After Dr. Valerie Hobbs and I wrote our article looking at Doug Wilson’s wedding exhortations, we were told that we were wrong in our conclusions about Wilson’s view of women. Several people, Wilson included, wrote that Wilson obviously thinks very highly of women and their abilities. Wilson’s wife, Nancy, and daughters/daughters-in-law and their books and articles were given as examples of how wrong we were in our analysis. Of course, our research was about Doug Wilson’s words not his family.
However, continuing in the research I’ve been doing, I read one of Nancy Wilson’s books, The Fruit of Her Hands. Her book is full of advice for Christian wives. In reading it, I realized that it would be worthwhile to compare Nancy’s advice to that of her husband. Would her words support the conclusions of our article? Or would they contradict them?
In what follows, I will quote short statements in bold from our article. After each statement, I will give quotes from Nancy Wilson’s book that I believe support each of our conclusions.
“At the heart of Wilson’s theology of the wife is the notion of being something belonging to her husband”
Two of the main themes that Valerie and I found in reading Doug Wilson’s exhortations were that women were encouraged to “be” not to “do” and to “respond/receive” not “initiate.”
Taking that first point, in Nancy Wilson’s book she writes that a wife is a garden that belongs to her husband and that a husband is a garden tender:
As a Christian woman begins to see herself as a garden, she can take a more eager interest in making it a lovely garden that her husband delights to spend time in. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 951-952). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
of course a husband is never trespassing in his own garden, though he can be made to feel as though he is an intruder. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 957-958). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
In fact, in many ways, the husband is the garden tender, and the wife becomes a source of great joy and delight to the husband as he spends time in the garden he faithfully tends. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 947-948). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“Second, we learn that a wife’s role is one of passive response”
Like Doug, Nancy Wilson writes that women were created to be responsive:
Contemporary Christian women, created by God to be responsive, are vulnerable to temptations to be deceived. We must learn to think like Christians and resist the temptation to believe everything we read or hear. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 656-657). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
But how does “passive response” play out in a marriage? Nancy gives a lengthy example for what a wife should do if a husband doesn’t provide for his family. According to the example, a wife should trust in God to provide, trust her husband to lead, and not work to provide the necessary funds:
What if your husband fails to provide for you? What if you are hopelessly in debt, and he is not bringing home an adequate paycheck? … First, do not seek to protect him from the consequences of his folly. … Of course you must be a support and help and source of encouragement. But that is a completely different thing than trying to shoulder responsibilities that are not yours. When a wife tries to bear the responsibilities that her husband should be bearing, she suffers. … When the bill collector calls, hand your husband the phone. But do so respectfully, praying that God will use it to bring about a change. When there are overdue bills, look to him for his direction—whether or not he provides it. … Quit scrambling, trying to come up with funds to meet deadlines. It is his responsibility. … Are you trying to find an extra job so that you can keep the house, boat, car? Often women rush into jobs to “help out,” thinking it will only be short term. The kids are farmed out because “it’s just until we pay off the car.” But then, after the car is paid for, there is something else. And pretty soon, you are working outside the home full-time, the kids are on their own, and you are still in debt. Then it is too hard to quit—who will pay the bills? You need to get out, go home, and take care of your kids. “But,” you say, “my husband wants me to work.” I have heard this before, when, in fact, the husband wanted very much for the wife to come home, and she was the one resisting the move. … So do not think your happiness lies in how your husband is doing, or in how many possessions you have. Your happiness and joy lie in Christ alone. If you are trusting in Him, He will see you safely through. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 502-523). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“Third, we see that, for Wilson, a wife’s function is to take whatever is given to her (for example, money) and transform it into something useful in her appointed station, the home”
In one of Doug’s exhortations, he tells the bride to take what her husband gives her and return it to him glorified. In Nancy’s book, she advises a wife to be creative in the kitchen when transforming a meager income into dinner:
Your finances are tight. You confess your anxiety to your husband and to the Lord. You resolve to trust God and pray for your husband, and you pray for patience. Meanwhile, you show a brave spirit and a joyful countenance to your family, and a creative flair in the kitchen. “I’ve found a new way to cook beans!” You hunker down and think of creative ways to respect your husband.- Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 432-434). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“women’s role in sex is surrender”
One of Doug’s better known quotes about sex speaks of the roles of husbands and wives in terms of colonization/conquering and receiving/surrendering, respectively. Nancy affirms this teaching of sex as surrender for wives. A wife doesn’t need to “feel like it” or consult her feelings:
If a wife is not feeling “in the mood,” she simply has to apply the golden rule. Does your husband always “feel” in the mood for a heart-to-heart chat? Perhaps not. Do you want him to tell you when he is not in the mood but just talking because he loves you and knows you need it? Of course not. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1015-1017). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Nevertheless, your husband’s desire has probably not suffered a dip [due to pregnancy or breastfeeding hormones]. This is an obstacle, but again, it is not insurmountable. Sometimes you will have to work harder to “feel like it.” It is not always necessary to consult your feelings anyway. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“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.”
