Responsibility, Guilt, and the Ground of True Authority

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Introduction

So this is the second time in the space of a few weeks that I will be responding to some comments by Aaron Renn, and so I thought I should explain at the front end what I am up to here. I like Aaron, and like his project, and appreciate his cultural analysis a great deal, and so I am eager for this to be filed under “iron sharpening iron.” When we get the iron sharp enough, we can then make our machetes out of it, stand shoulder to shoulder, and hack our way out of here. Where is “here,” you ask? The thickets of this kultursmog confusion, of course.

Abortion and Punishment

If you want to get up to speed on some of this, you can read my comments here and here. A few weeks ago, in his newsletter, Aaron mentioned me in passing, and introduced a couple of quotes from me, saying, “Surprisingly, the ultra-conservative Doug Wilson also argues that almost all women who abort their babies are victims . . .” And after quoting a couple of my observations, he then says this:

Again, what’s notable is not just that these high-profile pro-life organizations and people think women shouldn’t be punished for procuring an abortion, but their extreme reticence to assign even partial moral blame to them.

Aaron Renn, Newsletter #60

This is actually a novel sensation, and I find that I am enjoying it quite a bit. I am an “ultra-conservative” and here I am, taking friendly criticism from the right. So I don’t mind telling you, my right flank is almost entirely unguarded and under-manned, and the troops over there are all in kind of a doodah.

Now if you read through these interactions, you will find that on the surface they are about whether any civil penalties should ever be assigned to the women who procure abortions, should abortion become illegal. That is the topic. But the issue that is looming behind that issue is a larger one, and it is that larger issue that I want to address here today.

That issue has to do with whether women sin at all, whether they are ever at fault for the failure of marriages, whether they incur guilt for procuring abortions, and so on. Do women sin, in other words?

The Problem

In the intersectional woke fest that we have going on, to the extent we are talking about men and women, the patriarchy is the problem, and so women are the oppressed class. Men are the difficulty. Masculinity is toxic, and so on. Thus, trying to talk about the contributions that women make to the sum total of human misery is out of line from the get go. We don’t get to do that because of how cultural Marxism handles these things. The oppressed class is a justified class, and if you are justified, you cannot be charged with sin. This is the default assumption that governs the whole attempt to unravel the biblical sexual ethic.

In reaction, the manosphere (as it is called) has rejected this, with varying degrees of vehemence. The MGTOWs and the Incels have retorted that women are in fact the problem, and if we fixed them, what a fine world this would be. Other more moderate voices in the middle simply want to say that men and women both have their problems, and that men should be faulted when they sin and that women should be faulted when they do. Why can’t we all be responsible adults, and recognize that we are all people, and that when the man sins in a relationship, he is the one we should blame, and when the woman does, she is?

Since at least the publication of Reforming Marriage, I have been arguing for an approach that is completely different, but because of how all these doctrines have gotten tangled up with each other in our day, people in the second group above can think that I have been affected by the first group above. And what they are failing to distinguish is the difference between responsibility and blame. My view is not the feminist one (men are the guilty ones), and it is not the second one (women are the problem). My view can be called the covenantal headship position. Whether or not the man is guilty, the man is responsible.

I teach further that authority flows to those who take responsibility, and authority flees those who try to evade responsibility. Over the years, as I have done marriage counseling, I have found that this concept is the single most difficult thing for both husbands and wives to grasp. But here it is again. Blame or fault or guilt should be assigned to the one who committed whatever sin it is we are talking about. Responsibility, however, should be assigned to the covenantal head.

Distinguish The Two

Say that a naval captain gives orders to the navigator, who passes them on to the Officer of the Deck, who gives a command to the helmsman, who has three weeks left in the Navy. The helmsman does not do as he was told, and the ship runs aground. Who is the guilty party? The helmsman. Whose career is ruined as the responsible party? The captain’s. Moreover, this is the way it ought to be.

Say that a man buys a business because he thinks it a good investment. Say also that the seller of the business was clever enough to engage in some perfectly legal chicanery, which managed to hide $50K worth of bad debts, accounts receivable that were not going to be realized. Who is guilty of violating the Golden Rule? The seller. Who is responsible for that $50K? The buyer. Moreover, this is the way it ought to be.

Say that a marriage is deeply troubled. The presenting problems are that she is unfaithful, a spendthrift with credit cards, a bad mother, surly in attitude, and addicted to daytime television and Facebook. The husband has two jobs, does all the grocery shopping, two thirds of the cooking, cleans the house as best he can, and is eager for marriage counseling. Who is the guilty party in this marriage? Who is causing the problems? Obviously, the wife is. Who is the responsible party for the condition of this marriage? The husband is. Moreover, this is the way it ought to be.

For Things He Didn’t Do

Many men read something like this, and believe that I am doing what the feminists do, which is to blame the man for everything—for her adultery, for her reckless spending, for her laziness, and so on. No, these are her sins, and the blood of Christ must be applied to her in order for her to be cleansed and forgiven. She must repent of her sin. She is a responsible individual before God. I do not say that a husband is guilty because his wife is guilty.

I am saying that the husband is responsible. And when he responds to this in a masculine way, embracing a glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility, then authority flows to him. When he tries to evade that responsibility, then his practical authority evaporates. The message that modern men must have screwed into their hearts and minds is therefore this—take responsibility.

