The Gospel Coalition

D.A Carson writes:
I sometimes tell the story of how a few years ago I was teaching an evening course on hermeneutics, a course jointly offered by several of the seminaries in the Chicago area. Not very successfully, I was trying to set out both what could be learned from the new hermeneutic, and where the discipline was likely to lead one astray. In particular, I was insisting that true knowledge is possible, even to finite, culturebound creatures. A doctoral student from another seminary waited patiently through two or three hours of lectures, and then quietly protested that she did not think I was escaping from the dreaded positivism of the nineteenth century. Deeper appreciation for the ambiguities of language, the limits of our understanding, the uniqueness of each individual and the social nature of knowledge would surely drive me to a more positive assessment of the new hermeneutic. I tried to defend my position, but I was quite unable to persuade her.

Finally, in a moment of sheer perversity on my part, I joyfully exclaimed, "Ah, now I think I see what you are saying. You are using delicious irony to affirm the objectivity of truth."

The lady was not amused. "That is exactly what I am not saying," she protested with some heat, and she laid out her position again. I clasped my hands in enthusiasm and told her how delighted I was to find someone using irony so cleverly in order to affirm the possibility of objective knowledge. Her answer was more heated, but along the same lines as her first reply. I believe she also accused me of twisting what she was saying.
I told her I thought it was marvelous that she should add emotion to her irony, all to the purpose of exposing the futility of extreme relativism, thereby affirming truth's objectivity. Not surprisingly, she exploded in real anger, and accused me of a lot of unmentionable things. When she finally cooled down, I said, rather quietly, "But this is how I am reading you."

Of course, she saw what I was getting at immediately, and sputtered out like a spent candle. She simply did not know what to say. In one sense, of course, my example was artificial, since I only pretended to read her in a certain way. But what I did was sufficient to prove the point I was trying to make to her: "You are a deconstructionist," I told her, "but you expect me to interpret your words aright. More precisely, you are upset because I seem to be divorcing the meaning I claim to see in your words from your intent. Thus, implicitly you affirm the link between text and authorial intent. I have never read a deconstructionist
who would be pleased if a reviewer misinterpreted his or her work: thus in practice deconstructionists implicitly link their own texts with their own intentions. I simply want the same courtesy extended to Paul."

-- Carson, "The Challenge from Preaching of the Gospel to Pluralism," in Criswell Theological Review 7.2 (1994), 22-23. Online here (pdf). A version of this text appears in Carson's book The Gagging of God (102-103).
Debate with this kind of deconstructionist over what a word or passage means is self-defeating for two reasons:

1) If anyone's interpretation is fair game, then so is yours, and therefore the debate is a non-starter.
2) If you are insistent on authorial intent it puts you in an immediately defensive and rhetorically losing position -- barring some trickery, a la Carson's above -- because a deconstructionist interlocutor doesn't care what you or the author means; they "know" that what you mean and the author mean is what they mean for you to mean. Know what I mean?

I recently proposed an application of the 10 Commandments for Writers. I suppose one for readers could be helpful too, but the chief would be that loving God with all our minds and hearts means "loving the author as ourselves," and surely this means that we should agree that, as we would want others to understand our meaning and not to impose their own interpretation contrary to evidence upon our words, we should afford the same charity to an author in seeking to understand his or hers.



July 20, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Jason, I found it fascinating that the exact same thing could be said of Jared Wilson's dissenters. Jared Wilson "simply will not be won over no matter how convincing the argument", even though many people have articulated concerns and red flags. Jared has "already made up his mind", and is "contentious" in the way he has responded to the issue at hand by not being willing to directly answer many of the concerns and questions posed - instead deflecting and taking a defensive posture. Therefore, his dissenters should shake the dust from their sandals and pray God softens Jared's heart. Food for thought.


July 20, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Jared, I want to share of my favorite quotes in these trying times:

"trolls gonna troll"
~ Martin Luther


July 20, 2012 at 09:53 AM

Jared, as a Reformed guy who has known and read you for years, let me quickly say: just stop digging and repent. It was a horrible quote, a horrible use of a quote and no amount of intellectual gymnastics (in quasi-follow-up posts like this one) is going to suffice in lieu of a genuine and sincere apology.


July 20, 2012 at 09:29 AM

Hi, Jared.

We've exchanged a few emails on this topic, but I feel compelled to reply to this new post, since you’ve made it open to comments. I sympathise with the stress you and your family have gone through recently.

But I am still confused by your continued justification of Doug Wilson’s words.

I don’t believe that you condone, or call for, violence against women. Many of your critics did not accuse you of this, and your responses to our legitimate concerns have been inadequate.

