The “Dad Mom” and the “Man Fail”

The cultural decline of men continues apace.  Tide detergent, of all cultural voices, is leading the charge today.  Watch “Dad Mom” here (I can’t tell if Tide changed the title due to backlash–it used to be “Dad Mom”).

These are actual quotations from this chirpy, tongue-in-cheek video:

“Hi.  I’m a Dad Mom.  While my wife works, I’m at home being awesome.”

“I can take even the frilliest girl dress and fold it with complete accuracy.”

I will not respond at length to these statements; by clicking on the “manhood” and “masculinity” tags on this blog, you could get more of a sense for my sensibilities toward things like this.  I will say, though, that the “Dad Mom” concept is a “man fail” in my view.  Men are not called by God to be “working at home” as women are in Titus 2:5.  The ground is not cursed for women in Genesis 3:17, but for men, whose responsibility it was to work outside of the home–and to protect women, which was the first “man fail” of all time.

The curse bore down upon Eve’s primary activity, childbearing, showing that her intended sphere of labor and dominion-taking was the home (Genesis 3:16).  This is true of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 as well, who though something of a whirling dervish of godly femininity was not, like her husband, by the city gates with the elders (Proverbs 31:23), but working tirelessly to bless her family and manage her home for God’s glory.

All this suggests that the “Dad Mom” is a bad idea.  The commercial offers its perspective lightheartedly, but frilly folding aside, men abdicating their creational responsibilities is no laughing matter.  God created the plans for the family, not man.  We may want to be “awesome” as the culture defines it, but such awesomeness leads us away from the wisdom of our Lord.

This is not to say that men do not help out around the house in some ways.  I sometimes help with the dishes, and I certainly do not read the paper for several hours with my feet up while my wife wears herself out.  Compared to many generations, I’m much more plugged in with my kids, and I do help out around the house in certain ways.  My wife, however, is the homemaker, not me (and a fantastic one at that).  She does the vast majority of the cooking, cleaning, and managing of the house; she spends the day with the kids while I provide for my family.

In that sense, I guess I am a “Dad dad” and she is a “Mom mom.”  The culture presses in, but in submission to God’s will and in awareness of his good and gracious design for his blood-bought children, we stay the course.

  • Kevin Figgins

    Great Post Owen. A much needed conversation that needs to constantly be on the table in the church especially.
    While I would classify myself as a “Man Man” I can still provide for my family and at the same time fold frilly dresses with complete accuracy (I have 3 daughters). Does that make me even more of a man?

  • Gabe

    Good lord the paranoia is hard to bear. It’s just a figure of speech, not a subliminal message from Tide attempting to feminize men. Ever heard the country song “Mr. mom”? Same deal. The idea that men should work and women stay home and take care of the house is way outdated. If a woman can bring home enough money to take care of the family, then there’s no problem with a guy staying home, it just makes sense. And it’s degrading to women to say otherwise. A lot of women don’t want to stay home all day, and it’s disresectful to tell them that God requires them to stay home and let the man support the family. Your article is a perfect example of why christianity and outdated religions are on an unprecedented decline. And you’re basing your requirements for the family on a story that is a myth. The time is rapidly approaching when the belief in a literal Adam and Eve will be viewed the same as belief in a geocentric universe. The quicker the world gives up these outdated ideas, the better off we will be.

  • owenstrachan

    Gabe–as a Christian, I’m bound to ground my views in Scripture. You may disagree with me on that, but that’s where I find my cues. Only God’s plan is wise. Scripture doesn’t have as much to say about gender roles as it does about some topics, but what it says, I must and want to obey.

    Kevin–good word. I’ve actually folded a “frilly dress” before–and survived! But I’m not a “Dad Mom,” and neither are you. Good word, brother.

  • http://twitter.com/james_adams1985 (James) Bob Adams (@james_adams1985)

    I don’t want to be contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian but I stay home with my children more often than my wife. We had an unexpected pregnancy of twins. We were both working full-time but as their arrival approached we made the decision that she would maintain her job and I would move into a part-time job. The Lord provided her with a job in nursing and through her work she receives health benefits and a salary that was more than double. If she did not work we would lose our health insurance and the majority of our income. We would not be able to pay our bills or rent, nor could we afford to care for twins. I would have to work a full-time job in order to afford a daycare for the children. There is not way that we could survive financially without her employment.

    I don’t fold “frilly” dresses, thank God they were both boys, but I do help with the housework, as I did before the babies. We have trimmed back our budget but we do struggle financially, but without the Lord’s provision of her job I don’t know where we would be. I work part-time at another seminary and I take a few online classes, but I do not stay home for the sake of being at home. Before I call down the wrath of the indignant, I was working a full-time job and attending class, and since I was 19 I have maintained at least 2 jobs. I am not some lazy student who doesn’t like to work. I love to work, but for me to continue working and having strangers raise our kids would be irresponsible and selfish.

    All this to say, does my family violate God’s ordering by my staying home? or has God provided for our needs through my wife’s employment? I know there is cultural pull towards lazy men, but for a Christian who finds the Lord’s provision in difficult circumstances is a one-dimensional vision of biblical roles the only option? Should we attempt to craft a more nuanced articulation of biblical gender roles that can account for these circumstances?

