January 21, 2021

Sex, Authority/Submission, and Remarkable Insensitivity

Song of Solomon, He Qi

“When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. a woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.”

Quoted from Doug Wilson, Fidelity
“The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey, Etc.”

* * *

The latest big dust-up in the evangelical blogosphere took place the other day when Jared Wilson at the Gospel Coalition put up a post about sex. In it, he simply quoted from a book by Doug Wilson to make his point.

And what was his point? If I understand correctly, it was this:

  • God’s design for marriage is that the man is in authority and woman in submission.
  • This applies to the sexual relationship as with every other aspect of marriage.
  • When we reject this divine design, we open ourselves up to all kinds of corruptions and perversions of authority and submission such as bondage and submission games, rape fantasies (men), addiction to romance type novels (women)
  • Such sexual pathologies (evidenced in such current examples as the 50 Shades of Grey craze) reveal that humans have spurned the right way, God’s way, the way of “good, God-honoring, and body-protecting authority and submission between husbands and wives.”

To which I reply, with utmost theological gravity — fiddlesticks.

This has to be one of the most specious, ridiculous arguments I have ever heard. As Scot McKnight posted, the concepts being advanced are “not deserving of the sharp theological eyes of TGC.”  The authors are certainly right that many sexual practices in this fallen world are corrupted and perverted, but to say that they arise out of failing to practice God’s design for authority and submission is begging the question.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1Cor 7:4, NASB)
Even if we were to grant the point that God’s design is for husbands to be the authorities in the home, and women are to submit to their leadership, nowhere, nowhere does Scripture link the sexual relationship to these concepts. From the beginning, Genesis 2:22-25, the sexual relationship is about complete mutuality, about cleaving together, about two becoming one, evidencing that a man and woman are “bone of bone and flesh of flesh.”

The Song of Songs, an entire book of erotic love poetry, bears this out. Those who’ve commented on the TGC post have pointed out that there is no “authority and submission” in Song of Songs, but two people who take turns initiating and responding to the other with passionate sexual feeling.

No clearer statement of this can be found than Paul’s words in 1Corinthians 7:4 — “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

The Wilsons are simply wrong in stating otherwise.

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness”  (Proverbs 19:22).
However, the other issue Jared Wilson’s post raises is that of insensitivity. The language Doug Wilson used, especially in the offensive paragraph quoted above, is outside the bounds of consideration and kindness. Rachel Held Evans was absolutely right as a woman to find these words not only “inaccurate” but also “degrading and harmful.” Doug Wilson has a habit, apparently, of writing blunt prose with little nuance or concern for “offending” those who disagree with him.

Jared Wilson (and Doug, too) didn’t help their cause by attacking commenters to the post, arguing that they simply needed to learn to read better, and then posting a follow-up suggesting people were simply out to get TGC and looking for a reason to do so.

This morning, I do note that Jared added a “trigger warning” for those who have been hurt by rape or sexual abuse.

That is a start, but in my opinion, correcting the problems with this post go far beyond the need to warn those who may have had extraordinary pain with regard to sexual matters. When you combine bad theology with crass and tactless rhetoric, nothing good can result for anyone.



  1. This in ONE reason my husband and I recently left the loosely associated AoG church after attending six years-I could not believe that this was the pastoral counsel given to women who were exhausted from a day of caring for children or struggling with past sexual abuse or just married and trying to maneuver their way through expressing their feelings or, believe it or not, ill -the final word was do it and never, ever turn him away.

    I have had women sitting at my dining room table in tears after such counsel more than once. The Pastor’s wife was a great one for adding, “If you don’t there are plenty of women out there waiting to take him.” It was advise like this that sent me reeling. Unfortunately, this Pastor took offense if anyone, especially a woman, tried to ‘enlighten’ him and caused that person to back off when he (the Pastor) appeared frustrated and angry (another reason we left, btw). There seems to be more and more Pastors jumping on this bandwagon.

    The church really needs to stay out of the bedroom, among other things. And this does raise the question of whose Holy Spirit do we listen to? Mine says something different than his. Mine says respect, kindness, compassion are more important than who’s in charge and has control over everything in the home. I love the quote, “Jesus came to take away our sins not our minds.” I don’t know who said it but I may cross stitch it on a pillow :0).

    I have to return to your story about Joe. A man who loved and cared for his wife for her sake, not his own. I have a ‘Joe,’ and I am grateful beyond words that he loves and values me so much that what I feel, do ,say, am matters more than his opinions.

    • My wife and I had a similar experience in an AoG church. Not everyone in the AoG fits into what you’re describing, but it’s sad that it seems your experience isn’t simply an isolated incident. I have met pastors who seem to be advocating that men treat their wives something akin to a grown-up child – “a wife should never refuse her husband because it will damage his puny little ego.” So ridiculous. How about men should grow up and realize that world doesn’t revolve around them?

    • Josh in FW says

      If you ever get around to cross stiching that pillow, make an extra one and I’ll buy it. 🙂

    • The reference to the previous story is spot on.

      Male authority means being first to submit and sacrifice, as Christ did for the church, not authority to satisfy one’s desires at the expense of others, which is exactly backwards. Caring and sacrificing for one’s sick wife is how this law of love should look. Conquering, penetrating, planting, colonizing, language is for the benefit of the conquerer, planter, colonizer, at the expense of the other, so it makes no Scriptural sense to use such language when talking about male authority.

      I’m not a fan of Evans, but she’s more correct here than Wilson, for sure. The male desire to rule in a selfish fashion is always wrong and a result of the Fall. To the extent feminism calls men to account for that, it’s entirely correct. Scriptural complimentarianism should almost always look like egalitarianism because the husband will be sacrificing for his wife and setting aside his own desires in favor of the family’s.