You have stressed the importance of context. I agree. Context is essential, which is why the last paragraph of Doug Wilson’s excerpt did not negate the demeaning view of women presented in the paragraphs which preceded it. It is not sufficient to point out the phrase "serves and protects". Given the context in which this phrase occurred, it was insufficient to qualify the argument leading up to it.

Because, like you, I did not separate Doug Wilson-as-author from the text he wrote, the excerpt led me to conclude that Doug Wilson believes:

- The ideals of mutuality and egalitarianism in sex should be superseded by other principles. “The sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party.” What should be the priorities in sex? The “erotic necessity” of “true authority and true submission”.

- Society has, to its peril, not sufficiently adhered to the concepts of male authority and female submission in sex. “We have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed... When it is denied, the result is not ‘no authority,’ but an authority which devours.”

- How should the male and female roles in the sex act be characterised? “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”

I have quoted directly from the excerpt. I haven’t accused Doug Wilson of saying anything other than what he has said.

Since I (and other readers) don’t know you or Doug Wilson personally, how else are we to know your intent but by your words? And how else is an author to convey their intent but by their words?

So when those words are deeply hurtful and problematic, it was either the author’s intent to be hurtful, or they did a very poor job at expressing their intent.

There is a corollary that you’re ignoring. You don’t want readers to impose meaning onto texts. But what about authors who impose flawed meanings onto words? You cannot say that the connotations of "colonise" and "conquer" are positive merely because you declare it so. And you cannot say that the words, "the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party", actually mean that sex should be egalitarian, equally enjoyable to both partners, and that men and women are equal agents in sexuality. You cannot claim that the sentence, "true authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity", actually means that sex should be mutually submissive. The internal logic of Doug Wilson’s extract presents a demeaning view of women, whether or not you insist that it doesn’t.

It appears that, in this instance, you are the one imposing a meaning on the text that simply isn’t there.

James Palmer

July 20, 2012 at 08:48 AM

I see two issues with making a defense around "authorial intent".

1) You can communicate truths about yourself without authorial intent. Just like a poker player may have a "tell" that unintentionally lets others know when you are bluffing, an author may communicate things about his or her beliefs even when attempting to say something different (or even the opposite.) If a man says, "I'm not sexist - I think there are quite a few broads that are almost as smart as men", then that man is communicating that he is sexist, even while his explicit authorial intent is to say otherwise. When you make a post that uses language that is extremely strongly suggestive that it is ok for a man to exert power and force over his wife in the bedroom, saying that you meant to communicate the opposite is not going to necessarily make people feel comfortable about where you really stand.

2) The effect of your words on people in the end is going to be more important than authorial intent. Let's say I start a charity where I give away free toys to needy children. After awhile, it's discovered that the toys are full of lead and children are getting sick. I get nasty letters and phone calls, some even accusing me of being a "child-killer". In this situation, do I simply defend my good intentions and continue to make the poisonous toys available to children, in the hope that my ardent defence will convince people that my heart is in the right place? Or do I take the toys off the shelves, and say, "Sorry, my intentions were right, but I still messed up and people got hurt - let me make this right."? I think the latter option is clearly the preferred one. And in the case of the "50 shades" blog post, people have and will continue to get hurt, and the only thing keeping that post available is pride.

In your twitter feed, Jared, you state that you were done responding to people, and that your "conscience is clear". I'm sorry, but this isn't really about your conscience. It's about hurtful language causing people pain, and you have the power to make it better, but are more concerned about whether your conscience is clear. You can still make things better.


July 20, 2012 at 08:26 AM


Is this topic "for the sake of the gospel" (the life, death, and resurrection of Christ)?


July 20, 2012 at 08:21 AM


I don't think you help the situation by judging motives. Agree with him or not about complimentarianism, people such as Scot McKnight are really concerned about the ramifications of such language.

To brush off such concerns of other brothers and sisters in Christ as based on ego or other bad motives does not help the situation.


July 20, 2012 at 08:14 AM


Here is the link to the whole post, the comment was made by Scot at comment #103.


July 20, 2012 at 02:11 PM

Amen, brother. Blessings.


July 20, 2012 at 01:44 PM

Yes, it shame.


July 20, 2012 at 01:41 PM

Phillip, you may have overstated your case, but please don't back down on your original message.
I'm a regular reader of Jared's and have bought several of his books. I am sitting here the past two days shaking my head as I watch him dig deeper and deeper. Granted, I haven't read the libelous allegations or any other such thing, but simply going by this blog, it's clear that he mis-stepped by chosing to highlight that unfortunate quote on his blog. I, too, was praying that he would simply apologize, for the sake of the Gospel, and move on.