  • John

    overall i agree with the ideas espoused, but this phrase tripped me up: “whose responsibility it was to work outside of the home.”

    i’m curious as to whether or not you mean that a man has to literally do his work outside of the house or if you just mean that his work must reach outside of the home itself.

  • Mark Rogers

    Boom.

  • owenstrachan

    Mark–…goes the dynamite.

    John–not literally, no. That’s the common phrasing. If a guy is providing for his family from a desk located in the home, I see no biblical conflict!

    James/Bob–I want to handle your situation carefully, as I don’t know you, but I would say that certainly, challenges do arise. If a man is physically unable to provide for his family, then yes, his wife may have to step into that role. I see no spiritual problem there. Or, if a man loses his job and simply cannot secure work of any kind that provides well for his family, his wife may temporarily have to take on the burden of provision. In my reading of Scripture, he is called to do everything in his power to make sure that does not happen so that God’s design is glorified and so that their children, if they have them, flourish (and the home is managed well).

    I fully agree that daycare is not an optimal option for Christian families, so I commend you for not going that route. And it does sound as if you have taken on the burden of provision in the past. But aside from the exceptions I’ve just mentioned, I don’t see biblical grounds for a woman being the main provider and the man being the homemaker/nurturer. That is built into the very physiology of a woman’s body. It is backed up by the way that Eve is cursed. A woman is called by the design of God to take dominion–as Mark Chanski has helpfully suggested–of the domestic sphere. This doesn’t mean that she won’t ever hold a job, but when kids are present, the husband is the primary provider, leaving her to care for the home and family in such a way that it flourishes and thrives with health and life. She is equipped to do this; she is called to do this; God blesses her and her home when she does.

    All this to say: my challenge to you is to do everything in your power to take back your God-given responsibility to provide for your family. Pray in faith and act with alacrity to make this happen. That conforms to my reading of the scriptural pattern, which, yes, really is God’s design for the home and no, really should not be tinkered with or tweaked based on the culture.

    For more on this point, see John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

  • Lisa

    Owen, As a Christian (God fearing/loving) mother who works outside the home, I find this hard to swallow. I’d like to leave a quote from an interview with Tim and Kathy Keller. I think he has a healthy perspective on the topic of gender roles:
    Q Your wife Kathy adheres to a complementarian view of gender roles but points out that a subdivision of labor can vary greatly within marriages and across cultures, generations, and societies. You state that cultural gender roles are not necessarily the same as biblical gender roles. Might this view might advance the egalitarian vs. complementarian debate beyond a current stalemate?

    A I don’t know. I would love that. Let’s just say, I hope so. I don’t have a lot of hopes right now about some of the stalemates we have in our evangelical world.
    On the one hand, we say there is such a thing as male headship. It is irreducible in the home and in the church. But then, the details of what it looks like are almost completely un-spelled out. There are hints, but they are not laid out. We think it’s a principle for all times, all places, and all cultures, so if you had any list of specifics, it would make the principle less applicable. Complementarians admit the principle, but they always add a list of specifics that they treat as universal. Egalitarians won’t admit the principle. So, you might say we’re complementarians who endorse the principle that the husband and wife say “yes, the husband is the head,” but then we expect couples to come up with what that’s going to look like in their own marriage. Just don’t punt on the principle.

  • owenstrachan

    Interesting quotation, Lisa. I have a strong appreciation for Tim Keller and his ministry. However, I don’t think I have anything new to add beyond what I’ve already said a few times now. There are many matters that Scripture does not address, to be sure, allowing contextual flexibility: how many children to have, what constitutes a living wage for the family, how the family transitions children to adulthood, and so on and so forth.

    But as I read Scripture, there are numerous texts that actually do speak directly to the issue of provision in the Christian home. I’ve listed them before; Titus 2:5 saying that women are to be “working at home” fits elegantly with the design sketched in Genesis 2-3, Proverbs 31, and other texts. So, to use Keller’s language, men being providers actually is part of the “principle.” Scripture doesn’t leave it to us to figure out what complementarianism “looks like” on this matter–it offers us wisdom grounded in both the creational design and post-fall roles.

    Surely different couples have different styles of communication, decision-making, and so on. I’m not opposed, furthermore, to a woman supplementing household income in some way. As I said in the post, though, I believe it is unbiblical for a man to be a “dad mom.”

    Thanks for the interaction.

    • John

      “i believe it is unbiblical for a man to be a ‘dad mom’.”

      this is where this type of hard lining becomes unhelpful. you’ve conceded above that in cases like james (bob?) that there are cases in which this simply isn’t the case.

      the thing that is unbiblical is a man being a lazy bum, pushing his wife out of the house to make the money, and enjoying his time playing xbox at home. the unbiblical woman is one that refuses to stay home with the children because it would require too much sacrifice of her pride that has been built on a career.

      so, there are certainly unbiblical ways that ‘dad mom’ can exist, but it would seem that there is a lot of room to abide within biblical confines in praxis so long as the hearts and motives aren’t skewed from biblical admonitions and principles.

      further, considering the current cultural climate regarding the economy, there has been an upsurge in stay-at-home dads that have similar situations as james. so perhaps tide isn’t so much trying to brainwash our men into being effeminate so much as finding the pulse of american life and speaking into it effectively, at which point we in the church can take cues and do likewise instead of making complex issues so one-dimensional.