      It is ironic though, that feminist, egalitarian seeking women enjoy a porny book about being sexually dominated by a masochistic ass. The proper response is not to tell them they should let their husbands dominate them (as Wilson seems to), but that Christian love never involves domination and women should instead seek to let their husbands serve them as Christ serves the church. But that’s not very sexually thrilling to men’s or women’s fallen desires, and will never be popular with either gender.

    • EMSoliDeoGloria says

      I don’t think the church should get out of the bedroom. God cares a great deal about the bedroom. But pastors should make sure that in counseling couples regarding bedroom issues they are counseling from the direct instruction and principles of God’s word and not from their own personal opinions. Some who believe they are doing that, men and women, clearly are not.

      The principles of love and kindness, selflessness and putting others before yourself apply in the bedroom as throughout Christian marriage and relationships in general. Pastors and mentors should help couples learn to lay down their lives for one another in a God-honoring way, that respects one another as image bearers and never treats the other as an object to be used.

      • But pastors should make sure that in counseling couples regarding bedroom issues they are counseling from the direct instruction and principles of God’s word and not from their own personal opinions. Some who believe they are doing that, men and women, clearly are not.

        Of course God cares. That’s a given. From this happily married for over thirty years woman, I’ve seen over and over the problem is that too many base their counseling on personal opinion or claim Divine revelation; so good counsel is hit and miss. You make a good point, but the people who are missing it are the same one’s who get a lot of press and pulpit support from folks who think the speaker or writer is anointed and speaks for God. Until this misinformation is corrected pretty much across the broad, I stand by my statement.

  2. Not only was the actual quote incredibly offensive, but the way Mr. Wilson behaved in the comments section–treating his sisters in Christ as if they were too stupid to come in out of the rain– was absolutely inexcusable.

    If TGC wants to maintain any credibility, they need to remove Wilson from their panel of bloggers.

    • Conquering? Colonizing?

      I wouldn’t object to the language of “planting” so much, since that at least involves the recognition of the function of sex as reproduction, but to use language of warfare in such a context is ridiculous.

      If you’re approaching your spouse in the mindset of a hostile territory to be put under by force of arms, something is not right there.

      Also, for goodness’ sake, can we please get over the notion of the ‘passive’ as compared to the ‘active’ role being lesser or even degrading? To accept, to enfold, to receive, to take in, to open oneself to another is just as noble and worthy.

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    When the whole Doug Wilson affair surfaced on Wartburg Watch a couple days ago, I read that passage of Wilson to my roommate. His exact reply:

    “Now THAT’s a guy who’s heavily into BDSM.”

    • Josh the Hoosier says

      How long will it be until Doug starts “enlightening” us with pornovisions of his own? I loathe to think of where that might lead…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Oh, go over to Wartburg Watch. There’s more.

        Not only does Wilson’s cult dominate the town of Moscow, Idaho, Wilson has married off a convicted pedophile (whose plea bargain deal was only one count in exchange for IDing his many other victims) with a 22-year-old “How May I Better Submit, My Lord Husband?” virgin. Distinct aroma of a “God Commands It” Arranged Marriage with Quiverfull expectations. Not only arranging the marriage but officiating it.

        This guy sounds seriously wacked and genuinely dangerous.

        • John Norman’s Gor philosophy? Women secretly yearn to be dominated and totally submissive to a truly masterful man?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Or a Blue Oyster Cult song: “Dominance & Submission”.

          • The fantasy of domination and submission is different from actual subjugation. The first–properly negotiated, and with an atmosphere of trust and communication–can be fulfilling. The second is like what I get at work every day.

        • Josh the Hoosier says

          I’ve been reading TWW for some time, and just started reading IM recently. I quit reading The Gospel Coalition blogs over a year ago. What turned me off was the regular equating of 6 day creation and patriarchy with the “The Gospel.” Since then, it seems to have gone even further downhill. The point they’re at now is sickening.

    • donalbain says

      No. This is nothing to do with BDSM. It is rape language. Not BDSM.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    When every problem looks like a nail, every solution is a hammer.

    “If at first you don’t succeed, USE A BIGGER HAMMER.” — Army proverb

  5. Joseph (the original) says

    The Gospel Coalition: any insights into the particulars that unite such a group & the individual churches that join/associate with/identify with?

    i did recognize some of the churches skimming thru their directory, but what are thee most critical points of agreement that attracts such churches???

    • Dana Ames says

      they have an “about page”, which from reading (and from other bits of information I have heard about them) I deduce that they are:

      puritanistic nonliturgical (preamble),
      Calvinist-leaning soterian (confessional statement)
      rationalist, propositional, Church as radically counter-cultural (vision)

      Heavyweights are D. Carson and T. Keller. I have not heard of most others associated with them. ISTM that those attracted are idealistic calvinistic baptists (in some quarters known as “the young, restless and Reformed”) who really like systematic theology and seem to think that the way to make things better is to just follow the rules (with varying degrees of strictness), including the tenets of complementarianism. Driscoll is involved. D. Wilson has been touted by some among them; Piper thinks Wilson knows the Gospel.

      I have nothing against people who want to align themselves with this group. I’m sure most have nothing but the best intentions. And if I were still a Protestant, I would give them a very wide berth.


      • A little update: The Presbyterians (including Keller) in that group can be very liturgical. Driscoll resigned coincidentally shortly after Carson chided his caricature of liturgical dress. The PCA guys in the group have officially declared Doug Wilson a heretic (Federal Vision stuff). They have a disturbingly strong focus on a very narrow and confusing position on complementarianism.

        I’ve said it before: Baptist + TULIP = Fundamentalist.