Many times traditional men try to take authority first. But authority cannot be taken, it can only be given. Responsibility can be taken, but nobody wants to do that. Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.

And why? Well, we say, in the grip of our compromises with egalitarianism, it doesn’t seem “fair.” We don’t like our wives dallying with egalitarianism, but we must remember that we did it first. We do it whenever we try to say “the woman thou gavest me, she . . .”

What should Adam have done? He should have taken responsibility at two distinct places. First, he should have stepped in between his wife and the serpent. The serpent was the threat, and so Adam’s assigned place was in between the threat and his wife. And then if Eve had still managed to eat the fruit, and Adam had not eaten it, and then they heard the Lord coming in the cool of the day, it was Adam’s responsibility to step in between the Lord and his wife, in order to say something like, “Lord, let the penalty fall on me instead.”

How do we know this? What the first Adam failed to do is precisely what the second Adam did do. The Lord’s death was the propitiation for our sins. God’s wrath was coming toward us, and Christ assumed the role of a covenant head, stepped in between, and took responsibility for things that He did not do. This is not some hole-in-corner doctrine. It is the absolute center of the Christian gospel.

And it is the center, moreover, that Christian husbands are commanded to imitate.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)

Now Christian men are not so stupid as to pretend that they can somehow duplicate the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. We cannot duplicate it, and must not try. But we are commanded to imitate it. We are commanded to order our marriages in this fashion, which means that we must see our marriages as covenanted realities. Christ took responsibility for things He did not do. And so there is the absolute distinction between blame and responsibility. Christ is not personally guilty of doing the various sinful things that I have done. But He did bear the dreadful responsibility of that guilt.

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 (KJV)

This is what it means to be a covenant head. God did not look down on us and pair us off as roommates, roommates with sexual privileges, and then say something like, “You know, there are only two of them, and that means there will be tie votes sometimes. We will therefore need to make an arbitrary rule that the husband will be the one who breaks the tie.” That is not what this is. At all.

The husband is not the boss man. The husband is the covenant head. And with that position of covenantal headship comes covenantal responsibility.

To make it very concrete and plain . . . I, Douglas, am an individual before God, and when I sin, I must confess my sin (1 John 1:9). God speaks to me through His Word, and says, “Douglas, what was that?” My wife Nancy is an individual before God, and when she sins, she must confess her sin (1 John 1:9). God speaks to her through His Word, and says, “Nancy, what was that?” But when things are out of kilter in the Wilson home, whether because of the sins of Douglas or the sins of Nancy or some combination thereof, and God comes to speak to us through His Word, who does He talk to? He talks to the covenant head. He says to me, through his Word, “Wilson, what was that?” (Job 1:5).

There will likely be questions, so I leave the comments open. No trolls, please. Let us see what happens. And I will perhaps need to write a bit more on this.

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Malachi Tarchannen
Malachi Tarchannen
6 months ago

Pastor, I totally understand your meaning and I see the differences between covenantal headship on the one side, and feminism or masculinism or egalitarianism on the other side. But, say I, it’s hard to do. I want to blame her. I want to abdicate. I want to split the difference. The struggle is like the bowling ball rolled in slow-motion by a four-year-old, bouncing off the bumpers…back and forth…back and forth…gradually meeting with a ten-pen destiny. Every inclination is to fall in one gutter or another, and I have no expectations of rolling a strike. This is not to say… Read more »

Anonny
Anonny
6 months ago

I’ll be first to jump in! Great read, and I like your position (aka, biblical marriage😂). I will say that having lurked in the twitterverse for a while, particularly in that weird space where red pill meets Christianity, I think that there is an ever widening trap and tendency for folks to veer (or pedal to the medal) toward that first category you mentioned, that the men are perfectly wonderful and if we just fix the women it’ll all even out. Call it an over correction, a pendulum swing, whatever, I’ve seen it increasingly even among Christian men who in… Read more »

dan soltys
dan soltys
6 months ago

Douglas, Viewing everything through the lens of a “covenantal head” appears to push the pendulum too far such that it essentially destroys the individuality of the non-covenantal head member. That is, if my wife sins against me, and I “step in between the Lord and my wife, in order to say something like, “Lord, let the penalty fall on me instead,” then in what possibly way is Gal 6:7 (a man reaps what he sows) applied by God? Sure, there is some responsibility on my part (although not all), but the sin is still my wife’s and the penalty for… Read more »

Kristina Zubic
Kristina Zubic
6 months ago
Reply to  dan soltys

Is she not getting court-martialed too? The Navy man would be.

Dan Soltys
Dan Soltys
6 months ago
Reply to  Kristina Zubic

“Too???” Doug said “instead.” AM I missing your point?

B. Johnson
B. Johnson
6 months ago
Reply to  dan soltys

This is the way I take it: The husband is not atoning for the wife’s sin. He himself has sinned for not fulfilling his responsibility as the covenantal head. Each bears the guilt for their own sin, albeit different ones.

Dan Soltys
Dan Soltys
6 months ago
Reply to  B. Johnson

Yes, of course. But that is not what our author is saying. Remember…he said “instead!”

B. Johnson
B. Johnson
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Soltys

Good point.

