September 19, 2020

Today’s Three Push-Button Words

Despite what you may have read in the kinder, gentler corners of the blogosphere recently, you would all be surprised how un-contentious I am most of the time. In my real life, I regularly run from situations where I’m being pressed for my opinion. I much prefer print as the medium of debate. In real life, I’ll nod, blink, shrug, excuse myself, suddenly remember an uncompleted task, etc. rather than get into a tug-of-war about who is right.

But I’ve also learned what it is that snags me, and it’s not always the big issues. It’s usually one word. Yes, one word can throw my switch and give me an almost irresistible yearning to argue my point.

Three examples from the last 24 hours:

1) A debate is going on several places on the blogosphere around this question: “Are the doctrinally obsessed missing the heart of Jesus?”

My answer is a simply “yes,” and the reason is one word: obsessed. You said it. Not me.

Obsessed isn’t doctrinally interested, doctrinally aware or doctrinally correct. Doctrinally obsessed isn’t someone who makes doctrine a priority or who even brings it up frequently. Obsession is….obsession. Single mindedness. Idolatry. Loss of perspective.

I’m obsessed with vanilla oreos. When we are two weeks into February, I’m obsessed with “pitchers and catchers report.” I’m close to obsessed with a new Apple laptop. I’m obsessed with my family’s safety.

If I were obsessed with doctrine, I would be perverting my experience of the heart of Jesus, because obsession with doctrine is against the teaching and example of Jesus himself. Love God with all your heart, etc. Don’t be obsessed with the outlines and definitions. Let them do their good work. See the Pharisees for more information and I Corinthians 13 for a good picture of what we’re going for.

Doctrine rightly placed and rightly valued clarifies and carries the Gospel of Jesus. It centers it and gives it language. Obsession with doctrine equates Jesus with a right view of justification. If we don’t know the difference, our Christianity will become debate points and our discipleship nothing but promoting and publishing our favorite ideas.

2) An IM commenter says about Douglas Wilson, “…My abusive marriage was, in so many ways, modeled on his book, “Reforming Marriage.” (No disrespect to this commenter, with whom I greatly sympathize, as I do with all abused persons. Her comment simply raises an ongoing issue in talking about traditionalists and complementarians.)

I’m not a complementarian, but I understand and respect complementarians. I don’t agree with all of their rhetoric and I don’t agree with all of Wilson’s dramatic metaphors and illustrations in his early work on marriage (and on several other things as well.)

Now I don’t know what behavior the commenter is calling abusive, so I’m not assuming I know everything that went on in a family. That being said, the word “modeled” implies that Wilson would endorse the behavior the commenter calls an “abusive marriage.” I take your presentation and I seek to copy it, i.e. “model” it. It implies the abuser was following the words of Wilson in being abusive, not distorting or twisting them into abusive actions Wilson would not approve of and did not suggest. (I understand that Wilson’s rhetoric of male leadership inevitably leads to excesses with some people, and I have never known a complementarian that didn’t address that. But I lament the lack of focus on abuse, and have written about that here at IM.)

I don’t think we are going to get anywhere in talking about the differences in living out gender relations as Christians if we say taking the other fellow’s book at face value will lead you to abuse. We have to take a more complex view. Wilson is a great target, but great targets aren’t necessarily right targets.)

Anyone who has ever talked with an atheist who knows the Bible is aware of how someone can take many statements in scripture- such as the endorsement of stoning rebellious children to death – and say that abusive parents are “modeling” their abuse on a passage in Leviticus.

Here’s the problem: the writer’s choice of an illustration does not determine the ethics of a person undertaking an action. That ancient Israelites could stone their children in extreme cases and be right doesn’t imply that I should abuse my child and assume I’m right. No, no. That Wilson says a woman must be led by strong male leadership may fall far short of what I understand to be the New Testament message on family life, but it doesn’t give anyone permission to abuse a spouse and I don’t think complementarian views on male leadership make that jump without the addition of the male sinful nature. (Ever hear Mark Driscoll go off on the abusive men in his church?)

Someone who “models” their abuse on someone’s endorsement of strong complementarianism- such as you might see among traditional Amish or among Orthodox Jews- is not being approved in their abusiveness. They distorting a guideline.

I’m all for telling Wilson to chill out on some of those rhetorical theatrics, but the responsibility for abuse can’t be shuttled over to complementarians like Wilson, who teach that women are to be honored and loved as Christ loved the church.

Better sentence, in my opinion: “My confused husband took ideas from men like Douglas Wilson and misused them as a justification for abuse.” On target and helpful in this discussion.

3) My friend Mel says that “Swine flu is mostly hype, stirred up by the President and the media to get the public to support health care.”

The word that gets my attention: “hype.”

Hype as in “The reported numbers aren’t accurate?” Or hype as in “The reported deaths didn’t occur?” Hype as in “They are making this stuff up?” Really?

Now, if hype means “lack of context,” count me in. There’s not enough context in this discussion to be seen under a microscope.

And the public’s lack of scientific knowledge- it’s a known virus, people- is appalling. This isn’t the plague. 90,000 people die from the flu in a typical year in the U.S. The vulnerable populations don’t vary with any of these kinds of diseases. Various protocols are acceptable, but viruses aren’t going to be daunted. They’ve managed to be quite successful on planet earth.

And swine flu as political? How far is that from Farrakhan’s line that AIDS was invented in government labs to kill blacks? Not much different, because now he’s saying swine flu is a plot to kill blacks. When you join the conspiracy club, please take note who else is at the party 🙂

The “hype” could be the swine flue, or it could be the various interpretations of why we keep hearing about it. Does someone really believe the President calls in the story? “I want H1N1 on the front page?” His own kids aren’t vaccinated!

Here’s no hype: H1N1 is getting attention because news networks are dying in a war with the internet. Disease, terrorism, crime, entertainment and financial apocalypse keep an audience on the line so advertisers will still pay for Cialis commercials. End of plot.

You can’t just make this stuff up. Mess it up? Sure, but not make it up.

So there you have it: Obsession, modeled and hype. My three words for today. Who knows what tomorrow’s words will be?


  1. Yep, three good words. I help moderate a small Christian board, and we see the obsessed types regularly. They’re only interested in beating you over the head with their obsession, not in discussing what the Bible might actually say.

    And H1N1? Perhaps a little more virulent than other flus, but certainly not enough different than other flus to deserve half the attention it’s getting. And I’ve been advised that a very similar flu came through in about 1978, so I’ve probably already got the necessary antibodies anyway.

    Thank you for those thoughts.

  2. In mid-February every year, we celebrate the three most beautiful words in the English language: pitchers and catchers

    That’s the healthiest obsession in the world.

  3. Yes…I think some of Wilson’s teaching was taken out of context….but other parts…. Well, when you tell a man that “husband is to his wife as a farmer is to his field”….and to be “her lord,” and to “rule with a firm hand,” at what point is the man taking things out of context when he starts treating his wife as he would a field and begins to decide what she will and will not “grow,” when she will and will not “grow it,” because it’s what he thinks is best and therefore fully believes he is doing it out of love and rightness?

    She will clean the kitchen this and this and this way, before she is allowed to go to bed at night, because she needs to learn how to properly clean (because she doesn’t use a toothbrush around the sink handles every night and so her obedience to my nightly cleaning list will help her be a better homemaker, as befits her calling). She will throw away those jeans, because they look good on her and that will cause men to stumble. She will give away those shoes because they do not please him. She will give away her car because he’s decided they will only have one. She won’t see their finances or be allowed to see them because he’s decided that the man should be in charge of the money. She will move to a state she doesn’t want to live in, because he’s decided God has called him there. She will work, even with a baby in daycare, because he said she had to. She will not work, because he said she won’t now. She will have more babies, even though she has them so close together and has medical problems becasue of that—and was advised not to have more, or at least to wait until her body was able to recover… But no, he says she must have another one, and another one, because he feels she needs to be kept busy at home… She will not speak in church, because he’s decided that she shouldn’t speak unless he is there to approve of her words—and he is busy doing his full-time ministry job so can’t be there. There are two driveways to the church. She is not allowed to pull in one of them, because he doesn’t like that one. She is only allowed to pull into the driveway that he likes. She will not read Harry Potter books, because he decided they were wicked. She must ask permission before she can accept any out-of-the-home obligation. She must ask permission to plant a garden. She will ask permission to get a pet. (He will say no for years—-he doesn’t like gardens and he doesn’t like pets, and the fact that she does indicates her rebellious heart). She must keep the children in perfect obedience. When a toddler acts like a toddler, it is her fault. She is a bad mother. Her relative dies and leaves behind furniture, including a desk (she’s wanted a desk for her very own for years!). She is not allowed to have a desk. He gives the desk to her child, instead. She cannot let her children help her cook things like bread dough—it’s too messy. Messes are a big no-no.

    Through it all, she is never hit. In fact, she is treated very kindly in many ways, like a father treats a child. Kindly, as long as she performs properly and apologizes profusely when she doesn’t maintain perfection. He is convinced he is a good and godly leader, and he does everything out of a desire to help her become just the way he knows she should be. He is an amazing man (and he is—truly admired as a leader in the church, ministered and reached out to so many people in life-changing ways, and most people would never ever guess that there was anything but a perfect marriage there….including her, for a long time), and he reminds her that she is lucky to have someone like him to lead her into fullness, and soon, she believes it…. He is carefully crafting her into his image… because he loves her, and since he is so good, she will be happy, whether she knows it or not yet, when she is like him. He is sure of it. He is sure of a lot of things, one of them being that he is always right.

    It gets complicated…I know that. I’m not saying it’s all Wilson’s fault. No, no, it was an abusive man who heard things in a twisted way—this is always how it works. And yet…and yet…and yet… There is such a huge, “and yet.” Because the teaching is there, in black and white, ripe for the quoting. I feel like the complementarian camp forgets all about the oft affirmed doctrine of total depravity when it comes to singing the praises of a husband’s authority over his wife…and though I am not a total depravity fan, persay, I do wish that they would remember that doctrine before they tell husbands to lead their wives with a firm hand or to view their wives as a field to be planted or that they are to be their wives primary instructor and guide in the things of God.

    Wilson sais that a husband is a “husbandman.” My husband heard that…loud and clear. I am just the field….and every farmer knows that the field is his business, his property, his place. What rights does a field have to say no, or to refuse something? It has nothing. If I complained, which was rare, I was in sin… If I hurt, if I was angry, if I had a normal healthy reaction to being treated the way I was treated, if I objected to the kind but firm *total ownership* my husband had over me, *I* was the problem.

