Category Archives: The Husband’s Authority

I’ll do it because I want to, not because you told me too!

If you are (were) a regular reader of Dalrock, then you’re familiar with a particular claim made by complementarians- namely, that husbands are forbidden from demanding submission from their wives. Even the authors that affirm that husbands’ have authority over their wives feel a compulsion to discourage those husbands from ever demanding their wives submit to them. Either they tell the husband to mind his own business (see Dalrock’s article here), or they simply assert that because a wife’s submission should be voluntary, then the husband can’t demand it from her.

Kevin DeYoung is one of the latest authors to fall into this pattern. This past April he released a book titled Men and Women in the Church. He, like most complementarians, understand that husbands having headship over their wives means that he has authority over her.

Likewise, in Ephesians 5 Paul says wives are to submit to their husbands, for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church (5:22–23). Citing the headship of the husband as a reason for the wife’s submission makes little sense if headship implies only source or origin without any reference to male leadership. Kephale, in at least these two instances in Ephesians, must mean “authority over.”

DeYoung, Kevin. Men and Women in the Church (p. 44). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

But because he is a complementarian, Kevin can’t leave it at that. He must undermine headship in some manner:

Because of these two realities—the headship of the husband in the created order and the analogy of Christ and the church—the wife should freely submit to her husband.

And don’t miss that word freely. The command is for the wife, not the husband. The man is never told to submit the wife unto himself. Instead, the woman is told to submit herself unto her husband. It is a submission freely given, never forcibly taken.

Kevin DeYoung, Page 66 of Men and Women in the Church Paperback – April 6, 2021

One might simply reply with, “Says who?” This passive-aggressive warning to husbands is never backed up with Scripture. Let’s say a husband wants to, in Kevin’s words, forcibly take his wife’s submission? If that’s a sin, then why is there no verse in the Bible that teaches that?

This should strike complementarians as very odd, considering that men living in ancient times had all kinds of legal justification to compel their wives to do things. Add to that the frequent New Testament emphases on wives submitting to their husbands, and you have a recipe for utter disaster- assuming DeYoung’s perspective is correct. The men from such a sexist culture would certainly latch onto these teachings and run wild with it! They might assume that they had the right to do that very thing that Kevin DeYoung decries- namely, forcing their wives to submit to them. Paul and other NT writers would have been aware of this, right? Surely they would have made sure to warn these ancient brutes that to force their wives to submit would be to sin against God! But they never did.

Now, Kevin DeYoung is technically correct when he says that husbands are, “…never told to submit the wife unto himself.” However, he is only correct in the strict sense that there is no verse in the Bible that contains such a simplistic, word-for-word command. In a debate, such a statement would be eviscerated for being utterly irrelevant. If that kind of statement carried any weight, then one could just as easily refute it by pointing out that husbands are, “…never told NOT to submit the wife unto himself.” Now what?

However, let’s set that issue aside for a moment and examine Kevin’s claim that, “…the woman is told to submit herself unto her husband. It is a submission freely given, never forcibly taken.” Let’s try and parse out what’s wrong with this carefully.

Let’s say we lived in a society where we legally enforced God’s command for wives to submit to their husbands. Let’s also assume that if a married woman broke this law, her husband could punish her for doing so. Let’s say he has the liberty to bring his wife before a judge and subject her to punishments such as monetary fines, beatings, jail-time, etc. This could reasonably be an example of a husband “forcibly taking” submission” from his wife. You might even call it slavery!

Where Kevin DeYoung goes wrong is in assuming that if submission is forcibly taken, then it can’t be freely given. I’ve gone into this in detail in I’m not going to submit like those lousy slaves! and The Greek Says My Husband Can’t Demand Submission From Me!. Very briefly, there is this errant assumption Christians keep making wherein we assume that if a person can be compelled to do something by another, then they cannot obey that other person in a voluntary or meaningfully respectful manner. This is a common assumption, but it is a false assumption. The Bible contradicts it clearly in Ephesians 6:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:18-20 when it commands slaves to do that very thing to their masters. These slaves/bondservants were compelled by law and by force to obey their masters, and yet, the Bible still commands them to obey sincerely, respectfully, and in a willing manner.

Now let’s get back to wives. Let’s say a husband does “forcibly take” his wife’s submission. Does that prevent his wife from giving it voluntarily? Of course not.

If Kevin DeYoung’s assumption had merit, then surely Paul and Peter left many a born-again slave befuddled as to how they would obey those commands. After all, if they had no choice but to obey their masters, then submission could not be freely given! This is absurd, of course, and it’s just as absurd for Kevin DeYoung to come to such a wrong-headed conclusion about husbands and wives. Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands whether they are being forced to or not.

