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.

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

What a summer! From a lovely trip to visit with my family to the Open Letter to Beth Moore (by the way, ladies, you can still sign it if you haven’t already) to podcast interviews to a hurricane (everything’s fine, thanks – praise God!) to both of my young adult children’s cars dying in the same week and my husband and me playing chauffeur for them (please pray that God will provide the vehicles they need), my summer has been a non-stop whirlwind. I can’t believe next week will already be August!

Let’s jump into some Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources, shall we?

Light (Blog) Housekeeping

If you’re relatively new to the blog, you might not be aware of all the features and resources available to you here. Check out Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends.

But even if you’ve been around a while, I’ve updated a few things you might not have noticed:

I’ve changed the Popular False Teachers tab (at the top of this page) to Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends. That’s because I’ve added resources on the Enneagram and I’m planning to add info on more unbiblical trends in the future. I’ve also added information on MOPS to this tab in case I forgot to mention it.

I think The Servanthood Survey (published last week) is going to be a helpful resource for churches (and individuals), so I created a new tab to have that always at the ready.

If you’ve used my discernment article on Beth Moore lately, you may have noticed that it has a new look. I’ve changed the title and the introduction, fixed broken links and added a few new ones, and added some updated material, but it’s still the same article with the same link: Living Proof You Should Follow Beth (No) Moore.

Recently, I was put in “Facebook timeout” (I couldn’t post to my Facebook page from certain devices) for sharing what the powers that be deemed to be “hate speech” – a meme that quoted 1 Timothy 2:12. If you’re on Facebook, you’re probably hearing more and more about things like this happening to Christians for posting biblical views (no matter how kindly worded).

As many are predicting, there will probably come a time when Christians who share biblical posts will be banned from Facebook. In case something like this happens to me, I’ve opened up a MeWe page. MeWe is a social media platform that’s extremely similar to Facebook, except they pride themselves on their customer service, their privacy policy, and their “no political agenda” policy (meaning they don’t censor every little thing like Facebook does). If you’re familiar with Facebook, you’ll find MeWe’s interface nearly identical, plus it has a few neat features Facebook doesn’t have.

If you’d like to connect on MeWe, set up an account, then, just search Michelle Lesley, or go directly to my page and click the “add contact” button. If you’d rather do it later, I’ve added a link to my MeWe page to the Contact and Social Media tab at the top of this page.

And finally, would you like to write up a testimony (anything from a paragraph to a full length article) for Testimony Tuesday or an article or book review for a guest post? If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (see the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page), look over the articles at these two links to get a feel for what I’m looking for and drop me an e-mail so we can chat about it.

Book Report

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t write solicited book reviews, but there are extremely rare circumstances in which I will break that rule. There are also occasions when I will pick up a book of my own volition and commend it to you if I end up liking it. Today, you’re getting one of each.

A few months ago, Costi Hinn reached out and asked if I’d read and write an endorsement for his new book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. While his first book, Defining Deception, was an instructional introduction to the history and doctrine of the New Apostolic Reformation, I had been keeping up with Costi, and I knew that this second book was going to approach NAR/prosperity gospel false doctrine from the perspective of his personal testimony of growing up in (and being saved out of) Benny Hinn’s “ministry”. I had already heard Costi’s testimony several times and I knew my readers would find it encouraging and edifying. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel did not disappoint, and it is my joy to commend it to you:

A helpful primer on the prosperity gospel. The perfect blend of testimony, teaching, and tried-and-true tips for ministering to those caught in unbiblical teaching.

 

My two favorite genres of fiction are biblical historical fiction, and legal/political thrillers. Chris Skates writes both, so I’m looking forward to reading more of his books.

In order for me to enjoy a work of biblical historical fiction (a fictionalized account of a true Bible story), it has to be true to everything Scripture actually says happened (events, dialogue, chronology, etc.), and whatever the author “fills in the blanks” of the biblical account with has to be biblically and culturally plausible, and must not directly contradict clear Scripture.

Chris accomplished this beautifully in his first book, The Rain, his rendition of Noah and the ark. Chris paints a grim picture of a debauched society that refuses to repent. Noah’s wife and daughters-in-law receive names, and we get to imagine what they and Ham, Shem, and Japheth might have been like. It was interesting to ponder along with the story just how long, tedious, and treacherous the journey on the ark was. And let’s not forget the lack of light and air conditioning and…well…the lovely smells of all those animals!

The Rain is a fun, leisure time read. I think you’ll like it if you enjoy biblical historical fiction.

Stop Jumping the Gun 

Y’all know I’m all about discernment, right? I mean, I think my track record speaks for itself. But there’s an area of discernment we all need to get serious about right quick.

