Well, you’ve gone and put your foot in it now, Wilson. Why, what have I done? It’s all very well to aspire to become the bad boy of Reformed letters, but there are supposed to be limits. But this piques my curiosity. To what might you be referring? Yes, you pretend to be ignorant, but you know very well what you have done. Well, yes, I actually do know. I did toss a cinder block into the goldfish bowl.
As I mount the gallows and look out over the crowd gathered for the festivities, the chaplain accompanying the hangman asks me if I ever thought it would end this way. Well, kinda, I did, but to be honest, I hadn’t anticipated that it would be for believing that Christian women were prettier.
I have risen to praise Christian womanhood, and the forces of notsurewhatexactly have taken to Twitter to express their dismay, outrage, indignation, and deep concern. The alternatives to the views I expressed are basically that Christian women are uglier, or that they are exactly the same, or that they are prettier, but that my manners are exceedingly bad for mentioning it. This is going to be festive.
And blogs were involved also. Carl Trueman responded to me thus:
“So there you have it. That is Mr Wilson’s sophisticated take on the psychology of non-Christian women: they either aspire to be sex mad prostitutes or, failing that, turn into butch lesbians.
I guess he must be describing my mother because she is not a Christian — but I am not sure at what point in her life she quite fitted this description. I must have missed it. When she married, still chaste, at 20? Throughout her 46 years of faithful, devoted marriage to dad? When she patiently and lovingly nursed him through his long, final, painful illness, administering his meds, lifting him on and off the toilet, attending to his most basic and undignified bodily needs? During the years since his death when she has been faithful to the memory of ‘the only man I will ever love’, to use her phrase?
To be sure, she is not a Christian. She needs Jesus as her saviour. But I suspect the reduction of non-Christian women to whores or lesbians says more about the psychology of the writer than it does about my mother. And maybe other mothers too?”
Russell Moore took some time out of his busy schedule to link to Trueman’s response, along with an “Amen to this by Carl Trueman.” I forget. Is it easy or hard to get a Baptist to say amen?
In my initial post, I was going to have a whole section devoted to a defense of generalizations, for of course I know quite well that there are some non-Christian women who are prettier than some Christian women. I was going to do that, but then I ran out of time — my day has a habit of getting out of bed about twenty minutes before I do. So I was going to include it because I knew it was probably necessary, but the reaction I am getting tells me that a paragraph about generalizations would not have done much good. Let’s see if a few paragraphs do any good now. I am dubious because I like to string my words together into things called “arguments” and my adversaries generally string their words together into things called “outrage,” and this is results in interactions that are about as on point as that time we discussed whether Henry is taller than a pig is fat.
But Trueman knows how to argue, and the point he raises is worth answering, so here goes. The reply that Trueman makes would work equally well on any generalization, including all the good ones. If I said that men are taller than women, it is not to the point if he produces a sister who is half a foot taller than I am. The generalization remains accurate, and his sister remains taller than I am.
Let us try the Trueman method of evaluation when it comes to the rough treatment that Jesus gave the Pharisees. They were a highly respected group in Israel before Jesus trashed their name forever and ever. There were in fact Pharisees in Israel who were entirely worthy of their historic tradition. They were the ones that Jesus ignored as He undertook to blast all the whited tombs. There were some Pharisees who warned Jesus about an attempt on His life that time (Luke 13:31), and so to dismiss them all as blind guides tells us more about the psychology of the speaker than it tells us about the actual behavior of Pharisees under Second Temple Judaism.
But even taking my generalization as a generalization, understanding how generalizations work, was my generalization a reasonable one? Is a case to be made — even on the level of generalization — that the alternative to belief in Christ for women today is either to become easy skanks or angry lesbians? Sure, it is. The circulation of Cosmopolitan, the general outlook of which I was making fun of, is in the Millions. And what outlook, if not that of angry lesbianism, rules all the stupid decorum policies — you know, microagressions and all that crap — of virtually every college campus in America? And who cooked up that yes means yes foolishness in California?
Right. And so now my critics can’t believe I am making light of the rape epidemic — how dare I minimize the scourge of mistreatment of women? Fine. Let’s talk about that — and the fact I do have to talk about that shows how influential the angry lesbians are. Let’s talk about who actually promotes treating women like dirt. Can you say Random House?
How many copies of 50 Shades sold in America? How many million do you say? Oh . . . 100 million copies of mommy porn? How many adult women are there in America? About 160 million. So what is that? Approximately two out of three?
In short, the two alternatives I presented in my generalization are two groups of women that are widely influential, and whose members number in the millions. These two alternatives currently dominate the public discussion of what a woman’s role and identity should be, and I cannot get through a day without being confronted by multiple examples of them.
