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.

Christian women, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt

Originally published April 13, 2018

Political correctness.

Safe spaces.

Trigger warnings.

Microaggressions.

You can hardly say the sky is blue or water is wet these days without offending somebody. It shouldn’t be surprising to us that when self reigns on the throne of a person’s heart, she will bow down and serve the king of personal feelings. And as a loyal subject, she will fight to the death any perceived threat to that ruling authority. It is normal for unsaved people to live their lives with their feelings leading them around by the nose.

It is not normal for Christians to live that way. And it concerns me that I’m seeing more and more Christian women who allow themselves to be controlled by their feelings rather than being controlled by Christ.

(I’m about to step on some toes, here, so if you’re offended {maybe especially if you’re offended} by what follows, hang in there with me until we get past the hurt feelings and arrive at God’s Word, or you’re actually going to be proving my point.)

❤ Last May, the day before Mother’s Day, I was sort of mindlessly flipping through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, when something caught my notice. Tweet after tweet, status after status, article after article about Mother’s Day. But the vast majority of those posts were not honoring and encouraging women who are mothers, which is the whole point of Mother’s Day. They were focused on women for whom Mother’s Day is painful. Women who are infertile. Single women who haven’t had children. Women who have lost children in miscarriage or other tragedies. People whose mothers have died. Mothers whose children are estranged.

❤ As April Fool’s Day approached this year, I began noticing admonishments not to say, “I’m pregnant,” as an April Fool’s joke on social media in order to protect the feelings of women struggling with infertility or have miscarried.

❤ I have heard from dozens of women who refuse to obey God’s command to join with a doctrinally sound local church – even though they’re physically and logistically able to – because they have been hurt by a previous church.

❤ Christian women who follow false teachers commonly lash out in anger – often displaying the opposite of every one of the fruits of the Spirit – when presented with incontrovertible biblical evidence that the teacher is promoting false doctrine.

❤ And have you seen the fracas over racism in evangelicalism lately? Ungodly statements and accusations are flying from both sides of the aisle because, feelings: feelings of being owed something, fear of man feelings of not wanting to appear racist, feelings of retribution, feelings of pride and self-righteousness.

Life circumstances and other people genuinely and validly hurt us sometimes. No sane person would deny that, and certainly no Christian with a modicum of Christlike compassion would deny it. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of the painful situations I mentioned above. Pain – deep, agonizing, and often undeserved pain – goes with the territory of being human. None of us are immune.

And, if you’re a Christian, you worship a Savior who more than understands what it’s like to be hurt – not just the physical torture of flogging and crucifixion, but the emotional pain during his life of being “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Jesus experienced far more misery than you or I ever will, and yet, He handled it in a way that brought honor and glory to God. As His disciples, we are called to follow His example when it comes to our own pain.

Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign

During His lifetime on earth, Jesus’ own brothers and sisters didn’t believe in Him. The leaders and members of His “church” abused, slandered, and falsely accused Him. His community eventually wanted Him dead.

Jesus could have allowed this grief to stay at the forefront of His heart and mind, governing His thoughts and reactions towards others and towards life in general. But He didn’t. He chose to deal with His pain in a godly way, refusing to allow it to control Him, paralyze Him, or deter Him from His mission, but putting it in its proper perspective. Pain is not paramount – holiness is. Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign – He determined that His heart and mind would be led by holy thoughts and actions.

Jesus didn’t expect people to accommodate His feelings

Can you imagine Jesus demanding a safe space or that people refrain from posting certain things on social media in order to protect His feelings? Neither can I. It must have been monumentally difficult to endure the insults and mockery that constantly came His way, especially when He had the power (and the right) to shut those people up so He wouldn’t have to deal with all of that. Instead, Jesus accepted that hurtful people and circumstances are part of life and He proactively chose to respond to those people and circumstances in a godly way – setting an example for us in the process.