  6. Marie Whitehead says

    Thanks for your reasoned perspective. It saddens me that these fellow brothers in Christ seem a bit clueless as to how their language and the words they chose could be offensive to so many. It is heartening, however, that there are other brothers who do get it.

    Also a reminder of how we often come to the texts of Scripture with pre-suppositions that shape how we read and understand the text. The fact that they did not even address others’ questions as to interpretation of texts that seem to give a different instruction saddens/angers me also.

  7. I just read the TGC defense of the original blog post last night and it was equally as insensitive and downright offensive… even for my conservative sensibilities. I couldn’t believe they were actually promoting that “God’s design” for sex basically equated to the wife laying down and taking it in submission.

    For those who claim to be dedicated to the Gospel and think that means they have authority to dictate sexual submission to women. Lord, deliver us

    Kyrie Eleison

  8. StJohn117 says

    If that’s the choice between egalitarians and complementarians, (which has to be a great misnomer, in my opinion. Talk about dressing up a concept!) then I guess I fall in the former camp. No. I need an equal. I need a partner. Not someone to dominate. Not someone to warden. This description just turns my stomach. How the heck is this gospel and how is that love? It fails miserably the 1 Corinthians 13 definition. It sounds more like rape.

    • StJohn117 says

      Oh and I read the follow up. Which basically said, “However you read this piece… you’re wrong and stupid, and we’re right. Deal with it.”

  9. Josh in FW says

    “When you combine bad theology with crass and tactless rhetoric, nothing good can result for anyone.”


  10. When Doug Wilson’s name came up during last week’s Saturday Ramblings, I was struggling to understand why his paleo-confederate nostalgia for slavery did not make him a racist. It all makes sense now. It isn’t that he is a racist but a patriarchalist – believing that God has predestined some to be more equal than others. One aspect is marriage, but it also has sociology-economic and political implications. Mixing federalism with patriarchalism leads to liberty and rights as an exclusive privilege of the wealthy, educated, and land owners. It leads to a neo- feudalism. I think that is the real danger. A man can be king of his own patriarchal castle as well as and indentured servant in a patriarchal economic system.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It isn’t that he is a racist but a patriarchalist – believing that God has predestined some to be more equal than others.

      Have you ever noticed — just like that one neo-Nazi I encountered in college — that when anyone advocates that sort of thing, he always puts himself into the Master category?

      Mixing federalism with patriarchalism leads to liberty and rights as an exclusive privilege of the wealthy, educated, and land owners. It leads to a neo- feudalism. I think that is the real danger. A man can be king of his own patriarchal castle as well as and indentured servant in a patriarchal economic system.

      I remember reading somewhere on the American Civil War that one of the beefs the Northerners had with the Southern system was not the oppression of the slaves at the bottom, but the privileges of the “Glittering Men” at the top, seeing the Planters as a retry of European Aristocracy. You know, the European system of Milords and Serfs that a lot of Americans or their ancestors had gotten away from? (Again, anyone want to guess which side of the divide Wilson puts God’s Elect like himself?)

      Other excerpts from Wilson speak of Christian society (with the CSA has his Godly model) as “authority and submission”. Doesn’t that sound similar to the Tsars’ “Two Pillars of Russian Society — Autocracy and Serfdom”?

      And he’s mixed up with the Reconstructionists/Dominionists, who are after political power. The more I read about tthis guy, the more dangerous he sounds.

      • It sounds like a caste system. That may be the best way to describe it: that in this toxic cocktail of Calvinism, patriarchalism, federalism, and socio-economic elitism, one sees the making of a privileged class with a God-ordained called to promote themselves and oppress everyone else. But resistance will only get you called out by Glenn Beck as promoting a social gospel or communism. We’re just the new infidels in the promise land who need to be exterminated.

      • Wilson says some odd things but the north was drifting towards and brewing led by unitarians and anarchist. For example they almost deified the heretic and sociopath John brown

        • Clay Crouch says

          Who’s “they”? And what kind of weird stuff?

          • Sorry Clay, i was typing on my iphone. Hard to do. My pronouns were very undefined. The “They” are the all of those in the north that sung songs about John Brown, and especially those that thought there was any credence to (and I paraphrase) the idea that John Brown did for the gallows what Christ did for the cross.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Sounds to me more like a symptom of how high feelings were running over the Slavery issue during the run-up to the war. It had been festering for 80-90 years since the founding of the country, compromise after compromise, balancing act after balancing act, and the fever kept rising the entire time.

      • Clay Crouch says

        The SC lowcountry planterclass were called The Rice Kings.

        Doug Wilson’s published views on southern slavery seriously calls into question TGC’s & the neo-reformed’s embracing of him.

        • But wealthy Northern businessmen had no problem at all buying Southern cotton and using it in their textile factories where underpaid children slaved away for 12 hours a day.

  11. Though not in the Calvinist camp, I have appreciated Jared Wilson’s writings throughout the years. That said, I was sorely disappointed by this post of his. That he could not see how obviously denigrating the quote from Wilson was is beyond me. And then to respond in such an offended/defensive manner when so many people pointed this out to him? Didn’t hope his cause at all…

    I’d really like someone like Keller or Carson to break solidarity and step out and say something on this. But perhaps that’s too much to hope for.

    • I’m honestly a bit surprised that Keller hasn’t. He already breaks the mold because his church “commissions” women deacons to get around the PCA prohibition from ordaining them. Perhaps he needs to keep a low profile?

  12. “…the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party.”

    All I have to say, in my experience, that if you are having sex and it’s not “an egalitarian pleasuring party.” You are doing it wrong.

    • Thank you! Exactly what I was thinking.

