The Abolition of Woman

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Introduction

One of the great novels of the twentieth century was That Hideous Strength. It is a fantastic read as a straightforward story, but that is not where the greatness lies. I would be hard pressed to come up with a more prophetic book than this one. The way things have unfolded in the six decades since he wrote has been nothing short of astonishing.

He wrote Abolition of Man at the same time, and in the preface to That Hideous Strength, Lewis wrote, “This is a ‘tall story’ about devilry, though it has behind it a serious ‘point’ which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man.” In these two books, Lewis does not just write from “within the Tao,” but rather from within the depths of the Tao. This is why he sees things in 1943 concerning our time that we have trouble seeing now. He saw the storm when it was the size of a man’s fist, and we are in the midst of the storm, and we want to call it sunbathing weather.

There are numerous things for us to take away from these books taken together, but I want to highlight just three of them.

Submission & Rebellion

That Hideous Strength begins with the word matrimony, and the whole thing is as robust a defense of that holy estate as you will find anywhere. But we begin with Jane’s disillusionment with marriage, after only six months of it.

The contrast between Mark and Jane Studdock is stark. His life is consumed with a lust to be part of the “inner ring,” a temptation that Lewis dissects elsewhere in an essay of that title, pinning all the pieces of this particular lust to a card, with each part cunningly labeled. Mark’s whole life is a yearning, a striving, to be included in the group that really matters. And each time he makes it into the object of his ache, he discovers yet another circle keeping him out. Further down, and further in.

Jane’s particular form of selfishness is the opposite kind. She does not want to be included, or as she might call it, absorbed. She wants to be sure to maintain her own identity, her own autonomy. She is arch and prim in her feminism, and by that means has guaranteed her own unhappiness.

He wants into the set at Belbury, and she wants to stay out of the Company at St. Anne’s. She wants their protection, but wants to make sure she doesn’t surrender too much in order to get it. He wants to keep from being absolutely devoured, but figure out a way to navigate a way into the inner circle anyway.

And so it is that both of them come to the point of conversion. He is the end product of what Lewis identifies in Abolition as a truly destructive form of education. And as that end product, he is one more unit in a vast regiment of “men without chests.” And so when he comes to the point of repentance, it takes the form of rebellion. “It’s all bloody nonsense, and I’m damned if I do any such thing.” And the angels burst into song.

She is the end product of her form of education. In the name of advancing the position of women, she discovers that what this approach to education does is degrade women into something else. A first-rate woman is transformed into a third-rate man. She is hard, brittle, touchy, and most miserable. And so when she comes to the point of repentance, it is a glorious submission. “In this height and depth and breadth the little idea of herself which she had hitherto called me dropped down and vanished unfluttering, into bottomless distance, like a bird in a space without air.” And the angels burst into song.

And so what we need today in our homes and in our churches, and as a consequence in our towns and nations, are men who recover the ability to rebel against those who are busy bulldozing nature, and women who graciously submit themselves to God and to their own husbands. If they do this they can stand behind their husbands, who will fight to prevent them from being bulldozed.

The West in the Objective Room

The world has gone crazy, but there is a method in the madness. We in the West—and if you think a phrase like the West is a racist dog whistle, then you are the problem—find ourselves, as a result of our own follies and stupid choices, locked up in the Objective Room. You will recall that this is the room where Mark was being trained to suppress the normal, and embrace the ultimate Dadaism of all things. He was being catechized in ultimate relativism. He was made to do things that made no sense because they made no sense.

Hard line conservatives see the problem more clearly than most evangelicals do, and this is even the case with members of the alt-right. But they have no plan—unless you want to call it a plan if people run around in Belbury punching people randomly. Seeing the problem is not the same thing as having a cure. At the same time, the Christian church, which has the cure, cannot be prevailed upon to see the problem.

When we look at the contradictory things that are thrown at our heads every day, we think that they are the silly ones. Why would they say that? That’s a contradiction. They demand that women be given safe spaces, and they also demand that transitioning men, pre-surgery, have full access to the women’s showers. They demand that we agree that homosexuals are “born this way,” and they also demand that we acknowledge that “gender is ultimately fluid.” They insist on women’s rights, while also insisting that there is no such thing as a woman.

But they are not the ones being tested. When Frost is having Mark do all kinds of absurd things in the Objective Room, we are not being given to understand that Frost is being tested, or that Frost is being evaluated. No, he is already among the damned. Mark is the one being tested, and he does not pass the test until he repents and says, “It’s all bloody nonsense, and I’m damned if I do any such thing.”