July 19, 2012 at 12:36 AM

One must wonder if the author of this blog knows how to read or comprehend what s/he is reading? Perhaps some lessons are in order?

This example merely proves the point that intent lies with the READER. If I write something and a large group of people misunderstand me, then I (the author) have made an egregious error. Which needs to be corrected. The only person who can know what is in an author's mind is the author ... and it is his/her responsibility to make that intent clear. Not obfuscate it with gobbledy-gook and horse manure.

Phillip Winn

July 19, 2012 at 12:25 AM

Jared, I got out of bed and came back to this post to retract what I said earlier, but it's too late to edit my comment now.

Your wife posted on someone else's blog today under a name like "hurt and confused" (from memory), and given that as well as the emails you've received, I truly do understand why you're upset and defensive.

I was wrong to point out that I haven't seen anybody use the label pro-rape. I'm sorry I added that statement to my comment. I should have better considered what would prompt you to state that as you did. Please feel free to edit it out or delete the comment, as you see fit. I hope you and your wife find some peace.


July 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Is there a link to McKnight's comment?

It is regrettable that what has been lost in this larger conversation is that Christians, sometimes from the same congregations with differing perspectives on male-female relationships, are totally aghast and repelled by the 50 Shades series.

I have some serious reservations that, as followers of Jesus, we'll soon develop a broad response that unmasks the sick and idolatrous perspectives within that currently-popular series.

Indeed, my prayer is that we'll prepare for the next series that will likely surpass the titillation offered within 50 Shades, even as it has surpassed the Twilight series.


July 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM

"you seem more interested in proving some sort of point then you are about reconciliation.

"When someone accuses you of being pro-rape, you will find that proving your point is pretty important."

If someone who had been raped accused me of being pro-rape, pretty sure my priority should/would be reconciliation.

And it seems like you think you are the only one entitled to prove your point, while everyone else is wrong in not reaching out to you or your family in reconciliation. That's just not how it works.


July 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM

I'm not convinced the culture lacks a conceptual framework for distinguishing types of authority and submission. I think most people recognize a benevolent boss or ruler from one who is not. I think the culture (and Church as a whole) does not accept that patriarchy a.k.a. complementarianism is required for "biblical" marriage. If authority is redefined and is not authority but sacrifice and love, then dropping "authority" seems best especially since it is only used once in scripture in relation to a husband and a wife and it is mutual(1 Co 7). Men can be called to responsibility i.e. love and sacrifice for their wives without conferring upon them "authority" which is no real authority because it is usually used in a novel way (i.e. love & sacrifice) to mean other than what it is commonly understood to mean.

[...] and the responsibilities that authors have for the unintended consequences of their words.  Jared Wilson’s suggestion that beneath all this is a wariness about authorial intent strikes me as interesting, but not quite complete.  Authorial intent is a helpful guide, but [...]


July 19, 2012 at 09:30 AM

But it woudn't be true humility if he obeyed you because you are coercing him with your hubris and comparisons to communist ideology. Domineering and coercive behavior comes in many forms, folks!


July 19, 2012 at 08:40 AM


Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
(1 Peter 3:13-16 ESV)

Though the context of these verses is about being slandered and reviled for the sake of the gospel, I think the principle is apt in the situation you currently find yourself in. Keep fighting the good fight brother. Praying for you.



July 19, 2012 at 08:08 PM

again, well put and thank you!


July 19, 2012 at 07:59 PM

@Trevor M.

Yes it's possible to communicate apart from authorial intent. I knew a man with a mental disorder who used to randomly yell out words. Were he to yell, "Fire," he may well communicate something he did not intend to, yet, because he had no intention of actually announcing the presence of a fire, he did not intelligently communicate. That is to say, you may communicate apart from intent. But you cannot intelligently, and intentionally communicate apart from intent.


July 19, 2012 at 07:50 PM


I'm a big fan and I hate to see this ridiculousness keep going. Some people simply will not be won over now matter how convincing the argument. You've said it over and over again. You've explained yourself many times. People who don't want to understand you have already made up their minds. Move on. You've got way more important things to deal with than stubborn, overly sensitive people looking for a fight. They are contentious and want nothing more than their ears tickled. Shake the dust from your sandals and pray God softens their hearts.

Abram K-J

July 19, 2012 at 07:23 AM

Jared, thanks very much for your reply.

I read and re-read and re-read again Doug Wilson's follow up piece. I get a little bit more where he's coming from.

