Complementarianism, Movies, Southern Baptist/SBC

Movie Tuesday: Battle for the Minds

Originally published May 21, 2019

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian women, Complementarianism, Holidays (Other)

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

Originally published May 10, 2019

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

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

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

This year, Beth Moore has caused quite the stir by hiding in plain sight the fact that she will be preaching the sermondoing Mother’s Day” this coming Sunday, presumably at the Tomball, Texas, campus of the church she attends (founded and pastored by her son-in-law Curtis Jones1) Bayou City Fellowship:

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

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

Why all this cloak and dagger about the highest profile woman in the Southern Baptist Convention2, possibly in the entirety of evangelicalism, preaching the Mother’s Day sermon?

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

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

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

Using Mother’s Day as an excuse to induce a woman to sin by having her deliver the sermon is a slap in the face – to God, to the church, and to women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s exactly what’s happening.

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

When a pastor invites a woman to sin by taking over the pulpit, he implicitly says, “Being a woman isn’t good enough. You have to steal the role of men to be valued and esteemed.”

Ladies, he’s wrong.

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

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

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

Especially on Mother’s Day.


Updates to this article:

1Curtis Jones (Beth Moore’s son-in-law) resigned his pastorate at BCF in July 2020.

2Beth Moore has left the Southern Baptist Convention.


Additional Resources:

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

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

Why Asking Women to Preach Is Spiritual Abuse by Josh Buice

Rock Your Role

Deaconesses and Female Deacons

The role of women in the church. It can be a sticky wicket sometimes, you know? Some things are pretty clear. Like, women aren’t to pastor churches. That’s clear in Scripture. Complementarians and egalitarians disagree on this point for various reasons, but none of those reasons include disagreeing on what a pastor is. Both camps pretty much agree that the pastor is the primary undershepherd of the church.

But sometimes, the sticking point is the fact that, even within our own camp, we disagree, or have different perspectives on, the definition of a term. And that can leave doctrinally sound, complementarian, brothers and sisters in Christ in a bit of a quandary. We start off with the same orthodoxy but end up with differing orthopraxies.

Such is the case with the question of women serving as deacons or deaconesses. Different churches define these terms differently. But what does the Bible say?

We find the English word deacon in only two passages in the New Testament: in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, where God spells out the biblical qualifications for deacons, and in Philippians 1:1, Paul’s greeting to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”. Although the English word “deacon” isn’t used in this passage, a significant sector of Christian thought considers Acts 6:1-6 to be a description of the appointment of the first deacons in the New Testament church. In fact, this idea is so widely accepted that one reliable English translation titles this passage with the section heading “The First Seven Deacons Appointed”.

The Greek word διάκονος (diákonos), “deacon,” used or implied in these passages, simply means “servant” and “a waiter- at table or in other menial duties”. It comes from the root διάκω (diákō), which means “to run on errands,” and involves neither teaching nor authority. As you can see, this is a position of humility, anonymity, and servanthood, not power, influence, and rulership. We can see this from the description of the duties of the seven chosen men – presumably the first deacons – in Acts, who “waited on tables” providing food for the church’s widows.

Most churches would basically be in agreement with all of this (at least “on paper”) up to this point. Where we start to diverge is, how does this flesh itself out in practice in the local church body? Though there are undoubtedly more, I’ve run into five main perspectives on the diaconate in the church (the descriptors that follow are only general touchstones based solely on my own personal experience, they are not universally definitive / applicable. I gotta call them something, folks.) :

