Douglas Wilson is an author who has written extensively on marriage for decades. In discussing difficult issues surrounding sexuality and marriage with my family and my church family, I’ve often had to explain why I dislike his material on marriage so much. He seems ever so traditional and patriarchal, and he’s hated by feminists. What could he say or write that would make me distrust him? Is he not a Patriarchal brother-in-the-Lord?
Let me ask the reader: If you’re a Patriarch, then you are unquestionably in charge of your wife and children. Is that correct? If the answer to that question is yes, then let’s follow it up with another question:
Would you expect a Patriarch, one who writes about marriage for decades, to consistently undermine the authority of the husband, and give authority to the wife over him?
The obvious answer is no. In a patriarchal marriage, the husband is in authority over the wife. He tells her what to do, and she obeys, not vice versa. Even an enraged feminist can comprehend that. Douglas Wilson is far and away more intelligent and level-headed than an enraged feminist, so there’s no way he doesn’t understand that better than they could.
My third question is: Then why does he write like he opposes that axiom?
Most people familiar with Doug Wilson do not know how off the rails he can be when it comes to patriarchal authority. Allow me to quote him from his book How to Exasperate your Wife, pages 17-18:
A wife therefore has true authority over her home which no one, including her husband, can take away from her. She must be obedient to him, as this verse states, but this is a clearly delimited obedience.(…)In a certain sense, a husband (as the head of his wife) is an honored and permanent guest, but he should learn to see himself as a guest. He wipes his feet at the door, he eats what is served to him, and he seeks to conform to the pattern established by her
There is nothing patriarchal about this drivel. This kind of thing would never be written by me, and there’s a simple reason for that: I don’t believe it. If I believe in father-rule, then I would never declare the wife to be the ruler of the home, much less the despot. Douglas Wilson wrote the above quotes because that is what he believes. It is not patriarchy, and would never be written by Wilson if he were a Patriarch himself.
From page 11 of How to Exasperate your Wife:
The wife is to be the ruler or despot of the home. This means that when she tells you to take your shoes off at the door, you will take your shoes off—and cheerfully.
That’s right. You WILL take your shoes off. That’s Wilson’s emphasis, not mine (although he used italics). I challenge any fan of his to quote him saying that to women in any context, let alone wives to husbands. Yet he will say it to men, and make sure you know he means business. Wifey orders you around like a kid? Fall in line, and you make sure to smile while you’re at it.
Let’s continue with an excerpt from his 21 Theses on Submission in Marriage blog article:
The Bible does not teach husbands to enforce the requirement that was given to their wives. Since true submission is a matter of the heart, rendered by grace through faith, a husband does not have the capacity to make this happen. His first task is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He is to lead by example.
Again, more drivel. The husband is the wife’s authority, and he is to teach the scriptures to his family (Ephesians 6:4). The wife is also required to ask him questions at home should she desire to ask a question about them (I Corinthians 14:35). Her requirement to submit to him is just one of many biblical truths he would be required to teach her. And since he would teach, why would he not enforce? I mean, you can’t make your child submit as a matter of the heart either, but a father would never let that stop him from demanding the child do as he is told. So why would a Patriarch, of all people, avoid enforcing his wife’s requirement to obey God’s command to obey him?
As I said before, this sort of thing would never be written by me. The answer to why I would not is the same as it was before: I don’t believe it. The reason Douglas Wilson wrote that is because that’s what he believes. He thinks husbands should lead by example, I.E. not enforce his authority over his own wife. No Patriarch in his right mind would ever teach such a thing.
What makes it even more absurd is that Douglas Wilson is fully-aware that if you are in authority over someone, you are entitled to whatever it is that’s owed to you from that person under your authority (How to Exasperate Your Wife, Pg. 16):
Those under authority owe certain things to their liege-lord, and the one in authority has the right to require it of them.
But when it comes to husbands requiring their wives do as they’re told, all of a sudden, this basic truth about authority is chucked out the window (The Authority of Servanthood):
If you are talking with your wife and requiring something of her because you want something done, then you are wrong.
Doug Wilson can enrage the feminists all he wants. While they’re foaming at the mouth when he pays lip service to the husband’s headship, he’s preaching to rational Bible-believing Christians exactly what those same feminists believe about that headship. How dare you tell a wife what to do because YOU want something done. Who do you think you are, the boss man??
Is the husband the head of his wife the way Christ is the head of the Church? Absolutely. Is he the boss man? Not even close. – How to Exasperate Your Wife, Pg. 18
So please, dear fans of brother Wilson, stop calling him a Patriarch. Just because he riles the feminists proves nothing. He is not a patriarch, never was, and barring a clear, straightforward denunciation of what he has preached for decades, he never will be.