"Nothing gives one a more spuriously good conscience than keeping rules." #CSLewis
One of my calendars has informed me that October 12 is “National Momentary Scream of Frustration Day.” I have decided to start celebrating that auspicious occasion today. If there can be 12 days of Christmas, surely there can be 12 days of Momentary Screams of Frustration. So, take a moment now and join me in this festive occasion.For those of you who lead a serene and placid life with no cause for such a scream, I offer you my services to get your scream on.
For your inspiration, I provide Owen Strachan (Pronounced “Stran”), yes the one mentioned in the Rachel Held Evans/TGC post.
From the Associated Baptist Press here, we learn that
“Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., described “dad moms” as “man fails” in an article in the Spring 2012 issue of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.”
Here is a link to the full article provided by Denny Burk. In the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, we learn the Biblical reasoning for his conclusions.
“For millennia, followers of God have practiced what used to be called patriarchy and is now called complementarianism.
Working from Gen 1:26-27, Christians have historically argued for the full equality of the sexes (though at times our theory has outpaced our practice). The fact that Adam was created first and given a leadership role from the start in naming the animals and taking dominion has weighed heavily in the gender roles of many believers; that Adam’s work is cursed in Gen 3:15 has seemed to many to suggest that in God’s economy, men bear the responsibilities of provision. This view is corroborated by a diverse array of texts that touch on the matter either directly or indirectly.
It is the men of Israel who leave the home to provide food for their families (see Genesis 37, for example); the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman sits with the elders in the gates while she cares for her family and home in manifold ways; women in Titus 2:5 are instructed to be “workers at home,” even as young widows are called by Paul to “marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (1 Tim 5:14).
These texts fit with the biblical-theological role Christ plays for his church in redeeming her; he is her head, her provision, and she depends upon him to live (see Ephesians 5). In a marriage, men fill this Christic role. We therefore have explicit textual reasons for calling men to be providers for their families, particularly when God gives the blessing of children, but we should not neglect the rich theme of Christ’s provision for his bride. Men who wish to be like Christ, in other words, do well to image his sacrificial labor by their own.”
In the article he also claims his goal is to
“show the world a new kind of manhood, a redeemed kind, a self-sacrificial, strong, bold, and loving kind.”
I have a simple question. If it was so “biblical”, why would so many people, Christians included, find his comments disparaging? Are we all just gospel losers? (I fear they would say yes).
According to ABP post, he "defended his thesis Sept. 25 in a Moody Radio program debate over the question, “Are Stay-at-Home Dads Violating God’s Design for Men and Women?” His pronouncements on that show and other venues are causing an mild uproar.
I would like to present Strachan’s statements as the main evidence in my claim that men and women can use the Bible to “prove” just about anything. In ages past, the Bible was used to put Galileo in jail for saying the earth moved around the sun, in clear violation of the literal interpretation of Scripture. It was used to justify slavery and racism. It was used to prevent women from voting.
I believe that I can make a pretty good case, that the “literal” view of the Bible is often developed by applying “theology du jour” (currently-Neo-Calvinism) mixed liberally with current cultural values and lifestyles. Strachan, who is married to SBTS professor Bruce Ware's daughter, is a proponent of the patriarchal view of gender. This view is espoused by the current crop of Calvinistas who appear to believe that they hold the keys to the “proper” interpretation of the gender specific passages of Scriptures. In fact, I find it rather amusing how they appear to project our current lifestyle into the Scriptural narrative.
Strachan claims that women should be in the home; not men.
The following statement is from the ABP article.
“I would say both men and women bear the image of God and so are fully invested for a life of meaningful service for God,” Strachan said. “That’s my starting point, but I would say then from a broad biblical theology that men are called to be leaders, providers, protectors and women are nurturers.”
“Women follow men in the home and the church,” he said. “Women are called to the high calling of raising families, given that God blesses them with children and making homes, being homemakers. These are roles that I think Scripture hands down for us pretty clearly in texts like Genesis 3.”
- What happens when God does not bless a woman with a husband and children? Have single women blown it in the “high-calling” department? Do we say that single women are fulfilling a low calling. (Reminds me of that great country song: "I've got friends in low places.")
- Where in the Bible does it say that men cannot be nurturers?
