Some Background

Doug Wilson has been a source of much wisdom regarding our current cultural insanity, our wicked state, and on a path forward. Though I disagree with his eschatology, his Calvinism, and other more minor doctrines, on these other issues I’ve found him to be among the best. I’ve enjoyed a number of his books, including his material on classical education, writing, and even finance.

All that to say that my first encounter with Doug Wilson was actually on Dalrock’s blog, now sadly defunct. I wasn’t writing at the time, but I read the blog often and it was a big part of my “early” education on the subject of masculinity. This first encounter was not a good one.

Some of Doug Wilson’s allies have mentioned Dalrock in the years since the blog went offline, mostly to criticize him, but I always remembered him being the clearest thinker on marriage and masculinity I had ever encountered. Even with fairly good books like It’s Good to Be a Man and Man of the House, I still preferred Dalrock. Part of that, likely, is that there seems to be a sort of weird sermonizing that seems intrinsic to much reformed writing (as both of those books are), and it stands out to me like the permanent marker with which my daughter likes to decorate our otherwise pristine walls.

Exasperation

I, like many others, grabbed a free month of Canon Plus back in November, and listened to a number of books and lectures on lots of subjects, but despite a mostly foggy memory of Doug Wilson’s marriage material I avoided it without really knowing why. Eventually, I decided to give How to Exasperate Your Wife a shot. Why not? It was free. It’s the first audio book I had to stop listening to. I made it to the chapter on “wife as house despot” and almost laughed out loud at the absurdity. This interpretation of the term is bizarre, unwarranted, and totally ahistorical. Even with no training in the original language, that was obvious enough given the context.

It struck me after I turned off the book that I had heard this term before. I did a quick search of Dalrock’s blog and there it was, locked away in the time capsule. There’s a lot of material there about this book, and it’s very good.

The principal absurdity I found in the book was the contradictory claim that the wife is to submit to the husband as the church submits to Christ (which I affirm), all while the husband is little more than a guest who will “do as he’s told”, “eat what he’s given”, and “make sure he takes off his shoes”. Is that really the attitude the church has toward Christ? If Jesus walked into a Baptist potluck, would we really present Him with boss-lady attitude and tell Him exactly how things are going to go down in our domain?

It sounds absurd because it is absurd. Jesus is Lord. That means He’s Lord even in our churches. He’s Lord especially in our churches. But wives are to submit to their husbands in everything, and to do so as the church submits to Christ. So if we really believe this analogy provides some glimpse into the marriage relationship as Scripture clearly indicates, we can’t then create, as I think Doug Wilson does, a contradictory vision of a smug, pompous, demanding “house despot”.

Conclusion

Pick out the good meat and discard the bones. If you want to read a book by Doug Wilson, you won’t go wrong with Rules for Reformers. Pass over the marriage stuff, though, and just go read Dalrock.

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