Nancy agrees that wives should learn from their husbands regarding what might please them:
Now I am not telling you how to do this [enrapture your husband]. I am simply telling you that you must. It is your duty before God to help your husband in his obedience of this command. You are given to him by God to satisfy him, to delight him intensely, and to rejoice with him. There is an important reason why I am not telling you how. That’s because you need to ask your husband. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 992-995). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“Wilson’s image of husband is that of ‘resident theologian'”
Doug also expects husbands to the be ones to teach their wives about theology. Nancy concurs:
We must cultivate a taste for books that will build us up in the faith—not take us to fantasy land. You might want to start with biographies of saints greatly used by God in the past. Be selective. Look to your husband for suggestions. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 171-175). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
If you miss church, request a tape. Take sermon notes, jot down questions, and afterwards ask your husband questions. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 176-177). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Because women are prone to deception, we must have our guard up. Everything we hear must be weighed in light of Scripture. So what does a wise woman do who needs spiritual help? … Go to your husband first. He is your head and he is responsible before God to shepherd and pastor his home, starting with you. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 206-210). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“Wilson’s husbands are created for and called to work, and wives are created for and called to support their husbands in that work. Put simply, his calling becomes her calling”
Here again, Nancy’s advice is consistent with what Doug has written about husbands and wives and their respective callings. A wife is “God’s appointed helper” for the “special work” God created her husband to do:
He is one of a kind, and God has prepared special work for him to do. You have the privilege of being God’s appointed helper for him. … Your husband will appreciate your obedience and be set free to live up to all God has called him to be. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 97-100). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“A wife does not have her own calling separate from serving her husband’s.”
Since Nancy’s ministry in writing books to women was given as the example for what Doug really believes about women and their abilities, it’s interesting to read Nancy’s thoughts on how to evaluate women in ministry. She asks if there are any limits to the ministry women can have to other women. First she explains how to judge if a woman’s ministry is valid:
The first question to ask and answer is, “Who is this woman’s husband?” Next we must ask many subsidiary questions. Is she fulfilling her ministry to him? Is he her priority? Is she helping him? Is her house in order? Is he leading her in this ministry? Is her identity as a Christian woman centered, under Christ, around her relationship to her husband? … But if the answer to any of the earlier questions is “no,” then her ministry is likely independent of her husband, much like a separate career. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 111-115). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
She goes on to say that a woman’s ministry should be connected to her husband’s headship over her:
In contrast, because Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the wife, a Christian woman in ministry should be seen as under her husband’s visible headship. In other words, her ministry should be visibly connected to him. This can be a real help to him, for her teaching can be a complement to his work. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 116-118). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Nancy explains how these ideas work in her own ministry. Her work is not a separate work, but “visibly connected” to Doug’s work:
When people listen to or read her teaching, it is organically connected to the head God has placed over her. This is obviously difficult if her husband is always across the country, or if his name is merely listed in the book with the other “credits” in the fine print. This is why I rarely travel to speak at women’s conferences, but rather teach where my husband is speaking. Not only does this keep us together, working as a team, but he is then available to continue to lead me and protect me in ministry settings. My teaching role is a support and complement to his, not the other way around. This way my ministry is visibly connected to my husband’s and is not seen as a separate work. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 120-125). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“For Wilson, a happy wife is one who accepts the confines of the housework and childbearing she was made for”
Here too Nancy’s writing is consistent with our conclusions. Modern women, according to Nancy, have been deceived into abandoning their responsibilities of home and children:
The modern woman has been deceived, like Eve, and led away by her own lusts from her God-given domain and he God-ordained responsibilities. Loaded down with sin—discontent and envy—she is promised freedom and happiness if she will just forsake her domain—the home—and neglect her responsibilities—husband and children. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 33-35). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Women don’t need to leave home to do good works for the Lord. The home is the “center of her activities”:
Notice the order of these good deeds. Our children are first. Next is hospitality. Then comes relieving the afflicted. The wife does not have to go outside her domain to “do good.” The home is the center of her activities, and these activities can be and should be pleasing to God. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 384-386). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Nancy also writes about realizing that God wanted her to do the dishes and be happy about it:
Immediately I realized what [God] wanted me to do. He wanted me to do the dishes. But I still wondered if there was something else He wanted me to do. And I realized that, yes, there was something else. He wanted me to do them cheerfully. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 786-787). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“She exists to serve and glorify him.”
