The unfortunate reality is that there are many Christian teachers out there who claim to embrace Biblical patriarchy, when in fact they are simply complementarians in sheep’s clothing. Doug Wilson is one of those teachers who claims to be a believer in Biblical Patriarchy but essentially, he is a Complementarian when it comes to marriage. I am not saying complementarians are evil people. I used to be one. And I am not saying Doug Wilson is a bad person, or even questioning whether he is a genuine Bible believing Christian – because I believe he is a good Christian man. But what I am saying is this. If you want to learn about the true and historic Christian views of biblical gender roles which are encapsulated in Biblical Patriarchy – do not use the writings of Doug Wilson as your source of what true Biblical Patriarchists believe.
But before I get into why I believe Doug Wilson is a counterfeit Biblical Patriarchist, I first want to review with you the three systems of Biblical interpretation we see in Christianity today as it relates to gender roles.
Biblical Patriarchy is a belief system which reflects the historic Christian view of biblical teachings regarding gender roles. Is derived from a natural and literal reading of the Biblical texts of both the Old and New Testaments. This natural and literal reading reveals that God has designed the family unit as a patriarchy or literally “father ruled” institution. The children obey their parents, and the wife obeys her husband as her earthly lord as the church obeys Christ. Also, Biblical Patriarchy accepts the Biblical teachings that men are to rule over women not just in the home, but also in the church and civil society.
Egalitarianism (otherwise known as Christian Feminism) is a philosophy which fully embraces everything secular humanism teaches, minus the atheism. Because of this, Egalitarians reject much of the Bible’s teachings on patriarchal order and they claim that Christ came to redeem us from the “evils of patriarchy”. Many Christian Egalitarians are honest in the fact that they reject the concept of Biblical inerrancy knowing their belief system is incompatible with a belief in Biblical inerrancy. Some attempt to say they still believe in Biblical inerrancy, but to do so they have to utterly mangle many texts in the Bible from their clear and natural readings.
Egalitarians believe women should have equal rights with men, that that they should be able to be pastors and teachers of men in churches and that they should be able to hold authority over men in civil offices. They believe that marriage is an equal partnership between a man and woman, not a patriarchy.
In my previous article, “The Complementarian Counterfeit”, I stated the following about Complementarianism:
“Complementarianism was started as a reaction to the false teachings of egalitarianism. The term “Complementarian” was coined by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in 1988…
John Piper explains that complementarianism was designed to take the “middle ground” between what he and other Christian leaders saw as “two kinds of errors” in the churches…
In the complementarian view, a husband may only lead his wife by example or suggestions to her, but he may never lead her by commanding her or seeking to control her through coercive methods. And it is precisely because of the denial that male domination of woman is God’s command, that complementarianism teaches a hollow and weak form of male headship and female submission in the home.
When it comes to the doctrines of the Bible concerning gender roles, there is no “middle ground” and no room for compromise with egalitarianism. Complementarianism is a counterfeit doctrine of male headship and female submission.”
The “two errors” which pastors like John Piper meant to address with their new “Complementarian” approach to the Scriptures were Egalitarianism and Biblical Patriarchy. In other words, John Piper and many conservative Bible preaching pastors had come to the position that the historic Christian view of gender roles which Biblical Patriarchy espoused, was in error. That Christians had misunderstood the Bible’s teachings on gender roles for 2000 years and Complementarians finally got it right in 1988.
But the truth is that Complementarianism was simply a new way of interpreting the Bible to make it better placate our post-feminist society without fully going over to Egalitarianism. Oh, for sure Piper and many other big complementarian evangelical preachers will claim that they oppose feminism. But when you really drill down into it, they embrace a great deal of feminist values. And the truth is they believe they had to. For them to stay faithful to what the Bible actually teaches and what Biblical patriarchy espouses would have cost them dearly in terms of the membership and offerings.
And now that I have shown you the distinctions between egalitarianism, complementarianism and Biblical patriarchy I can now get to the heart of the matter regarding Doug Wilson.
Why Doug Wilson is a Counterfeit Biblical Patriarchist
In the Scriptures, God has established three main spheres of human authority and those are the family, the church and civil government. And God has granted the authorities in each of these spheres the power and responsibility to discipline those under their authority.
The methods of discipline which God allows are different for each sphere of authority. God grants civil government the power to not only use corporal punishment, but also the power to use capital punishment (Deuteronomy 25:1-3, Romans 13:4). God does not grant the power of corporal punishment or capital punishment to the church, but rather the church has the power of excommunication (1 Corinthians 5). God does not grant the power of capital punishment to the family, but he does allow corporal punishment within the family sphere of authority.
