Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is the Trinity a True Contradiction?

I came across this interesting paper from Quodlibet Journal some time ago. I think it would help to clarify some questions raised by my previous post, "Of Paradoxes and Pastoral Theology."

Quoting from this paper "Is the Trinity a True Contradiction?", Randal Rauser, the Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Briercrest Bible College wrote:

"In the mid 1940s a debate arose between Gordon Clark and some of the faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, in particular Cornelius Van Til. At the center of the debate was Clark's belief that certain propositions of human knowledge are known univocally by God, in particular such truths as 7+5=12 and the law of non-contradiction. As a result, Van Til accused Clark of "rationalism". The counter-charge of irrationalism was not long in coming, and was laid out by Herman Hoeksema, a period commentator on the debate:

if the complainants [Van Til et. al] take the stand that Scripture reveals things that are, not above and far beyond, but contrary to, in conflict with the human mind, it is my conviction that the complainants should be indicted of heterodoxy, and of undermining all sound theology.

Either the logic of revelation is our logic, or there is no revelation.
Hoeksema continues: "And so, it still seems to me that the issue . . . is not the incomprehensibility of God, but the question whether revelation itself is intelligible to us. To deny the latter is to destroy the very foundations of theology."

Hoeksema's immediate concern is to ensure that "the logic of revelation is our logic" so that "revelation itself is intelligible". This raises two questions. First, why think that Van Til's view undermines the logic of revelation being God's logic? And second, granting that it does, why think this will undermine theology? Central to Van Til's position is that all the propositions that we affirm as true do not apply to God; it would appear he is saying that they are not affirmed by God as true. (It may be that neither are they false for God. Perhaps they just fail to have a truth-value when considered by God, though don't ask me how.) In short, no truth is such that God must, "of necessity" affirm it. Hoeksema then focuses on the implications this has for logic. His point seems to be that logic is fundamental to making any affirmations whatsoever. If then we deny that logic applies to God, we undermine our ability to know anything about God. Take for example, Paul's promise "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Rom. 10:9) Now it appears that as Van Til would have it, the law of non-contradiction does not apply to God. If so, then in light of God's promise in Romans 10:9, two contradictory states of affairs could obtain such that we could be saved and not saved, or God though morally perfect could in this case be lying. So if we accept that no truth, including the law of non-contradiction, can apply univocally to God and creatures, then any theological assertion we care to make - God is three persons, Jesus is God - could be simultaneously true and false. If this is Van Til's position Hoeksema is indeed correct that it would "destroy the very foundations of theology." Under the rubric of divine sovereignty and transcendence, we would undermine our ability to say anything whatsoever about God. Along similar lines, to identify a contradiction with God would undermine theology, and by extension creation, apparently leaving us in a morass of trivialism."

Rauser concluded:

"It appears then that there are no good reasons to consider the possibility of true contradictions within the being of God and many good reasons not to. Such a view fails to account for divine mystery, and it fails to address the problem of containment. As such, it would appear to place the theologian in danger of trivialism."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Of Paradoxes and Pastoral Theology

They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.
– Epimenides, Cretica
Ever heard of the falakros paradox or the paradox of the bald man? Here goes, “Is a man with one hair on his head a bald man? Yes, then what about two hairs on his head?”

The paradox can be presented as a formal argument with logical structure. For example, we may peruse the following soritical argument in its common form:

1 strand of hair on the head makes a man bald.
If 1 strand of hair on the head makes a man bald then 2 strands of hair do.
If 2 strands of hair on the head make a man bald then 3 strands of hair do.

If 99,999 strands of hair on the head make a man bald then 100,000 strands of hair do.
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100,000 strands of hair on the head make a man bald.
Another well-known paradox is the Paradox of the Heap i.e. if one grain does not make a heap, then two grains do not make a heap. If two do not then three do not as well. By using the same premises and a similar formal structure, we can arrive at the conclusion: 100,000 grains do not make a heap.

Such paradoxes are also known as sorites paradox (named after the Greek word for heap - σωρός or soros).But before anyone thinks that such paradoxes are just word games, let it be known that such “games” had led to much debate amongst logicians and to the writing of several prominent works by some of the best philosophers in history (e.g. Quine, Russell, Frege, Wittgenstein etc). The paradox is a serious problem because it introduces a tension between classical logic and mathematical reasoning; it also points to problems in the philosophy of language, that is, the “vagueness” of predicates in natural language.

Now here is the interesting bit. What has the sorites paradox to do with the Bible and theology?

Paradoxes are apparently found in the Bible as well. The Liar’s Paradox thought to have originated from Epimenides of Crete was studied intensely by medieval logicians. This is found in Titus 1:12 of the New Testament:

One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." (Titus 1:12, ESV)
Epimenides claimed that, “All Cretans are liars.” Can he be telling the truth? If he is telling the truth, then he must be a liar being a Cretan himself. But if he is lying, then it seems that he is telling the truth. Therefore, if what he says is true, it is a lie; and if it is a lie, then it appears that Epimenides is telling the truth. Nevertheless, do note that the writings of the Apostle Paul in Titus only quotes Epimenides’ Cretica. It does not mean that the Bible is paradoxical or illogical (in the loose sense of the word) since it quotes the Epimenides Paradox.

So what has the presence or absence of paradoxes in the Bible to do with theology? We know of a very fundamental protestant position on Scripture known as the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. This doctrine of the clarity of Scripture (often called the "perspicuity of Scripture") teaches that "the meanings of the text can be clear to the ordinary reader, that God uses the text of the Bible to communicate His person and will." "The witness of the Church throughout the ages is that ordinary people, who approach it in faith and humility, will be able to understand what the Bible is getting at, even if they meet with particular points of difficulty here and there." (Theopedia)

Obviously, if Scripture ought to be clear, logical (i.e. follows the laws of logic which is in the Mind of God), and capable of communicating unequivocal meanings through propositions, how do we as Christians view the presence or absence of paradoxes within Scripture? My position is that, no true paradoxes are ever sanctioned in Scripture. Even in the case of the Epimenides Paradox, the paradox was merely quoted by Paul. God does not communicate to us with paradoxes in the Bible because if He does, Scripture is no longer clear or perspicuous.

In view of the perspicuity of Scripture, I would like to think that even if paradoxes apparently exist in the area of theology, particularly pastoral theology where Scripture must be applied to life and practice, it must be due to a lack of in-depth study or an alleged “vagueness” of certain biblical terms that should be defined further. As a general rule, we shouldn’t introduce paradoxes into Scripture with our hermeneutics. Usually, such paradoxes are brought in to confound the issue, and not to resolve it. I am convicted that scriptural injunctions are never paradoxical, illogical or equivocal in view of the clarity of Scripture and the logic of God’s Mind. Furthermore, if paradoxes are unresolved in the area of biblical studies or doctrine, then it is quite impossible for a Christian to make sense of such biblical teachings.

With regard to our recent discussion of the Christian homemaker, it seems that the adherence to a paradoxical definition of the term “homemaker” is a preferred option for many interpreters of the Bible. Please do allow me to illustrate the problem or paradox here.

The Working Mother Illustration

Working for 1 minute a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress.

If working for 1 minute a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress, then working for 2 minutes a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress.

If working for 2 minutes a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress, then working for 3 minutes a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress. …

If working for 1439 minutes a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress, then working for 1440 minutes a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress.
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Working for 1440 minutes a day as a waitress does not make the homemaker a waitress.
And we have only 1440 minutes or 24 hours a day, everyday of our life - a tautological but needful reminder.