    The teaching was there, for *me*, who was reading while striving to understand, struggling to make some sense out of the confusion….and over and over, through Wilson and through others, I learned that I have no right to say no since, after all, he’s not asking me to watch porn, not asking me to do outright “sin,” therefore I have no right to be angry, no right to be anything but sweet, submissive and respectful… Problems? Keep being sweet and honoring and respectful, and he will change… Don’t feel respected by him? That’s another sign of my rebellious heart, because Wilson (and others) have said that men were wired to need respect, not women.

    I once thought it was only me, when I first began (fearfully, brokenly) stumbling my way out of this destructive world. That’s what I thought, at first. I have since learned there are others….many, many others. I am just one tiny body on a mountain of broken and bruised bodies from the fall-out of books like Reforming Marriage. We just don’t talk about it much….most of us can’t, the few of us that remain in the faith at all, that is. It’s too hard…and very few are able to understand. Silence is much safer, for so many reasons.

    I enjoy Wilson’s mind. Well, I used to. I understand, in any case, how and why someone would enjoy Wilson. I certainly did…before. I just can’t stomach any of him anymore. It’s probably related to PTSD…I realize that….and part of that certainly isn’t Wilson’s fault….but part of it seems like it is important to note. Wilson was my husband’s favorite read. He bought a bunch of “Reforming Marriage” to hand out. He loved that book…he has a sharp mind, much like Wilsons. I underlined my copy, striving to be the woman my husband wanted me to be…after all, according to Wilson, God made me to face my husband, to orient myself around my husband, to find my identity and definition in my husband…

    I do not appreciate it when I am told, now, that I took it out of context. No. I didn’t. It is all there. I obeyed what Wilson taught me: I tried to orient myself to my husband, to please my husband… Can a plot of ground say, “No?” Does a plot of ground have the ability, much less the right, to say no?

    I kept the books for that very reason: proof. It’s there. Yes, a mentally ill and abusive man, who probably (literally) couldn’t help BUT to twist it, twisted it….but I was not mentally ill, and I was not sick. I needed help. Instead of helping me, the books, like Reforming Marriage, only tended to affirm the “godliness” of my husband’s stance.

    Thanks, again, Michael, so much, for allowing this can of worms to be opened. I appreciate you and what you do. I appreciate your willingness to listen in this area, even as you disagree. I almost didn’t comment on the earlier thread, because, really, it can get silly….I mean, I do not think it wise to try and “ban” reading anyone who doesn’t sing the same song and dance we do in every little way… We’ll all wind up only talking to ourselves, if even that. That’s why I almost didn’t say anything… But Idid, because I do think it wise to consider the *weight* of some erroneous doctrines….because while some (probably most) are minor….some are major….

    For me, and I certainly am somebody in process and therefore can only speak for where I am at now, I weigh whether something is minor or major by the way it affects the weak. The weak and the broken and the lesser-thans are certainly close to the heart of God and are mentioned through out Scripture as dear to His heart…Isaiah, Jeremiah, they are filled with God’s words raging at those who oppress and harm the weak….Scripture says many times that the righteous are revealed by the way they treat the weak, the downtrodden, the poor, the underlings….and when Christ came, one of the most revealing (and surprising) things about Him was how He came to the weak, to the ones needing a doctor.

    So that is how I judge whether a thing is a “minor” or a “major” quibble. Are the weak, the underdogs, the little ones helped or hurt by this “difference of opinion?” If it doesn’t seem to matter much either way, then it’s a minor quibble, a difference of opinion that should and can be an, “agree to disagree.” But if the difference of opinion carries a load, a heavy load that is placed on the backs of the weak, the underdogs, the little ones, the voiceless ones, then…it’s not a little thing anymore. I posit that in the areas Wilson is wrong, it’s not a little thing.

    Thank you, again, so much, for allowing this conversation—-and for your ability to listen and to care, even as we disagree.

    • A poor metaphor. I agree. And that’s all. Not a “model” for abuse.

      I recently saw a book called “30 Minutes to a New Husband.” Do you think we might find some manipulative texts in that volume?

      And what about the books on parenting that compare kids to animals, blank slates, etc.

      As to out of context, I said I don’t know your situation. I said that in my opinion, the statement that Wilson provides a model for abuse is out of context because I can cite many many passages where Wilson condemns abuse in many different ways. But I don’t presume to know how a statement was used in your marriage.

      I think the point is made plainly by both of us. The audience can read and decide for themselves.



    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Well, when you tell a man that “husband is to his wife as a farmer is to his field”…. — Commenter

      First thing I thought of when I read that was “Plowing the field”.

      Wilson sais that a husband is a “husbandman.” My husband heard that…loud and clear. I am just the field….and every farmer knows that the field is his business, his property, his place. — Commenter

      To “plow” as he pleases. Apparently it’s not just the “Christian Courtship Movement” that wouldn’t feel out of place in Medieval Islam.

    • “Commenter”,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us. My heart was breaking for you as I read it. I’m not familiar with Wilson’s work, but I appreciate and honor your experience and feelings about the abuse you received and how it was justified in large part by Wison’s teachings.

      I am glad that you escaped that situation and are finding healing. Thank you for speaking up–we need to hear voices like yours, precisely because you have not been allowed to speak, and many others are probably in that same situation right now.

      Peace to you.

    • I’m, of course, with “the commenter” on this one. So often we give the advice-givers in this world so much benefit of the doubt. “Well, Ezzo didn’t mean for you to starve your baby!” “Pearl would never have endorsed the actions that led to Sean Paddock’s death.” “Surely, LIsa Welchel wouldn’t want you to choke your child with hot sauce!” “Tedd Tripp doesn’t want you bruising your infant!’

      When is it gonna stop? When are *we* going to stop filtering out the abusive methods and keep pushing these books in our churches? We put a figurative sticker in the front cover that implies “use your head” while in the same breath saying, “be consistent.” Which is it? Do we do it all? Or only some? Which some?

      Seriously. The world of women and children in the evangelical church is a theological ghetto.

      (((((“commenter”)))))) Still praying for you, m’dear.

      • And, of course, you’ve seriously misrepresented what I said and seriously thrown out a hodge podge of undocumented “guilt by association” accusations that have made the whole conversation more difficult.

        Be consistent indeed. You’re implying the approval of the worst tactics and their consequences by everyone you mentioned.

        That’s not furthering this coversation at all and its unfair to those who have differed.

      • Should we just start a feed so I can have real time denial of every whack job religiously inspired behavior you want to throw into the pot to associate your opponents with? Or could you just simplify and ask if we’ve stopped beating our wives?

        Conversation on ONE topic is bad enough. Then having to deal with denying abuse via hot sauce and 5 other things is simply unbelievable. Really disappointing tactics.

        • Guess you found another hot button, eh?

          I’m really, genuinely sorry I disappointed you. I think the disappointment comes less from the my “tactic” than the genuine mess we’re in in evangelicalism.

          This isn’t “whack job” stuff. Every single one of these books was on my ladies’ Bible study literature table this morning. In my very respectable PCA church. Yeah, Pearl’s a heretic, but we still tell our moms to “swallow the meat” and “spit out the bones.”

          Now I know why this advice keeps getting peddled and shoved into the ghetto of women’s literature. It’s too messy. It’s the same (rhetorical) form between Wilson and the typical parenting advice. Just a different set of issues.

          Peace, dudes!

      • Camille writes:

        ” “Well, Ezzo didn’t mean for you to starve your baby!” “Pearl would never have endorsed the actions that led to Sean Paddock’s death.” “Surely, LIsa Welchel wouldn’t want you to choke your child with hot sauce!” “Tedd Tripp doesn’t want you bruising your infant!’ ”

        I don’t know all of these references, but I do know some of them. I am concerned that you seem to be advocating that it is unreasonable to suggest that people use personal discernment. In fact this seems to be precisely what is more needed.

        Certainly if the natural and likely outcome of an authors teaching is starvation or choking via hotsauce, then we would be wise to resist the books all together. But the alternative is to say that we will reject all resources, if their is any possible negative outcome associated with the advice in this book. We must be discerning about the books we recommend but we must also teach our congregations to be discerning about the books we recommend. I can’t only suggest books I agree with, I don’t have time to write that many books (a bit of humor) and even if I did in three years I will disagree with my own advice.

        The question can’t be, “Can someone misconstrue or exaggerate this advice toward a bad end?” The question must be what are the natural and likely outcomes of this advice. If, when considering these natural and likely outcomes, the destructive out weighs the good, or is persent in an intolorable way, then certainly we should not use the book. But we cannot reject the book merely because of possibly destructive readings. The Bible doesn’t even meet that standard.

        Wilson’s writing may fail that standard in your mind. It may be that the natural and likely outcome of following his advice is destructive. So I agree that we must not give them the benefit of the doubt, but we must give them the benefit of discernment and not hold them liable for outcomes that are neither likely nor foreseeable. It is this same discernment that we must teach to our congregations. Perhaps the figurative sticker should become a literal sticker for that kind of discernment is what all readers and listeners need.

        Finally you write: “The world of women and children in the evangelical church is a theological ghetto. ” This is of course too often true. Your words and Molly’s are a strong reminder to me. Thanks .

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I don’t know all of these references, but I do know some of them. I am concerned that you seem to be advocating that it is unreasonable to suggest that people use personal discernment.

          I think that to too many people, “using personal discernment” is too much like Work.

          Much easier to drift along with someone (or something, like a holy book or Predestination on steroids) telling you exactly what to do, exactly what to feel, exactly what to think. Much easier.

          Like a bureaucrat who never has to make any decision, just follow every litigation-protecting rule in the 1000+page micromanagement rulebook until such behavior slips imperceptibly from Lawful Neutral into Lawful Inhuman.

          • Patrick Lynch says

            “I don’t know all of these references, but I do know some of them. I am concerned that you seem to be advocating that it is unreasonable to suggest that people use personal discernment.”

            I’m with Camille and Commenter on this one.

            These books (like so much ‘expert advice’, Biblical or practical) plead their case for Right Living by appealing to the already-uncertain folks, the already labile and seeking – in short, on people who need advice on how to be nd who are willing to take what they are given and try it out in real life. People who NEED a framework for their fumbling – either to hide it or rhetoricalize it in a way that defends their actions. Its tautologically obvious that most already-uncertain people are not going to be prone to making good decisions (marrying new information and complexities of real-life interaction is difficult enough for informed, settled, experienced couples), and so you get the troubled episodes Commenter recounts and Camille mentioned.

            Also, religious people falling into mental illness is no joke.

