A marriage isn’t a military unit.

Commenter Warthog wrote that I have missed Pastor Doug Wilson’s point when he claimed that a husband is like a captain of a ship, and therefore “the man is completely responsible for all the problems [in the marriage]”:

Not defending Wilson here, but you have failed to comprehend what he meant in the military analogy. There is a difference between being at fault and being responsible. To take the example of a ship captain, the USS Stark was hit by an Iraqi missile in 1986 or so. Due to a mistake by the gunnery sergeant, the Phalanx missile defense system had not been turned back on after the last maintenance. Due to this error, the ship was defenseless against the missile, resulting as I recall in the deaths of about 17 men.

The captain was held responsible, as was the gunnery sergeant. It ended both of their careers. The captain was indeed responsible, even though it was the gunnery sergeant’s fault.  Simply said, when you have command you are responsible for both the good and bad that happens under your command.

In marriage this would mean that if the wife starts misbehaving, the husband is responsible for the marriage, and should take corrective action on the wife. If the misbehavior metastasizes it is usually because it wasn’t nipped in the bud, just like cancer…

However, I did understand Wilson’s point here.  The problem is twofold:

  1. Wilson’s theology of the family as a military unit is deeply flawed.
  2. Wilson himself doesn’t actually believe in this model.

Problem #2 is what I was focused on in .  Wilson is merely using headship as a handy club to beat husbands with.  That club appears in an instant when it is needed, and disappears the moment it is no longer needed.  In Reforming Marriage Wilson writes (emphasis mine):

…men, whether through tyranny or abdication, are responsible for any problems in the home. If Christian men had loved their wives as Christ loved the Church, if they had given direction to their wives, if husbands had accepted their wives’ necessary help with their God-ordained vocation, there never would have been room for any kind of feminist thinking within the Church.

But in the same book Wilson explains that headship doesn’t mean the husband tells the wife what to do (that is after all the house despot’s role).  Husbands aren’t to tell their wives what to do.  They are merely to love and cherish their wives so much the wife will naturally do the right thing:

Not only is he responsible before God to do his job, he is responsible before God to see that she does hers. And of course, this is not done by bossing her around. It is done through nourishing and cherishing her.

Having established that Wilson doesn’t believe this model himself, there is still the question of the bad theology he trotted out in the process of blaming men for women’s sins.  The problem is that not only is there no biblical backing for this theology, there is plenty of Scripture that contradicts it.

As I referenced the other day, the Israelites were ungrateful when God had Moses lead them out of Egypt.  If Wilson and Warthog’s theology is correct, Moses (as the captain of the metaphorical ship) would be to blame for not nipping the issue in the bud.  But God doesn’t blame Moses.  He tells Moses he is going to wipe the unworthy people out and give Moses a more deserving “crew” for his “ship”:

I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

–Numbers 14:12, KJV

Likewise see the story of Job.  Job’s wife urged him to curse god and die when he was suffering.  Yet Job is presented as the most godly man alive in the whole world.  There is incredible hubris in men thinking that the reason their wives are submissive and obedient is that they are better than other men.  Clearly they see themselves as better than Job!

We can see another example of how God views the authority of husbands and fathers in Numbers 30.  There we learn that a man is responsible for his own vows.  A woman is responsible for her own vows too, unless she is under the authority of her husband or father and he nullifies the vow as soon as he first learns of it.  Note that the husband/father isn’t responsible for making sure she doesn’t utter foolish vows.  Nor is he required to nullify the vow once he hears of it.  Where a husband would become culpable is if he failed to nullify the vow once he heard of it and later tried to intervene (Numbers 30:13-15, KJV):

13 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.

14 But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.

15 But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.

One Scriptural backing often given for the false marriage is a military unit theology is the qualification for a bishop (elder) in 1 Tim 3:2-5 (KJV):

2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

This is the strongest case for the argument.  But if we are to take this passage so far as to declare husbands will be judged as the captain of a ship we have made a grave error.  A naval captain’s mission is different than the mission of a husband and father.  As Wilson and other complementarians repeatedly remind us, a husband can’t make his wife submit.  This is technically true, even though it is being used to create the false impression that husbands don’t have authority.  Yet if you assume that 1 Tim 3 means that Christian husbands are like naval captains, you will find that in your zeal to twist 1 Tim 3:4 into your service you have to disregard 1 Tim 3:3, as Warthog does in a separate comment:

@Dalrock you’ve stated the problem, but not the solution. What sanctions do husbands biblically have when their wives rebel?
When children or slaves rebel, the head of the house clearly has the biblical sanction of the rod. Non-destructive spanking/beating.
Does the patriarch’s power of the rod also apply to his wife?