    • Prodigal Daughter says


    • And now that puts me in mind of the famous quote attributed to the Duchess of Marlborough “The Duke came home from the wars today and did pleasure me in his top-boots” (other versions have it that “He pleasured me twice before we had well greeted one another”).


    • +1k

    • I found that line to be particularly troubling. However, a skeptical part of me couldn’t help but say, if Wilson is intelligent enough to debate Hitchens, he couldn’t have meant what I was thinking by that. It would significantly beneath his dignity and intellect (aside from the fact that he didn’t realize this interpretation would be the obvious one for many…)

      Here’s a blurb from his blog which may shed some light on this poorly worded expression:

      “One thing that gave offense was my rejection of an ‘egalitarian pleasuring party.’ This was taken by some as me saying that only the man need get the pleasure, which would be ridiculous. The emphasis needs to be placed on ‘EGALITARIAN pleasuring party’ — the kind of party where the sexes of the participants don’t matter, because all that matters is that two or more people come to orgasm. I was by implication lauding a complementarian pleasure party. The term of opprobrium there was egalitarian, not pleasure.”

      • That makes no sense to me. Because he said that egalitarian expressions of intercourse is to blame for sexual violence. If he means this by egalitarian expressions of intercourse, then he said people who come to orgasm in other ways should be blamed for rape and BDSM. Do people become rapists or BDSM supporters because they are sick and tired of coming to orgasm in other ways than the “normal” one? From my limited knowledge of BDSM, the pornography associated with it has a lot of activity that does not involve the standard tab and standard slot involved in such acts.

        And does he think egalitarians find the normal sexual act offensive, if that is what is meant by “egalitarians find this offensive?” Egals do not find the act offensive, but see no need to use conquering and surrendering metaphors for it. Opposite methaphors (enfolding and trapping and taking his strength, so he enters strong and leaves weak) are as true.

        I think he meant more or less what the first reading would tell us. That way, the arguments for egalitariansm causing violence (even if I disagree) at least follows. I believe he is backtracking because his real stance is offensive to normal people, and he does not want to admit it.

      • if Wilson is intelligent enough to debate Hitchens, he couldn’t have meant what I was thinking by that.

        Just because someone is smart in general doesn’t mean they are not lacking in some or many areas.

        Check out:

        And the point of the TV show “The Big Bang Theory” is that very smart people can be social idiots at times.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I’m an ex-kid genius and natural-talent speedreader. From my experience, I have concluded that that IQ (around 160 in my case) is brought with a price, sort of a “Conservation of Neurolgical Energy”. Like while your IQ races ahead of your age, the rest of your personality lags behind.

          Remembering that there’s a young kid attached to that IQ score does mitigate the problem, but it gets worse if all the grown-ups can see when they look at you is a GENIUS, i.e. a giant brain floating in mid-air. Imagine growing up in the world of Idiocracy, surrounded by borderline-retarded types unable to grasp concepts and ideas that are obvious to you. Plus, I’ve heard it said that with an IQ difference of 50 or more, your brains are working at such different speeds that you are mutually incomprehensible.

          Except for fine work, my motor skills lagged to where I couldn’t swallow a pill or run like a boy instead of a girl until I was in my twenties. And I got the emotional/social retardation side effect BAD — at age 20, I estimate I was emotionally about six years old with next to NO social skills.

          It’s why Doogie Houser will remain a fantasy — to go through high school in three weeks at age 6, graduate Magna Cum Laude at 8 and finish med school by 14, not only would he be mutually incomprehensible to those without his IQ, his personality would be that of a three-year-old, max.

  13. Hold the phone… sine when did Jared Wilson become a complementarian? Last I heard, he was a stay at home dad while his wife worked. Do I have the wrong guy?

    • You have the right guy, Miguel. He’s not a complementarian.

      As a Reformed guy and a regular reader of Gospel Coalition (and here) I find myself sickened by the whole affair. The Wilson quote, Jared’s post, and the ensuring defenses are all indefensible. Really dishartening.

      • …almost as disheartening as my editing….

      • Complementarians come in different flavors and I’d be awfully surprised if Jared didn’t self-identify as one. Your wife working outside the home and you staying at home and working as a writer(as Jared was</b doing) does not necessarily put you outside the complementarian camp.

        Although I bet Doug Wilson would say it does.

  14. David Cornwell says

    “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. a woman receives, surrenders, accepts. ”

    This is disgusting. What’s attractive about this kind of Christianity? I can’t figure it out. If this is what the Church taught I’d advise staying far far away. I have two daughters. If they attended or went near these kind of people I’d be very afraid for them. If this were the way I treated my wife she would have grounds for…. you name it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Others have commented on the use of War & Conquest imagery to describe a marriage.

      To me it sounds too much like a Gangsta Rap about a Pimp — “SMACK DEM HOS AROUND!”

      • Needs to be written in Ye Olde Englishe:

        Verily, fair maiden, thou shalt be mine wench

      • HUD: Spoken exactly like someone who knows all about gansta’ rap, pimps and prostitution. Could you be any more white, right now?

  15. Donegal Misfortune says

    Finally a breath of fresh air:

    “When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. a woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.”

    Quoted from Doug Wilson, Fidelity

  16. I think the scriptures teach that both husband and wife should and do have equal privilidge and access to each other. I haven’t read the article so I’ll not comment on it. But I will say with some snark that Internet monk should just redirect their URL to Evans website since she is quoted as an authority on everything at least twice a week lately.

    • You are right, Austin. In fact, I’ve been fighting Rachel off. She is trying conquer and colonize Internet Monk so that she can plant her nefarious ideas within us.

      • I don’t always disagree with her, I often do, but of all the folks I read that I disagree with, and I make it a point to do that, she seems a bit more whiney than most.

