Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (The Bible Project, leaving Elevation, Bible study supplements, Attend the study?…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


A friend recently recommended your website for guidance with deciphering false teachers. I am wondering what do I do with all the books that I will now be getting rid of. I can’t in my right mind donate them or sell them. Is it enough to recycle them? Should they be trashed or even burned? Thanks in advance for your time and wisdom in this question. Thank you for your site and all the research and resources you have put together. I appreciate you.

How very kind of you to say! It is my absolute pleasure to serve you, and all my readers, in Christ.

I rejoice with you that God is growing you in discernment. Your instinct not to donate or sell these materials is correct. Throwing them out (render them unreadable first) or burning them is the best thing to do. (See section 3 of this article for more – you are not alone!)

(Long time readers- I know you’ve seen me address this question several times, but it is so encouraging to me to hear from women whose eyes have been opened to biblical truth, and I figured it would be encouraging to you, too. I might address this question every time I receive it just for the encouragement factor! :0)


Have you researched The Bible Project?

I have not, but my friend Gabriel Hughes has done a bunch of research on it. The short version is that he doesn’t recommend it. Click here for the long version.


I read your article about leaving Elevation Church. I am interested in hearing more about your experience.

Thank you for asking. I’d love to help you out, but as you can see from the title of the article and other remarks before, after, and in the article, this was a guest post, written by one of my readers who wishes to remain anonymous. I didn’t write it. I’ve never been to Elevation nor laid eyes on Steven Furtick.

If you have a question for the author of the article, I would suggest leaving a comment in the comment box on that article (click “leaving Elevation church” above, and leave your comment there, or she probably won’t see it). I will leave it up to her to check the comments from time to time and reply as she feels appropriate. (Just to save fans of Furtick, Elevation, and false doctrine some time: I will not be publishing your comments.)

Or, seeing as I’ve received several comments and questions about this article, if someone would like to start a “Survivors of Elevation” sort of Facebook group, send me the link. As long as I don’t receive any reports of unbiblical shenanigans, I’ll refer any inquiries I receive to the group.


Do you know if any good resources to study 1 Corinthians? Any good books, sermons, teachings you know about? It’s for my church’s ladies Bible Study. We read from the Bible but always like an extra sound resource.

While I don’t make recommendations for what I call “canned” (book, workbook, DVD, etc.) Bible studies, if you’re already studying straight from the Bible itself it can be helpful to use some good study aids, sermons, etc. as supplements from time to time. Here’s what I’d recommend for 1 Corinthians or any other book of the Bible:

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them (I would also recommend any of the other materials at these three sites, not just the book backgrounds.)

Study Bibles, Commentaries, Dictionaries, and Bible Study Helps (see #4)

Recordings / transcripts of any previous sermons your own pastor has preached on the passage you’re studying.

Anything John MacArthur / Grace to You has preached, taught, or written on the passage. (Use the search bar)

Anything R.C. Sproul / Ligonier has preached, taught, or written on the passage. (Use the search bar. Also note that this is a Presbyterian ministry, so if you are more in the Baptistic stream, there will be a few perspectives you don’t align with,  but it’s always helpful to hear the other side of the issue from a doctrinally sound source.)

When using these resources (except for the Bible book backgrounds), I would strongly recommend studying the passage yourself first, and then listening to someone else’s sermon, reading someone else’s article, etc. Do the work of digging in by yourself, without being influenced by anybody else’s voice.

Why? A) It’s good discipline. We need to be able to mine the Scriptures and hear God speaking to us through His word for ourselves, without someone else doing the work for us and telling us what the passage means or how it applies. B) It’s such an amazing experience to grasp what God is saying in a particular passage and then turn to other Christians – maybe even Christians who lived hundreds of years ago and thousands of miles away – to whom God revealed the exact same thing by the exact same Holy Spirit. It will help you get a bigger sense of the inspiration of Scripture, the Holy Spirit’s work through His living and active Word, God’s sovereignty, and your connection to, and fellowship with the church catholic (“little ‘c'” / universal).


Regarding the steps listed in “How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing”: If I talk to the Women’s Ministry Team and they decide to use the wrong teaching regardless, is it best to AVOID the classes or attend and be quiet? Previously, I attended and stayed quiet. I did not like that strategy, but to bow out totally feels uncomfortable as well. Just wondered whether anyone else has this issue. Pretty sure I will bow out next time.