And we will not be saved unless and until we come to the same point, and say the same thing. The evangelical church is crammed with men without chests, who must absolutely learn that they must come to the point of rebellion. And the evangelical church is also crammed with unsubmissive women, who must repent of that, seeking to learn what it is to glory in womanhood. Men can’t make women submissive, and shouldn’t try. But this reality doesn’t make submission somehow optional. There is nothing optional about it—and it is no trifle.

Every Christian couple should resolve to follow the pattern that the Bible calls normal. Husbands should imitate Christ, in seeking to live as a sacrificial head. And women should imitate the Christ, seeking to obey their husbands in everything. What are we seeking to accomplish by this? We are trying to head off the banquet scene at Belbury.

The Centrality of Christ

The point of Mark’s rebellion came with the demand that he trample on a crucifix. What are you going to do with Jesus? When Mark rebels, he does it by identifying with Jesus as representing the side of normal. At this point, he had no confidence that Jesus was God—but he knew the world around him was bent, twisted, and demented, and that Jesus was a straight line in a crooked world.

Normal. What a revolutionary word. That is an incendiary word to set the world on fire. Given the state of the world today, it is going to be a pretty big grease fire, but here we are. This is what God has given us, so grease fire it is.

But you can’t have normal without Jesus. And furthermore, if you have Jesus, that will bring you straight back to normal. Jesus and metrosexual do not go together. Jesus and artificial wombs do not go together. Jesus and VR sex do not go together. Jesus and prancing men in the offertory do not go together. Jesus and 57 genders do not go together. Virtually every outrageous thing we read about today is being served up to us from the macrobes. But we are Christians. We are to follow Jesus. We are to line up behind the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you read Abolition of Man, you will see the Lewis’s culminating point is that man’s supposed “conquest” of nature is actually a radical expansion of what parts of nature are appropriate to tinker with, and when we have made mankind itself the passive subject of these perverse ministrations, we will then find out two things. The first is that man’s conquest of nature actually means some men’s conquest of other men, with nature as the instrument, and secondly, it means nature’s conquest of that handful of men who thought they were now running the show. The abolition of man refers to a commitment to the ultimate plasticity of all things, such that anything can be shaped and molded according to our whims. And then it turns out that our whims are being molded and shaped from elsewhere.

This abolition of man comes through the abolition of woman, which Lewis also foretold. And he saw it all. The progressive agenda is nothing but a wrecking crew of gracious femininity—bloody wombs, barrenness as glory, perverse arts, grotesque lesbianism, and all the rest of it. Nothing that is tumbling down around our heads right now would be a surprise to Lewis.

And incidentally, speaking of ultimate plasticity, we can’t make this point without mentioning the plasticity of contemporary evangelicalism. This morning word comes in that Eugene Peterson has come out in favor of same sex mirage. But watch. The reveal will not come in that simple fact. The reveal will come in what happens next—what will everybody else in the evangelical world say and do about it?

We are all in this Objective Room, and some well-respected among us have decided to trample on the crucifix. Others haven’t done it yet, but they are still friends with the cool kids who have “evolved” in their thinking.

But we proclaim Jesus. Not the Jesus who plays in ten thousand places, but the Jesus being preached by a hard fundamentalist prophet in a Flannery story. We preach the Jesus who turned Mark Studdock around. And we must preach Him because He is the only one who can give a man his chest back—and we have hundreds of thousands of men in dire need of one.

So believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.

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Bdash77
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Bdash77

Sacrificial head is awesome
But in our world sacrificial head basically means submit and obey your wife….
Godly head is a better term, our world does not understand sacrifice.

Dave W
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Dave W

It’s Truth.

Nathan Smith
Member

A hearty hand-clap for the article that manages to expound upon THS and give a nod to O’Connor. I couldn’t be more pleased. Wish I could add something. Somewhere deep inside I consider THS to be the crowning work of British literature (and A Good Man is Hard to Find its American counterpart). During my first two readings of it I don’t recall noticing the emphasis Lewis put on Jane’s and Mark’s marriage. But on the latest reread (I’m probably 20% through it) I can’t help but noticing it mentioned almost ubiquitously. Their marriage, and Lewis’s comment on the marriage… Read more »

Stephen Baker
Guest

I completely agree.