It’s that “right quick” part. We need to stop being reactionary and haphazardly tossing the “false teacher” label (or other spiritual aspersions) around any time somebody says something that causes us to raise an eyebrow, especially when that person has an impeccable record of sound doctrine, faithful preaching, and contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Since Tuesday’s release of the Founders Ministries cinedoc trailer By What Standard? God’s World…God’s Rules, I have been appalled at the rush to judgment regarding Tom Ascol and Albert Mohler. Neither of these brothers has committed any clear-cut sin, but I want to put the details of the accusations aside and focus on the general principle of jump-the-gun aspersion-casting against these two men and others like them.

Each of these gentlemen, as well as Founders Ministries itself, has a decades-long track record of being doctrinally sound and fighting the good fight for biblical truth – longer than some of you younger sisters have been alive. They, and other pastors, teachers, and folks in long-time doctrinally sound ministry, have earned the right to have brothers and sisters in Christ – especially mature and discerning brothers and sisters in Christ – give them the benefit of the doubt when no clear-cut sin has been committed.

Obviously, when we’re talking about high profile pastors and teachers we don’t know personally, this isn’t a local church issue, but I think we would do well to remember the principles behind 1 Timothy 5:17,19-20.

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching…Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

We rebuke those who persist in sin in the presence of all. We do not make off the cuff accusations, based on a single “iffy” incident or presumptions, against doctrinally sound elders who have proven themselves faithful through the years. And we also need to remember that in situations like these we don’t know the whole behind-the-scenes story. I think we could extend some grace, give them the honor and respect Scripture says they’re due, and reserve judgment until sin is committed or the incident is resolved.

Scripture calls us to be better than this to our elders. Let’s live up to that.

Is it really God’s judgment?

My daughter texted me this shortly after the recent earthquake in California. And when your heart of hearts asks you to write an article, you write an article! (Only I didn’t think it needed to be as long as a full article, so you’re getting it here instead, Sweetie.)

For those of us who don’t live in California, some of the news stories we hear about the sinful things going on there leave us slack-jawed. And for Christians, our frame of reference for gobsmacking sin is the Old Testament. God dealt with sin in some pretty intense ways in the OT, not the least of which, in one case, was causing the ground to split apart and swallow sinners alive. So I guess there is precedent for God using an earthquake to deal with sin. Is it possible the earthquake in California was God’s judgment upon their sin? Yes, it’s within the realm of possibility.

However, that kind of judgment is not normative, especially after the cross, and there are a lot of holes in that theory. If you’re tempted to use the line of reasoning that a natural disaster is, definitively, God’s judgment on California (or any other place) for their sin, could I just encourage you to think through the following points?

•In the past few months New York and Illinois have both passed hideous, from-the-bowels-of-hell laws protecting the sins of abortion and infanticide. Where are their earthquakes?

•Louisiana just passed one of the most abortion-restrictive laws in the nation. And then we had a hurricane. Was that storm a judgment on Louisiana?

•If “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” (1 Peter 4:17), why wasn’t Redding, California – where Bethel “Church” is located – at the epicenter of the earthquake?

•Is it God’s judgment on sin if a tornado hits a doctrinally sound church in the Midwest?

•North Korea has been at the top of the list for years as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. Why don’t we ever hear about natural disasters there?

•There are scads of doctrinally sound churches (including John MacArthur’s church) and Christians in California. Wouldn’t God protect California on their account or at least get them out of California before He exercises judgment there? There’s biblical precedent for that, too.

I don’t think we can biblically say that a natural disaster is definitely God’s judgment on California’s, or any other state’s or nation’s sin. God will judge the world in righteousness when Christ returns. Until that time, what we can biblically say about natural disasters is that they are the result of the Fall. And that sometimes they’re the best thing in that could ever happen to someone. Because sometimes during a natural disaster, people hear the gospel or cry out to God and get saved.

Movies

Coming Attraction: “By What Standard?” A Founders Ministries Cinedoc

Dangerous ideologies like Critical Theory and Intersectionality are gaining inroads into the thinking of some leaders, churches and organizations. These ideologies are even being promoted among some evangelicals as reliable analytical tools that can assist our understandings and efforts in gospel ministry. The result is that, in the name of social justice, many unbiblical agendas are being advanced under the guise of honoring and protecting women, promoting racial reconciliation, and showing love and compassion to people experiencing sexual dysphoria. It is time for Bible-believing Christians to stand up and say to those who are promoting such agendas,

“Whose standard of justice is being followed? God’s, or this world’s?”
“To what authority are we submitting? The Holy Scriptures, or worldly ideologies?”

Have you seen these kinds of dangerous ideologies making their way into your church or denomination? Founders Ministries is developing a resource, due out this fall, that has the potential to impact thousands of churches and Christian leaders with the biblical perspective on race, intersectionality, feminism, sexuality, and social justice.

It’s a documentary movie, or “cinedoc,” called By What Standard? God’s World…God’s Rules. I’ve had the privilege of looking over the trailer for the movie for the past few days before its public release, and every time I watch it, my anticipation increases. I think this is going to be a powerful tool for churches to use to educate themselves about how to scripturally handle these mammoth issues the world is throwing at us.