- Women have fought in battle, even in Scripture (Deborah)so why can’t some women be protectors as well?
- What happens when a woman is widowed? She becomes a leader and protector of the family.
Strachan elaborates on our roles within or under the "curse' in Genesis.
“Adam is the one whose work is cursed, so Eve’s childbearing is cursed and then Adam’s work of the ground is cursed in Genesis 3:17-19,” Strachan said. “That’s very interesting, because it seems in Genesis 3 that the primary sphere of activity for each person – for the woman and the man – bears the effect of the curse now that Adam and Eve have fallen.”
“It’s(work) is going to be hard,” he said. “It’s going to be long. It may bring injury to your body, but it means that’s part of – ironically here, because we’re talking about a curse – that that’s ironically what is going to bring God glory.”
1. The quoted verse literally say that childbearing would be painful.
"I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children." (Gen3:16-NIV)
I agree that childbirth is painful. Been there; done that. But, where in the world does it say that all “women must now be the primary caregiver?” Maybe its in the ESV?
2.TheScripture then goes on to state the coming difficulty with working the land.
"Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." ( Gen3:17-19-NIV)
But, it is patently obvious that Adam is not the only one who is going to return to the ground, Eve will do so as well. Since this verse refers to both of them in terms of death, why does Strachan conclude that only the man must toil by the sweat of his brow. Women have been involved in soil cultivation and farming from the beginning, often bringing their children with them into the fields.
Strachan seems to indicate that stay at home dads diminish God's glory!
Here is where Strachan gets really weird.
From the ABP article:
“Strachan said he doesn’t think that Christian men who stay at home with the kids are necessarily lacking in faith and that it’s something about which Christians can disagree, “but I do think God’s glory is in being a godly provider as a man and taking on the burden of provision and taking on this call of Genesis 3.”
“God doesn’t suggest to us anywhere in Scripture that I’m aware that we try to figure things out as we best see fit,” he said. “He gives us an arrangement. He gives us a model, a blueprint. And that’s for his glory.”
If God’s glory is dependent on women staying home with the children and men working in the field, then why doesn’t God say that loud and clear? Is God 's glory so fragile that it is diminished if Fred stays home with the kids? Assuming that Strachan is a literalist (which is a safe bet since he is at Boyce) I want to see the literal words in these quoted passages. I'm looking, I'm not seeing them.
Strachan claims that his theories are what is best for kids.
“That is “a properly biblical understanding of the family, in which children are being nurtured and cared for.”“I want children to thrive,” Strachan said. “I want what is best for them.”
Strachan claims he is doing this in the best interests of all children, not just some children. Does he claim he really knows the best path for all? One size does not fit all. Let me share with you a decision that my husband and I made that went against the "boiler plate" treatment plan of some doctors.
I still remember a conversation I had with a hematologist/oncologist when we decided not to radiate our daughter’s brain tumor. We had some logical medical reasons for our decision which, in the long run, proved to be absolutely correct. This decision caused controversy with the oncologists because they believed that their “radiation treatment” was the only correct treatment modality.
This doctor called me in order to get me to reconsider our decision. She said to me “We want your daughter to live a long life.” In a momentary loss of control, I heatedly replied, “What the heck do you think I want? I want it far more than you do.” Interestingly, that same doctor, 8 years later would tell me she was glad I stood my ground because, had I taken her "solution," our daughter would still have lived but she would have been profoundly mentally compromised.(Nerves are not fully myelinated at the age of three which causes serious destruction in the brain of a young child).
This doctor was offering us one acceptable method of treatment. Her problem was that she mistakenly thought it was the only correct solution. We saw another way and it was the better way for our child and her particular situation. Our decision for our daughter was spot on and today she is an Emergency Room nurse.
Strachan appears to be coming up with one set of rules that are supposed to fit all families. He is wrong to do so; just as that doctor was wrong to insist that we use her boilerplate treatment for our daughter. He does not even have Bible verses that clearly state these "Strachan rules." One size fits all does not take into account a variety of solutions that fit into God’s plans for families. It is far easier to take a one size fits all approach because tidy rules make us very comfortable that we are “following God.” The Pharisees enjoyed those types of rules as well.
In a Christianity Today blog here, we learn more of Strachan’s superficial application of rules to becoming a “gender correct” families.
