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, False Doctrine

Throwback Thursday ~ 8 Unbiblical Notions Christian Women Need to Be Set Free From

Originally published June 2, 2017

Your recent article on prayer really helped me. I was always taught that prayer was a two-way conversation. For years, I would talk to God and wait for Him to talk back to me, but He never did. I thought it was because there was unknown sin in my life, or that I didn’t have enough faith, or that God just wasn’t interested in me. It’s so freeing to know the truth.

Comments like this from readers are always bittersweet for me. It makes me practically giddy to hear from Christian women who have been set free from false doctrines they’ve been taught, but it also grieves me deeply to reflect on the years they spent thinking they were somehow deficient as Christians or doubting God’s love for them simply because they were taught, and believed, unbiblical notions and ideas.

Let’s see if we can dispel a few of those today:

1. Prayer is this big, complicated, mystical thing.
Nope. Prayer is simply talking to God about whatever is on your heart. What’s made prayer complicated is the unbiblical teachings that have grown up around it such as praying in “tongues,” listening prayer, contemplative prayer, sozo prayer, soaking prayer, etc.

8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

2. “Women’s Ministry” equals fluff and silliness.
There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun from time to time. Hey, we all need to blow off steam, right? But if cookie exchanges and teas and painting parties and dress up parties and sleepovers and makeup parties and fashion shows and movie nights are all your women’s ministry does, it’s unhealthy. And it’s not really a ministry, either. If something is a “ministry” it should exist to point people to Christ and disciple them once they get to Him. Your women’s ministry should include ministry of the Word, discipleship, Titus 2-type mentoring, evangelism, comfort ministry (to the ill, shut-ins, new moms, new members, etc.), serving the church, encouragement, supporting your pastor and elders, and so on.

Mary and Martha and Jesus and Women’s Ministry
How to Survive a Wimpy Women’s Ministry

3. Women’s Bible study- great balls of fire, don’t get me started.
♦ A Bible verse (or half a Bible verse) plus an inspiring story from the author’s or someone else’s life is not Bible study. Bible study is picking up your Bible and studying it.

Bible Study
Bible Studies

♦ If you’re hosting a women’s Bible study, you do not have to use books and DVDs written by someone else. In fact, I would recommend against doing so. Get someone who is able to teach – yes, it could even be a man – and study a book of the Bible from beginning to end.

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word
Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

♦ One reason I recommend against using “canned” women’s Bible studies is that the vast majority of them (95% in my estimation- not an exaggeration) teach false doctrine. When you walk into LifeWay the first thing you’ll see is the best sellers shelf, and the majority of those books are written by false teachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, and others.

Popular False Teachers

♦ If you do decide to occasionally do a book study, you do not have to use one written by a woman. In fact, if you want a book that’s doctrinally sound, you have a much better chance of finding one written by a man than by a woman, sad to say.

A Few Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers
A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers

4. Faithful church attendance isn’t that important.
If you think you don’t need church or that you can skip it whenever something more fun comes along, your thinking isn’t biblical. God thinks it’s important enough for His people to gather regularly for worship that He emphasizes it throughout the entirety of Scripture- Old and New Testament. Get your heiney in the pew every week, honey, and find a place to serve.

7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

5. I am woman, hear me roar.
♦ Beth Moore and many other female teachers who rebel against Scripture by preaching to and teaching men in the church say that they are doing so “under their husband’s and/or pastor’s authority”. Neither your husband nor your pastor has the OK from God to allow you, or any other woman, to teach men in the church. God says women aren’t to teach or hold authority over men in the church, and when God says no, no one has the authority to say yes. Furthermore, there isn’t a single passage of Scripture that allows any man to give any woman this type of “under my authority” dispensation to teach men. To say that it’s permissible for a woman to teach men “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority” is just as biblically absurd as saying it’s OK for a woman to lie, commit adultery, gossip, or steal “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority.” Sapphira sinned under her husband’s authority and look what happened to her.

Fencing Off the Forbidden Fruit Tree
Jill in the Pulpit

Ten Things You Should Know About 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and the Relationship Between Men and Women in the Local Church at CBMW

Egalitarians are often so vehement in their insistence that women should teach men and hold authority over men in the church, that they are essentially saying that the only way a woman’s service or leadership in the church can have any value is if it’s exercised over men. I’ve heard many of them turn up their noses at the idea of teaching women and children and other forms of service (that don’t involve teaching or authority over men), in a haughty “we’re better than that” kind of way.

No way.

