In case you haven’t heard, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is offering a “for-ladies-only bachelor’s degree specializing in homemaking” (you can read more about it here). If you read it anywhere else, you might think it was a joke. In fact, it sounds like something you would read in the Wittenburg Door. But no. This is real. And it is stirring up a lot of controversy.
I do not believe that controversy is what Dr. Paige Patterson was looking for, though, in establishing a course of this nature. On the contrary, I believe that his intentions were good and noble. He is quoted as having made comments to the effect that the family needs to have a more prominent place in society. But is enforcing gender roles really the way to do this?
As most within the Christian community would agree, the family is vital to the survival of a culture. The logic is that if the family breaks down, the culture breaks down. Many claim that this is exactly what is happening in America today. They cite example after example of the results of the breakdown of the traditional family.
Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that. Paige Patterson is a Southern Baptist. He’s a conservative. And his understanding of the family is that of one man and one woman and their children. Now, there is nothing wrong with this understanding of the family. In fact, this is probably the best example of what a family should be biblically speaking. But, if you read the Bible with any attention, what you don’t see is a law that states that for a family to be functioning properly the wife must be at home and the husband gone. In fact, I think you see something completely different from this. You see the call to Timothy to select men from his congregation as overseers who manage their own household well. Why? Because if he “does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” My question would be, How can a man manage his own household if he is rarely there to do so?
What happens under Dr. Patterson’s idea of the family is that the wife does pretty much everything and the husband does virtually nothing save for bring in money. For most men of generations past, this is the perfect situation. But this is not the Biblical model for the home. In Paige Patterson’s house, the man is free from the duties of the homemaker to do basically whatever he pleases. Since he doesn’t have to cook dinner, he can stay at work later or go to the bar with the guys after work. Since he doesn’t have to mend clothing, he can get a hole in his sock and just demand what his wife darn it and then return to the game. Since he doesn’t have to clean, he can take a nap while his wife does all the work. And it certainly isn’t his responsibility to decorate the house, so he can let his wife do all of that and he’ll do the heavy lifting because his wife is so busy doing everything else that she hasn’t the time to work out and is therefore far weaker than her husband.
The house that Paige built would look something like this:
Contrast this with the Bible’s picture of the home.
In all actuality, there is no “biblical model” for the home. There are some statements regarding men and women’s places in the church, but the home is left up to the individuals for the most part. The Proverbs 31 woman, that ideal woman that preachers say all women should live up to, is, it would appear, a career woman. There are many examples of women in the Bible who were judges and Prophets. Where in Scripture is the command for the woman to barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen?
I agree that there is a command for wives to submit to their husbands, but this is not because he is her husband. She is to submit to him “as to the Lord.” It would seem that Paul is undermining the idea of the 1950’s housewife. How? By making her submission as if it were to God, she is no longer submitting to her husband, but to something higher. This undermines the husband’s dominance that would have been so prevalent in his time, and in much of our history as well. But Paul goes further.
Paul demands that husbands love their wives as Jesus loved the church. The husband is to move beyond submission and die for his wife. He may want her to stay home and be his little servant, but that is not his calling. He is to set those desires aside (after all, they are sinful) and view his wife as his equal. Yes, Peter says that women are the weaker vessel. But, in light of the rest of Scripture, it would seem that he was trying to get the men of the culture to which he was writing to treat women with kindness rather than severity; to treat them more human.
My point is, Dr. Patterson’s house has no foundation in Scripture. Women are not called to be their husband’s slaves. In fact, the creation order says otherwise.
When God made woman, he had a reason. He said,
“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18 ESV)
God created them as equals, and it is a perversion of His design to impose anything different. And Dr. Patterson’s view of the family does just that.