However, "colonizes" still gets me. He spent one sentence in his post explaining that particular choice of words, in which he quoted Song of Solomon 4:12 ("A garden locked is my sister, my bride") as an example of Scripture having to do with "colonizes" (if I'm reading him right).

But reading through the following verses in Song of Solomon... "SHE" (ESV) replies, "Blow upon my garden... let my beloved come to his garden." ("come to" ESV=Hebrew "come into" for intercourse) Then "HE" says, "I came [in]to my garden, my sister, my bride."

That's it. Just "came into." The Hebrew word there is the common way of referring to intercourse (lit., "he went into her"=English "he had sex with her"). Wilson quotes the "locked garden" verse as implying, "My garden is locked... therefore come colonize me." But that's neither what she says nor what he does after that verse in response to her locked garden.

"Colonizes" is *really* exegetically difficult to pull out of that passage both based on Hebrew word meaning *and* the full context of the passage in which it occurs (which, as you've rightly pointed out, context is a key determiner of meaning). All this holds true, too, by the way, of his explanation of his use of the verb "conquer," based on Song 4:4. It's not in there and it's not what the passage seems to mean.

So if "colonizes" cannot come from the place Wilson mentions, does he find it elsewhere in Scripture to be an appropriate description of the male-female sex act? It not, that's a continuing concern to me....


July 19, 2012 at 06:43 AM

As someone who appreciates TGC and defends it at times, I must ask: Why did you even go near this wording and topic?

It has certainly not helped the perpection of TGC in the wider Christian community.

As Scot McKnight wrote in a comment: "Anyone who has to come out to say I don’t think rape is right ought to wonder why anyone would be making that claim, and reconsider and change words accordingly."


July 19, 2012 at 06:26 PM

Jared - You post such great material. Keep it up!

Caleb Woodbridge

July 19, 2012 at 06:05 PM

You say that love and sacrifice are a "novel" concept of authority, as if complementarians are redefining authority in a new way. But this is precisely this cultural assumption that these things are foreign to authority that I believe to be mistaken.

I believe that Biblically speaking, love and sacrifice are inherent to authority, and it is abusive authority that's the "novelty", the distortion. The real antidote to abusive authority is not getting rid of authority, but authority redeemed and restored to its original goodness.

Both complementarians and egalitarians believe in mutual love and submission in one sense. The difference is whether the forms of love and submission are the same in both directions or not. Servant leadership by a husband of his wife is a real submission, but it is a different kind of submission to that of a respectful wife to her husband, for example. Egalitarianism posits exactly the same kind of submission in both directions.

The reason I believe that love is integral to true authority, and that love and submission exist in mutual, complementary forms, is ultimately because that's what I see in God and in how we relate to him. God is completely authoritative and completely loving and self-giving, so those things go together at the most basic level of reality. The Son obeys the Father and the Father loves the Son while the two are completely co-equal while relating to each other in different, complementary ways. We are the Bride of Christ, but we submit to Christ and do not have authority over him even though he serves us.

Trevor M. (@gottheology)

July 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM

Does anyone want to engage Carson's (once again very evident) brilliance? Anyone? Ok, I'll bite.

Here's a question for discussion, perhaps: following Carson's argument, would it be logically correct to say that when someone writes something, they necessarily have an authorial intent? Or is it possible to communicate with words apart from an intent?

Caleb Woodbridge

July 19, 2012 at 05:16 AM

Communication is a two-way process. Readers need to seek to understand the author's intentions, and authors need to try to use shared terms of understanding to express their intentions.

In Roland Barthes' (in)famous essay "The Death of the Author", he argues against the concept of the writer as the "Author-God" communicating a fixed, clear "theological" meaning, and instead argues that the author is "dead" - that is, we should not constrain our interpretations to what the author intended.

But this is a false dichotomy. Only the Bible is authored by God. The rest of the time, the Author is neither divine nor dead, but human. We are made in the image of God, and so capable of true and meaningful communication; but we are also fallen and finite, and so due to sin and the constraints of our own finite perspectives, we don't always succeed in communicating our intent accurately.

As readers or listeners, we ought to use authorial intent as the principle by which we interpret. But authors and speakers also have a responsibility to use terms and frames of understanding that are shared with their listeners and readers.

The difficulty with communicating on the Internet is the sheer diversity of backgrounds and contexts. The controversy over the blog post is the collision of two (or more) cultures of interpretation. The two sides are talking past each other because they don't share an interpretive context. We need to establish a shared interpretive context so we can at least understand each other's points of view, before we can even begin to disagree and discuss constructively.