Annie
Annie
6 months ago
Reply to  dan soltys

Maybe this will help. As a wife who has sinned against her husband, I would say that he has never atoned for my sin, but when he plainly, patiently named my sin and called me to repentance for it (without getting super worked up and defensive, and without making snarky accusations), those have been the times he pointed me straight to Christ and I was able to knock it off and repent of my sin to the One who has atoned for it. Quick and easy, and surprisingly so. So when he took responsibility for the situation, I could take… Read more »

Tionico
Tionico
6 months ago
Reply to  Annie

Annie this is golden. Yu have the right of it.

Say, do yu happen t have a sister who is a whole lot like you in this regard, but is not yet married? Asking for a friend who is searching…. ……

Roger
Roger
6 months ago
Reply to  dan soltys

Great point, Dan. In addition to what you’ve said, I believe that Doug is confusing Christ’s death for our sins as the substitutionary sacrificial Lamb of God with His headship over His bride/church as husband after His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. When Christ’s bride now engages in sinful behavior, does He take personal responsibility for those sins? Or does He hold His bride fully responsible for her own sins (see Rev. 2-3)? The answer is obvious. He holds His bride fully responsible and disciplines her alone for her sins. The same applies within our… Read more »

Allen Miller
Allen Miller
6 months ago

As per usual you just get going good and then the post ends… huh. I would say, where do I read more, but since you conveniently placed the book image at the top, and I do have a copy, I guess I should go and read that.

But please don’t let that stop you from writing more. If we were at a table I would be filling your cup/mug/glass with the beverage of choice and saying, “Yes, do go on!”

This covenantal head is riveted! Glory be to Him!

Tionico
Tionico
6 months ago
Reply to  Allen Miller

Yuo have that book and have not read it recently enough to have it in your heart? Please, do yourself and those close to you a favour and READ it. I read that soon after it was released. Prolly should drag it out and have another go, but am presenty buried in studying the whole dispensaiotinal thing so as to be better equipped to counter it as it seems to be on the loose in my current circles.

Reformed Wife
Reformed Wife
6 months ago

How do I be the kind of wife that encourages this in the life of a man who has not yet come to understand this truth?

G
G
6 months ago
Reply to  Reformed Wife

I would like to hear more on this as well. What are wives to do when the commander of the ship doesn’t recognize his responsibility?

Nat
Nat
6 months ago
Reply to  G

I think the place to start is to take radical responsibility for all that you are responsible for, and leave the rest to God. I would love to hear more on the subject though

Last edited 6 months ago by Nat
Kevin
Kevin
6 months ago

I’m not quite sure how this discussion applies to the particular topic that Aaron brings up, especially since the vast majority of abortions, I would certainly think, happen outside the context of marriage, meaning there isn’t a covenantal head involved. Even if there were, however, how would that legally absolve a woman for engaging someone to murder her child? The question at hand is, should women see legal consequences for their involvement in the murder of a human being. It seems quite clear to me that they should.

Corey Reynolds
Corey Reynolds
6 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

Yes, this was my exact question. I like where the post went, but it never really came back to what it started out trying to address.

Tionico
Tionico
6 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

I would say the sperm donor would be the first stand-in for the absent HUSBAND. Not too likley he will step up and take responsibility at that point. In such cases, hopefully the mother to be has a father in her life (though most likely falling into the class of derelict dad) orperhaps a brother. I’d say a large part of the blame in this sort of situation would fall to the father of the woman having raised her in such a way that she does not value her own self, nor that of her forming child, and thus is… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
6 months ago
Reply to  Tionico

Tongue in cheek? Else Exhibit A.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  Tionico

I’m a bit leery of assigning that kind of blame to fathers (or mothers) without actual reason to believe that they were immoral, negligent or ineffective parents. If kids came into the world as blank slates with no will of their own, that might be true–as long as you could keep them away from harmful influences. But I don’t think it’s that simple. Children do sometimes consciously reject their parents’ beliefs, and others may be very willful or simply very weak. I think we have remember that a fallen human nature in conjunction with free will can make a much… Read more »

Clark Coleman
Clark Coleman
6 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

Exactly. If my wife (or grown child) commits arson, it reflects badly on me as family head and I have to answer to God. But so does the arsonist. Furthermore, they do not ONLY answer to God, as this article seems to imply. The arsonist gets prosecuted for arson.

James S
James S
6 months ago
Reply to  Clark Coleman

This is the nub of the issue. I’d love to see Pr. Wilson address the question completely.

The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
The Commenter Formerly Known As fp
6 months ago

Alrighty then: We have the example of an unfaithful wife, running up the credit cards, terrible mother, bad attitude, laying on the couch watching her stories while eating Häagen-Dazs and wearing a muumuu. We’ve firmly established the principle of the husband taking responsibility and what it would have looked like in Adam’s situation.

So then, what does that look like in this hypothetical? After prayer, cutting up the credit cards and canceling the cable, what are the practical steps the responsible husband can take to deal with this situation?