    • Personally, I’d rather discuss her posts here. She gets too many comments so it’s difficult to have a discussion. Plus, her audience is a lot broader, so much rhetoric is spent defining terms between people from different planets.

    • Stephanie says

      +100 Austin!

  17. We are tiny in mind. We are little people in an expansive, eternal, spiritual world. God employs varying images of Himself throughout the centuries to communicate some facet or other of His nature. That doesn’t change His nature, only our perception of it. That is for our benefit. He is doing that now. He is drawing us to the feminine, receptive aspect. That requires something of us but I don’t know what.

  18. “The content of this post (and resulting comments) contains language and imagery that may be sensitive or harmful to victims of sexual abuse or rape.” – Disclaimer placed on Wilson’s article.

    How fitting! Considering my first reaction to reading just the above quote from the article is that it sounded exactly like an act of violence.

    “perhaps what we see in this [50 Shades of Grey] sort of BDSM fantasy garbage is a perverted overreaction to God’s good design of authority and submission.” – From Jared Wilson’s spin-doctor attempt in his follow-up, “Shades of Rage”.

    No, Jared, I got the point the first time. Doug thinks that rape and BDSM are the result of repressing complementarianism; in other words (if I may), he is saying that men have an innate need to have mastery over a woman, and repressing this (god-given?) need leads to abhorrent sexual acts. To that, Chaplain Mike’s response still fits: fiddlesticks! Trust me, other words come to mind.

    And someone please explain to me how this got posted on a blog entitled “The Gospel-Driven Church”? Driven, in a penetrating and colonizing manner? Is that ultimately what is wrong here: a scewed up concept of God? It sure gives a whole new meaning to “irresistible grace”.

  19. “The ‘conquering’ Wilson is referring to, both in the context of this excerpt, and in the wider context of the book’s chapter and book, is not an abusive, against-the-will action. Paired with ‘serving and protecting’ it is a (narrow) picture of what happens in sexual intercourse.” – Jared Wilson.

    Conquering, but in a protecting, serving way.

    I don’t think this is helping defend Doug, rather, it still helps me understand his sympathies for southern slavery; that it, too, was somehow a benevolent institution.

    It’s a screwed up definition of manhood pretending to be the remedy for an even more screwed up definition of manhood. It sounds no different than Mark Driscoll’s warped view of manhood as macho and bullying. Bullying, in a serving and protecting (but not effeminate) sort of way.

    • Conquering, but in a protecting, serving way.

      I’ll take, “What is Imperialism” for a thousand Alex.

      The Daily Double!

    • Dumb Ox,

      I haven’t read Wilson’s take on Southern Slavery in a very long time, so I can not pretend to discuss it specifically, but I do think that I can summarize what some like him may teach.

      1. Slavery as practiced in the South was not inherrently sinful (although certain practices associated with it may be).

      2. Slavery is not inherrantly sinful because the Bible does not condemn it.

      3. Slavery had been the avenue (not a justifiable one I think) but had been an avenue by which many Africans had been brought out of Paganism, Animism to Christianity.

      4. Conditions for free blacks and for that matter free poor whites were just as unjust if not more so than the condition of many slaves.

      Again, I think this is what they would argue. This post obvioulsy is not about Southern Slavery, but for those who can’t imagine how any Chrisitan could even come close to saying it was a tolerable situation, I thought this might help.

      • #4 should have said “in the north”

      • David Cornwell says

        Gee, it’s hard to understand why any slave wanted to be free isn’t it? Why would anyone want a free life? They had it made.

      • That is my understanding, too; however, I have read that in “Black and Tan” that Wilson back-peddles quite a bit.

        As I commented earlier, both Wilson’s views on marriage and southern slavery are patriarchal. I understand how it can fly under the radars of the young, restless, and reformed, because it doesn’t contradict the tenants of Calvinism.

        Or does it? Absolute power corrupts absolutely, unless one is Reformed? Are they magically immune from “total depravity”? Dominance seems to exclude accountability.

      • This and Doug Wilson’s continued acceptance in reformed evangelical circles also partially helps explain why very few black Christians find this kind of reformed evangelicalism appealing. Just sayin’ – a once-reformed-evangelical black woman.

  20. Our ability to be offended by this, it must be pointed out, is a uniquely modern ability. Here is how Martin Luther once described the reception of grace:

    “To the first grace as well as to the glory we always adopt a passive attitude, as a woman does toward conception. For we are also the bride of Christ. Therefore even though we pray and beg for grace, yet when grace does come and the soul is to be impregnated with the Spirit, it ought neither pray nor act, but only be still.”

    This image would not have been controversial at all in Luther’s setting (though the theology would have been), or else he wouldn’t have used the image so naturally to make his point.

    Doug Wilson used a metaphor to convey something of how nature works. It was not a prescriptive metaphor. It was merely descriptive, and I don’t see how such a description of natural intercourse can be denied. Does it mean that we should import everything about martial imagery into our understanding of intercourse? Of course not. Does it mean that the woman is entirely passive in the event? Of course not. That’s the nature of a metaphor. It communicates one major element of truth (in this case, the distinction between the “active” and “receptive” partners in intercourse), but we should not press it to walk on all fours. On his blog Wilson recently quoted from the striking images in Donne’s “Batter My Heart, Three Person’d God” as an example of this kind of metaphor.

    Poetic imagination is dying under the tyranny of political correctness and our society’s ever-increasing ability to take offense. This is all too modern.

    • You may be reading more into Luther’s use of the word “conception”.