  • The traditional Southern Baptist perspective: The office of deacon exists and is restricted to men. Deacons must meet the biblical qualifications for the office, and are set apart to the diaconate by way of the ordination process (nomination, examination, voting, and the laying on of hands). There is no category of deaconess. All Christians are expected to be servants.
  • John MacArthur’s perspective: Because diákonos means “servant,” and all Christians are to be servants, all church members who serve in some way are deacons. There is no office, position, or official title of deacon.
  • The Baptistic hybrid perspective: Various blendings of the traditional Southern Baptist and John MacArthur perspectives. Some churches have the traditional, ordained male diaconate with a separate, non-ordained, less formal group of women deaconesses who see to the tangible needs of women and children when called upon by the deacons. Some churches have a group of non-ordained deacons and deaconesses a bit more set apart than the “everybody’s a deacon” perspective. The deacons generally minister to men and the deaconesses to women and children, or each deacon or deaconess is attached to a specific ministry in the church (deaconess of media, deacon of benevolence ministry, etc.)
  • The progressive – egalitarian perspective: Usually found in “mainstream” (i.e. theologically liberal) Protestant churches. The office of deacon does exist and is open to both men and women who undergo the same ordination process, perform the same duties, hold the same positions of authority (if any), etc. There is no need for a separate category of deaconess.
  • The Charismatic – egalitarian perspective: Usually found in Charismatic churches with female “pastors” or co-“pastors”. The formal office or position of both deacon and deaconess exist and may operate somewhat independently from one another. Both deacons and deaconesses seem to function as elders in some ways. Deaconesses often operate in a “ruling elders meets women’s ministry” sort of way.

The two final categories are obviously unbiblical because they are fruit of the poisonous tree (egalitarianism), but what about the first three?

The issue of deaconesses and female deacons recently placed itself in my path, so I wanted to take a fresh look at it to make sure my beliefs and position are as much in line with Scripture as possible. It never hurts to do that, right? We grow in Christ, we grow in the Word, and we strive to increasingly align with Scripture accordingly. Let me share with you where I currently am on all of this in case it might help as you think through your own beliefs.

I continue to hold to the “traditional Southern Baptist perspective” on the diaconate. I think the Bible more robustly supports this perspective than the “John MacArthur” or “hybrid” perspectives for the following reasons:

  • I have long said on the issue of women pastors and elders that if you will take out the chapter and verse markings and look at 1 Timothy 2:11-3:7 as one continuous stream of thought (as it was originally written), the passage starts off by describing who is not qualified for the office of elder (women) and why, followed by who is qualified for the office of elder (men) and how. I do not usually extend that passage to include 3:8-13, because what I’m usually asked about is women preaching and pastoring, not women being deacons. But when dealing with the topic of women serving as deacons, there is no reason not to include 3:8-13 in that continuous stream of thought (i.e. women are excluded in 2:11-15, qualified men are described in 3:1-13), and every reason to include it, as the word “likewise” in verse 8 indicates that 8-13 is part of the same thought as 2:11-3:7.
  • The word “likewise” in 3:8 also indicates the similarity of 3:8-13 to the form and content of 3:1-7. There’s no transition or contrast between the two passages indicating that “pastor/elder is a set apart office for qualified men only” in 1-7, but “deacon is not a set apart office for qualified men only” in 8-13. In fact, “likewise” would seem to indicate to the contrary – that they are both set apart offices of the church for qualified men only.
  • Chapter 3, verses 1-2 speak of deacons as husbands with wives, indicating that deacons are men. If Paul meant that women were qualified for the office of deacon, there is a way to make that clear in Greek. He differentiates between “wives” and “women in general” in other passages – why not here? And if he meant that women could be deacons, why not make that crystal clear in 3:8-13, since he just said basically the same things about elders being the husband of one wife in 3:2-5? (And we certainly use that qualification to help prove that only men can be pastors/elders, don’t we?)
  • I think the preponderance of evidence points to the seven men of Acts 6 being deacons, or at least the precedent for deacons, regardless of whether this was an impromptu, temporary assemblage of men or whether they served the church on a permanent basis. They were a group of men, set apart to serve. No women were appointed. This was the example later codified and explained in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
  • If Phoebe, or any of the other women of Romans 16, were considered “deacons” on par with the seven men in Acts 6 or the parameters of 1 Timothy 3:8-13, why would translators not simply render Romans 16:1 as “deacon” instead of servant? Choosing those two different words in those two different passages seems to draw a distinction between someone who is qualified and set apart to the office of deacon and any random Christian who serves in some way.
  • To say that all Christians are to serve, therefore all Christians are deacons is imprecise and confusing. All Christians are also to share the gospel. Should we therefore say that all Christians are evangelists in the Ephesians 4:11-12 sense?
  • Look at the widows of godly character in 1 Timothy 5:3-16. These are godly women who, in addition to having served their families well, have a history of serving the church prior to being widowed. Notice verse 11: “having a reputation for good works: if she…has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.” Does this passage – just two chapters after qualifications for deacons – indicate in any way that these women were set apart as, or carried the title of “deacon” or “deaconess”? Does it indicate that women need to be set apart as deacons / deaconesses or bear the title of “deacon” or “deaconess” in order to serve in these ways? No. The women of 1 Timothy 5 took it upon themselves to fill the needs of the saints they were aware of – no office or title needed, just as most Christian women continue to do today.