  • http://eatwithjoy.org Rachel Stone

    I hope you don’t abdicate your creational responsibilities of tilling the soil to bring forth food from the earth. Do you get much farming in between teaching, writing, and speaking? ;)

    • Phil A. Buster

      Amen to that! This guy needs to stop reading Driscoll or pretty soon he’ll be apologizing every ten seconds for saying ignorant stuff in the name of God.

    • owenstrachan

      Rachel, I don’t–though my family, back in New England, certainly does. Not to poke holes in a humorous argument, but of course even figures in the ANE would not have tilled the ground–David as a king, for example, or the prophets. On the face of it we’re not unfaithful if we don’t farm, but if as men we don’t provide.

      • breadforstones

        Obviously I was jesting, but in addition to the more theological and exegetical objection I have (some of which have been said by others here) I just think calling “dad moms” a “man fail” is cruel in a climate of such high unemployment. Why use your virtual pulpit to make guys feel worse?

    • owenstrachan

      Rachel, I’m trying to respond to your comment below–about “man fail” being cruel, but cannot for some reason. You’re assuming a different topic than the subject of the video, who is celebrating his “dad mom” status and who gives no indication of having lost his job. You can look at other comments–like to “(James) Bob Adams” to see that I, like many complementarians, of course have exceptions. Do recall the original context of the video. That so quickly gets lost in these discussions.

  • Sue

    What we really need to do is live by the spirit of the law. We need to understand what God intends for us and this is spelled out in 1 Tim. 5:8. We are all of us equally responsible for our families or we are worse than unbelievers. This verse is entirely gender neutral in Greek, although many English translations wrongly insert a masculine pronoun.

    In most eras, close to half of the adult population is single. This is true in the NT, in Victorian times and today. So, women have to be as prepared, as capable, as well trained as men to fulfill this responsibility for the family. Fortunately they are designed equal to men in their ability to work for a living. They can run the basic technology of farming as well as men can. In many parts of the world, women are th major farmers. Sure, I wish men would pick up and share in the responsibility, to the extent that they can, but they should not be keeping women out of the workforce.

  • peter cornstalk

    Proverbs 31 says the virtuous wife does everything in and out of the home while the husband sits at the gate of the city.

  • peter cornstalk

    Acts 16:14 says Lydia (she) was a merchant who worshiped God.

  • SM

    The garden was Adam’s home. Where exactly did Adam go in order to work outside of his home?

    Surely, men for most of human history and up until the Industrial Revolution have not been unbiblical by not working outside their homes and being as it were,stay-at-home dads–tilling and harvesting the land, and working around the homestead hand in hand with their wives and children so the whole family could survive?

    SM

  • http://gravatar.com/suzmccarth Sue

    Deborah was a judge who provided a peaceful era for her people. Her role was similar to the husband in Proverbs 31.

  • http://www.theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com Jon Coutts

    In my view you have taken a generally observable manifestation of masculinity from the 19th-20th century West, made it universally applicable and then read it into the Bible by way of situational epistles and the curse narrative, of all things. The same curse narrative where it is seen precisely that the subordination of women and the headship of the man are a description of our fallen state and not our redeemed one. I haven’t read your other stuff on masculinity but I imagine you would divorce Ephesians 5:22 from 5:21 in like manner, thus allowing your encultured view of the created nature of man to hold at bay the reformative dynamic of the new creation community of mutual-submission and self-giving love.

    Set up your own household the way you want, but don’t set it up like it is you on God’s side against culture, when in fact your views of the home are themselves a carry over from a culture past. Your hegemonic masculinity might encourage a few people, but it does so by way of a marginalization of a more gospel-formed view of gender relations and at the expense of those “dad-moms” out there who might otherwise carry on with their unique callings more encouraged and perhaps feeling less alone.

    I mean, I probably get what you are driving at. There are plenty of men out there who are copping out from real life by playing video games or retreating from responsibility. But you can get what you want by encouraging people to follow Jesus, and don’t need to set up a dilemma between John Wayne and the Tide commercial guy.

    With all due respect, but a bit peeved as well, peace in Christ,
    Jon.

    • owenstrachan

      Jon, interesting thoughts, my friend. I just don’t see a lot of Bible in your response. It distresses me how often people disagree with me without even citing the Scripture. What about the texts I mentioned? Does the Bible have no bearing on our everyday lives? Do people see that I am at the very least trying to ground my opinions in the biblical text?

      • http://www.theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com Jon Coutts

        I am using the same texts you are using, but disagreeing with your result. And I’m adding the Ephesians 5 reference to give a sense of where I think we are reading differently. Of course the Bible has a bearing on our everyday lives. I feel very passionately that it does. It has authority over both our chosen traditions and our chosen trends, but can not be read in ignorance or abject opposition to chosen traditions or chosen trends either. The Word is living and active, and has much more to say to our cultural context, our churches, and our families than holding this one domestic arrangement up as normative allows it to have.

  • http://twitter.com/james_adams1985 (James) Bob Adams (@james_adams1985)

    Good point SM. Saying that men “should go outside the home to work” is a “tweaking” by culture. The whole notion of leaving home to work is based in culture. What we need to do is set aside the egalitarian/complementarian polemics and explain how the gospel presents male/female relations in way that can be applied across cultures.