      Your comment on the use of metaphors reminds me of a few comments on this topic on other sites, particularly whether words have objective meaning. Even if his choice of words were used metaphorically, if one cannot rely on a common objective meaning of words, then language ceases to communicate. To blame a reader for misunderstanding what was said (as Wilson has) because the writer did not mean what he was clearly communicating (based on a common understanding of language, grammar, and semantics) is unconscionable. As many comments also stated, to publish an article like this which supposedly requires one to have read the complete works of the author being quoted to understand its meaning is irresponsible. I can’t find a way to take a word like “conquer” and make it mean anything benevolent, even metaphorically. If poetic imagination has been assaulted, it is on the part of Wilson. If Wilson did not communicate what he intended, he should apologize and offer to do better in the future, not blame his readers in such a condescending manner.

      • Dumb Ox, this is not about what individual words mean. This is about how speech acts function. We are all familiar with metaphors. Nobody is arguing about the definition of the word “conquest”. We are debating whether the image of a conquest can be used to communicate something (note: “something,” not “everything”!) about the male-female relationship in intercourse. Again, I refer you to Donne’s poem for a beautifully striking example of this use of metaphor, only Donne’s poem speaks of the divine-human relationship (of which the husband-wife relationship is an analogy in Scripture).

        We are all familiar with metaphors. We use them endlessly, frequently with the understanding that we do violence to them when we try to make them walk on all fours. We should understand this metaphor in the same way. That’s not to say that what Wilson intends to communicate with the metaphor would be acceptable to one with egalitarian leanings, but it should, I believe, cause us to take a collective breath, lay down our torches and pitchforks, and at least try to understand what he is saying on his own terms.

        Douglas Wilson published the words in question in 1999 in a book that he had written for men and their sons. That wasn’t a terribly long time ago, but I would guess that the climate of public discourse had not yet reached the point of hypersensitivity that we see today. Homosexuality, for example, was not being pressed upon us from every side as part of a general egalitarian approach to sexuality, at least as I remember it, in 1999. That’s not to say that Wilson wasn’t controversial back then, just that things hadn’t quite reached this level.

        Nor do I fault Jared Wilson for quoting Douglas Wilson in the context of his blog post. The quote certainly fits the point he was making. Perhaps the only thing he could be faulted for would be failing to see how the climate of hypersensitivity that political correctness has created for us would turn this into a major controversy.

        • Aaron, it was my second point to say the Wilson post was insensitive. And it was. Some of us actually think we have made progress over the years learning to recognize that women are equal to men and deserving of full respect. Some of today’s “hypersensitivity” is simply the voice of people who have had little opportunity to let those who have treated them like crap for centuries know how they feel.

          The first and most important point is really the most pertinent one however. Doug Wilson is wrong. Period. Authority and submission have nothing to do with the intimate sharing of a man and woman who are “one flesh.” The “egalitarian pleasuring party” that Wilson denounces is, in fact, the very point of the marital bed.

          • The notion of an “egalitarian pleasuring party” that has gotten so much attention is another area where I don’t think people are trying to understand honestly what Wilson means. Read the whole book, and you will see that he does NOT mean any of the following:

            – that sex should ONLY be pleasurable for the man

            – that the woman does NOT have authority over her husband’s body (per 1 Cor. 7)

            – that there is NO mutual giving and receiving within the marriage bed

            What does he mean, then, when he denies that sex is an egalitarian pleasuring party? He means that when a husband makes love to his wife, he can only do so as a man. He alone has the equipment in the relationship to do what a man can do. And the woman can only make love to her husband as a woman. She alone has the equipment to do what only a woman can do (I’m trying to avoid being crass, perhaps even to a fault, but I am typically conservative in public discourse). There is no way of getting around nature in order to make the experience of sexual intercourse into the same kind of action on the part of both parties. In that sense, sex is not “egalitarian.”

            I would assume that the above paragraph is not controversial. Wilson would further argue (rightly, in my view), that the different roles we have, due to our different equipment, is part of a larger theology of manhood and womanhood, wherein the design of the Creator is to communicate something about Christ’s relationship to the church through the unique activities that a man brings to the relationship as a man and that the woman brings to the relationship as a woman. That would be a bit more controversial, but absolutely biblical.

            If we deny this and lean toward an egalitarian view of sex, then how do we avoid drawing the conclusion that maleness and femaleness are merely interchangeable, accidental qualities of a generic, unisex human nature? In fact, that is exactly where the push toward affirmation of homosexuality is trying to take us.

            Mike, I am not accusing you of promoting the view described in the above paragraph. What I am saying is that your egalitarian commitment has no brake mechanism to keep your followers from ending up there. Theology has generational implications, and it is not hard to see where egalitarianism will take us (has already taken us?).

        • Aaron — Excellent, nuanced, important point about metaphor. I agree completely about both the writer’s uses of metaphors and the audience’s obligations to understand them. However, I would draw a distinction between Wilson and Donne. Donne’s poem uses the language of conquest and even rape to refer to God’s action in rescuing the soul from bondage. God is good, so this works out. Wilson is using similar language to refer to a mutual relationship between two sinful human beings. I am willing to have God batter my heart but not my husband, much as I love him.

          Yes, we are hypersensitive these days, but in this case I think there is justification. I find myself offended and nauseated by Douglas Wilson’s laying down the law on sexual relationships, but Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” just makes me laugh. C.S. Lewis wisely points out that sex is ridiculous and we all do better to take the whole subject lightly — not attack it with a sledgehammer as Wilson does.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I read somewhere that “I have never met a sexual addict who didn’t approach sex with all the grim seriousness of a fundamentalist religion.”

    • Um, no. Wilson used terms of conquest, not quiescence.

    • Aaron,

      “Our ability to be offended by this, it must be pointed out, is a uniquely modern ability……Poetic imagination is dying under the tyranny of political correctness and our society’s ever-increasing ability to take offense. This is all too modern.”

