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 very 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


Vintage Whimsy Studio said...

Vincent - I have been following this discussion with great interest . . . . as a woman, a wife, a mother, and one who has spent many years searching Scripture to understand my role from a Biblical perspective.

Having raised my four older children as a stay-at-home mom, I am now raising two beautiful daughters adopted from China. I am again a stay-at-home mom. So, obviously my perspective is not at all contrary to those you are expressing.

In the years after my older children were pretty much independent, until we adopted our younger daughters, I returned to college and completed an undergraduate degree in Ancient Languages, Classical Studies, and philosophy from both Cornerstone University and Calvin College, both in Grand Rapids, MI. I then continued as a graduate student in Medieval Studies, with an emphasis on History of Theology and Church History. So I have not come to my conclusions lightly.

However, as a mom (again a stay-at-home mom, even as my oldest child is almost 35 and my youngest is just 5 yrs old) I am concerned, not so much with the premises upon which you are building your argument / position, but with your apparent lack of care or compassion for the women which you are discussing as if they are not even able to comprehend what you are saying about them.

Having been in very conservative church communities for most of my (many!) years, I have seen the damage that can be inflicted on women who have a heart to honor God with their lives, and who devote themselves to their families, their husbands, their children, their homes, and their churches. And when men talk about us instead of with us, about who we should be, what we should do, and what our lives should be like . . . . it can be very hurtful.

Now, I am smart enough to understand that Biblical principles are TRUE no matter how we FEEL about them . . . but our feelings and our opinions, and our experiences are also valid and should be treated with respect. So, again, I am not looking for a semantic debate in which you choose to parse every syllable on my contribution to this discussion - nor am I going to attempt to impress you with how many Scripture verses I can quote or how many venerated theologians I can cite to validate my point. I am a woman - and this discussion has a great deal of significance to me, as such. I am simply encouraging you to remember that the "role of women" about which you are so clearly knowledgeable, refers to REAL women in the REAL world who have REAL feelings, needs, experiences . . . . and God really does care about our broken hearts as much as He cares about TRUTH . . . even if lots of others in the church do not.

I am sure that I have not expressed myself in a way that will prevent the inevitable destructive response that is often the result of any attempt at this kind of discussion, but suffice it to say, I respect your perspective (and I don't even disagree with WHAT you are saying as my life would prove, but with the WAY in which you seem to be speaking about me and other women as if we are not intelligent enough to figure any of this out for ourselves) and would simply request the you consider offering respect to others who might see this issue from a slightly different, though well-thought out and researched point of view. Thank you for allowing me to participate in this conversation that has been an integral part of my life in Christ. Nina

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Nina,

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I am grateful for your interesting contribution to this discussion.

I have read your blog and the relevant post long before you posted your comments on my blog (I have seen that you have provided a link back to my post in one of your post). Nevertheless, I have chosen not to say anything up until now. And since you asked ...

Firstly, I appreciate your reminder (to me) that:

1) You are a graduate of "Cornerstone University and Calvin College."
2) You are "smart enough to understand that Biblical principles are TRUE no matter how we FEEL about them."
3) You are "not looking for a semantic debate."
4) You are a mother who had stayed home before; therefore, you have the relevant experiential knowledge.

But your allegations and criticisms of my post do not follow from what you have written (i.e. non-sequiturs). I am frankly quite flabbergasted as to why you feel the way you do.

I do not feel it necessary for me to list out my paternal/home/family experiences in order to augment biblical truths, but I do have a family as well. Besides, I have my parents to feed (I am paying for both their mortgage and all their expenses). So, in actual fact, I have two families to feed, and trust me, I know what it "feels" like to be struggling financially.

Secondly, would you care to explain why you have accused me of the following?

1) My "apparent lack of care or compassion for the women which you are discussing as if they are not even able to comprehend what you are saying about them."

Who are these "women" whom I am discussing about? Do I know them? In what way have I expressed/insinuated that “they are not even able to comprehend what [I am] saying about them?”

2) I have written in a "WAY in which [I] seem to be speaking about [you] and other women as if [women] are not intelligent enough to figure any of this out for [themselves]."

