If you are a clueless jerk married to a sinless woman, who loves being shamed, bullied, and guilted into changing your evil ways, I’ve got the perfect book to poison your marriage. “Discovering the Mind of a Woman” by Ken Nair should really be retitled “Shaming and Bullying Men into Worshipping and Serving their Wives.” It contains very little insight about discovering the mind of a woman. It is much more about shaming men into becoming more “Christlike”. It demonstrates no understanding of the gospel-based mindset, and no understanding of the purpose of the law. It is deeply coercive with a heavy hand, and in addition shows no understanding that all have sinned, and all are saved by grace. The theology in this book is utterly atrocious. It is a book full of Christian-ish legalistic tripe (and not very accurate at that) but it is not really a Christian book at all. There is no love for or emphasis on Christ and Him crucified as the central foundation of the marriage relationship. Instead women are viewed as largely infallible but mindless and helpless, and men as monsters that control them like puppets.
Don’t get me wrong – men are monsters. Women are monsters too. People are monsters. Whoever you are, if you have married someone, you have married a monster. You are not really going to understand your spouse until you take a “low-anthropology” view of them. You could take Mr. Nair’s queue and press your man’s nose in his fallenness, setting the ambiguous standard of “Christlikeness” over his head as the standard by which he constantly fails. Christ is a very very good example of how a man should live. However, apart from the scandalous grace of the gospel this creates an impossible standard to live up to, and also casts Jesus as a feared example more than as a trusted savior. What men and women need, particularly within a marriage, is more than an example. We need a savior. If we cast Him only as an example, we have set the stage to relate only through judgement, fear, and failed expectations. If we cast Him as savior, we have set the stage to relate based on mutual forgiveness, and love that does not require perfect Christlikeness. These truths, which are essential to the Christian experience, are completely absent from the book.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at the book itself. Here is the outlay of the chapters:
- 1. A Discovery that Changed My Marriage
- This is a story of how the author had a transforming moment, where he realized he had been a selfish jerk, and he realized he should stop doing that. This is the core message of the book.
- 2. Men who Made the Commitment
- This is the story of five other men who were selfish jerks, who realized they should stop doing that. Stopping the jerk behavior is labeled “Christlikeness”. He’s a heavy user of the “clickbait” technique of using lists to draw you into reading stuff.
- 3. Four Male Prejudices
- 1. Women are impossible to understand.
- 1 Peter 3:7 says you can live with your woman in an understanding way. If you don’t you won’t be able to pray. Saying so threatens our traditional Christian ways — meaning that the traditional Christian marriage has a complete jerkish oaf in the role of the husband. If you are fleshly you will go the extra mile to do your job or fix your car, and that will make your relationship with your wife deteriorate. So do a crappy job and let your car rot guys, so you can have a great marriage!
- 2. Women are the Real Problem!
- Christian men usually say, “My wife doesn’t respect me. She’s not submissive like the Bible says she ought to be. I’m putting a roof over her head and her car runs. What’s the problem?” I know that is my problem in my marriage. I’m constantly worried about whether my wife respects me. Not. I’m worried that my wife will come to her senses and stop respecting me, which is the only sensible response to me. I don’t deserve respect. I am a sinner saved by grace. If I receive anything from my wife at all, it is the unmerited gift of God. You know what this truly Christian low-anthropology high-grace mindset produces? Humility and gratitude. And it does it without browbeating or coercion – just the presentation of the good news of salvation. Men who really are just complete old-school jerks like this probably do need to be slapped, but that is only to use the law to wake them up to their need for mercy and grace. This need for a slap isn’t going to end, and this need for grace isn’t either.
The other problem I have with this section is that it has a very shallow application of the law, so it does not produce a real sense of humility and dependence on grace. It simply shifts a “can-do” attitude over a bit, leaving a harmful pride in place. The old man has not died, it has simply shifted its efforts to be a less obvious kind of jerk.