Great question – and yes, it’s an issue for many women, unfortunately.

First, just in case you or another reader might need clarity on this part of the article (in #4a), when I say “approach [the women’s ministry leader] first before going over her head to the elders or pastor. You want to win your sister over to the truth, if possible, not simply force her to change things because a superior tells her she has to,” and “it’s usually best to approach the lower level leader, if any, before going over his head,” I don’t mean to approach only the women’s ministry leader or other lower level leader(s).

If you go to the women’s ministry leader, following the steps in the article, and she ends up saying, “Sorry, but I think you’re wrong and we’re going to do this study anyway,” you don’t stop there. You start over at step 1 with the next person up the chain of command – for example, the elder or associate pastor who handles discipleship/Bible study. You go through all the steps with him. If he gives you the same answer as the women’s ministry leader, you keep going up the chain of command until somebody listens and does what’s biblical or until you get to the top of the chain (in most cases, the pastor), whichever comes first.

If you’ve gotten all the way to the pastor and he, despite the evidence you’ve given him essentially says, “I don’t care. I’m going to allow the women’s ministry to keep using materials by false teachers,” it is then time for you (and your husband, if you’re married) to start considering whether or not you need to move your membership to another, more doctrinally sound church.

Deciding whether or not to attend the “Bible” study class is only necessary if you can’t find a more doctrinally sound church to move to, or if it’s something like, for example, you and your husband prayerfully come to the conclusion that you need to give this church six more months before you decide to leave it.

If you’re in a similar situation to one of those scenarios, I would not recommend attending the study and remaining quiet about the false doctrine being taught. This makes it appear that you either aren’t discerning enough to know there’s false doctrine in the study, or worse, that you either don’t care about the false doctrine being taught, or that you actually agree with it. I think you’ll find my article The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine? to be helpful.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs

 

I get lots of great questions, and sometimes, they’re the same questions from lots of different people. So I thought today it would be fun, instead of answering just one person’s question, to answer lots of people’s questions. Here are the top 10 Mailbag questions readers most frequently ask:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

The best way to find out if I’ve written anything on a particular teacher is to put her name (make sure you spell it correctly) into the search bar, which is located at the bottom of every page of the blog. You can also check the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab and the Recommended Bible Teachers tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) to see if the teacher’s name is located there.

If you need answers on a certain teacher right away, and I haven’t written anything about her, you will need to do the research yourself, which is a skill every Christian needs to hone anyway. (You should never just take my, or anybody else’s, word for it that a particular teacher is/isn’t trustworthy.) In case you need a little help getting started, I’ve described how I do my research, complete with some quick litmus tests and shortcuts in my article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own

If I haven’t written an article about a teacher you see as problematic who’s reaching a wide audience, you’re welcome to send me her name along with any links you may have to her unbiblical teaching or behavior. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.

 

“Can you recommend a good
women’s/children’s/teens/particular topic Bible study?”

No. On principle, I do not recommend what I call “canned” (book, workbook, DVD, etc.) Bible studies- not even doctrinally sound ones. The church has become so utterly dependent on books and materials written by others that the majority of evangelicals have no idea how to simply pick up the Bible and study or teach straight from the text of Scripture. I may be the only one to stand against that tide, but I’m standing against it. We need to, as a general practice, cut out the middleman and get back to learning and teaching straight from the Bible itself.

If studying or teaching directly from Scripture is new to you, I would encourage you to check out the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, which explains more about my philosophy of Bible study and provides numerous resources to help you learn how to study or teach the Bible itself.

One of the resources you’ll find is all of the Bible studies I’ve written. They are all free for individual and group use, and you are welcome to print out as many copies as you need. My studies are learn-by-doing “training wheels” that teach you: how to study/teach the Bible in a systematic way, the kinds of things you should be noticing in the text, the kinds of questions you should be asking of the text, and how the various parts of the Bible fit together to tell God’s grand story of redemption through Christ. Work through a study or two. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be ready to unbolt those training wheels and study or teach on your own without needing to rely on anyone else’s materials any more – even mine.

Here are a few additional resources:

The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

 

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher]
for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Sorry, but that’s not what the Bible says. The question isn’t, “Why am I warning against them?”. The question is, “Why aren’t you?”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections

 

I’m trying to find a doctrinally sound church. Can you help me?

