John Piper Video Starts Controversy

Apparently, that video that I posted by John Piper is getting some heat on the internet. I cannot figure out why. Piper did not say that it was wrong for women to work full time outside the home. He said that it was much like a question of alcohol, and particularly discouraged it when there are children involved. However, in none of these things did he forbid full time work outside of the home, and in none of these things did he say anything bad about women working in the home.

However, Matthew Paul Turner wrote this article to complain about what Piper said. Of course, this article has caused some backlash as well. Jasmine Baucham, the daughter of Voddie Baucham, has written on Matthew Paul Turner’s piece, and she points out several points of similarity with how Lisa Miller argues in a Newsweek article entitled Our Mutual Joy. While I do see points of similarity, the similarity seems to be traced to the fact that on Matthew Paul Turner’s “Good Blogs” blogroll, he has a link to Brian McLaren’s blog. Brian McLaren is the “head” of the emergent church movement. His views are becoming more and more liberal each day. Some people told me that, in his last book, many of his arguments were similar to those of John Shelby Spong.

Likewise this has got the attention of Sarah Mae, who is doing a whole series of responses to this stuff. Needless to say, when you mix the views of Sarah Mae and Jasmine Baucham with those who think that Brian McLaren’s writings are good, you are going to get some sparks. Thus far she has had a guest post by Jasmine Baucham, and an interview. While these have generally been similar to the quiverfull view on this, I want to address a few things that in Jasmine’s article that I think will be helpful here. I will address on thing in Jasmine’s article, deal with the misuse of scripture in Turner’s article, then provide some exegesis of one text that Jasmine refers to in her post.

The first thing we have to keep in mind is that narrative is not normative. So just because Hosea married a prostitute, Abraham had a concubine, or David and Solomon had a gaggle of wives does not mean that modern-day Christians should follow suit. Just because something is recorded in the Bible does not mean that it is commanded of us in the Bible. The only man we should strive to emulate in Scripture is Christ Jesus, and we ought only to emulate others insofar as they are walking in his ways.

While I can agree with this statement, I think it is way too simplistic. Yes, we do have distinction between descriptive and prescriptive language. If someone tells you that John went out and murdered his brother, you don’t go get a gun, and murder your brother! However, the main reason why this is so simplistic is because of the fact that Ancient Near Eastern narrative is not just a story; in every narrative in the Ancient Near East, there is a message that the author of the narrative is trying to get across.

For example, let us take the Baal epic. Now, before I begin, let me warn you that reading the Baal epic is about as much fun as chewing on cardboard. However, if you want to try to get through it, and understand it, it is well worth the time. There are three main sections to the Baal epic. The first is Baal’s victory over the sea god Yamm. The second is the celebration of the victory, and the building of Baal’s house. The third is Baal’s battle with the Mot, the god of death. Baal is initially defeated by Mot, but he comes back to life, and destroys Mot.

Now, would it make any difference if I told you that Baal was the storm God? What then is the Baal epic talking about? It is talking about the alternating seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. In other words, the whole of the Baal epic is actually talking of how Baal is [according to the Canaanites] in control of the rain, and why it is that you have the dry season every year. Hence, some have called the Baal epic “The Baal Cycle.”

This is idea of a message found in the story itself is also found in the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. As one can see from the Baal epic, when Elijah prayed, and the rains stopped, that was a direct assault upon Baal himself, since it was Baal’s job to bring the rain for the crops. Yet, despite God’s obvious judgment upon the followers of Baal, they still continue in their rebellion. The conflict escalates into the showdown between Elijah, the prophet of the Lord, and the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. What is obvious about this is, again, that this is Baal’s specialty, bringing down fire from heaven. One simple lightning bolt would have been all it would have taken…were Baal a true God.

Also, you have the prophets of Baal cutting themselves. This is important, because this is a mourning rite of the worship of Baal. In the Baal epic, when Baal is killed by Mot, all of the gods mourn for him, and, in order to do this, they cut themselves. Now, keep in mind what has happened. The heavens have just been shut up. The rainy season is going very long. Now, they need Baal to hear them, and all they can do is mourn because he is dead. It is quite pathetic. However, when the Lord sends fire from heaven, they know that Baal is a false god, because it is actually the Lord who sends rain from heaven!

This happens over and over again within Hebrew narrative. The author is trying to get a point across in what he is saying. Thus, not only should we point out that the author is not necessarily condoning everything that he narrates, but we should also point out that how the author tells the story can tell us how he views what is going on in the narrative. One cannot say that, just because the book of 1 Kings has Elijah saying that Baal is a false god, that does not mean that Baal is a false god. One cannot also say that Baal chose not to answer them this time. The flow of the book of 1 Kings, as well as knowledge of Baal worship in ancient Canaan rules these things out. Now, let us apply the same standards to the issues that Turner brings up in his article, and let us see if we get what Turner gets from the text.

