Sarah Palin’s nomination as vice president has sparked debate in conservative religious circles about whether a mother with young children ought to work outside the home.

Voddie Baucham, a Baptist pastor and author from Spring, Texas, said Tuesday on CNN that he believes evangelical support for Palin is so strong because many put practical concerns like keeping Barack Obama out of the White House ahead of their theology.

“It has sparked a discussion, and quite frankly feminism has gained a foothold in many evangelical churches,” said Baucham, preaching pastor at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas.

Baucham, who has written a series of blogs criticizing evangelical leaders for jumping on the McCain bandwagon simply because of his pick of a running mate, said Bible passages like Titus 2:5 are clear that “a woman is to be the keeper of her home.”

Asked how that translates with the modern two-income families, Baucham said: “My job is not to translate into working-class families. My job is to be honest with the text.”

“Palin’s responsibility as a wife and mother is governed by Scripture, not by whether we feel it’s progressive in our culture,” Baucham said. “I will not violate the teaching of the text in order to somehow sound more appropriate for the culture. I am a herald of the truth of the gospel, and my job is to teach the gospel according to what the authors have said, not according to what I think the culture wants to hear.”

Two Southern Baptist scholars, meanwhile, suggested that biblical roles for men and women in the church and home might not necessarily transfer to the public square.

In a recent Washington Post blog, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said it isn’t hypocritical for evangelicals to believe it is proper for a woman to be vice president but not a pastor.

“Our confession of faith does not speak to the appropriateness of women serving in political office,” Mohler said. “It does speak to the priority of motherhood and responsibilities in the home, but it does not specify any public role that is closed to women. The reason for this is simple–the New Testament does not speak to this question in any direct sense.”

Baptist Press carried an opinion piece by Nathan Finn, assistant professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, arguing male and female roles outlined in the Baptist Faith & Message address “spiritual” and not “secular” leadership.

The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, which is housed on the campus of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., recently published its fourth installment in a series of blogs about whether McCain’s selection of Palin, an evangelical Christian and mother of five, presents a dilemma for “complementarians,” those who hold that God created males and females as equals but for different roles.

“The Bible calls women to specific roles in the church and home, but does not prohibit them from exercising leadership in secular political fields,” argued a Sept. 3 entry. “Even though the Bible reserves final authority in the church for men, this does not apply in the kingdom of this world.”

A search of the site’s archives, however, reveals more definitive statements in the past that a wife’s first priority is her home and family.

“The recent turn in women leaving the workplace and returning home has become too noticeable to be ignored,” Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 2004. “It is a reflection of what God planted in the heart of a wife and mother when He made her a female in His image. The blessings and joy she will discover as a wife, mother and homemaker can never be matched by a career that in the end cannot make good on its promises. Being a homemaker is not an institutionalized form of bondage and slavery. It is the greatest context for a woman to experience liberation and liberty as she is set free by the plan of God to be the woman God created and saved her to be.”

A published sermon by J. Ligon Duncan, senior minister at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Miss., admonished women “that you not assume that secular employment is a great challenge or a better use of your life than the countless opportunities of service and witness in the home, the neighborhood, the community, the church, and the world.”

“And that in all this, you make your choices, not on the basis of secular trends or upward lifestyle expectations, but on the basis of what will strengthen the faith of the family and advance the cause of Christ,” he said.

A 2000 sermon by John MacArthur attempted to explain why women don’t want to be workers at home. “Because Satan sells the system on that,” he said. “Because it’s anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Bible and it devastates the testimony of the church.”

“For a mother to get a job outside the home and send the children to some kind of daycare place is to shirk her God-given responsibility,” MacArthur said. “It also is failure to understand that her husband is to be the provider, as Ephesians 5 makes very clear. Even if you wanted to work outside the home to pay for your children to go to a Christian school, you made a big mistake. Better that you should stay in the home and raise your own children to be godly then to pass it on to somebody else.”

Another sermon by MacArthur profiled the “modern super-woman.”

“She works, builds her own career, demands equal pay, refuses to submit to her husband, demanding equality with him in everything, has an affair or two and a divorce or two. She exercises her independence, relies on her own resources, doesn’t want her husband or children to threaten her personal goals, has her own bank account. She hires a maid or a cleaning service, eats out at least fifty percent of the time with her family or without them, makes cold cereal and coffee, the standard breakfast for her family, quick-frozen meals usual dinner fare, or she calls Domino’s Pizza, expects her husband to do his share of the housework. She is tanned, coiffured, aerobicized, into body-building shape, shops to keep up with the fashion trends, makes sure she can compete in the attention-getting contest, puts the kids in a day care center, makes sure each has a TV in his room, or a radio or a CD player so they can be entertained. She is opinionated, demanding, wants to be heard, eager to fulfill all of her personal goals.”

“That is the modern woman of the nineties that is applauded by the culture,” MacArthur continued. “She can’t stay married, or for that matter happy and her kids get into trouble, and sometimes drugs. She’s far from the woman God has called the excellent woman.”

“God’s standard is for the wife and mother to work inside the home and not outside,” MacArthur explained. “For a mother to get a job outside the home in order to send her children even to a Christian school is to misunderstand her husband’s role as a provider, as well as her own duty to the family.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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