          • Greetings Patrick,

            Since you quote me I am eager to respond and say, that you are making a wise point. I think that perhaps the bulk of my point still stands. It is precisely for those people you are discussing that we must teach wisdom and understanding. But I take what you have said with great concern.

            You are right that it is precisely the people who are most likely to be inappropriately influenced by all the advice givers of the world that are the most likely to listen in the first place. Violent people are most likely to listen and act upon violent advice, gluttonous people are most likely to act on the advice to eat. Athletes are the most likely to act on the advice to exercise.

            Perhaps it is a universal phenomena that the less you need a piece of advice the more likely you are to listen to it and act on it. This may be the reason that scripture issue such special warning to those who would teach, and certainly these warning apply to those who would write books of advice. Advice in book form is doubly dangerous because it cannot be tailored to the needs and proclivities of the reader but is necessarily static and consequently open to much unforeseen twisting and exaggeration.

            Nevertheless I wonder do you agree with my central point that we “cannot reject the book merely because of possibly destructive readings.” Or am I suggesting a standard that is too low. If so, what standard would you suggest? Surely the standard cannot be that we reject all books that might lead to destructive readings. No book would meet that standard.

            As a pastor who recommends a lot of different books in the course of a year, I am always searching for the right standard so I ask these questions as part of a genuine struggle, not to create controversy.


    • “Commenter”, I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve written so eloquently. Very powerful.

      Metaphors have a power to them, or else we wouldn’t use them. Some metaphors are sinful, and urging other to act on sinful metaphors is itself sinful.

      Some words bless, and others curse. We should all be careful what metaphors we use to describe each other and our relationships, especially when we intend our words to be followed by others. When we’re using metaphors to describe others, especially from a teaching position, we must be accountable for our words, and should expect to be held accountable.

      I haven’t read Wilson, but as you describe him, especially his “field” and “husbandman” metaphors, it sounds like he’s forgotten God’s initial metaphor for us—that we, both male and female, were created in the divine image, not one gender created in the image of the other. Not living out the “image of God” metaphor, and encouraging others not to, is the cause of so much sin. I ache for what you suffered.

  4. KR Wordgazer says

    That was very brave and beautifully said, Molly.

  5. …and don’t forget the word “devout”…. at least when it occurs in journalism 😛

    “Ever hear Mark Driscoll go off on the abusive men in his church?”

    Lolza that is the only reason I listen to Driscoll! Nothin against the guy, but he preaches to the unchurched and I am very churched so Chandler is more what I need. But every now and then I tune in for kicks just to hear him scream. You can count on him to fill the bill when ever you feel like you need to get a good yellin at. Especially when I’ve been bad. It’s sorta like linguistic punishment. He doesn’t have to have interesting content to keep your attention for the full hour he preaches. He can keep you awake just by his sheer volume!

    “How do you expect to charge the gates of hell for the kingdom of God when you got your pants around your ankles, a box of Kleenex in one hand and a bottle of lotion in the other?”

    (I hope that wasn’t inappropriate to quote. My apologies if it needs moderation.)

    I kid you not, a verbatim quote from one of his podcasts. Never a dull moment.

    • I love Driscoll. My wife is a brand-new Christian, having converted not 9 months ago now, and she listens to and watches Driscoll in her spare time. About my only complaint with him is that he tends to assume some biblical background in his listeners occasionally, which causes my wife to suddenly start writing questions down furiously. Otherwise, he’s been a great influence on her, and me as well. I find myself focusing harder on discerning and -doing- what I ought after listening to Driscoll.

    • Driscoll shouts so much, he could have been a Baptist – oh yeah, the drinking thing. Never mind.

      🙂 /snark

      I was just telling someone recently about how I don’t see Driscoll as a “men’s ministry expert” in the same way I would see Weber or Eldredge. The shouting… it’s all condemnation and has no place in the church.

      But I listen to him because, occasionally, he does talk about Jesus.

  6. A comment on swine flu/H1N1:

    Anyone who believes this is just part of an Obama conspiracy would have to explain to me why European governments are taking in hand lots of money to provide vaccinations to health sector workers and the chronically ill. The European political class seems to love Obama, but they would never love an American president enough to spend huge sums just to help him push through some domestic program.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Anyone who believes this is just part of an Obama conspiracy would have to explain to me why European governments are taking in hand lots of money to provide vaccinations to health sector workers and the chronically ill.

      Because they’re part of the Vast New World Order Conspiracy, of course. And the smarter-than-the-sheeple Conspiracy Theorists are the only ones Gnostically Enlightened enough to see that. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

  7. DreamWings says

    I may not have the experience of dealing with complementarianist inspired psychological abuse like “the commenter;” but I certainly have the experience of growing up on a farm. A field is a mindless thing, its there to be turned into whatever you wish, when you wish. Everyone knows this. A man who tells others to treat their wives as if they’re plowing/tending a field, then claiming to be shocked when this sort of attitude leads to abuse, is being grossly disingenuous. At best.

  8. I can appreciate the critique of Doug Wilson’s work. My wife has helpfully reminded me that I married HER and not Doug Wilson. 😉

    On a positive note, his essay Two by Six is one of my favorites, and I think it provides some much needed nuance to his oft-maligned views. I have copied it below in its entirety. Of course, if you think this is just an example of “more of the same,” I would love to hear about it. At the very least, I think his man-as-lumber metaphor is more helpful than woman-as-field.


    “Two by Six
    Douglas Wilson

    Normally I don’t like wooden definitions, but the versatility of wood is such that there are some forms of definition that are done best with wood.

    In building a house, the external walls are normally constructed from two by sixes, spaced sixteen inches apart. On one of his rare visits to our building site, the building inspector tried to talk me into spacing the studs two feet apart, but I wanted structural stability more than I wanted the improvement in insulation efficiency. But regardless, the framed wall of wood still defines the boundaries of the house.

    Consequently, this wall defines, for as long as the house stands, the difference between inside and outside. This wall provides support for the trusses, which support the roof, and thereby maintain the difference between wet and dry. This wall, unlike all the other walls in the house, has two faces. On the external side, the sheathing is fastened, the housewrap attached, and then the siding. On the internal side of the same wall, the sheetrock is screwed on, just like all the interior walls. Most interior walls are solid, while this perimeter wall which defines the house is filled with windows.

    Good wood has cured somewhat, and when you cut the metal bands holding a lot together, the two by sixes don’t suddenly curl up like they were specialty french fries or something. They will usually have a moderate crown which can be identified by looking down the length of the wood, and it is a good idea to have the crowns all on the same side of the wall.

    These two by sixes are not finish wood—no one is going to try to make cupboards out of them—and the point is for most of their value to be completely out of sight. At the same time, they are usually pine, and fresh cut pine has a delightful smell.

    Husbands are a lot like these two by sixes. They have a responsibility to define the boundaries of the family—what is the difference between inside and outside. The husband and father is called to name, and know by naming, the members of his family. When Scripture requires us to refrain from coveting anything that is our neighbor’s, it is assuming this kind of wooden, and very rigid, definition.

    Husbands and fathers are to support the roof. Their duty of protection and provision is fundamental. Because of the support of the roof, children are warm and dry instead of cold and wet. They should grow to maturity, and in this grow to the point where they no longer take all this for granted. But when they are little, it is the father’s duty to see to it that they take if for granted. A man’s wife doesn’t take him for granted, but she trusts and believes him—and she was there at the wedding ceremony when he promised that he would support the roof.

    A husband has two sides, just like the exterior wall. The side of the wall that faces his family is very much like the other walls of the house. The sheetrock is the same, the texturing is the same, the color of the paint is the same, pictures are hung, and so on. This means that the man of the house is to live with his family as family. The face he presents to them is conducive to the warmth of life together. But unlike the other walls, six inches away from the warmth of the living room, is the hard snow or cold rain. And he has to deal with this at the same time. He presents a wall of protective siding to the world, and warmth to his family.

    Some men have trouble with performing these two tasks rightly. Some have the hard protective siding facing both ways, so that they are hard against the world and hard against their own family. Others—sensitive, modern males—have sheetrock on both sides. But the sheetrock doesn’t weather well. And a few men, the worst kind of all, have sheetrock against the elements and siding on the inside.

    The perimeter wall has windows in it; these enable those who live in the house the pleasure of seeing the world. A husband and father is to teach. He is to show his family what the outside is like. The family should be able to look through the worldview windows he supplies, and come to see and understand what is happening outside. These windows enable the family to see, but they must perform the same protective functions that the wall does. And this calls for great wisdom—how to explain the world to the children without exposing them to it. Some men opt out and “protect” their children by leaving out the windows. Others let their kids deal with the world without protection and direction—but these are not windows, but are simply holes in the wall.

    A good man isn’t warped. He has cured somewhat, he is mature. Many young men believe they are ready for a family because they have come from a tree that is the right size. Freshly milled at the age of nineteen, they believe they are prepared to be built into a wall right now because their dimensions are right. They are two by six, and ten feet long, but when you cut the metal band, they still sproing all over the driveway.

    It is important to remember that the two-by-six husband is not necessarily finish wood. It is far easier to get splinters from handling this wood than from the hard wood meant to build a coffee table. He is not the prettiest thing, especially with that Boise Cascade stamp on top of the knot.
    This is wood that is meant to be nailed, meant to be fixed, meant to be cut. And when a saw runs through this kind of wood, the smell—an aroma of sacrifice—is one of the sweetest smells on earth.”


    No mention of fields. That’s got to be a good sign, right? Ends with a call for men to sacrifice for their families… I like it, and so does my wife (who is not much of a Wilson fan!)

    In the peace of Christ-

    • I’ve never been a feminist, and through 30 years of marriage, would have agreed with mild complementarianism, because that is what others taught was Biblical. However, after much thought and influence from people like Scot McKnight, I realize, my husband and I don’t have a complementarian marriage, but egalitarian, and yes, that is Okay. My husband is very comfortable not being the head of our home, etc. . It’s just nice to know that we weren’t off-base all these years. Our church is mildly complementarian – not taught from the pulpit, but believed by most as the only way to view marriage. I’ve seen some of the men abusing that model, and the women thinking that they have to submit humbly.

      So, when I read the above, it just sounds weird to me. A man and woman together are the walls of that house for their children.

      Although I haven’t in any way been through what Molly has been through, I probably won’t read anything by Douglas Wilson.

    • I am not sure this is on topic. But since this is out there, I feel that I must comment

      This strikes me as promoting exactly the sort of destructive relationship patterns that Molly described in such a heart breaking way. Wilson writes, “The family should be able to look through the worldview windows he supplies, and come to see and understand what is happening outside.”