Jesus forgave

Not just one person, one time, or one situation. Seventy times seven. Even if the person didn’t ask for forgiveness. Even if the person innocently stuck his foot in his mouth. Not once do we see Jesus harboring bitterness in His heart or holding a grudge against someone who hurt Him personally, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Jesus forgave and moved on with His life and ministry.

Jesus was content

Sometimes, it’s not a person who hurts us, but the circumstances God has sovereignly brought or allowed into our lives. Did you catch that? Anything that’s going on in your life is only going on because God is permitting it or causing it. From infertility to medical conditions to racism to the consequences of sin, God is in charge of what happens to you, and He uses these painful situations to teach you obedience, cause you to depend on and trust in Him, and conform you to the image of Christ.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” Jesus said. Jesus was homeless, poor, unmarried, and childless, yet never once do we see Him complain about any of these circumstances. He accepted the station in life to which God had assigned Him and was content with His lot, making the most of His situation to the glory of God. We can follow Jesus in that godly mindset, realizing that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and that the Holy Spirit can empower us to find ways to be content no matter our situation.

Jesus didn’t retaliate or sin when His feelings were hurt

If our response to a hurtful person or situation is to take vengeance, lash out in anger, or wallow in self-pity, we aren’t acting the way Jesus did. He never retaliated against those who hurt him, failed to exercise self-control in responding to unkind people, or felt sorry for Himself as a result of his situation. Jesus always perfectly showcased the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus focused on others, not Himself

Did Jesus stay home from the wedding at Cana because He couldn’t deal with the fact that someone else was getting married and He wasn’t? Was He overcome by hurt and jealousy when people brought their children to Him because He longed to experience the joys unique to fatherhood? No. He made sure the happy couple’s big day was even better by celebrating with them and giving them an awesome gift. He embraced and blessed other people’s children, pouring out His love upon them.

It is absolutely and inarguably incumbent upon us as compassionate, caring, kind, and merciful followers of Christ to weep with those who weep in the midst of suffering. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps by comforting others with the comfort He has shown us. We do our best to be sensitive to the hurts of others and not cause additional or unnecessary pain. We lift up the fallen and strengthen the knees that are weak, just like Jesus did.

But God also requires us to draw upon His strength, look past our own pain, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Just as it is good and right to comfort a friend who’s infertile or grieve with parents who have miscarried, it is also good and right for that friend and those parents to rejoice on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with those whom God has chosen to bless with children, or to celebrate with loved ones who have just announced a pregnancy. We take the focus off ourselves and put it on others, just like Jesus did.

 

Life hurts sometimes. And it’s OK to feel that pain. To grieve over loss. To mourn over suffering. But we cannot let those feelings be the boss of how we act and think. If we are to follow Christ, we must ask Him to help us follow His example of dealing with our raw and tender feelings: not expecting people to tiptoe around us, not allowing bitterness or unforgiveness to take over our hearts, not allowing our pain to reign and cause us to sin. We follow Christ’s example by taking up our cross daily, following Him, serving others, and living to the full the lives God has ordained for us. Whether it’s easy or it’s hard. Whether we’re joyful or sorrowful. Whether we feel like it or not.

Christian women, Marriage, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ What Your Godly Wife Wants You to Know About Leading Her Spiritually – An Open Letter to My Brothers

Originally published August 17, 2018

My Brother in Christ –

I received an e-mail from your dear wife today.

She’s struggling, and she’s not quite sure how to communicate that struggle to you. She has tried to explain it to you in the past, but you either haven’t listened or haven’t done anything about it. And now she feels that if she brings it up again she’ll just make things worse. Or you’ve told her to stop nagging you. Or stop preaching at you.

She’s not nagging you or preaching at you. That’s not her heart. She’s trying to tell you she needs something from you that only you can provide and that God says you should be providing. And while she’s praying fervently that God would move upon your heart, there should also be the understanding between husband and wife that if one of you needs something all you have to do is ask your spouse, and your spouse will do everything possible to provide it.

