Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Are At-Home Dads Violating God's Design? Podcast Link and Thoughts #SAHD

Some of you have been asking for a link to the podcast of my appearance on Moody Radio's program Up For Debate.  You can access that podcast by clicking the link below.


Many additional questions were brought up on the Up For Debate Facebook page as well.

Here is a point by point summary of this podcast.  Any thoughts that I would have liked to include but did not for a lack of time (or preparation, in some cases) are in italics.

Mark Driscoll would bring at-home dads under church discipline - My thoughts on Mark Driscoll and more about how Mark Driscoll uses church discipline to be a spiritual bully.

Do you see this as a permanent arrangement? - Why does that matter?  (We will see later in the discussion that those who hold the complementary view make exceptions for those who are temporary at-home dads due to injury, illness, or other life events.  To which I say, if there are acceptable exceptions to your model (exceptions which are not backed by the scriptures you choose to read into) then how strong is your model?

Do you struggle?  Yes, struggle is a part of the human condition.  We all struggle.  When you struggle, you should look for support.

Do you struggle with identity?  I think we struggle with identity as at-home dads when we tie our identity to only being a financial provider.  If I claim to be a follower of Christ, I am called to shed that identity and find my identity in Him.  God worked on that in my life by changing my definition of "provide" and showing me how to put Him first instead of money, possessions, or employers.  

Dad-Mom is a Man Fail - A reference to Owen's article.  My thoughts on the commercial from a marketing standpoint.  The point that I was not really able to bring up is that at-home dads are not trying to be moms.  (See the tab "Mr. Mom" above) We want to be awesome dads.  That means we do things that dead-beat or checked-out dads don't do - help out at home, show emotions, love and support, but I would argue that most of us also provide (many at-home dads hold part-time jobs) and protect (just try to approach my kid on the playground and I'm on you like a grizzly!)  In fact, a lot of at-home dads were very critical of that same commercial because we don't approach what we do with that attitude.  We prefer the other version of that commercial that shows how most of us approach our jobs as caregivers (pssst... it's about the kids!)  We shouldn't define fatherhood by the job a man does outside the home.  Fatherhood is defined by what he does at home. 

Genesis 3 - Curse I believe that we are delivered from that curse through our salvation in Christ.  I also believe that when scripture says in Galations 3 that there are no more social categories like Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Male or Female, that means our salvation gives us the freedom from those social constraints.  However, sometimes it is necessary to operate within those social constraints in order to further the gospel message as Paul often instructs.  Jesus doesn't need social categories in order to find those willing to follow him.  He sought out tax collectors, harlots, foreigners, and fishermen.  Social status is often used as a point of judgement by the church, and that is unfortunate.  

1 Timothy 5 - See my thoughts on Mark Driscoll using this passage.

Titus 2 - See my thoughts on Mark Driscoll using this passage.

People who argue that at-home dads violate God's design never mention Ephesians 5. One of the only chapters where Paul specifically instructs Christian families directly.  There is no mention of provision in any of these verses. 

Adam's work is cursed, Eve's child bearing is cursed.See my thoughts above about being delivered from that curse through salvation.  

Proverbs 31 woman - I find it ironic that Complementarians use this verse to describe the ideal woman.  She selects wool and flax (that's farming).  She "provides" food for her family and her servants (Why is "provide" not interpreted as "earns a paycheck to provide" in this case?).  She conducts real estate transactions.  She plants a vineyard (which is probably a source of income).  She trades for profit (earning income).  She gives charitably (from her excess income).  She makes linen garments and sells them (earning income).  She "watches over the affairs of her household" (Perhaps while other people, such as servants, take on the actual tasks?)  Her work is praised in public - because she is working in public, not hiding in her kitchen, as some would have you believe.

Stats: 176,000 at-home dads in the US (if you include dads w/ PT jobs 626,000) - The total is somewhere closer to 2 million.  And census figures do not accurately categorize at-home dads.  Dads who work from home full time are not considered at-home parents.  Moms are always designated as the primary caretaker, and fathers are considered an "alternate childcare arrangement" (so are babysitters and daycares).  I do work part time. And a lot of at-home dads do. Does that mean we are still not providing?  The model that they propose is not clear on this either.

1st Caller - It seems like her friends have lazy husbands, not caring and involved fathers that want to take good care of their family.  If there is any self-serving motive in your decision to be an at-home parent, you shouldn't be surprised when the situation doesn't work out.  Both parents have to be on the same page and communicate about this regularly.

God's glory is in being a godly provider and taking on the call of Genesis 3 - God's glory is about loving Him with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, loving your neighbor as yourself, taking up your cross, dying to your own self-interests (like careers), and making disciples.  And I agree that we can glorify God in any social position.  I actually give God more glory now because I can clearly see how he is using this time to change my family.

What is the definition of provide? Are you only providing money?  That lets dads off the hook for involvement at the home.  (My opponents do concede that home involvement is ideal, but they seem to not be willing to quantify it or put any further definition into it.  That means if you do the dishes once a week, you're probably okay.)  