We concluded from Doug’s wedding exhortations that, for Doug, wives exist to serve and glorify their husbands. In Nancy’s book, she tells wives that their jog is to be willing servants:
Your job is to be a humble and willing servant, recognizing that God is at work, and He will bring to pass His will, using His appointed means. This should encourage you to pray for your husband, rather than nag him. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, thank God that you have a husband. Thank Him that He is at work to do as He pleases. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 489-491). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Nancy goes on to explain how a wife can honor, glorify, and serve her husband. The wife should cater to her husbands preferences and defer to him in practical ways:
This can mean following through when your husband requests something, instead of putting it at the end of the to-do list. It can include everything from when dinner is scheduled, to what kind of greeting your husband gets, to making him a cup of coffee. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 451-453). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
Respect is a demeanor that should characterize wives in all their conduct toward their husbands and in all their communication to or about their husbands—this means courtesy in the home, where the husband is treated with honor. Remnants of this honor from a previous era are our traditions of Dad seated at the head of the table, Dad carving the turkey, [the American custom of] Dad having his own big chair, Dad leading the family in thanks at meals, and Dad doing the driving on the family trips. These are things that we assume culturally, but they come from the time when everyone knew and understood that Dad was the head of the house. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 445-450). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
“For Wilson, the wife has no self and, it seems, no voice.”
When Valerie and I wrote our article, we were told that it was ridiculous that we would say that women have no voice in Wilson’s teaching. After all, his wife and daughters write and give seminars. And it’s certainly true that women can have a voice, as long as what they say is consistent with Doug teaches. However, what if a wife disagrees with her husband? What would Nancy say she should do? Pray for strength and silence:
When you are tempted to criticize your husband (and you will be), when you want very much to “let him have it,” pray for love—“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Prov. 10:12). Turn to the Lord for comfort, strength, silence! – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 495-497). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
But what about if a husband is in unrepentant sin? Then what should a wife do? According to Nancy, she might need to go to the elders, but she should be committed to winning her husband “without a word”:
If you have a husband like the ones described above, you must not make the mistake of trying to undertake to deal with his sins; you must deal with your own. If, however, he is a Christian man who is engaged in viewing pornography, you may need to go to the elders in your church so he can be disciplined. But if he is simply not spending enough time with you (from your perspective), or is not meeting your needs in some other way, you must realize that God is the only One who can bring about change. The Scripture is clear that you may be a potent instrument in God’s hand, if you are committed to being the woman described in 1 Peter 3 who wins him without a word. – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 1050-1054). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
And if a problem isn’t big enough to get the elders involved, then a wife shouldn’t talk about it with anyone. Apparently it can be hard to know whether or not to go to the elders. In this quote Nancy seems to advocate erring on the side of silence:
If it is not big enough to share with the elders of the church (or the police), so that they may step in to deal with your husband, then it is not big enough to share with anyone. And even if you are unnecessarily silent in a situation, you probably need the practice (Prov. 31: 11). – Wilson, Nancy (2011-03-04). The Fruit of Her Hands (Kindle Locations 217-219). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.
In the end, I believe that Nancy Wilson’s words confirm our conclusions from the original article. Yes, it’s true that Nancy and her daughters write, but what do they write, and how do they view their work? Nancy clearly views her writing as an extension of Doug, and her message is consistent with what Doug has written.
Nancy’s message is the same as Doug’s. Wives are to be passive responders and receivers. They are to take what their husbands give them and glorify it. They are to surrender sexually to their husbands. Wives are to learn from their husbands in all things. They are to accept their calling as helpers. They are to serve and defer to their husbands. They are not to have separate careers. They are to keep silent.
Wives should do the dishes and do them cheerfully.