It is my delight to help my brothers and sisters find a solid church. Please check out the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

If you’re newly saved and/or coming out of the New Apostolic Reformation, prosperity gospel, New Age, Catholicism, Mormonism, etc., I would strongly recommend reading through all of the resources in the “What to look for in a church” section of that tab before beginning your search for an actual church. You need to know what makes a church doctrinally sound (or not), and those resources can help.

Notice that there are multiple church search engines at the top of that tab. If you don’t find something in your area at the first search engine, go to the next one, and keep going until you’ve exhausted all of them.

Keep in mind that doctrinally sound churches are becoming scarcer and scarcer. You may have to drive longer than you’d like to get to one. It may not meet all your preferences. You might have to try a different denomination than you’re used to. The most doctrinally sound church you can find within achievable driving distance may have a few biblical “warts” (for example: a generally solid preaching/teaching church but the women’s ministry uses materials by false teachers). It is possible that God may put you in that less than perfect church to sanctify you, or for you to help bring about biblical change.

Sometimes people e-mail me asking if I can help them find a church. Your best bet is really to use all of the resources at the “Searching for a new church” tab. I want to reassure you that, unlike Walmart, I don’t have any churches in the back store room that haven’t been stocked yet. Everything I have is out on the shelves at that tab. :0) However, if you’ve made a good faith effort at the “Searching…” tab and have exhausted all of the resources there, you’re welcome to drop me an e-mail, let me know what area you’re in, and I’ll ask around on social media. Just be aware that this is a last ditch effort and if you weren’t able to find anything at the “Searching…” tab, it’s unlikely any of my followers will have a lead for you. We’ll give it a shot, but it may be time to take advantage of the “Church Planting” section of that tab.

The leadership at my church is kicking off a new Bible study using materials by a false teacher. What should I do?

It breaks my heart that this is, indeed, a frequently asked question. Please see my article The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?.

My church uses …
or
I’m looking for a new church,
and I found one that’s really sound, except they use…
Bethel / Jesus Culture / Hillsong / Elevation music
or other music from heretical sources.
What should I do?

Please see my article The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?. You can find information about Bethel, et al at the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. Some other resources that may be helpful:

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Potty Prayers,” Women as Children’s/Worship Pastors, Solid churches with heretical music, Eternal Security)– See section 3. (I urge all pastors, elders, and ministers of music to read this.)

The Mailbag: False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

 

My friend is following a false teacher. How can I help her see this? 

Here are some resources that can help:

Words with Friends: How to contend with loved ones – at A Word Fitly Spoken (many additional resources linked here)

Words With Friends by Amy Spreeman

Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher 

 

Whaddaya mean women can’t preach to men? Of course they can!

Again, sorry, but that’s not what the Bible says. I would strongly encourage you to read all of the articles in my Rock Your Role series, which examines the Scriptures dealing with the role of women in the church. (Remember, for Christians, God’s Word is our authority, not our feelings, opinions, and preferences.) I would suggest starting with these:

Jill in the Pulpit

Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

Rock Your Role FAQs

The Mailbag: Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism

Why isn’t Teacher X listed at your Popular False Teachers tab?
Does the fact that she’s not listed mean she’s doctrinally sound?
Why isn’t Teacher Y listed at your Recommended Bible Teachers tab? Does the fact that she’s not listed mean she’s a false teacher?

Please understand that these are not comprehensive lists of every false teacher or doctrinally sound teacher in existence. There are thousands of both, so that would be impossible. Also, don’t jump to conclusions about any teacher who’s not on the list. The absence of a particular teacher’s name on either list says nothing definitive about whether or not I would recommend that teacher.

The articles I’ve written about false teachers have mainly been in response to readers inquiring about them. In other words, if you don’t see a particular teacher’s name on the list, it’s probably because I haven’t been asked about her, I’ve been asked about her but haven’t had time to get to it yet, or for one of the reasons below.

The teachers on the recommended teachers list are those I’ve personally listened to or read at enough length that I feel comfortable endorsing them. Most of the teachers on the list trend toward being Calvinistic/Reformed and cessationist because I believe this is the most biblically correct view of Scripture, and because, in my experience, those of these persuasions are generally more discerning about associating with false teachers, and more expository in their teaching. (Of course there are some non-Calvinist/Reformed pastors and teachers who are stellar in these areas. I’ve had the privilege of knowing a few personally.)