Now, I say all of that to explain how I arrived at the beliefs and position I hold on this issue. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, to be construed to mean that I think those who hold to the “John MacArthur” or “hybrid” perspectives are wrong, unbiblical, heretical, or false teachers. Not at all.

I stand shoulder to shoulder, without a second thought about it, with many who hold the “John MacArthur” or “hybrid” perspectives. I don’t think either of those perspectives, as I’ve described and understand them, are unbiblical. Personally, I would have no problem joining a church that held to either of those perspectives. My main point of divergence with those two perspectives is that calling women who serve “deacons” or “deaconesses” – because of the wide array of definitions that can be attached to those two terms – is confusing and could lead someone to think a church is doing something unbiblical when it actually is not.

Certainly, it is biblically right and good for women – individually or as a set aside group, titled or untitled – to act as servants, care for widows, run errands, wait tables, and carry out menial tasks in service to their brothers and sisters in Christ. We see Paul commending Phoebe and the other women of Romans 16 for doing these very sorts of things. In fact, most Christian women who are faithful church members are already doing things like that. The Bible says “serve one another,” so every Christian ought to be serving the church in some way.

But because of the current confusion and different perspectives in the church over what deacons actually are and who may or may not serve as a deacon, if a church wishes to set aside a group of women as servants, the pastor and other leadership might want to consider call them something other than deacons or deaconesses. Just a thought.

In the end, whatever our position on the finer points of deacons, female deacons, and deaconesses, I think we can all agree that, as brothers and sisters, we are all to serve one another in love and humility.

In the end, whatever our position on the finer points of deacons, female deacons, and deaconesses, I think we can all agree that, as brothers and sisters, we are all to serve one another in love and humility.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

1 Peter 4:11, Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:3-4

Postscript:

The issue of women serving as deacons or deaconesses arose for me after my most recent request for recommendations of doctrinally sound churches to add to my list of Reader Recommended Churches. I noticed that a significant number of the recommended churches listed female deacons or deaconesses on their websites, and that these churches also seemed to be doctrinally sound, usually Reformed or Calvinistic churches, often pastored by graduates of The Master’s Seminary – churches I would normally add to the list in a heartbeat.

In the past, I’ve received a handful of recommendations for churches with female deacons, but they were all of the “progressive-” or “Charismatic- egalitarian perspectives,” and were excluded from the list for that reason. Therefore, my initial inclination upon seeing women listed as “deacons” or “deaconesses” on a church website was to exclude these churches from the list.

But because there is such a dearth of doctrinally sound churches available out there, I didn’t want to exclude any church that didn’t, biblically speaking, have to be excluded. So I revisited the issue of deaconesses and female deacons.

Going forward, I’ll be including these doctrinally sound churches with deaconesses / female deacons (as long as they appear to hold to the “John MacArthur” or “hybrid” perspectives). I’ve made a note on the list that some of the churches listed have deaconesses / female deacons, and that if a searcher is uncomfortable with that idea, or has questions about the church’s position, she should ask the pastor about it.


Additional Resources:

Can women serve as deacons in the church? at GotQuestions

Was Phoebe a Deaconess? at Grace to You

Can Women Serve as Deacons? at WWUTT

The Office of Deacon by New Beginnings Church

Qualified Servants for the Church–Deacons, Part 1 by John MacArthur

“No. Women May NOT be Pastors.” But Can They be Deacons? at Truth+Fire

Complementarianism

Mythbusting Complementarianism: 4 Truths Egalitarians Need to Know About Complementarian Women

Originally published May 31, 2019

I am often frustrated in my role as a complementarian¹ woman. I am not frustrated by what God teaches in the Bible about my roles in the home and the church. I am not frustrated in carrying out those roles. I am not frustrated by complementarian men.

I am frustrated by egalitarians – most of the ones who have crossed my path, anyway – because of the incorrect assumptions they make about me and other complementarian women².