In the first part, he simply misrepresents Piper, and ignores that Piper’s main concern was the care that young children need, and that we not shy away from providing that care since homemaking is a wonderful career [not that we discourage it altogether]. However, in the second half, things simply get ambiguous and quite simply bizarre:

In all seriousness, what does the “biblical family” look like? I get so tired of hearing Christians talk about this so-called “biblical family model”! If we’re all honest with ourselves, we’d admit that not once is God’s ideal family “modeled” in the Bible. Sure, we can embrace good biblical principles of love, hope, truth, peace, (six wives!), understanding, grace etc when engaging family life. But this pretty picture of the “biblical family” that so many churches boast about-you know, the one that usually has a hardworking godly father who provides for a godly stay-at-home working mother who’s raising four to six children–ISN’T BIBLICAL! It’s American. And before it was American, it was European. And it’s pretty. But it’s not biblical.

Some of what is said here is true, but my concern is that it is laced with enough ambiguity that if there is poison involved, it will be very dangerous. If he means by the claim that there is no Biblical family model the idea that the Bible nowhere discusses whether a woman can work outside the home, then he is certainly right that the Bible nowhere forbids a wife working full time outside the home as John Piper has already said. If he means that there is no Biblical family model at all, well then, he is just simply wrong. It is this ambiguity that is troubling as we move on to see his argument progress:

From what “biblical family” do we see this model?
Do we find it in the story of Abraham and Sarah with cute little Isaac. Oh, and Hagar with cute little Ishmael.

This is where things start getting a little suspicious. What does this have to do with whether or not Sarah or Hagar worked outside the home? Also, is anyone who knows the book of Genesis going to seriously argue that the book of Genesis looks favorably on this incident? Hagar and Sarah end up in a rivalry, and Hagar and Ishmael end up banished! The whole point is Abraham and Sarah’s lack of faith in going to the sinful customs of the Ancient Near East regarding barren women, rather than trusting in God that he knew what he was doing. Again, everything in the Abraham narrative shows that this is a black spot on Abraham, especially in light of the fact that the whole narrative about Hagar in Genesis 16 is preceded by the covenant of Genesis 15 wherein God promises to give the land to his seed [Genesis 15:18]. How anyone, in light of the context of the whole periscope, as well as the consequences the book of Genesis records, can say that we should consider what Abraham did as an example is beyond me. However, it gets worse:

Do we find it in the story of Isaac and Rebekah with little masculine Esau and hairless Jacob? This might be close to how we picture the “perfect family” unit. Of course, we have to leave out the part about Isaac loving Esau more than he loved Jacob and Rebekah loving Jacob more than she loved Esau. (Because that’s not very Christ-like!)

Again, what does this have to do with a woman working in the home? Also, those who know the book of Genesis know that the book of Genesis doesn’t look very favorably on this episode either. While Jacob ends up coming out okay in the end [by God’s grace], the favoritism and dishonesty causes Esau to plot the murder of his brother such that Jacob must flee to Laban [27:41-46], where he is promptly deceived by Laban as well [Genesis 29], and also, this whole episode causes great fear on the part of Jacob when he and his brother meet later on in life, and Esau has four hundred men with him [32:6-8]! Does it sound like the book of Genesis looks upon the favoritism of the parents very well?

Do we find it in the story of Jacob who married sisters Leah (the ugly one) and Rachel (the hot one)? Sounds like the perfect Oprah episode.

Wow, where to begin with this one. First of all, it is not certain that Leah was ugly. The Hebrew phrase in Genesis 29:17 is ambiguous: וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה רַכּ֑וׄת. The Hebrew term רַךְ can indeed have a positive connotation meaning something like “tender, sensitive,” as HALOT defines it. It is true, however, that there is a contrast between the women, and it is true that this contrast causes Jacob to love Rachel. However, we must consider the possibility that the contrast is in relative beauty. In other words, we might paraphrase Genesis 29:17: “Leah was pretty, but Rachel was gorgeous.”

While that issue is debatable, the idea that this caused strife in Jacob’s family is not. You have Leah and Rachel in a rivalry, and Rachel becomes jealous of Leah’s fertility [Genesis 30:1]. The rivalry that ensues just keeps producing more and more sexual immorality all in the name of creating more children. Far from sounding like the perfect Oprah episode, it clearly shows that there was real consequences to this sin. Not only that, but much of this is a consequence of the sins of Jacob’s parents in having him sent there in the first place, since their favoritism caused so much strife between the two brothers.

