I have been subjected, I fear, to quantitative analysis. I have been JEDP’ed, to use an oblique analogy, and am sorely tempted to retreat into my cave to join the other Deuteronomist editors.
A couple of bluestockings over at Jesus Creed have weighed and counted my words, particularly words offered in the course of various wedding exhortations. They also quote my words, a good many of them in fact, but alas, they do not appear to have read them. You may check out the sad tale of woe here.
Two Kinds of Disagreement:
There are two kinds of disagreements. The first is when someone attacks you for saying x, and you, after you recover from your surprise at the assault, rally to the line, and defend the truth of x, or possibly, in these troubled times, defend having said x even although it was true. This is what you might call an old school disagreement.
Then the other kind of disagreement is when you said x,y,z, and your interlocutor multiplies what you said by six oranges, forgets to carry the two eggplants, and argues that you are maintaining m, n, and o, despite your denials, which only mean that you are now secretly maintaining them. Or perhaps subconsciously holding to them, which means you need counseling as much as you need refutation.
This quantitative treatment of my wedding exhortations falls in the latter category, and of course, I object to the methodology. At best, counting words might tell you what I was talking about, but is of no usefulness at all in determining what I was saying.
In order to demonstrate this, all I need to do is juxtapose a few of their learned conclusions with regular old quotations from me. Please note that I will not be able to chase every point down — I feel here like a German Shorthair Pointer turned loose in the middle of Happy Acres Rabbit Farm. A certain inevitable process of selection must occur.
But in these paragraphs of mine that I will cite, I will admit that I have no idea how many times any particular word in them might have been used, although I do know what I am saying. And therein lies the point.
Of course, some might ask why I am taking the trouble to answer this. This article is running a surplus of howlers, as a rudimentary quantitative analysis will reveal, and so does it not refute itself? Well, not exactly. If you go over to the Church Relevance web site to see how various blogs are positioned in their rankings, you can readily see that Jesus Creed, despite publishing stuff like this, ranks at #21 out of the top 100 Christian blogs. And my worthy efforts, despite my use of many colorful adjectives and pithy sayings, comes in at a pitiful #82. “Subject that to quantitative analysis, Wilson!” I clearly need to come up with 61 truthy-units somewhere.
An Easy Target
Dr. Valerie Hobbs and Rachel Miller start by explaining why they are taking me on, since I am such an easy target. They ask “Why Wilson?” — a question that, speaking quite frankly, ought to be asked by the important people more often. To which I reply, Why not Wilson?
“Doug Wilson is regarded by some, perhaps many, as something of an easy target.”
But having an easy target and having a formidable weapon are perhaps two different things, as the two small boys with slingshots once discovered while shooting at the side of the barn.
So let me begin our festivities with the juxtapositions I referred to earlier.
“We note that out of nearly 5,700 blog posts, containing 1,151 references to the word ‘marriage’, Wilson refers to Proverbs 31 in only one post.”
This throws the problem with their quantitative methodology into high relief. They missed a crucial post, a post that I found within minutes using a technical methodology provided by my site called “a search bar,” into which I typed “Proverbs 31.”
If you want to know what I think about Proverbs 31, then perhaps you ought to read what I write about Proverbs 31. You should not make a scientific pother about how many times I don’t mention Proverbs 31 in passages where I am not talking about Proverbs 31.
Here is what I think about it, and please note how strikingly different it is from how they represent what they assume must be my women-must-be-passive position. Here it is, and watch me go.
“And when we come to the end of the book, we have a particular woman described, one who embodies the characteristics of Wisdom. And many Christians know this, and refer jokingly to the ‘Proverbs 31 woman,’ but they often do this without looking closely at what she actually does . . . Her husband delegates responsibility to her (31:11), and is not foolish in doing so (31:12); she is a weaver (31:13); she shops for food effectively over long distances, making CostCo runs to Lewiston (31:14); she cooks and provides food (31:15); she buys real estate (31:16); she starts a farm with her accumulated capital (31:16); she works hard, and manufactures quality merchandise (31:17-19); she is deeply involved in philanthropic work to the poor (31:20); she thinks ahead, and clothes her family well (31:21); she makes things for herself, and dresses herself well (31:22); she poses no threat to her husband; she does not compete with him or try to overshadow him (31:23); she is a fabric and clothing wholesaler (31:24); she is a wise woman, and a teacher (31:26); she manages her household (31:27), to the praise of her husband and children (31:28-29); and she fears God, placing no trust in fleeting vanity (31:30-31). [The Role of Biblical Women]
To their credit, in the pursuit of their extremely odd method, they do quote extensively from my wedding exhortations. They do this enough that a thoughtful reader of their article, someone who has never heard of me before, ought to stop and say, “Now wait a minute.” They plainly know they have to overcome my words and stuff so that their raw numbers can make their case for them.
“In Wilson’s writings, we observe a complexity and contradiction that make it difficult to dismiss his ideas immediately.”
Yes. I call that nuance.
“If one can overlook the inherent passivity in being identified primarily with objects rather than actions, Wilson’s connection of wives with these notions sounds like high praise indeed.”
I sound like I honor women highly, because of all that honoring I do, but don’t be fooled, sheeple! The numbers don’t lie! I wonder what would happen, incidentally, if they took that gee-whiz-analysis-software of theirs, and ran Ephesians 5 through it.
They say that I am identifying women “primarily with objects rather than actions.” I actually identify them as people, created objects who act in the world according to their creational nature, just as men do.
So here are some quotes from me about women “who do not act.”
