Guest Posts

Guest Post: The Broken Definition of Brokenness

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

The Broken Definition of Brokenness
by Teresa Lawrence

Brokenness is a popular buzzword in the professing Christian world today. It’s a word that evokes emotion and sympathy; it seems to appropriately describe our perception of ourselves as sinful people in a cursed world. We feel broken. We feel the effects of sin in the world and know this isn’t how it is supposed to be. We know this not only through our experience, but even more clearly through the revelation of scripture.

In some cases, the term is appropriate. It is true that we hurt and suffer, and that life is hard. However, words matter. If we want to communicate carefully and biblically, caution is called for. Brokenness, as a term, is being increasingly used by fuzzy writers and soft-tongued teachers to describe the problems of our lives and world, without regard to defining the term according to Scripture. “We are broken people living in a broken world,” is a mantra echoed by many in one form or another. And we tend to be quick to agree. The description seems to fit.

So, what’s wrong with it? Isn’t it true, even scriptural? What about Psalm 51:17, which says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”? What about Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11 and 21 where the Bible talks about “the brokenness of my people”?

It’s important when we are going to describe anything of a spiritual nature to study scriptural uses. The Bible uses this word in quite an interesting variety of ways. A search reveals 325 uses of variations of the word “broken” in the NASB, including 3 of “brokenness”. Here are some literal biblical ways it is used:

broken out, as in a disease on the skin

break forth, as in song

broken through, as in a wall or a barrier

broken down, as in old and worn out

literally broken, a thing that is no longer able to be functionally used, as in a pot or a ship or an arm

broken law or covenant

Then there are two other, metaphoric, uses. First, there is the broken heart (Ps. 69:20, Jer. 23:9), signifying great, uncomforted grief.  There are instances like Psalm 51 and Job 17:1 where a broken spirit is used to refer to a person at the end of his own resources, and in desperate need of God’s mercy and help. There are surprisingly few biblical references to this kind of brokenness (I found 12).

Secondly, and perhaps also surprisingly, a large percentage of the biblical uses of “broken” (I counted around 67) refer to a position to be feared rather than embraced. These refer to being under the judgment of God–the results of the justice of God against his enemies or the discipline of his own people. This is the “brokenness of my people” referred to in Jeremiah–the judgment of God on Israel because of their rebellion and hard hearts. It also refers to the act of God in regard to His enemies and the finality of their defeat, as in Proverbs 6:12,15:

“A worthless person, a wicked man,
his calamity will come suddenly;
Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.”

(See also Psalm 60:1; Proverbs 29:1; Isaiah 65:14; and Ezekiel 32:28, among many others.)

The problem with many modern uses of broken/brokenness” is that while the biblical word is used, it is defined generally as an accurate description of us and life in our fallen world—a definition the Bible never uses. This unbiblical usage serves to emphasize our own experiences and perspectives and soften some rather unattractive realities that need to be faced about ourselves rather than softened: Sin. Rebellion. Selfishness. Pride. Hatred toward God.

This cushioning of hard truths produces consequences in our thinking. Using “brokenness” to describe our cursed condition can be a subtle way of shifting responsibility from ourselves to some other, nebulous cause (Satan, maybe?) that got us into these troubles in which we find ourselves. It softens the responsibility we ourselves have for rebelling against God. We aren’t rebels, we’re broken. We aren’t sinners, we’re broken. We readily adopt a more forgiving opinion of our own hearts, and see ourselves as victims of circumstance. Even unbelievers are comfortable taking on the “broken” identity, a fact which ought to give thoughtful Christians pause.

The term “broken” is passive. It begs the question, “Who broke us?” It implies that the fact we are broken is someone else’s fault. Somehow, someone broke us and our world and we are living with and dealing with the consequences as best we can. We can tend to see ourselves as bravely facing our problems; responsible only for being as gentle with ourselves and others as possible, to prevent further breakage. We suspend all judgment, even biblical judgment, because who are we, who are just as broken as you are, to point fingers?

We do need to be gentle with the hurting around us. We ourselves do suffer. However, when these things dominate our thinking, and we begin to describe ourselves in these terms, we are in danger of minimizing or overlooking our own sin and responsibility altogether. The fact that other people sin against us, sometimes grossly, doesn’t negate the fact that we ourselves are guilty of hurting others, and more seriously, sinning against our holy and righteous Creator.

