I write:

I believe patriarchy to be emotionally abusive because it creates an antagonistic relationship between husbands and wives, men and women.

They responded with the following:

“Patriarchy [is] emotionally abusive?” Does she mean the rule of God the Father over all His creation—that Father-Rule? Does she oppose the rule of Adam, our federal head? The rule of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

Since they are obviously reading my blog, I find it doubtful that they missed the places where I answer those very questions:

I absolutely believe that God is our Father and that He rules everything. If that’s all that’s meant by patriarchal, then I can agree. However, God is more than our Father. God is Father, Son, and Spirit. Besides being our Father, He is also our Husband, Redeemer, Creator, Savior, Teacher, Comforter. My concern is that we can limit our understanding of God by seeing Him ONLY as Father.- Is Complementarian Just Another Word for Patriarchy

And again, here:

I hold to the position mentioned above called Complementarianism. I believe that men and women are equal before God and that husbands and wives are made to complement each other. I also believe that men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their families and that women are not called to be officers in the Church. I believe that I am to submit to my husband’s leadership and that my husband is to love me sacrificially like Christ demonstrated by dying for the Church. I also believe that my husband and I are both to submit to the leadership of the elders that God has placed over us. – What’s Wrong with Biblical Patriarchy?

But this is really not about whether or not I’m an “angry feminist” who decries God’s fatherly rule over creation. This is what happens when someone dares to stand up against bullies, especially the patriarchal sort. They deny patriarchy, as practiced by today’s “Biblical Patriarchy” movement, is inherently abusive. But then they treat women who disagree with them in this way.

Of course, it’s worth noting that I’m not the only one to have experienced the impotent rage of the Bayly boys. Anyone who confronts them on anything may expect to receive similar treatment. As another recent target explains:

As you can see the Bayly Boys like to mix it up with others. But they don’t like it much when others mix it up with them.

Check out Bill Smith’s post in the link above. It’s well worth a read. I completely agree with his conclusion, “the only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to him.”

Maybe it would be worthwhile to consider if our behavior is more in line with this passage:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV) emphasis mine

than with this one:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24 ESV)

If it’s true that you are known by your enemies as much as your friends, then I count it a badge of honor to have been singled out by these guys. They have done nothing more than prove my point on the Gospel denying, soul-numbing dangers of patriarchy.

A Response to the He-Man Women Haters Club

I really wasn’t planning to make a full response to the boys over at that blog that shall remain nameless. My general approach with them is “don’t feed the trolls.” However an astute reader, Kassandra, has written an impressive reply that addresses the brothers and their concerns with my post on Biblical Patriarchy. Here is her reply in full, posted here with her permission.

Kassandra:

Interesting post from Bayly. Completely unresponsive to yours, of course, but the patriarchy set are often like old-fashioned communists. In response to any argument as to the flaws in their theory and its unpleasant consequences, they’ll usually settle for calling you a capitalist, short-hand for self-deluded, power-hungry oppressors of mankind. I find this sort of response unpersuasive, unhelpful, and irritating.

I first got bogged down in Bayly’s spurious “I met this minor theologian that you quoted in passing as making a point with which you agreed, and he was a feminist.” Ugh. No one cares what this fellow we’ve never heard of said at dinner…with nuns (Why mention the nuns? As they say, if there’s a nun over the fireplace in the first act…). Why didn’t Bayly address Bloesch’s thought? He was cited for his idea, not as someone we can all agree is an authority. So what if he’s a feminist? Even a feminist might stumble upon a good idea every once in awhile, like a blind pig. What Bloesch says appears to be true, feminist or not. But labels, and their misuse, are the sin qua non of Bayly’s post.

Bloesch’s claim is pretty modest–some men are tyrants that leave their families in “servile dependence and submission.” A claim that humans abuse power seems modest enough. No one who bothered to read a bit of Proverbs and a minor prophet or two could seriously claim that abuse of the people one has power over is not wrong. It is therefore perplexing that instead of telling us why the patriarchy movement is not subject to such abuse, or no more subject to abuse than usual, Bayly settles for labeling everyone involved a feminist, as if that settles the question.

On this point, I have bad news for Bayly. Outside the patriarchy movement, those of us who think the gals shouldn’t be church officers and should be submissive to their own husbands are pretty much never referred to as feminists. By anybody. Especially actual feminists. Slapping a label on someone that doesn’t suit is the essence of Bayly’s entire post.

