Christian women, Church, Southern Baptist/SBC

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

Originally published June 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do doctrinally sound women get a seat at the table? Do we get to be heard? Will anything be done to correct the mistreatment we’ve received?

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

Just how big is that tent…really?

Complementarianism

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 wholeheartedly1 …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…

She may not say it with her lips, but when a woman preaches to men in defiance of Scripture, she’s teaching false doctrine through her behavior. What is the false doctrine she’s teaching? “I don’t have to obey God’s Word, and neither do you. If there’s a part of the Bible you don’t like, you’re free to disregard it.” If your pastor stood up in the pulpit on Sunday morning and said that in words, you’d run him out of town on a rail, and rightly so. Neither should a woman be able to teach that same false doctrine via her actions.

Additionally, I have mentioned several times when dealing with this issue that women preaching to men is highly correlated with women teaching other forms of 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 additional 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.


1In the years since 2018, when this article was originally written, Dr. Mohler has said, done, and supported a few biblically questionable things, leading some to question whether or not he has “gone woke”. While I don’t support his stance on those questionable things, I also don’t believe he has reached the point at which I need to warn against him. To my knowledge, at this time, he is still generally doctrinally sound.

False Doctrine, False Teachers, Movies

Movie Tuesday: Church of Tares

Are you familiar with Rick Warren and his books from several years ago, The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church? Today’s Movie Tuesday feature, Church of Tares, takes a look at Rick Warren, his materials, programs, and his mentors, and demonstrates how the “Purpose Driven” movement grew into the seeker driven and church growth / megachurch movements, and how they may eventually terminate into a one world religion.

Sound a little “out there” or borderline conspiracy theory? Well, we’ve been seeing a lot of “out there” things come to pass lately. Grab your popcorn, snuggle up on the couch, and watch and judge for yourself.

Supplemental Related Info:

Andy Stanley

Craig Groeschel

Steven Furtick

Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and the “Contemplative Christianity” movement

Bill Hybels / Willow Creek

Discernment, False Teachers

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

Originally published July 22, 2016

“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 & Unbiblical Trends” 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, even with the ones I’m familiar with, in order to give a fair and biblically accurate answer, I have to research each of them. That frequently takes at least several days of work. The less famous the teacher is, the less information there is out there about her, 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 the ability to vet the personalities and teachers you follow is an important spiritual skill every Christian should 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? Are there any women on his church’s staff in pastoral positions?) 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? These aren’t the only things that make someone a false teacher, but they’re three of the most prominent and important.

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.)

And it’s not a so-called secondary issue, either. It’s a sin. 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, a woman preaching to men is itself false doctrine. When a woman preaches to men, her behavior is teaching the false doctrine that it’s perfectly fine to disobey Scripture if you want to. That if you don’t like a certain command of Scripture, it’s OK to just ignore it. If your pastor stepped into the pulpit Sunday morning and said in words that it’s OK to disobey or ignore Scripture’s commands, your church would run him out of town on a rail, and rightly so. There’s no difference between your pastor saying it in words and a woman acting it out with her behavior.

Finally, 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 progressivism, Word of Faith {prosperity gospel} 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 additional 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. (Some female teachers purposely leave these preaching engagements off their events calendars and social media to avoid biblical rebuke.)

For (male) preachers / pastors, 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 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 (now on YouTube)
Justin Peters
Berean Research
Christian Answers for the New Age (Marcia publishes most actively on Facebook)
CARM
Wretched
Got Questions
Grace to You
Apprising Ministries (This site is now dormant, but the archives can be helpful, especially if you’re looking for older information.)

Here’s what you should be looking for in preaching and teaching. 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.

Discernment

Tara Leigh Cobble, The Bible Recap, & D-Group

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.


This article is kept continuously updated as needed.

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Tara-Leigh Cobble, or “TLC” as she likes to be called, “began her ministry as a singer-songwriter, performing her own songs and leading worship around the globe. After her first book was published, she added speaking to her repertoire. As a musician, writer and speaker, she spent more than a decade touring internationally before creating D-Groups and finding a home and community for herself in Dallas, Texas.”

More from Tara-Leigh’s bio: “I started D-Group (Discipleship Group) [with] a handful of college students in 2009 and it has grown into 250+ groups around the world…I love to speak to audiences about God and His Word, and I’ve written a few books with an aim to point others toward Him through my story as well as their own. I also write and host a daily podcast called The Bible Recap, which aims to keep people connected to reading the Bible when they’re tempted to quit for lack of understanding, as well as a daily radio show called The God Shot.”

In late 2021 / early 2022, requests started flooding in for me to review Tara-Leigh, mainly due to the fact that many were preparing to begin a “read through the Bible in a year” plan in January. They wanted to know if the suddenly popular program, The Bible Recap (TBR) – Tara-Leigh’s brief daily podcast “recapping” each day’s reading in a one-year chronological reading plan – was doctrinally sound and whether or not they should use it. To that end, I began listening to TBR and researching it, Tara-Leigh, and D-Group.