Jarrett
Jarrett
6 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Wilson

This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. I have pondered this for a while: if I am responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen in my family (I am), then I must be vested with the authority to enforce some kind of discipline. I’m a long time soldier, so the military analogy certainly resonates. Inherit in that relationship, the office has numerous means to enforce his orders. (Physical pain “smoking,”negative counseling, dock pay, or even court martial with prison). Traditionally, husbands were expected to enforce discipline (when needed) over unruly wives. Not so much… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Jarrett
Guy Spillers
Guy Spillers
6 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Wilson

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 Husbands are certainly responsible for the disobedience of their wives and children, and the resultant state of their households. However, men are… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago

As far as I can see, there aren’t any if the wife isn’t amenable to pastoral intervention and doesn’t have much interest in preserving the marriage. And if canceling the cable is what propels her to file for divorce, her attorney will use it as evidence that the husband subjected her to intolerable domestic tyranny. Military authority “works” because there are unpleasant immediate and long term consequences for defying it. I expect there are many soldiers who obey orders because they respect their officers and also want to honor the commitment they made when they signed up. It’s the ones… Read more »

Kristina Zubic
Kristina Zubic
6 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Basic TV is “intolerable domestic tyranny” now?

agblooms
agblooms
6 months ago
Reply to  Kristina Zubic

Depends on how good your lawyer is.

Though given what’s on cable these days, the opposing lawyer would have just as good an argument that subjecting anyone to watch it is abuse.

Sue
Sue
6 months ago
Reply to  agblooms

Amen!

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  Kristina Zubic

Not the mere fact of not having cable. But a husband’s removing cable access to prevent his wife from wasting her time watching TV when she ought to be cleaning the house would be used by a divorce lawyer (hers) as evidence of domestic tyranny. Probably also infantilization, manipulation,and emotional abuse. That’s how it works these days.

Kristina Zubic
Kristina Zubic
6 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

One can waste just as much time watching basic TV though! :)

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  Kristina Zubic

I watch almost no TV but I can spend hours idly Googling things that catch my peripatetic interest. Let the trash bags collect at the top of the basement stairs while I find out why Joanna the Crazy carried her husband Philip the Handsome’s head around in a bag!

Kristina Zubic
Kristina Zubic
6 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

They call her Juana the Mad and you need a reason? XD (imagine that being said in Jerry Stiller’s voice)

Gregory Treat
Gregory Treat
6 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

I think that an interesting follow up question is how to handle the fact that this kind of covenantal headship, implies the right of the covenantal head, the man, to terminate the relationship for gross insubordination. I’m not sure how this can be reconciled with Christ’s clear teaching on divorce, but then Israel was the bride of the Lord and the minor prophets and Revelation are replete with examples of “divorce” language, where the covenantal head, in this case God, terminates the relationship. I would be interested to see Pastor Wilson confront this implication more directly. I just hope that… Read more »

Sam Rutherford
Sam Rutherford
6 months ago

What happens if the helmsmen shoots and kills the officer? I think that would be closer to the issue at hand.

Otherwise, I agree with Doug, that the responsibility always falls on the head. And to that we should all say, Praise the Lord!

I don’t see how a woman that kills her baby isn’t deserving of the death penalty. If she were to commit adultery with another man, she would be put to death under the law, but her husband would not, even though he was the covenant head. Right?

G
G
6 months ago
Reply to  Sam Rutherford

Good point!

Clark Coleman
Clark Coleman
6 months ago
Reply to  Sam Rutherford

The flaw in the helmsman-captain analogy is that the helmsman does not get off scot-free in real life. If you don’t follow clear orders, you get punished. The captain is not the only one to suffer.

James S
James S
6 months ago
Reply to  Clark Coleman

Exactly. The captain’s career is ruined, yes. The helmsman is also court-marshaled and would loose his pension (or more).

The captain is responsible but that does nothing to alleviate the helmsman’s guilt

Gary Elkins
Gary Elkins
6 months ago

Further reading on your view from the two linked blog posts helped me understand better, so thank you Doug. The only issue I have is that the idea that women who are procuring abortions are largely ignorant of what is happening and that greedy, bloodthirsty abortionists are tricking them into it is largely false. A great deal of these women know exactly what they are doing. Christians pleading with women begging them not to murder their babies are often screamed at with something close o “I don’t care if I’m murdering my baby, I have the right to do so.”… Read more »

JM
JM
6 months ago
Reply to  Gary Elkins

In complete agreement. Woman who have abortions know they are killing a human being. The guilt so many women carry because they have killed their children often shows up years later much to the detriment of their mental well being.

Nat
Nat
6 months ago
Reply to  JM

I think that people carry the negative psychological consequences of their sins even when they are ignorant to what they are doing. There are also often psychological consequences when we are sinned against. I think there are many women who are blatantly and disgustingly aware of what they are doing when they get an abortion. But I think that misinformation campaigns are strong and their at least partial effectiveness is evidenced by the statistical differences in abortion procedures when women see the ultrasounds.

Thomas Bauer
Thomas Bauer
6 months ago

Boy howdy is this a tough line to walk. My bride is my executive over the home. I am responsible for the “kilter” of the home, yet I must do so without micromanaging my bride.

What I want to do is say, “If I must be responsible, then I’ll control every detail.” That blows up in my face every time and I exasperate the entire house, soundly defeating my own goals.

NS
NS
6 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Bauer

So learn how to manage without micro-managing. If a surgeon sat in the icu 24/7 or paid attention to every detail of my OR assistant’s job, they couldn’t take care of my job of actually doing the surgery or managing the patient. Part of the skill set of leadership–that can be learned–is learning your team (wife, kids) and commanding their respect and obedience rather than demanding it.