Have you seen the garbage women and children are being taught in the church under the guise of “Sunday School” or “Bible study”? Women’s and children’s classes at your church are in desperate need of women who are doctrinally sound and able to teach. What about the need to visit church members who are in the hospital or shut-ins? How about record-keeping, working in the sound booth, welcoming visitors, serving on committees, mowing the church’s lawn, participating in outreach activities, fixing a meal, chaperoning youth activities, hosting a visiting pastor or missionary? There’s a ton of important and valuable work for women to do in the church. We don’t have time to worry about teaching and holding authority over men. Let the men worry about that.

Servanthood
Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

6. My feelings and opinions reign supreme.
Uh uh. Not if you’re a Christian, they don’t. That’s how lost people operate. If you’re a Christian, you’re not entitled run your life or make decisions by any opinion other than that of your Master. What He says – in His written word – goes. Period. Regardless of how you feel about it or whether or not you agree with it. That means if a “Bible” teacher you really like is teaching things that conflict with Scripture, you dump her. You love Mr. Wonderful and want to marry him, but he’s not saved? Nope. You’re a woman who’s certain God has called her to preach? No way. Your husband has said no about something, but you want to do it anyway? Forget it.

The Bible is our Authority
Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word

7. If something or someone claims to be a Christian, it is.
I suppose at some point in Christian history, there might have been a time when, if someone handed you a “Christian book,” it was a pretty safe bet it was doctrinally sound. Or if someone said she was a Christian, you could be fairly certain she was truly born again.

Not so much these days.

You cannot take at face value that someone who says she’s a Christian is using the Bible’s definition of Christianity and has been genuinely regenerated. You cannot trust that just because something is sold at LifeWay or another Christian retailer that it’s doctrinally sound. You can’t assume that just because someone is a “Christian” celebrity, writes “Bible” studies, speaks at “Christian” conferences, and has a large following, that she’s handling God’s word correctly (or at all) and teaching you biblical truth. There’s just too much false doctrine running rampant in evangelicalism and too many people who believe and teach it.

Don’t be a weak and naïve Christian woman. Jesus Himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven…” There are many people who draw near to God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. It is God’s will for you to be a good Berean and to test everything according to Scripture. We will know the truly Christian from the false by their fruits, not their platitudes.

8. Sugar and spice and everything nice- that’s what Christian girls are made of.
That’s not a Bible verse, but rather and unspoken rule among most Christian women. Somewhere we’ve gotten the idea that Christian unity or love means “being nice” to people. We’re always smilingly sweet and never say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings or could rock the boat at church.

Are we to be kind? Yes. Are we to do our best not to hurt others? Of course. Should we be making waves over every little thing that rubs us the wrong way? Absolutely not.

But neither is it loving to see a Mack truck bearing down on an oblivious sister in Christ and refrain from yanking her out of harm’s way because it might dislocate her shoulder. It is not unity to see Satan deceiving a friend through sin or false doctrine and not plead with her to turn to Christ and His word because she might think we’re rude. And that’s the situation we often find ourselves in at church or with Christian friends.

Was Jesus – our perfect example of love – being unloving, unkind, hateful, or divisive when He rebuked the Pharisees, cleared the temple, or said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” to Peter?

Love for the brethren isn’t “being nice.” It’s caring so much about a fellow saint that we want what’s best for her in Christ. Sometimes that requires being firm, confrontational, or demonstrating “tough love.” People’s eternities and spiritual health are at stake. How loving is it to stand aside and let a sister waltz into Hell or struggle for years on end in her walk with the Lord because she’s living in sin or believing false doctrine? “Being nice” isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. It’s time we stop being nice and start being biblical.

I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice
Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Do you believe any of these unbiblical notions? If so, set them aside, repent, and believe and practice what Scripture says. Any time we believe something that’s in conflict with God’s word, it’s a hindrance to the abundant life and growth in Christ that He wants to bless us with.

False doctrine enslaves. It places a yoke of confusion, anxiety, and “try harder” on the shoulders of those who embrace it. Christ did not set us free from sin so that we might turn right around and become captives to a new, pseudo-Christian type of sin: false teaching. It is for freedom and a healthy spiritual life that Christ has set us free.

Christian women, Complementarianism, Ministry, Sin

Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

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.

Discernment, False Teachers

Throwback Thursday ~ Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own

Originally published July 22, 2016false teacher 7 steps

“What are your thoughts about  _____?
Is she doctrinally sound? Is she a false teacher?”