    Using myself as an example, I could leave my home to attempt to be the major provider for my family. However, that would require me to work at least 2 jobs. This would keep me away from my family for a large portion of time. How many years have evangelicals decried fathers being away from their families working? Or we could both work and keep our kids in daycare.
    Is the role of husband and father tied to a cultural norm? How do you account for farmers? And how do you account for Christian wives without children? Are they too unbiblical? And how do you account for the biblical example of women who worked outside the home and the Prov 31 woman who buys and sells outside the home? It would seem to me that “going outside the home” is too narrow a definition.

    If the resurrection of Jesus has transformed us from “darkness to light” then should we even attempt to appropriate “post-fall” patterns? If we do this have we set aside the gospel’s transformation of human beings?

    I don’t have all the answers but this issue and the current response do elicit lots of new and important questions.

  • http://taultheology.wordpress.com freddy

    Owen, what do think about guys who are married, in seminary, and whose wives are providing more than the part time job that her husband works? Is this ok for a season?

    • http://taultheology.wordpress.com freddy

      Should’ve said that I find myself in this position right now. My wife & I are expecting our first child in April. We are looking at what I can do full time to provide for us. I feel that our situation seems to be quite common for seminary students.

      • owenstrachan

        Freddy, good question. I’m okay with that for a season. When kids come, I’m not okay with it, personally, and I follow many complementarian mentors on that point. My wife and I did that for a season.

        I do grow concerned if the couple doesn’t seem interested in pursuing God’s good gift of children. I have also seen cases where the man used this situation to “hide out,” play a lot of sports, and take life pretty easy. That wasn’t what I was doing, but even as my wife was working, I was taking a lot of classes and forming a plan so that that arrangement would be temporary.

      • Phil A. Buster

        It’s interesting all these rules and exceptions Owen has to come up with – it starts to sound like the Pharisees who built a hedge around the law. If you’re going to be black-and-white about the Bible, then be consistent about it. If men are supposed to work manually as stereotypical bread winners, then stop your intellectual labor and get tilling the soil. I think what this shows is that even those who claim to be just reading the Bible still have to go beyond the Bible to apply it to different, non-biblical situations. Maybe we should have more conversations about the nature of those situations and listen to scripture there, rather than act as though scripture is locked up in the past, where our only responsibility now is to try to return to the past. If scripture is clear about one thing, it’s that there is no golden age – every saint was a sinner, David, Moses, Abraham, Paul, etc. etc. and Israel was a colossal failure.

  • http://twitter.com/james_adams1985 (James) Bob Adams (@james_adams1985)

    Freddy, I think we have missed the point entirely when talking about gender roles. We have allowed a debate to craft hard lined definitions and have “mined” the Bible for moral “truths” rather than allowing the gospel it contains to transform our understanding of our roles in the world. This appears to be what the NT writers did. They allowed the gospel to shape how the Christian respond to their situation in life. I guess it an issue in contextualization. Now we pass down moral imperatives rather than thoughtful reflection of the gospel’s transformation of our situation.

  • T.J.

    1 Timothy 5:8 ” But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

    Note the inspired pronouns. Men provide for their households. Sending your wife off to 40 hours of work is almost as bad as sending your daughter off to war.

    • James Adams

      This is taking a decidedly negative turn. I don’t “send my wife off to work”. It was a decision we made after much thought and prayer. I wish that the Lord had provided a different means for our finances, but he has not. If all good gifts come down from “the father of lights” should we say “no thanks its not biblical”?

      In any case, the context of that verse is the refusal of Christians to care for the widows related to them and therefore making them burdens on the church. Our family is not a burden to our church so I am not sure this passage is the best means for issuing your condemnation.

      • T.J.

        James,

        If a widow in your extended family is your responsibility as a man to take care of, how much more your own wife and children?

  • A Pastor’s Wife

    It be interesting to do a poll, across denominational lines, and see how many pastors’ wives have to work in order to “highly” supplement their pastor-husband’s salaries, provide health insurance, or to work to pay off seminary debt.

    After all, the average size of a church in America is under 100, or this was the case the last time I did such research. Most pastors are solo pastors, unable to obtain a second job, due to time constraints, church policy, or the desire to spend WITH their families. Or what about church planters? (My family and I just spent a season doing this. I worked bi-vocational jobs, so my pastor-husband could focus on church planting.)

    Most of the pastors’ wives I know, who do work, enjoy working. Getting out into the community, making friends and living outside of the ‘fishbowl’. Not to mention, see this as a huge part of their ministry to their pastor-husbands and the churches where they are called to serve.

    I know 100s of pastors’ wives, who as the author of the blog post put it, are “working tirelessly to bless her family and manage her home for God’s glory.”

    Sincerely,
    A Happy-to-be-working Pastor’s Wife

  • Justin F

    The thing the thing that bothers me about this discussion is the narrative stating that the man in the provider/leadership role is the biblical ideal and the culture around us is fighting “God’s plan”. This is bogus. This view only looks at American history for the last 40-50 years, and completely ignores nearly all the rest of recorded history. Nearly every culture throughout all of history has placed the man in the leadership role, and the woman under the man. In some cases the woman is even treated as property. The biblical passages cited are espousing the status quo throughout history. The revolutionary idea is that women are equal to men, and are just as competent as men. And that is why the passages that Owen has ignored, such as Paul’s statement that there are neither male nor female in Christ are in fact the counter-cultural biblical passages.

