Commenter 7817 asks:
Dalrock, have you read Wilson’s post from last year where he says that one of the beautiful things the puritans did was to enshrine Chivalry in marriage?
From the post:
” This was the origin of the romantic and chivalric ideal of a knight and his lady fair.
What the Puritans did was to take this ideal, keep the romantic and chivalric aspects of it, and then combine it all with faithful and monogamous marriage.”
Given your past articles about chivalry, Wilson’s take is interesting, because he knows what it was, but thinks that our adoption of it in marriage is a good thing.
The post in question is Obeying Your Double Helix, and I had not seen it prior to 7817 asking. In the post Wilson is right on some points. The puritans are indeed mischaracterized as being anti sex, when they were quite the opposite. It is also true that puritans tried to reconcile the idea of courtly love/chivalry with biblical marriage.
But it is not true that in the process of incorporating chivalry into marriage that puritans somehow improved on the biblical view of marriage. While puritans removed the most obvious problem with chivalry/courtly love (the overt worship of adultery), they still greatly corrupted the idea of biblical marriage in the process. Chivalry is philosophical cancer; it is the mechanism that transformed feminist complaining into concrete action.
Even without the overt encouragement of adultery, chivalry is anti biblical. Chivalry teaches us that women are inherently moral. As CS Lewis explains in The Allegory of Love (emphasis mine):
It is in courts that the new feeling arises: the lady, by her social and feudal position, is already the arbitress of manners and the scourge of ‘villany’ even before she is loved. The association of love with adultery—an association which has lasted in continental literature down to our own times—has deeper causes.
As the second part of the quote above indicates, even when the overt worship of adultery is removed from chivalry/courtly love, a glorification of adultery remains. Biblical marriage is antithetical to the kind of wife worship chivalry demands. This involves associating both women and their feelings of romantic love with virtue and the divine. As Lewis explains, biblical marriage is anti chivalry because of male headship and because it is based on commitment instead of emotion (emphasis mine):
The love which is to be the source of all that is beautiful in life and manners must be the reward freely given by the lady, and only our superiors can reward. But a wife is not a superior.81 As the wife of another, above all as the wife of a great lord, she may be queen of beauty and of love, the distributor of favours, the inspiration of all knightly virtues, and the bridle of ‘villany’;82 but as your own wife, for whom you have bargained with her father, she sinks at once from lady into mere woman. How can a woman, whose duty is to obey you, be the midons whose grace is the goal of all striving and whose displeasure is the restraining influence upon all uncourtly vices? You may love her in a sense; but that is not love, says Andreas, any more than the love of father and son is amicitia.83 We must not suppose that the rules of love are most frivolous when they are most opposed to marriage. The more serious they are, the more they are opposed. As I have said before, where marriage does not depend upon the free will of the married, any theory which takes love for a noble form of experience must be a theory of adultery.
It is only by doing great violence to biblical marriage that modern Christians can practice marital chivalry. The specific form of the violence will vary, but the general nature of it remains easily identified. Stoeker and Arterburn refer to a wife’s sexuality as her “soul essence”, which the husband must obey in Every Man’s Marriage:
What I’m trying to say is that the “master” defines your rights (and remember again that though we refer to your wife as your “master,” it’s our shorthand for the fact that becoming one with her essence is actually your God-given master). Why? Because you’re called to oneness and her essence sets the terms.
Wilson himself on the other hand is a bit more circumspect in his book Reforming Marriage, even though he makes what is ultimately the same argument. According to Wilson, the emotional state of wives is God’s way of telling us if a man is virtuous or not (emphasis mine):
In other words, keeping God’s law with a whole heart (which is really what love is) is not only seen in overt acts of obedience. The collateral effect of obedience is the aroma of love. This aroma is out of reach for those who have a hypocritical desire to be known by others as a keeper of God’s law. Many can fake an attempt at keeping God’s standards in some external way. What we cannot fake is the resulting, distinctive aroma of pleasure to God.
But while Wilson avoids directly equating a woman’s sexual desire for her husband with the man’s goodness in Reforming Marriage, in his blog post The Suitor and His Porn Wilson explains that if a wife doesn’t desire her husband sexually this is an indication that the man is not treating her right:
The most common way this happens in marriage is that a man does not treat his wife right, they start to quarrel and drift apart, and this naturally includes their sex life, and he feels just as entitled as he ever did.