How so? Have I written something that have misled you into thinking that I am a sexist or mysogynist? Kindly elucidate.

3) I have failed to offer "respect to others who might see this issue from a slightly different, though well-thought out and researched point of view."

I do "respect" - whatever that means for you - the views of others although I am not required to agree with them. Is my disagreement/criticism of such views considered "disrespect?" Or am I required to gag/stifle myself in this regard? Views might be well-researched or thought-out, but is it biblical?

You are entitled to your "feelings, opinions, and experiences," but do those "feelings, opinions, and experiences" change the truth/propositions presented in the Bible? Early in your comment, you stated that you are "smart enough to understand that Biblical principles are TRUE no matter how we FEEL about them." You then turn around 180 degrees and criticized me for not taking into account such "feelings/experiences" when interpreting/exegeting the Bible. So I perceive that it is not so much a lack of understanding but rather a lack of obedience on the part of some.

I am likewise not looking for a "semantic debate" - whatever that means for you - but clearly you are criticizing my posts because of your personal "feelings, opinions, and experiences" which may or may not correspond to biblical truths. The same "feelings, opinions, and experiences" can be used to argue for tongues/charismata plus a whole battery of erroneous teachings. If truth is dependent upon how we feel, what our opinions are, what we “need,” or what we have experienced, then we might as well call ourselves Postmodernists.

I'm sure you are able to quote your "venerated theologians" and "Scripture verses," but you have chosen to denigrate my position with your "REAL feelings, needs, experiences" which are supposed to provide the necessary tools for exegesis. How so? Does the truth of God's Word change with changing, “REAL feelings, needs, and experiences" of mere mortals? How anthropocentric can we get?

For example, the desire of a man to have pre-marital sex (fornication) is also dependent upon his "REAL feelings, needs, experiences." So do we obey the Bible, or follow our REAL needs/feelings? I'm sure those hormonal instincts of his are very REAL. Similarly, should my decision to remain faithful to my wife be dependent upon my "REAL feelings, needs, and experiences?"

Yes, to a certain extent I can agree that “God really does care about our broken hearts as much as He cares about TRUTH . . . even if lots of others in the church do not.” So how do we counsel the rape victim who insists on having an abortion in order to heal the “broken heart?” You mean that, when God commanded us, “Thou shall not murder,” He did not take into consideration our "REAL feelings, needs, and experiences?”

There are generally two common attitudes Christians have toward some difficult “dogmas.” Some Christian couples who realize that the wife/mother ought to be a homemaker are truly struggling (e.g. financially) with what the Bible teaches . They realize their weaknesses and sin, and strive towards God’s standard for the family according to the Bible. Another group of Christian couples also knows the plain teaching of Scripture, but seek to dull its edges with pragmatic concerns. Instead of seeking to mould themselves according to God’s Word, they strive towards an interpretation of Scripture which allows them to do practically what they had always been doing - what they want/desire to do.

I am simply encouraging you to remember that the "truth of Scripture" about which you are so clearly knowledgeable, refers to REAL propositions in the REAL Word of God, which has REAL truths, logic, grammar etc . . . . and God REALLY does care about His Truth, much more than He cares about the so-called "respect" for FALSEHOOD . . . even if lots of others in the church do not.

If you choose to elevate your "feelings, opinions, and experiences" above plain scriptural injunctions, then that is your choice and decision. But please do not attempt to tell me that the proper interpretation and exegesis of Scripture vary from person to person, contingent on such personal "feelings, opinions, and experiences."

Christianity is not just about being nice or appearing to be nice e.g. like having a big smile or a likable/congenial personality. Christianity is about holiness and obedience to God's Word, and His Word/Truth is unchanging, eternal, and not dependent upon our "REAL feelings, needs, and experiences."

Yes, God cares for our needs and feelings - even when they are sinful - but I believe He cares more for His Truth and His own glory. Remember this: God’s Will is found primarily in His Word, and not in our "feelings, opinions, and experiences." We must subject our "feelings, opinions, and experiences" to the truth of God’s Word.

Thank you for allowing me to respond to your comments. Vincent.