Tionico
Tionico
6 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Bauer

Delegte.. then trust that the way SHE does it is good enough. I spend a LOT of time in other people’s homes as a guest/part time tennant. Each home has a woman who manages the home, under her husbnd. The men mostly don’t get fusssed about”the way thhings are”. I hve learned, for the most part, to go along with “the way things are done here”, pitching in do “do it their way” when I can. What is “the right way” in Home a, is absolutely verboten in Home B. Trying to remember is sometimes a trick, but doable. Perhaps… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
6 months ago

The covenantal headship position sounds like a complimentarian position on the point in question.

Just reading the Genesis account given we have no indication of what Adam should have done, other than not eat the fruit. We know that God confronted Adam first but also Eve personally. Adam’s had a responsibility to obey God and so did Eve.

Anyway, so what about women who procure abortions?

Joseph Hollake
Joseph Hollake
6 months ago
Reply to  JohnM

Actually, we know from Genesis 3 that God only asked Adam what was going on and Adam said “It’s the woman” and then God went to the woman WITHOUT punishing Adam. Eve, in turn, blamed the serpent. Then we see God judge the serpent first, judge Eve second, and just Adam last… the order the sin occurred in. And each judgment was in line with their purpose and failing. But there was no enhanced punishment for “You should have stopped the one before you from sinning”. The responsibility idea as presented fails in this picture from the Bible of God… Read more »

Gray
Gray
6 months ago
Reply to  JohnM

It seems as if the first thing that God addresses is the chain of command: “And to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife…”

Joseph Hollake
Joseph Hollake
6 months ago
Reply to  Gray

You literally had to go through 16 verses of Gen 3 to get there. Outright lying isn’t a good look. God addresses the Serpent first.. then Eve.. and lastly Adam. Adam is LAST in being addressed. Gen 3:9-17 9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12 And the man… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Josiah Nicely
Tionico
Tionico
6 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Hollake

dealing with the fallout first, then getting to the Buck Stops Here position seems right t me. Climb UP the ladder of responsibility, finally arriving at the One Responsible, Adam The buck DID stop with him.

JohnM
JohnM
6 months ago
Reply to  Tionico

More like a chain with a couple of links along the way to Adam. Neither woman nor snake bypassed.

Wesley
6 months ago

Incidentally I think this might be the best explanation yet for why Jordan Peterson resonates with Christians and perhaps erstwhile secularists. Pointing out that responsibility can and should be taken regardless of direct guilt.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago

I think that Renn mischaracterized Doug’s position–at least from what I remember reading over the years. I remember his writing that a couple of generations in the post-Roe era have grown up firmly believing that abortion is, at the very least, morally neutral. They are “victims” of the views inculcated by their pro-abortion parents, schools, and even churches. They are victims of a social environment that has taught them care-free, guilt-free sex is a basic human right. He said that this can’t be changed overnight, and that very few voters (or jurors) are seriously into imposing the death penalty on… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
6 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

Jill, I think that is right. He centered his concerns about punishment on a lack of knowledge on the part of the women in question and on a sort of complicity of everyone, the whole culture, in the act of abortion. But as I said at the time (though I deleted Disqus and thus all is lost!) the law isn’t only a sword but also a teacher. Surely a country or state that can outlaw abortion can also notify its populace that killing babies is no longer allowed, and by the way that thing in your womb is a baby,… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

I agree in theory. But unless there is general consensus, you run the risk of breeding disrespect for the law. It will be met with DAs who decline to prosecute, doctors who refuse to report suspected illegal abortions to the police or release medical records on women accused of having them, and juries who will simply refuse to convict if they think the punishment is too harsh. The main reason state laws in the pre-Roe era didn’t include criminal charges for the woman is that her testimony was needed in order to convict the abortionist. The second reason is that… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  demosthenes1d

I agree in theory. But unless there is general consensus, you run the risk of breeding disrespect for the law. It will be met with DAs who decline to prosecute, doctors who refuse to report suspected illegal abortions to the police or release medical records on women accused of having them, and juries who will simply refuse to convict if they think the punishment is too harsh. The main reason state laws in the pre-Roe era didn’t include criminal charges for the woman is that her testimony was needed in order to convict the abortionist. The second reason is that… Read more »

demosthenes1d
demosthenes1d
6 months ago
Reply to  Jill Smith

All very good points. Thank you.

And I agree that abortion will be very difficult to effectively regulate/criminalize with the presence of effective pharmaceutical abortifacients. But I still think our laws should enshrine he value if unborn lives.

Ken B
Ken B
6 months ago

I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about what the word ‘head’ entails when Paul uses it of husbands, and have come to precisely the same conclusion as our host. Once we have discarded the fraudulent meaning of source, I think someone who has responsibility is the meaning of the word. The husband has a responsibility for the whole family that the wife doesn’t have, and for which he will have to give an account in the judgement. Something to concentrate the mind! I noticed the word head used by Paul is something the husband is, Paul does… Read more »

Merry Berry
Merry Berry
6 months ago

The woman who wept at Jesus’ feet was weeping because of her own guilt…she didn’t send her husband (or father, or whatever male authority she had in her life) to go talk to Jesus for her. Same with the woman at the well. Jesus spoke with her and dealt with her sins personally, not through the man in her life. Moses’ wife knew that something was deeply wrong in their household because Moses had not circumcised his son like God told him to. She saved Moses’ life by obeying God when her husband wouldn’t. She confronted him and undid the… Read more »