“Women are supposed to be feminine in relation to their own husbands, and not in every direction generally. Older women are supposed to teach younger women (Tit. 2:3-4). Women are supposed to issue commands to stubborn two-year-old boys (Eph. 6:1). Women are not supposed to obey another woman’s husband (Eph. 5:22). Grown men are supposed to remember the law of their mother (Prov. 6:20). A queen is supposed to guide her husband the king into wisdom (Est. 5:2). And all this means that, if false notions of femininity are abroad in the Christian community, the most feminine wives will not necessarily be recognized as such.” https://dougwils.com/books/foundations-of-marriage-x.html
“No human authority in this sinful world is absolute, and there are times when a woman must play the role of Abigail in dealing with a blockhead husband. We have emphasized this many times in our ministry and there is no reason to rehearse it again here.” https://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/patriarchy-vision-forum-and-all-the-rest-of-it.html
“Teaching headship and submission in marriage is only safe if we are also teaching women their responsibility to be an Abigail if married to a Nabal.”
Two Notorious Passages
In a brief aside, we must take a moment to pay attention to two notorious passages of mine. They make reference to a statement from many years ago that endorsed church discipline for a wife’s ‘neglect’ of the dishes. I am not sure, but I think they are referring to this incident.
They also cite the passage that caused such an uproar that time when Rachel Held Evans got a hold of it. You know the one, about how in sex a man penetrates, etc. I honestly don’t know what we have spending all this money on sex ed for if at the end of the day people still don’t know that in sex a man penetrates and a woman doesn’t. That was a passage that had all necessary qualifications and contextualization accompanying it and requires no further explanation at all. At the end of the day, sex is still what it is.
But then they chide me for writing Fidelity just to men. “This is visible in Wilson’s act of discouraging wives from reading the advice he gives to their husbands about sex.”
So how would the uproar caused by Rachel Held “Trigger Warning” Evans cause me to rethink this? None of the men who read Fidelity ever required a swooning couch. Maybe I put that disclaimer on there because I knew that some women are like RHE, queen of the vapors, and would create an uproar over it. And now come two more women, making that very same point for me.
“Wilson further highlights women’s passive role in his portrayal of wives as knowing little about sex and even about their own bodies, requiring instruction from their husbands. The husband ‘must teach her and then teach her to teach him’ (Fidelity, p. 135), though, of course, under his guidance and authority, keeping in mind that she is likely to teach him the wrong things, such as the lesson, via lingerie or other sexual accouterments, that she is a hooker.”
Three quick things. First, I don’t think lingerie is a problem, and never did. I think that hooker-wear is a problem. Erotic and skanky are not synonyms. I will leave the grown-ups to sort that one out on their own. Second, even on their own rendering, I say, even in the passage they cite, that a husband must teach his wife, and then teach her to teach him. As a wise man once said, many men make love to a woman the way an orangutan plays the violin — an observation I have made before. Teaching him is therefore not limited to teaching him how wonderful and Solomonic he is. Hobbs and Miller assume the content of this “curriculum” because they have already assumed that they know what I must think about it. But they are wildly, erratically, spectacularly, wrong. And then third, given the fact that my comments about penetration are still giving some women the shakes, the need for some level of instruction does remain apparent.
That Word Passive
Throughout their post, they repeatedly trip over a confusion they have generated, a confusion of responsive and passive. I mostly certainly do teach that a woman is called to be responsive in marriage, but to reduce this to passive is just silly.
“However, careful scrutiny of Wilson’s teachings about marriage uncover a concerning theology of marriage wherein the woman is a passive responder, a recipient of all that the man does and brings, a glory that serves merely to reflect the splendor of her husband.”
This is a conclusion which I would hotly dispute. In fact, I have been doing so. In short, their technique prevents them from seeing things that I state in the plainest possible terms. Why didn’t they quote this?
“This is no small feat; it has been observed that Ginger Rogers did absolutely everything that Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels.”
What I Actually Think In Real Time
If I actually thought what Hobbs and Miller assert about me, that would in fact be appalling. I detest the picture they have painted. I reject it. We are not debating x, with me affirming and them denying. I am denying y, and they — for no good reason — are denying my denial.
“For Wilson, the wife has no self and, it seems, no voice.”
“In summary, we find Wilson’s model of the glorified stepstool wife unconvincing and his notions of wifely fulfilment hollow and hypocritical.”
“Our aim in this article was to make clear what this picture actually looks like. Wilson’s image is of wife only as passive receiver, always taught but never truly teacher, voiceless and invisible.”
I see. My picture of the biblical wife is that she is never “truly teacher.” She is “voiceless and invisible.” I would like to take this opportunity to introduce, for the very first time apparently, my wife Nancy. She is the author of six books, one of them a widely-used textbook. I like my women voiceless, but it must be added that I am really bad at making this happen. Oh, and here are my daughters — Rachel and Rebekah. Rachel has written two books, this one and this one, and is working on a third. She has also written for a publication called “The Internet,” and with a massive response from her readership, a rare thing for such voiceless women. Rebekah is the editor and author of a ten-volume series on British Literature. Not only do these voiceless and invisible women in my life do such things, but they do them with me whooping and waving my hat in the background. If there is one thing I like to do, it is fatherly kvelling.
Incidentally, the most recent thing that they wrote, at least that I read, were their emails responding to the link I sent them about my exposure to this quantitative refutation. Nancy wrote, “Very informative.” Rebekah said, “Hahahahahaha …. the worst!” Rachel said, “Well that was….precious. Hahaha!” You can see, using the very latest methods of quantitative analysis, that Bekah thought it was twice as funny as Rachel did.