The Fashionable Teenager Illustration

In the area of fashionable designs and clothing,what are the exact “modesty” parameters for the Christian? For example, how short must it be for a skirt to become too short? Or how low must the neckline be before it becomes too low?

Again, we can introduce a sorites paradox to confound the teaching of Scripture; this seems to be the expertise of many teenagers when they protest against their Christian parents.

A skirt that covers 100% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers.

If a skirt that covers 100% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers, then a skirt that covers 99% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers.

If a skirt that covers 99% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers, then a skirt that covers 98% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers.


If a skirt that covers 1% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers, then a skirt that covers 0% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers.
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A skirt that covers 0% of the legs is modest enough for Christian teenagers.
The “homemaker” or “Christian modesty” is not the issue of discussion here. But I believe the reader can see that it does not make any sense to say that a mother is a homemaker no matter how long she works outside as a waitress. Neither can we say that a “skirt” that does nothing to cover the legs is modest even by pagan standards.

The intention of one who asks - “Where do we draw the line here?” - is perhaps not one which can be easily understood. He could be a sincere seeker trying to understand the clear teachings of Scripture; in this case, he is a neophyte in the things of the Lord, and a disciple of Jesus. Or he might be confused by contemporary notions and culture; in this case, he needs to exegete Scripture with Scripture using the analogy of faith. But there are some who clearly understand what the Scripture says. However, certain doctrines are not so palatable for the carnal mind, and they seek to introduce a paradox into Scripture where there is none.

In accordance with the Reformed Faith, it is my conviction that Scripture is perspicuous. As such, it is quite unimaginable that God would have left us with paradoxes within Scripture or in vital Christian doctrines.

Nay, there shall be no paradoxes and dialectical truths found in the Word of God.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Pink Swastika - Homosexuality in the Nazi Party

Available online is an excellent book documenting the "gay political agenda" and its relation to Nazi philosophy and fascism. This book is entitled, The Pink Swastika - Homosexuality in the Nazi Party by Kevin E. Abrams and Scott Lively. And who is better at introducing this book than its co-author Kevin Abrams?

The following is the Foreword written by Abrams:

The Pink Swastika is not a work of fiction. Ironically, the authors have discovered that truth is often stranger than fiction. The Pink Swastika is a response to the “gay political agenda” and its strategy of portraying homosexuals as victims of societal and Nazi persecution. Although some homosexuals, and many of those who were framed with trumped-up charges of homosexuality suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis, for gay apologists to portray themselves as historical victims of Nazi persecution, on par with the Jewish people, is a gross distortion of history, perhaps equal to denying the Holocaust itself. The Pink Swastika will show that there was far more brutality, rape, torture and murder committed against innocent people by Nazi deviants and homosexuals than there ever was against homosexuals.

Today in the West, a new and aggressive homosexualism is making its bid for power. The media, psychiatry, science and academia have all been corrupted and pressed into the service of establishing homosexuality as a normal and acceptable variant of human sexuality. Those who are unwilling to bend to the new dispensation are bludgeoned into submission with slanderous accusations of intolerance and “homophobia.” Our efforts will certainly fail to corroborate the politically correct propaganda offered by much of today’s media, academia, psychiatry, various federal agencies, the courts and human rights organizations which are now driven by the new sexual ideology rather than by honest debate and inquiry. Coming in the wake of a successful public campaign conducted over decades, our book will also fly in the face of much of today’s popular opinion. This having been said, we believe that The Pink Swastika will show clearly how the world the Nazis attempted to create is a world, not of the past, but of the possible future. It will show that, given its present course and left unchallenged, America could easily become the Nazi Germany of 50 years ago.

It is often said that the lessons of history leave us with a guide for the future. If this be so, then the lessons of the collapse of the democratic Weimar Republic and the social ideologies that preceded its defeat by the Nazis should provide us with insights into America’s future. As a practicing member of the Jewish faith, I remain wholly unconvinced that by solely remembering the Holocaust we will prevent another. The ominous parallels between the Weimar Republic of pre-Nazi Germany and today’s American republic are simply too pronounced to overlook.

This year, 1995, is the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is also the 50th anniversary of Samuel Igra’s book, Germany’s National Vice, which we quote extensively. Largely purged from public view, Igra’s book documents the homoerotic foundations of German militarism. Other books, like Dusty Sklar’s 1977 The Nazis and the Occult, document the black occult roots of Nazi ideology. What The Pink Swastika does is to synthesize both the homoerotic and occult foundations of the Nazi regime.

It must be clarified — the Nazis were not Right-Wing Conservative Creationists; they were Left-Wing Darwinian Evolutionary Socialists. As a principle, an increase in pederasty and homosexualism parallels a militaristic Hellenic revival. History discloses that the most warlike nations are those whose male leaders were the most addicted to sexual relations with young boys.

The political agenda which has as its focus a plan to legalize and coerce a bewildered and unsuspecting public into accepting or regarding sodomy as normal or dignified, is based on falsehood, self-deception and skewed scientific research. In light of the medical record, history and the fact that sodomy represents a corruption of the natural and moral orders of creation, any positive affirmation of homosexuality is totally without merit. Human sexuality is never merely a physical concern, nor is it a purely private matter. It always has social implications. What goes on between partners influences society as a whole. In sexual matters, the issue is “what is advocated and what is practiced publicly” far more than what happens privately.

In a letter to the editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, February 26, 1992, Dr. Joseph Berger, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, writes, “in my 20 years of psychiatry I have never come across anyone with innate homosexuality. That notion has been a long proclaimed gay-activist political position, intended to promote the acceptance of homosexuality as a healthy, fully equal alternative expression of human sexuality. It has zero scientific foundation, though its promoters latch on to even the flimsiest shreds of atrocious research in their attempts to justify the notion.”

As they were during the Weimar period, 1918-1933, psychiatry and academia have been hijacked and pressed into the service of establishing homosexualism as the basis of a new Kultur. Professor Hans Blueher, a practicing physician whose specialty was psychiatry, was accepted by the Nazis as the apostle and higher authority of a new social order. Blueher’s school held that male homosexual lovemaking is in itself a good thing and spiritually energizing. Blueher’s teaching became popular in Nazi circles during the period between the two World Wars and promoted the idea that a well-regulated ritual of homosexualism was a unique force capable of creating the State and assuring its leadership. The resulting creed relegated women to a purely biological function and eliminated the family as a constituent cell in the community.

In 1973, the American Pyschiatric Association was also hijacked by American “gay” activists. Basing its decision largely on the skewed evidence of the 1948 Kinsey report Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, the APA removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistics Manual and declared it a normal variant of human sexuality. Homosexuals, sensing that the burden of change had been lifted from them and shifted onto society, were able to present themselves as innocent victims of what they referred to as society’s bigoted and “homophobic” attitude towards them as persons.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer, in “Defining Deviancy Up,” an essay published in the November 22, 1993 edition of The New Republic (pages 20ff), in describing the real effect of the APA decision, stated that a majority of society was made deviant while homosexuality was elevated to the status of normal. Krauthammer writes, “as part of the vast social project of moral leveling, it is not enough for the deviant to be normalized. The normal must be found to be deviant.” In fact, the greatest single victory of the “gay” agenda over the past decade has been to shift the debate from behavior to identity, thus forcing opponents into a position where they are seen as attacking the civil rights of homosexual citizens rather than attacking specific antisocial behavior.