In fact, when DeYoung claims that wives should submit entirely of their own volition, then he’s teaching a Christianized version of the protests of rebellious children. We’ve all heard young kids say, “I’ll do it because I want to, not because you tell me too!” Wives certainly should not speak that way to their husbands, but when it comes down to it, that’s what complementarians believe. They would not advocate a wife speak in that manner, but when it comes to how they see wifely submission, they think that’s exactly right. Submission MUST be freely given, and hence, wives can, in a theologically sophisticated manner, disobey their husband on the grounds that he tried to forcibly take that which must only be freely given.

It’s unbiblical, and it’s irrational. Imagine trying to defend this kind of teaching in a debate. One of my readers suggested that Kevin DeYoung might be open to debating his views. Given how flawed his thinking is, I very seriously doubt that he will ever leave himself open to such scrutiny. I know I wouldn’t if I were him.

Doug Wilson Plays the Motte and Bailey

Last Friday, Doug Wilson came onto The Gospel Truth to discuss his book Reforming Marriage.

At 30:15, the host, Marlon Wilson, brought up a question I’d typed in the form of two chat messages. Unfortunately, he brought them up in the wrong order. Here’s what I said:

After reading the question, Marlon first asks Doug if what I said was true. I think it’s interesting that Marlon first asked to confirm if Doug really did write what I said he wrote. The easy answer should have been, yes, that’s true.

Instead, Doug answered thusly at 30:50 (I’ve tried to cut out extraneous words, ums, uhs, stammering, and other things to make it more reader-friendly):

The word “despot” there is the word that Paul uses, “despotes”. And so, those statements from “Reforming Marriage” and from “How To Exasperate Your Wife”, harmonize. And they harmonize this way: The wife is the executive of the home. Alright. So, when I was in the navy, I served in the submarine service. The captain was the captain of the ship, but every ship had an executive officer, the XO. And the captain was the final authority in the home, but the executive officer was like, in a company, you’ve got the CEO, and then you’ve got the chief operating officer, the COO. My understanding is that God’s pattern in marriage is that the husband is the protector and provider for the home, and he’s the captain, the head of the house. But, when it comes to the management of the house, like, what goes in the dishwasher when. “Don’t put paper plates in the dishwasher,” Mom says, right. Or, since Mom is the one keeping everything clean, she says, “I really want everybody (to) kick your shoes off by the door, by the front door.” You know, things like that. She’s the executive of the home, and she’s running the home. And that can happen without the husband relinquishing his headship or his authority. So, if she says, let’s say it’s a rinky-dink kind of thing, where she’s the one that does the grocery shopping, she stocks the fridge. I remember when our kids were teenagers, and Nate was moving into the age where he would drink lots and lots of milk, Nancy’s impulse was to, “I just went to the store yesterday, I just bought that! Limit the milk!” And I said, “No, our kids can drink as much milk as they want.” So, I make an occasional decision as the head of the home, this is what we’re going to do. But when it comes to the running of the house, that’s her area of expertise. That’s what she does. Now, if she thinks that I would have any question about something, Nancy runs it by me, but I believe that… Wifely submission is something we believe and practice, but, in 43, coming up on 44 years of marriage, actually, we’re coming on 45. 45 Years of marriage(…)So, um, coming up on decades of marriage, the instances where Nancy and I differed about something, and I made a decision and she needed to submit to it, has probably happened less than ten times. Everything else is just ordinary (lack?) together, talk-it-thorough, that sort of thing. Submission is assumed in everything we do. Headship and submission is assumed. But, if you are having a showdown every other day, and you’re pointing to the Bible verse in Ephesians 5, and you’ve got bigger problems. You’ve need to go get counseling.

Doug said that the word despot is the word used by Paul, which is despostes. In How To Exasperate Your Wife, he didn’t say Paul used despotes. He said oikodespotein. Here’s the quote (bolding is mine):

As the apostle Paul is urging young women to marry, he lets a very interesting comment fall in passing. “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14). The word translated here as “guide the house” is oikodespotein. 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.

How To Exasperate Your Wife (Page 11)

Perhaps Doug has argued for the word “despotes” in another book or article. Or maybe he was thinking of “oikodespotes“.

That aside, my assertion was more than that Doug used the word despot to describe the wife’s authority. I made sure to mention that he meant the wife, as despot, could order her husband around. The obvious point being that Doug, in the book this episode was named after (Reforming Marriage), condemns bossiness on the husband’s part, but allows the wife to do just that in another book (How To Exasperate Your Wife). Doug asserted that the two statements harmonize. But if you look at his answer, he harmonized nothing at all.

Remember, there’s two conflicts asserted by me in my chats. One is hypocrisy when it comes to allowing bossiness for the wife but not the husband. The second is a challenge to Doug to explain how he can allow the wife to order her husband around when he knows full-well that wives are to submit to their husbands. Keep that in mind, and now look over Doug’s entire response. Listen to it in the video. Despite speaking at great length in response, he never even tried to show how he resolved either of the issues I raised.