      Do I tell my wife what window she can look through? Can’t you already imagine the husband who reads this and then starts deciding what books his wife can read and who she can meat and what activities outside the home she can do? I had not read anything by Wilson before this and so I was nodding along with Imonk in his critique of the word “modeled” but I can easily imagine a marriage that was modeled on this metaphor that was abusive. Clearly the kind of complementarianism I had encountered until now was the milder lighter version.

      Most importantly there is simply nothing in the Biblical record that supports this view of marriage. Let us have long and difficult discussions about what headship means. Let us do the difficult exegetical work to see how Paul and Jesus interact with the realities of ancient-near eastern marriage structures, but let us not simply make up ideas about marriage structure that have no specific justification in scripture. It is difficult enough to navigate healthy relationships lived out in mutual submission under the Lordship of Christ without adding the burden of making things up.

    • Christopher Albee says

      It sounds good–even commendable in some respects. But it’s purely arbitrary. Not scriptural at all.

      Following the example of Jesus and His disciples, the only things I am by rights entitled to as the head of my wife is to pray for her and to sacrifice myself for her. I have no right to ask or demand that she do anything for me. Except for one thing.

      That she please sit as I wash her feet.

      • I couldn’t agree more that it’s a husband’s duty to pray for his wife and sacrifice himself for her—to “wash her feet.” Amongst the many husbands who are very quick to jump on the idea of a wife “submitting”, how many really are self sacrificing?

        At the same time, Jesus didn’t wash the disciples feet as just “one of the guys.” He did it as their Lord. In my opinion, husbands should see His example as showing what real headship in a family is all about. And wives should see the disciples’ submission to receiving Christ’s care as the real meaning of submission. Both the giving and the receiving are, to me, acts of worship.

        • Patrick Lynch says

          When the Lord is your servant, it’s not a metaphor. Jesus wasn’t making a point, or being humble or ironic. He wasn’t Ministering to them. He was performing a service for them because he loved them, and because love has nothing to do with pretensions to dignity. Jesus called them FRIENDS John 15.

          I prefer to believe that Jesus was informal enough to actually have friends. To need and want them and enjoy them. To be fully God and fully man at the same time, in short. I believe Jesus was one of the guys, and as much Himself as any of us are purselves all the same.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says


      Out here in SoCal the local building codes use “Two-by-FOURs”, not “Two-by-Sixes”. My dad did some major remodelings back when I was a kid in the Sixties, I’ve seen a LOT of wood-frame construction, and the studs used have always been Two-by-Fours.

      • The latest fad in construction for those $300,000 homes (OK $800,000 homes in SoCAL) have been 2X6 – extra insulation) – typical track home still 2X4 – my contribution to this confusing spiritual conversation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          You mean those $800,000+ homes that are now $250,000 homes (if you’re lucky enough to be able to get a home loan)? New construction made out of particle board and styrofoam with all this snob-appeal surface finish (“Pergraniteel Kitchens”, anyone)?

    • The whole essay/metaphor is just wrong, and as someone else pointed out, without scriptural basis. The husband is the window through which the children and wife get their worldview?!! Really? When I first read IM’s point that Molly was being too strong in using the word “modeled,” I agreed with him. Then I read Molly’s response, including the field metaphor, and now I read the 2×6 metaphor. I really have no familiarity with Doug Wilson, but his ideas are frankly not scriptural and dangerous. “Yes, honey, I am the farmer and you are the field. I decide how you are to best produce. I am the 2×6, the boundary marker of our household. You need to form all your opinions through my worldview.” These aren’t far-reaching conclusions based on Wilson’s writings, but, indeed, natural ones to those who would be idiotic enough in the first place to embrace his metaphors for marriage.

  9. Ah, now anytime someone criticizes Doug Wilson’s teaching on marriage, I just smile and think of the inestimable Mrs. Wilson. And I pray the Lord will grant us more such marriages.

    On the other hand, anytime someone mentions Mark Driscoll, I frown and think any guy who [MOD edit] doesn’t know jack about sex and really, really, really badly needs to get acquainted with Christopher West.

    • Come now, Monk! You could have spared a little more from the editor’s knife so my response would still make a little sense.

      Would it be permissible if I phrased it like this? “any guy who teaches a wife must . . .” Oh, bother. It’s so patently offensive, I don’t think there *is* any way I can refer to it without incurring another editing incident.

      I guess I should look on the bright side. At least no one asked, “Christopher WHO?”

      • Observer, I saw your original comment before it needed to be edited for television.
        I agree with you on Driscoll.

        Oh, and who is Christopher West?
        Any links or directions?
        Not trying to be funny. If we agree on Driscoll, perhaps I might like West.

        • Christopher West is the man who popularized John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”

          I’m unfamilar with his writings, but a number of sources that I respect support him.

  10. Thanks for this post, Michael. Reading your blog is good training for my mind and a good reminder that clarity on any issue should be #1 before we start opening our mouths.

  11. “Here’s no hype: H1N1 is getting attention because news networks are dying in a war with the internet. Disease, terrorism, crime, entertainment and financial apocalypse keep an audience on the line so advertisers will still pay for Cialis commercials. End of plot.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with this paragraph of IM. Now that we have 24 hour news channels (multiple ones!), the networks have to invent non-stop crises, emergencies, important “news you need to know”, etc to keep people interested in watching. How much time and energy do we waste and how much stress do we experience because we are kept constantly agitated and having to fight against this or that realistically minor or rare situation that is trumped up as earth-shattering? Social organizations on the left and the right have learned this trick well too and keep up their financial support by making sure a continuous stream of apocalyptic mailings/emails/alerts bombard the faithful telling them they must act now.

    Talk about hype…

    • My husband works in Public Health here in Ontario, Canada. We have had two young people, ages, 9 and 13 , die of H1N1 in the province in the past week. Hospitals emergencies are overrun with people and some schools have as many a 50% of their students at home sick. Just an FYI.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “…Disease, terrorism, crime, entertainment and financial apocalypse keep an audience on the line so advertisers will still pay for Cialis commercials. End of plot.”

      Not Cialis, ENZYTE. “Natural Male Enhancement” with Bob the Tetanus Boy.

      I wholeheartedly agree with this paragraph of IM. Now that we have 24 hour news channels (multiple ones!), the networks have to invent non-stop crises, emergencies, important “news you need to know”, etc to keep people interested in watching.

      JibJab’s “What We Call The News” says it all.

      Social organizations on the left and the right have learned this trick well too and keep up their financial support by making sure a continuous stream of apocalyptic mailings/emails/alerts bombard the faithful telling them they must act now.


  12. Obsession, modeled and hype–
    I have Pastored people who came out of churches that were doctrinally obsessed. It was hard for them to believe we are not saved by our doctrine, but by Christ. I think I have great doctrine. I KNOW I have a great Savior. I will put my trust in Him.
    The only model we will ever need is Christ, who was a ‘model’ of God. Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
    The “hype” comment on the Swine Flu comes from a lack of trust. Half or more of America does not trust the President. I don’t trust the President. I do not share his values, nor respect his methods, which is odd, as I too am an Alinski trained organizer. There are many issues that this administration has said are immediate dangers, this is just one more. Ramping up the fear of a nation has never lead to good things. Calm heads make better decisions. Hype makes waste.

    • Have you guys in the States no Swine flu cases, no deaths, no large numbers in the ICU, no women losing babies due to low oxygenation and collapsed lungs? Do we not share a continent? I don’t get it. Our vaccination lines go around the block. Or maybe we Canucks just have no idea of what you are being told, and what kind of “hype” you’re getting.

      Something here disconnects for me. I agree, the post was confusing.

      • I am not commenting on the H1n1, the word is hype. Many Americans would not believe President Obama if he said it was dark at night. I myself would check. That does not mean that everything the man says is a lie. it just means some of us do not trust him.
        The unfortunate consequence is that he may well say something that should be heeded, yet many will ignore what he says, perhaps to their detriment. The problem is when you hype up so much, who knows what to believe!

  13. Being “obsessed” with anything is, in my opinion, an example of lack of balance and it’s that lack of balance that I think generally causes most of the ideological problems we encounter. Rather than listen to the collective wisdom of our elders and peers, especially those that disagree with us, and be corrected or at least challenged by those other ideas, it seems there is an increasing tendency to circle the wagons with one’s own narrow group and become increasingly polarized. Different churches that have broken off on their own often have some little doctrinal quirk or particular practice which they’ve blown completely out of proportion and are now “obsessed” with to the point that it’s a matter of salvation (almost) if other churches don’t fall in with that special quirk. In this situation, those on the “inside” can’t really even understand or hear opposing views any longer.

    Which leads into a sense I have that it’s important to be able to fairly characterize an opposing person’s viewpoint and not to become “obsessed” with demonizing that person or viewpoint. When we’re wrapped up with an obsession, a “straw man” is usually set up for the opposing viewpoint. There is no way dialogue or understanding (and personal growth) will occur if caricatures of opposing views and the people that hold them are all we can come with in discussing serious issues. The whole idea that someone who is a proponent of male “headship” in a family is somehow condoning spousal abuse to me is not a fair characterization. It’s like saying all Democrats hate America or all Republicans have no compassion for the poor—both are ridiculous and unfair, but are said openly (or in between the lines so to speak) all the time. I don’t think one can honestly read Scripture and come up with the 100% egalitarian view I know many espouse. Nor does Scripture teach that wives are to be treated like property. But there is, in my opinion, a definite teaching about headship that is worth discussing and understanding without immediately assuming that anyone holding that view is a wife beater, someone who treats his wife like a child, etc, etc.

  14. I am very familiar with both the Wilsons. I own ALL their books and have read ALL of them at least twice. I used to have a subscription to _Credenda Agenda_. I also used to be a member of a complementarian-style church (with dominion and reconstructionist tendancies); the type that believes you pitch all the teaching to the Head of the Home and “He”, in turn, teaches the rest of the Family.

    This became a big deal for me when I became widowed at the ripe old age of 50. Our then-Pastor was retiring. During the search for a new Pastor, this style of church-ing came up and I asked, in all innocence, “What about me? I am the Head of my Home… Will the teaching and preaching be pitched to *me*?” Conundrum!!! I was eventually told that the Elders would take oversight for me.

    Exit, stage left; doubletime.