Faulty logic, assuming that the inverse is true and trying to have it both ways. If women are to be working in the home, then men are not to be, (20:48) but still loving and sacrificing for your family. (Owen often uses the term "plugged in" when talking about his kids and "helping" when he does the dishes for his wife.  That's some sacrifice, Owen.  Forgive me for not patting you on the back. Around here, that's just what is necessary for the household to run smoothly.  We all live here, so we all pitch in.)  You can't have it both ways.  You can't argue that men are not to be working in the home because you think a verse says that women are.  The inverse is not automatically true.

Caller #2 - What about single dads/moms? This is an important point that their "ideal plan" misses.  We have a lot of single parents.  Is there room for them in your model?  No.  They have to do both roles.  That's why I believe that Ephesians 5 would be the better model.  There is room for single parents in that model.

Caller #3 - There are families that are subject to extreme circumstances - injury, illness, disability, finances, unemployment, etc.  Again, is there room in their model?  No.  They make exceptions.  I would argue that this means the model is flawed.  Again, there is room for such circumstances when using Ephesians 5. 

What about short term at-home dads?  They seem to make exceptions for that, but I am unclear on what they believe to be an acceptable length of time?  One unemployment cycle?  Two?  Three?   Where is that supported by scripture in your argument?  Again, Ephesians 5 is the better model. 

Emailer - Frugality leads to unbalanced lifestyles. - Totally agree. My family has been forced to be more frugal than ever by reducing our income more than half. We could all benefit from that principle.

Dennis Rainey's comment - "In our 20's it was fun, in our 30's okay, in our 40's we hit a wall and become angry, especially the women. And men become passive." - This is not a problem that is only for families with at-home dads.  I think a lot of divorced couples probably started taking this way before their marriage ended.  Passive manhood is a big problem.  That's why I stepped up to take change of my home and do what was necessary for the health of my marriage and family.  Would I like to be less passive?  YES.  Do I think that this is type of conversation is always the result of an at-home dad situation?  NO.  I have dozens of dads that I know who say otherwise.  Again, if the decision is made together, and both parties are up front about their expectations and continue to communicate along the way, a healthy relationship is more likely the result.  

Masculinity and Femininity - I hate these words.  Why?  Because Christians often tie them into other words that just start trouble.  We are BOTH made in the image of God.  God (and his son) both display masculine and feminine traits.  Jesus' call is to abandon your own desires and take on his identity - to be homeless, to be a servant, and to not be tied to your possessions.  

Gender Debate - Masculinity and femininity always come back to the gender debate, and I think that just clouds the conversation.  I believe it's a separate conversation.  At-home dads are not confused about their gender.  We want to be awesome dads - not moms.  

Vision of the family: Economic vs. Spiritual - I very much agree with this.  We have to treat our family as the spiritual mission that they are, not simply an economic struggle.

Caller #4 - It could work if the husband and the wife want it (caller bases it on money). My situation had nothing to do with money.  We lost over half of our household income when I decided to stay at home.  

Caller #5 - It is against the Bible because it clearly states that our purpose is to glorify God and those roles are what glorifies Him. See above notes on what I believe the scriptures say about glorifying God.

Caller #6 - 1 Timothy vs. A Different Kind of Provision - See my thoughts above on 1 Timothy and the word "provide" (especially Proverbs 31). 

Caller #7 - Gender identification had better line up with the Bible.  Another Christian confused about masculinity/femininity and gender identity.  They are not the same. 

Caller #8 - Both parents are at home.  Should dad go to work outside the home to fit the model?  Ephesians 5 would cover this arrangement as well.

What do you think?  Are at-home dads violating God's design for men and women?  Is there a specific design for men and women?  What about the situations mentioned here? 


  1. As a father of 3 who is eminently going to become a stay at home dad at 40 (my kids are all under 5) by choice and lots and lots of conversation between my wife and I over the last 4 years, we have made the decision that we do feel we are called to do and need to do for our marriage, for our family, to get back on track where all other efforts have failed. Though my wife does make about 3 times my income, this decision was not a financial one at all. All that said, I am very trepiditious (a word?) about this move perhaps due to my age, I have a societal stigma in my head and even though I have never really seen Owens viewpoint laid out from a scriptural perspective till now, it is one that I actually have espoused. Is it a possible to agree with both sides? I do not know. What I do know is that for now, for this time our lives both earthly and spiritually my being at home is what needs to happen and my wife agrees. I thank you for sharing this, for being open to being on Up For Debate, and for being a part of something that I think is bringing this topic even further to the forefront. I am also thankful to all the at home dads who blog and for the At Home Dad Network for the encouragement it provides. I am leaving a 13 year career to embark on something that I know has far more reaching meaning and value than anything I have ever done in my career.