    Owen,
    The discussion of what constitutes manhood and womanhood in the new millennium is important, but at times is certainly confusing and difficult. Our culture needs to have an honest dialogue about this. But the view that the bible says it, I believe it, and you are wrong if you disagree is unproductive and shuts down this dialogue. You claim to be biblical in this and imply that to disagree with you is unbiblical. But according to Levitical law it was also “biblical” for OT jews to sell their daughters into slavery. I doubt you would endorse this practice, but it illustrates that the bible always requires interpretation. So your post needs a little more grace, and a little less “man fail”.

    • owenstrachan

      Justin F–thanks for your comments. I think you’ve fundamentally misread what I’m saying. I of course avow that men and women are equal in Christ per Galatians 1 (by the way, you didn’t cite the passages that I “ignored”). My wife, I assure you, would testify to the fact that I very much believe in her absolute equality and full dignity in Christ.

      Once again, though, you have not squared with the texts that I cited in my post–and basically no one has, which is distressing.

      • Justin F

        You are certainly gracious in disagreement, so kudos for that. You’re description of “Dad Moms” being a “man fail” appeared rude to me at first read, so I was set a bit on edge. Perhaps it was more tongue-in-cheek than I originally interpretted it. You’ve provided an example of domestic hierarchy, which I extrapolated to include leadership roles in church. So if you didn’t want to include that in this scope of this discussion, fair enough. But for the sake of this reply I’m going to go there one more time. Note that I have no comment on your own relationship to your wife, instead I’m questioning culture in general.

        If we are pre-defining men as having leadership roles, and women in support roles how can we say there is no longer male or female in Christ? The rest of the citation from Paul shows the lack of distinction between slave and free (societal roles) and jew and gentile (societal roles, but also religious). You can say spiritually that man/woman can approach Christ in the same manner (without mediator) while having different roles in society. But I don’t like this dichotomy between spiritual and physical, because I’ve seen this idea used to create an otherworldly Christianity that loses it impact in the here and now (consumerism, injustice, apathy, etc). I think spiritual and physical are intimately linked. So if a woman is spiritually one in Christ (and if this includes the body of Christ, which I think it does) then I think she is one in Christ in the here and now, and should have a voice of authority.

        Sorry if this isn’t where your post was leading, but I just wanted to close out this thought.

    • T.J.

      Justin,

      What do you think of the below? Does the following reasoning from the Bible support a wife divorcing her husband because of abuse? Notice how the justification for divorce only works if we accept that premise that husbands own their wives.

      “An abused wife in the OT is free to leave or divorce her husband. Modern society will like and agree with this answer, but they will despise how I get there.

      According to the OT a wife is owned by her husband. . . she is his slave or property/servant (See the 10 Commandments; Ex. 20:17; note how a wife is listed as the first and most valuable possession of a man’s house). Just as Christ most valuable possession is the church. . . His bride (1 Peter 2:9 & Eph. 1:14 God owns the church through the purchase of Christ blood. Acts 20:28), likewise a man is to value his wife (Eph. 5:22-33).

      In understanding slavery in the OT one must contrast the Biblical system of slavery with American slavery of the 1700s and 1800s. American slavery was based upon race. Blacks were often seen as not fully human. . . animals who had not evolved into a fully human species. Slavery was mostly permanent.

      In the OT slavery was a very common status. The poor would sell themselves into slavery to escape poverty. Slaves would work side jobs and often purchase their freedom. Slaves even owned slaves (2 Sam. 9:9-10). I’ve had people argue the following point with me, but I still believe it true. In ancient times, pre-Roman/Greek empire/etc., coined money was rare. There simply was not enough money to pay people hourly. For this reason slaves/servants became the norm due to economic necessity. A slave does ____ amount of work for the master and the master rewards work through food and shelter. This system was the most efficient available and this explains why it was universally used all over the world. Once modern money systems were created and Europe accepted Christian values, slavery began to disappear slowly. . . too slowly!

      While many southerners used the Bible to defend slavery, religious abolitionist also used the Bible to combat slavery. Not that wiki is a perfect source, but insight into different positions can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_slavery#Christian_abolitionism .

      Here are some biblical rules about slavery too few know about.

      Abused slaves were set free:

      Ex. 21:26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.

      Killing a person, even a slave, required the death penalty:

      Ex. 21:20 “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.

      The punishment is death according to Gen. 9:6.

      Runaway slaves were NEVER returned:

      Deu. 23:15 “You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him.

      Now you can begin to see why Christians helped with the “Underground Railroad” in America during the 1800s. Branded slaves were permanently scared and should have been set free according to Ex. 21:26. Slave owners who killed their slaves were rarely if ever punished, as called for in Ex. 21:20. For these and many other reasons American slavery was wicked and unbiblical. This is why faithful Christians fought against slavery in the abolitionist movement.