Here’s a shameless plug for a 3-part discussion of That Hideous Strength from The Bookening podcast. Maybe someone will enjoy it:

https://warhornmedia.com/2017/04/05/that-hideous1/
https://warhornmedia.com/2017/04/19/episode-34-hideous-strength-part-2-2/
https://warhornmedia.com/2017/04/19/episode-35-hideous-strength-part-3-3/

Rob Steele
Member

Heartily concur!

MeMe
Guest

Ahhhhh, yes. Well this post is a breath of fresh air.

Rob Steele
Member

I love that book, particularly the bit where Mark realizes he and the tramp have created the innermost of inner circles. And Mr. Bultitude’s rampage is pretty good too.

Good analysis. I’m going to go around saying “normal” as much as possible.

Ellen
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Ellen

“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even… Read more »

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

“he had no confidence that Jesus was God”
Neither did Apollos, until the coordinating history was identified.
Neither do many folks in many religions right now — yet they have been given belief in all the relevant bases.
Point? Proper given belief precedes & trumps particular & helpful finishing touches.
Vs WC 1:1 that seems to require data before faith.

bethyada
Member

Some think that Till we Have Faces is Lewis’ best fiction. I am increasingly thinking that Hideous Strength is underrated. Lewis was certainly prescient. Note this passage from the book. Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned towards us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would he be who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her farther side. On this side the womb is barren and the… Read more »

Jane
Member

That passage has been in my mind a lot these days.

Nathan Smith
Member

Thats really a remarkable passage. Thanks for posting. I could site the passage in support of my belief that THS is a better book on marriage than most marriage-books, if I were that kind of guy.

bethyada
Member

And the evangelical church is also crammed with unsubmissive women, who must repent of that, seeking to learn what it is to glory in womanhood. Men can’t make women submissive, and shouldn’t try. But this reality doesn’t make submission somehow optional. There is nothing optional about it—and it is no trifle. I think this is helpful and not at all obvious to men (or women). Commands given to people are to them. The commands are not to others. A command to submit is not a command to enforce submission. A command to love is not a command to demand love.… Read more »

Gabriel N
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Gabriel N

Not sure your line of reasoning is ironclad there; a command for children to obey parents is in practice grounds for parents to compel obedience.

bethyada
Member

Agreed about the kids. That explains my (usually) above.

Though I don’t think that commands to submit imply commands to enforce submission. Rather, I think that other commands show us we are to train children.

Farinata degli Uberti
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Farinata degli Uberti

Why do you distinguish between children, whom everyone agrees can be compelled, and wives or husbands? Are you distinguishing between physical compulsion – I knock my wife over the head with a rock and drag her off to the kitchen so she’ll do the dishes – and the moral or spiritual sort? Obviously women can’t simply punch their husbands until they start exercising spiritual leadership, but that’s in the first place a logistical problem. I would say a husband may properly be put under church discipline for refusing his duties of care, and I don’t think it is necessarily wrong… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Because we have commands like train up children, and marriage is to raise godly children. Wives aren’t children.

A command by God to submit is a command to be obeyed by the person. It is not a command to those who receive submission to enforce this. If obedience is to be enforced then a person will need such a command. This command is given to the church for example.

Farinata degli Uberti
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Farinata degli Uberti

Sure, but if such failure is a sin, and some parties are authorized to deal with sin – say, a husband in his role of shepherding his family, or the elders of a church- then cannot those parties do something about it? It may be that husbands oughtn’t to use violence against their wives, but surely there should be some enforcement mechanism? For instance, excommunication.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

My church doesn’t have this kind of mechanism. But I think from what I have read here that this is something that some church elders would deal with. Of course, we’re assuming that the wife wants to stay married but is flat out refusing to carry out her responsibilities or is responding to her husband’s requests with clear defiance.

I would hope, however, that any husband’s first thought in response to the first part is that his wife might be depressed or sick or simply overwhelmed.

bethyada
Member

I don’t mind enforcement and do not think the church does it enough (currently, in times past they may have been too enthusiastic). The church should speak more forcefully to sins that women struggle with. Men struggle with many sins but generally know that they are sins. Ladies, less so sometimes.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Sometimes ladies are reluctant to believe that moods and attitudes can be sinful. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Andrey Bulanov
Member

wowwwww. is your keyboard in one piece after this one? I JUST finished this book this week and have been flipping through my highlights tracing this whole gender theme. Fascinating. And an excellent analysis. Thanks!