There are a few other reasons you might not see someone’s name on either the false teachers or the recommended teachers lists:

• My articles on false teachers are nearly always about teachers: who are well known (thus the “Popular” in “Popular False Teachers”), who women in my particular audience – average American evangelical women – are most likely to follow, and whose materials are being used in those average American evangelical women’s churches. It takes multiple hours of research to vet teachers, and I have to invest those hours into the teachers who are deceiving the greatest numbers women in my audience.

• I don’t tend to write articles on teachers who are so blatantly heretical and/or are so well known for being heretical that it should be obvious (unless I feel there’s some compelling reason to do so). This is why you won’t see, for example, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, or Nadia Bolz-Weber on the false teachers list. Kenneth and Benny are fairly well known for being prosperity gospel heretics, and a 30 second Google search should make it obvious to most Christians who aren’t already familiar with her that Nadia is a liberal heretic. And, again, your average American evangelical woman isn’t following people like this, and her church isn’t using their materials.

• Normally, I don’t write about contemporary teachers who are dead, especially if they’re not particularly popular with my demographic. This is why you don’t see names like Billy Graham or David Wilkerson on the list.

I have a dire and complicated family/marriage/church situation,
can you help me?
Can you mentor/disciple me?

I deeply wish I could answer “yes” to all of these inquiries. I’m a helper. I want to help people. But I also know that in most of these situations, I’m not the right person for the job. So my answer to these inquiries has to be “no”. I cannot engage in counseling or discipling/mentoring relationships via e-mail.

The first reason for this is that my primary duty before the Lord is to care for my husband and children, to manage my household, and to be a faithful church member. That takes a lot of time and energy. And if you’ve ever read my e-mail policy, you know I don’t even have time to answer most of the e-mails I receive, let alone the time that’s required to properly disciple, mentor, or counsel someone through a difficult circumstance.

But the second reason I’m not the right person for the job is that all of these are the job of the local church. It’s not right for me to get between you and your pastor when you need counsel or between you and an older sister at your church when you need to be discipled. You need someone who can walk with you, face to face, for the long haul, through these situations. Relying on me would be cheating yourself out of connecting with the person at your church who could be there for you the best and help you the most.

And, finally, especially in dire counseling situations such as abuse, extreme marital problems, or complex issues at church, I’m not familiar with the laws and resources in your area, I’m only hearing your side of the story, I’m not getting all of the details, etc. Your pastor or an older sister at church is there. They can better help you navigate the intricacies of the situation and provide you with more effective solutions than I can.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Female Pastors- False Teachers or Just Sinning?

Originally published July 24, 2017

 

Is a woman who is in the position of pastor to be considered a false teacher or merely disobedient to The Word of God? Some churches in my area place pastors’ wives in the position of “co-pastor.” Would she have to be teaching some false doctrine to be considered a false teacher or does the fact that she is in the position in the first place make her a false teacher?

I love it when I hear from women – like the reader who sent in this question – who are thinking deeply and seriously about the things of God. It brings me so much joy to see God working in the hearts and minds of Christian women.

Before we start parsing these ideas out, let’s bottom line this thing. Scripture is both explicitly and implicitly clear that women are not to serve as pastors. Regardless of whether we call what she’s doing sin or false teaching, it is definitely unbiblical for a church to install a woman in the position of pastor, and for the woman to accept the position. So the bottom line is, it’s wrong and nobody should be attending such a church.

Now, onward and upward with the parsing…

The term “false teacher” is generally reserved for people (male or female) who actually teach – via speaking or writing – false doctrine. So if you if you want to get technical about it, if the woman in question simply holds the position of pastor but either does not preach/teach at all or does not preach/teach any sort of false doctrine, she, and the church that installed her, are simply sinning.

But there are a few more things to consider here:

♦ I’m familiar with various churches and denominations (none of which teach sound doctrine, including the specific ones the reader mentioned in her original e-mail) where a husband and wife serve as “co-pastors,” but I’ve never seen one in which the wife doesn’t preach/teach at all. It may not be often, but preaching is seen as part of her duties, otherwise, why would she be considered a co-pastor? (I suppose there could be churches where “co-pastor” is merely an honorific for the pastor’s wife, it’s just that I’ve never seen one.)