Dear Christian, this is the subtlety of the devil. If he can convince people that to be Christian means to admit that we are merely broken and need healing, we readily settle on a distorted picture of who we really are and what we truly need. That we are hurting is easy to see and admit. But a more serious diagnosis is necessary.

The Bible describes mankind in his natural, godless, sinful state in the most unsavory of terms. We are not only wicked, we are thoroughly wicked.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth,
and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen. 6:5

We are also called fools. And corrupt. 

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good.
Psalm 14:1

How about deceitful? And desperately sick?

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

The brokenness of the Bible comes when we realize these things are true about ourselves. We have nothing good in us and are in serious trouble with God, however uncomfortable we are in admitting this is true. This is when we arrive at the point of spiritual bankruptcy, where we are brought to understand that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). This is the brokenness David referred to in Psalm 51, to which he had come as a result of his own terrible sin. This brokenness can be defined as humility before God. David recognizes that his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah (adultery and murder), while heinous, are nothing compared to the weight of sin he has committed against God:

Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge. (v. 4)

The Bible never uses the word broken to describe the world or the state of all mankind. The brokenness the Bible describes is not our problem, it is what we need. To be broken is to come to God with nothing in our hands, knowing all we have to offer Him is our sin, and asking only for His mercy.

The brokenness the Bible describes is not our problem, it is what we need.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God,
You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

These are the brokenhearted that the Lord is near to and helps:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

This isn’t just someone who is sad or grieving. This is someone sad and grieving over their sin. We aren’t just “broken people living in a broken world”. We are proud sinners living in a rebellious and cursed world–in need of being broken. We need to be humbled, and brought to where we see our desperate need. Those who do not will face serious and lasting consequences.

A man who hardens his neck after much reproof
Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. (Prov. 29:1)

Interestingly, both of these biblical uses of “broken” fit its passive voice. When God judges a person or a nation, they are broken by His decree and His might, and none can stop Him. Psalm 75:6-8 says,


But God is the Judge;
He puts down one and exalts another.
For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams;
It is well mixed, and He pours out of this;
Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”

And, just as much as the other, when a person comes to the place of a broken spirit, realizing their sin and utter lack of any resource, and their great need for mercy, this also is a work of God’s sovereignty and grace.


I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD…”  Jeremiah 24:7a

“…God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13b

Describing ourselves unbiblically as “broken” shifts our perspective just enough to cause God’s judgment to seem cruel (what kind of God sends broken people to hell?) and His salvation to be something He ought to rightfully give us (it would be unkind to do anything but help and rescue a broken person). But until we are saved, we aren’t broken—yet. We’re proud sinners who would rather work our way into God’s good graces than accept that there’s nothing we can do for ourselves.

One of two paths is available to us: either we will be broken before the Lord, and saved by His mercy, or we will be broken by the Lord, justly judged, and condemned. And while it is true that we hurt and suffer, this doesn’t reduce our responsibility. If we want to be called broken, humility or condemnation are the biblical choices.

As believers, we ought to be aware of the gradual drift away from these biblical meanings, and how this drift affects our thinking. Increasingly, brokenness has become a useful word for sidestepping the culpability that sinful people are already trying to avoid facing. We need to speak compassionately, with kindness, but without softening the hard edges of the message. It is true that we suffer. But our suffering doesn’t negate our sinfulness. The Israelites were abused horribly by the Egyptians. God had compassion on them, and brought them out of slavery, but he also judged them for their rebellion in the desert. The suffering didn’t nullify the sin. We need to be careful not to obscure the real need for salvation from our own sin and its consequences.

This world isn’t just broken. It’s lost. It’s condemned. All its wickedness and rebellion will someday be permanently broken under the mighty sword of God’s righteous judgment. Let us be humble enough to see ourselves not only as hurting people, but as sinful people who offend our gracious Creator. Let us be loving enough to tell people of their dangerous position before God–not of their “brokenness”, but of their sinfulness. Then let us tell them also of a holy, yet merciful Savior who desires that they turn to Him and be saved. Let us boldly hold out God’s powerful gospel to His enemies, extending to them the good news of peace with Him before it is too late.