The point is this: The book of Genesis goes out of its way to show the bad consequences of all of these sins. It is not holding these evils up as examples of how we should run a family. Quite the contrary. They are examples of what happens when you do *not* run a family after the law of God.

Do we find it in the story of sweet Hannah and her bigamist husband Elkanah?

Again, what is the result of this bigamist relationship? Hannah is weeping before God, because she has no child, and has a rival who is mocking her because of it! Are these stories starting to sound familiar? When we actually examine the text, we find that all of these things are an example of how not to conduct yourself in a family context, because the consequences are too great for disobeying God’s law. Someone always ends up hurt. That is the message of all of these texts that have been quoted. Sexual sin has its consequences. It is not just about you; someone else always ends up hurt.

Do we find it in the story of King David? The Bible mentions him having 7 or 8 wives, but it’s believed that he had more?
King Solomon? Elijah? Hosea and his whore?

I am not going to continue to beat a dead horse. All of these stories show the same consequences over and over again. The whole point of Hosea and the prostitute is to show the horrible way in which God’s people were treating him. King Solomon ended up completely destroyed because of his lust, and let us not even mention David’s family problems! The point is very simple. The Bible does not present these as an example of how a family is to live. It presents them as an example of what happens when we don’t live by God’s law in our family relationships. Someone always ends up hurt by what we have done.

One could say that Mary and Joseph come close to displaying the American family, well, except for that whole “Jesus storyline.”

What is odd about this statement is that Jesus also had other biological brothers and sisters. What does having God incarnate have to do with whether a wife works full time outside the home?

The Apostle Paul offered a lot of advice to families, but that advice didn’t come from experience.

Are we expected to believe that Paul never grew up in a family? If Paul did, indeed, grow up in a family, then why couldn’t he have gotten experience from watching his parents? One may argue that Paul went away to study under Gamaliel, but even there he would have seen how a home was handled. However, what is worse is that Paul is speaking as an apostle giving revelation from God. Does Mr. Turner deny this?

However, again I have to ask, “What does any of this have to do with whether a mother can have a full time job outside the home?” It is hard to say what Mr. Turner is even arguing at this point! None of this has anything to do with working outside the home. It would only appear to be relevant if he is saying that there is no Biblical family model for *any* part of the family relationship, but that would be absurd.

You see, the ancient near easterners knew something about history that we take for granted. They knew that history must be interpreted. The text not only gives the events to which Turner has pointed, they also interpret these events. However, Turner has taken them from the context of the interpretation of the author of the narrative, and has read in his own “emergent” ideas.

Now, I would like to continue with another quote from Jasmine’s article. I want to focus on the usage of a particular verse:

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a lot of directives to me. In fact, if you add in the fact that Paul is hearkening back to Deuteronomy 6 in his passage about teaching and training children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), and that, later on, he gives further instruction to wives in passages Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Peter 3:1-6, the argument that there is no biblical pattern for family life sounds… well… not of the spirit, but of the flesh (“I really don’t want to hear what you have to say about biblical family life… so there’s no such thing!”). Given that all Scripture is inspired by God, the words of Paul –a single man writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit –should hold a little more weight than, “Well… you should just do whatever works for you!” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

What I want to focus on here is Titus 2:3-5. Jasmine and her father believe that this passage teaches that women must be homemakers. In fact, when Sarah Palin was running for vice president, Voddie Baucham was on CNN using this text to argue that Sarah Palin needed to be a homemaker. Let me quote the text, and highlight the relevant portion:

Titus 2:3-5 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God..

Now, I think that the answer that the woman on the news with whom Dr. Baucham was having the exchange gave a terrible answer. “It can be translated in several ways.” Well, first of all, I don’t have any clue what she is talking about. The Greek term οίκουργός is defined by BDAG as “busy at home, carrying out household duties.”

The only possible thing that comes to mind is that Dr. Baucham said that a woman is to be the “keeper of her home.” That could be a problem, because there is a textual variant here. Most critical editions of the Greek New Testament have οίκουργους while the majority text has οίκουρους. Hence, the actual term is not “keeper of the home,” but “busy at home.” “Keeper of the home” is the textual variant found in the majority text.

Also, οίκουργός is an adjective, not a noun. Hence, it is describing something about women. I think that it is also important to examine the context of this verse, and see if understanding the text in this fashion will hold up. For example, are we likewise going to say that it is a gender role that women love their children [v.4]? Does that mean that it is a woman’s gender role to love her children, and the husband can hate the children? Does that mean that it is a female gender role to be pure [v.5], and, therefore, a male can be as impure as he possibly can since it is the female gender role to be pure? Obviously not.

