I shouldn't have done this but I did. What started as a five minute break from productive work turned into a 20 minute ride into the wilderness of chest-puffing, rhetoric spewing and name calling. Said five minute break was to take a quick look at a couple of websites. Somehow I followed a link to Andrew Sandlin's website at the Center for Cultural Leadership, where he had this interesting link titled "Response to Doug Phillips' Diatribe." Diatribe, you say, hmm . . . need to check this out. Intrigued, I headed over to Doug's Blog at the Vision Forum Website, where he is accusing Sandlin of all sorts of Tomfoolery. It seems that Doug says that Andrew said he is against stay at home moms (as well as hot dogs and apple pie). And this all came from an article he wrote in Razormouth responding to an article that R. C. Sproul Jr. wrote in Razormouth. Bummer, I now had to take another detour on the information highway, but that's ok - I really like Razormouth.
At Razormouth I found the article that Sproul Jr. wrote called Feast in a Box, in which he derides mom's who don't cook Thanksgiving dinner anymore. Actually, that was his word picture to use as an illustration of all that we are losing by encouraging moms to work outside the home. Jr. closes the article by saying "But then you should repent that we send them out to do so anyway." The thing that we should repent of is sending moms out into the workplace.
Now, back to Sandlin. Sandlin responds with his article Are Working Mom's Okay, in which he suggests that the Bible does not specifically and unequivocally call it a sin for a mom to work outside the home. And he says that to call working outside the home a sin comes perilously close to Phariseeism.
At this time all Hedoublehockeysticks breaks loose. A fine Christian lady responds to Sandlin's article with an article of her own titled "Blaspheming the Word of God," in which she gives an impassioned apologetic for the view that it is a sin for a mother to work outside the home. The quote which I believe best summarizes her position is this "It is not Phariseeism to proclaim homekeeping God's standard for women."
Now, back to Doug Philipps. Frankly his diatribe was too long to read the whole thing but he basically has a bunch of letters from folks who think that Sandlin is a dirty rotten scoundrel for attacking the institution of motherhood. In all fairness, it looks like Sandlin has written some other things that Doug and his readers are taking offense to. So, it appears that their concerns with Sandlin go deeper than this one thing.
Sandlin wrote another article in Razormouth called "Not Phariseeism After All," where he responded to the godly Christian mother who accused him of all kinds of nefariousness. He affirmed his love for stay-at-home moms and explained that he was calling no one a Pharisee - his comment was this:
"[O]nce we define sin in terms of extra-Biblical standards, we inch toward . . . Phariseeism."
Looks to me like he was just urging Sproul Jr. to watch the tendency to go beyond the Bible and that he did it in a friendly way.
My point in bringing all of this up is to show how prone we are to escalate controversy and division in the body of Christ. All parties involved are either in the camp or sympathetic to the theonomist or reconstructionist point of view. If you are unfamiliar with this position, in its simplest form it affirms the abiding validity of the Old Testament law. There are many variations of theonomy but all share this. The reconstructionists want to reconstruct society along the lines of Old Testament law.
But that is not my point. My point is that the Roman Catholics warned the Reformers that if you put the Bible in the hands of the masses you will have untold division in the church. The Reformers realized the risk of this but it was a risk well worth taking. Today, however, Protestantism has fulfilled the Roman Catholic vision (in all fairness to us Protestants, the RC'ers should acknowledge that there is quite a bit of division in their ranks also). This little debate is a good example of this. It seems that everytime someone takes upon themselves the mantle of "reformer," whether it is church reform, family reform, political reform, or whatever else, the tendency is to keep separating the wheat from the chaff till said reformer thinks that he is the only true stalk of wheat and everyone else (including his former friends) are chaff.
Although I am not a follower of Sandlin, I think that in this little debate he comes out ahead. His warning about avoiding extra-biblical commands is a worthy one. In our efforts to purify the church (family, society, etc.) we are ever prone to add a little extra to the Bible in order to maintain biblical fidelity. While we acknowledge that there are some legitimately disputable matters (cf. Romans 14), the range of legitimately disputable matters narrows to the point that there are no really disputable matters.
That the Bible requires that wives be "workers at home" is indisputable - see Titus 2:5. How the woman fulfills her calling to be a worker at home may look different in different situations. Even the Proverbs 31 woman buys real estate, has "earnings" and plants vineyards (v. 16). She is engaged in the production and distribution of linen garments and belts (v. 24). While all of these can certainly fit into the category of home based business it appears that she is outside the home at least part of the time. Having done all of this, her husband praises her and calls her blessed.
It would seem that, if we compare Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 that it is the husband and children who are the judges of whether or not she is fulfilling her calling as a "worker at home." What do we conclude if a mom works outside the home and yet the husband and children are satisfied that she is doing a good job of being a "worker at home." Whille others may object to her lifestyle, who are we to say she is sinning if the ones to whom she is accountable say she is not. I realize that those who have their knickers in a wad on this issue will say this is impossible, especially if she is sending her kids to the government schools and is working simply to earn extra money to support a lavish lifestyle. But, Romans 14:4 comes into play here.
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
It seems to me that if you are not in a position of authority over a particular woman then you have overstepped your bounds to call her work outside the home a sin, if her husband and children do not. Hence, in doing so we have gone beyond the Scripture and have inched closer (not become) Phariseeism.
BTW - my wife does not work outside the home, and I would caution women strongly not to work outside the home. All of the dangers that Sproul and Phillips warn us about are very real. Many women who work outside the home do end up shirking their homekeeping responsibilities in pursuit of the American dream. However, blanket condemnation of all working mothers seems to go beyond the Bible.
It seems so politically correct and wimpy to not plant a stake in the ground on issues like this. We have to recover a sense of proportion. There are some doctrines that are more important than others. We have to plant stakes and take stands on issues like the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the nature of justification, the Trinity and other doctrines of similar weight. Such issues are issues that we should be happy to divide over. But, when we give the same weight to every doctrine we end up in a never ending cycle of stake planting and stand taking against Christians. Those, like the theonomists and reconstructionists that were mentioned earlier, who want to extend the dominion of Christ in this world neglect their greatest tool for accomplishing this - the love of the brethren. I know that many stake planting and stand taking Christians think that John 13:35 is for sissies, but it is still true
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Continual division over an ever expanding list of non-negotiable issues will thwart all of our attempts to influence the culture for Christ. There will be no need to shoot ourselves in the foot, our brothers in Christ have already driven stakes through each others feet.