Instead of harmonizing what he wrote, Doug resorted to professing a completely different view. In How To Exasperate Your Wife, he didn’t write all this nonsense about XO’s and COO’s. He wrote that a wife is a “despot” and proceeded to grant to wives the authority that a despot would naturally have. Several pages later in the same book, Doug Wilson only fortified his belief:

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

How To Exasperate Your Wife (Pages 17-18)

A husband is a guest in his own home? His wife has authority to tell him to stop in his tracks and remove his shoes? She decides what he eats? He conforms to her pattern? And he better do it with a smile on his face? Wow. It sounds like the wife is ruling over him. Sounds pretty bossy if you ask me. One might even call it despotic, which is exactly why Doug would shrink away from defending it.

However, he doesn’t have to defend what he wrote in How To Exasperate Your Wife. He could always just renounce what he’s written, but he can’t do that. His whole scheme as a feminist-in-patriarchal-clothing relies upon him playing the motte and bailey. In person, he’ll assure you that a wife should submit to her husband, and any authority she has over his household is, of course, subject to his veto. Then you buy How To Exasperate Your Wife expecting to find the same biblical model being proclaimed there, and you find this bizarre monstrosity has taken its place.

But honestly, what else is Wilson to do? Well, if you’re familiar with his work, he talks about masculinity being the glad acceptance of responsibility. If what he wrote is indefensible, then he could just withdraw the book from sale, say that he was wrong in this area, you know, basic stuff a man would do if he were gladly accepting the responsibility for correcting his error. But Wilson simply cannot do that, so the game must go on.

The Greek Says My Husband Can’t Demand Submission From Me!

In their book True Woman 201: Interior Design – Ten Elements of Biblical Womanhood Mary Kassian & Nancy Leigh DeMoss, they make a textual argument for their position that when it comes to wifely submission, wives are only required to submit to their husbands of their own volition. Husbands are forbidden from demanding submission from their wives, and in this book, Kassian/DeMoss make an argument from the Greek text (Page 189):

The Greek word translated “submissive” is the word hupotassō from hupo “under, beneath” and tassō “to place in order, arrange, or line up.” The word is an old military term. It means to arrange under in an orderly fashion—to place in the proper position under rank. In this case, it indicates that the Lord wants a wife to voluntarily line herself up under the headship of her husband.

It’s important to note that the word for submission used for the wife’s desired attitude differs from the one used for the child’s behavior toward his parents and the bondservant’s response toward his master. In the case of children and servants, the word is hupakouō, from hupo “under, beneath” and akouō “to hearken, obey.” Hupakouō means to yield to a superior command or force without necessarily being willing, whereas when Paul tells a wife to hupotassō herself, it means to willingly put herself in the proper position.3

Although this book was co-authored with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, I assume Mary Kassian is the one responsible for the content of this portion of the book. As we proceed, I’m going to refer to Kassian alone for ease of reference. Continue reading

The DWC Files #1: Oscar’s Terrifying Questions

Websites get remodeled all the time. Content is often lost in the transition, and that can include comments by the users. For the sake of preserving proof that there are Christians out there fighting against feminism and complimentarianism within the church, I’ve decided to collect some of the comments from Doug Wilson’s blog articles. Douglas Wilson’s comment sections used to be more accessible and less moderated only a couple of years back, and it used to be much easier for critics to scrutinize his material.

Oscar is one user who had the persistence to ask Wilson and his fans for a clear delineation between a husband’s authority and responsibility in marriage, and which of the two does he have? Does he have the power to enforce his authority upon his wife, and if so, how? He asked these questions repeatedly, quoted Wilson thoroughly, and never got a response back from him or his fans. You will see just how insufferable they could be, but Oscar didn’t let up at all. He kept up asking the scary, uncomfortable questions that no one, including the bold, brash, bite-back Wilson himself, has the guts to answer. No doubt his persistence disturbed the minds of the people there, so God-willing, they started to see their incoherent views for what they were. If you want to find these comments, they’re still on Wilson’s website here. (Archive Here.) I included more comments besides his when I found them relevant to the discussion. This is a VERY long post, but I hope you enjoy it.



Oscar #216964

Authority and responsibility are two different things that are supposed to go together.

au·thor·i·ty əˈTHôrədē/Submit
noun
1. the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.

2. a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere.

Note that authority INCLUDES enforcement. A person who cannot enforce obedience has zero authority.

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty rəˌspänsəˈbilədē/Submit
noun
1. the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

2. the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

3. the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.

If you give a leader (a married father) responsibility for (a duty do deal with) a group of people (wife and children), but deny him the authority to enforce obedience to his orders and decisions, you set him up for failure.

That’s the situation in which Christian husbands find themselves today: all the responsibility, zero authority. Set up for failure. Continue reading