Gabriel N
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Gabriel N

The alt-right is merely a swing of the pendulum of liberal philosophy another degree past Conservativism Inc. There is a clear and simple program expounded by the actual (i.e. anti-liberal, classical or otherwise) right: Repent of liberal democracy and pray for an honorable Godly king.

Ginny Yeager
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Ginny Yeager

Great post about a great book.

“What are we seeking to accomplish by this? We are trying to head off the banquet scene at Belbury.”

I see it more as “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Luken
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Luken

If semi-complementarism- that which will technically affirm the explicit passages but still cherishes “progressive” ideas about gender, feminism, and the patriarchy keeps growing this will be unavoidable. There are still “complimentarians” who think abolishing hierarchy is the path to life,

Kira
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Kira

So how does a single woman be a model of Christian femininity (like Jane) without a husband to submit to? She’d like to be countercultural in this…

Stacey Jo Hunter
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Stacey Jo Hunter

Submit to Christ. If you are a daughter in your father’s home, submit to your father. Be honorable in all you do…that is pretty counter-cultural in itself.

Kira
Guest
Kira

But both genders have to submit to Christ, don’t they? That’s not specific to femininity. (And no, not in my father’s home). I guess biblical femininity seems pretty straightforward when there’s men around, but is rather vague when they’re not – but we women need practical applications for all periods of our life.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I can see that is a difficult question. In my wide experience of nuns, the nicest were those who were still feminine in the sense of being open-hearted, compassionate, and able to view sinful and suffering humanity as, in some sense, “theirs.” In nun training, they stress that this is really hard without the normal compensations of husband and children. I was single into my thirties, and I can see that, for myself, it was important to find opportunities for caring for other people. The greatest temptation, I think, is closing off your heart to avoid emotional pain.

Erin
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Erin

I am a married, Christian woman raised in a Christian home. The whole concept of wifely submission scares me to death. It seems little more than license for a man to be as unreasonable and demanding as he pleases, and a mandate that the woman submit simply because she’s female, and therefore a lesser being than the man. I fear that complete submission to my husband will erase me, turn me into a Stepford wife with no mental life of her own. I have heard many sermons on submission, but despite prayer and Bible study I cannot seem to make… Read more »

Peter Oliver
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Peter Oliver

Do children obey their parents because their parents are better people? Do subjects obey their rulers because they’re of lesser value? Of course not — similarly, wives are to obey husbands because that’s the way God has organized the world. Can things go wrong? Of course, we live in a fallen world, and it’s why we have the church and the state to reprove and punish wickedness. But things can’t go right if we decide we know how to run things better than God.

bethyada
Member

It is hard to know what the source of your fear is without more detail, there are a variety of reason external and internal to people.

But done rightly the idea is that you develop a gracious spirit that is evident to all, and that you are glorious to your husband, not insignificant. It is not to erase you, but to glorify you.

I do not think that wives should have less of a mental life, but more of one.

And submission is not lesser: I am not less than my boss, Jesus is not less than the Father.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I also have struggled with trying to understand this, not because I found submission difficult and not because my own church makes much of an issue of it (it doesn’t). I recognize that men are generally much happier when they are in charge, and I am perfectly willing to go along with this. I also see that St. Paul is clear about this–although I am not clear about exactly what he means. I have no trouble accepting there are differences between most men and most women, although I sometimes think we make too much of them. (I am driven crazy… Read more »

bethyada
Member

St. Paul is clear about this–although I am not clear about exactly what he means. Specifically? I am driven crazy by statements such as “we women are emotional An emotional response to a generalisation about women being emotional? Interesting :) the man who is lousy at math trying to teach calculus to his child while his wife, who finds it dead easy, stands by biting her lip Generally a foolish response (even if well meaning). Why would a mother not teach her children I ask? I don’t understand in what way woman is the glory of man. Well Doug may… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

You bring up an interesting point which I pondered while the dentist appeared intent on destroying my few remaining teeth. I would never argue that I am not emotional, although if you met me in person you would consider me emotionally unexpressive. I am probably more openly emotional here than anywhere else because nobody knows me. But the issue is not whether women have emotions, or are more emotionally expressive than men (I think the latter is culturally mediated. I was taught growing up that crying in public is disgraceful; here, a crying person is cosseted beyond belief). The issue… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Your response to my several points was to my joke?