And this leads us, however circuitously, to a discussion of how such comparisons should actually work. I am very willing to acknowledge what Carl Trueman says about his mother — that she needs a savior, and that she is a very nice woman. If God’s common grace has already been bestowed on such a woman, is there anything that could make her lovelier? And if you postulate the plainest Christian woman ever, is there anything that could make things worse? If you started with the most beautiful pagan woman, would the addition of faith, hope and love not do anything? And if you started with a Christian woman who was not at all pretty, would the presence of bleak despair have no additional negative effect?
This is elementary. C.S. Lewis talks about it when he compares a jolly unbelieving man with a grouchy old Christian woman. He points out that we are not to compare him with her. He says that we are talking about what he would be like if he actually came to faith, and what she would be like if she had no faith.
Does the gospel of Christ do anything in the world at all? Does Trueman’s suspicion of transformationalism extend down into individual sanctification? The gospel does have an effect. There is an impact. And this was the point of the verses I cited — and I did notice that in all the responses to me, there has been precious little interaction with those texts.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:3–6, ESV).
Christian women are here instructed to work on their loveliness from the inside out, and not, as the unbelieving women do, from the outside in. This is not saying that feminine Christian loveliness is invisible. It begins in an invisible place, in the hidden person of the heart. It starts with a gentle and quiet spirit, a spirit that has an imperishable beauty before God. A gentle and quiet spirit never needs Botox injections.
It starts there, but does not stay there. Peter is not saying that Christian women need not worry about adorning themselves for their husbands. Rather, he is teaching them how to do it. The way to make yourself lovely to your husband is by cultivating a demeanor of trust in God, learning freedom from fear, becoming beautiful before God, and then submitting to your husband, calling him lord.
Are you a staunch inerrantist and complementarian, secretly rooting for me in all of this? And yet, despite your secret support for me, you rather wished I had not ended the previous paragraph with those fatal three words, calling him lord. And I just did it again! I said it twice! At least the apostle Peter had the good grace to say it only once, and that in the midst of a passage he knew we were all going to skim over anyway.
Ah, so we have found the culprit. Christian feminine loveliness is directly related to that vile s-word, submission. Submission makes Christian women lovely, and a lack of submission does the opposite. So this is the very reason we must embrace what the apostle teaches. Our rejection of this glorious feminine loveliness is the root of our current cultural drift. We want to believe the Bible, but we want our faith to be the scratch and sniff kind. We want to believe what the Bible says without having to actually do what the Bible says to do.
It all comes down to this. Do you believe that the bride in a Christian wedding ceremony should have to promise to obey? Those who say yes are believers. Those who say no are unbelievers. I dare I call them unbelievers? Well, they don’t believe, right? And of course in saying this I am emphasizing the idea, not the mere inclusion of the word obey. The word might be present and the reality absent, and the word might be absent and the reality present (in alternative words).
Incidentally, the loveliness of submission is also the alternative to the fundamentalist rejection of all adornment, those who want plain for the sake of plain. There are some who whoop the word submission, but who reject the idea of adornment and loveliness, which means they are trying to obey the command of the apostle while fighting the logic of the apostle.
The grace of true submission is also the alternative to those who want to substitute “hot” for “lovely.”
Let us finish our instructive morning by taking a walk through the gallery of those who appear to believe that arguing for the loveliness of Christian women is teetering on the edge of a hate crime. In my defense, I will only say that I did it without employing the word pulchritude.
response by Dr. Carl Trueman to @douglaswils about DW bizarre & scary beliefs concerning non Christian women
Like the false report saying that all non-Christian women are sluts or lesbians?
The theology @douglaswils espouses is astoundingly backwards and misogynistic. Good Lord Almighty, save us.
it might be funny, if it wasn’t so incredibly hurtful and harmful.
right when you think he couldn’t marginalize and disqualify himself any more…he out does himself.
If first shall be last, @douglaswils patriarchal claims put him firmly in the category of “last” in the kingdom of God!
Doug, can you please reconsider/revoke this piece? Highly inflammatory/ offensive. Words like this hurt real people.
ironically I do not think he gets lumberjack dykes at all
Now this morning round-up would not be complete if I did not spend at least a paragraph on the tart rejoinder of @rachelheldevans.
“He calls women/ gay people ugly, demeaning names but his theology is good.” No. If he calls people ugly demeaning names his theology’s shit
So here is a golden opportunity to apply the golden rule to RHE. Should I take her statement the way she is taking mine? Should I take it as an exhaustive claim, extending all along the waterfront, such that if anybody, anywhere, calls anyone an ugly, demeaning name then that person’s theology is shit? But this would mean that RHE just called the Sermon on the Mount a very tacky name. For in that sermon our Lord said some things that some very respected theologians found to be hurtful. They didn’t think they were hypocrites at all, and the trumpet they blew on the street corners when giving alms was a gift to them from their dear, departed mothers, saintly women all.
Or should I simply allow her to make a generalization about some people — and I have met them too — who really do betray their orthodoxy by personal malice? Should I take her generalization as such, interpreting her words so that they do not include a condemnation of the Lord Jesus?
That would be nicer, and nice is the option I always try to go with.