Comments on Doug Wilson’s “Reforming Marriage.”

Reforming Marriage, written in 1995 by Douglas Wilson. In the Introduction heading he quotes Ephesians 5:2. He sums up by saying that a man who worships, rather than loves his wife, loses his wife. Well, of course a man who loves his wife as Christ loved the Church is going to strive to love her as Christ loved His Bride.

Chapter one, A Practical Theology of Marriage.

Wilson speaks of marriage as “covenantal.” He writes:

“Our triune God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God, and He has chosen marriage as one of the best instruments through which fallen men may glorify Him” (p. 14).

Well and good. But Wilson, I think has a passage like Malachi 2:14-15 in mind which he thinks shows that for a marriage to be formed there must be some kind of verbal vow/sign (or non-verbal sign/vow if you’re mute) promise to the other person. Malachi does say that God makes the two one, because a covenant has indeed been established. But what is this “covenant”? Is it what most professing Christians think it is? No, it is not. It is not a spoken vow or promise, because this covenant is established when a man and a harlot have sexual intercourse (1 Corinthians 6:16).

In Malachi, the reason the two become one is because sex alone established a covenant promise between the man and the woman with whom he had sex. So, in Malachi and 1 Corinthians 6:16, there is reference back to Genesis 2:24. And of course, this covenantal promise established by sex alone is to be kept with one’s wife alone — and not with a harlot. The point of Paul to the Corinthians, is that to become one with a harlot is to desecrate, dishonor, and defile the marriage bed.

Doug Wilson mentions feminism as attacking the “covenantal nature of marriage.” And there are blasphemous implications of feminism. For instance, what would feminism make the relationship with Christ and the Church look like? Of course, out-and-out rebellion of the “Bride” against her Husband. Wilson then goes on to speak of things that many don’t really know why they do the things they do. An example:

“Consider our practice of a woman taking her husband’s last name. Why do we do that? Why does Susan Miller become Susan Carter? Does the Bible require it?” (p. 15).

Wilson cites Genesis 5:1, showing that God calls a husband and wife by the same name — the name of the husband.

“In Hebrew, the italicized word translated mankind is Adam. In other words, God created Adam and his wife male and female, He blessed them and called them Adam. She was, from the beginning, a covenantal partaker in the name of her husband. God does not call her Adam on her own, He calls her Adam with him” (p. 15).

Speaking of Genesis 2:24, Wilson mentions that the joining together (i.e., sex of course) of men and women sexually is, “the creation ordinance of marriage” (p. 16). Right. Creation ordinance that transcends all traditions and cultures. Perform whatever traditional or cultural ceremony you want, that does NOT negate what God says creates the one-flesh bond of marriage. Go ahead and have a culturally or traditionally recognized marriage if you want, but do not bind the consciences of others and say that they are “shacking up” (i.e., committing the sin of fornication) if they do not follow your lead.

Furthermore, do not say that sex with so and so, was not a marriage since you and the State and your culture and your traditions did not think so. For God says that sex alone IS a marriage, and your attempts to nullify the commands by your culture and traditions are vain and useless. If your traditions say something different than God does, then even if your (cultural) traditions are also called “laws,” they are absolute nullities in God’s sight.

Wilson quotes 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 11:9, to demonstrate the kind of dependence they should have with each other; and that they depend on each other differently. Alright. He then quotes Malachi 2:15 to show that one reason for marriage is procreation with the hopes that the children conceived will be a godly seed. Next, Wilson mentions another reason for marriage, and that is what he calls, “sexual protection”:

“But concerning what you wrote to me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman; but because of fornication, let each have his own wife, and let each have her own husband. Let the husband give due kindness to the wife, and likewise the wife also to the husband” (1 Corinthians 7:1-3).

And of course, if you are in a similar predicament as me, then “because of fornication, let each”: “man-up” (gird up one’s loins) and abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11); not let sin reign in your body, to obey its lusts (Romans 6:12); continue to war against that law which wars against the law of the mind (Romans 7:23); and put to death the wicked lustful thoughts that bombard you at times (Colossians 3:5).

I suppose the “What constitutes marriage?” point, is this: Paul says that because of the sin of unlawful sexual intercourse (thoughts regarding it, etc.), one should find a wife to have sex with. The focus here is that to avoid sinful sex, find a way to have non-sinful sex.