    The ideas presented in the Wilsons’ books reminded my late Husband and I of so much teaching we received during a very brief and completely misguided foray into Mormonism in our youth/early marriage. We later found them to be prime fodder for those sorts of folk who believe in a Dominion Gospel and want to start that in their homes. Molly’s story is also not the first one I’ve read/heard (first hand) from a Wife who’s Husband used _Reforming Marriage_ and _The Work of Her Hands_ to spiritually and psychologically abuse his Wife. In contrast, I recommend Edith Schaeffer as she writes extolling the blessings of Womanhood: Daughter, Wife, Mother, Child, Home, Hospitality, Grace…

    I also dislike sarcasm and I found much in _Credenda Agenda_ to be cheap and snarky; a showy intellectual one-upmanship that hardly reflects the godliness with which I believe we, as Christians, are suppose to speak: speech that is grace-full, respectful, even as it is challenging.

    “Commenter”, I pray for you; that you find healing from all of this. Perhaps if more folk experienced the nuances of some hard-core Presbyterian/Reformed congregations…I’ll use an analogy: it’s like the frog in the pot of water, slowly set to boil. The frog doesn’t realise he’s being cooked until he’s soup!


    • I guess I need to say that…

      a) I don’t approve of every mistreatment of every person in complementarian church.

      b) I don’t approve of everything ever written in C/A

      c) I don’t approve of “Dominion theology.”

      d) I don’t approve of psychological abuse from any source.

      Nor do I approve of assigning to Douglas Wilson approval of every bad thing that happened in a marriage where his books were on the shelf.

      I’m sure that when my book is published, I’ll get letters about hos people walked out of some church and felt justified in doing so because of what I’ve written, all because I’ll say that it may be that some people need to leave a particular church to reccover a true connection to Jesus.

  15. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    I know that not all complementarians are abusive. Some of my very good friends are complementarians and they seem to have great marriages.

    However has anyone ever heard of an abusive egalitarian marriage? If so, I think it would be a fascinating story to hear, but I doubt that many of those stories exists. If any at all.

    Should this tell us some things about complementarianism?

    • I generally abhor Complementarian ideals, but I have known abusive spouses in both complementarian marriages and egalitarian marriages. I also know of abusive wives, who have brusied their husbands pretty bad. I’ve seen this in gay couples too.

      Abusive people come in every shape, my main issue with complementarianism is that there are fewer ways to get out, and many times people are encouraged to stay.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Has anybody thought that the ideal might be BOTH Complementarian and Egalitarian, a dynamic balance between opposing ideas such as how Chesterton described Christianity?

        Because (as stated at length in this thread), Complementarianism can slip into Male Supremacy (or at least provide a justification and cover for abuse). While a lot of contemporary society can provide equivalent examples of Egalitarianism gone wild (“Gender-neutral” language mania being one of the more blatant surface examples). And like so much in this Age of Culture War, the Complementarians and Egalitarians going for each others’ throats like the half-black and half-white aliens in that third-season Star Trek TOS episode. With a lot of potential for the same end result.

    • I’ve seen abuse in many egalitarian/liberal marriages.

      • Christiane says

        I think abuse shows up all across many spectrums. The saddest thing is that children sometimes witness it and that could feed into the continuation of abuse in the next generation unless there is intervention.

        • Jeremiah Lawson says

          The intervention itself might be perceived as abusive by those on the receiving end of it, which is another sad thing. A legacy of abuse not only trains a person to be abusive but can also train them to accept abuse and often, it seems, one and the same person will both be a victim and be victimized if you get to know them thoroughly enough.

          My observation is that Christians use doctrine to justify abuse when other relational tools to exert control have failed. I have seen some very emotionally abusive egalitarian parents who don’t think they have done anything abusive at all because, in their minds, they have an egalitarian marriage and so they aren’t promoting abuse. I have seen a complementarian parent rebuke another complementarian for being an abusive and controlling husband and father without noticing that his own parenting style had a lot of controlling aspects. He condemned in another man what he justified for himself. Even within our own camp we can find ourselves and others justifying abuses through a mixture of comparmentalization and special pleading.

          Comparmentalization is what allows abusers to persuade themselves they aren’t abusers. A pastor who is abusive toward his flock will persuade himself he’s not abusive because he treats his wife and children well, just as a deacon who is physically abusive to his wife and children will justify himself on the grounds that he is not abusive toward anyone in the congregation he serves at.

          One of the hallmarks of an abuser “can” be putting the blame or rationale for behavior on to ideas rather than taking responsibility for one’s own actions. We don’t accept this coming from atheists who point out that Christians slaughter people but we DO accept this line of reasoning when we are arguing against ideas we don’t like. iMonk has already written about the way Christians use guilt by association so I’m not going to repeat all that.

          • Christiane says


            I had to restrict my daughter from going to the home of a friend whose father was extremely disrespectful to the mother in front of the children. My daughter came home from there extremely upset and had reported to me what she had heard and seen there. . The friend of my daughter was always welcomed in our home. I felt so badly for that child. But then, I didn’t know what to do to help. Sadly, the child had few friends. I am glad we stood by her and gave her a ‘second home’ to come to.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            My observation is that Christians use doctrine to justify abuse when other relational tools to exert control have failed.

            Uh, according to Jewish tradition, isn’t that the main application of “Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the LORD Thy God in Vain”? Using God as a justification for doing evil? Like God’s saying “You do your own dirty work! Keep my Name out of it!”?

  16. O my! Do you really think that abuse = complementarian and without it there would be so spousal abuse?

    • Nobody ever said that. Michael did not say that and from what I see no one in the comments has said that either. In the comment directly above yours Michael actually says that abuse happens in many types of marriages. Did you read the post and comments?

    • I think this is in reference to Jonathan Hunicutt’s comment above.

  17. I am puzzled as to why there needs to be a ‘head’ of the household. Our marriage is egalitarian – sometimes I defer to my husband, sometimes he defers to me. Our sons and daughters have benefited from this – the boys model on my husband’s willingness to listen to my opinions (not always the case in the rest of the world) , and the girls model on a my ability to hold my own. We respect each other, because we both bring our God-given gifts to the marriage. I do not see the value in teaching that one person over another is the ‘lord’ of the of the household – the one Lord we acknowledge together is Jesus Christ, the Savior.
    My prayers for healing go out to Molly.

    • Are you puzzled as to why complementarians believe scripture teaches that “the husband is head of the wife?”

      • KR Wordgazer says

        It says, “the husband is head of the wife, who is his body.” It does NOT say anywhere that he is the “head of the household.” Also, the addition of the metaphorical “body” describing the wife, should grant a clue that the Scriptures are talking about oneness and unity between husband and wife, not “head” as “the one in charge.” That’s English usage, not koine Greek.

        The husband is like that thing that sits on your neck (and in those days they didn’t believe that that thing on your neck housed the mind and will!) And the wife is like the thing the head sits on. Together, as one, they make a whole marriage. “Headship” is a modern, English addition to the Greek word “head.”

        The husband can be a protective wall around his family all he likes– but the Wilson story has the wife as being, to all intents and purposes, just like one of the children. May it never be. Husbands need a side-by-side partner speaking into their lives, not another daughter who happens to be old enough to take care of the other kids in the house.

        • I’d have to gently suggest that your interpretation of the concept of “head” and its usage in Greek being somehow different than English is incorrect. Christ is also the “head” and that doesn’t mean He’s just an appendage under the control of some other part of the body.

          To me the issue of “who’s in charge” is the wrong way to look at things. I think we’re too caught up (obsessed, if you will) with our rights and empowerment. That’s the same problem the disciples had and which Jesus had to correct. If the Bible says that a man is to serve as the head of the family and that a woman is to submit to that headship (regardless of what “headship” and “submission” mean), we can be sure that, human nature being what it is, men will err on the side of being tyrannical and women will err on the side of being rebellious—but that doesn’t mean we can’t hold up the ideal.

          When I was in the Navy, there was a regular rotation where one person from amongst equal peers was “in charge” for the night, the watch, etc. No-one thought that that person was somehow superior to others. But the fact is, that person was ultimately the one responsible for how things were going that night and it was everyone else’s duty to defer to him. Often it was clear that the person “in charge” needed some helpful advice, and it helped everyone learn and work together when that advice was given respectfully and then the person in charge could humbly but with a full sense of his responsibility make the right decision. I see this issue in question as similar. Wives are not inferior to their husbands in any way, but are called on, for whatever reason we may not fully understand, to defer (without being run over or thinking that they can never offer advice that maybe a different decision is warranted) to their husbands. But it goes even farther in that husbands are supposed to give everything for their wives so that really, wives are simply submitting to being loved and cared for. That’s my view, which both my wife and I imperfectly live out.

          • KR Wordgazer says

            Jeff, I suggest you do some more research. “Head” doesn’t convey the idea of lordship/authority in every language. It doesn’t in French or German; it does in English and Latin– but in koine Greek, when used as a metaphor, the word “head” usually carries the idea of either “origin or source” or “prominent one .” While “prominence” often carries a connotation of leadership, it does not mean it directly, as the word “head” does in English.

            I agree that there are many passages in the Scriptures that make it clear that Christ is Lord and is in authority. The ones that refer to Him as “head of the church,” however, do not appear to be speaking in those terms, but use words regarding nurturing, growth, and sacrficial service. There is one passgage that speaks of Him as “head over all things FOR the church,” and that seems to use the meaning “prominent one / the one on top” — but the places where the head-body metaphor is used of Christ and the church, Christ as the source of nourishment and growth, is the main point ot the passage.

            It’s important not to read things into a passage that aren’t there. Christ is Lord of the church, certainly– and He is also “head” of the church– but in the Greek, the two are not synomymous. In fact, they appear to refer to completely different functions, both of which Christ fulfills– but only one of which (“head”, not “lord”) husbands are to be to their wives.

          • I’d have to respectfully disagree, but the details I suspect are probably getting off the main topic. I would just say that the context of the main passages in question on the issue we’re discussing points to “head” as referring to “authority” and not to “origin.” I think the same range of meanings as we have in English is represented. You make a very good point in that “origin” is a possible meaning in some cases and I do think that taking that view in the passages where context allows does add a depth and richness to our understanding.


          • Jeff said, “Wives are not inferior to their husbands in any way, but are called on, for whatever reason we may not fully understand, to defer (without being run over or thinking that they can never offer advice that maybe a different decision is warranted) to their husbands.”

            This is where I get stuck with complementarianism. How can a woman be “not inferior” yet be expected “to defer”? You can’t have both. If I’m expected to always defer to my husband’s decisions, then I am inferior. If he always gets to make the final decision, even after he’s lovingly listened to my advice, then he is superior. The quote above seems to be really just a euphemism for a master/servant relationship.

            Even more confusing is “whatever reason we may not fully understand.” Why would God make half of humanity inferior to the other and then not explain why? I don’t think He did.