For if we are foolish enough to look for biblical instruction from the navy, there is plenty to back Warthog’s beat them into submission theology.  See for example Brief History of Punishment by Flogging in the US Navy.

Contrast this with 1 Tim 3:3.  The KJV says the man shall not be a “striker”.  The ESV translates this to “not violent but gentle”:

not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Not only does the marriage as military unit model not fit with Scripture as a whole, it goes against the very passage that would best support it.  For a practical look at this, consider Hmm’s enlightening comment about the history of the movement Pastor Wilson comes out of:

Theonomy went off the rails in the early 90’s, and Wilson began backing off from it, especially the hard patriarchy. This was about the time he started publishing books. As nearly as I can understand, he also began to find truly cruel patriarchal homes among the families of his church, and this has shaped some of his subsequent screeds about wife-beating men and “prairie muffin” women. So when he writes about some men being hard-hearted husbands, he knows whereof he speaks, and it is not a trivial number. In my gentler area of the Midwest, I have seen only a couple such in my twenty years as an elder.

The irony here is that if Hmm is right, Wilson refuses to teach the plain meaning of Scripture on headship and submission because his false teaching that families are a military unit resulted in abuse.  That Wilson himself twisted Scripture in a way that predictably will lead to abuse isn’t a defense of his other twisting of Scripture to deny the authority of husbands.  Take away one false teaching and the other is no longer required.

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Posted in Attacking headship, Disrespecting Respectability, Domestic Violence, Headship, Marriage, Pastor Doug Wilson, Submission, Turning a blind eye, Weak men screwing feminism up | 114 Comments

Sure his theology is bad, but he has great taste in TV!

In my recent post An invitation to Pastor Wilson’s defenders I challenged Wilson’s defenders to do any of the following:

  1. Point out any instances where I criticized Wilson without providing a direct quote.
  2. Point out any time that I have misquoted Wilson or misrepresented what he wrote.
  3. Defend any of Wilson’s positions that I had criticized.

There were no takers.

This was true even though I provided 8 different examples of Wilson’s bad teaching for his defenders to back him up on.  All 8 examples were so bad that none of Wilson’s defenders wanted to even try to defend them.

What I received instead were calls for me to become friends with Wilson.  Presumably once I did that I, like his defenders, would become comfortable overlooking his bad teaching.

When the call for friendship didn’t convince me, next his defenders offered his taste in black and white TV shows as a reason to overlook his bad teaching.  MKT wrote:

Like Wilson or not, he posted this on a recent blog. It’s one of the finest moments in TV history, and would make everyone from radical feminists to self-proclaimed conservative complimentarians hysterical if they saw it. If you can’t watch the whole thing, just watch the first minute and last 2-3 minutes.

This is the kind of misdirection Wilson’s defenders love most. Here is Wilson, supporting headship for a make-believe man!  Surely one day soon this will translate into Wilson supporting headship for real life men.  But it doesn’t work that way.

Again, Wilson’s defenders can’t bring themselves to even try to defend his bad teaching.  What they want is for me (and you) to pretend the bad teaching doesn’t exist, or at least pretend that it doesn’t matter.

Likewise, in response to Every Woman’s Battle, commenter Warthog wrote:

To be fair, Wilson wrote that over 20 years ago. He has moved substantially in your direction since then. https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/smash-the-matriarchy.html

In the post Warthog was responding to I quoted Lori Alexander where she rightly pointed out that Satan tempts women into blaming their husbands for their feelings of discontentment.  I agreed with her and added that our entire culture is doing Satan’s work here, including Christian pastors.  To prove this point I gave three examples of pastors doing just that.  Wilson was one of the three.  Note that Warthog doesn’t even try to defend Wilson’s bad teaching.  He merely wants us to ignore it and assume that Wilson has stopped teaching women their husband is the source of their discontentment, referencing the same recent Lone Ranger post from Wilson that MKT did.

Yet Wilson’s much loved Lone Ranger post includes reinforcements for his past bad teaching.  As Wilson explained, the message of the Lone Ranger episode he shared was that the woman’s pathetic husband was responsible for her discontentment:

On this privileged occasion, I recall taking in an episode of The Lone Ranger. The theme of this particular show was about that time when there was this mousy little man, hen-pecked to the outer limits of human endurance, and through a series of circumstances, the Lone Ranger adopted this poor man and made him something of a protégé. The end result of this crash course in masculinity was that the little man headed on home, and the happy ending to the whole saga was him pulling out his revolver and shooting his wife’s dishes off her shelves. It makes me happy just thinking about it. Fade to black, and with her thinking something along the lines of finally!