The Bible Recap (TBR)

I listened to about two dozen of the first 60 episodes of the “year 4” TBR season, making notes along the way. In each 5-10 minute episode, Tara-Leigh briefly summarizes that day’s reading and adds a few comments, ending with a “God Shot” – a point from the reading that stood out most to her, personally.

For the most part, I didn’t hear much that was biblically problematic in the TBR episodes I listened to. But someone spending eight minutes basically reiterating the primary facts from a passage of Scripture and getting it mostly right isn’t an automatic indicator that she’s doctrinally sound. False teachers can do that. Atheists can do that. Perfectly doctrinally sound pastors and teachers can do that. People everywhere on the spectrum between those two extremes can do that.

There were several times I thought that the way Tara-Leigh worded something wasn’t necessarily wrong, but also wasn’t as clear or precise as it should have been, and that people who were new to reading the Bible (a significant portion of her target audience) could have easily misunderstood. I didn’t make any notes on those instances because they didn’t rise to the level of false doctrine, and we’ve all had times when we could have worded something better.

I did make some notes on several other points. Here are just a few:

  • Day 002 episode: “We don’t want to scream where Scripture whispers.“ An unfortunate choice of words, or was she echoing the sentiment from J.D. Greear – “We ought to whisper about what the Bible whispers about and we ought to shout about what it shouts about.” – that Southern Baptists in the know are all too familiar with? (TBR does include resources from Greear.)

    “God let Noah know that this was only the beginning of their relationship.“ (Referring to Genesis 6:18). This is probably just a poor choice of words meant to indicate that this was the beginning of the Noahic covenant, or that God was reassuring Noah that he wasn’t going to die, but this is technically incorrect. Noah already had a relationship with God. That’s indicated by the fact that God had a conversation with Noah in 6:13-22, and it’s also why God found Noah to be the only righteous person on earth.
  • Day 003 episode: After the flood, the earth was not “muddy and gross“ as Tara-Leigh describes it. Genesis 8:13-14 is clear that the land dried up completely. Furthermore, in the flood, God re-created the earth. It may not have had the holy perfection of Eden since this was post-Fall, but the God who deemed His Creation “good” in Genesis 1 didn’t re-create a chaotic and disheveled world that looked like a natural disaster had just hit it, either.
  • Day 008 episode: “Are there times when God speaks to us? I believe God’s Spirit does give impressions to His children. After all, one of His names is ‘Guide’…Saying, ‘God told me X,’ carries a lot of certainty with it. I’d be more likely to say it this way, ‘I feel like God was saying X,’ or, ‘I feel like God was impressing this on my heart.’.

    Tara-Leigh is teaching extra-biblical revelation here because she’s a continuationist (more below). Extra-biblical revelation undermines the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Of course, God guides us. And the way He guides us is through His all-sufficient written Word, as He tells us Himself. Reading, believing, following, and obeying the written Word God the Holy Spirit breathed out is being led, or “guided,” by God.

    Furthermore, all throughout Scripture, when God spoke, there was absolute, stake your life on it certainty. If you weren’t certain it was God speaking to you, you’d better keep your mouth shut or risk execution. If you were certain it was God speaking to you, you’d better open your mouth and boldly proclaim exactly what He said, or risk execution. If the holy God of the universe is speaking to you, you dare not mealy mouth or equivocate. And if He’s not, you dare not say He is. There’s no fence-sitting on this one.

    Finally, this “I feel” language again undermines the sufficiency of Scripture, and reinforces an all too common false doctrine in the church: believing, trusting, and obeying our subjective feelings and personal experiences over God’s written Word. And because that is a place and position only Scripture should occupy, that false doctrine, believed and practiced by so many, is idolatry. (Hear me clearly: I’m not saying that Tara-Leigh believes in, practices, or holds to this form of idolatry herself, only that this type of “I feel” language reinforces this sort of idolatry that others cling to.)
  • Day 043 episode: Tara-Leigh talks about the glory of God filling the tabernacle as a cloud, and the fact that Moses could not go into the tabernacle because of that glory cloud. She says there was a “density“ to God‘s glory, and gives the example that she has never been in a plane that had to fly above a cloud because it could not physically pass through the cloud.

    This passage does not mean that God’s glory was a tangibly impassable barrier, like a brick wall. It means that God’s manifest glory was so magnificent and intensely powerful that it was too overwhelming for Moses to go into the tabernacle. It’s possible Tara-Leigh didn’t mean to convey that God’s glory was physically tangible, but I think that’s what most people are going to take away from what she said.

