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The Bible, Gender, and the 'Dad-Mom' Debate


Nov 21 2011
Laura Ortberg Turner and Owen Strachan discuss whether Scripture dictates that women work inside the home.

Editor's Note: Owen Strachan, professor of theology and church history at Boyce College in Louisville, recently wrote a post critiquing a Tide commercial on "Dad Moms" as one more indication that our culture denigrates true masculinity. His post elicited strong responses from Her.meneutics writers. Amid a flurry of tweets, Strachan offered to engage Laura Ortberg Turner in a point-counterpoint. Here is Laura's response.

First, a confession:

I really don't want to like you, Owen.

And I'm disappointed in (although not entirely surprised by) myself for having that reaction first. This is an issue that gets my blood boiling more quickly than almost any other, and after reading your blog post about "Dad Men" and the cultural decline of masculinity, my first response was toward division, away from unity, and toward a mentality that says that if you don't agree with me, you must be wrong. I am sorry for that.

To be clear, I still think you are wrong on this particular issue. But the far more important thing than who is vindicated by a jury of our peers—because we will both have our supporters and detractors—is that you are my brother in Christ, and that no amount of ambiguous biblical interpretation can do anything to that truth. So with that confession, an apology to you, and a commitment to treat you with love and repentance when I fail.

To the issue at hand, a few important areas of disagreement and discussion:

First, the distinction between working "at home" and "outside the home" (as you make in referring to Titus 2:5) is mostly a false one in that it reads the Industrial Revolution into the ancient texts. We find both men and women at work throughout the Bible, but in those times, work (largely agrarian) was not something that people left home to do. Being busy at home also meant being busy at work.

First Corinthians 12 reminds us that we are all of us given spiritual gifts by our God for the purpose of building up his kingdom. How is a woman, relegated to the world of the home, able to discover and pursue her spiritual gifts when she is told that because of her gender she must run the household with, as you mentioned, only occasional help from her husband with the dishes? When we assign roles to any person strictly on account of gender, we miss out on an abundance of gifts that person could bring to the table by first paying attention to their giftedness. If a woman chooses freely to stay home with her children, wonderful! But first she should know the "manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" that she, uniquely, possesses. She will so quickly lose herself and her ability to contribute to the kingdom if she has no choice in her vocation. Rebekah Lyons wrote about this beautifully in her Q Ideas article, "Why Are All the Women Fading?": "This displacement of a mother's purpose (beyond child-rearing) becomes a huge loss to our communities. If women aren't empowered to cultivate their uniqueness, we all suffer the loss of beauty, creativity and resourcefulness they were meant to contribute to the world."

Related Topics:Bible; Fatherhood; Gender; Parenting

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