Many people in our culture lack any kind of conceptual framework for distinguishing godly authority and submission from abusive authority and submission. Without that framework, it's impossible to read and understand Jared and Douglas Wilson's views correctly. There are a lot of people angrily objecting to things that they didn't say, because they lack this framework. (There are some people who *do* get what they're saying but still disagree with it, but these aren't necessarily the loudest voices).

But there's also a responsibility on the part of complementarians (in which I include myself) to recognise that many people in our culture, including many Christians, don't "get it", and lack the interpretive context to do so. We've got a lot of work to do in successfully communicating a Biblical view of manhood and womanhood because terms like authority, submission, and so on are so freighted with negative baggage - often very understandably and justifiably so, considering how they have been twisted and abused.

In short, once you take complementarianism outside of the subculture where it's understood and onto the Internet where most people do not understand it, you've got a hell of a lot of explaining to do and emotional baggage to deal with before you can communicate it successfully.


July 19, 2012 at 05:12 PM

People who have been hurt have lost their trust in the best intentions. That is what caused this firestorm. People with abuse in their pasts were painfully reminded of it by the unfortunate language in the excerpt and were not willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Can you blame them?

Joshua Harris

July 19, 2012 at 04:26 PM

Wilson's words are deeply problematic for reasons we (including me) probably cannot even name, but I think forgiveness is the only way forward for serious Christians at this point. That said, though, I wonder if your rendering of deconstruction reflects the charity that you're pleading (rightfully) of your readers now. As someone who is interested in hermeneutics, it grieves me to see portrayals of "deconstruction" that give the appearance of little to no familiarity with Derrida or his influences. Maybe a future post on the intricacies of Derrida's work?


July 19, 2012 at 04:04 AM

Jared. I don't know what awful things have been said about you, but drawing an analogy between yourself and a rape victim is way the hell over the line. Saying you got something wrong and need to reevaluate your actions is emphatically not the same as saying that a woman deserved to be forcibly penetrated against her will because she wore a short skirt.

1 in 4 women in our world are sexually assaulted. Do you realize the magnitude of what you're making jokes about here? You're not funny. You're not cute. Brother, repent.

As to your defense of your original post: You keep essentially saying "Funny people who can't read! You say 'colonize' like it's a BAD thing!"

It is. I challenge you to ask any of your non-white friends what they think of colonization, and if it's a metaphor they'd ever want within 50 feet of their bedrooms.

You're a better writer, and a better man, than this. You want to nurture? Man up and repent.


July 19, 2012 at 03:20 PM

So here I am writing a paper on hospitality for a class on mission and I find this sequence of posts and comments from the last few days through a link on facebook and it makes it all sound like nonsense. Here I am researching and writing about the centrality of hospitality to the character of God, the mission of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in enabling us to create space for one another, to cross boundaries to ease pain and to be humble in learning from the marginalized. And then I find this in the text and the comments: brothers and sisters in Christ hammering stubborn stand-your-ground pride, inhospitable vitriol and self-righteous judgement into their keyboards to be semi-anonymously displayed for all the world to see. The way we Christians treat each other these days often makes me ashamed to bear the label. We can do better. Yes, great wrong has been written here, by this point on all sides of the debate. But this, but that. Yes and yes. None of us is without sin which is precisely why we need to take a huge, collective, step back and think about how all this is serving the Kingdom of God. Not just here. Otherwise what is the point of our faith?


July 19, 2012 at 02:37 PM

That's right Jared. When people are publicly slandering you and Doug, don't get all personally offended. Get all humble. Don't worry so much about the truth, and contending for it, just be humble. Like James here. He seems to have it down.

Denny Burk

July 19, 2012 at 02:31 AM

Phillip, you say that you haven’t seen anybody accuse Jared of being "pro-rape." There are numerous examples. Here's two: Scot McKnight has accused him of "justified violence against women." Daniel Kirk has accused him of advocating "rape."


July 19, 2012 at 02:28 PM

Regarding what Scot wrote, "Anyone who has to come out to say I don’t think rape is right ought to wonder why anyone would be making that claim, and reconsider and change words accordingly.”

Because it was the topic on hand. They were discussing the 50 Shades book, where rape was implied and used as a twisted game. Thus the discussion. It's not really that hard to follow.

These comments, etc. are so convenient for the commenters and also impactful to Jared and his family. For the commenters: 100% opinion splatters/ego boosters. 0% responsibility. They're not really looking for help, but to be right in a public forum. Uncharitable? Probably not for most.

Jared, I'd just be done with these comments, if I were you. Praying for you, brother.


July 19, 2012 at 02:06 PM

Be subject to one another...

The Gentiles lord/dominate/conquer others, but not so with you...

Have the same mind among you that was in Christ Jesus...

