The greatest difficulty in demonstrating the dishonesty of Doug Wilson lies in the very thing he does so well- speaking out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand he teaches plenty of things that tickle the ears of right-wing Christians. Fathers rule the home, and their wives should submit. That all sounds Godly and Biblical because it is. So, when someone comes along to appropriately point out how he undermines those things on a regular basis like some feminist-Christian, the typical reaction is disbelief or automatic dismissal. This article should hopefully lay it out for his readers as to why people like myself see him that way.
First, since Doug Wilson is legitimately misrepresented on a frequent basis by secular feminists and enemies of the church in general, let me assure any fan of his reading that I will not misrepresent Doug Wilson’s views. To do so would be to lie, and liars will not have their part in the kingdom of heaven (Rev. 21:8).
Second, despite my dislike of Wilson, I am not some fat, blue-haired feminist who hates everything good, true, and beautiful. I am a Bible-believing Christian who is a member in good standing at a Bible-believing church. Nor am I chomping at the bit to believe every scandalous accusation ever made against him. I won’t even post examples of those here because my criticism lies in what Wilson has publicly taught, not what some estranged former church member claims he did in private without a shred of tangible proof. I don’t need nor want that information. What he has said in his books, sermons, and web articles are sufficient to prove he has some serious issues to resolve, issues serious enough that Christians ought to think twice before buying yet another copy of Reforming Marriage for some newly-wed Christian couple.
In Like a Tabloid Tarantula, Doug Wilson responds to a recent Vice article wherein many accusations are hurled his way. Prior to the publication of this article, Wilson received an email from the author tipping her hand as to her intentions.
Before the article came out, I received an email from Sarah Stankorb, the author of the piece in question, presenting me with a small array of gotcha questions. Nancy got a batch of questions with the same sour aroma wafting off of them. Here’s a sample: “If a woman refused to have sex with her husband, would she be excommunicated?” Inquiring minds want to know.
Perhaps she could have consulted, and I merely suggest this as a possibility, things that I have published on this subject.
Sarah’s bad-faith question did not get past Wilson, of course. However, his answer wasn’t exactly the deft rebuttal he thinks it is. The question itself is simplistic, but rather than do what Wilson has done in other situations and state that additional background information should be given before offering an answer, he responded with his own bad-faith defense.
Perhaps she could have consulted, and I merely suggest this as a possibility, things that I have published on this subject.
“Must my wife have sex with me whenever I want it?
Don’t be a fathead.
It was a serious question.
Yes, she must have sex whenever you want it. And you must refrain whenever she wants to refrain. You have authority over her body, but never forget that she also has authority over your body.”
Fidelity, pp. 109-110
Why is this response made in bad-faith? Because it’s being used to deflect Sarah’s question as though her question would have easily been answered had she simply bothered to read his books. Such would be a legitimate move if what he wrote in Fidelity were not a prime example of Wilsonian double-speak.
Examine the quote Wilson cited and ask if it answers Sarah’s question. It doesn’t exactly, since it doesn’t mention excommunication. However, it is clear that Wilson thinks that if a wife doesn’t want to have sex, she has the right to make that call, and her husband must abide by her wishes. Since Wilson used this quote as an obvious answer to Sarah’s question, the implied answer is “no”, a wife who refuses to have sex with her husband should not be excommunicated, as that is her right as someone who has authority over her husband’s body. If only Sarah had bothered to consult his past writings, she wouldn’t have asked such a silly question.
Now, before I continue, let me remind any fan of Wilson reading my words: What I just said in the preceding paragraph is perfectly reasonable. This is not some bizarre, hoping-for-the-worst interpretation of Wilson’s words to depict him as the horrid monster that secular feminists want him to be. This is a legitimate, sober, natural understanding of what he has written in his own defense.