That’s probably the number one question I’m asked by readers. It gives me so much joy each time I receive that question because it’s encouraging to hear from Christian women who don’t want to be led astray and want to worship Christ in spirit and in truth.

I’m delighted to answer readers’ questions about various teachers (You can find information about many of today’s best known evangelical personalities and ministries under my “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page.) but, unfortunately, my answers often take a while. I’ve never heard of many of the teachers I’m asked about, and in order to give a fair and biblically accurate answer, I have to research each of them. The less famous they are, the less information there is out there about them, and the longer it takes. And that weighs on me because I know a lot of you, when you write to me about a certain teacher, need answers now.

It also weighs on me because I don’t want you to just take my word for things. I am a fallible, sinful human being. I get things wrong. I miss things. I make mistakes. Also, I’m not going to be around forever (well, not on this planet anyway!)

For these reasons, and because it’s an important spiritual skill to hone and teach others, I want you to be able to research these people for yourself. “Teach a (wo)man to fish…” and all that, you know. Here are the seven steps I take to discover whether or not a teacher is doctrinally sound.

1. Know your Bible

This. is. not. optional. Get a trustworthy translation (read: not The Message, The Voice, a Joyce Meyer Study Bible, etc.) and study it forwards, backwards, and upside down if you have to. Find, join, and faithfully attend (also not optional) a doctrinally sound church that will immerse you in the depths of God’s word through its preaching and teaching. Listen to good sermon podcasts or an audio Bible during the week. Memorize Scripture. Learn good hermeneutics. Every Christian should be doing these things by default anyway, and one by-product of knowing your Bible is that when you see or hear a statement by a teacher, you often won’t have to do a lick of research to determine whether or not you’re being taught biblical truth. The Scriptures will already be in your heart and mind for comparison.

2. Pray

One of the things I ask of God during my regular prayer time is that He would protect me from being deceived by false teachers, that He would continue to grow me in wisdom and discernment, and that He would develop the mind of Christ in me. It’s also a good idea to pray for wisdom and discernment, and for trustworthy information, before researching a teacher.

3. Know your criteria

One of the arguments I frequently hear when warning people away from a false teacher is “But every teacher makes mistakes!” (see #7 here) Of course every teacher makes mistakes in her teaching, and every teacher sins. A sin or a mistake doesn’t qualify someone as a false teacher. What you’re looking for is repentance and correction.

A trustworthy, biblical teacher teaches sound biblical doctrine and avoids known sin nearly without exception. When those exceptions occur and someone brings it to her attention, she listens, is teachable, repents, and corrects her error (Apollos is a great biblical example of this). False teachers, on the other hand, unrepentantly persist in sin or teaching false doctrine despite biblical correction. Often, they exhibit complete unteachability (as do their followers), deriding those biblically calling them to account as haters, divisive, slanderers, scoffers, jealous, etc.

When I research a teacher, I examine three fundamental areas of her life and teaching: a) Does she currently and unrepentantly preach to men? (Or, if the teacher is male: Does he allow women to preach to mixed audiences from his pulpit or in his stead? Is his wife co-pastor of the church?) b) Does she endorse and/or partner with known false teachers or ministries? c) Does the doctrine she teaches and practices line up with Scripture?

4. Criteria a: Women teaching men

This is a scriptural litmus test that can help give you a quick answer as to whether you should be following a certain teacher or not. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to, teach the Bible to, or exercise authority over men in the gathered body of believers. Not in the four walls of a church, not on a simulcast, not at a Christian conference. Period. (Click here for more information.)

A preacher or teacher who unrepentantly disobeys this Scripture is no different from one who disobeys Scripture by viewing pornography, embezzling church funds, or teaching that homosexuality or abortion are OK. Scripture is Scripture. It’s all inspired by God the Holy Spirit. There aren’t any instructions to the church that it’s OK with God if you twist their context, brush them aside, or disobey them. If a female teacher currently and unrepentantly preaches to men or a male teacher allows women to do so in his church or ministry, that’s not a teacher you should be following.

Furthermore, 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.

How to find out if the teacher is disobeying Scripture in this area?

Check YouTube and Vimeo for videos of the female teacher speaking at various events. Are men clearly present in the audience?

Consider the events the female teacher speaks at. Does she speak exclusively at events for women, or does she also speak at co-ed events?

Examine the speaking engagement calendar on the female teacher’s web site. Is she scheduled to speak at Anytown Baptist Church at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday? She’s probably giving the sermon that morning.

