At the core of Dr. Wayne Grudem’s theology of marriage is a table he frequently uses to describe the sins of husbands and wives:
Aside from the implicit claim that headship and submission shouldn’t be offensive to our feminist sensibilities, most of the table makes basic sense*. Yet one field stands out like a sore thumb; Grudem has created a new sin for women**, the feminist sin of being a doormat. Grudem explains this new sin in A Balanced Look at Roles:
There is an error of passivity on the wife’s part. Day after day, month after month, year after year in their marriage, “Yes dear, whatever you say . . . yes dear, whatever you say.” She doesn’t contribute at all to the decision making process. She has no preferences, no desires. She’s a doormat. That is an error as well. That’s not the biblical pattern.
In his book Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism: Biblical Responses to the Key Questions Grudem offers the same table and explains:
…when a wife chooses not to participate in family decisions, does not express her preferences or opinions, does not speak up when her children or husband are doing wrong, or does not object to her husbands physical or verbal abuse, then she is not being submissive, but instead is acting as a doormat, and out of line with the role God designed for her in the marriage relationship.
Note that abuse is thrown in as an always effective red herring. If you object to this newly manufactured sin, you therefore must be condoning abuse. Note also that Grudem’s doormat theology creates the formal structure for fellow CBMW member and Women’s Studies professor Mary Kassian to teach Christian wives to set and enforce boundaries for their husbands (emphasis mine).
No brain-dead doormats or spineless bowls of Jello here! Submission is neither mindless nor formulaic nor simplistic. Submitting to the Lord sometimes involves drawing clear boundaries and enacting consequences when a husband sins.
All of this should raise the obvious question: Why do Christian women in our feminist age need to be constantly warned not to be doormats, but women in the ancient world did not? Did women in the ancient world have more moxie than the women of our feminist age? Why are modern women at risk of committing this new kind of sin, a sin which the Bible fails to warn us of? Why must Grudem, Kassian, etc. constantly remind Christian women not to fall into the sin of being a doormat when Peter and Paul did not? Why does the New Testament repeatedly remind wives to submit to their husbands (Eph 5-22:24, 1 Pet 3:1&5, Col 3:18, Tit 2:5) without offering Grudem’s modern “balanced” warning not to be a doormat? Was the teaching of Peter and Paul really flawed, requiring complementarians like Grudem and Kassian to “fix” it two thousand years later?
*The devil however is in the details. What Grudem is describing as headship/submission is essentially egalitarian marriage with the husband as a figurehead with almost no authority.
**This same new sin is incorporated into the CBMW founding statement, but instead of using the term “doormat” the Danvers Statement uses the word servility.