Christian Hedonism, Marriage, Should a wife submit?


So I’m reading John Piper’s “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonism” and it says something on marriage. Now most of this hedonism stuff I really like. He’s systematically going through many of the things people intuitively feel they “should do” and then shows how really the reason we should do them is simply to enjoy them. He’s basically getting rid of all “shoulds” instead replacing it with a “you should do what you most want to do” then going through and explaining the true biblical remifications of that (compared to the world’s view). I won’t go into it now but you can see more at www.desiringgod.org.

 Anyways he’s now talking about marriage and there is so much really cool stuff in it. He explains why marriage is the way it is, how its modelled on God’s eternal plan for the relationship of Christ with the Church. He explains how the most important thing in marriage is to enjoy your partner through their Joy. Its amazing because, like other things, it marries our cynical view that people are basically selfish with our idealistic view of how things should be. In my parents marriage course (our church runs our course from HTB) the guy talks quite a bit about sex in these terms. See alot of people seem to think that if you’re “nice” you’ll see sex as about giving. However this hedonistic view on sex says you should see sex as about taking, about totally selfishly pursuing your own pleasure. Imagine that! A couple, both mutually totally trying to please themselves by enjoying the their partners pleasure! Really like a lot of their stuff….

 But then he moves onto “roles of men and women in marriage” and says this (He says he is specifically talking to guys now):

“What I mean is this: You should feel the greater responsibility to take the lead in the things of the Spirit, you should lead the family in a life of prayer, in the study of God’s word, and in worship, you shoudl lead the family in giving the family a vision of its meaning mission…”

I don’t know why that horrible word should needed to pop up there? Surely, in a similar way to the way he deals with other things, he could write this in a way that appeals to the souls of both men and women rather then listing shoulds and should nots. There is an example of a wife who is better at reading the bible, so she reads instead and he suggests that in that case the man should tell the family, time for bible reading listen to your mother. It just seems like such a weak example! The husband is not good at something so he should take to something small just to asert that he is indeed the leader. I really think that men trying to prove their manliness is the very essense of what it means to be pathetic (What I believe to be the opposite of manly, as opposed to womanly being the opposite). It just seems sad…

 Having said that, the more I read the chapter, the more I found myself agreeing with John Piper. He did argue his point very well from the bible to come up with his “shoulds”, but its unfortunate he has resorted to the classic rules of should (even though he clearly doesn’t see it as a rule in his own marriage, from the way he writes I’m pretty sure neither him nor his wife feel like they are living anything other then a hedonistic lifestyle, even in submission). He essentially argues that whilst there must be mutual submission in marriage, like christ and the church, the forms of submissions are different. This, I believe is his most important point in a world where feminism and political correctness suggest men and women are the same. I don’t propose to know what the differences are and everything I’ve heard of or read that tries to categorise men and women seems to fail. But it does seem like this is just true, men and women are different. We have different desires, what makes us happy is different and therefore a hedonistic marriage will have “roles” where the man and women are taking pleasure in the pleasure of their partner in different ways. I also think that the biblical analogy to explain this of “man like christ, women like church” is perfect. But I think the words submission and leadership (love) are just good words, but they can definitely be misintepretted.

 So just for fun, here are four stories of men and women. I think these “feel” like a good couple. They feel like a couple where most men would respect the man in the situation and most women (however passionate and powerful they are) would respect the women in the situation. I think the stories gradually get more to the point with the last one being, in my oppinion, a very powerful view of Marriage. I’ll publish them sporadically.

 1) Husband and wife in Malcom in the middle

2) Man and women finding the last seat on the train

3) Mum and dad dealing with each other in illness

4) Story of pastor denying his faith to help his family and his wife edging him on.

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