For (male) preachers, check the sermon archives and the “meet our staff” sections of the church web site. Are women serving on staff as “pastors” or in positions of authority over men? Do the sermon archives feature female speakers who have preached to the whole congregation?

5. Criteria b: Partnering with false teachers

Scripture is abundantly clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers. Nothing. John tells us that even to greet them is to take part in their wicked works. To publicly praise, point people to, or partner with false teachers is even worse.

Finding out if the teacher you’re researching praises or partners with false teachers is another biblical litmus test that can help quickly determine whether you should be following her or not.

The easiest way to do this is with an internet search engine. Type the name of the teacher you’re researching into the search bar followed by the names of at least a few well known false teachers or ministries (for example: Jane Smith Joel Osteen). You may wish to try names like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Andy Stanley, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Hillsong, Bethel, IF: Gathering, Proverbs 31 Ministries, etc.

Examine the results. Are there a lot of connections between the teacher you’re researching and known false teachers? Does she frequently and favorably quote, comment on, or re-post false teachers on her social media pages? Does she make a habit of sharing the stage with or appearing alongside false teachers at conferences and other events? Do false teachers praise her, invite her to speak at their churches and conferences, or write endorsements of her materials?

Birds of a feather flock together. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Bad company corrupts good morals. It’s all true. A teacher who frequently, favorably, and unrepentantly associates herself with false teachers should be avoided.

6. Criteria c: Biblical doctrine

If a teacher has failed criteria a and/or b, that’s sufficient. You should not be receiving teaching from that person. Those two criteria will quickly weed out about 90% of false teachers out there today. However, “passing” both criteria a & b, while a fair indicator that you’re probably dealing with a doctrinally sound teacher, is not sufficient. A teacher can operate biblically in those two areas and still teach or practice unbiblical doctrine. You must examine the doctrine and practices of the teacher you’re considering following to see if they’re biblical, and that can take some time and energy.

Does the teacher have a statement of faith or “what I believe” section of her web site? Examine it. Are all of the tenets biblical and backed up with chapter and verse Scripture? Are the tenets specific, detailed, and clear cut as opposed to general and nebulous? A solid statement of faith can be helpful, but keep in mind that a significant number of churches and ministries have perfectly biblical statements of faith “on paper” yet do not faithfully adhere to to those principles in teaching and practice.

Ask doctrinally sound, trustworthy friends if they’re familiar with the teacher’s doctrine. There are also many theologically solid Facebook and Google+ groups you can join and ask your fellow members their impressions of various teachers. There are a lot of Christians out there who have read a lot of books and listened to a lot of teaching. They can be very helpful resources.

What do reputable, doctrinally sound teachers and ministries have to say about the teacher, her teachings, or the Scripture or doctrine in question? I regularly use and highly recommend the following sites:

Fighting for the Faith
Berean Research
CARM
Wretched
Got Questions
Grace to You
Sola Sisters*
Apprising Ministries*
*These sites are now dormant, but their archives can be helpful, especially if you’re looking for older information.

Read the person’s materials or listen to her teaching. Take notes. When the teacher makes an assertion, ask yourself, “Where, in context, does the Bible say that?” When the teacher cites a passage of Scripture, look it up and see if she’s using it in context. Does the teacher primarily use one reliable translation of the Bible when teaching, or does she skip around through various translations and paraphrases while teaching to make sure the verses use certain words that fit with the theme or idea she’s teaching? Does she engage in gimmickry or does she simply teach the Word? Is the centerpiece of her teaching a correctly exegeted passage of Scripture, or does her teaching revolve around a story, movie, prop, idea, theme, topic, or illustration that comes from outside of Scripture? Does she frequently allegorize Scripture? Does she make every Scripture about you, your hopes and dreams, your experiences? Does she spend more time correctly handling and teaching Scripture or telling stories, jokes, and illustrations? These are all things to watch and listen for. If a teacher consistently mishandles, misunderstands, or misapplies Scripture, she’s not a teacher you should be following.

7. Check the date

When you’re researching a teacher, check the date on the evidence you’re examining. Is it old or fairly current? We all grow and mature over the years in our walk with the Lord. Are you seeing red flags in the teacher’s older materials? Try to find out if she has repented and corrected those unbiblical teachings or behaviors. If so, and she’s currently teaching and behaving in a way that lines up with Scripture, forgive her. It is not fair or biblical to hold past sin against someone when she has repented and Christ has forgiven her. She, and her recent materials, should only be avoided if she is currently and unrepentantly teaching and/or practicing false doctrine.

