Has Wifely Submission Edged Out Jesus?

Several weeks ago Doug Wilson posted an article titled 21 Theses on Submission in Marriage. Yesterday, I wrote about Wilson’s follow-up post, which came three days later, in which he condemned wife beating. Today, I want to take time to look at some of Wilson’s theses, in which he tells his readers that women are most happy when they submit to their husbands, and that true freedom comes through obedience.

Wilson starts by stating that the Bible is clear in its command that wives must submit to and obey their husbands, but he doesn’t stop there:

3. Natural revelation teaches us the natural submission of the wife to the husband. These realities are in our bones, and the revolt against them lies at the foundation of our current cultural madness.

In referencing “natural revelation” Wilson claims that the world around us, in addition to the Bible, points to the importance of female submission. In other words, wifely submission is natural. He’ll return to this a few items later, but first he adds this:

5. The Bible does not require a universal submission of women to men, or the necessary submission of any given woman to any given man. The Bible requires women to be submissive to their own husbands, which is a protection against having to submit to men generally. …

Wilson’s claim that by submitting to their husbands women gain protection from other men does not speak highly of Wilson’s view of men—and this, too, is something he will return to.

6. At the same time, in a healthy society, if wives are generally submissive to their own husbands, there will be a cheerful deference to the leadership of men generally, a reality to be welcomed and not resented. …

Descriptors like “cheerful deference” make women sound like children.

9. Women have a deep creational need to be loved and led, so that they might submit and follow, and men have a deep creational need to be respected and followed, and when these needs are thwarted or otherwise frustrated, the end result is deep unhappiness for both sexes.

This idea that women need love and men need respect is poppycock. I am a woman, and I definitely have a deep need to be respected! I can’t imagine otherwise. I also have a strong aversion to being “led.” And yet, according to Wilson, I as a woman have a deep need to be led, and that need is not met, the result will be “deep unhappiness.” Um, no.

And Wilson passes all this off as “natural revelation.” Again I say, poppycock.

10. At the same time, because of the curse that followed the Fall, women have a deep resistance to dutiful submission, even though such submission would lead them into the joy and true satisfaction that comes from obeying God. … So instead of trying to gain mastery over her husband, she should struggle to gain mastery over this besetting impulse within herself.

Wilson wants to have it both ways. “Natural revelation teaches us the natural submission of the wife to the husband,” he said earlier, but now he reveals that “women have a deep resistance to dutiful submission.”

As for Wilson’s claim that women should struggle to gain mastery over their impulse to have mastery over their husband—in Wilson’s world, someone has to be in charge—because dutiful submission will bring them join and true satisfaction … well. My mother is a strong, passionate, hard-charging woman. As a child, I watched her struggle to submit to my father. Sometimes I came upon her crying over this burden, rereading a book by Elisabeth Elliot or some other woman instructing women to be quiet, submissive, and obedient.

What joy? What satisfaction? Nay—the opposite. 

14. Liberty for Christian wives cannot be enjoyed outside of their appointed sphere. A woman who rejects her obligation to love, honor and obey is like a bird who has thrown away the “constraints” of having wings.

Such nonsense. Such propaganda.

15. Submission is an erotic necessity. The abandonment of this basic marital responsibility is the cause of much unhappiness, and has also been a cause of the resultant pursuit of erotic delusions offered by multiple partners or by various perversions.

I’m sorry, but did Wilson really just suggest that refusing to submit to your husband will make you become poly or—horrors—try anal sex? Or was he perhaps referring to BDSM? Even if this were true—and I see no reason why it would be—how would Wilson know this? Is he hiding in the bedroom closet of every egalitarian couple in his town, taking notes?

17. The liberation of women was a false flag operation. The true goal was the liberation of libertine men, and in our day this was a goal that has largely been achieved. These were men who wanted the benefits for themselves that would come from easy divorce, widespread abortion, mainstreamed pornography, and a promiscuous dating culture. The early twentieth century was characterized by the Christian wife. The early twenty-first century is characterized by the tattooed concubine. And these sons of Belial have the chutzpah to call it “progress for women.”

Ah, see, now we’re circling around. Feminism hasn’t freed women. It has made them the property of all men. I tell you, Wilson’s view of men is low indeed. (It’s worth noting Wilson’s assertion that easy divorce and promiscuity benefit men contrasts with the MRA claim that women use these channels to suck men dry via child support.)

Wilson uses the term “tattooed concubine” to refer, I assume, to twenty-something women living with their boyfriends, and contrasts such women with the Christian wives of Victorian America—this is not progress, he says. Far from it. And yet, when I look at those two contrasted women I absolutely do see progress. The “tattooed concubine” can access an education, a job, a career. She can leave and support herself if she should so choose. She can vote, run for office, become an activist. The Christian wife of Victorian America could do none of those things.

But Wilson is about to get even darker.

18. The general dominance of men over women is inescapable. And so this means that when godly rule (via submission in the home) is relegated to the margins, it will be replaced by an ungodly domination over women everywhere else. We cannot succeed in placing men and women on the same footing. But the attempt to do so can most certainly result in Bruno taking his showers at the YWCA.

The world is a dark and scary place where men are raving animals who cannot control themselves or their desire to smash and demean women. Only in the shelter of a protective husband can women find any means of safety from the ravages of the wild men outside. And in return for their protection—for some inexplicable reason—these valiant husbands demand but one thing—their wives’ obedience.

Actually, this sounds like the beginning of a dystopian flick that would end, I hope, in women realizing that the men they’ve enslaved themselves to in return for protection are no better than those outside. Depending on its budget, the film would either end there or let us follow these women as they set up secret lines of communication, formulate a plan, and overthrow the system in its entirety.

More seriously, Wilson’s claims are BS. Men are capable of controlling themselves, and of treating women with respect, and as equals.

19. The God who gives us our commands is the same God who designed and created us. His commandments are therefore good, righteous, and true, and they fit perfectly within the creation order. As wives seek to learn how to live these principles out, they are trying to overcome sin. They are not trying to overcome their nature. Rather, they are growing up into their true nature, which is the only liberation that matters.

That’s some first-class BS right there.

20. Submission that is invisible is not really submission at all. As submission is cultivated in the home, it needs to be expressed. It cannot exist as a set of hidden resolves or good intentions. Respect must be verbalized, and the demeanor of submissive deference must be plain to everyone in the home.

Let that last sentence sink in—a wife’s “demeanor of submissive deference must be plain to everyone in the home.” What, do we need to keep our eyes down too?

So, let me just take a moment to point out that Wilson has told his readers that wives will find joy, true satisfaction, and liberation not through Jesus but through obedience to their husbands. He never once mentions either Jesus or the gospel. If I still identified as a Christian, I would use the term “idolatry” to discuss Wilson’s fixation on submission. For all practical purposes, Wilson has elevated wifely submission to the very most important thing a woman can do.

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