TBR recommends and partners with the YouVersion app. Although many people do not realize that YouVersion was created by and is maintained by false teacher Craig Groeschel’s LifeChurch.tv (it also features devotions and other materials by numerous false teachers), Tara-Leigh apparently does, and has partnered with YouVersion by platforming TBR there:

Tara-Leigh teaches the Bible to men, without reservation, through TBR. It is one thing for a woman to have a Bible teaching program or materials specifically for women available to the public and not be able to control who uses it. It is another thing all together to welcome and encourage men to be taught by a woman, especially in the gathering of the church body. This just validates and encourages the sin of women violating Scripture by teaching men.

TBR frequently features The Bible Project videos and podcast episodes in its episode show notes as supplementary materials, and TBP overviews of each book of the Bible are used exclusively. To be fair, many supplementary materials from doctrinally sound sources are provided, but they’re provided right alongside materials from false and/or problematic sources like Tim Keller (Day O16), Kay Warren (Day 038), J.D. Greear (Days 050, 323, 352), The Village Church (Matt Chandler’s church, Days 125, 291- Sam Alberry, 317), The Gospel Coalition (Days 133- Article: Did David Rape Bathsheba? answer: “David was a rapist.”, 213, 260, 277 & 352- Thabiti Anyabwile, 286, 315, 322, 323, 336, 345, 363) Skye Jethani (341).

D-Group

D-Group = Discipleship Group. We are men’s and women’s discipleship and Bible study groups that meet weekly in homes around the world.” D-Groups are gender specific and meet for eight sessions of study per year. Each session lasts six weeks and centers around a different book or curriculum. (D-Group is discrete from The Bible Recap, related only by the fact that Tara-Leigh heads up both.)

D-Group exists in three venues: church groups, home groups not connected to churches, and online groups. Commendably, in policy, D-Group requires that participants be members of, or actively seeking membership in a local church, and discourages participants from treating D-Group as a substitute or replacement for the local church…

…but the very fact that it establishes and encourages home groups and online groups not connected to a local church undercuts this commitment in practice. No doubt there are many online and home group members who eschew or are lax about membership in a solid local church, considering D-Group to be their church instead. Indeed, the Why D-Groups page of the website says that one of the results of being involved in a D-Group is: “And those who lack rich relationships with other Christians have found a place of encouragement and challenge.” Although it’s certainly not wrong to be encouraged and challenged by Christian friends outside your local church, the primary “place” this sort of thing should be happening is in the context of your local church. Additionally, group leaders are trained by the D-Group organization, not by the local church. Again, this sort of training should be taking place in the local church and under the authority of the pastors and elders there.

It’s an unbiblical structure and methodology. Discipleship proper is to take place within the context of and under the authority of the local church, not in parachurch ministries or groups, and certainly not in online “groups”. There is no provision, allowance, or instruction for parachurch discipleship in the New Testament. And if D-Group is Reformed, and as committed to “living out the truths revealed by God in Scripture” as they claim to be, they should already know this and work through local churches exclusively.

D-Group holds to continuationism (which explains Tara-Leigh’s aforementioned stance on extra-biblical revelation, and TBR resources from continuationists such as John Piper, The Village Church, etc.), and cites The Village Church’s position paper on continuationism as part of their Beliefs.

D-Group claims to be complementarian, but, apparently, they mean – without clearly saying so – so-called “narrow” or “soft” (essentially: anything goes except women as senior pastors) complementarianism. As I’ve explained in the past, so-called “soft/narrow complementarianism” is not complementarianism, but functional egalitarianism.

Under the Beliefs section of D-Group’s Resources page, two of the resources cited on complementarianism are from The Village Church and Mary Kassian. TVC is where Jen Wilkin, who preaches to men at conferences and other events is on staff as the director of family and student ministries, and where pastor Matt Chandler has publicly praised women who preach to men, like Beth Moore. The short TVC article cited isn’t very substantive, and merely states that they don’t allow women to be elders. I briefly reviewed the Mary Kassian article when it first came out in 2016. Long story short, she believes it’s OK for women to preach to and teach men except in the Sunday worship service (unless it’s Mother’s Day or another special event, then it’s OK).

Tara-Leigh herself preaches to and teaches men in person at her speaking engagements (see below).

D-Group is governed by women. Of the 36 members of D-Group’s “team,” all but four are women. These four men are under the authority of – among other women – founder and CEO Tara-Leigh, of course, as well as a female “Theology + Content Director”. This is not a direct violation of Scripture, since the D-Group organization is not a gathering of the church, but this does align with and point to their “soft complementarianism” posture.