But you’re not doing that. And that’s why, in desperation, your wife wrote to me asking me what to do. And that’s why I’m writing to you to plead with you on her behalf…

Your wife needs you to grow up, spiritually, and lead your family biblically.

She has told me about the multiple, blatant examples of false doctrine in your church and how she wants the family to leave and find a doctrinally sound church. But you refuse because you like it there or you think objecting to false doctrine creates disunity in the church.

…or…

She has told me you refuse to stand up for what is right and godly at church, at work, with your friends, or with family members because it’s easier and you’re afraid of rocking the boat.

…or…

She has told me you won’t lead her and the children in prayer and the study of God’s Word because you don’t see it as important, or you don’t know how, or you’d rather watch TV.

…or…

She has told me how you frequently blow off attending church to play golf, fish, hunt, or pursue other hobbies.

…or…

She has told me that you use worldly standards for making decisions for the family rather than praying, searching the Scriptures, and using biblical wisdom.

…or…

She has told me that you put up a good Christian front at church, but at home, you’re foul-mouthed or lazy or greedy or lustful or dishonest or refuse to discipline the children.

Or…or…or…

I’ve heard so many of these types of scenarios of husbands neglecting or refusing to lead you’d think there was an epidemic of spiritual immaturity among Christian men. Perhaps there is.

Maybe it’s the result of the decades-long cultural attack on masculinity by virulent feminism. Maybe it’s a consequence of feel good, seeker-driven silliness, fun fun fun “church”. Finding the root cause could be an interesting academic exercise, but you don’t begin the arson investigation while your house is still burning. You put out the fire before it spreads. And you don’t ignore or get angry with the person pointing out the flames.

And that’s what’s at issue here. Let me be crystal clear about something: your wife isn’t upset with you for trying, failing, and having to try again. She’s upset with you for not trying. It’s not that you’re using the wrong color hose or that it takes you a minute to remember where the fire extinguisher is, it’s that you’re sitting in a lawn chair in the front yard denying that the house is on fire.

Your wife doesn’t expect you to lead your family perfectly. She wants you to want to and try to. And, though you might be afraid to try because you think you’ll mess up and your wife will see you as a failure, you need to know that a wife who is godly enough to want her husband to be the spiritual leader of her home sees your attempts and desires to lead as success – even if the results aren’t perfect. You’re judging yourself on the outcome. She’s valuing your heart and your trajectory in the process.

Because when you try, it says something to her. It says, “I love God enough to obey Him, even when it’s hard or I don’t feel like it.” and “I love my wife enough to take the burden of leadership off of her and bear it myself.”

And when you don’t try, that communicates something too: “I care more about myself and what I want to do than caring for my wife’s needs and being obedient to what God has called me to do.”

I think a lot of husbands don’t realize what an extremely difficult position they put their godly wives in when they abdicate biblical leadership. It nearly always backs her into a corner of pitting obedience to God against submission to, and peace with, her sinning husband.

❥ My husband refuses to leave this apostate church, but my children and I are being fed poison every week. Do I stay at this church with him or leave against his wishes?

❥ My husband won’t lead us in the study of God’s Word. Our children need to be taught the Scriptures. Do I step in even though it’s his responsibility and my taking over might further enable his sin?

❥ My husband makes decisions for our family based on pragmatism, even if those decisions conflict with Scripture. Should I take over family decision-making using biblical principles?

Brother, when you refuse to lead biblically, you’re sinning twice. First, by disobedience to God. Second, by becoming a stumbling block to your wife. No wife of a Christian husband should ever be put in the position of having to decide, “We must obey God rather than men.” It creates a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety, instability, and uncertainty for her when you create a void of leadership by your disobedience.

I can’t build you into a spiritually mature, godly husband. Neither can your wife. And it’s not my job to instruct you in the Scriptures, either. But if, by seeing things from your wife’s perspective, the Holy Spirit is now convicting you that you haven’t been leading your family in a godly way, may I just throw out a few points you might decide to consider as you pray and study God’s Word in this area?