46 thoughts on “Nancy Wilson: “my ministry is visibly connected to my husband’s and is not seen as a separate work””
Thank you Rachel. Excellent research. This is wicked, wicked, wicked stuff. It is the stuff abusers are made of and it is the world and environment that is a garden alright, a garden to grow abusers. They will flourish in this soil. There is something very twisted and wrong about Wilson’s teaching. I also find it interesting that so much of his teaching emphasis, as is reflected in that of his wife’s writings, is about sex, sex, sex. To Wilson, a wife is a sex object to be owned. There it is.
Even when it’s not about sex, it’s somehow about sex …
Are you divorced? Do you have issues with men?
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This is certainly my sad experience, thank you for recognizing this.
Rachel, thank you! For me, honestly, just having this all in one place is amazing. I tell people “I was told . . . I learned . . . I heard,” but can’t cite where this stuff is found (and don’t really want to go looking.
I’m glad it helps!
So you don’t think the wife should be submissive to her husband? Are you a “christian” feminist? So is your view that a wife should be a critic of her husband? Why are you highlighting these points, many of which are very biblical! Many woman today have no biblical sense in marriage? They are quick to emulate the godless culture forgetting the humble nature of Sarah.
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I think a wife should submit to get husband. I’m not a “Christian” feminist. I do not believe a wife should be a critic if get husband. I’m don’t believe that you have a biblical view of marriage, from your comments here.
Thank you for this very insightful article Rachel. I was blindsided by this very teaching to a degree that it creates a false view of submission. The irony here is that the narcissistic husband will hate his wife more and more as the years progress because he sees himself and the fruit of his behavior in her ever diminishing condition. He will blame his failures on her and he will hate his own reflection as it dominates their lives, as it is so very ugly.
Very insightful, Lori. Even now that we are divorced, my narcissist ex-husband blames me for everything. Were I not protecting our child who is forced by a judge to spend 50 percent of her time with him, I would just be done with him. As it is, I try to minimize contact, but somehow it always comes back around to my fault, my failure. I hear the accuser of the brethren at every turn.
These quotes are perfect examples of the subtle power of spiritual abuse and mental abuse which too often leads straight into physical abuse. It is disgusting and maddening. And oh so subtle.
And sad. Nancy’s life- if it reflects her own words- is a stunted, pitiful, desperate life that must, when she walks out her front door, appear to be the happy contented life she always dreamed of. Always. That is a sadness, to never be able to move a marriage beyond- the wife must submit. Always. An ugly paradigm for sure.
I once wrote a post about a conversation I’d had with her and my impression when we finished lunch was pity for her. Her marriage, though she tried to make it sound otherwise, seemed to me like a white noise marriage, a steady, unvarying, unobtrusive marriage, like an electronically produced drone or the sound of rain, used to mask or obliterate unwanted dissension.
Peace, peace, and the wife’s needs, wants, desires be damned. Her book might better have been titled: How to Live in Peace with a Tyrant Toddler.
And she writes as though she knows from whence she speaks.
Thanks for your great articles Rachel. This is brainwashing not Christianity. For reformed pastors to not see this and separate from Wilson and others is mind-boggling. Discernment comes from God. Lack of discernment is a judgment from God.
It’s helpful to see all the quotes in one place. I particularly find the ones about the place of a woman’s “ministry” (always in quotes, eh?) intriguing.
While the wife is applying 1 Peter :3, trying to win her abusive husband without a word from the wife. Her soul dies a little more each day. While “he” the husband is out doing his own thing. I have witnessed this abuse first hand. The wife in this case.. told me. This is where God wants me to stay. I often wonder what became of her?
I exist to serve and glorify Jehovah God, not a spouse, be he a truly loving Christian husband or not.
This is important work you’re doing, Rachel! Thank you. Keep standing up for the Truth, no matter the mud slinging and name calling that follows. I can tell you’re made of tougher stuff, anyway. Most importantly, though, keep fighting the fight against this patriarchal heresy that seems to be gaining a foothold not just in mainstream evangelicalism, but even in secular culture! Can anyone explain to me why the Duggars were so popular with believers and unbelievers alike???
Sarah, my guess with the Duggars is that unbelievers see their way of life as quaint and funny (and sometimes kinda sweet). Since it’s not a threat to them, it’s easy to treat it as entertainment and not see the lives at stake.