And it’s not just that the assumptions are wrong, it’s that the assumptions are often hypocritically, “log in the eye,” wrong. Then, they turn around and use these false assumptions as reasons to fight against complementarianism. But the reasons don’t exist. They’re shadow boxing. Fighting against a ghost. If you’re going to fight for something, your fight should at least be based on legitimate reasons.

I’m under no delusions that this article will change the hearts and minds of egalitarians, but if I could, here’s what I’d try to help them understand…

1.
It’s a spiritual issue.

I know this isn’t going to be popular. I know I’m going to be called judgmental and harsh and any number of other printable and unprintable names, but I’m going to say this anyway because this is the crucial element on which this entire complementarian vs. egalitarian argument rests.

This is a spiritual issue. It’s not an oppressors versus victims issue, it’s not about power or position or circumstances or legalism or casting off shackles. It’s not about any of those visible, tangible, surface level things we think it’s about. This goes beyond the earthly realm and has its foundation in the invisible, spiritual realm. The reason you hold the positions and opinions you hold as an individual is based on one thing – your relationship with God. This is a me versus God issue. Do you love and obey God as a genuinely regenerated Christian, or do you reject Him and rebel against His commands as someone who is still lost?

The Bible makes crystal clear from Genesis to Revelation that people who genuinely know and love God obey Him, and that if you don’t obey Him, you don’t know Him or love Him. Over and over and over again we see this through Israel’s countless cycles of idolatry and the prophets calling them to repentance in the Old Testament, to John’s near broken-record repetition of the theme in the New Testament. Scripture is clear. Love of God and obedience to God are inextricably and irreducibly intertwined.

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3-6

Additionally, if you’re not saved – a “natural man” – the things of God are folly to you. It’s not that you’re smarter or enlightened or have a different opinion than those who obey Scripture. It’s that you’re spiritually incapable of accepting, embracing, and obeying what God has told you to do. That’s why you see those of us who do as fools.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

Let me say it plainly. If your general trajectory in life is to consistently find yourself angered by, indifferent to, or unable to accept the plain meaning of Scripture, and your heart persists in fighting back against God’s Word even if you’ve been biblically corrected, you are almost certainly not saved.³ That’s not me saying that. That’s a whole lot of Scripture saying that. Regardless of how saved you feel. Despite what you may claim to be. No matter what people have told you about your salvation. God says loving Him equals walking with Him toward embracing, loving, and obeying His commands. And that includes His commands about the roles of men and women.

This is the fundamental reason most egalitarians disagree with most complementarians. It’s usually not that either side doesn’t understand what the other side stands for. It’s that both sides generally do understand what the other side stands for and they reject the other side’s view because of where they are, spiritually.

(Addendum: After I published this article, a few people responded who seemed to misunderstand what I’ve said in this paragraph. Let me see if I can clarify:

1) You’ll notice I’ve used words/phrases (“most egalitarians,” “general trajectory,” “almost certainly,” etc.) indicating that this is a broad, general principle, not something that is universally deterministic about every single individual who has ever had an egalitarian-esque thought cross her mind.

2) I am not saying that holding to an egalitarian viewpoint is what makes someone unsaved. Rejecting the gospel is what makes someone unsaved. What I am saying is that most people who are already false converts gravitate toward the egalitarian viewpoint as a fruit of the pre-existing condition of being unsaved. It is a logical fallacy to turn that statement around and assume I mean the converse to be true.

3) I certainly believe it is possible for genuinely regenerated Christians to have good faith, incorrect interpretations or understandings of Scripture – starting with me. When my husband and I picked out wedding vows 26 years ago, I flatly refused to use any set of vows that said I would “obey” him and only grudgingly agreed to a set that used the word “submit” instead. Embarrassingly, in our wedding video, you can clearly hear me hesitate before repeating that part of the vows. About 10-15 years ago I held a position of local denominational leadership that I’m only now beginning to see I probably, in some respects, shouldn’t have held. One reason for that is that on two or three occasions the position required me to speak to local congregations during their midweek services on a biblical topic which could not be properly addressed without explaining Scripture. Do I think I was unsaved because I thought those things were OK at the time? Of course not. But I’ll tell you this – over time, the Holy Spirit convicted me of those things and I repented. And as I’ve grown in Christ my rebellious attitudes and misunderstandings of those Scriptures and others have increasingly come under submission to God’s Word.