In an interesting and informative study, a critical analysis titled “Sexual Politics and Scientific Logic: the Issue of Homosexuality,” by Dr. Charles Socarides (published in the Winter 1992 edition of The Journal of Psychohistory, Vol. 10, No. 3:317), Socarides quotes the warning of Abram Kardiner, psychoanalyst, former Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, 1966 recipient of the Humanities Prize of The New York Times:

There is an epidemic form of homosexuality, which is more than the usual incidence, which generally occurs in social crises or in declining cultures when license and boundless permissiveness dulls the pain of ceaseless anxiety, universal hostility and divisiveness...Supporting the claims of homosexuals and regarding homosexuality as a normal variant of sexual activity is to deny the social significance of homosexuality...Above all it militates against the family and destroys the function of the latter as the last place in our society where affectivity can be cultivated...Homosexuality operates against the cohesive elements in society in the name of fictitious freedom. It drives the opposite sex in a similar direction. And no society can long endure when either the child is neglected or when the sexes war upon each other.

Victim-plunder ideology is at the core of “gay” political strategy. Homosexualists exploit the public status of homosexuals to impose their new definition of human sexuality upon society. “Victim ideology” and “reductionist” thinking is destroying America from within. Today’s new victims see no reason to modify their own behavior. Victim psychology and philosophies undermine the legitimate workings of government and the justice, health and social systems. Like their Nazi predecessors, today’s homosexualists lack any scruples. Homosexuality is primarily a predatory addiction striving to take the weak and unsuspecting down with it. The “gay” agenda is a colossal fraud; a gigantic robbery of the mind. Homosexuals of the type described in this book have no true idea of how to act in the best interests of their country and fellow man. Their intention is to serve none but themselves.

The Pink Swastika documents a hidden aspect of German history. The authors contend that homosexualism, elevated to a popular ideology and combined with black occult forces, not only gave birth to Nazi imperialism but also led to the Holocaust itself. The militarists in Germany were happy with Hitler. His teachings on “total war” and of a secret Jewish conspiracy against Germany provided a good screen for their own veiled preparations. From its very inception, it was the goal of the Nazi Party, working as a front for the German military industrial complex, to overthrow the Weimar Republic by whatever means necessary. The Pink Swastika documents how, from their beginning, the National Socialist revolution and the Nazi Party were animated and dominated by militaristic homosexuals, pederasts, pornographers and sado-masochists.

As Igra explains in Germany’s National Vice, “the criminals who wreaked such astounding horrors on innocent civilian populations were not acting as soldiers drunk with the fury of battle, nor as patriotic fanatics, but as chosen instruments of a satanic religion to the service of which they had been dedicated by the systematic teaching and practice of unnatural vice” (Igra:94).

The Pink Swastika documents how the Society for Human Rights, founded by members of the Nazi Party, became the largest homosexual rights organization in Germany and, further, how this movement gave birth to the American homosexual rights movement. Its influence has grown. The President of the United States now receives official homosexual delegations at the White House who expect the President to repay them for helping him into office. They expected him to “normalize” homosexuality in the American military. As for the comparison made between homoeroticism and skin color, General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say in a letter to Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colorado), “Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of all human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument” (Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal, June 6, 1992).

American civilization rests on the basic principles of Christian morality, which have their origin in the Hebrew Scriptures. The reason why the Nazis first attacked the Jewish people and swore to exterminate them physically and spiritually is because the teachings of the Bible, both the Torah and the New Testament, represent the foundations on which the whole system of Christian ethics rests. Remove the Bible as the constellation that guides the American Ship of State and the whole edifice of American civilization collapses. For my Jewish brethren searching for a Biblical basis for the legitimization of homosexuality, I refer to the words of Rabbis Marc Angel, Hillel Goldberg and Pinchas Stopler and their joint article in the Winter, 1992-93 edition of Jewish Action Magazine:

There is not a single source in all of the disciplines of Jewish sacred literature — halachah, aggadah, philosophy, muscar, mysticism — that tolerates homosexual acts or a homosexual ‘orientation.’ Jews who sanction homosexuality must do so wholly without reference to Jewish sacred literature, in which case their justification has no Jewish standing; or without reference to Jewish sources, in which case they act with ignorance or intellectual dishonesty. The idea, set forth by some of the non-Orthodox leadership, that the Torah prohibited only coercive and non-loving same-sex relationships, thus allowing for a contemporary, voluntary and loving same-sex relationship, is wholly without basis in a single piece of Jewish sacred literature written in the last 3,000 years.

Dennis Prager, a respected Jewish radio talk show host, commented, “There were two kinds of Jews in Auschwitz -- those who knew why they were there and those who thought it was just bad luck.” Today Jews have assimilated ideas foreign to the Jewish perspective and many liberal, secular American Jews, in adopting a tolerance for everything, stand for nothing. As the living, we owe a moral debt to that generation of Jews who were subjected to such inhumane and sadistic torture and extermination. The underlying causes of Nazi militarism are documented in The Pink Swastika. The Holocaust must be remembered for what it was, a war against the Jewish people and Western civilization.

MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA
Kevin E. Abrams, Jerusalem, Israel
June 5, 1995

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Discussion With Mark Concerning the Homemaker Part 2

Dear Mark,

Let us continue the discussion ...

Some other issues you mentioned

1) Some allegations against the authors of Passionate Housewives.

You wrote in your previous comment on my blog post, “I have not read the specific book Passionate Housewives, although I have read some articles and such by the co-authors and others associated with them ministry wise. From some of what I have read of them though, I believe they miss the bible balance, especially with regards to lower income families like the ones you mentioned (as always, I am open to correction).”

With regard to those two co-authors “missing the biblical balance,” you further clarified, “I was referring to Mrs Chancey and Mrs McDonald. I tried to word my comment carefully to be clear that I was not claiming to be an expert on their views. The balance I refer to is that the bible allows a far greater amount of freedom for wives to work outside the home than Mrs Chancey and Mrs McDonald would allow at least from what I remember of their writings.”

My sincere opinion would be: You should have at least read the book through once before coming to the conclusion that, "I believe they miss the bible balance." Is it the case that they have missed the biblical balance upon your study of their book, or is it your desire to believe that they have indeed “missed the balance” which has finally confounded or rather, prevented your reading of Passionate Housewives? Let me get this correct: you believe that they have "missed the biblical balance," yet you have not read their book. That is an honest admission on your part.

2) Caring of Widows

You wrote, “What does the bible say about widows? 1 Timothy 5 tells me they ought to be cared for but not all widows. As verses 9 and 10 tell us, they must be above sixty, and have lived a certain life of good character.”

Although this is a digression from the subject at hand, I would like to comment briefly on this passage. Of course, a more detailed study would require much more space than the following paragraphs.

I have hinted on this passage in my previous post simply because diaconal responsibilities included the care for widows, and this might relieve the newly widowed women from taking up a full-time job and subsequently delegating the care of her children to someone else.

I was indeed surprised that you have understood 1 Timothy 5:3-16 in this manner. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s renowned commentary on the Bible has this to say concerning 1 Tim. 5:9, “There is a transition here to a new subject. The reference here cannot be, as in 1Ti 5:3, to providing Church sustenance for them. For the restriction to widows above sixty would then be needless and harsh, since many widows might be in need of help at a much earlier age.” I have also mentioned this issue on my brief post on deaconess and the order of widows. It is sensible to understand 1 Tim 5:9-10 as listing out the qualifications of the widow-servant, “an order of ecclesiastical widowhood” as Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown put it.