The point is that the whole context of this passage is not gender roles, or “instructions to wives” as Jasmine has said. No, we are talking about *morality.* Not only that, we are considering morality in the communion of the saints, not in the context of roles in marriage. Paul divides his address up into older men, older women, younger women, younger men and slaves. This is hardly what one would expect if his topic were marital roles, in which one would expect to see the commands discussed in the context of husband and wife. Consider this verse at the end of the text as well:

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

Hence, the whole context is dealing with moral behavior. It is immoral for women to not be pure. It is immoral for women to not love their children. In the same way, it is immoral for a woman to not do any household duties. That is what the text is talking about. It is not talking in the context of careers. The phrase itself is simply prohibiting a woman from running off, and leaving all the household duties to her husband and children. She must be about that work as well.

Also, I might point out that Susan T. Foh was someone who wrote against feminism during the 1970’s when feminism was starting to show its ugly head. Yet, Susan Foh totally rejected Voddie and Jasmine’s interpretation of this passage. In fact, Susan Foh’s work is exactly what Dr. William Mounce cites in his commentary on Titus. There are many people who are anti-feminists who completely reject this interpretation of the passage.

Finally, we need to understand that the term οίκουρους “keeper of the home” is the textual variant that is found in the Textus Receptus. This would explain why it is that people believed this during the period of the reformation and the Puritans. Also, as it turns out, I have never seen the fact that there is a textual variant here addressed in any quiverfull materials. It is simply ignored. Even William Einwechter’s exegetical defense of the quiverfull position does not contain a discussion of this important textual variant.

Hence, we see that, not only can liberals read their liberal ideas into the text when the contours point in an opposite direction, but even conservatives can as well. That is why I am concerned that so many reformed folks do not read the Puritans, Calvin, or any other historical figure critically. The fact that manuscript discoveries such as Codex Siniaticus, Codex Alexandrinus, etc. have given us a far better understanding of the New Testament text then the few manuscripts of Erasmus should lead us to different conclusions. Not only that, but certain interesting technologies, such as light of special wavelengths that enable us to recover earlier hands of a manuscript, and to distinguish between what the original scribe wrote, and what subsequent hands may have erased or added in should likewise lead us to different conclusions. Calvin, the reformers, the Puritans, and many others did not have all of these manuscripts, nor this technology available to them. If we are not willing to test our traditions against the text of scripture, and challenge even the views of those we respect on the basis of further developments, we will find ourselves forced to understand the text on its own terms.

That is why we need to do more than just read; we need to read critically. If we try to restore the time of the Puritans to this culture, we are in trouble. The Puritans had their own sins, understood the text from their own culture, and were totally ignorant of some of the things that we know today. That does not make them useless; it just means you have to read with discernment. You have to be able to interact with the old as well as the new, take the good from them, and get rid of the bad.

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5 Responses to “John Piper Video Starts Controversy”

  1. Sarah Mae Says:

    I’m not quiverfull. 🙂

  2. otrmin Says:

    Not a problem, Sarah. I will correct it. Sorry for the misunderstanding. If there is anything else that needs changed in order to more accurately represent your position, just let me know.

  3. erin Says:

    (Having issues with publishing my comment….)
    I came here through the discussion at Sarah Mae’s.
    Thank you! This was very well written. The distinction between busy at home & keeper of the home really helps. As does the point that Titus 2 is not written to a familial context.
    I am a stay at home mom who has a small side business. I don’t get the point that I should be doing all the house work & all the childcare in order to be biblical!

  4. otrmin Says:

    Hey Erin,

    I am sorry about the publishing. I have comment moderation on because I have found that there are people on the internet who cannot control the language they use when they write.

    Ya, I think what happens is that we too often overreact to things that happen in our culture. We see a need, and, rather than going to the text of scripture, and following the text carefully from beginning to end, we, instead, look for things that sound relevant to the culture. When we do this, we isolate the passage from its immediate context, and we replace it with a countercultural context. We must let scripture alone speak and develop our worldview so that we can see where the similarities and differences lie between the Biblical worldview, and all the worldviews around us.

  5. Megan@SortaCrunchy Says:

    WOW. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write this up!

    I came here via a comment left on a related post at Emerging Mummy because I noted in my own comment that I have always taken issue with the KJV phrasing in that verse since I am more of a NIV girl myself. I had no idea how in-depth the study of that phrase could be. Wow. So helpful!

    I have a degree in English but I have a passion for language in general. It is imperative to me to understand as much as I can about original language (difficult because I cannot read any of the original languages!), and the former English major in me is insistent upon looking at a text in context and reading critically. God’s word is alive and active and able to withstand the most aggressive critical thinking!

    I so appreciate your insights on this topic. Thank you, thank you.

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