James Rednour

July 19, 2012 at 01:41 PM

In other words, when one finds himself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

July 19, 2012 at 01:40 PM

The only comment I have to make about this current controversy is agree with what Rick says above.

Controversy is necessary sometimes, should not be avoided when necessary but is every controversy valuable?

The hornet's nest gets stirred up, TGC gets bad press, Complementarianism gets bad press, people get hurt, misunderstandings get perpetuated, and what is gained?

I am speaking as a TGC booster and as someone who often likes what D. Wilson writes.

James Rednour

July 19, 2012 at 01:39 PM

I'm not one to tell you what you should do, but if I was in your situation, I would stop telling people who had a problem with this how they are wrong or stupic. It's very simple: it's called humility and is exemplified in Philippians 2:3-4. I know humility is a trait that few Calvinists display, but it would do you much good here.


July 19, 2012 at 01:31 PM

I realize that you have received what I would consider unfair and unjust treatment in this. By no means would I say that you "brought this upon yourself" but I am frustrated by a continuing lack of willingness to even acknowledge the "other side."

To be honest, I'm a fan. I enjoy TGC and personally have used your works to spur my faith in the past. (Abide, etc.)

What must be admitted is that a post that was supposed to challenge a culture to see perverse sexuality (i.e. 50 Shades of Gray) was totally missed by the majority of the intended audience. The post then, however you intended it, missed the mark and it is irresponsible to claim no ownership of that. Certainly responsibility lies with readers to be charitable and respectful.

Yes, the author has the authority and choice to use words like "conquer" and "colonize" over "win over" and "come into" but every word has purpose. (The Power of Words and the Wonder of God - Piper) Why did the author choose those words over another. As the reader I have ask that, particularly as a responsible reader. Words have connotation and meaning and we must be cautious with them.

I do not believe you are advocating rape nor do I believe many of the harsh things that are being said about you; but I do not believe you have handled this appropriately, even in spite of wild and hurtful accusation against you.

While effort has been made at clarifying the statements, the overall post is confusing and is causing great harm while offering little gain. Particularly the portion of the excerpt that describes marriage bed sex as "A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts." That dramatically oversimplifies, understates, and, to some extent, contradicts the marraige bed as Biblically described by reducing the sexual acts of the marriage be to the physical realm and to a simplified reality. I sincerely believe that even a casual reading of the Song of Solomon reveals that the marriage bed is not quite so easily simplified and yields far more depth than ths posting does justice.

1 Corinthians 7 describes a mutual yielding and a mutual submission. Both giver. Both receiver. Not conqueror and conquered. Colonizer and colonized? I don't see those descriptions fitting in with Paul's Biblical language. Though I largely assume that you and I hold similar views on authority and headship, this posting is misleading on many levels and I am not at all surprised by the controversy surrounding it... and I'm surprised that you are surprised. Furthermore, language that does refer to Christians as "conquerors" and "soldiers" has an entirely different context and refers to BOTH genders as well.

Attempts to defend the very line I pointed out fall short and several have pointed this out in responses to the word meanings and context in Song of Songs you used to justify the word choices; and the one question I have is this: If a marriage relationship is to mirror the relationship between Christ and His Church/Bride, would we described His relationship with the Church as one that conquered us or colonized us? In fact, Biblically, that language is used of His "conquering" and defeat of death and sin and darkness.

Why not simply make the point that he used in the follow up response in his own words and leave out the excerpt (and that language) entirely... It would have been less polarizing and more clear and concise (Jared is a professional communicator afterall):

"Jared was observing is that “50 Shades of Grey” is a prime example of how godly sexuality is twisted into dominance and aggression."

Perfect! So say that and leave out that other stuff!!!

Instead you wound up creating more confusion, not helping advance the conversation about what you was actually talking about and it is not fair to simply blame the reader for those results.

It seems awfully convenient to simply imply that your audiences "misinterpretation" is their fault and lay all the blame on them. Think about the controversial words used. You can't just use a word like "conquer" and "colonize" in regard to sex and not expect some backlash and confusion about what you are actually saying... Can you...?

Furthermore, the insinuation in his follow up that "much of the outrage was stewing toward Wilson and The Gospel Coalition already, and I just unwittingly provided the first opportunity to vent it" is further offensive as I am a big fan of TGC and I find it a bit strange that he would decide to respond to critics or concerns by simply assuming that "they had it out for us and I'm an easy scapegoat here" or something like that.

I'm sure that is happening, but you can't just make a big blanket statement and include people who have been respectful and shown genuine concern in their replies.