      Ex. 21:7 “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. 10 If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. 11 And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

      Note that slave refers to the bride. The woman is to be treated as a daughter. Now a dowry is an ancient concept that at first thought seems cruel, but upon more thought seems very wise. If a man is to pay a dowry for his wife, he must have a job. A dowry or payment for a woman to her father ensures the young man is not a dead beat. A dowry also publicly displays that the woman now belongs to her husband and not her father. Remember that women in the ancient world are always under the authority of a man; first her father and then her husband. Why does this matter? See below:

      A woman is considered a slave or servant of her husband (Ex. 21:7). If a servant is physically abused by the master, the slave goes free (Ex. 21:26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.) So physical abuse results in freedom of the servant/slave. Since a wife is the servant of her husband, she is free to leave/divorce her husband due to physical abuse.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/donald.b.johnson Donald Byron Johnson

        Abuse or neglect is a Biblical reason for divorce, per Ex 21:10. See David Instone-Brewer if you want to understand the cultural context of what Jesus and Paul said.

      • http://www.facebook.com/donald.b.johnson Donald Byron Johnson

        Oops. Ex 21:10-11.

  • beth

    And as a single woman (who wants to be married), I have to take care of the home and provide for it.

    • owenstrachan

      Beth, I absolutely no quarrel with this. I agree with you. The Tide commercial–which sparked this discussion and to which I was explicitly referring–refers to a “Dad mom,” not a single Christian woman. You’re glorifying the Lord by taking on those responsibilities for yourself.

  • Tyler Atkinson

    I have a concern regarding your notion that Proverbs 31 fits “elegantly” into your idea of women staying at home. I admit, I’m coming from a different place theologically than you. Yet, even when I was in a place where I would have called myself a complementarian, I had difficulty understanding how the Proverbs 31 Woman was somehow a model for so-called “biblical womanhood.” She sounds like a matriarch to me. This is not to say there were not spheres of patriarchy in ancient Israel (Carol Meyers has done great work examining spheres of both patriarchy and matriarchy in ancient Israel); but it is to say that the woman is the leader and provider here. And she’s not using her husband’s hard-earned money to do it, nor is she acting in submission to her husband (the text doesn’t say anything about submission). I simply can’t understand how you refer to this passage when you talk about God’s design in gender roles, when I would use this passage to subvert your discussion. Having a description of Woman Wisdom in ch.1, the book closes with a particular example from quotidian life of what wisdom looks like. It is important that this example is a woman. I wonder whether interpretations subordinating this woman to the leader-husband’s agenda (again, which is not mentioned in the text itself, except for the exhortation to find a woman matching this description) comes from a fear on the part of interpreters to have a woman, not a man, as the supreme example of wisdom. It seems that there is a need on the part of certain interpreters to make sure her actions take place under the umbrella of the husband’s leadership, so contemporary men can keep a firm grip on patriarchal modes of domination. Granted, I’m not an expert on Proverbs. It just seems to me that one has to read a lot into Proverbs 31 to get to “biblical manhood and womanhood.” What are the complementarian lines taken with respect to this passage? Why is it that the readings I hear from folks in your camp only deepen the suppression of women, when in this passage it is the woman taking control?

    • owenstrachan

      Tyler–interesting comments. I can tell you’re up on your biblical studies. Good stuff.

      I would say, though, that all of this proverbial woman’s activity falls under the umbrella of the home. Again, her husband is not doing these things that are related to the home–the wife is. I accounted for her diverse work by calling her a “whirling dervish.” My own home features a woman who similarly takes dominion. But I challenge you to find in Scripture an alternate blueprint to this. Men are indeed out with their flocks, working in agriculture and animal husbandry, and women are at home, as a general principle. There are a few exceptions, but the OT is what we might “patriarchal,” even if we would want to be aware of possible misuses of that term. It’s not that way because of culture–quite the opposite!–but because of God’s coding, if you will, of gender roles into the very fabric of the creation, as seen in the texts I cited, among others.

  • owenstrachan

    One more thought from me on the much-cited Industrial Revolution. This from a Facebook discussion:

    Many folks in this discussion cite the Industrial Revolution as the impetus for modern evangelical gender roles, and it’s true that the work of men changed for many in that day (at least in the West). However, we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t also think that agricultural societies practiced biblical, or traditional gender roles (because the vast majority of societies and cultures have, after all, practiced some form of biblical gender roles, an interesting witness to God’s creational design).

    You don’t have to look hard or far in history or church history to see that the Reformers, the Puritans, and the neo-Puritans like Edwards stood for exactly the kind of domestic order that we call complementarianism–and they did so, of course, in pre-industrial societies. Yes, life on a farm is different–I have many family members in New England who are farmers and grew up visiting them on their farms. But this does not obscure that Christian men have for centuries taken on the burden of provision while Christian women have taken on the burden of homemaking and childraising. This owes not to cultural coloring, but to biblical teaching, and the design of God witnessed in creation (the rather obvious differences, for example, between the bodies of men and women).

    If you want to try and find, say, a Puritan “dad mom,” well, I wish you the best of luck. Gender roles, including domestic and work responsibilities, are rooted in the creation, the post-fall curse, the shape of economic activity seen in the OT more broadly (it’s men who are out with the sheep, in other words, not women), and this is all concretely affirmed in Titus 2. The church has practiced these roles because of the Bible, not cultural teaching. This is true of believers in the Reformation, the post-Reformation period, the era of the Puritans, colonial American Christianity, and obviously a major swath of evangelicals running into the present day.

    The Industrial Revolution argument is not, at the end of the day, convincing to me, either on biblical or historical grounds.