♦ Assuming preaching is one of her duties, I find it very difficult to imagine a woman who: sees nothing wrong with female pastors, is married to and pastored by a man who sees nothing wrong with female pastors, and attends a doctrinally unsound church that sees nothing wrong with female pastors, would get up in the pulpit and preach sound doctrine. Again, I suppose it could happen in theory, but how likely is it?

♦ As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, women teaching men and women teaching false doctrine are highly correlated. 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.

♦ Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that this woman gets up and preaches sound doctrine every time she’s in the pulpit. So what? She’s still sinning by preaching to men, regardless of the content of her “sermon.” I have known of Reformed male pastors who preach perfectly sound doctrine, yet litter their sermons with foul language. I’ve known of other pastors who delivered biblical sermons every Sunday, but were sleeping with women in their congregations or were addicted to pornography or were molesting their own children. The point is- sound doctrine is not the only qualification for pastors. There are a number of observable and behavioral requirements for pastors listed in 1 Timothy and Titus – one of which is being a man – and violation of any of these requirements disqualifies a person from the role of pastor.

♦ While, technically, we would not label a female pastor a false teacher unless she’s overtly teaching false doctrine, the fact remains that she is teaching something unbiblical every time she stands in the pulpit. She is teaching, via her behavior, that it’s OK for her, her church, the church at large, the women of her congregation, and Christian women everywhere, to live in open rebellion against this portion of Scripture. Any pastor who, by his (her) own behavior, leads people to believe it is OK to ignore or rebel against God’s word has disqualified himself (herself) from the office of pastor.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Church Roles and Ambiguous Anatomy

 

I’m curious to know if someone who is medically intersex should be considered a man or a woman for the purposes of appropriate church roles. I’m not sure if the Bible addresses that or not. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Intersex is a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries). The older term for this condition is hermaphroditism.” In other words, a person could have XX chromosomes (genetically female) and ovaries, yet the external genitalia appears male (i.e. penis instead of vagina), or vice versa for a genetic (XY) male. There are also some other genetic anomalies that result in intersex, and a wide variety of genital anomalies not related to sexual identity that fall under the category of “intersex”.

(And just so we’re all on the same page here, “medically intersex” refers to a congenital abnormality– a birth defect. It does not mean, nor does the reader who sent in this question mean, a physically/genetically normal man or woman who has decided to mutilate his/her body with surgery to appear to be the opposite sex. That’s different. Also, the reader who sent in the question is not asking whether or not a medically intersex person may be saved or may be a church member. She is only asking how the biblical roles for men and women in the church {i.e. preaching/teaching/leadership roles} apply to a medically intersex person, so that is the question I’m answering.)

But because “intersex” has become something of a catch-all term for a so many genetic defects related to chromosomal abnormalities and/or internal reproductive organ abnormalities and/or external genital abnormalities, it’s nearly impossible to answer a question like, “How common is medical intersex?”. But even the (now defunct) Intersex Society of North America (an advocacy group, which we can probably safely surmise would be fairly liberal/over-generalized in its statistics) estimates that only .05-.07% (half of 1%) of babies at birth have genitalia so ambiguous that they require a consult by a sex specialist, and far fewer end up needing surgery to correct these anomalies.

Now, keep in mind that, as I said, that .05-.07% is the total estimate for a wide variety of reproductive and genital anomalies, many of which do not affect sexual identity. So the number of people who are genetically female with male genitals or genetically male with female genitals (what the reader who sent in this question is referring to) is only a fraction of that .05-.07%. In other words, it’s an extremely rare condition.

So, take that very tiny number of people and add on the qualifiers for this reader’s question. The medically intersex person has to get through the narrow gate of salvation (because unsaved people don’t have “church roles,” as they’re not part of the church, and, naturally, shouldn’t be serving or leading in the church in any way whatsoever). Now your numbers have gone from tiny to tinier. Now, whittle those numbers down even further: the person not only has to be saved, but has to have a doctrinally sound understanding of the roles of men and women in the church, the person has to desire a position of leadership or servanthood in which the biblical role of men/women is an issue (for most positions in the church, it generally isn’t), the person has to be otherwise biblically qualified to serve in that role (e.g. above reproach, sober-minded, etc.), and the person has to find and become a member of a doctrinally sound church that actually follows the Bible’s teachings on the roles of men and women in the church.