Vintage Whimsy Studio said...

Vincent - I think it would be interesting if we could actually sit down and have this conversation! There is so much that we miss, I think, through this type of communication, but it is all we have. Thank you for your response. I am now (continuing) to ponder the distinctions between the way women express themselves and the way men perceive the ideas of women and the way in which men communicate and respond to the women in their lives. I know, that is a completely different discussion, but I still wonder how relevant it is to this type of conversation.

For both of us, having families and other responsibilities to tend to, I'm sure neither one of us has the time to devote to the kind of conversation that would discover whether or not we agree but just are expressing our thoughts as different personalities or genders - or if there is really a disagreement here. I truly appreciate a man who has taken the time to think about this issue. My experience has been, for the many, many years when I was a devoted, stay-at-home wife and mother, that most of the men in my life seemed to believe that "A woman's place is in the home . . . . I don't know what you do there, and I really don't care, just shut up, stay there, and do it."

I felt no understanding or appreciation of what I was doing in my home to care for my family. And, of course, whenever I tried to discuss this with any of the men in my life, the next presupposition upon which all of our lives were built was that "A woman should keep silent." At all times, and under every circumstance.

So it was quite a surprise to me, when later in my journey as a wife and mother, I had the opportunity to return to the classroom, to discover that I am actually rather intelligent and capable of understanding these kinds of concepts.

Anyway, I don't think that we could ever arrive at a place of understanding on this topic, partly because of the limitations of this type of communication, partly because you are a man and have not experienced the pain that is caused to many women by this approach to conversation, but in my opinion our differences are NOT at all about a belief that God's Word is the ultimate source of authority for our lives.

The only one of your comments to me that I would like to respond to at this time (for limited time and space) is your question about why I feel that you are discussing this topic as if "we" (the women who make up a significant percentage of the Body of Christ) cannot figure this out for ourselves. Whenever a discussion is taking place in a public forum "about" a particular group of human beings, and you are not "one of them," and they are being discussed as if "they" are not present or not capable of hearing / reading what is being said about them, it is somehow demeaning.
My point is that, you and Mark (both men) were discussing the lives and experiences of women. I guess I just think it would be helpful to include a woman's point of view, and acknowledge that "we," as women actually might have some thoughts on this subject. It just "felt" (I know, I know! It's a girl thing! :o) ) as if "we" were being discussed like a monkey in a zoo . . . . "See, they do this" . . . and "See, they do that" . . . and "You know, they really OUGHT to do this" . . . .

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this topic after so many years of being treated as a lesser class of humanity by CHRISTIAN men precisely BECAUSE I did stay in my place, do everything that I knew to do to be a "good" Christian wife and mother - and then there is the rest of the story, which if and when I ever have the opportunity to share with you, I suspect will guarantee that you will dismiss anything I might have to say to contribute to this conversation.

Anyway, I'm sure I have not expressed myself very adequately again, and you will clearly see the many ways in which I have misspoken or lost my way on the pathway of logic . . . so again, I wonder if these kinds of conversations can ever have a good outcome between members of the opposite sex. I've never experienced that sense of peace, except with my husband, who has a compassionate heart and seems to understand that, even when I express myself differently than he would, I am truly trying to get this figured out and do it right. I am hopeful that you will try to understand what I am saying, even if I am saying it imperfectly. Thank you again for allowing me to participate in this conversation, for whatever my ideas were worth. Nina

Daniel C said...


just because you have bad experiences with certain men does not give you the right to discount the biblical views regarding the role of women. Even though they are wrong in how they treat you, you are ultimately responsible to God for how you understand His truth, not to them. I hope you will examine the Scriptures again and address the issue from a pure biblical perspective. Also, I hope you don't erect strawman; nobody here is arguing that women cannot work, cannot go to serminary, and must be treated inferior to men. Treat the Scriptures fairly, and don't bring in your emotions to interefere in the interpretation of the text.

Anonymous said...

I apologise, but this is a side issue...

"Treat the Scriptures fairly, and don't bring in your emotions to interefere in the interpretation of the text."

I have yet to meet a single Christian who does that. If I did, I would be very concerned for him/her.