Okay, I accept that Jill is below the female average for emotionalism.

Though I am now concerned you may be a touch Aspergers.

:)

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Well, it led me to muse on previously unconsidered points. And what else can I do in a dentist’s chair to distract myself from wondering how much all this is going to cost? I think I am below the female average only on expressive emotion, but I would put that down to Canadian social training and Catholic religious training. Did Jesus cry when they were putting nails into His hands? Then how dare you cry about your broken arm? A little of this lasts a lifetime, and while I think on the whole it is a Good Thing, I admit… Read more »

MeMe
Guest

I like April over at peaceful wife. She has written extensively about submission.

https://peacefulwife.com/blog/

I am a totally cantankerous, not Stepfordy, not a doormat, not an erased wife. Submission is actually freedom, empowerment in a way. “Lesser than” has never occurred to me. Actually, I think I felt more “lesser than” before submission began to resonate and sink in.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I understand some of your feelings. I was a very submissive wife, but candor makes me admit that this was more a question of temperament than adherence to scripture. Rather than cope with an angry or sulky person, I would be tempted to submit to anything this side of mortally sinful. But I think the one thing women don’t need to worry about is the life of the mind. I didn’t especially enjoy housework (though I did it cheerfully), but it does give you hours and hours for private thought. Unless you are married to a tyrant who restricts your… Read more »

bethyada
Member

A good husband will allow his wife to make the house into a beautiful home.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I agree with that. But I think it should be understood that the instinct to care for a home and beautify it is not present in all women. It is often a particular woman’s duty because she has voluntarily taken it on, but she may continue, in her heart of hearts, to be indifferent to her surroundings as long as she has what is important to her. Having taken it on, she must do her best to do it well. But is she less womanly because, left to her own devices, it would never occur to her that the table… Read more »

bethyada
Member

My comment was to say a husband needs to give his wife freedom. If she would rather teach her child than beautify her house she has probably chosen the better path.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Yes, but I think there is also something to be said for forcing yourself to learn things that are naturally unappealing. Self-discipline is a good thing.

Ginny Yeager
Guest
Ginny Yeager

Pray some more. Read Nancy Wilson’s books. She lives what she writes–submission with a spine. Her husband’s calling steers the ship, which, in my opinion, is the beautiful fruit of true godly marital submission. Complete submission is only required to God. To earthly authorities, there are qualifiers. For example, if your husband asks you to cheat on your taxes, you say no because God’s word says no. You have to make a leap of faith and trust God. What if your husband said, “I’d love her, but it might give her license to be as unreasonable and demanding as she… Read more »

Nathan Smith
Member

Its truly an act of faith and ultimately a humble submission to the Lord. I see the difficulty in it.

Stacey Jo Hunter
Guest
Stacey Jo Hunter

Erin, perfect love casts out all fear. What submission looks like in our home is that I consider my husband above others (after the LORD!). It has never been about being his subordinate (and 25 years of army life…he has had plenty of subordinates!)….meaning he does not bark orders and I salute and do them. Rather, as I go about our day-to-day events, I think about how best to honor God and bear in mind my husband’s desires. Does he plan my day? No, but I do what I can to do things that bless him. Does he choose my… Read more »

My Portion Forever
Member

Erin, you’ve gotten a lot of responses already, many of them very helpful in my opinion. I would just like to say that I am also a married Christian woman raised in a Christian home, and I also was fearful of what submission to my husband might mean. I decided that submission to my husband = submission to Christ, and that Christ would be the one taking care of me and blessing my obedience to him in this way. So far, it has been a great blessing to my husband and I. I believe that my submission (though not perfect)… Read more »

Eagle-Eyed
Guest
Eagle-Eyed

My wife doesn’t seem to have a problem with submission. I must have married better than your husband.

Matt Bell
Member

Rude!

Kevin Brendler
Guest
Kevin Brendler

I think the abolition of woman is the greatest single triumph of the devil in the last 100 years. Femininity is now a thoroughly despised concept in the world and much ignored in the churches, if not completely twisted into ridiculous notions of power and empowerment. Femininity is largely gone with the wind. That means the woman lies fallen in the street, either dead or unable to get up. And yet, in the face of this most horrific problem, most Reformed leaders remain obsessed with the Five Solas, as if the basics of Calvinism point the way forward out of… Read more »