Now your numbers have gone from “tinier” to, “Get me the strongest electron microscope in existence.” Statistically speaking, this is never going to be an issue in any doctrinally sound church.

But it’s interesting to think about.

There isn’t a Bible passage that describes medical intersex and whether or not a person so afflicted may or may not serve in the role of pastor, elder, deacon, preaching to/teaching Scripture to men, holding authority over men, or older women teaching the younger women (the church roles assigned to either only males or only females).

The closest the Bible comes to addressing this issue is in Leviticus 21:16-23, which says that a man with crushed testicles may not serve as a priest in the temple. However, this passage does not apply to the question at hand for a couple of reasons, which are abundantly clear if you read the passage in context.

First of all, “crushed testicles” is only one condition in a litany of other physical abnormalities which disqualified a man (only men could serve as priests) from the priesthood. And the reason for this had nothing to do with sexual identity. The reason men with physical “blemishes” couldn’t be priests was basically the same reason that when you brought an animal for sacrifice, it had to be perfect, free of any physical defect: It symbolically pointed ahead to the perfection of Christ. Christ was not only the unblemished Lamb of God, our perfect sacrifice, He is also our perfect high priest. That’s why both the Old Testament sacrifice and priest had to be “without blemish”.

Second, although there are some similarities between the Old Testament temple and the New Testament church, they are two distinctly different entities with different qualifications for leadership. This is easy to see if you compare some of the requirements for the Old Testament priesthood with the requirements for pastors of New Testament churches. Other than the fact that the pastorate is restricted to men, there are no physical requirements for pastors. Certainly we would not say that a man who is blind or has psoriasis is disqualified from being a pastor strictly on the basis of those conditions, would we? Yet these men (and others with all types of physical “blemishes,” including crushed testicles) were disqualified from the priesthood.

So, having no direct biblical passages to go on, here are a few thoughts…

  • Such a unique situation that isn’t directly addressed by Scripture will need to dealt with on a case by case basis by the pastor, elders, and church leadership.
  • The medically intersex person who meets all of the qualifiers I outlined above should set up an appointment with his/her pastor, explain the medical condition, explain whether he/she has been living as a man or a woman, and why, and get pastoral counsel on which positions of service or leadership would be appropriate.
  • I would think it would be helpful for the medically intersex person’s current pastor to contact his/her former pastor for insight on how the situation was handled at his/her previous church. The current pastor might end up making different decisions than the previous pastor, but getting the benefit of the previous pastor’s experience would seem to me to be beneficial.
  • The medically intersex person seeking to serve the church has probably already established an identity (dressing, behaving, considers him/herself as, presenting as) as a man or a woman in his/her daily life. Taking that into consideration and weighing all of the other factors and details, church leadership may prayerfully consider it appropriate to let this person function in the church as the sex he/she identifies as. In other words, if the person has established an identity as a woman (she considers herself a woman, dresses/acts like a woman, her family, friends, and others consider her to be a woman, etc.), it could be an appropriate decision to allow her to function as a woman in the church, following the Bible’s role for women in the church.
  • Another appropriate decision the church leadership might make would be to err on the side of caution and help the medically intersex person find a place of service that is not impacted by the Bible’s parameters for men and women in the church. Here and here are a couple of good jumping off points.

If the medically intersex person and his/her church leadership prayerfully come together seeking wisdom from the Lord, and trying to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, there is one biblical certainty about this situation: they can trust Him to direct their path.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Soul Ties, SBC Communion, Women in children’s ministry, Heretical book disposal)

Originally published January 15, 2018

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourrri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


I was wondering what your views were on “ungodly soul ties”, in reference to past relationships? If I was in a previous relationship with someone who I was involved with physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, how would I loose myself from that?

The concept of “soul ties” is not biblical. It is not mentioned or even hinted at in the Bible. Proponents of this heretical doctrine, as you can see in this article, Basic Introduction to Soul Ties,¹ will try to convince you that soul ties are biblical by taking all manner of Bible verses out of context and stretching and twisting them like Silly Putty to try get them to mean what they want them to mean. All you have to do is look up the verses they cite, and read them in context to see that none of these passages say that one person’s soul can be literally bound to another person’s soul.