D-Group recommends many of the same false and/or biblically problematic teachers and resources as The Bible Recap, and more:

In the Diversity and Racial Reconciliation section of D-Groups Beliefs page, resources are cited from woke and racialist sources such as Eric Mason, Latasha Morrison’s Be the Bridge, and The Witness, a list of theological works by black theologians and pastors, including Jarvis Williams, Anthony Bradley, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Raphael Warnock, the horrifyingly liberal “pastor” and Democrat senator who endorses the torture and murder of unborn children. (The Witness also includes a book on homiletics written by a woman.)

The LGBTQIA section includes resources from Living Out founder, Sam Allberry, and Jackie Hill-Perry.

I don’t want to overstate this point, but it’s worth noting. Are worldly terms and constructs like “diversity,” “racial reconciliation,” and “LGBTQIA” congruent with a doctrinally sound Christian ministry? Where does the Bible use these terms or teach such constructs?

Tara-Leigh Cobble

As founder and leader of TBR and D-Group, Tara-Leigh’s theology concerning continuationism, functional egalitarianism, extra-biblical revelation, and social justice issues is evident.

In addition to her organizations holding to a functional egalitarianism position, Tara-Leigh personally teaches men via her speaking engagements.

The following two videos are currently featured on her website’s “Speaking” page, as exemplars of her teaching.

Tara-Leigh preaching at a co-ed retreat (Tara Leigh Cobble INTV Retreat | October 26, 2018)

Tara-Leigh speaking at The Nines (the NINES 2019 – Loving Scripture, Biblical Literacy, & the Future of the Church | October 31, 2019 – Men clearly audible in the audience throughout). The caption on this video on Tara-Leigh’s website reads: “TLC speaking to pastors at The Nines Conference (Buckhead Church, Atlanta) about the future of the church.”

Unfortunately, Tara-Leigh also has an affinity for false teachers and false doctrine.

This is the pinned tweet – the first thing you see – on Tara-Leigh’s Twitter account. Apparently, Beth is a “fan” of TBR and Tara-Leigh “learned approximately 90%” of her Bible teaching from Beth Moore.

Excitedly posing with Beth Moore

…for this event featuring a number of false and biblically problematic teachers including Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer.

Tara-Leigh appeared on the She Reads Truth podcast.

Here, she calls Jennie Allen one of her “favorite” leaders.

And since she brought it up in this post, I’d like to address another issue here. Tara-Leigh refers to her own “therapist” and also says, “I can’t think of a teacher/preacher I respect (in modern times) who hasn’t openly talked about seeing a licensed therapist…I believe in it so much that I’ve even paid for therapy for my team members. It’s VITAL.”

While everyone faces difficulties from time to time, and some of those difficulties are intense enough that a time of pastoral or biblical counseling is needed, routine or ongoing “therapy” from a “licensed therapist” (which, in the common vernacular, and at “trauma” events like this one, usually refers to a secular psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional) is no more “VITAL,” or even indicated, for normal, healthy individuals – even for non-Christians – than a weekly trip to the doctor for someone who isn’t sick.

The idea that Christians, across the board, need to be in therapy on a regular basis as though that’s normal or vital is found nowhere in Scripture, and undermines the Bible’s teaching that Scripture alone is sufficient for life and godliness.

Tara-Leigh’s notes from a “conversation” with “black and white Christian leaders and pastors” about “what the church’s role might look like in the midst of our current civil rights movement.”. You’ll notice the concepts of white privilege, systemic or “covert” racism, that white people need to “just listen,” etc. (Several pages. You’ll need to scroll through.)


Tara-Leigh seems like a very nice person with a sweet heart and genuine motives. She has some good ideas, and I’d like to be able to heartily recommend her to you. But unfortunately, even though she’s much closer to the “Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth / Kay Arthur” end of the spectrum than the “Joyce Meyer / Rachel Held Evans” end of the spectrum that I mentioned in the introduction, and I don’t think I’d feel comfortable saying she’s a false teacher at this point, I can’t proactively recommend her or any of her ministries or materials to you either. There are better people you could be listening to.


Additional Resources:

Since the original publication of this article, a number of readers have asked if there is a program similar to TBR that takes followers through a chronological Bible reading plan with a daily recap of each day’s reading. I am not aware of any other program or podcast like that. The closest thing I know of is when I led my ladies’ Sunday School class through the chronological plan in 2014 and taught a weekly lesson selected from that week’s reading. If that’s of interest, you can always find those lessons at the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page (at the very end under “Miscellaneous”).

Other readers have said they were listening to TBR, but stopped when something seemed “off” to them. Now, they just use the TBR podcast episode titles to tell them which passage to read for the day. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but if you’d like something that’s a little less cumbersome, I’ve got a printable of the entire year’s readings for you. Every year around New Year’s I publish a “round up” of Bible reading plans. The chronological plan is always first on the list because I recommend it so highly. Go to the Bible Studies tab and click on “Bible Reading Plans,” then click the link on #1, and print it, bookmark it, screenshot it, etc.