Before receiving teaching from anyone, it’s important that we examine that teacher’s doctrine and practices in light of Scripture. God commends the Bereans for receiving Paul’s word with eagerness, yet examining the Scriptures to see if what he was teaching them lined up with the Bible. May we be as vigilant and noble as they in our quest to know Christ and His word.

Christian women, False Doctrine

8 Unbiblical Notions Christian Women Need to Be Set Free From

Your recent article on prayer really helped me. I was always taught that prayer was a two-way conversation. For years, I would talk to God and wait for Him to talk back to me, but He never did. I thought it was because there was unknown sin in my life, or that I didn’t have enough faith, or that God just wasn’t interested in me. It’s so freeing to know the truth.

Comments like this from readers are always bittersweet for me. It makes me practically giddy to hear from Christian women who have been set free from false doctrines they’ve been taught, but it also grieves me deeply to reflect on the years they spent thinking they were somehow deficient as Christians or doubting God’s love for them simply because they were taught, and believed, unbiblical notions and ideas.

Let’s see if we can dispel a few of those today:

1. Prayer is this big, complicated, mystical thing.
Nope. Prayer is simply talking to God about whatever is on your heart. What’s made prayer complicated is the unbiblical teachings that have grown up around it such as praying in “tongues,” listening prayer, contemplative prayer, sozo prayer, soaking prayer, etc.

8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

2. “Women’s Ministry” equals fluff and silliness.
There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun from time to time. Hey, we all need to blow off steam, right? But if cookie exchanges and teas and painting parties and dress up parties and sleepovers and makeup parties and fashion shows and movie nights are all your women’s ministry does, it’s unhealthy. And it’s not really a ministry, either. If something is a “ministry” it should exist to point people to Christ and disciple them once they get to Him. Your women’s ministry should include ministry of the Word, discipleship, Titus 2-type mentoring, evangelism, comfort ministry (to the ill, shut-ins, new moms, new members, etc.), serving the church, encouragement, supporting your pastor and elders, and so on.

Mary and Martha and Jesus and Women’s Ministry
How to Survive a Wimpy Women’s Ministry

3. Women’s Bible study- great balls of fire, don’t get me started.
♦ A Bible verse (or half a Bible verse) plus an inspiring story from the author’s or someone else’s life is not Bible study. Bible study is picking up your Bible and studying it.

Bible Study
Bible Studies

♦ If you’re hosting a women’s Bible study, you do not have to use books and DVDs written by someone else. In fact, I would recommend against doing so. Get someone who is able to teach – yes, it could even be a man – and study a book of the Bible from beginning to end.

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word
Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

♦ One reason I recommend against using “canned” women’s Bible studies is that the vast majority of them (95% in my estimation- not an exaggeration) teach false doctrine. When you walk into LifeWay the first thing you’ll see is the best sellers shelf, and the majority of those books are written by false teachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, and others.

Popular False Teachers

♦ If you do decide to occasionally do a book study, you do not have to use one written by a woman. In fact, if you want a book that’s doctrinally sound, you have a much better chance of finding one written by a man than by a woman, sad to say.

A Few Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers
A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers

4. Faithful church attendance isn’t that important.
If you think you don’t need church or that you can skip it whenever something more fun comes along, your thinking isn’t biblical. God thinks it’s important enough for His people to gather regularly for worship that He emphasizes it throughout the entirety of Scripture- Old and New Testament. Get your heiney in the pew every week, honey, and find a place to serve.

7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

5. I am woman, hear me roar.
♦ Beth Moore and many other female teachers who rebel against Scripture by preaching to and teaching men in the church say that they are doing so “under their husband’s and/or pastor’s authority”. Neither your husband nor your pastor has the OK from God to allow you, or any other woman, to teach men in the church. God says women aren’t to teach or hold authority over men in the church, and when God says no, no one has the authority to say yes. Furthermore, there isn’t a single passage of Scripture that allows any man to give any woman this type of “under my authority” dispensation to teach men. To say that it’s permissible for a woman to teach men “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority” is just as biblically absurd as saying it’s OK for a woman to lie, commit adultery, gossip, or steal “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority.” Sapphira sinned under her husband’s authority and look what happened to her.