I find it especially laughable that many of the verses they cite in support of soul ties are the “one flesh” verses, such as Ephesians 5:31 (which is actually a quote of Genesis 2:24). Don’t you think that if God, the creator of language, meant to convey in these verses that two people’s souls were tied together, that He would have said “one soul” instead of “one flesh“? Or that He would have clearly said: “In this type of close relationship, the two people’s souls are bound together.”? This is God we’re talking about, here. He’s perfectly capable of explaining Himself clearly. He knows what words mean, and He never makes a mistake and chooses the wrong word. And yet, time and time again in Scripture, He uses the words “one flesh” to describe the intimacy of marriage and sexuality, and He never, anywhere in Scripture, even suggests that the souls of two people are bound together under any circumstances.

Soul ties is just one more piece of false doctrine usually taught by those in the heretical New Apostolic Reformation camp. (When I Googled “soul ties”, articles by Kris Vallotton {Bethel}, Terri Savelle Foy, and Paula White – all among the worst of the worst of the NAR and prosperity preaching – were on the first page of results. That should tell you something.) There is no way your spirit can be tied or bound to someone else’s spirit.

I’m not sure what you mean by being involved with someone “mentally” and “spiritually”, but I’m assuming you don’t mean that you were in Mensa together or that you had long talks about theology and frequently prayed together. Those might be fond memories that make you wistful, but no mental or spiritual activity you participate in with someone else binds your soul to his or is something you need to be “loosed” from.

What you need to do is read your Bible, understand what it says about sin, and if you sinned in any way in this relationship (for example, sex outside of wedlock, putting your love for this person ahead of your love for the Lord, being influenced by this person to lie, etc.) you need to repent, not “be loosed” (because you’re not bound to this person, and because repentance from sin is the biblical way of thinking about this situation). You may also need to avoid spending time with or talking to this person for a while. And if you’re really having trouble getting over the relationship, you might want to seek counsel from a doctrinally sound pastor (one who understands that soul ties are unbiblical) or an ACBC certified Biblical Counselor.

That’s truly all there is to it. The spirit-realm mumbo jumbo of “soul ties” is a bunch of mystical malarkey. Your spirit isn’t tied to anyone else’s spirit, you’re just sad that the relationship is over, having difficulty moving on with your life, and, perhaps missing the person. And it’s OK if that sounds earthly and pedestrian. Because it is. But if Christ is your Savior, you can trust Him to carry you through it.

Here are some resources you might find helpful:

What does the Bible say about soul ties? at Got Questions

Soul Ties? I at Fighting for the Faith (starts around 34:14)

Soul Ties? II at Fighting for the Faith

¹Just in case it isn’t abundantly obvious, this is a heretical New Apostolic Reformation article/website, and I certainly don’t recommend it.

We recently moved and have been attending a Southern Baptist church. They have not had communion for over two months. Isn’t it the norm to have communion at least once a month? 

Also there is no women’s ministry that I can be involved with which is very disappointing to me. I would even be willing to teach/lead a women’s study but since we are new to this church we are still waiting and learning our place. We hesitate to make ourselves known as possibly unsubmissive or question why they do things the way they do.

Why no communion or women’s Bible study? Your thoughts would be enlightening.

These are such great questions because they help me, as a Southern Baptist, think about the way we do things and how those practices might be perceived by visitors or new members.

Communion/Lord’s Supper: Every Southern Baptist church is autonomous, so each church has its own policy or practice about how often the Lord’s Supper is observed. There are probably some SBC churches out there who hold the Lord’s Supper every week and others who hold it only once or twice a year, although I don’t personally know of any who hold it that frequently or infrequently.

In my experience, most Southern Baptist churches observe the Lord’s Supper several times a year, usually on a schedule like the first Sunday of the month, once a quarter, or every “fifth Sunday” (in months that have five Sundays). In addition to these scheduled observances, many churches also observe the Lord’s Supper at their Christmas Eve, Good Friday, or Easter service.

Women’s Ministry: I understand your disappointment in the lack of women’s ministry at the church. I would be somewhat disappointed too. There could be a variety of reasons for this. Maybe they had a women’s ministry that veered off into error or personality conflicts, so the pastor put it on hiatus for a while. Maybe no one stepped up to volunteer to lead it. Or, maybe the pastor wants everyone’s focus to be on the worship service and Sunday School with no distractions. But even if there isn’t a formal women’s ministry, you can still invite women over to your home, go out for coffee or dinner together, or study God’s word and pray together with a few others. I found this 9 Marks article Ministry to Women When There’s No “Women’s Ministry” really helpful.