July 19, 2012 at 01:23 PM

Let's see if it works both ways Denny. You guys like to fall on the martyr sword and pretend that everyone misunderstands you. Maybe, just maybe, you're misunderstanding what Scot and Daniel wrote? Maybe you're twisting their words. What was it you said about authorial intent?

Mattie Chatham

July 19, 2012 at 01:06 AM

You know, I don't think either you or Carson have any idea what a deconstructionist is.


July 19, 2012 at 01:01 PM

@ Caleb--I think this is well put. Thanks for contributing it to the discussion.


July 18, 2012 at 11:51 PM

I must have missed something big. Was somebody advocating rape? Oh, I see. Doug Wilson used some agressive verbs on the internet. So he's an idiot and a liar, and hurts women.

Oh, and intemperate and hyperbolic.

Caleb Gosney

July 18, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Christian love looks more like "benefit of the doubt" than the vitriol that has been flung around. I wish we could hope and trust that we have the best intentions, rather than the worst.


July 18, 2012 at 09:00 PM

No Jared, the context does _not_ indicate "that by “egalitarian pleasure party” he means sex outside of God’s authority/design." The last paragraph of the piece is too far away and therefore requires too much effort on the part of a reader to infer the meaning _he_ intends for "conquers", "colonizes". Also there is no indication of "gives enormous pleasure" to whom? In setting up the authority/submission dichotomy, that is a valid readerly question, as many have asked. As I said this "was (at best) an example of poor communication". I would also like to see a response to Abram's comment -- I think he is 'spot on".

Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 08:57 PM

Phillip, if you truly meant what you've written, you would have emailed me.

Phillip Winn

July 18, 2012 at 08:53 PM

You don't know how much concern I have for you or your wife; you haven't asked. If I had no concern for you, I wouldn't be suggested that you step away to spend time in prayer and self-examination.

When I see some random idiot online digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself with every insensitive and cruel thing he says, I shake my head and move on. God knows I've said all kinds of stupid things I've regretted, both on the internet and in real life.

When I see someone with the job of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken world instead choosing to argue with increasingly strident and self-righteous defensiveness, and when I know that person isn't one of the bad guys, it breaks my heart. I am sad and angry for the damage you are doing to the proclamation of the Gospel, and to yourself.

As James Palmer said above: "People are honestly hurt by your blog post, and instead of responding to their hurt in love..." You have focused on whatever private emails you've gotten, and not on the hurting people you are called to help. That's tragic, and while your defensiveness and petulance may feel justified right now, but I hope and believe you are not so hard-hearted that you remain there.

Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 08:50 PM

Abram, thanks for your comment, and for your blog post. Thoughtful, substantive stuff. I was challenged by it.

I think Doug Wilson's latest post might answer your questions/concerns:

He discusses the word choice that is the main focus of controversy.

In short, I would say, as I said above, that when we are not reading the dictionary, context and charity are good guides for understanding how certain authors are using certain words. What we appear to be dealing with is that the author can't mean "win over" by "conquer" even though there's no warrant in the context to think he means violence but because "my dictionary says it means violence, mainly." I still maintain this is poor reading. I know I'm being considered disrespectful and stubborn for maintaining that, but there it is.

Abram K-J

July 18, 2012 at 08:48 PM

Just to add (regarding this post specifically), Carson says it well here, I think. For the record, I operate with this same hermeneutic.

And, although this is hopefully already clear in my other post, I want to clarify that I do care about authorial intent. So I've tried to be careful not to ascribe any intent to Wilson, one way or the other, because I don't know him or his work well enough to do so.

But word choice--the act of choosing word A over synonymous word B when either would have worked--is still an issue at hand, I think...

Abram K-J

July 18, 2012 at 08:41 PM

Hi, Jared,

I'm sure you've had to read a gazillion things the last few days, so I certainly don't expect you to remember them all, but to be fair, I did consider the last paragraph of what you quoted from Wilson. (Here I reproduced the comment I left on the initial post: Granted, I came to a different conclusion after reading that last paragraph of what you quoted, but I did consider it.

Looks like I was one of the last comments in before you closed them. And I'm not sure I've seen this discussed from the standpoint of word choice yet. (If it has been and I missed it, sorry, and I'd love if you could send a link.)

But I'd be curious to hear either you or him reply to what I wrote in the link above (same as the comment on your original post), as time permits for either of you.


Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 07:40 PM

Are you saying I was asking for it? Isn't this what we call blaming the victim?

Jeff Wencel

July 18, 2012 at 07:38 PM

Thanks, Jared, for your courage and grace. I appreciate your exemplary gospel conduct and speaking the truth in love. And don't forget to rejoice, brother, when people falsely accuse you with all manner of evil.