That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about here – the general biblical principle that saved people are on a trajectory of increasing holiness and Christlikeness. Lost people are on a trajectory of increasing disobedience and rebellion (and not strictly with regard to egalitarian ideas). It is possible to be a saved, simul justus et peccator, growing in holiness, desiring to please the Lord, Christian and get some non-soteriological things wrong along the way, in good faith, in the process of growing. What is not possible is for someone to be genuinely regenerated and live in a general attitude of heart-rebellion against God, His Word, and His ways (His ways in general, not strictly egalitarianism) in favor of doing life on her own terms. I don’t know how to make that more clear. That is what the Bible teaches.

4) I clearly made the statement that this article pertains to “most of the [egalitarians] who have crossed my path”. I guess what I did not make clear is that most of the egalitarians who have crossed my path have not been the small minority of genuinely regenerated Christians who have made a good faith error about Scripture’s teaching on the role of women as they’re growing in Christ. That might be your experience, but it has not been mine. Most of the egalitarians who have crossed my path have clearly been of the vast majority of egalitarians who have come to that position, as I explained above, as a result of being false converts. And it shows in their demeanor as they mock the authority of God’s Word in general, lash out in rage, blaspheme, swear, and slander, and generally display the opposite of the Fruit of the Spirit.

5) As I’ve stated many, many times in my articles, the Bible is our authority as Christians, not a pastor or Christian leader who holds a particular position, not your loved ones who are in error but you’re certain they love Jesus, not any church or denominational structure or position that conflicts with Scripture – the Bible. If you are going to argue against a biblical principle, you need to support your argument with rightly handled, in context Scripture, not examples of fallible human beings – however godly or well-intentioned they might be. Scripture is our standard, not people.)


2.
Complementarian women don’t feel
oppressed and downtrodden.

Obviously I can’t speak for every complementarian woman out there, but I can say that of the dozens of women I know personally and the thousands who have followed me online for the last eleven years, and speaking for myself, I have never met a single, genuinely regenerated, complementarian woman who felt diminished, held back, chained up, or walked all over by the role God lays out for us in Scripture.

Do we sometimes sin by thinking and acting selfishly? Yep. Have there been husbands, pastors, and other men who have sinned against us? Of course. Do we have a bad day from time to time? Naturally. But none of that changes our delight in our role itself. Even people who have their dream jobs have nightmare moments, but there’s still nothing on the planet they’d rather do. Nothing that makes them feel more alive and fulfilled. And that’s generally how complementarian women feel about our job – maybe even more so, because it’s not just a job, it’s a calling from God Himself. And nobody has a better Boss than we do.

We don’t need your pity, egalitarians, any more than a kid in a candy store needs to be pitied. And we don’t need to be rescued, just like you wouldn’t think of trying to rescue a child from Disneyland. We’re not sitting around saying, “Woe is me,” and feeling like we’re losing out on life. For us, keeping God’s commands about our role is a delight and a joy, because we love Him:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. Psalm 119:47

No one is happier, more fulfilled, or more content in life than the Christian who is living in the will of God by obeying Him. No one is more miserable than a false convert who is trying to obey God through sheer force of will, or a genuine Christian living in disobedience to God’s commands.

And if all of that seems foreign or ridiculous, folly or foolishness to you, unfortunately, you’re bearing out the biblical truth I explained in section 1 of this article.


3.
Complementarian women aren’t brainwashed.

Probably the most hypocritical sexist viewpoint of egalitarians is that they assume that Christian women couldn’t possibly have come to the complementarian worldview via our own study, intellect, will, and choice. We must have been brainwashed into it by sexist, misogynistic, abusive complementarian men. But if we could somehow manage to understand the viewpoint delivered by our egalitarian saviors, we’d see the light, cast off the shackles, and be set free from all that’s holding us back.

I’m not making that up. That’s essentially the diatribe I received from one of Beth Moore’s followers recently (and I’ve heard it plenty of times before). Beth had said on Twitter that the reason she was receiving so much pushback from Christians following her announcement that she would be preaching the Sunday morning service at a local church was because sexist men were just trying to protect their positions and power. To which I responded, “What about the pushback you’re receiving from complementarian women? Are we sexist and trying to protect positions and power, too?” No, her follower angrily replied, you’ve just be brainwashed by those men.