I can say from personal experience that the Duggars were VERY popular with the wives of the pastor and music leader of my (now former) church. They were both homeschooling moms, as I then became, but they each had many children. Both always wore dresses and made their daughters do likewise. (I felt a bit out of place sometimes in my shorts or jeans, but…. I stuck to my Christian liberty; I’m not fond of wearing dresses unless in a corporate workplace or formal occasion.) They loved the Duggars and spoke of them often. When the 2008 election rolled around in the US, I was told by the pastor’s wife how uncomfortable she was that Sarah Palin was running, though this wife was a conservative voter. She said she’d sit out the election before she’d vote for a woman. I asked what if Palin and her husband had agreed how to run their own family and that this is what they decided for themselves? The pastor’s wife said “No. A woman’s place is in the home.” I confess that it took my husband’s leaving us many years later before I felt comfortable just leaving that church, though I had prayed for deliverance from it for years. God did deliver me – from both anti-husband and anti-church.
I enjoyed watching the Duggars ( not a fundie) mainly because they SEEMED wholsome and I alos grew up in a large family (Religious but not like them). As time went on it was like watching a train wreck: just can’t turn away. Now I want to see how many are able to excape this horrendous situationin which they were reared.
I wonder if she would still write that drivel with her loving husband’s hands around her throat .
i just read this article to my husband, trying to explain legalistic Christianity to him. He was dumbfounded and asked “Has Nancy committed suicide yet?”
Their teaching is for a Christian audience and is assuming that husbands are trying to love their wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25). You are completely off the mark in your evaluation of them and the reformed church to which I belong.
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I am also Reformed and believe that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and that wives should submit to their husbands. I still belive l believe that Doug and Nancy are teaching something that goes well beyond that.
I would like to print this list and have it handy for anyone caught up in this. Excellent points!
“As a Cristian woman begins to see herself as a garden …. ”
As a farm girl, I can tell ya, a garden is just a plot of dirt and it does much better if you spread a little cow manure around in it! Does Nancy Wilson truly believe that women are plots of dirt by day, and blow-up sex dolls by night???
Do the Wilson’s even believe that females have souls?
The Song of Solomon does use that poetic language. It also uses doves and many other word pictures. As for husband and husbandry, the word origin is somewhat different from what you say:
“The word “husbandry” has nothing to do with marriage, at least not in this day and age. And it had nothing to do with marriage when it entered English in the late 13th century.
In fact, the word “husband” itself didn’t mean a married man when it first showed up around the year 1000.
The noun “husband” originally meant a “male head of a household,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The guy could have been married, widowed, or single.
A word-history note in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) suggests that the wedded sense of “husband” was derived from the fact that male heads of household were usually married.
The origins of “husband” are Scandinavian. A similar word from Old Norse and Old Icelandic, husbondi, roughly meant a householder. (A bondi in Old Norse was a peasant who owned his house and land.)
It took nearly 300 years for “husband” to evolve into its modern sense of a married man. This meaning was first recorded in about 1290.
That same year, according to the OED, the word “husbandry” entered the language as a noun for the management of a household and its resources.
Here’s an example from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1596-1598): “Lorenzo, I commit into your hands / The husbandry and manage of my house.” (Portia is speaking here.)
In the 1300s another word, “husbandman,” came to mean a farmer or a tiller of the soil, and the word “husbandry” widened to mean farming and agriculture in general, including the raising of livestock, poultry, and such.
This latest sense of “husbandry” survives today. We still speak of “animal husbandry” as a branch of farm management.”
There’s a huge difference between using garden imagery to highlight the beauty of your beloved and using it to explain why a husband should always have access to his wife’s body. That second application is a severe misunderstanding of simile/metaphor if it’s supposed to be coming from Song of Songs.
I.e., in a simile/metaphor, not every detail/aspect is significant. Treating every detail like code for something is more like allegory, which does not tend to be a Reformed way to read Scripture.
Wow, where to begin? Her ‘counsel’ to wives ranges from mind-numbingly pithy to outright dangerous. She lost me at the garden imagery. I also find her characterization of wifely duties as a ‘ministry’ to be wholly self-aggrandizing on her part. It serves as a way to justify her positiion because, after all, it’s “ministry.” Interestingly, these women who counsel other women on how to be wives – and I’ve run into hoards of them in churches – never, ever address what wives should expect from their husbands, especially professing Christian husbands. It’s as if we should have no expectations, even though Scripture lays them out.
They will always say that’s because they’re ministry is to women. They tell women what to do not men. Doesn’t answer the fact that you come to feel that you can’t expect or ask anything of your man. Pray, try to be a better wife, but don’t raise your expectations above what your husband is already doing.