Merry Berry
Merry Berry
6 months ago
Reply to  Merry Berry

Additionally, I’d like to touch on the verse you cited as support for male covenantal head responsibility, Job 1:5, wherein Job makes sin offerings for his kids in case they may have sinned. This type of sacrifice was specifically provided for in the OT sacrificial system, but to my knowledge was never limited to males; it was not sex specific, it was sin specific. It was offered by anyone who needed or wanted to make it. Also, let’s consider how Jesus is the final high priest and intercessor for us before God; how He is the final, ultimate sacrifice: the… Read more »

Mike M.
Mike M.
6 months ago

Seems that this is mostly just a repeat of Take Me Instead (https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/take-me-instead.html). And it’s not at all clear how the main thrust of the article connects back to the concern raised by Renn. I get that the connecting thread is supposed to be “do women sin?” But the majority of the article is focused on how a husband should respond to his wife’s sin in the context of their covenant of marriage. But I’m at a loss to understand where Renn’s concern even begins to imply the existence of a husband and a marriage covenant. Frankly, it seems that… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Mike M.
Les
Les
6 months ago

I live in the liberal Bay Area of California. Some of the so called “sins” of women are just not an issue here. Almost all of our friends, both husband and wife are highly educated professional couples. Both usually have high paying professional jobs. As well as having 2-4 children. The idea of a wide watching TV while eating ice cream all day is laughable.These women wouldn’t even if they could. Most of these parents figure out a way to be hands on most of the time. Sure most if them have nanny’s and house cleaners, but they take their… Read more »

Kristina Zubic
Kristina Zubic
6 months ago
Reply to  Les

Watching inane TV isn’t exclusive to any one demographic, the point is does your house look like an episode of Hoarders.

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  Kristina Zubic

As for eating ice cream (or bonbons) all day, west coast Californians agree that lack of physical fitness is morally reprehensible, even if not much else is! Saying “I don’t work out” is like saying that you smoke a pack a day and brush your teeth on alternate Sundays. We have the fifth lowest obesity rate in the US despite having a huge population of people who are more genetically disposed to carrying extra weight. I try not to buy into the prevailing ethos. On the other hand, I don’t eat ice cream unless I’m willing to skip having dinner!

Ryan
Ryan
6 months ago

It’s true that the man bears ultimate responsibility within the marriage covenant. Eve sins first, but Paul says “As in Adam all die…” (1 Cor 15:22) The argument could be made that this is true at a societal level as well, and Mr. Renn does seem to miss these points in his article. However, I don’t think this is directly relevant when it comes to civil penalties. Under the old testament civil law, women were tried individually. If a woman committed adultery, stole, etc., she would be tried and punished as an individual. Her husband is exempt unless he participated… Read more »

Michael
Michael
6 months ago

I follow what you are saying here, but I think I will need to wait until you can write more on it, to understand what this means in a practical sense. I understand the CONCEPT of taking responsibility in headship, but what would that look like in real life, to actually PERFORM that taking of responsibility? What does it look like, in practical example, and what is the expected RESULT of this taking of responsibility? I struggle a bit with assimilating something into my worldview, when I don’t really know how to APPLY it, and what I should expect (hope?)… Read more »

Matthew
Matthew
6 months ago

Doug, Can you provide a succinct definition of “responsibility?” If I understand your examples of what responsibility does or looks like in various situations, the operating definition seems to be something like “the duty to take care of.” Would you agree with that? I agree, in principle, with the distinction between “guilt,” and “responsibility,” but in contemporary, casual conversation those terms are often used interchangeably, regrettably [Oh, that we would distinguish like the Scholastics!]. I think this causes some background confusion that people bring to the issue and it might be helpful to parse that out a bit. It’s hard… Read more »

Dennis Nichols
Dennis Nichols
6 months ago

Yes indeed, you need to write more on this. I think a book is in order. I listened to this twice last night and read it this morning. This is profound stuff! This articulated what I’ve felt in my gut for a long time. Good job, Douglas!

J.D.
J.D.
6 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Nichols

You might start with the book he referenced above, Reforming Marriage. In particular the chapter entitled Headship and Authority.

James Claypool
James Claypool
6 months ago

To take responsibility means you: acknowledge the issue that something is wrong–that sin is occurring; determine a course of action to stop the sin and mitigate its effects; put that plan into effect. There is always a confrontation. If the sin is yours, the confrontation is with yourself. If it is someone else’s, the confrontation must be with them. The confrontation must be loving, comprehensive, and have as the goal restoration, not triumph. By comprehensive, I mean it must include acknowledging where you have failed and aided and abetted the sin, and what you will do to rectify that. It… Read more »

Alicia
Alicia
6 months ago
Reply to  James Claypool

Excellent.