“The wife does not have authority of her own body, but the husband. And likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive one another, unless by agreement for a time, that you may be free for fasting and prayer. And come together again on the same place, that Satan may not tempt you through your incontinence. But I say this by permission, not by command. But I desire all men also to be as myself. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, and one that way. But I say to the unmarried men, and to the widows, it is good for them if they also remain as I am. But if they do not have self control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to be inflamed” (1 Corinthians 7:4-9).

And if you cannot marry, then you must pray for grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Fight against present sexual lust, and thinking about past times of adulteries. Lustful, wicked thoughts occasionally enter in and tell me to think about past sinful actions, rather than, “forgetting the things behind, and stretching forward to those things before” (Philippians 3:13).

Okay, now moving on to Chapter 2: Headship and Authority. Wilson writes:

“If a husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home…he will dominate in and by his absence” (p. 24).

A man who has sex alone with a woman, gets her pregnant, and then leaves her with the kid, has abdicated obviously. Another reason why Scripture teaches that sex constitutes marriage, is that sex potentially can create a new life. Some murder the child by means of a blood-thirsty butcher, but those who decide not to murder can flee the sexual scene and find all kinds of reasons why they are not obligated to stay with her until death.

Wilson states:

“Every marriage, everywhere in the world, is a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ…If he sleeps with another woman, he is an adulterer, and a blasphemer as well. How could Christ love someone other than His own Bride?” (p. 25).

So apply what Wilson says to the view that sex plus whatever else equals marriage. I know that Wilson denies that sex equals marriage. But again, a correct or incorrect view of what marriage is, will have implications for Christ and the Church:

“But even as the assembly is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave Himself up on its behalf, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of the water in the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious assembly, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such things, but that it be holy and without blemish. So, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies, (he loving his wife loves himself), for then no one hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as also the Lord the assembly. For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. ‘For this, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.’ The mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ and as to the assembly. However, you also, everyone, let each one love his wife as himself, and the wife, that she give deference to the husband” (Ephesians 5:24-33).

The husband is to not hate his wife, which is to hate his own flesh. He is to nourish his own wife because he has become one body with her. Genesis 2:24 is here referenced again.

Chapter three: Duties of husbands and wives. Nothing here that I can think of that applies to what constitutes marriage.

Chapter four: Efficacious Love. Wilson:

“Christ came, and suffered, in order to secure the salvation of His people from their sins. He did not come in order to try to save them” (p. 54).

So what if people say, Christ tried and failed, Wilson? What does it matter to you? We’ve seen some of what Wilson believes, so his statement is hollow and devoid of true meaning. For he would call “brethren,” those who believe in a “god” who tries to save, but fails. Great swelling words of vanity, Wilson.

Wilson speaks of, “The Fact of Physical Beauty.” He quotes Genesis 12:11, 12:14, 24:16, 29:17. This is just to acknowledge the fact of physical beauty. Okay. But then Wilson says this, following his citation of Genesis 29:17, and the beauty of Rachel:

“This biblical record of the stunning beauty of the wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is important to remember when we later come to Peter’s teaching on the subject of beauty, and the holy women of the ‘former times.’ The beauty that came from the gentle and quiet spirit was not the biblical equivalent of having a ‘nice personality.’ It was connected to an external beauty–one that captivated husbands, and, at times, stumbled others” (p. 56).

Well, I would agree that it was not equivalent to a “nice personality,” but I think it is pretty clear that Peter is not discussing external beauty, but rather, internal beauty.

Under the subheading One Flesh, Wilson writes:

“The sexual union is such an intimate aspect of our lives that it has to be protected if we are to be protected. It must have a tall covenantal fence all the way around it. But because the one flesh union occurs any time there is a sexual union, whether moral or immoral, we must sanctify and seal the sexual union with a covenantal oath. When a sexual union is sealed with a lawful covenantal oath, it is called marriage” (p. 108).

On the contrary, it IS a marriage (whether moral or immoral), regardless of a, “lawful covenantal oath.” Sex alone is the oath per Genesis 2:24, Malachi 2:14-15, the relevant gospel passages, and 1 Corinthians 6:16.