Furthermore, if we are to accept your interpretation – that the Church is only to care for those widows over 60 years of age – how then would you interpret 1 Tim 5:11? “Also, 1Ti 5:11 would then be senseless, for then their remarrying would be a benefit, not an injury, to the Church, as relieving it of the burden of their sustenance. Tertullian [On the Veiling of Virgins, 9], Hermas [Shepherd, 1.2], and Chrysostom [Homily, 31], mention such an order of ecclesiastical widowhood, each one not less than sixty years old …” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments).

But even if we are to accept your interpretation, it doesn’t bolster your position on the homemaker. Younger widows are counseled to remarry, and their new husbands would then be their protector and provider. Paul said, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully (1 Tim. 5:14).” Again, Paul seems to spell out the roles of the “younger women” who has remarried, and these responsibilities are clearly those of a homemaker. Where do we see Paul advising the young widows to work in the marketplace, leaving their children to the care of others? Paul emphasized, “Guide the house.” That is a fairly narrow scope of work prescribed for the wife from the perspective of this inspired, Hellenistic misogynist.

I would also direct you to some commentaries here, here, here and here by John F. MacArthur available on the internet.

You also mentioned that, “Deut 24:19 tells us that sheaves are to be left for widows and other needy peoples, but the widow still needs to go out and collect it. Unless a woman meets the special criteria for full time support in 1 Timothy 5, Christian charity towards her involved providing her with work, or giving her work that would be easier than normal.”

In the situation where the husband is deceased, or is unable to work for health reasons, I have clearly stated that these are exceptions which should not be used to redefine the norm. When the husband is not around, it is obvious that the wife has to assume the husband’s roles, at least for a short while. This is when diaconal assistance should be afforded her according to the mandate of 1 Tim. 5:3-16. The younger widow should remarry; those that qualify for the order of widow-servants would be supported by the church on a permanent basis. But even so, younger widows who have yet to remarry and are in need should be supported by the church as well, at least for a time.

3) Aquila and Priscilla

You wrote, “Verse 3 says that by their occupation they were tentmakers. Both Aquila, and Priscilla were tentmakers by occupation. Was Priscilla a vocational homemaker? Given Paul’s hearty commendation of the couple in his other Epistles, she must have been. Did she have another occupation or vocation? Yes, she was a tentmaker. I think this example does show that being a homemaker as the bible commands is not incompatible with a woman having another vocation.”

Let us peruse this passage of Scripture. Even as we read it, please keep in mind my words concerning hermeneutics in the previous post.

“1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers (Acts 18:1-3, KJV).”

Whichever translation of the Bible you use, the following information is gleaned concerning Aquila and Priscilla in those verses:

a. Aquila is not Singaporean; he is a Jew born in Pontus;

b. His wife is Priscilla; and,

c. Their craft or occupation was tent-making.

Nothing more should be read into those verses. Points a and b are not very helpful for our current discussion. Perhaps point c might shed some light. The crux of the problem is: what is meant by the Greek word underlying the English word “occupation” in the KJV? Does it mean “full-time vocation?” Or does it mean that Priscilla was working full-time from 9 to 5 as a tent-maker, yet retaining her priorities as a homemaker and mother? And yes, we do not know if she had any children, and we do not know if she spent her time working in the marketplace from 9 to 5.

The Greek word for “occupation” is the feminine noun “techne.” There are three occurrences in the NT, “AV translates as “art” once, “occupation” once, and “craft” once. 1 of the plastic art. 2 of a trade (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).” The exact meaning of this word is, “An art, trade, craft, skill (Acts 17:29; 18:3; Rev. 18:22; Sept.: 1 Kgs. 7:14).” (Complete Word Study Dictionary, NT by S. Zodhiates)

In other words, “techne” means the art, trade, craft or skill in which the couple was originally trained in. For example, my ex-pastor’s wife was an accountant by training or craft. Does this mean that she is currently working as an accountant full-time, and merely spends a small portion of her time as a homemaker? Aquila’s and Priscilla’s trade or skill was tent-making, but the Bible is at the every best silent on how much time Priscilla puts into her tent-making craft. It is absolutely probable that she is now taking care of her children full-time, with only minutes to spare in tent-making. There are a number of plausible scenarios, and I had urged that in the understanding of Scripture (hermeneutics), the clearer verses should interpret the more obscure ones. Like in this case, we have no reason to buttress your “working mother hypothesis” using this example, as the passage says nothing about Priscilla’s commitment as a homemaker, or the amount of time she spends in homemaking. Such speculation or eisegesis should be avoided.

4) Concluding remarks

You mentioned, “A woman should not have a career at the expense of her husband, children or home. However, I would disagree that the very fact that she has a career is automatically at the expense of her husband, children or home. It might well be, but again, it is something that must be looked at on a case to case basis.”

You are once again imposing your pragmatic concerns in the exegesis of Scripture. As Christians, we must first understand what the Bible is saying on God’s terms. Only then should we consider the “biblical balance” you mentioned, which must include clear biblical passages elucidating such exceptions you had reiterated in our interaction. You have provided no such passages thus far.

You had claimed, “I never said they [the husband and wife] had similar responsibilities.” But throughout your post, you had insisted that the wife can be the full-time bread earner despite being a nominal homemaker. You have reiterated that the wife can perform responsibilities which the husband's role requires him to do e.g. working full-time in the marketplace, being the provider etc.

Lastly, you concluded that “the bible neither forbids [the wife] from working outside the home nor commands her to be totally focused on the home.”

No matter what her motives are, the Bible clearly instructs the wife to be a vocational homemaker. Complementarian exegetes have consistently agreed that this is the understanding of the term “homemakers,” “keepers at home” or “workers at home” found in Titus 2:5. My brief exposition of Titus 2 is found in a previous post; please do consider it.

I would like to conclude with the following words from Samuele Bacchiocchi, the Professor of Theology at Andrews University, “Our families, churches, and societies need women who are willing to accept their vital role as wives, homemakers, and mothers. God has equipped women with unique biological and spiritual resources needed for the survival and growth of the home. Biologically, God has endowed every woman with the marvelous capacity to conceive and nourish human life in her womb. Spiritually, God has endowed every woman who becomes a mother with the unique power to mold her children’s characters for time and eternity. ...

A woman who willingly and joyfully accepts her role of wife, mother, and homemaker can experience greater reward and fulfillment than any academic or business career can provide. No greater joy and satisfaction can come to a woman than to have her children rising up and calling her “blessed” and her husband praising her, saying: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” (Prov 31:28-29). (Practicing headship and submission)”

References for your perusal:

Biblical Womanhood in the Home by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Crossway Books: 2002)

Where's Mom?: The High Calling of Wives and Mothers by Dorothy Kelley Patterson (Crossway Books: 2003)

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Book available online).

PS: This post ends my reply to Mark's lengthy comment here.

Update:

Question: Vincent, do you have a "problem?"

Answer: Of course I have a "problem." Don't you?

The following quote from Kevin's blog summarizes my "problem."

"Our children are being raised by appliances." - Bill Moyers

A Discussion With Mark Concerning the Homemaker Part 1

Dear Mark,

In reply to your lengthy comment on my post, I would like to bring up several interrelated issues for your kind consideration. I would also try to bring in some personal experience and examples just to add some reality, and especially – emphathy – to it.

I must first thank you for your keen interest in this subject of the working mother. I must say that I am a little bit flabbergasted as to why your comments have persistently been in connection with my posts on this area of discussion. Are there some personal reasons as to why there is a single-minded interest concerning this pastoral issue?

Some Agreements

I would like to point out some apparent agreements I might have with your points.

1) “And my point is that there is no sin in him asking his wife to help in the financial provision of the family.”

It is never my contention that the wife is allowed to contribute financially to the family. This is a red herring at best.