B. Johnson
B. Johnson
6 months ago

Though I’m not sure this falls under the umbrella of covenant responsibility, couldn’t this concept of blame vs. responsibility also apply to the OT kings and priests and NT teachers? I’m wondering if it needs to be exclusive to the marriage relationship: “because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me to anger—they, their kings, their princes, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Jer 32:32) “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would… Read more »

Nicholas Turner
Nicholas Turner
6 months ago

I think part of the problem with grasping this in theory is that in practice, taking responsibility is more likely to result in cops and lawyers and courtrooms(as Mark Steyn recently pointed out) than it is in authority flowing to you. The role of the church is often to point out the good lawyers. And the courtroom looks like courtrooms where someone tries to prove that stickers on poles is not a thing. It’s like that Gallipoli campaign. It’s hard to get any traction when you have no authority and all the responsibility. It’s the captain who can’t give orders.… Read more »

J.F. Martin
J.F. Martin
6 months ago

Pastor Wilson, a suggestion as you ‘flesh’ out your writings here. I found at least six “one flesh” verses, and my thought is that in every physical union between a man and a woman, it’s at that moment that the man becomes (or is expected to become) the covenantal head. That society doesn’t take the act of sex as a more significant union (1st Corinthian 6:16), discounts the fruit of that union from the start. Having been a Coastie, your ship aground analogy rings very true to me. A lot of standing orders or night orders need to be disobeyed… Read more »

Robert C
Robert C
6 months ago

I agree with the main outline of the principles here, but although the analogies help illustrate in some ways, they also muddy the waters in others, and I think that’s where the “manosphere” pushback is. Take the naval illustration, for example. We can distinguish between “practical” authority (good use of that phrase, by the way) and the kind of delegated authority that is backed with power. The captain may be a buffoon and so lack “practical” authority. All the men on the ship do not respect him and so his orders lack practical authority. However, the captain does have a… Read more »

Tionico
Tionico
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert C

Aong these lines, take a loo at the unfolding of the gronding of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez u in Alaska awaters a coule three decades back. Captain had given orders to the watch, they were doing as told. One of them was a bit too “green” and I beleive it was he who had the conn. Captain was inhis quarters, drunk and asleep. The crunch woke him up. The “post mortem” of the eent placed fault with the sailor who had the conn, the OD, and I believe the Fisrt Officer. Some penalties and consequences were meted out. But… Read more »

Anna
Anna
6 months ago

In the grand scheme of things, there is only one covenant head of the human race under the Covenant of Works, Adam, and one covenant head under the Covenant of Grace, Second Adam. That means that from Genesis 3 onward, the story is not about covenant heads plural but about covenant head singular, the Seed of the woman. So what about the NT elder and husband? They are types and shadows of Christ who is the substance of our hope. I feel as if you have fallen into the problem discussed in Hebrews. Christ came as the fulfillment of the… Read more »

Merry Berry
Merry Berry
6 months ago
Reply to  Anna

💯💯💯💯

J.D.
J.D.
6 months ago
Reply to  Anna

That same book of Hebrews that you are citing ends with a command to, “obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who have to give an account.” The very book you are quoting is explicitly telling you that the NT elders are responsible for the souls of their flocks. You say, “The work of a NT elder is to point Christ’s bride to Christ.” That is indeed one of his roles. And Hebrews 12 teaches us that Christ disciplines us as sons because he loves us and if he doesn’t… Read more »

Anna
Anna
6 months ago
Reply to  J.D.

Pointing out sin is a mutual responsibility (Gal 6:1; 1 Thess 5:14). If I understand correctly, you are saying that the NT elder is responsible to lead and discipline his flock, for example turning over to Satan the immoral brother of 1 Cor. 5. Likewise, (you say) the NT husband, by virtue of also being a “leader” in his home, is responsible for correcting and disciplining his wife.That is a highly questionable inference.  As many have already pointed out, the husband is never told to rule his wife, nor is he told to discipline his wife. The husband is given… Read more »

Joseph Hollake
Joseph Hollake
6 months ago

Legitimate question; what do you mean by “responsible?” In the example given, the husband is “responsible” for the wife’s sin, because he is her covenant head. But what does that actually entail? If he has no power to control her behavior, if he cannot stop her adultery, use physical force to get off her backside and complete her domestic duties, he cannot force her to perform her sexual duties without being accused of rape, etc., then what does him being responsible actually require him to do? In your ship example, the captain is still responsible, even if it is the… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Hollake

I agree with you. The only actual power a husband has over an unsatisfactory wife is her fear that he might leave her. And that power is only useful if she doesn’t want that to happen. It is effective if she really loves him, wants the marriage to work, and has merely got into bad ways (although adultery seems a bit of a stretch–I could love a husband dearly and still overspend at the fabric store and be slow to get to the dishes, but I couldn’t love a husband dearly yet go out and commit adultery). But that’s pretty… Read more »

Cherrera
Cherrera
6 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Hollake

Those things are much more common in Christian marriages than many assume.

Brett S.
Brett S.
6 months ago

Amen, Pastor Doug! My marriage started with several rocky years, and I can, with 20/20 hindsight, put most of my share of the blame on misunderstanding this key covenantal concept. The only truly biblical patriarch is one who can accept responsibility for the misdeeds of those under his care.

Nathan James
Nathan James
6 months ago

This is hard to understand because it’s muddled. The word responsible is being overworked. One minute the husband is to imitate Christ by “taking responsibility” and the next he simply already is “responsible.” But these are two completely different things.

Christ paid a debt he did not owe. He did not somehow owe a debt without being guilty. We must not say that Christ was responsible for the sins of the world. He wasn’t.

CJ
CJ
6 months ago

As the Pastor of Christ Church ALL the sins of your congregation are your responsibility.

CJ
CJ
6 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Wilson

So if I can show one counter example, you are a liar.