    as a last note, I did find Dennis Raineys comment interesting, he must be looking at people who like him got married very early in life and I would agree with you that passivity is a cultural thing for sure and a church thing. frankly the church has encouraged men to be more passive in a lot of ways. I also think that people stop working on their marriages. Marriage and loving someone else is a sacrifice to serve one another and I see so many marriages that in later years of the marriage one or both parties start to become far more selfish than selfless, and as Christians we are called to selflessness. For me and my wife, finding each other and getting married at a later stage in our lives allows us or has allowed us to be in our 20s all over again but with the wisdom of having been there already and we work on, and are committed to our marriage and our love. Hence why its taken 4 years to get where we are in this decision. I was not going to leave my career until we were both comfortable with the idea. I suggested it when our first child was born and we wrestled with it for a year and then I stopped talking about it. When our third was in the womb, my wife said its time. I say this because I do not want anyone to think that I berrated this decision on her. We made this decision, we, not me or she, we. It does not make it any less scary for me and I look forward to seeing more of your posts as well as being more involved in the at home dad blogosphere and world (for lack of a better term).

  2. Thank you for those comments. I know right where you're at. I believe that if we were to start using Ephesians 5 and 6 as our mandate for Christian marriage and family, then there is room for both types of household - those that prefer the traditional, male breadwinner role, and those that have nurturing fathers that stay at home. I think the other way of thinking is borderline legalistic (they won't say your salvation depends on it, or even that I am "worse than an unbeliever" as 1 Timothy says). But if you believe that you are reading that from scripture, there is room for that view in a model that is based on Ephesians 5 and 6. I tend to read the scriptures in the context of who they were written to and why. Their view seems more like cherry picking verses to prove a conservative viewpoint that is largely culturally constructed. If you ever have questions, or if you would like to continue the discussion offline, follow me on Facebook and send me a direct message. Will you be able to attend the At-Home Dad Convention in October in DC? You can reach out to me then as well.

  3. I just don't understand how Complementarians justify the idea that a man should work even when his wife can earn enough a lot more money than him and comfortably support the family. It would be far worse for our family financially if my wife were to quit work and be home and send me off to work. It would be more difficult to be the involved parents we want to be if she continued to work and I went back to work now.

    It's not that I am lazy or not capable of holding down a job. I could make a fair income, probably enough for us to live on, but my wife happens to be better in her chosen career than I would be in mine. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't make me feel like less of a man either. For example, I can play basketball but I'm not better than LeBron James and I'm okay with it.

    For us, what the Complementarians say we should do to follow God's plan would actually be WORSE for our family. Is that what they think I should do? Reassert my masculinity by getting a job, having my wife quit her job, move into a smaller house in a less safer neighborhood and have our kids go to a worse school? Sounds pretty selfish and egotistical to me. Sounds very much against what the scriptures say about how to be a good father.

  4. To them, the act of man working (part of their definition of masculinity) is what pleases God. Finances don't play a part in it at all. Their focus is that the "role" itself is what is important, that God will bless you in your sacrifice to keep His "command" (even though it is never a direct command). Similarly, in my home, my wife would really struggle with the patience it takes to be an at-home parent of a toddler (but I know she could do it!). Complementarians believe that God would bless her for assuming the role of caregiver since that is the role He designed for women.

    Yes, they would say that we should go to work and earn a full-time income (although we know a lot of us do earn income part-time, somehow that isn't good enough if it means that our wife is out of the home). They believe that God would bless that arrangement because that is how they read into scripture that He designed us to function. My problem with their model is that it is not based on direct commands. It is based on reading into scriptures (sometimes even out of context) to apply them to a conservative social view. This is Aristotelian ethics, and it is non-Biblical and non-Jewish, but in certain cases it is accepted practice as good theology.

    My argument would be that as an American male, my natural inclination is to earn as much money as possible. In order to teach me that this wasn't how God wanted me to prioritize my life, God is keeping me at home in order to teach me a few things that I never bothered to slow down and learn. Am I to tell God how he is supposed to use me? No, He is the one that is in charge and directs me which way to go.

    At the same time, they don't mention of Ephesians 5 and 6 where Paul DIRECTLY teaches us about family relationships as believers. There is no mention of providing being essential in these verses. But what IS mentioned is the condition of the heart of the husband and the wife. I find that to be consistent with what Jesus was concerned about during his ministry - the condition of people's hearts. He did not care about social, political, or religions status. He saw everyone as broken, hurting, and needing a savior. He laid down his life out of his desire to save us and please his Father. In the same way, I laid down my selfish ambitions of career and social status in order to provide what was necessary to save my family. I believe my heart is in the right place, and God has not informed me of anything contrary. I have to trust His leading.

    Lastly, when Jesus speaks about family, he sees it as a secondary relationship. Our love for God should make the love of we have for our families look like hate. Jesus said that his new family consisted of those who followed him. I think we can learn a lot about family from Jesus, even though he doesn't teach extensively on the topic. He is primarily concerned with how we love God and how we love our neighbor. And if we are truly doing those two things with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, how great of an example would that be for our family?



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