2) “Both Aquila, and Priscilla were tentmakers by occupation.”

I believe no honest Christian student would disagree with this statement as well. But what is the meaning of the word “occupation” in the Greek text? We would deal with that later.

3) “Where does she consider a field? Outside the home. Where would she plant a vineyard? Outside the home. Did she do it herself? Obviously not! I assume she had servants or other hired help. Yet if it is her project, and she is diligent in getting in done, it would have required time spent away from home supervising, as well as energy and thoughts directed away from domestic duties.”

Although one can consider “a field” anywhere on the globe - including the kampong house – by simply reading or hearing reports about the “field,” or in these days by simply perusing a brochure concerning a piece of property, I have no qualms that the mother is not under house arrest. A godly Christian mother must in many occasions spend time apart from her domestic duties. In activities such as those pertaining to personal hygiene, recreation, exercising, catching up with friends, and even “nature’s call,” the mother “would have required time spent away from home supervising [sic], as well as energy and thoughts directed away from domestic duties.”

So Mark, we agree that the mother can indeed contribute to the family’s finances, and that she would on certain occasions spend time away from her domestic duties and roles as a wife i.e. as a mother to her children and helper to her husband.

Three serious systematic errors in your defense of the full-time working mother hypothesis

1) Hermeneutics

There are a few generally accepted rules for the interpretation of Scripture (hermeneutics). Firstly, obscure portions of Scripture must be interpreted in the light of the clearer passages. For example, Revelation 20 must be understood using a theological-hermeneutical grid derived from clearer New Testament Scripture that deals with eschatology. Likewise, we cannot nullify clear biblical passages (e.g. Titus 2:4-5) using obscure portions that are not contextually relevant to the issue at hand. Scripture might make mention of certain couples e.g. Ananias and Sapphira, Aquila and Priscilla etc in its narratives. But does the context of the portion of Scripture quoted deal with the gender role of woman? Does the Bible condone or even approve, for example, the vocational responsibilities of Priscilla as a wife in uncertain terms? We do not even know if Priscilla is a mother, let alone a homemaker (that being said, I have less objections against married women without children having more time-consuming jobs, provided that they have the time for such jobs. Women with children, on the other hand, have their children to keep them busy. Nevertheless, both the mother and the wife have similar responsibilities and roles. They ought to be homemakers first and foremost.). Since the Bible is silent on the social background of Aquila and Priscilla, why then are we so eager in using such examples to support a tenuous doctrine that mothers are allowed to be full-time workers in the marketplace? Why don’t we strive to exegete clear portions of Scripture that speak directly and unambiguously on this issue?

Secondly, we should interpret Old Testament passages with NT Scripture, not vice versa; this is in concert with the principle of progressive revelation. The biblically sanctioned method of interpretation of Old Testament scripture is to apply the hermeneutics of the New Testament writers, as well as the ideas communicated by them. (For a technical discussion on how the early New Testament church interprets the Old Testament, see E. Earle Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1991), 77-121.) For example, we should understand the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34 with New Testament glasses, and not with Jewish theological and hermeneutical parochialism. This is the error of Dispensationalism.

You wrote, “If God were to remake Singaporean society, or any other modern society with his own laws, would most of the women be at home fulltime? In Old Testament Israel, a society operating by God's laws there were large numbers of women working outside the home as maidservants of other men. In fact, the Fourth and Tenth commandments presupposes this state of affairs. And Exodus 21:2-11 tells us that in God’s view a woman getting married does not automatically break her connection with her master.”

You have made a fundamental error here: you cannot impose Old Testament Israel’s theocratic laws upon clear New Testament mandates. Similarly, you would have to distinguish between OT civil, ceremonial and moral laws. Although the moral laws are binding upon Christians throughout human history, the civil and ceremonial aspects are only for theocratic Israel.

Worse, you have confounded your hermeneutical confusion with factual errors. In Old Testament Israel, according to the New Bible Dictionary, “parenthood was highly prized. Women in biblical narratives mainly operate within a household, naming the children and being responsible for their early education. Mothers were to be honoured (Ex. 20:12), feared (Lv. 19:3) and obeyed (Dt. 21:18ff). Men took responsibility for and protected women family members but, if there were no male heirs, a woman could independently inherit land (Nu. 27:l-8).”

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary is more detailed in its description of the mother’s responsibilities. It likewise emphasized similar roles of the mother in OT days, “The mother was responsible for her sons’ and daughters’ early education (Prv 1:8; 6:20), teaching them religious songs and prayers as soon as they could talk. A father took over the education of his sons, but the mother continued with the daughters, training them to spin, weave, cook, clean, trim the lamps, and generally to become competent in all the household duties (31:13–31). …

“With little furniture, keeping a house clean meant sweeping the floors to keep them free from dust and dirt. Cooking was at once simple and difficult. It was simple in that much of the food was cooked in the form of a soup or stew, or else made into a cake and cooked on a griddle. It was difficult in that the corn had to be ground by hand and bread was baked daily. …

“A mother was expected to take wool, card it, spin it, and often weave and make clothes for her family. In addition, she would help her husband in the fields at harvesttime. Because many families had one or more olive trees, a few grapevines, and fig trees, the mother would also assist in picking the fruit. She would sometimes work at the press when the olives or grapes were being processed. Frequently the treading of grapes in the family vat would be done together by husband and wife. Drawing water from the well was considered a menial task and was generally the wife’s responsibility, although sometimes it was assigned to the children (Gn 24:15–16).”

So even in the OT, the roles of the father and mother are quite clear. The father is the provider, protector, and leader, while the wife is the mother, homemaker, and carer for the family and children. Although these roles are distinct, the responsibilities included within each individual role sometimes overlap with each other. For example, the father’s role is to be the provider, and in this day and age, this would mean being the bread earner. But the mother is the home manager or homemaker for him. In OT days when the field belongs to the household, caring for the home includes caring for the field as well. After all, both the house and field are individual constituents of the household’s property. The wife may be involved in the management of the field or vineyard (as part of the household’s property and the wife as the home manager), but to insist that the wife is therefore a full-time, vocational plantation worker is to stretch the biblical details provided. There is however no doubt that the main domain of the mother’s work concerns the care of her children and husband.

Also, how do “the Fourth and Tenth commandments presupposes [sic] this state of affairs,” i.e. that “there were large numbers of women working outside the home as maidservants of other men?” Are these women wives and mothers? Could you show me such examples in Scripture: chapter and verse?

2) Logic

You wrote, “While you give a logical answer to the question, that is not quite the same as giving a biblical answer.”

Although your statement here appears fairly straightforward, I have to take issue with the underlying error. A logical answer does not necessitate a biblical origin or basis (for example, do you find the logical laws of mathematics in the Bible?). But a biblical answer – which is best defined as an answer according to the Logos or the Word of God – must of necessity be logical. God’s Word emanates (while at the same time I am distancing myself from the panentheistic nuance of “emanation,” c.f. Plotinus or modern day Process Theologians and the doctrine of emanation) from His Mind and Will. Can God’s Mind or Word be illogical? As creatures of Almighty God, we can be assured that His Word and doctrines will be according to the laws of logic. Just as God cannot create a square circle, He cannot think illogically.

In the context of our discussion, we can be certain that God’s Word is according to the Aristotelian Laws of Non-contradiction i.e. ¬(p&¬p) and the Excluded Middle i.e. pv¬p. P and not-P cannot be both true. A statement cannot be both true and false at the same time. A woman who is working full-time in the marketplace as a doctor or chef cannot be a full-time homemaker at the same time. A vocational health care practitioner cannot be a vocational homemaker all at the same time according to the laws of logic.

