Federal Husband by Douglas Wilson is a shot across the bow of my manhood. And I think he meant to do it. I am fairly sure I have never read a book that took such a strong stand on men being the leader of the home as this book (other than Reforming Marriage by Wilson as well). It is a topic that is deeply needed in our culture today. We have too many men who have abdicated their spiritual role as leader in the home. But this concept of Federal Husband is more than simply leader of the home. It has to do with spiritual responsibility. Wilson argues,
"Whenever there is a genuine federal headship, the head as representative assumes responsibility for the spiritual condition of the members of the covenant body, and the organic connection applies in both directions" (11).
Adam was a representative of the entire human race. We fell in sin because of his sin. He was responsible. In the same way, Christ is a representative of all who believe. We believe and are saved because He took responsibility for us. So, when it says that the husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the church, one aspect of that is an aspect of responsibility. Wilson goes on to point out:
"In marriage, we do not have two separated individuals with one of them in charge of the other one. Rather, we have an organic union which is instructed not to be schizophrenic. All macho man foolishness is inconsistent with the covenantal realities described here. A proper understanding also excludes the blame game. A husband can no more blame his wife for the state of their marriage than a thief can blame his hands. As Christ assumed responsibility for things He didn't do, so husbands should be willing to do the same for their wives. Obviously, sins can be committed in marriage by both men and women. But all such sinning occurs in the context of a covenant and within the realm of the federal head's responsibility. The responsibility for all such sins therefore lies with the husband. A woman can and should recognize her sins before the Lord; her husband's overarching responsibility should in no way lessen her sense of personal and individual responsibility. Properly understood, it should have precisely the opposite effect. When a wife understands that her husband is responsible and knows that he assumes this responsibility willingly, she will be more responsible as an individual, not less. In the same way that Christ's federal salvation sets a man free to do right, so a husband can liberate his wife as he assumes responsibility for her" (18).
Of course, this is not something you hear everyday. I shared this with my wife and her response was, "I'm glad I'm not the husband." It made me think. Maybe the egalitarian movement has more to do with a wrong view of headship than it does about the rights of women. Maybe those that teach a biblical headship have not gone far enough. Maybe they have failed to show how men are responsible for their wives and children. The wife and kids may have guilt over their sins, but the husband / father is responsible.
To be fair, there were aspects of this book that I certainly did not enjoy. Wilson goes on for numerous pages on the length of hair and types of clothing that boys or girls should have. He talks about what is right and wrong in a dating relationship (and more than just moral issues). There were certainly a few things that I think he crossed the line on in this book. But his concept of federal responsibility really shook me to my core. And it should every man!