Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Domestic Arts

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While reading this article(which is actually a critique of another article) at CBMW’s website, I was happy to see a complementarian recognize the current tendency for some Christians to idolize marriage and marginalize singles, and to acknowledge that women’s need and desire to study the deep theological themes of Scripture rather than only the themes that allude to homemaking and motherhood, has grown.

But…

I must comment on the one little part that stood out to me, and not in a positive way(there are other good and bad points in the post, but I won’t get into them here).  The belief that women who do not embrace homemaking as a career are selfish, prideful money-hoarders appears to be alive and well among some complementarians.  Strachan implies this idea here(bold mine) ~

~”I would note that we don’t want to pit careful attention to homemaking, for example, against pondering the extracalvinisticum. Older women are called to mentor younger women, which clearly calls for biblically-fueled discipleship that will involve both doctrine and the application of doctrine (Titus 2:3-5). With many, I am grateful that the complementarian movement has seen several exemplary resources on godly motherhood and homemaking pop up in the last decade or so. May their number only proliferate. Everywhere women are being encouraged to “lean in” and leave their kids and homes, and yet there are many, many Christian women who have not bowed the knee to Facebook (sorry, Sheryl Sandberg).

Praise God for this, for the scores of intelligent, gifted, creative, well-trained, deeply thoughtful women in our churches who have embraced the scriptural call to the domestic arts. (Our culture foolishly construes “value” in terms of money and career. Did we learn nothing from the spectacular crash of Marxist thought in the twentieth-century? But I digress.)”

Here we have yet another complementarian mistaking women’s desire for a meaningful career with the sinful desire for money.  There are so many problems with this view.  For one thing, are all women who work really doing it so they can make more money and therefore accumulate frivolous material wealth?  Is the prevailing belief in our culture that both husbands and wives should both work so they can buy more and more stuff?  Yes, there are people like this in our society, no doubt about that.  But from my view, most folks I know are just trying to keep their heads above water and pay their bills.  And yes, they’d like a little enjoyment out of life, too(like the ability to get pizza for dinner now and then, not buy a Corvette or anything like that).  Many people today can’t survive on one income, really.  Many, many women work because they need the money, not because they’re bowing to culture.

There’s another aspect this author ignores; Christian women want to do meaningful things in their lives, and that doesn’t always include the “domestic arts”.  Whether it’s volunteering, writing, painting, or working for wages, women crave meaningful work.  Many women don’t enjoy the “domestic arts”, and they find themselves depressed and floundering as homemakers, wondering how they can be used in other ways. Exploring these feelings of depression and emptiness doesn’t mean they’re neglecting their home and children any more than the men who work to provide for their families are neglecting their families.

By claiming that “embracing the domestic arts” is the scriptural call for all women, and that women who don’t embrace it are “foolish”, Owen Strachan has created a divide.  He is pushing Christian women away who don’t fit the mold, women like me who question the “biblical” interpretation that leaves me with one choice(which is really no choice at all) of what to do with my life.  Now that I’ve questioned and studied the idea that homemaking might not be the only biblical role for women, it would seem that in Owen Strachan’s eyes I am no longer following Scripture, and that I’m a selfish woman who only wants to feed my pride and my bank account.  I realize that complementarians and egalitarians are trying to have an open and loving discussion about gender roles, but it seems to me that Strachan’s attitude here doesn’t leave much room for discussion.  It shuts the door in the other camp’s face.

This issue needs to be talked about without folks accusing others of being “unbiblical” or “selfishly valuing money and career” above family.  Some women find homemaking superficial and empty, or they discover hidden gifts that should be explored.  What Strachan says about women who don’t “embrace the domestic arts” isn’t going to help further the discussion; it immediately shuts it down.  This attitude pushes women away who are asking legitimate questions about the Bible.  It’s time for CBMW to get past this false idea that “real” Christian women pursue homemaking, and that those who don’t are selfish and prideful.  Now that we Christian women have been studying the Bible for ourselves, we know better.

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Lost Women of the Bible: Mrs. Noah Part I

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noahs-ark-zoom

I was a bit skeptical when I saw the Carolyn Custis James included Noah’s wife in her book, Lost Women of the Bible.  There isn’t much to tell, is there?  The Bible doesn’t say very much about Mrs. Noah.  It doesn’t even tell us her name.  But it turns out that the fact that Mrs. Noah is all but left out of the narrative is what stands out about her.

~ “Mrs. Noah got lost in her marriage.  Among the lost women of the Bible, she has all but vanished from sight.  Her story(which may have been a good one) died with her remains buried to this day because the story that got told was her husband’s.  She was one of eight individuals to survive the world’s worst natural disaster, yet every so-called ‘complete’ list of women in the Bible leaves her out.”

Unfortunately, this can be said of countless women throughout history.  The accomplishments of women have been overlooked and ignored.  For example, has the average person ever heard of these two amazing women?  How about this one?  I hope everyone has heard of this woman!  Many times the female perspective of the story gets overlooked, as it did with Mrs. Noah.  Many times we are even taught that overlooking the woman’s story is the “biblical” thing to do, in order to make it possible for the men to attend to their ministries.  Mrs. Noah’s story ~

~ “remains a mystery, unknown and unknowable to us, buried with her body underneath the grass.  Still, the lack of information doesn’t prevent us from wondering.”

Mrs. Noah’s life brings about a myriad of questions about what her life must have been like.

“Where does she fit into God’s purposes in her specific time and place?  How did she contribute to God’s kingdom?  How did being God’s image bearer change her outlook on life?  What battles was this ezer called to fight?”

Poor Mrs. Noah does seem to get pushed to the side in favor of her famous husband.  But what is known about Mrs. Noah?