While the main focus here is not the precise definition of the term “homemaker,” let us consider the following propositions as an example of logical processing:

P = A homemaker is a woman who spends most of her time working at home for the family.

Not P = A homemaker is a woman who does not spend most of her time working at home for the family.

According to your arguments, a homemaker is both P and not-P (p&¬p). This is a direct contradiction of the Law of Non-contradiction, thereby making the Word of God illogical.

Of course, we may continue to dispute what exactly should be P, but the take home message here is this: both P and not-P cannot be true.

In my previous, albeit very brief, exegesis on Titus 2:4-5 which you have chosen to ignore, I have given a clear definition on what it means to be a “homemaker.” It does not help in attempting to redefine the meaning of homemaker in order to suit the contemporary lifestyle of the career minded, full-time working mother. Reiterating my words in the previous post,

“One of those words that grate against the ears of the feminist is “oikourgous” (οἰκουργοὺς) or “homemaker” found in Titus 2:5. This word is derived from the Greek words “oikos” and “ergo(n).” “Oikos” means a house, a dwelling, and by metonymy, a household or family, while “ergo(n)” means “work.” “Oikourgous” thus has the meaning of “house-worker,” “home-worker,” or “one who works at home.” As opposed to the variant reading “oikourous,” “oikourgous” is the preferred reading by Lackmann, Tischendorf, and Alford. Textually, it is the more difficult reading because of its rarity. And it is understandable why the feminist hates the vocation of an “oikourgous,” because this word literally means “working at home” or “busy at home.” Some commentators join the next word “good” or “agathas” with “homemaker” to mean “good housewives.” For example, Dibelius and Conzelmann state, “The two words οἰκουργούς [oikourgous] and ἀγαθάς [agathas] should be taken together and translated ‘fulfill their household duties well.’” (Dibelius and Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles, 141). Nevertheless, most translators and translations take these two words separately. …

“The variant reading “oikourous,” on the other hand, is derived from the Greek words “oikos” and “ouros.” The word “ouros” refers to a guardian or keeper, and implies direct oversight and responsibility for something. “Oikourous,” therefore, has the nuance of “one who actively watches over a household and family.” This “housekeeper” sees to it that the husband and children are appropriately cared for, and the home maintained in good order. No matter which variant is preferred, one thing is for certain: it is impossible, be it exegesis or eisegesis, to do away with the thrust and overtone of the word “oikourgous” or “oikourous.” Most commentators, including the Puritan scholar Matthew Poole and the Lutheran exegete R. C. H. Lenski, agree with this understanding of the role of the married woman. …

“The married woman’s household will always be her priority. She is to commit her time and energies to the management of the home, and to the nurture, care, and education of her children. This is inevitably a career all in itself. Kenneth Wuest reinforces the fact that, “‘Keepers at home” is oikourgos (οἰκουργος), “caring for the home, working at home.’” (Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament). And for the woman to be a keeper at home is not a cultural bias of Paul. As Knight has aptly argued, “Certainly for a wife and mother to love her husband and children and be sensible, pure, and kind (vv. 4-5) are intrinsically right and not just norms of first-century culture. It appears quite arbitrary, then, to single out the requests that women be homemakers and be subject to their husbands (v. 5) as something purely cultural. They are treated on a par with the other items in this list, and elsewhere Paul defends the latter of these two as a creation ordinance in the face of a cultural situation that wanted to go in the opposite direction (1 Cor. 11 :3ff.).” (George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, 317). If homemaking is a cultural bias of the Apostle Paul, then one has to accept the fact that virtues such as being discreet, chaste, and loving are similarly cultural preferences of first-century Christianity. Perhaps we should remain consistent and swiftly dispose ourselves of the entire requirements of Titus 2:4-5.”

3. Pragmatism

The error of reading one’s pragmatic interests into Scripture is an example of eisegesis.

From the error of King Saul to the disobedience of Balaam for financial and physical gains, there is always a similar excuse for disobedience, “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal (1 Sam 15:21).” And is God supposed to applaud Saul for his “distributive justice?”

If Proverbs 31 is not clear enough for us, then Titus 2:4-5 provides us with a clear NT interpretation of the teachings found in Proverbs 31. The responsibilities of the woman to her husband and children are indisputably spelled out in those verses. Quoting my previous post, “These are the roles of the woman according to our Creator’s design and good will [in Titus 2:4-5]. God’s will for the younger women is to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, and also to be obedient to their own husbands. Conversely, to be indiscreet, unchaste, or to be unloving towards their husband and children is to be against the will of God. Similarly, it is against the will of God to reject the vocation of a homemaker for married women, and especially, for those who are mothers.”

In your defense of the “working mother hypothesis” – or the hypothesis that P and not-P can both be accepted as viable descriptions of the “homemaker” of Titus 2:5 – it is apparent that you have emphasized pragmatics considerations over and against clear scriptural injunctions.

For example, you wrote, “For women, the burden of guilt when they are condemned for something God has not condemned. When I said I was restricting my comments to “lower income families” what I meant was I was addressing those who work to address a genuine family need. I would repeat again I am not saying a mother has complete freedom to work as much or whenever she wants out of sheer desire. For men, the burden of being forced to work harder than what is their reasonable best to provide for their families (assuming they are genuinely unable to do so despite their best efforts), or the burden of guilt for having their wives help in the act of provision, when God has not condemned it.”

Again, you wrote elsewhere, “I was primarily thinking of the situation of a father who despite working to his reasonable best was unable, or had difficulty in making mortgage payment, buying groceries or any other reasonable family expenses. And my point is that there is no sin in him asking his wife to help in the financial provision of the family.”

I asked in my previous informal reply to your comments, “Please show me where in the Bible was this “balance” mentioned i.e. homemaking and lower income families. Thanks.”

In other words, I wanted to thrust upon you the impression that the Bible does not furnish us with any verses concerning “lower income families” and the alleged redefinition or reconsideration of the homemaker’s roles. The homemaker remains the homemaker, and the Bible does not give us any biblical mandate which justifies role reversals or the wife giving up her homemaking duties just to make (financial) ends meet. Yes, I agree that the wife can indeed help to contribute financially to the family, but her roles and duties are primarily that of being a homemaker and mother, not a bread-winner and provider. The point is this: a vocational homemaker is not one who is a vocational doctor, lawyer or accountant, who incidentally is also a part-time homemaker.

Titus 2:4-5 does not say that the wife should be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, or good only if the husband can afford the bills. If such conditionals are essential portions of inspired Word, then surely the Apostle Paul must have penned those exception clauses somewhere in the NT. Show me those verses, pray tell.

From my work, I know several patients who are non-Christian husbands, and who belong easily to the lowest income groups in Singapore (they are hygiene officers, bus drivers etc). Despite the fact that they have homemaking wives, children to feed, and mortgages to pay off, these families manage to pay for all their needs (but not their wants). In contrast, I know of church leaders whose wives work full-time; and at the same time, they insist that they are doing these things out of necessity – they own private properties and drive big cars. I’ll take their word with a pinch of salt and more than a tinge of regret and sadness.

PS: To be continued in a second post.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Mark of the Proverbs 31 Woman - An Informal Reply to Mark


Dear Mark,

(PS: This is a reply to Mark's comments on my previous post.)

I believe I had addressed your concerns in the following posts of mine here and here.

Believe me, this issue of the Christian homemaker is not a pet topic of mine; it is just that the problem is most rampant in “developed” countries, particularly in Christian homes!

