My pastor is a big fan of Douglas Wilson. He first recommended that I watch a documentary called Collision, documenting a series of debates Wilson had with Christopher Hitchens. Shortly thereafter he recommended a book by Wilson called Reforming Marriage. I watched the documentary a few days ago and finished reading the book today.
After watching the trailer for Collision I knew I had to watch the documentary. The trailer begins with Wilson borrowing a line from John Lennon to prove a point about what life would be like without a heaven or hell. The setting is in a Washington, D.C. bar. From there the trailer ramped up, whetting my appetite for more verbal sparing between these two intellectual power houses.
The debates were promoting a book, which was a result of letters they had written to each other. The book is called Is Christianity Good for the World?. Hitchens and Wilson think on such a deep intellectual level that it is amazing to sit and watch. Some of the concepts they shared required me to rewind and watch again so that I could wrap my brain around it. For Wilson though, this goes beyond mere intellectual debate and is clearly a lifestyle which he lives. Hitchens acknowledges this in the documentary. He states that Wilson lives out his belief in God and that this is a departure from many other people he has debated in the past. He notes the vast hypocrisy that exists with those who believe in a God.
The book Reforming Marriage comes in at a 144 pages and is a small manual for Christians on how to do marriage. The main theme throughout the book is that the man ultimately bears the physical and spiritual well-being of the family squarely on his shoulders. He is blunt with men. He is harsh with men. A quote from the epilogue is a taste of what the awaits in the rest of the book for its reader.
The castration of Christian men, and the consequent feminization of the family, church, and culture, began in earnest in the last century when the power of an efficacious gospel of grace was abandoned, and the substitute of religious sentiment was set up instead. In our doctrinal defiance, the feminine response of faith was confused with the masculine initiative of God in the gospel. Husbands, are required in Scripture to imitate the love of Christ, were then taught the error that the love of Christ for His people was impotent. The efficacy of love was then abandoned, and the sentiment of loving was enthroned. And men became impotent in their imitation of an impotent Lord.
Reading this book I was awakened to the need for men to be good leaders in their family. The husband/ father is the leader whether he wants to be or not. He will determine whether that image is a good one or a bad one. However, the family is not the most important thing- God is. Wilson warns that any man who puts his wife or children before God will lose both. Having maturity in one’s relationship with God will prepare that man for maturity in marriage.
The section on fighting sin is exactly what men need to hear today. He defines the struggle against sin to be more like sweating bullets that “letting go and letting God”. He makes reference to I Peter 2:11 and reminds men that they are to be violent against sin. This is not a light undertaking. Christian men will, for a few moments of pleasure, slander the name of Christ. Christ left a model to the church in how a husband should love his family. How are we doing as men representing this comparison?
Wilson punches home time after time that the man is the head of the home and his wife is his helper. That is how God designed it when he created Adam and Eve.
Adam was created first. Eve was sent to help. The man is established by God as the authority in the home. Under God, he is defined by the work to which he is called, while she is defined by the man to whom she is called. As they turn to the task, since the work is his responsibility, she is his responsibility. (Pg. 32)
Not only does the man bear the load to physically provide for his family, but he must also be the resident theologian for the family. He should know what he believes and why he believes it. He must communicate this message to his family. He must cultivate a home that embraces this message. Wilson concludes, “He must be a rock in his home.”
Wilson continues on in the book with practical advice for the man and his relationship with his wife. The last 3 chapters address the topics of sex, birth control, children and divorce. This book is a good read for the man who wants to read a manageable book and grasp what the Bible has to say about the responsibilities of a man in marriage and family. There are also good parts in the book addressing the woman and her role as a wife and mother.
There were only a couple minor things I disagreed with Wilson on. In the epilogue he lists a series of commitments a man should make before God. One of them is that he should commit to remove his children from secular schools and not allow them to be taught by people who are in rebellion against God. I don’t see any Biblical grounds for this challenge he makes. If Christian parents are taking an active role in educating their children about Jesus, they will have more influence on that child than a teacher will ever have. Ultimately I believe this to be a matter of conscience for the husband and wife to pray about and decide together.