Many Christians, including Doug Wilson, would not disagree with parents disciplining their children, either through corporal punishment or other non-physical means. In fact, Doug Wilson encourages parents to spank their children as long as it done in a loving manner. In his article “Loving Little Ones 1” [Loving Little Ones 1 | Blog & Mablog (dougwils.com) ]Wilson writes:
“Discipline is corrective, and it is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and it is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it.
When you are spanking a child, you are either being selfish or you are being selfless—one or the other. You are doing it because you are exasperated, frustrated, beside yourself, and frazzled, or you are doing it as a fragrant offering to the God of your fathers.”
But then we come to an article written by Doug Wilson that was recently sent to me by one of my readers. The article is entitled “And Now a Brief Word for the Wife Beaters”. Below is an excerpt from that article:
“I am far from denying the biblical truth that a rod is for the back of fools (Prov. 26:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Nor do I deny that a woman could be numbered among such fools. But such a woman would be far gone in her folly, and the only fool bigger than that would be the guy who married her. So before we beat her for her uppity rebellions, I would suggest we flog him for being such an idiot. If he were to object that this is mean-spirited and unjust, I would reply that it sounds to me that he has been influenced by the spirit of egalitarianism. Must be one of those new softie men.
Since the difficulty was apparently found in my #11, let us discuss that for a moment.
“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.”
The key words here are enforce and make. No mortal can force such a thing. It does not come from right-handed power.”
Wilson makes it clear in the article above that he is completely opposed to a husband disciplining his wife in any way, whether it be physically or non-physically. He denies that a husband has the right to seek to compel his wife’s submission to him by any means and that he may only lead by example.
He is teaching exactly what Complementarianism teaches, that the husband is a figure head leader to his wife. As true believers in Biblical patriarchy, we would agree that husbands should lead by example. But husbands are also compelled by God to lead by disciplining their wives as well.
In Ephesians 5:25 the Bible commands husbands to love their wives “even as Christ also loved the church” and Christ said to his churches in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent”. A man that does not rebuke and chasten his wife is not loving his wife as Christ loves his church. That is clear teaching of the Scriptures. And that is why Christian husbands who ascribed to the teachings of the Bible for centuries had disciplined their wives both physically and non-physically.
The Bible may not mandate physical discipline for wives, but it does mandate that a husband use some form of discipline with his wife. And no Biblical principle or command would disallow a husband from physically disciplining his wife.
We have clearly established from Doug Wilson’s own words that he believes husbands do not have the power to compel the obedience of their wives and that they may only lead by example. A person who may only lead by example is not an authority at all, but rather they are just a figure head. Therefore, Wilson has reduced husbands to mere figure head leaders of their wives and not real authorities over them. And this teaching that a wife’s submission to her husband is voluntary, and may not be compelled from her husband, is a core tenant of complementarianism.
The Scriptures tell us that wives are to regard their husbands as their earthly lords (1 Peter 3:5-6) and to submit to them “as unto the Lord…in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). There is no other human authority where God commands those under them to submit to them “as unto the Lord” except the husband. The husband’s authority over his wife is far greater than that of a father’s authority over his children because the husband’s authority is lifelong and he also has sexual authority over his wife.
The husband’s authority, unlike that of civil authorities and church authorities, is a very personal authority. No other authority has such control over the personal day to day decisions of another human being. No other authority has such control over another person’s body. And that is why the true Biblical teaching of a husband’s authority over his wife is so threatening and scary to Americans and other Westerners who fully ascribe to individualism.
If you talk to Biblical Patriarchists online or in person you will find that a core doctrine they believe in is that of the husband’s responsibility to discipline his wife. Some might not believe a husband has the God given authority to spank his wife, but they believe that husbands have the right and responsibility to discipline their wives in some form or fashion.
Doug Wilson, and other complementarians, have taken the husband from being the greatest human authority God ever established (aside from Christ himself) to making the husband the weakest authority. And in truth, the husband is not really an authority at all, but merely a figure head leader.
I am sure Doug Wilson is a good Christian man just like John Piper is. But while he may be a good Christian man, Doug Wilson in fact a counterfeit Biblical Patriarchist.
For more on the Biblical case for and historic precedent of wife spanking (aka Domestic Discipline) I would encourage you to read these articles I wrote on the subject:
The Biblical Case for Domestic Discipline
A 19th Century Suffragette View of Domestic Discipline
19th Century Judicial Precedents Regarding Domestic Discipline