For reference, here is the opening of Lori Alexander’s post:

Divorce always begins with seeds of discontentment planted in our minds by ourselves or others. Feminism flourished because it appealed to wives’, mothers’, and homemakers’ discontentment. “We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: ‘I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.’” (Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique)

Lori Alexander wants wives to remember that the discontentment comes from within.  Despite what the Serpent is telling them, it isn’t men’s fault they are discontented.

Wilson on the other hand wants us to know that women’s discontentment really does come from men, and besides, it is only the hairy legged feminists who are currently in rebellion.  Women who have children aren’t in rebellion and long for the patriarchy:

So whatever is happening, we are not actually being ruled by fruitful women (a state of affairs that fruitful women actually detest), but rather by men with a homosexual ethos who have recruited a horde of childless and gullible women to serve as their honey-trap shock troops. Such women are those who have accepted the flattering vanities of career “advancement” in place of a truly satisfying life as the active mother of a teeming and energetic pack of yard apes. These duped women have somehow been persuaded that the good opinion of the bureaucrats in HR is somehow far more valuable than the good opinion of the yard apes. It isn’t, by the way.

Moreover, Wilson never stopped teaching what Warthog assures us Wilson no longer believes.  He wrote the book decades ago, but he still sells it today.  Warthog didn’t offer his opinion on why he thinks Wilson still sells a book teaching something Wilson now believes to be wrong*.  But any defense in this matter would really be an indictment.  Does Warthog think Wilson is too proud to admit that what he taught was wrong?  Or could it be that Warthog is accusing Wilson of being too corrupted by the desire for money to stop selling the book?

I’ll try to rescue Wilson from his defenders here and note that I don’t think he has changed his (relevant) theology since he first wrote Reforming Marriage.  I don’t have the link handy, but I have seen a video online where he uses the introduction to the book almost entirely verbatim as a sermon, and the sermon was dated just a few years ago.  However, Wilson could help his defenders stop indicting him in this regard by clarifying if he still stands by what he wrote in Reforming Marriage or if he no longer believes that a woman’s discontentment is proof that God is displeased with her husband.

*And not just wrong in one small part.  The introduction explains that the entire book is based on the premise that if a husband loves his wife as he should, the wife will be happy.

Posted in Betty Friedan, Lori Alexander, Marriage, Pastor Doug Wilson, Rebellion, Turning a blind eye, Weak men screwing feminism up | 94 Comments

Every woman’s battle.

Lori Alexander warns wives in her excellent post Discontentment is a Marriage Killer:

Eve stopped being thankful for the position that God put her into in the garden and seeds of discontentment were placed in her mind that reaped tragic consequences. Satan beguiled her with the question: “Hath God said….?” His desire is to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants women asking, “Hath God really said that young women are to marry, bear children, and guide the home? Hath God said that women should be keepers at home and silent in the churches? Hath God said that wives are to be submissive to their husbands in everything?” Feminism is simply acting as Satan’s agent of destruction.

If a woman believes she is “dying inside” and blames it on her husband, she has made her husband an idol instead of finding her satisfaction and fulfillment in Christ. Women naturally rebel against their husbands (Genesis 3:16) so we must always be on guard against doing this. God wouldn’t have had to tell us so many times in His Word for us to submit to our husbands if it came naturally and easy for us.

Discontentment among women in marriage is a common malady today since 70 – 80% of divorces are initiated by women. We must constantly be aware of this in us, women. We must do everything we can to fight against Satan’s questions and doubts he tries to plant in our minds and put on the full armor of God every day.

Part of the problem is our whole culture has lined up to do Satan’s work here and whisper discontentment into women’s ears.  It isn’t just secular culture either.  Christian pastors, including conservative pastors, regularly encourage Christian wives to embrace discontentment.

In Where Men Blow It Pastor Raymond Force teaches wives that not only is it essential that they complain, he teaches that there is something wrong with a woman’s husband if he discourages her from complaining (emphasis mine):

What I love about scriptures as such is they teach us that it is okay to reverentially offer our concerns, fears, worries, and even complaints before the Lord. What I also feel is fascinating is that one never finds God taking these complaints as though they are an attack against his person, nor do they find God getting defensive or taking things personally.

A woman needs a place to express, complain, vent, et cetera without condemnation. But, if a man is too wrapped up in his own sensitivities, he will fail to provide that which Christ offers to him on a daily basis.