I guess if you really felt your husband was neglecting you, you could take it to the elders. You can bet that’s not going to be satisfying though. Just as the rape victim is asked, “What were you wearing?” the abuse victim is asked, “how submissive were you?”
Sarah actually came out of CREC churches. So she is speaking with experience.
It seems I may be the only one who tends to agree with the Wilsons…not on everything necessarily…but I believe women are to be keepers at home and submissive to their husbands. We *are* made to be wives and mothers…to keep the home and do a good job of it. That is not a drudgery…but our role.
Can men abuse their roles? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be biblical standards. We are equals but created with different roles. I have read Nancy’s book and found it to be biblical and edifying.
When we, as Christian women, follow the roles and duties laid down in the Bible for us, we honor God.
The Bible tells us to be submissive (in everything) to our husbands. That is *terribly* difficult…but a command none-the-less. Other issues that Wilson brought up *are* biblical and I am surprised anyone takes issue with them? Trust me….I am so far from perfect and can tend to nag or try to control my husband. I know that is wrong though and strive to do better. My husband has faults but those are not for me to bring up to him…the Spirit convicts…not the wife. My duty as his wife is to love and support him in all he does (unless it is against Scripture).
Am I missing something in this post? I don’t see what is so wrong with the things she says?
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I do believe that wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives. We are made to glorify God, male and female. Many of us will do so in our roles as wives and mothers/ husbands and fathers. But not all. I do not believe that all women are called to be “keepers at home.” Anna and Deborah and Lydia come to mind as women who served God in other ways. The rules and duties that God gives in Scripture are not the ones that Nancy and Doug give in their writings.
Husbands and wives who are believers are to work together and to build each other up. That means there are times that we will address sin in each other. Because we love each other. I’m not sure if you will see the difference between what Nancy is saying and what Scripture actually teaches.
And I don’t mean that unkindly. I’m just not sure if I can convince you.
What does God’s Word say about Abigail’s decision to not submit to her ungodly husband Nabal? Abigail went behind her husband’s back to avert danger to her household at the hand of her own husband. The Lord didn’t smite her for it, but ” the Lord struck Nabal and he died.” (1 Samuel 25:38)
I would suggest to you that in cases of abuse the Lord is not asking wives to submit mindlessly, but that they (the wives) obey God rather than man (the husband). Many who have not walked in the shoes of the abused wife (and those for years if not decades, like myself) read the word “submit” or other directions in Scripture to the wife and slap it on the abused wife without understanding the evil behind the closed doors and how hard the wife is trying without avail.
I am reminded of Jesus’ example to the Pharisees when His disciples ate grain on the Sabbath day, Jesus pointed out how David and his men ate the showbread because they were hungry. (Mark 2:23-28) We have to look more deeply at the heart of God’s Word to understand and not be universally literal about things like “submission” when the facts on the ground speak against God – as in the case of an abusive husband. The counsel for absolute submission may in fact be against the body of Scripture and not in support of it.
Well stated, Barbara. While reading your comment, another example leaped to mind:
Christians are to obey government (Romans 13) yet the Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharoah (Exodus 1). The verse immediately following their lie to Pharoah about the Hebrew women giving birth states “So God dealt well with the midwives.”
And there’s yet another example: God does not lie. Generally speaking, we are not to lie, and yet God blessed the midwives for both lying and disobeying government.
This supports your statement of scriptural precepts as well as a basic exegetical hermeneutic, which is to let Scripture interpret Scripture. It has to be taken as a whole and with more thoughtful consideration than taking one verse and elevating it to a universal truth for everyone at all times.
The overarching consideration is not taking one verse literally and applying it to all people without consideration of real life details, which in the case of abuse are neither simple nor obvious to onlookers. It’s too simplistic and dangerous to take snippets about marital roles and put them out there as blanket statements of instruction to everyone, especially women trapped in abuse (which as we know is not well-understood by pastors, church leaders, and therefore also congregants).
Are you a member of the Kirk?
Excellent and useful article; thank you for it and this blog. Victorian femininity is not Biblical femininity and it is disturbing to see Reformed Christians equate the two.
These ways of being for a wife, mother, and/or woman are crippling.
As a wife, I lived always striving toward this ideal, while not really knowing what it was called. I had been a Christian all my life. My husband believed and so I trusted God and him.