            Please understand I’m not being facetious or sarcastic. I really don’t understand. And I’m sorry if I’m getting too far off the topic.

          • Hi Michelle,
            I was trying to give an analogy from my Navy experience. Take a bunch of sailors all of the same rank and experience, put them together and then take one guy and, for the evening, make him the guy “in charge”. The next night a different guy is in charge, etc. There’s no question about superiority or inferiority or a master/slave relationship. One guy is simply designated as the one that all others must defer to for the duration of his period of responsibility. The burden really falls on the guy in charge since he will ultimately be held accountable for anything that happens on his watch. In the case of marriage, men and women are completely equal as persons before God, but my argument from Scripture is that God has given the man a specific responsibility to fulfill just like the sailor “on watch.” I saw many times that a guy on watch would be corrected by his mates or reminded of the rules. There’s no way the guy could just do anything he pleased—-that’s definitely NOT what I’m suggesting about marriage. And with respect to “reasons we may not full understand”, my point is that clearly the notion that a woman should in ANY way “defer” offends us, but that even when we don’t understand God’s will or wisdom or reasons, I think we should accept His will as an act of worship. If God calls a man to worship Him by protecting and giving himself for his wife and God also calls on a woman to worship Him by respecting her husband and receiving his love and care, then even if part of that offends us, the fact (in my opinion obviously) that God commands it makes it something we (male and female) need to humbly submit to.

          • Jeff, I get what you are saying with your analogy about the Navy–but you still haven’t addressed the issue of the husband always getting the final word, whether he is a loving person or not. This is what bugs the heck out of me about complementarianism. I don’t think one person should ALWAYS be in the position to defer–I believe they should defer to each other. The compromising, the putting the other before yourself, the communication–this is of course where the challenge of marriage comes in, whether you are comp or egal.

            As for God giving us laws that don’t always make sense, I respectfully disagree. I believe His laws always make sense and are for our benefit. To me, when someone says, “Well, that’s the law, and we don’t have to understand it,” that’s entering dangerous territory.

            I used to be comp, that’s how I was raised, and I went through a living hell trying to apply those rules to an abusive ex-marriage. I guess that’s why I wanted to pick this bone with you a little bit, and I appreciate your respectful responses. Thanks Jeff.

          • Larry Geiger says


            You said: “I used to be comp, that’s how I was raised, and I went through a living hell trying to apply those rules to an abusive ex-marriage. ”

            As I see it, you can’t be “comp” in an abusive marriage. It’s sort of like an oxymoron. It’s like the guy that stole that little girl from her mother, and then called her his “daughter”. She wasn’t. She never would be. An abusive person can’t be “comp”.

            Also you said: “trying to apply those rules”. It’s not about rules, but about grace and gospel. It won’t be right if it’s “rules”. You knew that all along and now you are out. You might still be “comp”, but only if you married a “comp” guy in a “comp” marriage.

            You also said “always defer”. Again, that’s a rule. It’s not about “always” or never deferring. If it has to be one way or the other it won’t work. In a true relationship, love will find a way.

            All of the couples that I know, that I would consider to have “comp” marriages, are very happily married, respect each other immensely, do not divorce, have excellent parenting skills and probably have never heard of complementarian. Most of the couples that I know that I would consider to be “egal” struggle mightly with their marriages, experience multiple divorce, have problems with their children and finances, and are both often unhappy (man and woman). That’s just what I see around me.

            In my house, if you asked my wife and kids who’s boss they would probably say that I am (most of the time 🙂 ). That’s not because I say I am, it’s because they say that I am. It’s an often uncomfortable place to be. I essentially always defer to my wife concerning child raising, for example. She always knows better what to do. She is always in charge of my relationships with other women. It’s not a jealousy thing. It’s just because she know’s better. She has a discernment about other people that I do not have.

            It’s sort of like the word humble. If you make a list of things to do to be humble, you probably won’t make it. It’s not like welding, the more you practice, the better you are. It’s about our hearts. The pharisees tried making lists and it didn’t work. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. If two Christians marry, worship together, study the Word and build a life together, then maybe, 40 or 50 years later, someone might say, “Hey, those two have a complementarian marrage.”

            Also, I don’t think that this is something that a husband normally teaches his wife. If she doesn’t get it from listening to her pastor and studying the Word and praying, then she probably won’t get it. Same thing for the husband. Our hearts are shaped by the Spirit and we come along side each other, building a marriage together. It works when Christ is first the ruler of the husband’s heart and is first the ruler of the wife’s heart.

            I’m sure everyone here would hope and pray, that if it’s Christ’s desire, that you would find a Christian man and enter into a Christian marriage. Then, many years from now someone might say, “Wow, Michelle and X have a great ‘comp’ marriage”, or they might say “Great, Michelle and X have a great ‘egal’ mariage”. It would be even better if they said, “It’s Wonderful, Michelle and X love the Lord, have a great Christian marriage, and have been an inspiration to me and my husband in our walk with the Lord. Praise God!”

      • no – I am puzzled by the actual ‘working out’ of this biblical understanding as it is often applied to marriage. Koine Greek notwithstanding, ‘headship’ language is not, at leas for my conjugal relations, helpful imagery.

  18. After reading this post I recognize I have a problem . . .

    I read one specific sentence and became so distracted i could barely finish the article. I felt a darkness coming over me, a palpable sadness . . .

    The sentence?

    “When we are two weeks into February, I’m obsessed with ‘pitchers and catchers report.'”

    Baseball is nearly over. The long hibernation about to begin. I miss it already.

    I need help.

  19. My wife and I have been married 30 years. The other day she told me that she thought she had missed out on a lot by not being submissive. This is not my idea, she is currently working on expressing the thought more fully. Her point, egalitarianism just did not work for her as she thought it should have.

    • KR Wordgazer says

      FWIW, egalitarians don’t believe wives shouldn’t be submissive to their husbands. They believe all Christians should be submissive to one another, according to Eph. 5:21.

  20. H1N1 hype?

    Here in Minnesota, they’ve stopped counting the number of cases of infection. Hundreds have been hospitalized. Ten people have died, mostly children. North Dakota is reporting its first death today. And it’s not even officially ‘flu season’. As a healthcare worker, I don’t see this as hype.

    I should add that I don’t have cable or satellite TV, so I don’t get any of the 24/7 news channels that have all that time to fill.

    Wash your hands. Often. Look elsewhere for examples of “hype”.

  21. MOD note: Sergei: I can’t have an abortion debate on here as well. I had to delete that comment. Sorry.

  22. So, should we consider all complementarians who use male leadership rhetoric to be abusive? For example, I know many traditional Mennonites who would use this rhetoric. Their women wear uniforms and are in submission to male relatives. Should I report them to social services? Should we rescue their children form what they are hearing?

    • Joe Legander says

      Perhaps we need to expand the definition of “abusive” a bit. When we talk about rescuing children and calling Social Services, we’re speaking of “legally” abusive. This is far too narrow a definition. We can clearly see that demonstrated in that you delete a fair number of posts here, claiming that they are “offensive” or “abusive” in some way. Obviously, you don’t mean legally abusive.

      But there are many, many forms of emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse that are perfectly legal. Try calling the police and reporting that your husband said you were no longer attractive to him since you put on 20 pounds, and that you were lucky to have him since no other man would want you. It’s abusive as hell, but perfectly legal.

      It’s possible to debate that the highest, best expression of the complementarian position, involving a mutual submission between a wife who accepts her husband’s headship, and a husband who loves his wife as Christ love the church, isn’t inherently abusive. But the practical reality is that in a culture conditioned by thousands of years of often brutal patriarchy, the practical outcome of the complementarian position is very often abusive and demeaning, to one extent or the other. The fact that there are women who don’t proclaim it to be so should be no surprise. One only need listen to the commentary of many women living in polygamous religious compounds to understand that you will decide what is abusive and demeaning based on the standards of the culture with which you surround yourself. It is no mystery why almost all such facilities are largely shut off from public news and access. If they were not, it wouldn’t be long before the young women inside, who have not been fully acculturated into the cult, realized the situation, and began to resist it.

      Complementarianism is largely a by-product of the concept of verbal and plenary inspiration. The by-product is wrong because the concept is wrong, and the wrongness of it is easily revealed by its fruits, the kind of marginalization and brutalization described by the woman posting above.

      • >the practical outcome of the complementarian position is very often abusive and demeaning, to one extent or the other.

        This is an amazing statement of pure prejudice and high ignorance. It’s a smear tactic and nothing else.

        This kind of discourse is completely antithetical to any inteliigent conversation.

        I’ve banned the commenter and put the site on moderation.

  23. I don’t know whehter H1N1 is hype or not. I DO know I’m getting vaccinated.

    As for obsession with doctrine, I see a whole lot of Christians who fit that fir that model, and that’s no hype…

  24. Hey Imonk,

    Thanks for this post.

    I am also very concerned about your basic point regarding the word “modeled” about the degree to which a writer is responsible for those who exaggerate their response to a work they have read. It takes great discretion to write in a way that is powerful and persuasive that does not also lead some to over-react.

    This is especially difficult when we consider the multiple audiences that will read a work. Some will be overly impressionable or easily confused, others will be already prone to a certain error and find in a writing license for that error that was never intended by the writer. Rest assured however that if this happen to you, you will be in good company. One of the reasons Paul had to write second Thessalonians, was because people had taken First Thessalonians as a license to quit their jobs and wait for Jesus.

    On the flip side, I would urge writers (as I am sure you would agree) to be very careful to think about the potential audiences of their work and consider possible misinterpretations and guard against them. Perhaps Douglas Wilson does this in his work, although I fear that he did not do that in the article quoted in the comments. Again I see Paul as my example. Much of his argument in the middle of Romans is driven by an attempt to protect against possible misinterpretations of his theology. (Does this mean … BY no means…) Certainly constant disclaimers can weaken the impact of the prose but often such disclaimers are necessary when the consequences and likelihood of error are so great.

    When an author does nothing to protect against the predictable misinterpretations of their teaching, I do think that this author should be called to give an account. Likewise when anyone stirs up anger that leads to violence. The account need not blame them for the evil acts but it must question their ability as a teacher. If nothing else if must call them to clarify their teaching in a way that protects their readers from these errors.

    For an author that has tried to protect against the predictable errors that might come from their teaching and that responds to new misreadings that arise, I have great respect and I join you in reminding myself that I cannot hold everyone responsible for the ways their teachings are misused.

    Thanks for this forum.