Strachan tries the "day care argument."
"My wife and I used to live across the street from a daycare and were always sad observing the overwhelmed worker trying to care for several screaming babies at once. God's plan is better than this. He has gifted my wife to lavish love and thoughtful attention on my two kids."
Here is a comment on that blog response.
“What about women who have large families, as is popular in the more extreme wings of the patriarchal movement? Those children don't get much more attention than do the daycare children.” (Dee gives this the comment of the week award!)
Strachan: Only men herded sheep and tended fields in the Bible.
“It is men who are out in the fields and tending the sheep in the Old Testament, not women; that seems so plain as to be obvious."
Another reader commented
“Ruth, Zipporah, and Rebekah would beg to differ with that assessment.”
“Hey better reread Ruth, it turns out some women in the Bible worked in the fields, and the ones who had all the time in the world to spend with their children, had servants. The virtuous woman described at the close of Proverbs, has more going on concerning industry, labor, business, husbandry, distribution, and overtime hours, than most "bread winner" husbands today, plus she is a homemaker to boot.”
In my opinion, throughout history, women have worked in the fields, cared for animals, tended the gardens, made the butter, and sewed the clothes after spinning the wool. Talk about female "sweat of the brow!" Has Strachan ever visited any of the prairie history museums or been inside a South Dakota dugout? I have. Those women were incredible So, were they out of line, working alongside their husbands?
Today’s conveniences include homes replete with dishwashers, air conditioning, washers and dryers, readily available food at grocery stores, etc. which give women the ability to be able to do more than fight to eke out an existence. I also happen to know that many of today’s mega-church pastor's wives have full time help, a few even have cooks, so they can “follow the Lord” by spending days at the church and at conferences.
Are Old Testament practices normative for today?
Another problem raised by readers at Christianity Today is Strachan’s application of Old Testament practices directly applicable to today.
One reader said:
"Shall we also take the Old Testament practices of marriage as normative, arranged marriages, polygamy, etc.”
I might add that there were many practices condoned in the Old Testament. Children who cursed their parents could be stoned to death. Slaves were also used to help the man “with the sweat of his brow” labor. Next week I will be discussing a controversy going on over at TGC regarding the Puritans and slavery.
Strachan claimed that he has had to “sweat” to support his family. Although I am unable to find the original comment, several people in these posts commented that a seminary professor's work is hardly backbreaking akin to tilling the hard soil with profuse sweating covering the brow. This sound a bit like Mark Driscoll's "Hey, I'm a guy. I like cage fighting and I might punch out one of my pastors."
I might contend that it is the women who, bowing to Neo-Calvinist pressure, produce many children, homeschool them, clean the house cook,and get them to all of the church activities with smiling faces so dad looks like he has his family under control, who might be seen as having the real brow sweating, back breaking job. Dad gets to yuck it up with his professorial buddies and teach a few classes. Who the heck is really doing the sweating here, good night!
Pastors: Do They Get an Opt Out?
Here is another comment that I want to focus on for the rest of this post
“I wonder if some are not being too hard on Mr. Strachan. In his original post/comments he does make a concession in his otherwise strident dogmatism: husbands as "Dad-Moms" who are church planters or attending seminary that allow, even need their wives to work are exempt from being a "Man Fail.”
Pastors are not a special class of people. Their work is no different than the work of other disciples of Christ who work in banks or hospitals. All Christians are in the business of the kingdom.
This following story is not meant as a criticism of this pastor’s choice. But this pastor is also a proponent of the complementarian approach. His choice is one that many people make every day of their lives and I understand.But why do I get the feeling that Strachan would not be pleased if a nonpastor family chose a similar approach?
This pastor wrote about this experience on a public blog on a complementarian site and seemed pretty pleased how this all worked out. Said pastor, married with two children, felt “called” to leave one church and become a pastor at another. This would necessitate him leaving the South for a far Northern town. But, there was a problem. Their house would not sell. So, taking a distinctly uncomplementarian approach, he headed north with the kids and had his wife stay behind, working to support the mortgage. This arrangement went on for 9 months after which, the church, feeling sad for their pastor, elected to assume the mortgage so the wife could join the family.