Fencing Off the Forbidden Fruit Tree
Jill in the Pulpit

Ten Things You Should Know About 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and the Relationship Between Men and Women in the Local Church at CBMW

Egalitarians are often so vehement in their insistence that women should teach men and hold authority over men in the church, that they are essentially saying that the only way a woman’s service or leadership in the church can have any value is if it’s exercised over men. I’ve heard many of them turn up their noses at the idea of teaching women and children and other forms of service (that don’t involve teaching or authority over men), in a haughty “we’re better than that” kind of way.

No way.

Have you seen the garbage women and children are being taught in the church under the guise of “Sunday School” or “Bible study”? Women’s and children’s classes at your church are in desperate need of women who are doctrinally sound and able to teach. What about the need to visit church members who are in the hospital or shut-ins? How about record-keeping, working in the sound booth, welcoming visitors, serving on committees, mowing the church’s lawn, participating in outreach activities, fixing a meal, chaperoning youth activities, hosting a visiting pastor or missionary? There’s a ton of important and valuable work for women to do in the church. We don’t have time to worry about teaching and holding authority over men. Let the men worry about that.

Servanthood
Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

6. My feelings and opinions reign supreme.
Uh uh. Not if you’re a Christian, they don’t. That’s how lost people operate. If you’re a Christian, you’re not entitled run your life or make decisions by any opinion other than that of your Master. What He says – in His written word – goes. Period. Regardless of how you feel about it or whether or not you agree with it. That means if a “Bible” teacher you really like is teaching things that conflict with Scripture, you dump her. You love Mr. Wonderful and want to marry him, but he’s not saved? Nope. You’re a woman who’s certain God has called her to preach? No way. Your husband has said no about something, but you want to do it anyway? Forget it.

The Bible is our Authority
Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word

7. If something or someone claims to be a Christian, it is.
I suppose at some point in Christian history, there might have been a time when, if someone handed you a “Christian book,” it was a pretty safe bet it was doctrinally sound. Or if someone said she was a Christian, you could be fairly certain she was truly born again.

Not so much these days.

You cannot take at face value that someone who says she’s a Christian is using the Bible’s definition of Christianity and has been genuinely regenerated. You cannot trust that just because something is sold at LifeWay or another Christian retailer that it’s doctrinally sound. You can’t assume that just because someone is a “Christian” celebrity, writes “Bible” studies, speaks at “Christian” conferences, and has a large following, that she’s handling God’s word correctly (or at all) and teaching you biblical truth. There’s just too much false doctrine running rampant in evangelicalism and too many people who believe and teach it.

Don’t be a weak and naïve Christian woman. Jesus Himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven…” There are many people who draw near to God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. It is God’s will for you to be a good Berean and to test everything according to Scripture. We will know the truly Christian from the false by their fruits, not their platitudes.

8. Sugar and spice and everything nice- that’s what Christian girls are made of.
That’s not a Bible verse, but rather and unspoken rule among most Christian women. Somewhere we’ve gotten the idea that Christian unity or love means “being nice” to people. We’re always smilingly sweet and never say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings or could rock the boat at church.

Are we to be kind? Yes. Are we to do our best not to hurt others? Of course. Should we be making waves over every little thing that rubs us the wrong way? Absolutely not.

But neither is it loving to see a Mack truck bearing down on an oblivious sister in Christ and refrain from yanking her out of harm’s way because it might dislocate her shoulder. It is not unity to see Satan deceiving a friend through sin or false doctrine and not plead with her to turn to Christ and His word because she might think we’re rude. And that’s the situation we often find ourselves in at church or with Christian friends.

Was Jesus – our perfect example of love – being unloving, unkind, hateful, or divisive when He rebuked the Pharisees, cleared the temple, or said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” to Peter?

Love for the brethren isn’t “being nice.” It’s caring so much about a fellow saint that we want what’s best for her in Christ. Sometimes that requires being firm, confrontational, or demonstrating “tough love.” People’s eternities and spiritual health are at stake. How loving is it to stand aside and let a sister waltz into Hell or struggle for years on end in her walk with the Lord because she’s living in sin or believing false doctrine? “Being nice” isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. It’s time we stop being nice and start being biblical.

I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice
Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Do you believe any of these unbiblical notions? If so, set them aside, repent, and believe and practice what Scripture says. Any time we believe something that’s in conflict with God’s word, it’s a hindrance to the abundant life and growth in Christ that He wants to bless us with.

False doctrine enslaves. It places a yoke of confusion, anxiety, and “try harder” on the shoulders of those who embrace it. Christ did not set us free from sin so that we might turn right around and become captives to a new, pseudo-Christian type of sin: false teaching. It is for freedom and a healthy spiritual life that Christ has set us free.