Now concerning your comment:

(PS: I will put your words in quotation marks and italics. My thoughts begin with an arrow “>”.)

Hi Vincent,

>Hi Mark ...

I wonder if you remember me, I commented before on your blog a while back, on this very topic.

>I guess I do remember you ... I’m sorry if I called you an UFO (or jokingly, an "unidentified friendly oracle"). It was not meant to be a disparaging remark. It’s just that, I tend not to publish anonymous posts or posts without a link back to a blog/homepage. Do you realize that almost anyone can pose as “Mark” and get a potshot at my post (it will not be fair for the real “Mark,” whoever he is)? That is why I would like commentators to provide a link or URL to his/her blog/website. Or at the very least furnish me with an email address.

I hope I might, again, be allowed to make some comments, specifically with regard to the part of your response to Jenson regarding lower income families.

>You’re welcomed. By the way, my friend Jenson did not mention anything concerning “lower income families.” Regarding my response? Yes, yes, yes ...

I have not read the specific book Passionate Housewives, although I have read some articles and such by the co-authors and others associated with them ministry wise. From some of what I have read of them though, I believe they miss the bible balance, especially with regards to lower income families like the ones you mentioned (as always, I am open to correction).

>Who are these writers you were referring to? Missing the “Bible balance,” “especially with regards to lower income families?” Please show me where in the Bible was this “balance” mentioned i.e. homemaking and lower income families. Thanks.

Sticking for the moment to the context of lower income families, I think many times unnecessary burdens are placed upon both men and women by well meaning Christians.

>What sort of unnecessary burdens are placed upon both men and women by well meaning Christians, pray tell? Or does the problem lie in those who are unable to submit themselves to clear biblical mandate? Remember, obedience is better than sacrifice.

If a family truly has trouble in making ends meet, it is entirely virtuous and right for the wife/mother to work.

>I do realize that there are exceptional circumstances e.g. father is dead, paralyzed, terminally ill, abandoned mothers, widows (by the way, what does the Bible say concerning diaconal duties and widows?) etc. The focus nevertheless is this: we are discussing about the biblical norm. These exceptions cannot become the norm for the average Christian home.

I am never against mothers working; in fact, mothers got to work ... at home. I believe, however, that the Bible is against mothers having careers outside their main domain of work - the home.

I had written in my previous post, “The emphasis of Paul [in Titus 2:4-5] seems to be the vocation of the mother. To be a homemaker, the mother’s vocation ought to be that of homemaking. This tautology is paradoxically necessary, as there are certain Christian women who argue that having a full time job outside of home does not disqualify one as a homemaker. These ladies contend that, since their greatest priority and desire is for their home, and that they have tried their best to ensure that the home is in order, they are essentially still homemakers. This is despite the fact that they are full-time executives, managers, doctors, nurses or other kinds of professionals. To turn this argument around, is it not logical to say that, since their vocation is that of a full-time manager, doctor or nurse, they are not homemakers, but vocational managers, doctors or nurses who are incidentally part-time homemakers? Just as the Bible does not give the specific job specification of a vocational homemaker, Paul did not feel it necessary to restrict the amount of time spent in the home by the homemaker. This is because, as a matter of clear logic, a vocational homemaker has for her vocation homemaking, and not full-time nursing or doctoring.”

Proverbs 31:16 and 24 tell us that financial contribution to a family is part of the role of a virtuous wife.

>Yes and no. Let us impart more nuance to your statement above.

Look at the verses you brought up ...

16 She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants.

All of the aforementioned examples i.e. the purchase of a field, the planting of a vineyard (you mean she did that all by herself? I believe not!), and the making and selling of garments are not in any way similar to what today’s women do for their careers in contemporary culture or marketplaces. There is no mention of a Proverbs 31 woman working 9 to 5 daily outside her home (or more specifically - her domain of work at home, and she is not necessarily confined to her house/HDB flat), leaving the care of her children to her mother-in-law or the maid, or even delegating household chores like simple cooking to the hawkers or her domestic helper.

The Proverbs 31 woman’s domain of work is within her “home,” although she is never confined to her “house”; therein lies the distinction. She is not limited to being a “domestic helper” at home. She is wise in being a good steward for her husband’s home. The father is the one who brings home the bread and butter; her chief priority is to take care of the home, including her children’s and husband’s daily needs such as food and clothing: she is a vocational homemaker.

In John F. MacArthur’s excellent essay, he has this to say concerning the Proverbs 31 woman and Proverbs 31: 16,24, “In God's order this woman is devoted to the home. She is the ruler of the house. She manages the household, and her devotion is remarkable, really remarkable. Verse 13 tells us that she's involved in making thread out of wool and flax or linen. And I think it is interesting to note the transition between verse 12 and 13. Verse 12 is a pretty spiritual verse; she's being her husband's conscience, she's doing him good and never evil. All the days of her life she's devoted to him being everything he can be. She seeks his spiritual benefit, spiritual welfare. She wants to comfort, and encourage, and strengthen him. ...

“She's entrepreneurial too. Look at verse 16, "She considers a field and buys it." Notice this, she knows the field is for sale and she thinks it through. She assess the price and the value of the field and the benefit that it could bring to her family, and she decides that it's an appropriate thing to do--notice the independence of this. She considers it, she thinks it through, and she makes the purchase. You say, well where does she get this money? Did she just take it out of her husband's account? No, this is a very enterprising lady. It tells you that she purchases the field in verse 16, from her earnings, and then she has enough to plant a vineyard in it. She decides that this would be a great field to plant grapes and that that would benefit the household well, and so she takes her earnings. ...

“Well, where did she get this little bit of money? Well, she had a little enterprise going. Go down to verse 24, this is an entrepreneurial lady, and what she is doing, according to verse 24, is making linen garments and selling them, and supplying belts or sashes to the tradesmen. So she's got a little cottage industry going. I like this. People say, "Well, shouldn't a women be creative, and what about their talents, and shouldn't they work? Yes, and she has found the right place. The Word of God pictures her right in the home, being enterprising enough to be making these garments--certainly, probably assisted by the maidens that come alongside of her, selling them to the tradesmen who take them and then export them all over the world. So, she's got her own little export business going. She's working with tradesmen, and from the money that she garnered out of that enterprise, she started to save it, and save it, and save it--never indulging it on herself, but always with a view to securing it, so that in the future she could do something that would benefit everybody. She finally comes to the conclusion: she has enough. The field is for sale that's the best investment; she buys the field, she plants the vineyard, and everybody benefits. She makes wise investments. ...

“It is wonderful when a woman is enterprising and if she has the time and the inclination and the talents and abilities to do things in the home that can benefit the family--that is a marvelous thing. Now, the sad thing is when a woman decides that she is going to go have a career at the expense of the family, at the expense of the children, at the expense of the husband and the home.”

Titus 2 is even clearer, “4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

I do not believe women who are supporting their families in this way should be automatically criticized for neglecting their families, even if their family picture does not conform to the conservative ideal.

>What is the conservative ideal? What is your exegesis of Titus 2:4-5? Do you believe that the Bible condones a full-time working mother?

Likewise if we interpret the bible by comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor 2:13), Proverbs 31 and other verses help us understand what it means for a man to provide for his family, and we understand that he is not failing in this respect if he needs, or chooses to have his wife help him, which is her primary duty in the first place (Gen 2:18).

>Mark, you seriously need to differentiate between different gender roles and responsibilities. “The wife being a helpmate to her husband” does not equate to “the wife having SIMILAR responsibilities as the husband.”

It is terrible that today covetousness and pride often results in the family suffering, even within the church. But we should not overreact and go to the other extreme on this topic of the role of women.