This is where Wilson’s double-speak comes in. His words in Fidelity are just that- double-speak. A hypothetical husband asks a legitimate question of his wife’s sexual obligations to him. Wilson’s first response is to deride this hypothetical husband for even asking it in the first place (which is just one small example of his feminist attitude towards men, but let’s not digress), and his second response is to leave this husband in total confusion. He says the wife must have sex whenever the husband wants it, but that she has the authority to require of him that he be content should she decide not to fulfill this obligation. A true patriarchal answer would have been a simple, “Yes.” But, since Wilson is not a true patriarch and wants to placate the feminist resentment Christian women have toward their husbands, he must begrudgingly answer yes, but then hastily nullify it so that he can assure his readers that wives aren’t really required to give their husbands what they want.*
This is key to understanding why people like myself see Doug Wilson as a feminist. When one speaks from both sides of his mouth, he is fundamentally contradicting himself by teaching two different things, and he did just that when he wrote Fidelity. However, it’s not like he said both yes and no to the question, and so they both cancel each other out. No, one of those answers is clearly the one that remains despite the confusion. The true answer to the question is, “No. If your wife wants to refrain from sex, she is free to do so, even if you want it.”
I will pause yet again to address Wilson’s fans if they are reading this: This is not some silly, bad-faith interpretation of his own words. This is a natural, proper understanding of his words and how he chose to deploy them. You may suggest that he was simply being unclear with his answer in Fidelity. If that’s what you think, then you are wrong. The fact that Wilson thought that this quote would serve as an obvious rebuttal to Sarah’s insinuation proves that even he sees his words as having a clear, obvious meaning- and that despite his double-speak.
But this is where it gets interesting, because Wilson didn’t need to quote his words from Fidelity. He didn’t need to implicitly answer Sarah’s question with a No. He could have also answered her question with a definitive yes! Only two weeks before Sarah published her hit-piece, Doug Wilson wrote Letters Are Coming In Yet. Under the subtitle “Sexual Desertion”, a non-hypothetical man named Tim wrote to Wilson and said the following:
In a past letter an individual asked you if persistent porn-use was a valid basis for divorce, as an example of porneia and you responded in the affirmative, if my memory serves me well. I am aware of a pastoral situation where a young lady refused to have sex with her husband for the first 15 months of marriage and only relented after threat of church discipline, and shortly after her and her husband’s consummation of their marital union, went back to her stubborn refusal to basically ever give to her husband his conjugal rights ever again.
If we made all the same assumptions which we would generally make for the wife of the porn-addicted husband, namely:
1) that every marriage has two sinners in it
2) that there are some cases where the relatively “innocent party” exists and the monstrous sin is largely unprovoked
3) that the sin is stubborn, hard-hearted and unrepentant with little hope of resolution
Would you also consider this type of sin to be a legitimate violation of the marriage covenant and an example of porneia of sufficient grounds to constitute a legitimate divorce?
Doug responded thusly:
Tim, in this kind of situation, assuming all the facts as stated, I would say there are definite grounds for divorce. But I would not catalog it under porneia, but rather desertion. I believe that a woman doing this should be disciplined by the church, and if she continues unrepentant, the husband should be told by the church that he has been deserted by an unbelieving spouse, and that he is therefore free to divorce (1 Cor. 7:12).
Doug’s answer is correct and biblical. It is also 180° opposite of his so-called rebuttal to Sarah in “Like a Tabloid Tarantula”. He implied that he doesn’t think wives who deprive their husbands should be disciplined. They have the authority to deprive if they wish, supposedly. We wouldn’t excommunicate a woman for exercising her rights, would we? And yet here is Doug on his blog recommending church discipline for a woman doing just that. Why didn’t Doug quote these words as a rebuttal to Sarah’s question? They are far more recent than what he wrote in some book that came out in 1999. Why wouldn’t he ridicule her for not being aware of what he wrote only just last month?