Teresa has been married to her husband Adam for 23 years, and they have 8 children, ranging from ages 5 to 22. She lives in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, serves as a musician in her church orchestra, and mentors in their one on one discipleship ministry. She is passionate about knowing God and understanding the truths in His word, and loves nothing better than teaching, encouraging, and being encouraged by like-minded women. She blogs very occasionally at Your Word Is Truth.

Christian women, Complementarianism, Ministry, Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

Originally published August 3, 2018

When it comes to Christianity, are the specifics of what people believe important?

I think most of us would answer a resounding “yes” to that question. Of course, the various concepts we believe are important. You can’t just believe anything you like and still be a Christian. There are certain things you must believe in order to become a Christian at all, and there are certain things you will come to believe because you are a genuinely regenerated Christian. But what are those things, and how do we know which is which?

Maybe you’ve heard the terms “essential doctrines” or “primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues” or “first, second, and third tier levels of doctrine”? For years, theologians have been attempting to organize beliefs of the Christian faith – all drawn from the Bible, naturally – into nice neat categories in order to make things a little simpler. As someone who thrives on organization and categories, I’m grateful for their efforts. But if you begin to study this categorization of beliefs, you’ll find that we haven’t reached an across the board consensus yet.

Generally speaking, “essential”, “primary”, or “first tier” doctrines are those which you, biblically, have to believe in order to become a Christian and/or be considered a Christian. For example:

✢ Sin is a thing, and I am a sinner.

✢ God exists and is the supreme authority of the universe.

✢ Jesus was God in human flesh.

✢ Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

See how this works? If you don’t believe you’re a sinner, you’re not saved. If you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, you’re not saved. Here’s how our friend, Pastor Gabe, briefly outlines essential doctrines:

 

(Gabe later tweaked the acrostic a little and added an “S”, which I think is helpful.)

The vast majority of brand new Christians have only the most basic understanding of most of these tenets at the moment of salvation. But it’s not an issue of fully understanding – or else we’d all have to be theologians in order to get saved – it’s an issue of believing. Someone who is genuinely regenerated may not completely understand how the Trinity works (honestly, no one does), but when she’s introduced to the biblical idea of the Trinity, she believes it, learns more about it, and does not reject it.

There is typically agreement among most reputable theologians regarding what constitutes first tier doctrine. Scripture is clear about these things, and several of these issues were settled long ago by the church fathers in assorted church councils (Nicea, Chalcedon, etc.)

Secondary issues are routinely defined as non-salvific but still extremely biblically important, if not quite as biblically clear-cut as primary issues. Doctrines surrounding baptism (credo versus paedo, affusion versus immersion), for example, are usually cited as a secondary issue. A disagreement on a secondary issue doesn’t mean one person is saved and another isn’t, but it normally prevents close partnership in ministry activities involving these issues. For example, my Presbyterian friends and I can join together in pro-life ministry, but we would most likely not plant a church together.

Tertiary issues are non-salvific, less immediately urgent, biblical issues in which the Bible is even less clear-cut and open to wider (yet still biblical) interpretation. These are issues over which Christians can disagree and still maintain close doctrinal fellowship, even in the same church, if they’re in agreement on first and second tier doctrine. Eschatology – the order and timing of events at Jesus’ second coming – is a doctrine that’s often considered third tier. Someone can hold a different eschatological view than mine, yet it doesn’t affect our ability to worship together, work together, or participate in the ordinances together in the same church.

Some theologians add a fourth category – issues of adiaphora, conscience, or Christian liberty. Usually these are issues of much less importance that the Bible either doesn’t specifically address, or doesn’t give commands about one way or the other. Individual Christians may use biblical principles to inform their consciences and decide for themselves. These would be things like whether or not to take your child trick-or-treating or deciding whether to dress formally or casually for church.

While theologians are largely in agreement about primary doctrines, there is wider spread disagreement on which doctrines are secondary and tertiary (many consider eschatology to be a second tier doctrine, for example) and whether or not there is a need for a category of adiaphora, since such issues are normally not considered to be “doctrinal” issues. In fact, there’s enough space for disagreement that pastors and theologians often wisely refrain from making concrete lists of secondary and tertiary doctrines.

But when we’re talking about the different levels of doctrine, what you won’t find is questions like these: Is murder a first, second, or third tier doctrine? What about gossip? Rape? Adultery? Lying? Gluttony? Pride?