    • http://www.theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com Jon Coutts

      The Industrial Revolution argument simply shows that the household arrangements manifest themselves different in different cultures and times and societal demands. In every era you can undoubtedly find a diversity of arrangements in this regard, and we have not even begun to talk about other cultures. The fact is that the biblical text shows an ability to guide men and women in all sorts of contexts and arrangements, and so there is no reason to insist on one encultured manifestation of it at the expense of others. The creation narratives support a mutual partnership between men and women which then shows itself in a variety of ways as God guides people in their cultural context and situations. This may not be convincing to you, but that’s to me the meaning of the Industrial Revolution argument. It is usually levied in order to counter the point that it is the new trends which are encultured at the expense of the Bible. The fact is that our inherited reading of the Bible is encultured by the Industrial Revolution as well. That’s what the argument is meant to show, I think.

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  • owenstrachan

    Thanks, Jon. Appreciate your thoughts. But are you considering my comments about pre-industrial Christian groups? You may not align yourself with, say, the Puritans (I don’t know if you do), but their practice of gender roles in a decidedly pre-industrial society mirrors the way I understand biblical gender roles in a decidedly post-industrial society.

    I’m not closed to the IR influencing our homes in some way. Jonathan and Sarah Edwards farmed–I don’t. There will be differences, yes. But they aren’t that significant. Jonathan was his family’s provider, and so I try to be my family’s provider. That may mean that I work from a coffee shop, or a rented loft, or that I teach at four different schools or work two different jobs. But whatever the case, I’m still acting from the biblical script.

    No one–and I mean no one–has touched Titus 2 in this discussion, or, for that matter, Genesis 3. Again, that concerns me!

    • http://www.theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com Jon Coutts

      There would indeed be plenty to say about Titus and Genesis and Timothy and Deborah and on and on, but I’ll just say that I don’t fundamentally disagree with the impulse of your exhortation, which is that men should seek to care for, protect, nurture, and provide for their families. Abdication of that responsibility is not good. My beef is with the limitations put on what that can look like in different settings and situations. I don’t see a reason in Genesis 3, Proverbs 31, or elsewhere, to put up obstacles to household arrangements wherein the bread-winning and child-rearing spheres are shared and the ratio of who does what is in flux in the course of time.

      The people in these comments who are concerned about single women, time spent in seminary, and so on, are pushing for exceptions to the rule in particular exceptions. You might be willing to go a certain way with them, and that’s good.. I simply want to say that the rule is no longer a universal rule when it has been undermined by so many exceptions both within the Bible and without. At that point you have to look for another “rule”, and in this case I prefer the rule of the living Christ (as in the “reign”) to a universalized principle of gender roles which I do not think the Bible sustains. My friends who have currently decided to take a paternal leave while their wives go back to work, in my opinion, have God’s blessing, and the Bible’s backing.

      The only thing they are abdicating is the encultured tradition which would have forced them to carry on with a day to day job and keep their wives at home when in fact they felt the calling from God at this time in their lives to have the wife continue her career and the husband to take the pre-school years to be at home. They will rearranged things when the kids go back to school I’m sure. They will listen to God’s call with the authority of Scripture and the interpretive help of their community. And “man fail” comments will unnecessarily alienate them, which is to me very unfortunate since we all know that parents (in any arrangement) have a difficult calling ahead of time and could use the fellowship and encouragement.

      • owenstrachan

        I’m heartened by our agreement on the point that men should be active in loving their families. I don’t in any way concede, though, that the exceptions cancel the rule. I continue to be surprised at how lightly you seem to take the texts in question. What does it mean that Eve’s childbearing is cursed? What does it mean that women are to “working at home?”

        I encourage those perusing this humble little blog to consider Titus 2:4-5 once more:

        “and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

        Are young women no longer to be “pure” and “submissive”? What about “kind” and “self-controlled”? How do you continue to call women to be one and not the other? I will say this once more: Titus 2:5 matters. It is not dependent on the Industrial Revolution, it is not offered as a highly contextual feature of Cretan culture, it is a principle for the women of this church and the women of the church of all the ages of the earth. This is the express design of God so “that the word of God may not be reviled.”

        Forget for a moment about our culture and the shifting sands of time. Does this text matter for us or not? Does the Bible, as the Reformers avowed, “norm all other norms?”

      • http://www.theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com Jon Coutts

        Of course the text matters. Men too should submit themselves to others (their wives and female leaders included), as per Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2, etc. The Bible is not taken lightly here. In fact, by not interposing universal principles where they are not commended to us, the Bible is taken very seriously indeed.

        I would assume that Eve’s childbearing is cursed because she will bear the children. This curse is spoken to her, but inasmuch as the man will “bear with her” it is the man’s too. (Let’s face it though, my stress in the delivery room was nothing compared to what she went through!). If the childbearing is taken to include child-rearing, then I see no reason not to see in this a curse that also effects the man she is with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/donald.b.johnson Donald Byron Johnson

    I think Owen should take off his blue lenses when reading Scripture, as there is some serious distortion going on. One possible good way to do that is to read some egalitarian authors in their own words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/donald.b.johnson Donald Byron Johnson

    Gen 3 has no curse on the woman, nor on the man for that matter. Only 2 things are cursed in Gen 3, the serpent (because of what the serpent did) and the land (because of what the man did).