      My question then would be, is poetic imagination that important? IMHO, I think it’s more important than ever that we choose our words very carefully, especially in this “modern” time when our words and thoughts can be broadcast around the world in an instant. Let us not forget James warning to us to “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” (James 3:5). Is what the Wilson’s have written that important to the building up of the body of Christ? How does this advance the Kingdom of God or the Gospel?

    • Martin Romero says

      Well, I will argue that ‘conception’ and ‘intercourse’ aren’t synonyms and shouldn’t be used as such. While ‘conception’ might necessarily involve ‘intercourse’, ‘intercourse’ does not always lead to ‘conception’ or is not always used with a good intention.

      ‘Conception’ is certainly passive, as that quote from Luther states. Although an initial action is required for conception to occur, after that it’s completely out of our hands. That’s the ‘miraculous’ part of it, in that given the appropriate conditions the birth of a new life simply happens, and that’s why I think it could be so apt as a picture of the new birth by the Spirit.

      But ‘intercourse’, ‘penetration’, well, it is different… Simply considering the prevalence of rape in many places of the world, where it is used as a weapon of war (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/10/16/amanpour.congo.rape.documentary/index.html) or to show that you’re just man enough (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/05/world/africa/south-africa-rape/index.html) is quite sobering and brings clarity to, at least, how we use words.

      And, lastly, I think it’s important to consider the possibility that the ‘conquering’ of ‘penetration’ might not only occur to women, but also to men (http://world.time.com/2011/08/03/rape-as-a-weapon-of-war-men-suffer-too/), something which I doubt even passed through Doug Wilson’s mind.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        On your last point, I read that in male-on-male prison rape situations, only the guy who got raped is Teh Fag. The rapist is even more of a Manly Man because “He made a woman out of him.” Alpha Male all the way. Since Doug Wilson doubtless sees himself as the Alpha Male Penetrator on Top, why would it pass through his mind?

    • Clay Crouch says

      To compare the use of literary devices in the poetry of John Donne (or any other poetry) to the use of metaphor in a treatise such as Wilson’s, is not an accurate comparison. Nice try, though.

      I’ve read John Donne and Douglas Wilson is no John Donne.

  21. I know that I am a little late to the discussion, but Mr. Wilson has offered some additional thoughts on the controversy surrounding the excerpt from his book that was posted on Jared Wilson’s site. Here he tries to clarify what he did and did not mean:


  22. Good luck with that Turing test…

  23. Picked this up over on D. Wilson’s blog. Apparently, Capon is on his side:

    “Sex, as commonly conceived, is something a couple do together. But the sexual act itself is not quite like that. It is, and remains, something a man does to a woman. They are not both working at the same thing. He is giving, she is receiving. He is the lover, she the beloved. Now, if they both set out to “have some Sex,” the whole delicate balance is wrecked, and neither can find his own role. What is happening is that the difference we all love so dearly is taking a bad beating. The wife is being backed into a decreasingly feminine role, even in overtly sexual matters, and the husband is finding that he has less and less of an object to be masculine toward. He is getting what he wants, but not what he needs. He asks frequently enough, but he has lost sight of what to ask for; and that is deadly” (Robert Farrar Capon, Bed and Board, p. 51)

    • I love Capon, but that quote is whack.

      • Searching says

        “The wife is being backed into a decreasingly feminine role, even in overtly sexual matters, and the husband is finding that he has less and less of an object to be masculine toward.”

        There it is! What it all boils down to. Woman = Object.

        As a woman, oops… I mean, ‘object’, I am thoroughly disgusted. Sex is not something my husband does to me, it is something we share together, giving and receiving equally. I’ve read it in other comments, and I’ll repeat it; these guys are doing sex wrong.

        • EMSoliDeoGloria says

          Head spinning… not something a couple does together??? something he does to her? an object can be beloved… only a person can love back…

      • I like Capon but he doesn’t speak ex cathedra and everybody is entitled to an opinion. If you want a really apropos quote, try this gem from Robert Hicks, long associated with Promise Keepers:
        “Possessing a penis places unique requirements upon men before God as how they are to worship him. We are called to worship God as phallic kinds of guys, not as some sort of androgynous, neutered nonmales, or the feminized males so popular in many feminist-enlightened churches.”
        Evangelicals really love to focus on teh power of that manly plumbing. How many steps away from pagan phallus worship are we?

        • So, in other words, what Rachel Evans said is accurate — the view of patriarchalists is that penis = power. And that is what this whole argument is about. And that is one of my main objections in this discussion against the patriarchal position.

          • Like Driscoll and his ilk who love to associate good sex with the alimentary system, these sex preachers dwell on reassuring women that nothing the husband commands her to do can be degrading because God is honored thereby.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Paging Priapus…

  24. To change the subject, Chaplain Mike—I clicked onto the photo and I like the paintings by He Qi very much. Something like Picasso and Chagall too.

  25. Chap Mike,

    Could you discuss something called theonomy that I believe Wilson promotes. Does that have anything to do with his comments?

    • I think we’ll be talking about that in days to come.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      As I understand it, Theonomy, AKA Christian Reconstructionism, involves taking over the country and turning it into A Christian Nation (TM) under God’s Law, not Man’s.

      In other words, HANDMAID’S TALE FOR REAL.