And it’s not because these issues aren’t important or because the Bible doesn’t address them. It’s because they’re in a different category from the other issues: the category of sin. They aren’t doctrines upon which salvation hinges, they aren’t open to interpretation, and the Bible is clear that we are absolutely not to do these things.

In 2005, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote an excellent article about the different levels of doctrine entitled A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. He carefully explains the importance of each level of doctrine and what it covers in a plea to keep each level’s urgency in its proper place of significance during discussion, debate, and decision-making.

It was a helpful article to which I always refer people who have questions about tiers of doctrine, and I agree with Dr. Mohler’s thoughts wholeheartedly (as I usually do) …except on one point:

“In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue.”

Women serving as pastors, women preaching, women teaching men Scripture in the church, and women exercising authority over men in the church is not a secondary issue. Nor is it a primary or tertiary one. It does not belong in the category of “doctrine” in the same way baptism and eschatology do. It belongs in the category of sin in the same way murder, gossip, and adultery do. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

(The preponderance of Scripture supports and affirms this concept, so to keep things simple, we’ll use this verse as an exemplar.)

✢ The prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a clear command against a certain behavior. And when we behave in a way God has prohibited, that is called “sin”. All of the tenets in the three levels of doctrine are affirmative statements regarding beliefs (you must believe in the resurrection of Christ, we believe in baptism by immersion, etc.). None of them are commands, in the negative, against sinful behavior (Thou shalt not murder, I do not permit a woman to teach… etc.)

✢ Secondary and tertiary doctrines can be open – to varying degrees – to biblical interpretation. Every stripe of non-heretical eschatological thought can provide you with chapter and verse passages that can, depending on the angle from which you approach the subject, be biblically plausible and scripturally supported. There is no biblical support for anything God prohibits. No one can cite a properly handled, in context Bible verse in which God says, “It’s OK to commit adultery,” or “Women are allowed to preach.” There can be multiple views on a secondary or tertiary issue that can all be considered biblical, but there can only be one view of sin that is biblical.

✢ Differing beliefs on true secondary and tertiary issues are not sin. My Presbyterian friends have a different view of baptism than I do. That doesn’t mean either of us is sinning. I may think their interpretations of the verses they believe support paedo baptism are incorrect, but they are not breaking any of God’s commands. Differing behavior (again, we see the distinction between doctrinal belief and sinful behavior) on issues of sin is sin. If someone behaves differently from God’s command about lying, she is sinning. If a woman behaves differently from God’s command in 1 Timothy 2:12, she is sinning.

✢ Differing beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. When someone has studied a theological issue enough to hold a particular position on it, it’s usually because she is striving to please God and to be biblical in her beliefs. Differing behavior on issues of sin is born out of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Someone who steals has already decided in her heart that her desires are better than God’s command. A woman who knowingly holds improper authority over men in her church is doing so because she has already decided to defy God’s clear command against such.

✢ Because different beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of rebellion and are not sin, they do not require church discipline. Sin does require church discipline. If someone in your church is openly dishonoring her parents, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. If a woman is pursuing a career as a pastor, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. 

Since the publication of Dr. Mohler’s article (and perhaps as a result of others teaching the same thing) the idea of the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 being a “secondary doctrine” has spread in a most unhelpful way, leading many Christians to treat the issue in a c’est la vie, “We can just agree to disagree on this,” manner.

No, we cannot.

We would not say, “We can agree to disagree,” on lying or adultery or homosexuality or abortion, and we cannot say it about women preaching, teaching men, or holding unbiblical authority, either. We disciple and teach a sister in Christ who is unaware of what the Bible says on these matters, and if she is committing any of these sins, we begin the process of church discipline. But it would not be loving toward her, or honoring God, to allow her to continue in biblical ignorance or in willful sin.

Furthermore, the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 brings with it dangers to the church that true secondary and tertiary issues, and even many sins, do not.

I have mentioned several times when dealing with this issue that women preaching to men is highly correlated with women teaching false doctrine. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches false doctrine. False doctrine and heresy are infecting the church – via female preachers – at an alarming rate.

We dare not simply “agree to disagree” on this.

The violation of God’s command that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures nor hold improper authority over men is a sin like any other. It is not a doctrinal issue in the same sense that other second and third tier doctrines are. If left undisciplined, however, it can lead to first tier doctrinal issues infiltrating a church and eventually destroying it. It is detrimental to the church to label and treat any sin as a secondary doctrinal issue.