- 3. Women are inferior to men
- Men speak in a way to imply that women are stupid. They ought to stop doing that. He gives an extremely weird exegesis of Genesis 3 to prove that men are equally as fallen as women (by which he seems to mean that men only are fallen), along with an anecdote about some arrogant pastor that thinks he is smarter than his wife. My joke about this is that if men are the head of the woman, it is because God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Here’s the thing: in some areas, such as my programming work, I do happen to know more about it than my wife. I don’t bring her into the details of why my angular.js site is persisting its factory variables when I’ve explicitly cleared them and changed the context. It isn’t an issue of smartness or superiority. She is brilliant with money, with organization, with reading people, with administration, and she is the most talented musician I know. She is also a top notch thinker and theologian. I talk through almost all of my posts and all of the chapters in my books with her. In fact I consider her to be much smarter than me on many issues.
Now, does that mean I am perfect about never getting short with her or thinking in some circumstances that I’m right? Am I always right or wrong about all of those things? I am not about to claim that I will ever be capable of that level of perfection. Furthermore, I am not going to saddle her with the need to be infallible in the way this book implies that women are.
- 4. Men are supposed to be “the boss”
- If men are the boss, it implies that the husband can disregard his wife’s needs while abundantly taking care of his own. We have a story of a farmer who purchased the latest tractors but refused to fix the plumbing in his own house. So, we are given another “you’re a jerk – stop doing that!” story, cast as a profound Christian solution. He says that women want their mate to be the spiritual leader, but they need to know that their husband is looking to God as the final authority.
And you know what? This is probably true. Of course I would not have the incredible hubris to speak for all of women, as to what they want. However, how is this to happen? He casts the solution as a “deeper commitment” to God. He says there needs to be no excuses for such prejudices. And yes, he says, the solution ultimately is more Bible reading, prayer, and mentorship. Again, this is all just shifting pride. The only way to accomplish the thing that the law demands here, is mutual belief in Christ and Him crucified. I look to Christ for my view of my wife. I see her as one whom Christ loves and died for. In Christ I can see her sin as utterly sinful, and her redeemed person as utterly eternal and wonderful. I see her as an eternal creature, in Him. I can only hope to see these things by grace; my own wisdom or discipline or counsel could never merit such a view.
- 4. Husbands that Wives Love to Love
- This starts with another anecdote of a husband who is involved with gross immorality, whom the author forced to write down the account of his shame and then tricked him into handing this damning document over to his wife. This is his version of “counseling”, I suppose. It turned out beautifully in the book because she was eager to love him and make up with him while they waited for his AIDS test results to arrive. What an unbelievable story, and not in the way the author intended! Wow!
I have to pause here and say, I’d like to hear about this couple a year or two later. He expects that a man with this level of addiction can just stop on a dime because he has been shamed. The wife is also offering a bloodless, crossless, Christless forgiveness. It isn’t even clear exactly what going on in her mind to say that she “forgives” him. I think it is pretty obvious that it is conditional acceptance. The idea is that, having come clean, your wife can take you back, as long as you stay clean. This is the nature of bloodless forgiveness. There is no supernatural resurrection persistence that overcomes and outlasts your shame. There is no place for persistent grace that allows for a long-term view of a person’s healing – which means there is no healing at all. There is only dramatic microwave turn-on-a-dime appearance of change, as the condition for acceptance. If you doubt that, ask yourself what the author would have said if the guy in this story confessed, “I can’t change! I don’t know what to do! I’m a slave to sin.” And the wife (understandably) said, “if he can’t change, I can’t live with him. I want a divorce.” There is really no discussion of the scandal of real grace. Down the road, without scandalous grace and real costly mercy at the center of things, I can pretty much guarantee that the rosy future implied by this book is not what happened. The guy got engrossed in porn again at least and either kept it secret from his wife or else lost his marriage. He has no basis from Mr. Nair to expect any degree of mercy.