    Gen 3:16 is able to be misunderstood and first you need to see that the woman was not cursed. For example, the Jewisn Mishnah claims that there were 10 (count ‘em) curses on the woman, when actually there are none.

    • owenstrachan

      Donald, appreciate you dropping by. I’m curious as to what is happening with Eve’s difficulty in childbearing. A sentence of judgment is pronounced upon Eve. The curse will affect her such that childbearing will be difficult, even deadly, and she will seek to rule her husband.

      • http://www.facebook.com/donald.b.johnson Donald Byron Johnson

        YLT Gen 3:16 Unto the woman He said, `Multiplying I multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow dost thou bear children, and toward thy husband is thy desire, and he doth rule over thee.’

        KJV Gen 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

        First you need to see that NO curse is associated with the woman or with what she did, else you will not read the verse correctly. There is a curse associated with the serpent’s actions and with the man’s actions, but not with the woman’s actions.

        What God is doing it giving warnings to the woman about what to expect. 1) Itsebon will be multiplied, sweat from working painful toil. 2) Conception will be multiplied, this is a blessing, she just learned she will have multiple conceptions. 3) There will be pain associated with childbirth. 4) Regardless of this she will desire her husband, which is a good thing, sexual desire between spouses is good, see Song of Solomon on teshuqah. 5) Her husband will rule over her, this is again a warning about what to expect from being married the man who sinned deliberately in the garnden and tried to blame her for his choice. From this springs all thoughts of masculinism, the male over the female in patriarchy or what is called complementarianism.

        I wish you would remove your blue masculinist lenses so that you could read the Bible without the masculinist distortions. Fortunately, it is not hard to do, I know because I did it myself.

  • PuritanD71

    Owen,

    I appreciate your article and your patient defense of living out the Biblical principles. This is becoming more and more relevant today. My wife read a similar article from a woman’s ministry blog that argues similarly as to what you state here. I wish I knew the link, but it has my wife and I thinking deeply about how to communicate these truths to our fellow believers.

    Keep up the good fight. We need this truth to continue to be proclaimed.

    To the pastor’s wife, I am a full-time pastor whose wife deeply enjoys fulfilling her God given role from Titus 2:5. I probably know an equal amount of wives who would love to fulfill this aspect of being more at home. Sadly, numbers does not equate to fulfilling our biblically defined roles. In fact, it may promote the idea that we like find it easier to do what we want to do and not what the Bible commands.

    • owenstrachan

      A lone voice of support–thank you, Puritan! Appreciate your comments and the report of a wife who, like mine, enjoys fulfilling her God-given role of homemaking and childraising.

      • http://www.theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com Jon Coutts

        For the record, my egalitarian wife is also enjoys, among other things, the fulfilling roles of homemaking and childraising. As do I.

    • A Pastor’s Wife

      I preform my God-given role from Titus 2:5, as well as home school my children and run a business, along with the myriad of responsibilities I am not paid for by ‘working’ alongside my husband at the church where he serves full-time. I enjoy all that I do and using the gifts that God has given me. Thankful my husband see us as a team…in all areas.

      ~Pastor’s Wife

  • Sue

    Owen,
    You wrote “and she will seek to rule her husband.”

    I am just wondering what Bible translation you are citing, or if this was intended to be a scripture quotation or not. I don’t remember seeing this in a Bible.

    For what its worth, I find working around the home much more satisfying as an egalitarian myself.

    • http://www.facebook.com/donald.b.johnson Donald Byron Johnson

      I think Owen is referring to one of the common masculinist distortions of Gen 3:16.

  • SM

    Owen,

    Re: Titus 2

    The instruction to Titus for each group was so the word of God would not be reviled, thus attractive to their culture. The instruction for younger women is that they might be be oikouros (guardians or watchers of their home, household, family), NOT stay-at-home moms or housekeepers, though I don’t believe what we call SAHM is precluded. Believing women were “called” to reflect godly character being self-controlled, chaste, submissive, dutiful, and responsible as to give no occasion for the culture, which assumed this of good women, to have anything ill to say against them.

    The principle of Titus 2 does indeed matter. However, the principle is NOT that women are to be stay-at-home moms or housekeepers. The principle IS don’t give an occasion for the gospel to be reviled. I believe the gospel is despised and not attractive to the culture today, in part, because of dogmatism such as: only men are to work outside of the house, except if he is going to seminary or church planting, otherwise he would be a “Dad-Mom” and consequently a “Man Fail”.

    So, yes, the text, though not written to us, matters for us. The principle of the gospel being attractive remains and is accomplished when believing men and women, husbands, and wives live as new creations in Christ Jesus being conformed to his image and likeness and reflecting this back to the culture as they live their lives for the glory of God

  • http://gravatar.com/suzmccarth Sue

    So, I take it that Gen. 3:16 is being altered and not presented as it occurs in the Bible. This undermines one’s trust in any presentation of scripture.

    If we consider the women of the NT, there is 1) Phoebe travelling, 2) Lydia, a merchant, 3) Chloe and Nympha hostesses and leaders of house churches, 4) Prisca working alongside her husband and the apostle Paul, 5) Junia an apostle alongside her husband, 6) leading women among the Greeks, and women as coworkers of the apostles.

    in fact, there are few women in the NT who appear to be model Stay at home moms.

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