1&2 Peter Bible Study

Living Stones: A Study of 1 & 2 Peter: Lesson 1- Introduction

Welcome to our new study, Living Stones: A Study of 1 &2 Peter!

How can we live lives of holiness as the world, and even the church, become increasingly unholy? For the next several weeks we’ll work our way through the books of 1 & 2 Peter, and learn how Jesus is the Living Stone – our perfect example of holiness – that we are to build our lives and churches upon.

Our lovely title pic for the study was designed by Kati Champlin, who is a pastor’s wife in Montana. Many thanks to all of those who worked so hard on their entries for our title pic contest. You ladies were very creative and did some beautiful work! 

Terri Mobley

 

Lesley Hazen

 

Carey

 

Clare McNaul
 

(Clare pointed out the crosses etched into the rock. Can you see them?)

Debra Gartland

If you’re new to using my Bible studies, just a few housekeeping items and helpful hints:

The studies I’ve written (you can find all of them at the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) are like “training wheels”. They’re designed to teach you how to study the Bible for yourself and what kinds of questions to ask of the text so that, when you get the hang of it, you won’t have to depend on other people’s books and materials – even mine – any more. To that end, I do not provide answers for the study questions in the studies I’ve written.

My studies are meant to be extremely flexible and self-paced so that you can use them in the way that works best for you. You can do an entire lesson in one day or work on the questions over the course of the week (or longer). You do not need to feel obligated to answer all (or any) of the questions. If the Holy Spirit parks you on one question for several days, enjoy digging deep into that one aspect of the lesson. If He shows you something I haven’t written a question about that captures your attention, dive in and study it! Those are ways the Holy Spirit speaks to us through His Word. This is your time to commune with the Lord, not a school assignment or work project you are beholden to complete in a certain way by a certain deadline.

I will post a new lesson on the blog every Wednesday, so there is nothing to sign up for or commit to. Simply stop by the blog each week, or subscribe to the blog via e-mail to have the lessons delivered to your inbox.

I use hyperlinks liberallyThe Scriptures for each lesson will be linked at the beginning of the lesson and in the lesson questions. As you’re reading the lesson, whenever you see a word in a different color text, click on it, and it will take you to a Scripture, article, or other resource that will help as you study.

All of the studies I’ve written are suitable for groups or individuals. You are welcome to use them as a Sunday school or Bible study class curriculum (for free) with proper attribution.

You are also welcome to print out any of my Bible studies (or any article I’ve written) for free and make as many copies as you’d like, again, with proper attribution. I’ve explained more about that in this article (3rd section).


Introduction to 1 Peter

Before we begin studying a book of the Bible, it’s very important that we understand some things about that book. We need to know…

Who the author was and anything we might be able to find out about him or his background.

Who the audience of the book is: Jews or Gentiles? Old Testament Israelites or New Testament Christians? This will help us understand the author’s purpose and approach to what he’s writing.

What kind of biblical literature we’re looking at. We approach books of history differently than books of wisdom, books of wisdom differently than books of prophecy, etc.

What the purpose of the book is. Was it written to encourage? Rebuke? Warn?

What the historical backdrop is for the book. Is Israel at war? At peace? In exile? Under a bad king? Good king? Understanding the historical events surrounding a piece of writing help us understand what was written and why it was written.

When the book was written. Where does the book fall on the timeline of biblical history? This is especially important for Old Testament books which are not always arranged in chronological order.

So this week, before we start studying the actual text of the book of 1 Peter, we need to lay the foundation to understanding the book by finding the answers to these questions.

Read the following overviews of the book of 1 Peter, taking notes on anything that might aid your understanding of the book, and answer the questions below:

Bible Introductions: 1 Peter at Grace to You

Overview of the Book of 1 Peter at Reformed Answers

Book of 1 Peter at Got Questions

1. Who wrote the book of 1 Peter? How do we know this?

2. Approximately when was 1 Peter written? What is the geographical setting of the book of 1 Peter? Here are some maps (scroll down to “1 Peter”) that may be helpful as you study through the book of 1 Peter.

3. Who is the original, intended audience of the book of 1 Peter? Describe the historical setting (historic events, politics, sociology of the time, etc.) of 1 Peter.