❥ Listen to your wife. Really listen. Ask her what she needs from you, generally, as the spiritual leader of your home, as well as in specific situations as they arise. Ask if she knows of any particular Scriptures that would be helpful to you as you study and pray over various circumstances. Ask for her input in solving problems and making decisions.

❥ Commit to praying and studying God’s Word as part of your daily schedule. Ask God to grow you in maturity and leadership. He is the only One who can change and strengthen your heart.

❥ If you think you might be spiritually immature, put everything frivolous aside, and make growing up your top priority. Pour yourself into the study of the Word, prayer, and serving and nurturing your wife and children. 

❥ Make sure you’re in a doctrinally sound church (there are lots of tools to help you at the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of this page) and get plugged in. Lead your family in faithful attendance at worship and Sunday School. Take every opportunity to sit under solid preaching and teaching. Set a godly example by finding a place of service and committing to it wholeheartedly. 

❥ Surround yourself with godly men in your church who will sharpen you, teach you, and disciple you.

❥ Consider setting up an appointment with your pastor for advice, pointers, and good resources on growing in spiritual maturity and leading your family.

❥ Consume biblical media during the week. Ask those godly men at your church for suggestions of theologically meaty books and blogs to read and sermons and podcasts to listen to. (Until you get a chance to ask them, there are some suggestions of blogs and podcasts – most of them by men – in the left sidebar of this page, and some great pastors and authors here, here, and here.)

I hope pulling back the curtain on the female perspective can serve as a helpful tool in your toolbox that you can use as you pursue Christ and seek to grow in spiritual maturity and biblical leadership. Brother, with God’s help and the empowering grace of the Holy Spirit, you can do this – so be encouraged, and don’t be afraid to try!

I’m rooting for you, and I know your wife is, too.

Christian women, Church, Southern Baptist/SBC

Is the SBC’s Tent Big Enough for ALL Marginalized Christian Women?

I’m taking a short summer break this week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives. The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention  also took place this week. Will you please pray that God will bring conviction of sin, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word in the SBC?


Originally published June 22, 2018

It started with Paige Patterson’s gobsmackingly horrible and unbiblical advice to an abused to wife to return to her husband. Then it was the lurid remarks he made about a teenage girl, with which he regaled a congregation during a sermon. Next came the allegations of his mishandling of two separate sexual assault cases at two different seminaries.

In response to all this turmoil, Beth Moore added to the conversation some vague stories of various unnamed men in Christian circles who had, in her perception, condescended to her or otherwise not treated her as an equal, leaving the impression that there is widespread, systemic misogyny within modern evangelicalism. Jen Wilkin, from a more biblical – yet, troublingly, similarly vague – perspective, joined the chorus, and has been afforded a wider audience for the “they can’t be pastors, natch, but we need more women in church leadership” platform she has been advancing for the past several years. (Which leadership positions or roles? We’re still waiting for Jen to specify.)

And the icing on the cake was SBC pastor, Dwight McKissic, publicly declaring that the way to “heal” all of these woes against Christian women and “right historic patterns of wrong against women” is to elect Beth Moore as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

So this nebulous idea has been introduced that Christian women are getting the short end of the stick across the board in evangelicalism (specifically in the SBC) and that the way to fix things – all the way from genuine abuse and rape on one end of the spectrum to women whose feelings have been hurt because they’re not seen as equal to pastors on the other end – is to make sure, somehow, that women’s voices are heard and validated.

That’s a pretty “big tent” idea. And if it’s going to be a big tent, there’s room under there for everybody, right? To be consistent, compassionate, and fair, wouldn’t these folks have to make space for the voices of, and give influential positions to, any Christian woman who feels she’s been diminished? Let’s find out.