Interestingly, Bayly labels Sproul Jr. and Doug Wilson complementarians, while you, with your more generally accepted version of complementarianism, must be a feminist. While I’m sure both chaps claim to be complementarians, they are also leading lights of patriarchy. If they were totally in the camp with the rest of us lesser complementarians, they wouldn’t have to have a separate name. Which they gave themselves. This “have my cake, eat my cake” predilection is also something FV is predisposed to. Teaching something rather different while insisting on keeping the old label is not just confusing, it can be fraudulent. Slapping a Gucci label on a Walmart handbag doesn’t make it a Gucci bag.

I particularly enjoyed Bayly’s nonsense about your being “inconsistent” because you recognize some authority relationships as valid and others as invalid claims to authority unsupported in Scripture. To make this point, he grossly mischaracterizes your argument as one that implies inequality any time an authority relationship exists. This is rather like saying that because I believe I have a duty to submit to the President of the United States that I also have a duty to submit to the local mob boss. Not everyone who claims authority claims it validly. False claims of authority, because they cannot be claimed on the basis of Scripture, are often based on vague references to nature and inherent inequality. Valid claims of authority don’t need the trappings of inequality because they are supported by the text.

If Bayly believes the claims of patriarchy as to all male authority in civil society are valid, he needs to support the claim, not just attack your Reformed bona fides. Again, using labels in a way no one else seems to use them, he appears to imply that you can’t be Reformed unless you agree with Knox and Calvin about everything. The Reformed Baptists would be surprised. Generally, when the rest of us refer to the Reformation, we’re predominantly talking about the radical shift in soteriology and ecclesiology of the period, not haircut regulations (seriously) and not theories on government (in which the Reformers were much-surpassed by their successors a century or two on).

Support for patriarchy’s claims about civil authority would preferably come from Scripture, not the Reformers (medieval theocratic government models haven’t aged well, even the Protestant ones). I’m afraid Knox and Calvin, impressive beards aside, are not our Apostles (or popes). Reformers are not infallible, not sinless, not always right. Luther, also a Reformer with a capital R, said some downright vicious things about, and advocated some downright vicious actions against, Jews. Take from the Reformers what is good, what stands the test of Scripture, or of time and prudence if Scripture is not implicated, and leave behind the wicked, the culturally dictated, and the downright silly (haircut regulation falls squarely in this category).

The most disturbing thing over at Bayly’s blog, though, was not his silly post about how disagreeing with him (or Doug Wilson) makes you a feminist. Far more disturbing was the January 19 post, where he felt the need to point out that women are, in fact, moral agents…twice. In what sort of subculture is this a point worth making and not just assumed without discussion? Perhaps the kind that treats women as less than fully human.

Women in the Workplace: “Simply Supplementing”

Over at the Christian Pundit, Rebecca VanDoodewaard, wife of Professor William VanDoodeward of Puritan Reformed Seminary, has written an article calling for the return of clerks. Mrs. VanDoodewaard is concerned with the number of young men who are unemployed and who lack the experience typically required for most jobs. She believes that if businesses would begin to replace secretaries with clerks, then these men would be gainfully employed and gaining experience to allow them to work their way up in the business world. These men should be given priority in hiring over married women, all other qualifications being equal, because “a man could support himself and maybe a wife with the job that is simply supplementing a married woman’s household income.” Mrs. VanDoodewaard also believes that male clerks would reduce the temptation towards adultery in the workplace:

Think about it: having a woman who is not your wife helping you day in, day out opens up a huge avenue for emotional entanglements which often lead to physical ones. A clerk, while not removing the sin in your heart, will remove the opportunity, and that’s half the battle (Matt. 5:28-30).

I have a few observations I would like to make. Before I do so, I would like to make a disclaimer. I am not a feminist, in any way. I am blessed that my husband’s income provides for us in such a way that I can be a stay at home mom and homeschool our children. In a culture that ridicules men and treats husbands and fathers with such disdain, I believe there is great need to stand up for and show our respect for husbands and fathers. I also think it is important for all women to consider if the work they are doing (both inside and outside of the home) is helping or hindering their family.

That said, I will move on to my observations on Mrs. VanDoodewaard’s article. First, I’m not sure I understand why a new position of “clerk” needs to be created (or brought back). In most workplaces today, “secretary” has been replaced by “administrative assistant.” Can men not apply for these positions? Given that there are male admin assistants in many businesses across the country, I have to assume that men do indeed apply for these jobs and that they are being hired for them.

Second, I am greatly disturbed by Mrs. VanDoodewaard’s belief that women in secretarial jobs are “simply supplementing” the household income. She does note that the income may be needed, but she goes on to say that men should be hired preferentially, all other factors being equal:

But there are women working as secretaries whose income supplements their husband’s. I’m not saying that they don’t need the money, I’m not saying they should not work. I’m saying that where a man could support himself and maybe a wife with the job that is simply supplementing a married woman’s household income, then the man should get the job, competence being equal.