4. Which genre of biblical literature is the book of 1 Peter: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, or prophecy/apocalyptic? What does this tell us about the approach we should take when studying this book versus our approach to books of other genres?

5. What is the theme or purpose of the book of 1 Peter?

6. What are some of the major topics of instruction in the book of 1 Peter? How do these topics relate to the theme of 1 Peter?

7. What are some ways 1 Peter points to and connects to Jesus?

8. What else did you learn about 1 Peter or the setting of this book that might help you understand the text of the book better?

Take some time in prayer this week to begin preparing your heart for this study. Ask God to grow you in holiness and in following the example of Christ as we study together Living Stones: A Study of 1&2 Peter.

Movies

Movie Tuesday: By What Standard?

…it seems like evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, are in danger of loosening their commitments to…basic, Christian commitments. Dangerous ideologies like Critical Theory and Intersectionality are gaining inroads into the thinking of some leaders, churches and organizations.

These ideologies are even being promoted among some evangelicals as reliable analytical tools that can assist our understandings and efforts in gospel ministry.

The result is that, in the name of social justice, many unbiblical agendas are being advanced under the guise of honoring and protecting women, promoting racial reconciliation, and showing love and compassion to people experiencing sexual dysphoria.

By What Standard? God’s World, God’s Rules is a documentary that presses those questions by showing how godless ideologies are influencing evangelical thought and life.

If you’re a Southern Baptist – especially if you don’t know what’s going on in your denomination outside the four walls of your own church – you desperately need to watch this documentary.

Because our local churches are autonomous, many Southern Baptists think, “It doesn’t really matter what’s going on at the national level of the SBC as long as my church is doing well.” When you watch, you’ll see why that’s such a dangerous attitude to take. The insidious and sinful concepts of critical race theory, intersectionality, egalitarianism, and other false doctrines have made their way into our SBC seminaries,  where your next pastor is currently being trained, into LifeWay, where your next Sunday school, women’s Bible study, or VBS curriculum is coming from, and into the national leadership of the SBC, which represents us and our denomination to the world.

But even if you’re not Southern Baptist, these concepts are almost certainly slithering in to your denomination or church as well.

Be ready by informing yourself.

Click here to watch By What Standard?.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Husbands, pastors, and mentors- Which roles do they play in a Christian woman’s life?

 

I have three questions that are kind of related to each other:

1 Corinthians 14:35 says women should ask their husbands questions at home; how does this fit with women mentoring other women in Titus 2?

Where does a husband’s role end and where does the role of a godly older woman begin in terms of teaching younger women?

Are there areas where a pastor’s authority trumps a husband’s authority?

Thank you for your help.

These are really awesome questions. I love it when women ask questions that demonstrate that they’re digging into Scripture and thinking deeply about the things of God. It’s so exciting to me!

(Before I begin answering, let me just stipulate, as I usually do in articles about marriage, that the following statements assume a normal, relatively healthy, average marriage, not abusive marriages, extremely aberrant marriages, etc. Also, it’s not my intent to leave out my single sisters, but the reader asked specifically about married women, so that’s how I’m answering the questions.)

So let’s take each question separately…

1 Corinthians 14:35 says women should ask their husbands questions at home; how does this fit with women mentoring other women in Titus 2:3-5?

The first thing we need to do when we’re addressing questions like this is to look at each of these passages in context. This is a very simple study skill that will clear up nearly all instances of supposed contradictions in Scripture.

Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. What is the venue for Paul’s instructions in this passage? In other words, is he telling people how to behave at home? At work? At the movies? Look at the key phrases in verses 26 (“when you come together”) and 28,33b-35 (“in church”). Paul is giving instructions for how an orderly worship service is to be conducted. He is not making a blanket statement that any time any woman wants to know anything about Scripture or God or life in general that the only person she can ever ask questions of is her husband. What he’s saying is that in order to avoid chaos in the worship service, women are to sit down and be quiet during the preaching and teaching, rather than interrupting to comment or ask questions (one of the reasons Paul says this is that the women in the Corinthian church were doing just that – interrupting the preaching and teaching with questions and comments). If you read further in chapter 14, you’ll notice he places similar restrictions on prophesying and speaking in other languages to prevent chaos and confusion during the worship service. I’ve discussed this passage in further detail in my article Rock Your Role ~ Order in His Courts: Silencing Women?