    Ps. I think that Apple laptop obsession is a good thing. Doesn’t scripture say, “Whatever is good, noble, etc think on these things.” I am sure that covers an apple laptop.

  25. Good questions. I think it all comes down to the day-to-day relationship. Throw out all the labels and rhetoric, and look at an individual Mennonite (or other) marriage. Are they treating each other with love and respect? Or is one spouse consistently causing the other to live in physical or emotional danger? Does one spouse need to be afraid of the other? Is the home characterized by love or fear?

    One should be careful of making blanket statements or implications such as, “ALL complementarian rhetoric leads to abuse,” or “ALL Mennonite families are in danger of being abusive,” etc. God doesn’t look at the Mennonites and say, “Man, that group is really messed up.” He doesn’t look at the groups with which we humans categorize ourselves. He’s looking at our individual hearts, and out of our hearts come our actions. Not out of our ‘group’.

    Rhetoric becomes abusive when it becomes abusive, no matter what your label. Not necessarily when you become a complementarian, although they do have a bad reputation, in my opinion.

    I think the end goal of a Christian marriage is to have a loving and respectful relationship. Mutual submission. Call yourself a complementarian or an egalitarian (or a Christian), doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, how do you treat your spouse? How do you treat your children?

  26. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    I do not think that complementarian marriages are necessarily abusive.

    Andy D, brought up a great point in response to my original remark. He said something to the effect that complementarians have less resources for dealing with abuse. By that I assume he means that the tradition of interpretation has less resources for naming the abuse and doing something about it.

    So let’s ask the question: what are the complementarian resources for abuse? Here’s one I can think of: the elders or other males in leadership see it as their fatherly mandate to protect the women in their flock. The Bible church I went to was thoroughly complementarian, and yet they excommunicated a guy for abusing his wife. That was pretty cool. [They didn’t do this right away, but after a Matt 18 process, and they helped the wife take care of the kids too.]

    But how often does that happen? And how can we help it happen more?

    I will admit, it seems obvious to me that egalitarian tradition of interpretation has far more resources for naming and dealing with abuse.

    • Jonathan Hunnicutt says

      okay saying “far more” goes to far. I should have said that the egalitarian tradition of interpretation has more resources for naming and dealing with abuse.

  27. I’m going to explain this one last time:

    I am not going to put Ezzo, etc etc etc out there as Wilson parallels. The entire PREMISE that Wilson inspires abuse is in contention. Adding on Hitler and Mao and other bad people who have similarities to Wilson in the mind of someone with an ax to grind vs complementarians isn’t going any further. This is a tactic: Guilt by association. People on here tossing out Bob Jones as the function equivalent of Wilson, etc are not having a conversation.

    BTW, they will be saying that my moderation is abuse in a while.

  28. This thread has been GREAT!!!
    I have enjoyed this a great deal.

    Great thoughts, Monk.

  29. I think that hype is the word that most worries me because it is a word that is leading too many in this country into something akin to building intellectual bomb shelters, going in them, and then shutting the door behind them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I don’t mind someone “going into their bomb shelter and shutting the door behind them” if that’s all they’re going to do. At that point, they’ve taken themselves out of my hair.

      It’s when the reason they’re in there is to turn the keys on their missile silos from the safety of their sealed bomb shelter that I get worried.

      • Yes, on Facebook, on a discussion, I have been accused of various things from the safety of someone else’s bomb shelter. Hype is so dangerous.

  30. From ASF-Brian (Inadvertently deleted)

    Very well said Ethan.

    And at some point I have to believe that an author does hear about the abuses carried out in response to what he has written. If it becomes more than a few odd cases, one would hope that the author would clarify, republish, apologize, etc. To do nothing seems, well, a little pompous. As if he the mistake could not possibly be on his side. Or you might start thinking this is what he intended.

    I’m not as familiar with Wilson, but the example of Ezzo that Camille uses above is certainly apropos. He’s been criticized since his first publication and all he has done is demonize his critics – and then make changes in the next edition. This has gone on for years.

    As far as Wilson, if his other writings are anything like the 2×6 article above its easy to see how the abuses Molly talks about could be a reasonable application.

  31. I don’t think that Wilson’s, or any other complimentarian teaching will by default lead to abusive husbands. It might be the case that Wilson provides a justification for those abusive types that are looking for justification. Not by desgin – sure. But if you want an excuse, you’ll dig one up. Wilson (and especially, a misreading of Wilson) is just handy. I’m also quite convinced that Mrs Wilson, as well her daughters in their marriages, are not being abused at all.

    Similarly, those who want to find a scapegoat, will find it.

    BTW, I’m an ex-complimentarian.

    • I think my biggest issue is when they do realize there is abuse going on. That it dawns on them that they found someone justifying things? They don’t know what to do with it. It messes up all their ingredients for a good family, and they don’t know what to do with the product they realize its no nice to look at. What are they going to do with this person that is ‘wired’ incorrectly. Their formulas don’t tend to work so well. Instead of realizing this? They continue to bang that square block into the round hole – hoping with prayer that next time it will fit. I don’t know. At times it seems they rely on God to do what God would wish them to do, but they aren’t comfortable with that… because its outside the set of ‘rules’, etc.

      They just don’t like coloring outside the lines at times.

      I don’t believe complimentary marriages = abuse by the way! lol!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        What are they going to do with this person that is ‘wired’ incorrectly. Their formulas don’t tend to work so well. Instead of realizing this? They continue to bang that square block into the round hole – hoping with prayer that next time it will fit.


  32. Most CEOs, legislators, and other power positions are not filled by men because men are more competent or whatever. At the risk of stereotyping, men have an inherent need to be in charge.

    Take those men who apply that need to marriage, and if scripture did not give them a basis they’d just find it somewhere else.

    They didn’t abuse their wife because God told them to; they abused their wife because they wanted to and then backfilled God in as the reason.

  33. Blaming Wilson – whether deserved or not – deflects responsibility away from the husband, who should have known better. I wouldn’t minimize the pain that his wife endured. I would probably want an ax to grind, too. It probably seems like the book brought something out in her husband that wasn’t apparent before; therefore, it looks like Wilson’s fault.

    It still should be a warning to teachers to be careful what they say, or at least how they say it. I know that may sound despairing for those who make a living at teaching, that it is impossible to stop everyone from misquoting or mis-applying what one teaches (e.g. “If your hand causes you to sin…”). But it should be a reminder that communication is more that capturing and holding your audience’s attention and looking and sounding relevant, tough, macho, sexy, whatever. The content can be lost or distorted by the media or the presentation (paraphrase of Os Guiness). In the words of the bible verse written in the pulpit of a church I once attended, “Sir, we would see Jesus”.

  34. Blaming complementarianism for abuse is committing the ecological fallacy. It has been thoroughly deunked. See, for instance:

    D. G. Dutton, “Patriarchy and Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy,” Violence and Victims 9 (1994): 167-82

    I have to wonder where Egalitarians find all these awful mean husbands and pastors. Frankly, my experience has been the opposite. Being shunned for asking hard questions? Pshaw! I could tell you some horror stories about how Egalitarians treat those from their midst who begin to question the party line. On the other hand, I have received the most patient replies and loving friendship from Complementarian pastors when I had questions of them.

    My point is not to slam Egalitarians — but to point out that sin is to be found everywhere human beings are to be found.

    And for Hannah, who wonders what Complementarians do when they realize abuse is happening? It’s called church discipline. It’s exercised regularly in complementarian churches (at least in my experience). On the other hand, I’ve never seen it exercised in Egalitarian churches. Not once. I have a friend who felt called to ministry. She left her husband, publicly admitting it was her decision to do so without placing any blame on him for holding her back, etc. She then took back her maiden name even before filing for divorce. Subsequently, she entered a graduate program and started living with one of her old boyfriends. But she was never disciplined or counseled or given one word of caution about her behavior from her church. Where does her wronged husband go for redress? I could tell you other stories about Egalitarian women who were “called” to ministries that destroyed their marriages.

    Once again, the point is that sin happens wherever human beings are.

    • Very true about sin!

      I come from a complementary background, and church discipline isn’t the norm at all churches. WELL at least for things you would think it would be for! I would bet the same goes for the others side of this as well.

      My grandfather was within the leadership of a major well known church, and he beat the snot out my mother and grandmother. They knew about it as well. They didn’t do squat. My mother escaped, but my grandmother was to brainwashed on the leadership and submission that was drilled into her. I honestly do think they believed if she was better at home he would have come around. She was in her late 80’s when he finally passed away, and when we got her settled it was a like a whole new woman took her place. Their whole situation was the like the elephant in the living room that no one wished to talk about. I never met a more dedicated person to her marriage. I loved my grandfather, but he was just plain broken is so many ways. Certain churches allow the ‘leadership’ and ‘head’ to get in the way of helping those that need it. I saw them concentrate to much on roles, and not enough on reality. That didn’t do either of them any good. That’s to say nothing of the damage it caused my mother growing up and beyond.

      As I mentioned I think some church seriously don’t know what to do with issues like this. It just doesn’t fit into their equation for things. They don’t talk about it, but I can bet some people you know whether eqal or comp will tell you NOT in my church! What I find most interesting within the comp movement (since that is my background) is when you bring this issue up? Ladies will rush to tell you what an awesome man they have as a husband, and absolutely refuse to touch the subject with a 10 foot pole. If you can’t acknowledge it happens, and acknowledge it happens even within our churches? You don’t deal with it. That’s a human nature deal, and it truly has nothing to do with comps or egals. It just is.

  35. Terri in Bellingham says

    In my beloved church of 15 years, which we left a few years ago, most of the mature (had been there a long time) claimed to be solid complementarians, but my observation was that many of the women had VERY strong personalities and actually “ran” the husbands. Saw this HUGELY at the Christian School where we had our kids. As a new Christian, this was super confusing as I was sincerely trying to learn to be a submissive wife and honor my husband and really struggled to find good models of this applied in family. As time passed, we got a wonderful new pastor who was gentle and real and many of those strong personalities left. I really do see the value of the complementarian view (practiced in a healthy way), but like so many things in the church it gets messed up. That is what people do. And it is why we need a Savior.

  36. Chrstopher West is a teacher and “popularizer” of John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. I know the Catholic thing will give some pause – but there’s a lot of wisdom to be had there. I think his website is simply christopherwestdotcom and you can print/download quite a bit of free material.

    Now, it’s been great but I have to go, I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow.

    Thanks so much to iMonk for keeping it honest!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Chrstopher West is a teacher and “popularizer” of John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. I know the Catholic thing will give some pause – but there’s a lot of wisdom to be had there.