Because his answer to Tim is, by itself, not feminist-friendly, nor is it wrapped in double-speak. It’s a clear and definitive recommendation for church discipline to be carried out on a wife who does what Tim described in his email and what Sarah posed in her question to Doug. Wilson dismissed Sarah’s question as though he would never teach such a thing, but he has, and he knows it.
Had someone quoted Doug’s answer to Tim to me and dared me to answer, I would have no problem answering it bluntly and honestly. Yes, a man may divorce a frigid wife, and a wife who treats her husband in such a way ought to be excommunicated. So what if it makes a feminist mad? Is that supposed to scare me or something? BTW, I also believe that a wife should have sex with her husband whenever he wants, and that the only authority she has over his body is one wherein he must do the exact same for her in return. What’s Sarah going to do about it? Get mad and write an article about me in Vice?? Perish the thought!!!
That’s not what I do or ever would do. But it is what the bold, brave, witty Wilson did. If you’re a fan of his, you need to start asking yourself why. You also should start to see that not every critic of Wilson is just some crazed feminist looking for something they can twist to make him look bad. I criticize him because he keeps saying and teaching things that deserve to be criticized. So did Dalrock and others.
This may not have mattered as much had Doug not pre-empted his rebuttal to Sarah with all this grandiose talk of not responding the way his accusers wanted him to.
To this point we have not seen a need to get into the details in order to answer these scurrilous charges point by point. As I have said in a few other contexts, this would be like trying to chase the crows away from the road kill. One of the things we want to avoid is that of providing the reaction that these people were trying to provoke.
Obviously there is a sense in which I am responding now, but I am doing this because if you read on you will see that it will not be the kind of reaction that our adversaries are trying to elicit. They are driven by a devilish spirit, which means they thrive on accusation (Rev. 12:10), and they have a deep need for us to act as though we somehow deserve their accusations. They demand that we answer their accusations so that they can use our answers as a platform to multiply that answer into more accusations.
This may all be true, but Sarah’s implicit accusation was not a false one. As any regular reader of Wilson’s can see, hers is right on the money. Her intent was to prompt Doug to valid her accusations by treating them seriously, which he was not inclined to do. Despite seeing her game for what it was, Doug nonetheless managed to make himself look bad all on his own. Wilson could have chosen not to respond to her question at all, or he could have answered her question truthfully. Instead, he chose to answer it dishonestly. That’s called lying.
When in doubt, Wilson doesn’t stand boldly like the stalwart patriarch everyone imagines him to be. Unfortunate as it may be, Wilson is a person just like the rest of us, and he is as subject to the sin of cowardice and the sin of lying like anyone else. This instance is just one among many wherein you see Wilson teaching two contradictory things, complains about people misrepresenting him, but when confronted with a true representation of what he believes, resorts to his own method of self-misrepresentation to escape scrutiny. This is not accidental, and is a culpable act of sin on his part. Lest anyone doubt the severity of this sin, remember, he tied how he responded to Sarah to the gospel message itself.
But we are going to live like Christians, which means that we do not play that accusation game. I am going to bring all of this back around to the good news, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which in turn is a priceless gift, the foundation of a new way of being human.https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/like-a-tabloid-tarantula.html
It is a dangerous thing for anyone naming the name of Christ to pollute the gospel with brazen lies. Doug Wilson can be misrepresented by secular feminists until the cows come home- that doesn’t give him the right to treat his lies as if they were a proper representation of the truth of the gospel. Revelation 21:8 clearly says that liars will go to hell when they die. If you’re going to mix lies with the greatest truth of all, you’re walking on very, very thin ice.
*This is not even touching upon his ludicrous application of I Corinthians 7:4, a verse that in its context is teaching that husbands and wives have authority over each other’s bodies, therefore, as verse 5 says, don’t deprive one another. The passage is talking about an authority that rules out either spouse depriving the other of sex. Wilson simply seized upon the word authority and twisted it to mean that wives have the freedom to deprive, which is the polar opposite of what the text commands.