So, following this little anecdote (which seems to be utterly disassociated with the points in the rest of the chapter), he goes on to give us 6 desirable qualities of a man. I’ll just list them here and give a general response.
- He can walk in and out of the house without causing damage.
- He will open his heart to her.
- He is sensitive to her and other people
- He is thoughtful enough to remember the things important to her — and is creative and imaginative in doing them.
- He does things with her — he is inclusive, not exclusive.
- He believes they really are one.
The oneness is listed as things like oneness in disciplining children, oneness in driving habits, oneness in making financial decisions, and oneness in including God. All of this boils down to the idea that men should stop being jerks, and start reading their Bible more. And they should make sure their spouse sees them studying the Bible more. Or the husband should convince his wife to force them to spend more time reading and praying together. Because husbands are clueless jerks and women are sinless spiritual giants.
As before, I’m going to say, these things are great. I think Confucianists and Muslims and Jews and atheists would all agree in their way. I think that we should all be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. The question becomes, what if a guy does not seem to be able to control his heart to be able to open up to his wife? Maybe he can’t open up to anyone. Maybe he can’t control his ability to have love and affection for her. So these things do not sound like solution, they sound like condemnation. They are impossible and frightening and serve only to drive him to more despondency and helplessness and severe condemnation. I have been personally driven to the point of considering suicide by this kind of advice when I went through my years of marital stress. Here is the thing Mr. Nair simply does not get: the law is only diagnosis. It is an X-Ray. He is able to accurately say – “you are a broken jerk. Stop that!” That’s the law. It’s right. All of you guys out there need to love your wife in the same manner and to the same degree as Christ loved the church. If you nod and say yes I will slap you. It is meant to be such a high standard that there is always room for growth, always room for improvement. It is rooted in the idea that we are first loved by Christ, and that we have a powerful and enduring and genuine redemption in Christ’s blood. So, you can try and fail, try and fail differently, and try and fail differently again. You are still greatly loved by Christ.
There is another huge point to consider here. You will never understand the way Christ loved the church if you do not first hear about and believe His love for you. You have to know the love of Christ if you are to give it. If you press the idea that the important thing is to follow His example, and that your redemption is a secondary and unimportant concern, you will never enter the realm where any of this is even remotely doable. You have to have the understanding at the outset that you and your wife are both profoundly sinful. The way you love as Christ loved the church is this: you love a sinner. You delight in mercy. You are not shocked when your own or your spouse’s low anthropology manifests itself. In Christ you have a basis to persist in love, to forgive without violating justice.
The assumption with Christ’s love for the church is always that the emphasis is on the sacrifice. This usually translates into doing the dishes and such. It so grandly misses the point. The emphasis is on love! It is the excitement over the treasure that caused the man to sell all he had. We want to emphasize the sacrifice, but Christ emphasizes the treasure. Grace opens the door to really love a person whom you know is imperfect and offensive. It opens the door to real persistent reconciliation and forgiveness, not mere conditional acceptance. Mere law, even accurately and wisely given, can only diagnose. It is no basis for a sound marriage. Grace is the air that love breathes, and real love delights to forgive and delights to spend time with the other and delights to respect the other and delights to lift the other up. It easily ignores and forgives the other’s faults and embraces the one that the law says ought not to be embraced. This is the love which Christ has for the church, and this is the love we are empowered to have for our spouse in Christ. The real secret to all of this is by grace, to see your spouse as the pearl, not the sacrifice for the pearl. You will hate your wife if she is the sacrifice you must make. If you love her, it means she has become the pearl you gladly sell everything to get. And this is the crushing law that tells you that you need grace – because only Jesus loves your wife that way. You, husband, are a scoundrel and an idiot and a sinner. She married you anyway. Here is where you start: Jesus loves you anyway. He died for you. Get that straight.
I’ll continue with this later. We have more chapters to work through.