Force cites Numbers 11 as the primary supporting Scripture for this absurd claim.  Yet Numbers 11 is all about God’s wrath at the Israelites for complaining.  Numbers 11 opens with God burning Israelites alive because they complained (KJV):

11 And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.

As the chapter continues, the Israelites keep complaining.  When they complain about not having meat to eat, God punishes them by making them eat meat until it comes out of their nostrils.   The Israelites keep complaining, so God smites them with a great plague.  When the complaining continues, God declares that he will wipe all of them out and make a new, better people for Moses to head!

I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

–Numbers 14:12, KJV

Moses convinces God to show them mercy they don’t deserve, and God relents.  But the message of Numbers 11-14 is clear;  God despises discontentment and lack of thankfulness.  Pastor Force wanted to encourage women to complain so much that he took this Scripture and used it to teach the opposite of what it plainly says.  Force gambled that he would get away with this because other pastors regularly teach the same message.

For another example of this, in his sermon Women’s Hurdles Acts 29 president Pastor Matt Chandler explains that if a wife is susceptible to being tempted to feminist discontentment it is proof that her husband is oppressing her!

If the most secularized feminist in the world showed up in your home and began to kind of coach your wife toward freedom and liberation from your tyranny, our wives should be so well cared for, so nourished, so sowed into and loved, they would say, “What you’re describing is actually tyranny. I love where I am…

Men, here is a good opportunity. If you’re like, “Well, gosh, I don’t think she would say that at all,” then, men, I think on the way home, you should probably repent and confess before the Lord to your wife.

Likewise, Pastor Doug Wilson teaches in Reforming Marriage that the way to tell if a man is good is if his wife is happy.  He explains that very often husbands seem to be doing everything right.  The husband goes to marriage seminars, reads books on marriage, and does everything he is told to do to make his wife happy.   But very often despite the husband doing everything right, his wife is still unhappy.  Wilson tells us this is common, and the reason it happens is God isn’t happy with her husband.  He tells us that her discontentment is actually God’s voice, pronouncing divine judgement upon her hypocrite husband (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.

This is why I am afraid that this book will be of little use to those who simply want a “formula” to follow that will build them a happy marriage. When it comes to the externals, the mere copyist can always say of himself what the unregenerate Saul could say, “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:6). However hard the externalist tries, he cannot produce the aroma of godliness. This is why so many people attend marriage seminars and read marriage books with so little result. The obedience of the Christian man is not limited to new actions—actions which, after all, can be copied mechanically. This does not appear to be a rare or unusual error; many people who are miserable in their marriages are also those who have read all the books on how not to be. Of course, certain actions—godly obedience in externals—must be present in all healthy marriages; but in order to produce this distinctive aroma, the externals must proceed from new hearts.

the love of the Christian husband does not proceed from reading the “right books,” including this one, or going to the right seminars. God will not patch His grace onto some humanistic psychological nonsense—even if that nonsense is couched and buried in Christian terminology.

When a husband seeks to glorify God in his home, he will be equipped to love his wife as he is commanded. And if he loves his wife as commanded, the aroma of his home will be pleasant indeed.

H/T Heidi

*Edit:  I originally wrote that God’s declaration in Numbers 14:12 was in response to Moses pleading to God.  This was incorrect.  God was directly responding to the complaining of the Israelites at that time.

See Also: Whose job is it to keep mama happy?

Posted in Acts 29, Dr. Raymond Force, Lori Alexander, Pastor Doug Wilson, Pastor Matt Chandler | 94 Comments

Fabius Maximus looks at post marriage America.

Larry Kummer at Fabius Maximus further explores the trend I described here in Becoming a post-marriage America: see the stories!

Check out the excellent discussion at the bottom of Larry’s post as well.

Posted in Data, Fabius Maximus, Larry Kummer, Linkage, Marriage | 4 Comments

Don’t confuse entertainment with history.

In the 1999 movie Galaxy Quest aliens come to earth seeking the actors from a Sci Fi TV series to lead them to victory against their enemies.  They had watched the TV show and had mistaken make-believe for “historical documents”.

This came to mind when Oscar pointed out in the comments to The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare that medieval manuals taught all kinds of dirty fighting tricks, offering this image and this one as examples.  One of the problems with chivalry is it comes from literature.  It is make-believe presented as faux history.  But somewhere along the way we, like the clueless aliens in Galaxy Quest, have mistaken entertainment for history and began to take it seriously.

Posted in Chivalry, Movies | 24 Comments