How exactly should businesses go about determining if woman is working to “simply supplement” her husband’s income or working because without her income there wouldn’t be food on the table or a roof over their heads or clothes on their backs? For example, my mother has worked nearly 40 years “simply supplementing” my father’s income so that he could pastor small congregations that had difficulty supporting a pastor. It was not about living a certain lifestyle or having nicer things. My mother’s income made sure we had clothes, food, and other basic needs.

While I’m sure there are women who are working for purely selfish reasons, the majority of women who work low-paying, secretarial jobs are working to help provide for their families. What does Mrs. VanDoodewaard suggest these women do instead? In the current economy, two incomes are often a necessity, not a luxury. Which brings me to my next observation.

There seems to be a desire by some today to return to an ideal society where men outside the home and women take care of all things domestic. I’m not suggesting that Mrs. VanDoodewaard has this desire or even expressed this desire in her article. There is, however, an underlying current in some circles that has an overly romantic view of how things used to be. In an predominantly agrarian society, like the colonial or pioneer eras, men mainly raised the crops and the livestock, and women mainly took care of the domestic chores. But all of the family worked hard to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other basic needs.

Industrialization brought changes, but the main tenet still held: all of the family worked hard to provide for the needs of the family. Only women in the upper classes could stay at home and tend to their families without a thought to providing income. Women of the lower classes worked. They worked as domestic help, in factories, in shops, as child minders, as teachers, as laundresses, and as seamstresses to name a few of the respectable jobs. The income of these women has never been “simply supplement.”

I’m sure Mrs. VanDoodewaard is correct that work place adultery is a serious problem. Given the number of women bosses these days, I’m afraid that male clerks would not necessarily create less of a problem. Men and women have to be careful and use great discretion in the workplace. I’m not sure that simply removing women from secretarial jobs will solve the problem given the numbers of women working professionally in all industries.

Lastly, I noticed that Mrs. VanDoodewaard is also a free-lance editor. Assuming she’s paid for this work, I wonder if there is a man who is unemployed and lacking experience who could benefit from her job?

The Problem with Patriarchy: 50 Shades of Grey, Authority and Submission

[TRIGGER WARNING]: The content of this post contains language and imagery that may be sensitive or harmful to victims of sexual abuse or rape.

One of the problems that I see with the patriarchy movement is that it views all relationships in terms of authority and submission. When your entire worldview is seen through the lens of authority and submission, it’s bound to cause some unfortunate and ill-advised comments on any number of subjects. Yesterday I came across a particularly bad example of this.

Over at The Gospel Coaltion, blogger Jared Wilson started a firestorm when he wrote about the current fascination with the 50 Shades of Grey novel. In case you aren’t aware (and I wish I could say I’d never heard of it) here is Wiki’s short definition:

Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic novel by British author E. L. James. Set largely in Seattle, it is the first instalment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM).

There really aren’t enough words to explain what’s wrong with these books. Suffice it to say they should be avoided.

Jared Wilson’s original post, which has since been deleted, attempted to explain the appeal that 50 Shades has on so many women. He wrote that women are fascinated by books like this because it is a perversion of “good, God-honoring, and body-protecting authority and submission between husbands and wives.” Thanks to the magic of cached documents on Google, you can still see what he wrote. The part that started the uproar was a quote from Douglas Wilson that he used to support his theory:

A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

– Douglas Wilson, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999), 86-87. (emphasis mine)

What is truly amazing is that Jared Wilson didn’t seem to understand why so many women were upset with Doug Wilson’s language and word choice. Doug Wilson acknowledges that egalitarian women would be offended by his words, but really, shouldn’t all women (and men too, for that matter) be offended by such violent imagery. Both Jared Wilson and Doug Wilson have attempted to explain how there is nothing wrong with what they wrote, and that the problem is with the comprehension of the readers.

While I appreciate that both Wilsons have stated that they do not approve of violence against women, my concern is that they are the ones who have a comprehension problem. The sum total of the intimate relationship between husband and wife cannot be condensed into authority and submission, especially as defined by Doug Wilson above. The language of the Bible is much more balanced when it comes to descriptions of the right relationship between husband and wife. 1 Corinthians 7 states that a husband has authority over his wife’s body, but also that a wife has authority over her husband’s body. This authority and submission is not a one-way street.

The problem I have with Jared Wilson’s post and Doug Wilson’s quote is that the preoccupation with authority and submission leads to social and familial structures that encourage abusive relationships. Not everyone who agrees with the Wilsons will be abusive, but many will see these words as supportive of abuse. When one views all of the world in terms of authority and submission, there are bound to be comprehension issues. Maybe the whole world didn’t misunderstand. Maybe you’re wrong.