Dear Pearls,

I have a question regarding submission to my husband and theology. I’ve tried to find an answer in the archives, but I couldn’t and I’m so confused. Can you please tell me how to properly submit to my husband when we are disagreeing about theology? Within the last year he has become “Reformed,” or a Calvinist. And that feels like all he listens to now. I want to agree with him, but I don’t. I don’t see it in Scripture and it feels wrong. I am praying for God to open my eyes and show me. It bothers my husband that I don’t agree with him and it bothers me too. He is a very godly, wonderful man, my very best friend and lover. He is far more intelligent and well studied than I am, so I feel foolish for disagreeing with him. We have talked about why I disagree and I either end up crying or he gets angry and it gets nowhere. I don’t want to convince him, I just want to know what to do and what is right. Can you either tell me (with Scripture) how my theology is wrong, or can you tell me how I can make my husband feel honored without compromising?

Blessings, A

Mike Answers:

A couple months before my first daughter was to be married, she came to me with a Bible question, the answer to which I suspected might be in conflict with her future husband’s views. It was not critical to abiding in Christ, so I answered, “You will soon have a new head. You will be your husband’s helper. You should seek his opinion on the matter.” She did, and here we are nearly two decades and seven wonderful grandkids later, and the whole family believes incorrectly on that one point, but they are a happy family, working together in harmony. It was that harmony and oneness that I did not want to diminish by starting their marriage with divided allegiance.

You are walking in the light. Your husband is exploring the darkness of old heresy that arose in the fourth century and was partly responsible for the Dark Ages. But Calvinism is not a life-threatening darkness. It is not comparable to a cult or to a damnable heresy. I was a Calvinist at one time. So my first response would be to tell you that for the sake of your marriage, you should just set aside your understanding and support your husband.
But light is a journey from which there is no return. The old saying “ignorance is bliss” is a truism often envied by those who suffer from knowing the truth. Truth does indeed make you free, but that freedom sometimes puts you beyond close fellowship with those who still abide in darkness. Jesus understood the cost of following the way of truth, for he said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. . . . And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34–37).

Nevertheless, your marital problem is not one of doctrinal differences; it is attitude and striving for position. I know of many families who attend Calvinist churches for the music and fellowship—prompted by the needs of their children—but they are not in the least persuaded by the doctrine. In other words, they have learned to live with it like a person in southern Louisiana lives with mosquitoes. Just brush them off and eat the apple pie.
I was raised in Calvinist churches and went to a college where all of the professors but one were Calvinists. I excelled in Reformed theology, but it was in the study of that theology that I evolved into a Bible believer in opposition to the ancient heresy of determinism. My Calvinist professors were wonderful men of God who dedicated their lives to communicating what they knew of Christ. To this day I greatly appreciate all but one of them. I have devoured the writings of Charles Spurgeon, excusing his rare and mostly insignificant references to Calvinism as vestiges of his church heritage. His practical sermons seldom express the falsehoods of his professed theological persuasion.

Your marital problem is not one of doctrinal differences

So I say to you, dear, distressed pilgrim walking in the way of light, your husband has not become a bad man by jumping on this pop bandwagon. It is a modern trend stemming from a vacuum in the traditional church and it is a backlash against the “mega church–praise and worship–prosperity–self-love” movement of today. Generally speaking, they do have good music, as good as the Seventh Day Adventists, and almost as good as the Mormons. Furthermore, even as your children are attending the Reformed Catholic church, if you read the Bible to them and they continue to read it as they are growing up, they will not be persuadable by Calvinists’ doctrine.

Let me try to help you see what is happening in your relationship to your husband. He is excited about all the new things he is learning. Calvinism is a logic-based theology founded on false suppositions. When the presuppositions are not tested by Scripture (i.e., total depravity, etc.), the logic of it has an intellectual appeal. Furthermore, it satisfies the flesh by absolving the individual of responsibility and offering assurance of salvation apart from the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. If you are elected, nothing else is necessary. He wants to share his newfound vision with his best friend and lover, but he is met with cold reception. It is frustrating for him, and he responds as most husbands who meet with rejection or resistance. If he knew the Scriptures he would not be persuaded by Calvinism, and if he were led by the Holy Spirit he would respond in mercy and patience instead of anger.

Again, it is just the nature of us mortal men to resist being wrong, especially being corrected by our wives whom we want to impress. It is now a contest with your husband’s self-image on the line. He must make you humbly admit that he is wise, and see you eagerly follow him as the head of the family. His manhood is more the issue than the doctrine itself.

If you were a simple member of the Calvinist church, I would not seek to convert you contrary to your husband’s views, for the very reasons that are now causing you stress. But you cannot go from light back into naïve ignorance where most Calvinist congregants reside. The cost of truth is sometimes high, but there are ways to mitigate the emotional ramifications in marriage. One option that is repugnant to me is to stop trying to teach him and play the role of dumb wife who cannot discern her right hand from her left, who just wants to sing hymns, cook, and make love. If you are not pulling from the other end, he will lay down the rope.

Another option, the one I prefer, is for you to stop contending, but in the meantime master the subject. School yourself in the Bible and Calvinist doctrine. It may take a year or more, but you can become, as David said, a person of more understanding than your teachers (Psalm 119:99).

But it is a fact of history that a well-informed and wise wife should not attempt to convert her husband with argument. It is a relationship killer.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

If you school yourself and he knows you are not naïve in your rejection, that you are confident and relaxed in your relationship with Christ and your knowledge of Scripture, yet you are not in a sweat to convert him, not pushy or judgmental, he will avoid argument like a bear trap.

He is not going to accept correction from his wife. Any attempt will only increase the biofilm around his heretical disease. But you may purchase the book we distribute, What Love is This?, and you will learn more than you ever thought to know about the subject. But hold on to your bonnet; you are in for a shock. When you read the doctrines of Calvinists in their own words and you compare them to Scripture, you will want to get on a high horse and scream, “How can you be so stupid?” Being right is a great inducement to carnal pride. So be warned, it can be a dangerous thing for a wife to be in doctrinal dispute with her husband.

On second thought, maybe you should just become a big enough person to swat the mosquitoes rather than trying to eradicate them. Often the toxins left over from eradication are worse than the pests, especially in the confines of a home. Maybe you could just tell your husband that you are predestined to not be a Calvinist. That should make sense to him.

To sum it up:

  • Don’t get bent out of shape. It is not that big a deal for you and your family. Being a Calvinist will not send you to hell or keep you from enjoying Christ.
  • Educate yourself while being aware of the danger of pride.
  • Don’t try to teach your husband. Husbands are too proud to give over to their wives.
  • Leave the doctrinal debate to us old coots who have been engaged in it since the fifth century. It will never be resolved until Jesus comes back and squashes Calvinism once and for all.
  • Tolerate the doctrinal dumbness and get the most out of your church fellowship.
  • Cook biscuits and make love.
  • PRAY every day for your husband to have wisdom and grace to see beyond the new fad.