Now read Titus 2. What’s the main idea of this chapter? Is it the same as the main idea of 1 Corinthians 14 – instructions for an orderly worship service? No. Verse 12 gives a nice summary of chapter 2: “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” That’s what this chapter is about. “Titus, here’s what your church members (and you) are to do and how they’re to conduct themselves as they go about the business of living as Christians in this world and in community with one another.” The older women teaching and training the younger women in verses 3-5 is not taking place during the worship service, but as these women go about daily life with one another. Today, this kind of teaching and training takes place in women’s Bible study classes, women’s fellowship groups, and in one on one discipleship, not in, nor instead of, the gathering of the whole church for worship.

So as we can see when we examine the context of both passages, 1 Corinthians 14:35 and Titus 2:3-5 are not in conflict, they’re actually in harmony, addressing two distinct ways women are to conduct themselves in two completely different venues.

 

Where does a husband’s role end and where does the role of a godly older woman begin in terms of teaching younger women?

I don’t think it’s really that discrete and linear, i.e. the husband teaches this list of topics the wife needs to be taught about and the godly older woman teaches that list of topics she needs to be taught about, and never the twain shall meet. It’s a much more informal and “whatever is needful at the moment” type of thing. Additionally, it’s going to vary from marriage to marriage. Some women have unsaved husbands. Some women are newly saved with husbands who have been saved for decades. Some husbands and wives are very private about everything, some are very open to others. So the balance between who (husband or older woman mentor) teaches what, and how much, and when, is going to look different in every marriage.

I would just offer a few guidelines:

• After your relationship with Christ, if you’re married, your highest allegiance is to your husband. He should be your best friend and first confidant, not a woman who’s mentoring you (or even your mother, sister, or female best friend). He should never feel like he’s in competition for your time, interest, or affinity with the woman who’s mentoring you, or that you esteem her on the same (or, perish the thought, higher) level of loyalty or emotional intimacy with him. If you’ve gotten that close to your mentor, you’re too close. Turn your attention toward your husband.

• Along those same lines, always keep in mind that God instructs you to submit to your husband, not your mentor. The only time you should ever follow your mentor’s advice over your husband’s desires is if your husband is asking you to do something the Bible clearly calls sin and your mentor is advising you to obey Scripture instead. (But even in that case, you’re not really choosing your mentor over your husband, you’re choosing to obey God rather than to sin.)

• There are some things that are private between a husband and wife that shouldn’t be shared with anyone, including a mentor. Which things? Again, that’s going to vary from marriage to marriage, but a few no no’s might include the private details of your sex life, your finances, and anything your husband would be embarrassed for someone else to know. Talk with your husband and ask if there’s anything he would rather you didn’t share with your mentor.

 

Are there areas where a pastor’s authority trumps a husband’s authority?

It really depends on what you have in mind when you ask that question.

If you’re talking about personal decisions made between a husband and wife, let’s say, for instance, whether or not to move to a certain part of town or whether or not the wife should take a part time job, it is not the pastor’s place to step in and overrule the husband’s decision, nor should the pastor have any expectation that the couple would obey any edicts he issues. If the couple goes to him for counseling or asks for his advice, he can certainly give it, but we never see any place in Scripture where a pastor has authority over another family’s decisions. The husband is responsible before God for leading his family, not the pastor.

But if you’re talking about a situation in the church, then yes, a pastor’s (or the elders’) authority – assuming he’s abiding by Scripture – trumps a husband’s authority, and pretty much every other church member’s authority as well. For example, a husband does not have the authority to walk up to the pastor and say, “I’m going to let my wife preach the sermon next Sunday,” or “My wife is going to take over this Sunday School classroom and use it as her personal office.”. If a husband were to say something like that, the pastor is well within his authority as shepherd of the church to say, “Oh no she’s not.”. The buck stops with the pastor when it comes to how the church runs, and he is responsible before God for making godly decisions for the church.

I’m aware that there are aberrant, fringe “churches” (many of them are some stripe of New Apostolic Reformation or extreme legalism/fundamentalism) out there in which the “pastor” has ultimate authority over every decision a family makes: where they live, how many children they have, what to name their children, whether and where each spouse should work, etc. If you’re in a so-called church like that, leave immediately and find a doctrinally sound church to join. A church doesn’t plunge to that depth of spiritual abuse without succumbing to other dangerous false doctrines along the way.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.