Pastor Doug Wilson, Stoeker, and Arterburn are of course not alone in corrupting biblical marriage with this chivalrous concept. Pastor Dave Wilson explains in The Art of Marriage that God revealed His displeasure with Dave through Dave’s wife’s (non) burning bush:
Dave: Yes. Here’s all you need to know about that night—the thing that changed our marriage is when Ann was sharing with me what she felt—I had a pretty unique encounter with God. I sensed God was speaking to me, through Ann;
President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is surprisingly bold in laying out this same moral vision (emphasis mine):
Put most bluntly, I believe that God means for a man to be civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness by the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire.
As Lewis notes, the very idea of headship destroys the moral order of chivalry. How can a wife use her divine power to express God’s will if she is supposed to obey her husband? How can a husband kneel to his Lady, his midons, if she is supposed to submit to him and call him lord? Pastor Doug Wilson clearly has wrestled with this problem, and this lead to him creating a new theology of marriage. While (in theory) the husband is head and the wife is to obey her husband, Wilson discovered that there is a loophole to headship and submission. It turns out that the wife is the despot of the home, and her husband should see himself as a guest. This new theology is nothing if not chivalrous (emphasis mine):
In a certain sense, a husband (as the head of his wife) is an honored and permanent guest, but he should learn to see himself as a guest. He wipes his feet at the door, he eats what is served to him, and he seeks to conform to the pattern established by her—as she in her turn seeks to honor him.
Moreover, since under chivalry women’s romantic love is seen as something pure and holy, the lifetime commitment of biblical marriage is incompatible with chivalry. This is the very root of our current acceptance of no fault divorce, and this view goes all the way back to the puritans. The famous puritan poet John Milton wrote in Tetrachordon:
And although copulation be considered among the ends of marriage, yet the act thereof in a right esteem can no longer be matrimonial, than it is an effect of conjugal love. When love finds itself utterly unmatched, and justly vanishes, nay rather cannot but vanish, the fleshly act indeed may continue, but not holy, not pure, not beseeming the sacred bond of marriage; being at best but an animal excretion…
We can see other signs of the corruption chivalry has wrought on Christian thought in the form of what is commonly called “white knighting” for women’s sins. Pastor Doug Wilson has drank deeply from this cup, and is uncharacteristically consistent in denying women’s sins. Wilson teaches us that men sin sexually due to sexual temptation, but women’s sexual sin is more innocent.
If we interviewed a thousand men who were immoral and sexually promiscuous, we would find we had a thousand men with a lack of self-control with regard to sexual temptation. If we were to do the same with a thousand promiscuous women, we would not find a thousand women with a sexual problem, but rather with a security problem. They are generally not looking for great sexual satisfaction, but rather for emotional security.
Likewise in Chapter 9 (Divorce and Remarriage) of Reforming Marriage Wilson explains (emphasis mine):
In relating this to divorce, it means that wives are much more likely to be wronged by their husbands than the other way around. If a man is unfaithful to his wife, it is quite possible that she was being the kind of wife God wants her to be. If a woman is unfaithful to her husband, it is much less likely that he was fulfilling his role properly.
In his conclusion to How to Exasperate Your Wife, Wilson offers “A Chiastic Catechism on Biblical Sexuality” where he explains that homosexuality among men is due to men’s sin:
10. Why are men sexually attracted to other men? It is the judgment of God upon our culture because we would not honor God as God and would not give Him thanks. Therefore God has given men over to the downward spiral of their renegade lusts fueled by father hunger.
However, in the same Catechism on Biblical Sexuality Wilson explains that women’s homosexuality is caused by men mistreating women:
16. Why are women sexually attracted to other women? This also is the judgment of God upon our culture, and is the result of men—fathers, brothers, cousins, boyfriends, husbands, and ex-husbands—mistreating girls and women. Women ineffectively try to build a fortress that will protect them from rebellious male sexuality, but it cannot work. Despite this protest, many self-identified lesbians remain sexually accessible to selfish men, and the “burned by men” phenomenon just gets continually worse. This too is fueled by father hunger.
Men’s sexual urges tempt them to sin, but in the chivalrous world women’s sexuality is pure. It only results in sin if men somehow corrupt women’s natural purity. This is not the biblical view, but because Christians have adopted chivalry it has replaced the biblical view.