If egalitarians can’t see how arrogant, hypocritical, and sexist it is to stand on a pedestal and declare that they’re the ones who will empower women, ensure that women are heard and valued for their independent ideas and unique contributions, and then turn around and condescendingly assume that women who have used those very independent minds they themselves tout to reach a non-egalitarian conclusion are brainwashed, I’m at a loss as to how to explain it. It’s like trying to prove water exists to someone who’s sitting in a lake while drinking a glass of ice water.

Complementarian women are not brainwashed into our worldview. We are convinced by the study of Scripture and our love for God that His plan for men and women is best, beneficial, and a blessing.


4.
Complementarian women aren’t
limited or lesser, we’re specialists.

Oh, that poor cardiologist! He’s so limited in his profession. If only he could be a General Practitioner!

I just feel terrible for that guy – he only practices civil law! He doesn’t know what he’s missing by not also practicing criminal, personal injury, estate, real estate, corporate, family, and malpractice law!

If you ever had the misfortune of hearing someone say something so ridiculous, you’d probably think she was a little off her nut. In the professional world, we normally regard specialty positions as more prestigious than more generalized positions (not that that’s right – general medicine, law, etc. are equally important). Specialists usually go to school longer and have a unique skill set for a unique segment of the population. General practitioners don’t have the luxury of focusing on a more narrow field of study. They have to be a jack of all trades – all things to all people.

But somehow, for egalitarians, that concept doesn’t translate to complementarianism. In the complementarian church, male pastors, elders, and teachers are the general practitioners. Women are the specialists. We specialize in discipling women and children, because we have a unique, God-given skill set for ministering to that unique segment of the population. God has given us the luxury and freedom to concentrate on this population He has called us to serve without the added burden of also having to teach, disciple, and oversee men.

It’s much the same in the complementarian home. The husband is like the CEO of the family. The buck stops with him. Every. single. buck. The house. The wife. The kids. The car. The yard. The bills. Everybody’s health. The extended family. The spiritual leadership. Church involvement. Provision. Decisions. Everything is ultimately on his shoulders. This leaves the wife free to specialize in being the COO of the family – day to day, boots on the ground operation of the household – an equally important position, which, again, she has a unique, God-given skill set for carrying out. While she and her husband certainly work together, God has given her the freedom and the luxury of passing everything that’s not under her purview up the chain of command for someone else to deal with. If she needs something in order to do her job, she has someone to turn to to provide it.

The egalitarian worldview looks down on women who specialize in discipling women and children in the church and being the chief operating officer in the home. Our teaching only has value if there are men in the audience, which reeks of sexism. As if men are the standard, the high bar to be set, the only ones whose mere bodily presence can validate a woman’s teaching and suddenly make it worthwhile. Who cares about teaching women and children? Men are the important ones. Our role at home is only a worthy and important one if we’re the ones calling all the shots at the macro level. Never mind that things actually have to get done and be overseen at the micro level in order for every member of the household, including the CEO, to live, grow, and flourish.

Specialties aren’t limiting or lesser. There’s an equally prestigious and necessary place for GPs and specialized medicine. For general law and specialty law. For CEOs and COOs. For complementarian men and complementarian women.

The egalitarian view does not value women as women. It only values women who are cheap knock-offs of men. Complementarians are the ones who value women as a separate, and equally significant, unique creation of God – not measured by how well we can imitate a man, but measured by how well we live up to all God created us to be as women. And we’re supposed to feel oppressed, limited, and lesser by that? We’d have to be brainwashed to love a worldview that values us for what we are, not for clawing and scraping toward some impossible standard and state of being God never created us to reach?

When you set men up as the standard and tell women they have to measure up to men to have any value, what you are is not egalitarian. What you are is sexist.

No thanks. I’ll take the complement.