My husband died.
After 17 years of ups and downs in jobs, two children, and me determined to not jump in and get a career for the very reasons Nancy Wilson states, I can tell you that I now know I was wrong. I now suffer and see evidence that this “way of being” hurt my children in ways that continue to cripple them and me.
I, and yes, I am a Christian, now believe that I should have told him to work or to leave. I should have secured and kept that full-time job because it was needed. And thus been an example for my kids–an adult who sees a need and takes responsibility.
I trusted God but only the way I saw it should work. I didn’t trust God to use me–only me through my husband. Doing this made me disobedient to God, as well as ineffective as a parent in so many ways. Eventually my husband became physically abusive, as well as always being verbally abusive. His life ended with his daughter’s and his relationship a mess because of his abusive words. His life ended with his son confused for the indulgence he gave and the abuse he poured onto him. I was left confused, bereft of the husband I had loved. The soul mate I had believed in and totally exhausted with the struggle– left to find a way to be productive and maintain enough confidence to go forward.
With the kids now in college and trouble continuing to war and rage I hold to God as always, but am sickened as I continue to see how my adherence to what the world now calls “patriarchy” helped to devastate my family. The suffering is ongoing.
This, “Christian culture” that much of the Christian America has enjoyed tucking safe and sound in their kids’ back packs and in their daily lives, is false. It is the enemy. Satan glories in it. For it is not of God, but of man. It is just another fence around the law. And such laws whether they seem harmless and “nice” are destructive period.
Brandie, what do you mean by patriarchal families? Wilson calls his own views on the family patriarchal. From what you’ve said, it seems that the Wilsons aim is to keep patriarchal families in line. Wives/mothers at home, quiet, responsive, in their place. Husbands/fathers, overseeing all but showing compassion for the wives whose role is burdensome and self-destroying. Husband, esteem your wife for you have asked her to give up everything. Sounds rather hollow.
A family may decide it best to divide up the family responsibilities any number of ways, but the Wilsons take that choice away. They might have padded the wife’s prison cell and added some flowers, and the warden might be compassionate, but it is still a prison.
I just now rechecked this comment thread and saw Stephanie’s comment.
Her situation is just the sort that patriarchal ideology does not account for. Whether it’s that, abandonment and divorce by the breadwinning husband, permanent disabililty, gambling or other addictions, etc., their formula only works with a husband who works hard and sticks around until sometime in the conventional retirement years before he dies. If not, and there are not any family members or enough $$ in the diaconal fund to help out, she is largely at the mercy of her circumstances.
But of course, they’ll insist that her getting or keeping a career is “not trusting God”.
That’s right where I am. Ex-husband abandoned child and me one year ago, withdrew paycheck from joint account though she and I were dependent on it (I being a homeschooling parent in a highly agricultural county far out in the country), and the church didn’t say one word about it. He filed for divorce within a week (because I called DCF, at pastor’s recommendation no less, after he learned about some secretive and angry behavior on the part of my then husband) and did anyone from church contact me once he turned back up at church after a 2-month absence, so I fled? Nope. In fact, one church leader said, “I prefer to work with the husband.” That after refusing to read my prayer request about the abuse in our home. The pastor excused that behavior as “a flesh issue” on the part of the leader. But… the abuser? Still at the church. Me? I was imputed a minimum wage by the judge and attorneys because “it’s standard practice.” Never mind I can’t find employment though I’ve tried – nothing that will let me pick up our child twice to thrice weekly at 2 pm from the public school she’s now forced to attend. Oh, and the income he withdrew from us? He didn’t owe it back – apart from 65 percent of medical and educational, which amounted to a whopping $150 for the six months from the time he left us until the divorce. In order to not continue to drag it out in the courts, I accepted the meager crumb to be done with him. Still…. here I am, jobless and no one from church has ever once called to see if I’m okay. Not a soul.
I realized while reading this that even back when i was actively following patriarchal principles, i never felt a reader’s connection w Nancy Wilson. She has no authors voice imo. She’s like a blank slate or an echo. She is Not-a-Person.
My stomach got sicker and sicker as I read this. I can’t imagine someone writing such advice, or a company publishing such misleading, compromising information to actually encourage others to read and follow it. What a miserable way to describe a marriage all within the context of “Christian”! How sad! No wonder her husband is under such persecution if this is the type marriage, home and church he champions.
Doug Wilson owns Canon Publishing, so there’s that…