Allow me to introduce you to a group of Christian women who have been silenced and brushed aside for years, often by the very same people who are now hypocritically crying out that women need to be heard in order to keep them from being marginalized.

I give you discerning, doctrinally sound, often Reformed, Christian women.

We are women who have been subjected to insults, and accusations of heresy and hatred of the lost, because we hold to the doctrines of grace. We are women who have been attacked by pastors, pastors’ wives, women’s ministry leaders, and fellow church members for pointing out the false doctrine of popular women’s “Bible” study materials and merely asking to properly be taught the Word of God in our own churches. We are women who have been shouted down or ruled “out of order” at denominational meetings for asking that our Christian retailers stop selling materials containing false teaching. We are women who have been forced out of our own churches for taking a biblical stand against women preaching to, teaching, or exercising authority over men in the church. We are women who have been called haters, legalistic, divisive, threats to unity, jealous, and all other manner of slander simply for holding to Scripture and refusing to budge from it.

All this mistreatment of women at the hands of Christian celebrities, denominational leaders, pastors and other church leadership, and fellow church members.

Do we qualify as marginalized? We’ve been hurt, and in many cases, sinned against outright. No church discipline. No redress or recourse. Nobody wants to make sure we have a voice or a place of power – quite the opposite, in fact. A lot of us saw our own pastors hand-wringingly share Beth Moore’s detailing of her grievances against Christian men even as they pushed us and our biblical concerns aside.

Everybody feels sorry for Beth Moore. Who will cry for us?

We don’t want much, just a return to what’s biblical.

We want sound doctrine in the church and solid preaching in the pulpit.

We want this nonsense about a female SBC President – especially a false teacher like Beth Moore – to stop. Not only is it not biblical, it’s a patronizing toss of a trinket or pat on the head attempting to dry the tears of fussy little girls, and it won’t work to solve any of the real problems that are going on.

We want false doctrine off the shelves of LifeWay, and for LifeWay, the ERLC, and others in leadership to stop organizing and promoting conferences and other events headlined by people they have already been informed (yea, as seminary trained pastors and leaders, should know without having to be told) are false teachers. Among the many things Jen Wilkin has rightly said is that we need to promote biblical and theological literacy among Christian women. When you go on a diet, the first thing you do is go through your kitchen and throw out all the junk food. You’ll never start eating healthy if you have an endless supply of candy bars in the pantry. The only way to begin to properly train women in Scripture and theology  is by “putting off” false doctrine in order to “put on” sound doctrine.

We want LifeWay to demonstrate that it actually cares about the spiritual health of women by putting its money where its mouth is. Ridding the shelves of false doctrine and the event docket of false teachers is going to cost LifeWay a lot of revenue. Women who want their itching ears scratched will quickly find another source of false teaching to pour their cash into. There’s not a lot of money to be made in encouraging women to study straight from their Bibles, sit faithfully under the teaching of a doctrinally sound pastor, and humbly serve the local church. Are Christian women worth it to you, LifeWay?

We want a strong doctrine of sin and church discipline to be understood and taught by our pastors and denominational leaders. The fact of the matter is that a woman who has been genuinely sinned against by a man who has abused her is in a different category from a woman whose feelings are hurt because she’s been told she can’t teach a co-ed adult Sunday School class. The first woman needs compassionate brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside her and walk with her as God begins to heal her body and her heart. The abuser needs to be prosecuted to the full and appropriate extent of the law as well as to be placed under church discipline. The second woman is either in sin and rebellion (in which case she may need to be placed under church discipline) or she just hasn’t been taught God’s Word properly and someone needs to disciple her in that area. To put these two women underneath the same “big tent” just because they’ve both experienced some sort of hurt diminishes and confuses their situations and the solutions that would be biblically appropriate for each.