“Mrs. Noah lived during terrible times.  Wickedness and violence weren’t news bites about trouble happening a safe distance from ‘respectable’; neighborhoods.  The whole culture was infected.”

“Mrs. Noah could sympathize with women who live in fear of drive-by shootings.  Living in a society of violence, she was no stranger to the kinds of anxieties mothers feel when sending their children off to school where the first test they must pass each day is a metal detector.”

James points out that everyone around Noah and his family were oblivious to God’s disapproval of them, and of the impending doom they would soon face.  Everyone around her thought her husband was nuts.  Noah was in a class all his own(Gen. 6:9).  He stood out because he was devoted to God, and was mocked for it.  What kinds of struggles did Mrs. Noah have in her heart in the face of her husband’s rejection?

We also know that Mrs. Noah was married and had sons, which granted her the highest status as a woman of her time.

“In ancient times, as in some Third World countries today, the culture gauged a woman’s success and value by the number of sons she bore her husband.  Her reproductive successes determined  her husband’s stature in the community, not to mention his survival.”

Mrs. Noah was also one of the only human beings to survive this enormous natural disaster.  How depressing it must have been to lose nearly everything; most of your possessions, friends, and relatives.

“She had a lot to pass on, for she was God’s image bearer and an ezer.  With her husband, she shared the same call to know and walk with God in  a dark and evil age.  This was her high calling as a woman.”

“Mrs. Noah, along with her husband, was  a crucial member of the Blessed Alliance.”

There much that we modern women can relate to in Mrs. Noah.  We struggle in our relationships.  We doubt God, we doubt his love for us, and whether or not He is going to be faithful to us.  We worry about the future and fear the worst.  Whether married or single, we are ezers, and therefore members of the Blessed Alliance.  James defines the Blessed Alliance as the fact that “At creation, God created his image bearers—male and female—to serve Him together as a Blessed Alliance in every sphere of life. The scope of their mission encompassed ‘all the earth'(Genesis 1:26). Therefore God’s special blessing rests uniquely on this male/female partnership both in marriage and everywhere else (Genesis 1:28).  Our world is uncertain and dangerous, and we face many seemingly insurmountable problems in the world and in our lives.” 

We(and Mrs. Noah) were not meant to be marginalized; we are an integral part of the Blessed Alliance, called to work alongside men in every sphere of life.

What struggles did Mrs. Noah face?  How can we apply those struggles to our own lives?  There are many questions we can ask about Mrs. Noah that can directly apply to us now.  We can use these questions to explore our own walk with God.  We’ll explore these questions in the next post about Mrs. Noah.

Can Men Learn From Women?

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Should men listen to or read Bible commentaries written by women?  Listen to this podcast featuring John Piper before reading on.

The answer is: a man can use a commentary written by a woman unless he experiences uncomfortable feelings while listening to it.

Piper says the man can listen to the commentary unless he feels like he has come under the author’s authority(even though his feelings have nothing to do with the quality of the commentary, only the gender of the author).  The only reason he has for justifying his refusal to listen to or read the commentary is that it is written by a woman and that makes him uncomfortable.  However, if the man doesn’t feel like he is under her authority, he can use the commentary.

The point of 1 Timothy 2:12 isn’t that a man cannot learn anything from a woman, Piper says.  He assures us that women do have thoughts(I find it interesting that Piper feels the need to point this out).  Okay, so women in your church DO have thoughts.  They are competent, intelligent.  So why can’t a woman have authority over a man if not because of her stupidity or incompetence?  Because of the dynamic of womanhood and manhood.  I challenge you right now to stop reading this blog now and find a verse/verses in your Bible that address the dynamic between manhood and womanhood…

John Piper says that the only way a woman should influence a man is if it’s indirect.  So what he is saying is this: it’s Biblically wrong for a woman to be direct in her interactions with a man.  That is, it’s wrong for a woman to be straightforward or frank with a man, to manage or guide him.  What do you think?  Is it Biblically wrong for a woman to be/do these things?  Does the Bible even talk about these things in regard to the way a woman should conduct herself around men?  For my own part, I aim to be as direct as possible in my communication with both men and women.  Conversely, how would I indirectly influence my husband to  listen to my council or to do things the way I think he should?  Through manipulation(notice in the definition of “indirect”, it uses words like not forthright and devious).  That’s what this teaching leads to; women manipulating men to get what they want or to even share their opinion, because they’re forbidden to be direct with men.

So a man can read a commentary by a woman, as long as he doesn’t get the feeling she has authority over him.  It’s a book, so the woman isn’t right there in his face telling him things he doesn’t know(teaching).  It’s indirect, so it’s okay, since the man can’t actually see the woman.

Piper says a man can quote from a commentary written by a woman during a sermon because she is not “in his sight” and therefore takes away the “dimension of her female personhood”.  This is gender discrimination, and he doesn’t even try to hide it.  If he can learn from a woman, it’s okay, as long as he doesn’t have to look at her female body.  We should be horrified to hear a person of such broad influence declaring such things to be “Biblical”.

The ideas John Piper expresses in this podcast are not in the Bible, and they are damaging to women and the relationship between men and women.  The challenge for us is simple; study the Bible and ask questions about what influential people teach.  Are the ideas Piper expresses in this podcast from the Bible?  Is it possible that his traditional views on gender have influenced his interpretation?

For an excellent blog post on this podcast, go here.

(As an afterthought, Piper also implies in the podcast that a man cannot flourish when he is directly influenced by the authority of a woman.  So what if my husband’s boss is a woman?  Should he quit his job?  What if he is the sole provider for the family?  Should we be thrust into poverty so my husband’s “manhood” is preserved?  It’s something to think about.)