Asking Questions: I would encourage you and your husband to set up an appointment with the pastor and ask away! It is certainly not unsubmissive to sit in his office and politely say, “We’re new here and we were just wondering about…” Most pastors I know would love for potential members to do this. (In fact at my church, once a month my pastor holds a sort of “orientation”/Q&A class for potential members during the Sunday School hour.) You need to know where he and the church stand on various doctrinal issues and practices so you won’t be unpleasantly surprised after you’re already members. This is especially important if you’re new to being a Southern Baptist as well as being new to the church. If the pastor in any way discourages you from asking genuine, courteous questions or sees your questions as a threat to his authority, that’s a red flag telling you that you should not join this church.


In the past I purchased books and “studies” by authors I now know are false teachers- an embarrassing amount of them really. I am wondering now what do with all of them…I don’t feel I am mature enough in my walk with Christ yet to read any of them and test them against Scripture myself, but I also don’t feel like passing them on to someone else is right either. Just wondering your thoughts on this.

You’re correct, you should not pass on books containing false doctrine to others, donate them to libraries (especially church libraries), Goodwill, or thrift stores, or sell them in a garage sale. The only scenario I can think of in which passing along a book authored by a false teacher would be OK is if it is to someone you know is a mature, doctrinally sound Christian who needs it for research purposes or to write a review of it warning people away from it.

I would also suggest that you not simply throw throw the books in the trash or recycling unless you render them unreadable (ex: scribbling on or tearing up the pages) first. People have been known to take “freebies” out of the trash.

Here are two ways I’ve handled heretical books I’ve been given:

1. Keep them for research purposes. (If you think you might be tempted to read them and you don’t feel like you’re spiritually mature enough to handle that yet, maybe box them up and put them in storage for a later date.) You might want to mark them in some sort of way – in case you lose the book and someone else finds it or something like that – indicating that the book is false doctrine. My friend, Pastor Nate Pickowicz, has an awesome stamp for his “research only” books:

2. Burn them. I know it reeks of Nazism and censorship by wild-eyed preachers of yesteryear, but it’s biblical, it keeps false doctrine out of the hands of others, and these books can actually have a positive use for kindling if you have a fireplace or chiminea. (Please use all fire safety precautions. Also, it is not necessary to burn the books publicly.)


Is it Biblical for a woman to be in charge of the children’s ministry? Especially one who is not doctrinally sound?

It isn’t biblical for anyone who’s unrepentantly and unteachably doctrinally unsound to be in charge of anything in the church.

If it’s a case like Apollos, in which the person in question simply doesn’t know any better, but changes her ways and embraces sound doctrine when corrected, that’s cause for giving glory to God. (Also, she might need more training in the Scriptures before she resumes her position of service.)

But if it’s a case in which the person persists in teaching false doctrine or acting sinfully, that’s cause for church discipline. And if she steadfastly refuses to repent despite biblical rebuke, she needs to be disfellowshipped from membership in the church. Of course, it should go without saying (unfortunately, it doesn’t these days) that people who aren’t church members and/or aren’t saved should not be given any position of service or leadership in the church.

It could be OK for a doctrinally sound woman to be in charge of the children’s ministry, depending what you mean by “in charge”, and depending on whether or not she can do so without violating Scripture:

1. She should not be considered as, or bear the professional title of, “pastor” or “minister”. It is unbiblical for a woman to be a pastor, and if she’s not a pastor, then bearing the professional title of “pastor” is lying.

2. In her leadership duties, she should not teach adult men (for example, men who teach children’s Sunday School classes, if she oversees children’s Sunday School) the Scriptures or exercise authority over them.

3. The pastor, or an appropriate elder, should vet and approve any curricula and materials, guest speakers, activities, etc., she wishes to use.

If a pastor or elder oversees her leadership so that she is acting under his authority and at his direction, and she is not violating Scripture by preaching to men, teaching men Scripture, or exercising authority over men, I don’t see why it would be a problem for a woman to lead the children’s ministry. In fact, Christian women and churches who handle this properly could be a superb example and model for other Christian women and churches.


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.