July 18, 2012 at 07:17 PM

Then it would appear that your engagement in this nonsense has not been effective in serving or protecting your wife, marriage, family, ministry, and witness. Time to look in the mirror rather than pointing fingers.

Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 06:58 PM

I haven’t seen anybody accuse you of being pro-rape.

Well, my mistake, then. If you haven't seen it, clearly it hasn't happened.

Phillip, I don't wish on you any of the things said about me (and my wife) in my email inbox and other corners of the internet the last day or two. I wish you had just half the amount of concern for what intentionally libelous and horrifying accusations have meant for me as you have what unintentional "triggers" have done to some others.

Until then, I'm not buying your outrage.

Phillip Winn

July 18, 2012 at 06:52 PM

I haven't seen anybody accuse you of being pro-rape. That's a pretty astounding lack of charity you're using there.

Is "proving your point" more important than the anguished cries of those who have been raped, and found your words incredibly hurtful? Apparently so.

I hope you can step away from a keyboard for long enough to pray, think this through, and come back with some consideration for the many people you are hurting every time you dig deeper in defending yourself.

Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 05:54 PM

Bruce, and yet, the final paragraph of the excerpt speaks directly to pleasure. "Enormous pleasure" in fact. So the context still does not indicate that he means no pleasure is to be had. The context in fact indicates that by "egalitarian pleasure party" he means sex outside of God's authority/design.

(I'm glad we're having this conversation. And thank you for not accusing me of being a Nazi/Communist/rape-advocate.)


July 18, 2012 at 05:37 PM

But Jared the context that was set was NOT scripture but "In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party." So the reaction seems quite justified. It was (at best) an example of poor communication

Mary Fisher

July 18, 2012 at 05:28 PM

And so instead of simply apologizing for using the lousy quote from the other Mr Wilson last week we are once again told it is the readers's fault. I lived in a communist country for close to a decade and sorry but your and the other person you quoted have an inability to say...we goofed, we are wrong. It reminds me of Communist Totalitarian propaganda. Sorry I was prepared to accept your explanations but your inability to say we did not write well is so arrogant. So you have tried to justify yourself further using Carson.

You were unwise in what you said and the use of the quote you used. Admit it and show some humility.

Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 05:22 PM

I'm saying context is key when we're not reading a dictionary. In the Bible Christians are called conquerors, more than conquerors, good soldiers, etc. If I looked up the dictionary for my understanding of these words, I'd come away with a limited understanding, thinking Christians are about violently battling, in a physical sense. But the context of Scripture of course does not mean these words that way.

The passage I quoted from Wilson's book has a final paragraph that I quoted -- and plenty of context I didn't -- that makes it explicitly clear whatever he means by "plant, colonize, conquer" it is not about force, domination, violence. Why do you think none of the critics (that I'm aware of) have quoted that last paragraph or appear to have considered it?

Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 05:19 PM

you seem more interested in proving some sort of point then you are about reconciliation.

When someone accuses you of being pro-rape, you will find that proving your point is pretty important.

James Palmer

July 18, 2012 at 05:17 PM

Jared, thanks for the response.

Are you saying that someone looking at the words "conquest" and "colonization" as words with connotations of power and force is similarly uncharitable to the example you just gave me? I think it is reasonable for people to make that comparison, and it's not just "one" person seeing the connection, but many.

Jared C. Wilson

July 18, 2012 at 05:13 PM

James, you are absolutely right.

Another example would be, for instance, if one were to say "I'm in favor of serving and protecting, not devouring," and then one were to say "C'mon, by that you clearly mean you want to do violence against somebody," it is clear that charity only goes so far.

James Palmer

July 18, 2012 at 05:11 PM

To be honest, what's really bothering me now is how your responses to the criticisms have been so insensitive. People are honstly hurt by your blog post, and instead of responding to their hurt in love, they get accused of being uncharitable people who are unable to read properly and are just opportunists looking to strike at you.

Your responses are only fueling the flame and raising the level of animosity - you seem more interested in proving some sort of point then you are about reconciliation. And I just have to ask, why?

James Palmer

July 18, 2012 at 04:58 PM

One can be charitable, but charity can only go so far.

If I write a blog post and say, "I hate black people," I will have people up in arms about my comment, regardless of how many times I say, "C'mon, by that I clearly meant that I love black people - you guys need reading lessons and then you need to be more charitable to me."

You seem to assume that miscommunication *must* be the fault of the listener, but frankly, that isn't always true, and when the vast majority of people read what you communicate in a way that you did not intend, you can't just blame all of them as uncharitable.