We want pastors and leaders to herald, praise, and validate the biblical role of women in the church. Women should not be taught only the things we cannot do in the church, we must also be taught what we must do in the church – what only women are uniquely and ontologically gifted by God to do. Women need to hear – particularly from the mouths of pastors and denominational leaders – the vital necessity of women discipling other women, women training the church’s children in the Scriptures, women serving in hospitality and mercy ministries, women properly using their administrative gifts, and so much more. Train us to teach. Equip us to serve. Encourage us to use our gifts in obedience to Scripture and for the glory of God.

We want men – from the heads of our denominations to the newly saved sinner in the pew – to step up and be godly men. We desperately need you to biblically and fearlessly lead the church. Don’t be afraid to stand up and put your foot down squarely on Scripture. Even if it makes you unpopular. Even if it rocks the boat at church. Even if people leave and never come back. As godly women, we can’t do our job if you’re not doing yours.

So how about it, brothers and sisters who are crying out for Christian women to be heard? Do doctrinally sound women get a seat at the table? Do we get to be heard? Will anything be done to correct the mistreatment we’ve received?

Or are there only certain women you want to hear from? Women who fit the popular social narrative. Women the world and most of the church will applaud you for listening to. Solutions that do more to glorify people than to glorify God.

Just how big is that tent…really?

Christian women, Complementarianism

The Mother of All Rebellions: Having a Woman Preach on Mother’s Day

When you gaze out across the landscape of the visible church through an earthly, superficial lens, you’ve got to scratch your head and wonder, “Has evangelicalism lost its ever-lovin’ mind?”.

And the answer is to take off those inch-deep dollar store glasses, fire up the electron microscope of Scripture, look long and deep into God’s Word, and reply to yourself, “Of course it has, silly rabbit. What did you expect?”. The Bible is perfectly clear about these things and why they happen.

Exhibit A: The trend in recent years to invite a woman to preach the Sunday morning sermon in church, to the whole congregation (including men) just because it’s Mother’s Day. Not a brief personal testimonythe sermon. This isn’t anything brand new. Hope Adams (though I’m certain she wasn’t the first in this trend) did it at Ed Young, Jr.’s Fellowship Church in 2014. Lisa Harper did it at CrossPoint.tv in 2015. Christine Caine did it at Willow Creek in 2016. Lisa Bevere did it at CRC Cape Town in 2017, and a host of other famous and unfamous women at famous and unfamous churches have been doing it for years, even at churches that normally obey Scripture and don’t let women preach.

This year, Beth Moore has caused quite the stir by hiding in plain sight the fact that she will be preaching the sermondoing Mother’s Day” this coming Sunday, presumably at the Tomball, Texas, campus of the church she attends (founded and pastored by her son-in-law Curtis Jones) Bayou City Fellowship:

I say “hiding in plain sight” because she has given enough of an impression here that she is preaching the sermon to test the waters and see what the reaction will be, but has worded her tweet vaguely enough that if she meets too much resistance she can still decide to back out of preaching, give a brief word of biblically appropriate Mother’s Day greeting or encouragement to the ladies at another point during the service, and come back and claim with wide-eyed innocence that that’s what she meant all along by saying she was “doing” Mother’s Day. (Someone asked Beth point blank, in a subsequent tweet if Beth’s tweet meant that she would be preaching the Sunday service and Beth did not answer her. If she’s not, why not just say so? And if she is and isn’t ashamed of it, why not just say so?)

I say “presumably” at BCF-Tomball because, even though she publicizes specific details about time and place with other speaking engagements, she has not mentioned (at least not anywhere I can find as of the time I’m writing this) the specific church she’s preaching at on Sunday, and the church hasn’t mentioned on their website that she’ll be the guest preacher. Additionally, unlike other speaking engagements Beth does, this speaking engagement is not listed on the calendar of events at her website and she hasn’t mentioned it (other than the tweet above) on social media. With all this “open secrecy” I will be surprised if the video or audio of her sermon is posted on YouTube and/or the church website.

Why all this cloak and dagger about the highest profile woman in the Southern Baptist Convention, possibly in the entirety of evangelicalism, preaching the Mother’s Day sermon?