¹Thanks to the advent of everything-but-the-pastoral-office “soft complementarianism” I should probably add an adjective, like “biblical complementarian,” but I’m not ready to concede the term yet. Complementarian means you embrace the full biblical teaching of the roles of women and men. If you compromise on that, you’re a functional egalitarian. We only need two terms.
²Egalitarians make incorrect assumptions about complementarian men, too, the main one being that they’re sexist, misogynistic, even abusive. Please. I’ll let complementarian men speak to that themselves, or this article will be way too long.
³Sometimes people who are genuinely saved worry that they’re not. If you’re concerned about your salvation, I encourage you to work through my study AM I REALLY SAVED?: A 1 JOHN CHECK-UPand make an appointment with your pastor if you need counsel.
Complementarianism

Throwback Thursday ~ Putting on the “You Can!” of Complementarianism

Originally published October 18, 2019

It never really hit me until I started teaching the book of 1 Timothy how many instructions in the pastoral epistles pertain to women, and how weighty those instructions are. The pastoral epistles are the “policy and procedure manuals” for the church, and, far from relegating the ministry of women to nothing more than crafts and tea parties while the men do all the “important” stuff, you come away with the impression that a healthy, well-balanced church actually depends on godly women working hard to carry out the ministries that God has uniquely created and gifted us to fulfill, alongside men fulfilling their own ministries.

These epistles don’t view “woman’s work” around the house of God as trivial or menial, but as a high and holy calling. Vital. Necessary. Honorable.

But is that the lofty perspective of the biblical role of women that the local complementarian church is conveying to its female and male members? Are we, especially those of us in women’s ministry, proactively teaching that the calling of motherhood or the task of discipling other women or serving those in need is qualitatively just as imperative and noble as the calling of pastor or elder?

Intentionally or not, the egalitarian movement has maneuvered biblical complementarians into constantly playing defense. Their offensive squad keeps moving the ball forward by offering women a no holds barred buffet of powerful and prestigious ministry positions. Our defensive line correctly and biblically pushes back with, “No, the Bible says women are not to ‘teach or to exercise authority over a man’  in the church setting.” But often, only two or three members of our offensive squad are dressed out to play, and they never get off the bench and into the game. And as any football fan knows, you have to have a good defense and a good offense if you’re playing to win.

Egalitarians offer women “you can,” but all too often all we complementarians have offered godly women yearning to serve is, “you can’t.” Where is the big, beautiful, biblical showcase of complementarian “you can”?

Not long ago, I was teaching a group of ladies the biblical process of putting off the old self and putting on the new self in Ephesians 4:20-32. We explored how interesting it was that every “don’t” in the passage was coupled with a “do.” We don’t just put off lying, we put on proactive truth-telling instead, and so on. Nature abhors a vacuum in the physical realm, and it would seem this is true in the spiritual realm as well. When we subtract the ungodly, we must replace it with the godly. If we don’t, something will rush in to fill the void that’s been created, and that “something” isn’t usually biblical or fruitful. 

So how can we shift the perspective in our churches from “you can’t” to “you can,” and create an atmosphere, not merely of “put off,” but also “put on”? How can we get our offensive team suited up, on the field, and moving the ball toward the goalpost while at the same time retaining a strong defense?

We can, so to speak, make complementarianism great again. 

As I studied 1 Timothy 5, I was struck by Paul’s description of women who are “truly widows.” These are women who have spent their lives being busy and intentional about the work of the Lord in their homes and in the church. They adorned themselves with the good works proper for women who profess godliness, and they were honored and revered for it by the church. I didn’t come away from this passage with the feeling that these women were frustrated, oppressed, or seen as “lesser” by the church because they weren’t allowed to teach or exercise authority over men. I came away from this passage thinking, “Those women were awesome. That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

What would the climate in our churches look like if women’s ministries and the church at large recaptured that same reverential posture and purposefulness toward biblical womanhood? If, instead of teaching the biblical role of women strictly as, “You can’t eat the fruit from this apple tree,” we followed that admonition with a grand tour of the Garden, focusing on the delicious fruit of the pear tree, the cherry tree that needs a good pruning, the fig tree just waiting for the right woman to come along, harvest its fruit, and make some preserves, the banana tree that needs an expert in fertilizers, and the orange tree dying for someone to water it?

In my experience, what happens in churches of that climate is that – just like the godly widows of 1 Timothy 5 – women are so busy and fulfilled tending the other trees of the Garden, that they have neither the time nor the desire to go apple picking. 

May our churches strengthen themselves and grow to more robust spiritual health by proactively encouraging Christian women to joyfully throw ourselves into the godly “good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” – the biblical “you can” of complementarianism.


Additional Resources

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

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

Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church

Servanthood

The Servanthood Survey