>You don’t sound like the “Mark” I once knew ... anyway, the “covetousness and pride” that often result in “family sufferings” are the “covetousness and pride” that drive men and women, fathers and mothers toward self-centered, materialistic goals of living the “American,” or if I may say, “Singaporean” dream.

The godly man and woman would follow the word of God, observe and fulfill his/her roles as the father/mother, and do that which glorifies God and His Will.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Book on Desperate Housewives

Kevin from Building A Theological Library recommends an interesting and, I believe, challenging book for all Christian mothers and mothers-to-be.

This book is entitled, Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by co-authors Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald.

Concerning the objectives of her book, co-author Stacy McDonald wrote:

“Still, there are more myths we need to dispel [in this book]. In this book, we take the long-venerated ’50s housewife, wearing high heels and pearls to vacuum the floor, and send her back to the land of fantasy where she belongs. Real women need to know that being helpers to their husbands, raising godly children, and properly managing their homes takes real work, but the rich reward a woman receives by diligently tending to the ways of her household is well worth the effort. ...

“Yet even as the 1950s cardboard caricature of the perfectly polished housewife must be upended, so too must the equally subversive notion of the “desperate housewife” which has made its way into the minds of most Americans. ...

“Hollywood would like for us to believe that a woman who stays home serving her husband and children is not joyful and content, but desperate. Today we have television programs that divulge all the spicy details of what’s supposedly going on behind the closed curtains of those seemingly happy housewives. According to modern thought, although she may be smiling when she checks the mail, the cheerful mom across the street lives a life full of secret disappointment, anger, lust, adultery, insanity, and even murder. “Poor, desperate housewife...if only she had a fulfilling career. If only her family didn’t drag her down. If only she would do something for herself for a change. ...

“This foolish image of sensual despondency on the part of the housewife is a twisted perversion of the beautiful picture of the wise and chaste keeper at home described in Proverbs 31. While every homemaker at times falls short of this scriptural ideal, when the godly keeper at home is faithful, her husband and children rise up and call her blessed (Proverbs 31:28), and her own works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:31). The joyful and satisfied life (Proverbs 31:25) that God gives a woman who is surrendered to His will is rich and filling—yes, even passionate!” (Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, xxi-xxii)

I would especially recommend this book to Christian women and mothers in developed countries, particularly Singapore. In Singapore, it has become a norm for mothers to work; in fact, both parents work. It is now easy to find the mother at her workplace, but it is very atypical for us to observe the working mum together with her children and tending to the needs of the family. It is usually the maid or the mother-in-law who takes care of the children in the average Singaporean home. Nevertheless, we cannot expect the mother who spends 7 hours sleeping, 8 to 10 hours working, and two hours traveling to and from work to have much time left for the family’s needs.

But according to McDonald’s study, the godly mother or wife should strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman. “Proverbs 31 reveals to us how a godly housewife impacts her community in various ways— feeding the poor, making purchases for the proper running of her household, dealing in wisdom with employees, and selling her homemade goods. She is known in the community and honors her husband by representing him well while in public, yet her hub of productivity and her primary focus is the place she most loves to be—her home. The godly keeper at home wisely governs the household that God places in her care so that prudence and sound judgment rule her decisions rather than covetousness or folly.”

I hope that some Christian ladies out there would find this book helpful. Finally, here are two endorsements for the book:

“Jesus came that we might have life abundant. Passionate Housewives reminds us where we might find that life: in submitting to our husbands, in serving our children through loving and training them, and in believing the Word of God.” — Denise Sproul, wife of Pastor R.C. Sproul, Jr.

“In an age of constant confusion and conflict over the role of women, Passionate Housewives provides a clear-cut message of biblical encouragement and hope for every woman who truly desires to glorify the Lord as a wife, mother, and homemaker.” — Crystal Paine, wife of Jesse Paine and founder of BiblicalWomanhood.com

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Malaysia is Truly Asia - Whatever that Means

Just a few days ago (4th February 2008), the International Herald Tribune highlighted the recent confiscation of 32 Bibles by the Malaysian Customs. Those 32 copies of Holy Scripture were subsequently sent to the Internal Security Ministry’s publication control unit for the appropriate “clearance” or censorship - whatever that means.

It seems that our neighboring country, Malaysia, is becoming more intolerant of differing religious practices. What little common respect and cordiality which should be afforded to a religious minority is taken away, leaving Malaysian Christians wondering if Malaysia is now officially an Islamic State. Perhaps Dr Mahathir Mohamad's pronouncement should be taken literally when he said that his country is an Islamic fundamentalist state. Dr Mahathir further emphasized that, “If we hold to the fundamentals of Islam, we will not become bad as Islam exhorts us to be on good brotherly terms, united, do good things and hence it is not wrong to be an Islamic fundamentalist.”

However, Rodney Yeoh from The Pluralism Project at the Harvard University wrote, “The question of whether Malaysia is an Islamic state remains highly contentious and ambiguous. The former prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohammad stated explicitly that Malaysia is an Islamic state on September 29, 2001. This was seen as a political move to detract supporters from the rising Islamic resurgence in Malaysia. Mahathir’s statement provoked an outrage from the Chinese and Indian communities who claimed that Malaysia is not an Islamic state under the Federal Constitution.”

Malaysia’s tourism slogan is “Malaysia Truly Asia.” But is Malaysia truly “Asia?” According to a research report by The Pluralism Project, it is highly doubtful that Malaysia’s religious policies are perceived by Malaysians and her neighbors as being conducive to the freedom of religious practices.

"Despite proclaiming themselves as a moderate Islamic government, several religious controversies have challenged this notion. The issue of Malaysians’ freedom of religion is questioned, especially when it comes to Islam. The controversial case of the late M. Moorthy tested the waters of religious tolerance in Malaysia. Moorthy, originally a Hindu, was alleged to have converted to Islam by the syariah court before his untimely death. Hence, he was buried in the traditional Islamic way. However, his wife, M. Kaliammal claimed that she had evidence proving that Moorthy was a Hindu before his death and sought to take the case to the Malaysian court system to have him buried according to traditional Hindu rites. Unfortunately, her case was rejected as it was deemed as not being under the powers of the civil court but the syariah court of Malaysia. Kaliammal has launched another appeal and her case is awaiting hearing in September 2006. ...

"The current controversy surrounding the case of Lina Joy provides another example concerning the freedom of religion of an individual. Joy (her real name was Azlina Jalani) was once a Muslim but converted to Christianity. She wanted to drop Islam from her identification card as her religion but was not permitted to do so by the National Registry Department (NRD). Joy brought her case to the court of appeals and like Moorthy’s case, the civil court dismissed her case based on the same argument that this matter was under the auspices of the syariah court. This controversy underlines the issue of one’s religious freedom in Malaysia, especially when it comes to Malays. Adherents from other faiths can convert to other religions but not Muslims who can be deemed apostates and punished under the syariah court. (The Pluralism Project, Research Report, pp. 21-22)"

From the planned demolition of Hindu Temples to the recent confiscation of 32 Bibles at Malaysia’s Customs, Malaysia’s government does not seem to be bothered by the apparent intolerance for the religious freedom of non-Muslims in Malaysia.

Perhaps Malaysia is Truly Asia in the following sense of the word:

1. Promotion of valuable children's books

2. Allowing the freedom of worship

3. Upholding human rights and architectural ingenuity

4. Making space for nature in the State of Kelantan

5. Doing everything in moderation

This is one reason why I do not contribute to Malaysia’s tourism industry, or whatever is left of it.