      Wisdom from over 1000 years longer experience with what works and what doesn’t, which ideas are actual new ideas and which are really old mistakes. Mistakes they’ve made before. A LOT longer institutional experience than any of these megachurches.

      “Been there, Done that, Got the T-shirt.”

  37. Patrick Lynch says

    “Here’s no hype: H1N1 is getting attention because news networks are dying in a war with the internet. Disease, terrorism, crime, entertainment and financial apocalypse keep an audience on the line so advertisers will still pay for Cialis commercials. End of plot.”

    This is a fantastic, fascinating, and interesting theory. Guess what??! You win the Neil Postman / Richard A. Lantham Award for Most Insightful Summation of a Ridiculous Thing in 2009!

    <3 this blog

  38. Sensationalism is always a tremendous circulation booster for all types of media. So it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of “sound and fury” out there about the H1N1 flu.

    But buried in there is a grain of truth that I think ought to be kept in mind. What is truly scary about this particular flu strain is that it can cause serious complications in people who ordinarily, with any other strain of flu, would not be terribly vulnerable — namely the young and healthy.

    Usually flu and its complications hit the elderly and the immuno-compromised the hardest. Younger and healthier people can usually throw it off, or at most, be sick for a couple of weeks and get better. But H1N1 can hit people hard whose immune systems are strong. In fact, some of the problems with this strain of flu come from overreaction by that same healthy immune system.

    The incidence of such complications is still pretty low — the vast majority of people who get H1N1 get over it. But while they are not common, the deaths of *any* significant numbers of previously healthy children, teenagers and young adults are enough to make many people nervous, and understandably so, I think. This is still just a couple of months into the flu season, and already as many children have died from flu as ordinarily die in an entire year.

    People born before 1957 who had that year’s H2N2 flu have some resistance, and I’m one of them, so I’m not in a particularly high-risk group this time. But I’m a friend of friends of a healthy, vigorous 28-year-old who died from this flu in less than a week, despite everything the hospital could do. This flu is *different* from the usual seasonal flu. Fortunately, because it’s also very well understood, the vaccine is likely to be more effective than the usual seasonal flu shot. I’d encourage everyone in the vulnerable groups to get it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      But buried in there is a grain of truth that I think ought to be kept in mind. What is truly scary about this particular flu strain is that it can cause serious complications in people who ordinarily, with any other strain of flu, would not be terribly vulnerable — namely the young and healthy.

      Cytokine Cascade, just like the infamous 1919 Spanish Flu though not as lethal. What happens is the virus triggers such an over-the-top immune response that the immune response does as much or more damage than the virus, and the patient infected gets hammered from both sides. Those with better immune systems — “namely the young and healthy” — get hit harder. Fortunately this strain of H1N1 doesn’t trigger a Cytokine Cascade as often/deadly as in 1919 or recent Bird Flu outbreaks, but that’s why CDC and epidemologists keep a close eye on anything like this.

      • A recent article in the New York Times puts forth the fact that aspirin, the new wonder drug at the time, was routinely and officially administered in doses which we now know to be deadly. Since aspirin was the only drug available to counteract fever, it was given to flu patients liberally. The study seems to have some evidence in it’s favor since many of the post mortems of flu victims were not consistent with viral pneumonia, yet the results were consistent with overdosing on an anti-coagulant (aspirin is an anti-coagulant).
        Beware the fads of medicine.

  39. You know it’s a sad commentary on the attitudes of todays “christian” culture that Wilson’s stuff is so popular. The people who are supporting these types of attitudes remind me of the guy who is asking the cop;
    “Now then, when is it OK to shoot someone? When he is in my house, how about just outside the door?”
    The prevailing mindset is that I will discover how I may dominate my wife and it’s OK with God, never mind that Paul also said there is no male or female, no jew or greek in Christ.
    Gentlemen and Ladies, Paul was not only often dealing with immature christians and their assorted attitudes, he also had to contend with ancient hellenistic culture. Even the Jews were effected by the hellenistic culture they lived in (where do you think the Sadduccees came from?).

    Plato wrote “It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or [lead unrighteous lives] may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation’. This downward progress may continue through successive reincarnations unless reversed. In this situation, obviously it is only men who are complete human beings and can hope for ultimate fulfilment; the best a woman can hope for is to become a man” (Plato, Timaeus 90e).

    Aristotle wrote “It is the best for all tame animals to be ruled by human beings. For this is how they are kept alive. In the same way, the relationship between the male and the female is by nature such that the male is higher, the female lower, that the male rules and the female is ruled.”
    (Aristotle, Politica, ed. Loeb Classical Library, 1254 b 10-14).

    Basically in ancient greek society a woman had very few rights. A woman was supposed to stay home and see to the household and raise the children, and stay out of the men’s hair, if a man brought a friend home for supper the woman was not even allowed to attend the meal unless invited. She could not even decide to keep and raise her own child, that was the man’s decision. Nice women were not allowed to go to the marketplace, only slaves and prostitutes did that. In fact prostitutes had a higher place in ancient greek society than married women.

    Is this sounding familiar yet? The attitudes of the ancient greeks spread with Christianity, the things Paul had said in deference to the intractable attitudes of the ancient greeks (because of the hardness of their hearts) became immutable laws in the eyes of the men who wished to rule their societies without female interference. The hints which might tell us that Paul did not hold that same attitude himself are largely ignored. Such as the suggestion that women should cover their heads while prophesying(1 Cor. 11:5-6), is just a little before Paul says that women should keep silent (1 Cor. 14:34), obviously no one is silent while they are prophesying, since he had just gone into great detail about keeping order, that is two or three prophets not speaking at the same time.
    Then Paul, a jew, goes into this thing about a man disgracing himself by covering his head. Ever hear of a jewish prayer shawl?
    I think that many of the things which people have made laws of, (should we be making laws of Paul’s statements?) from Paul’s epistles, should be looked at very carefully in light of the cultural context, and without the filter of wishful thinking (that is, the wish, by men, to lord it over women).
    I would suggest that this subject should be handled carefully and with prayer, and remember, Hebrew precedent after the Maccabees may not be very reliable either, there were no Deborahs, Merriams or even Esthers in Jewish society after Alexander’s conquest. In Jesus’ time there were no Godly women of influence chosen by Jewish society, but God Himself chose Mary the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, and Anna.
    So you want to be a Wilsonite?
    None of us should be looking to Wilson for guidance anyway, we should look to Jesus!

  40. Loving it iMonk! Go get ’em.

  41. Observer, I’ve been in a complementarian church where church discipline was practiced, fell by the wayside for a time, and is now being practiced again. However, the common addiction of pornography was not properly dealt with, and based on a recent happening, I still don’t believe it is.

    In two instances in the distant past, there was the spoken attitude (ie- people actually said this) that the man’s addiction problem was the wife’s fault.

    Your claim about church discipline is pretty glowing. I only wish it were that way, but my experience of it happening in the church where I am a member is very mixed. Some good, and a lot bad, and some things not dealt with that ought to have been.

    Not that the women were under discipline when others said their husbands’ adultery and the pornography were their wives’ fault, don’t get me wrong. But these wives picked up on the attitude from others that they were to blame for their respective husbands’ sin problem. That much I do know from talking to them. Also, the gossip and judgmentalism in blaming these women was not disciplined at all.

    By the way, are you the person who also wrote this, that the Bayly blog just published? There are some remarks in both that sound amazingly alike, is why I ask.

    Just curious.

  42. Been thinking about Doug Wilson’s book and some of the quotes provided.

    Questions: Is there any emphasis in REFORMING MARRIAGE on the husband laying down his life for his wife, giving up his life for her, and loving her as he loves his own body? Any proper reminder that the one who would be great in God’s Kingdom must be the servant of all?

    If so, the book may be balanced. If not, it may be unbalanced. In fact, it may be unbalanced in a dangerous way. It may be teaching a concept of authority that Jesus said was part and parcel of the whole Gentile world – an emphasis of being lord, and exercising dominion over other human beings, an emphasis Jesus said was not to characterize his followers, and certainly is not the NT teaching on a husband and wife relationship.

    I don’t know. I haven’t read the book. All I can say is the quotes provided are not what I read about commands to husbands in the NT, and if that is the main thrust of the teaching to husbands, it may not endorse or necessarily lead to abuse, but it isn’t biblical teaching.

    Here is a remark from one who claims to have read the book, who says Wilson is flat out wrong in three areas of his teaching. I think he messes up when he talks about missions is my “vocation” and homemaking my wife’s “vocation,” but Christ is our “calling,” for the two words are synonyms. It appears to me he meant either job vs calling, or else earthly calling vs eternal calling (of far more importance). But beyond that, he gives an interesting take on the book, and one which jives with “commenter’s” views:

    I suppose I am the only male to give this book less than five stars, but here goes. There are many good points in this book (which is why I gave it two stars, and might even give three), but there is a major foundational error. The error is three-fold (1) Man’s calling, (2) God’s love and (3) spiritual authority

    Before my wife became ill I believed that I was “called to be a missionary” and my wife was “called to me.” This view would be in complete agreement with Wilson’s book and theology. Sounds great, but now I see that this was very wrong. After my wife’s illness she had no energy to “help me” in my vocation, but she became even more beautiful and priceless to me. As I have watched her grow over the years I am amazed at the work that God is doing through her and I have no doubt she is the greater in the Kingdom of God.

    While my voaction is missions, and my wife’s vocation is a homemaker –OUR CALLING IS CHRIST!!! A single woman can fulfill this calling as well (if not better than) a married woman. Wilson’s view of vocation is nothing more than the Christianized version of “Stand by your man.”

    In this book Wilson says, “…he (husband) faces his future and calling under God, and she (wife), by his side, faces him.” No wonder so many people hate to hear the Christian Right Wing talk about authority! Can you imagine saying, “he (the pastor) faces his future and calling under God, and she (the church), by his side, faces him”? This statement shows a complete misunderstanding of the spiritual authority that is vested in the husband, and makes him to be more of a “god” than a servant.

    While I applaude (in part) Wilson’s teaching on efficatious love (love that affects change) I disapprove of Wilson’s attack on romance as though it were simply the product of sin and hormones. He presents the “ideal” love as one that focuses on “duty” and “transformation”, rather than “sentiment or emotion.” I am firmly convinced that this is very unhealthy, and a pathetic onesided view of a holy God who is Love.

    I am sorry, Mr. Wilson, but Christ’s love for his bride is very passionate and yes even sentimental. I suggest a fresh reading of the Song of Solomon with a Christ centered perspective. Christ is infatuated with His bride.