Pastor Doug Wilson is clearly a smart and learned man. At times I greatly appreciate his insight, as with his explanation of Luke 22:35–38. But at other times Wilson stumbles in his writing, and when he is challenged to defend weak ideas he manages to dig himself in even deeper. You can see a recent example of this with his response to critics of his 21 Theses on Submission in Marriage. Wilson’s response to his critics is titled: And Now a Brief Word for the Wife Beaters.
Accusing men who disagree with him of being wife beaters is tantamount to intellectual surrender, and Wilson is so eager to do this he does so in the title of the post. The internet is a big place, and I have no doubt there were some who disagreed with Wilson’s neutered form of headship and offered wife beating as a superior alternative. But Wilson is clearly using this as an opportunity to pop an intellectual stink bomb to cover his retreat from criticism he isn’t equipped to rebut.
The key words here are enforce and make. No mortal can force such a thing. It does not come from right-handed power. But husbands can love and lead their wives. A husband can love, and Scripture teaches that this kind of love is efficacious. Love bestows loveliness. Husbands cannot duplicate the Lord’s substitutionary atonement, but husbands are most certainly commanded to imitate it. And when they imitate it as they ought, the results are not—work with me here—a beating for the little missus. And a man who thinks it is just demonstrates how far away from the spirit of the gospel he actually is.
Wilson explains that his prescription of love her sacrificially and she will follow is not to be confused with the complementarian servant leader model:
At some point in every husband/wife relationship, there will be a clash of wills. When that happens, it is often the case that the husband gets owned and he loses. Let us be blunt, and call it what it is. However, we live in flattering times, and he has been given sufficient cover by the church to retreat demurely into his designated background, and to call what he is doing “servant leadership.”
Having set his prescription apart from other forms of neutered headship, he closes the piece with a rebuttal to the men he most wants to respond to, the men who disagree with his form of neutered headship but aren’t advocating wife beating. These men, he explains, are meanie chauvinists:
That kind of weakness is not what I am commending. It is not how Christ loved the church. But it is a mistake of the highest order to think that the opposite of this kind of cowardly coyness is to stand on the recliner in one’s man cave beating one’s chest. That is not how He loved the church either.
So authority flows to those who take responsibility. Authority flees those who seek to evade responsibility.
I now understand why Wilson’s defenders so strongly prefer the shut up form of argument. Just like his opening accusation that those who disagree with him are wife beaters, this is carefully crafted to make further discussion impossible by sowing strife. The tactic is easy enough to utilize, but it betrays an inability to defend his arguments.