Because she knows it’s unbiblical. Because we know it’s unbiblical. And it doesn’t take an electron microscope to see it. It’s right there, in black and white, jumping off the pages of Scripture:

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

It couldn’t be more clear. And for pastors who ought to know better to either fall prey to or intentionally perpetuate the serpentine seduction of “Did God really say you can’t preach?”, using Mother’s Day as an excuse to induce a woman to sin by having her deliver the sermon is a slap in the face – to God, to the church, and to women.

What do his actions say to God? “I don’t like Your way and I won’t submit to it. I don’t trust that Your way is right regardless of what the world says. I’ll do what’s right in my own eyes.” It’s the lesson his church learns from his actions as well.

But why is inviting a woman to preach an affront to Christian women? Take a stroll down to verse 15 of 1 Timothy 2:

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Not only does the pastor who invites a woman to preach adulterate the role God has set aside specifically for men, he also denigrates one of the good and holy roles God has specifically and intentionally set aside for women: the role of literal, and spiritual, mother.

Eve shattered God’s perfect, unique design for women by allowing herself to be seduced into rebellion. But are we daughters of Eve forever doomed to bear the shame and guilt of her sin, never to have a role in building the Kingdom? Pariahs, to be shunned and shut out of God’s plan? No, praise God! Through the cross, the good works Christ has ordained for Christian women to do – including mothering our own children and being spiritual mothers to our daughters in the faith – redeem the prestige of women. Mothering, in every sense in which God intended it, raises the role of women back to its rightful place in God’s plan.

And we don’t need men – especially men who are supposed to be rightly leading God’s people – to come along and entice us to mess that all up again.

But that’s exactly what’s happening.

When a pastor invites a woman to sin by taking over the pulpit, he drags her and the women of his church right back to post-Fall Eden. He trashes the rank and repute of our God-given high and holy role of mother and implicitly says Being a woman isn’t good enough. You have to steal the role of men to be valued and esteemed. 

Ladies, he’s wrong.

We don’t need to be second rate imitations of men in order to “count”. We need to be first rate, full throttle, take it to the limit women of God. God loves us and values us so much more than to give men a special and amazing role and leave us without an equally special and amazing, yet totally distinct, role. The God who spoke the universe into existence and planned out an unparalleled purpose for every single plant, animal, bacterium, and every other atom of the cosmos, did not leave the queen of His creation roleless. He did not bring us into being only to toddle along after the Hairy Ones trying to copy their every move. How unloving of God, and devaluing to women, would that be? Why would you want to act like a man when God blessed you with the gift of being a woman?

If, by God’s good Providence, you’ve “stumbled across” this article and you’re a woman who has been invited to preach, I plead with you: don’t buy the lie. Say no. Your Savior has a whole treasure chest of good works for you to do as a woman. You are worth infinitely more to Him as the woman He created you to be than you are to the world, or a worldly church, as a cheap knock-off of a man.

Let us be the mothers our own children need, raising up a godly seed unto the Lord. Let us be the spiritual mothers longed for by younger women in the faith, daughters orphaned by Christian women who have abandoned them to take on the role of men. The practice of denigrating women, devaluing our God-given role, disobeying God, and darkening the understanding of the church by inviting women to sinfully take the pulpit must stop in the house of God and be replaced by strong godly women, unafraid and unashamed to flourish in the precious role our Lord has blessed us with.

Especially on Mother’s Day.


Additional Resources:

Beth Moore vs. Owen Strahan on WWUTT Podcast
(Related links):
Michelle Lesley’s Twitter thread on Beth’s Sunday sermon preaching
Beth Moore’s Twitter response to Midwestern Seminary professor Owen
Strahan’s article on biblical complementarianism

Divine Order in a Chaotic Age: On Women Preaching by Owen Strahan

Why Asking Women to Preach Is Spiritual Abuse by Josh Buice