    • Paul Tillich also used the term, “theonomy”, but not as a defense of reconstructionism. Tillich’s interpretation was synonymous with “ground of being”, that God is the foundation of our existence, perhaps similar to the way Michael Spencer once wrote of the gospel being the hub, from which the spokes of the wheel radiate. It is not this oppressive, authoritarian mystic legal system bordering on sharia. It is perhaps organic rather than authoritarian. As Tillich wrote:

      “This theonomous way means acknowledging the mystery of being, but not believing that this mystery is an authoritarian transcendent element which is imposed upon us and against us, which breaks our reason to pieces. For this would mean that God would be breaking his Logos to pieces, which is the depth of all reason. Reason and mystery belong together, like substance and form.” – from “A Complete History of Christian Thought”

    • I think it would be an important topic. Reconstructionism promotes patriarchalism, where the government, the tax code, and the economy serve God’s predestined, chosen few. (Wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, so if you are rich, you must be among the chosen).

      G.K. Chesterton may also be a good source for an alternative perspective.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Reconstructionism promotes patriarchalism, where the government, the tax code, and the economy serve God’s predestined, chosen few.


  26. Stephanie says

    This article: http://itsfuntobeagirl.com/the-better-way/ makes more sense than anything I’ve read on the topic from RHE, IM and any of the other blogs that have weighed in on the topic – Leave it to the Catholics 🙂

    I really don’t understand why the act of sex – or more specifically how men experience sex and how women experience sex – has anything to do with egalitarianism and complementarianism. It seems that you could experience sex differently and still be an egalitarian in how your marriage works out in real life.

  27. What I found difficult about the whole thing was the constant insistence that those who did not understand this de-contextualised quote (despite the fact that what the reader was reading was an article by Jared Wilson, not a book by Doug Wilson) were lacking in comprehension or were getting it wrong on purpose. Oh, Misters Wilson, that will not do! If that many people complain that something reads poorly and your ‘real’ meaning is not coming across, it may be that your writing is poor. They seem to have entirely bypassed even the possibility of this. I also felt that Doug Wilson’s daughter Bekah, in her highly sarcastic post ( I’m another highly sarcastic Becka so I had no problem in getting her point) seemed to miss that by being his daughter and seeing how he works, she therefore possessed the linguistic key that unlocked the fact that, despite using almost exclusively consentless, militaristic metaphors, they actually mean almost the semantic opposite. Well excuse us for not getting that….
    I’m a regular reader and poster over at Rachel Held Evans, and need to comment that a good proportion of her readership are those hurt and damaged by life and/or church. It’s a community where the outcast feels welcome, which may be why others find it a bit too ‘whiny’. I would prefer the term ‘sensitive’.

    • Whiny vs. sensitive can be a both/and. There’s a time for licking wounds, and there is a time for strengthening. It is important to know which is which.

  28. Another quote from Wilson which may or may not shed some light on the scenario:

    “Both the husband and the wife are to submit to Christ. That means submitting to His Word, which means that, under Christ, the husband is the head of his wife. I have taught young women — also for many years — that when you find a young man who has high views of the authority he thinks he gets to wield, and low to nonexistent views of the authority that might be above him, the time has come to run. I have as little use for men who think their personal desires and bigotries trump the Word of God as I do for the women who do the same thing. We are all under authority. In counseling situations, I have had to deal with the grief caused in marriages when the wife put up with things for years that she ought not to have put up with for ten minutes. When this has happened, false views of submission have been a central culprit. But chucking those false views for another set of false views isn’t going to fix anything.”

    Fine. Abusive authority stems from bigotry. …so how do we know what the husband is or is not permitted to do with his “authority?” If I could get a clear, consistent answer to this question, I’d give this niche novelty a bit more cred. The closest thing I can imagine to a sensible answer is that men ought to take spiritual initiative in their household. Any complaints with that sentiment?

    • Thanks for bringing these quotes to our attention, Miguel. There are many people I know and read who have forms of hierarchal understanding, and they are not offensive or combative. But why is this such a key element of the faith for the true believers? That’s what I don’t get. Why the need for such blunt and in-your-face language, using terms that are guaranteed to raise the hackles of those who take other views? Of all the hills to die on, I find this one most curious.

      • Me too. The imbalanced prioritization of this issues seems to be the strongest apologetic against it. And Wilson is quite provocative and blunt in his writing. I’ve found that admirable in some of his other teaching (on worship, for example), but these issues almost always seem to warrant kid gloves in our society, right or wrong.

        Either way, it’s about par for the course for Calvinists and their third use of the law. It usually comes to gnat vs. camel. Make sure you don’t play any sports on Sunday! (If you accept the WCF, anyways.)

    • The closest thing I can imagine to a sensible answer is that men ought to take spiritual initiative in their household. Any complaints with that sentiment?


      No great complaint to that sentiment. I’d go one further and say that both husband and wife who are Believers should take spiritual initiative in the household. In doing that they would be submitting to Christ and to each other–which is the healthiest situation.

      Shifting to a general comment….

      The perspective presented by the Wilsons reminds me of the post here several days ago about “biblical” proof that the moon produces its own light.

      Why is it that those of the Complementarian stripe assume that post-Fall sin — which is essentially the desire for and perversion of power over others — the “normal” which is to be defended instead of seeing that Redemption involves a corrective to the love of power toward the dynamic of the power of love?


      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Because they are personally benefiting from it, of course. Whose boots do you think they see on top doing the face-stamping?

        I will cite the South Park episode “Sexual Harassment Panda”. Kyle’s lawyer dad has ridden a class-action lawsuit frenzy to the top at the expense of the rest of the town, and he tries to explain it to Kyle, all about Sexual Harassment and Democrats and forcing Correct behavior through lawsuits. Kyle’s response is:

        Kyle: But isn’t that Fascism?

        Kyle’s Dad: No it isn’t, son. Because we don’t call it Fascism. Do you understand?

        Kyle: Do you?

        (Kyle’s Dad then reminds Kyle of all the goodies they now have under this New Order…)

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