You’ll hear from pastors and teachers you know and love for their fidelity to Scripture such as Tom Ascol, Josh Buice, Tom Buck, Voddie Baucham, Owen Strachan, Albert Mohler, and many more, men unafraid and unashamed to boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word.

If you’d like, you’ll also have the opportunity to partner with Founders in making this film a reality by making a financial contribution to the project. And you can sign up for e-mail updates on how the project is going.

Are you as excited as I am? Click the link below and see the trailer for yourself! Then come back here and leave a comment with your thoughts!

Click here to watch the trailer.

Complementarianism, Movies

Movie Tuesday: Battle for the Minds

 

Ladies- did you read yesterday’s Mailbag article, Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism? If not, I would encourage you to read it before watching today’s movie. And if you’re new to the complementarian vs. egalitarian kerfuffle, I would encourage you to read, not only that article, but all of the articles in the “Additional Resources” section of that article as well.

Why?

Because today’s Movie Tuesday movie, Battle for the Minds, approaches the issue from the egalitarian perspective, and you need to be sure you’re firmly grounded in the biblical perspective so that “no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Also, today’s movie is kind of like a homework assignment. How would you apply the complementarian apologetics you learned in yesterday’s article as well as your knowledge of Scripture to the egalitarian arguments and pronouncements being made in this movie?

Battle for the Minds was released on PBS in 1997. It presents the egalitarian viewpoint on the stage of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s transition from theological liberalism to biblical theological conservatism under the then-new leadership of Dr. Albert Mohler, and delves into a bit of the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention around that time as well. (As an aside, I am not familiar with any of the people in the film presented as being on the egalitarian side except for Ann Graham Lotz. I’m only familiar with a few of those on the complementarian side: Albert Mohler, David Miller, and Paige Patterson.)

If you are Southern Baptist, I strongly encourage you to watch and carefully consider these events from our history in light of the battle we are now facing in the SBC concerning the role of women in the church and in the Convention. Because what Nancy Ammerman says at the 37:04 mark is correct. Since all SBC churches are autonomous, many Southern Baptists only concern themselves with their own churches and don’t trouble themselves to worry about what’s going on at the national level. But when you do this, you fail to take into consideration that what’s going on at the national level trickles down to your local church in the form of what’s being taught to your next pastor or staff member at our seminaries; the authors, musicians, and other content creators being sold (and not being sold) at LifeWay; the theology in the Sunday School and VBS curriculum your church uses, etc. It also affects the theology and ecclesiology our IMB and NAMB missionaries and church planters use and teach. And finally, the leadership and issues at the national level are the face the Southern Baptist Convention presents to the world.

But even if you’re not Southern Baptist, you will probably still find this movie informative to the way your own church or denomination is responding to the issue of the biblical role of women in the church.

A couple of things to be on the lookout for, and give consideration to, as you watch Battle for the Minds:

•Notice the amount of Scripture presented in the movie. Is any Scripture presented that backs up the egalitarian view? Is egalitarianism vs. complementarianism presented as a biblical and spiritual issue or an “our position vs. their position” issue?

•Note the sex of each person on the egalitarian side and the sex of each person on the complementarian side. Are any complementarian women presented? Do you think there were absolutely no women on the complementarian side of the issue when these events were transpiring? Do you see how the exclusion of complementarian women in this film gives the subtle illusion that a) all women are egalitarian, and b) the reason men are complementarian is because they’re sexist and trying to protect their power and position – the same argument people like Beth Moore are attempting to make today? Do you think it was sexist to exclude women from the complementarian side?

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ May 14, 2019

Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

“Complementarian interpretation of Scripture holds that God’s creation purpose for man and woman entails equality of individual value but also distinct roles.” Our friends over at Crossway give us 5 Myths about Complementarianism.

 

Image result for taking god at his wordHow about a free book? Here’s the PDF of Kevin DeYoung’s book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What that Means for You and Me.

 

 

 

 

Image result for 50 of all marriages end in divorce“You’ve heard it repeatedly on radio, podcasts, and TV. You’ve read it in various books and articles. You’ve even heard it in your pastor’s sermon. The problem: it’s a lie: 50% of all marriages end in divorce.” The Cripplegate helpfully explains why everything you know about American divorce statistics, including the divorce rate among Christians, is probably wrong in The 50% Lie.

 

Image result for ccef‘No’ to a husband’s advances is a big deal in a marriage. A godly wife can certainly say “no” but she will also be alert to the way her response might be taken by her husband. Understanding and compassion can go a long way at these moments.” CCEF explores the sensitive subject of marital intimacy in “Not tonight dear”… men rejected.

 

On his most recent episode of Ask AnythingDr. Albert Mohler tackles a number of interesting questions, not the least of which is (from a Southern Baptist perspective) Should women preach the Sunday sermon in church? (8:58).