CJ
CJ
6 months ago
Reply to  CJ

Your house coddles pedophiles!

joe
joe
6 months ago

So much left on the table on how the man is responsible for his wife’s sin. It’s a strawman argument when contrasting it to the manosphere, as the manosphere merely teaches to avoid marriage to women who do not take responsibility for the sins in their lives. Just as a woman has a list of “must haves” from her husband-including the provision of covenantal leadership-a man is also entitled to virtues he seeks in a wife. Thus, if women expect men to be traditional in the biblical sense, it is the right of a man to expect the same of… Read more »

Debtor to Grace
Debtor to Grace
6 months ago

Doug, perhaps a personal story may help some. Before I was a Christian, during my last year of college, my fiance and I had an abortion. She was a first-year law student whose words to me–when she called to tell me she was pregnant–were, “I can’t have this child.” She was thinking of her career and wanted to finish school. I did not argue her out of her stand just as she did not argue me out of mine when I wanted to have sex. I paid for the abortion and we went on. Well, at least time moved forward.… Read more »

Nameless
Nameless
6 months ago

This is an awesome testimony. Glory to God! 🙌🏾 My husband and I also had an abortion years ago before we came to Christ, I often find myself thinking about it. But, I don’t mention it to him anymore because it annoys him. I always felt like he just wants to move on and never talk about it ever again.I felt like maybe he just wants to leave the past in the past however maybe he feels something else. Only God knows. But I am reminded from time to time that we would have a 15 year old right now… Read more »

Name Withheld
Name Withheld
6 months ago

How would you counsel a husband who holds to the covenantal headship view, but his implementation is along the lines of: “come when I call you, do what I tell you, wear what I tell you, cook what I ask for, pleasure me when I ask, look to me as your sole provider and counselor, and don’t worry about whether or not I’m wrong; obey me anyway, and I’ll bear the responsibility if it turns out I was wrong.” He insists that he is caring for her soul by trying to cultivate obedience and is doing his best to follow… Read more »

Wodansthane
Wodansthane
6 months ago

Reply to G 1 Peter 3:1-6

Nameless
Nameless
6 months ago

Hello pastor Doug, I would be interested in hearing from Nancy on this subject. I desire to be more feminine and submissive, I have definitely failed at this in the past. My husband is WAY into the manosphere right now. And I’m okay with it, but I struggle with the bits of it that are ungodly. I am praying he stumbles upon your content soon, somehow. He has ALWAYS been such a great provider for our family. He takes care of us beyond anything I would ever have imagined. He works a very laborious job so when he gets home… Read more »

Nat Whilk
Nat Whilk
6 months ago

I’ve been reading Wilson’s books on marriage, and while he always makes a strong case (with a head-spinning amount of scripture references), in the end I’m always left puzzled as to what I’m actually supposed to DO. I think this is the issue many men face who are willing to take responsibility and the blame for the mess in their marriages. They know a lot of stuff but what is actually supposed to be DONE to change anything and get the ship headed in the right direction? I have concluded that it’s possible to go to church for many years… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
6 months ago
Reply to  Nat Whilk

I don’t know if I have your answer, but I’m sympathetic to the question. A few thoughts: Focus on YOU getting headed in the right direction, not your wife, nor even the marriage. Go the direction you know you’re supposed to go. She’ll follow or she won’t but that doesn’t make in difference to what you are supposed to do. A big part of what you are supposed to do is take care of your wife, but remember, it’s not all about her. Don’t walk, run from preachers who make it sound as if it’s all about her. Making your… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 months ago
Reply to  JohnM

I think that’s very good, John. It’s also important for husbands (and probably everyone) to remind themselves that while our sins and actions can certainly make our loved ones unhappy, that doesn’t work the other way round except temporarily. We can help ease their burdens, we can shower them with love and support, but we can’t actually make them happy in the long term. I’ve always really liked J.M. Barrie’s definition: “Happiness lies not in doing what we like, but in liking what we have to do.” I think it’s also enhanced by self-forgetfulness and self-discipline–but we all have to… Read more »

Tom in Ky
Tom in Ky
6 months ago

While I largely agree with the responsibility-guilt principle presented here, it does need further fine tuning. However, I believe the bigger issue is the principle between authority and power. Because husbands clearly do not have the power to properly execute their God-ordained authority. I cannot speak to this, but I am curious if the mmmmen you counsel are not misunderstanding the responsibility-guilt dynamic so much as not being able to articulate their frustration over not having the proper power or support to carry out their authority.

Wodansthane
Wodansthane
6 months ago

Jarrett makes several good points about the authority of the husband. We are not called to “lead”, rather we are appointed by GOD to rule (Gen 3:16, 1 Tim 3:12). Authority and responsibility are delegated to us when we accept the position of covenantal head. We are the head of our wives as Christ is the head of the Church (Eph 5:23)Does anyone here want to argue whether Christ has authority over the Church? Apparently, it needs to be pointed out that authority, without responsibility is tyranny, and responsibility, without authority is slavery ( credit to Turdflingingmonkey). We are slaves… Read more »

Brent
Brent
6 months ago

I heard this song at a Keith and Kristyn Getty Christmas concert. And, the thought occured to me that my buddy Doug Wilson would probably really like this song.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9rsGpkVKeCU

Andrew Lohr
6 months ago

What is this “responsibility”? I’m not arguing, not denying–just not understanding. One who is responsible, tho not personally guilty, should have done something about it??? What is the R word and how does it work?