This pastor did not take on two jobs, working up a sweat as he broke his back to keep his family together. In fact, had the church not stepped in, this could be an ongoing arrangement. Who is it? He is none other than TGC's Jared Wilson. This is a link to his story.
Same batter; different shaped cake pans
In the end, I believe that we do more harm by enforcing standards that the Scriptures do not clearly delineate. There are many ways to run a family that is God-honoring. Here are some examples:
- I am a nurse with an MBA. I worked primarily in nursing with a short stint in the pharmaceutical industry. We decided to have children late in our marriage because my husband had extensive residency and fellowship training. I stayed home with my children. We had a very sick daughter who required much supervision. It was hard to balance my attention between all three of my children. I am now writing a blog and enjoying my freedom to do so.
- I know a husband and wife who are both dentists. They have their own practice and rotate who is working and who is home with the kids.
- I know a husband and wife physician team who could not have children. Instead, they have dedicated their lives to ministry in a large university medical center, reaching out to the many medical and dental students.
- The wife is a pediatric neurologist, the husband is a cardiologist. Both are respected in their fields of practice. He works full time. She works part time-evenings and weekends. The grandparents live near by to be available on those occasions that both must be working. They have successfully raised three boys, one of whom was handicapped.
- The wife who is a well-known pediatrician. The husband is a computer expert. He decided to stay with the two children while she worked. He slowly built an at home computer business which blossomed after the daughters went off to college.
Then there is the Ian and Larissa situation. I bring them up because they are considered role models for a family. You can read their story here.
Larissa married Ian a few years after he was left damaged by terrible car accident. She took on the job as breadwinner for the family, consciously deciding to do this prior to becoming married. I disagree that Ian is the head of that household. It is evident that he is handicapped. Yet, Larissa chose, deliberately, to enter a marriage in which she is the bread winner, caretaker, and leader.And John Piper is desperately trying to claim that the husband is still the "leader" of this family because she just can't be in his paradigm.
Finally, I know a man whose wife walked out on him and their children. He worked by the sweat of his brow, often at night when the children were sleeping. He raised three wonderful girls who love him dearly. He braided the hair, he cooked the meals, he cleaned the house and did many things that would make him a “male fail” according to Strachan. Men just can't nurture, can they?
Here is the bottom line for every family. As long as the kids are loved and cared for, the house is relatively clean, mom and dad are in agreement seeking God, then who are we to tell anyone they are not doing it by the Book, especially since the Book is not perfectly clear in this regard? However, I do know that Mark Driscoll is very clear on these issues so Strachan may need to make a pilgrimage to Seattle.
Having a perfect life with a mom at home and a dad as a seminary professor does not guarantee happiness. Deb and I know such a man. Bet you anything Strachan knows to whom I refer. They did it exactly the way they should. The wife sacrificed for the man, they had children, he became well known in the Reformed Baptist professorial world and was highly respected for his academic work. He served as an elder, his kids went to a perfect “classical” Christian school and everything was right by the rules.
However, one day, said professor ditched it all-church, seminary and family. The seminary world has been real quiet on this one.
The single female problem
Strachan unfortunately overlooks the problem of the single woman who is often the invisible church member.
Here is a comment from the Christianity Today article
“This article reminds me of why I bagged Christianity and the church. Women are treated like second-, third-, fourth- or fifth-class citizens in the kingdom of God, depending on whether or not we're married, have children and stay at home. If you're like me, and you never married, never had kids and work outside the home, you can join me in the invisible fifth-class status. It's not just the young people who are bailing on the church, look around you. Do you see any older single women? Nope. We've gone elsewhere because we see a culturally bound organization that treats those who fail to conform with barely-veiled derision. No Thanks.”
I would like to take a minute to salute those Christian men who have to endure the derision of the likes of Strachan and Mark Driscoll as they seek to serve their families as stay at home dads. You are not “male fails.’ You are loving, responsible men who endure derision from the likes of Driscoll and his wannabes. Some day, they may have cause to eat those words.
I end with this link to Rachel Held Evans blog (that should irritate a few folks) in which she interviews a stay at home dad. If any stay at home dads, who are reading this, would like to write a post for us please let us know.
Lydia's Corner:Exodus 29:1-30:10 Matthew 26:14-46 Psalm 31:19-24 Proverbs 8:14-26