Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Paul’s gospel, National repentance, Pastor search committee, Pastor’s wife teaching men)

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

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

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

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

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

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


Didn’t the risen Christ give Paul the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith? Paul called it “my gospel”? Is the Great Commission the same as Paul’s gospel? Thanks!

Not exactly, but it’s great that you’re noticing those little details as you study God’s Word!

“Paul’s” gospel…

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 2 Timothy 2:8

…is the biblical gospel of salvation that Paul preached – the good news of what Christ did to save sinners through His death, burial, and resurrection – and the call to repentance and belief.

The Great Commission…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

…is the church’s (and individual Christians’) “marching orders” to share that gospel with sinners and disciple them to maturity in Christ. It is God’s main purpose for the church.

So, in a nutshell, the gospel is what Christ did. The Great Commission is what we’re supposed to do with the gospel.


I got into quite the discussion with people today who feel that prayers of repentance for our national sins are not only unnecessary, but an affront to them because THEY did nothing wrong. I cited Daniel who prayed prayers of repentance for his nation, though he led a righteous life. They got all confused with Old Testament sacrificial law and that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice so we only need repent of our OWN sins. Could you address this, please?

Well…depending on exactly what they were saying, they may have been at least partly right. We can certainly pray that God will lead individuals in our nation to repent of whatever sins they may have committed, but we cannot repent on behalf of another person or of a nation. God does not hold us responsible for the sins of others, and we cannot repent for the sins of others. (see Ezekiel 18).

If you’re referring to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9, if you’ll read very carefully, you’ll notice he is confessing the sin of his people, lamenting over the sin of his people, and asking God to pour out His mercy on his people despite their sin, but he is not repenting on their behalf.

It is impossible to repent for someone else’s (let alone a whole nation’s) sin because repenting is more than:

  • confessing that sin has occurred,
  • admitting that someone is guilty for having committed that sin,
  • feeling sorrowful over sin,
  • asking forgiveness for sin, or
  • asking God to be merciful toward the sinner.

Repentance means to turn away from your sin, to forsake it, to stop doing it because you want to obey God instead. Although I’m sure he wished he could have, Daniel could not turn away from someone else’s (the nation of Israel’s) sin. And, he specifically says in verse 13: “we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities”.

Another thing to remember is that Daniel is interceding for God’s covenant people. They belonged to Him. They had agreed to follow Him. America is not in a covenant relationship with God. For a Christian today, interceding for the church and praying that God would lead Christians to repentance would be more analogous to what Daniel was doing.


We lost our pastor almost a year ago and are struggling to find a new one. Do you have any suggestions of where we could send the information about our church and the position in hopes of finding a suitable candidate?

I would suggest sending your information to:

The Master’s Seminary’s Pastor Search page

Founders Ministries Minister Search page

Expositors Seminary

I hope you’ll find a wonderful, godly pastor very soon!

Now, although this might not be possible for your particular church, I would like to throw something out there for the consideration of any pastor or church member who might be reading this. The most biblical model of leadership for the local church is that it be led by a plurality of elders.¹ For that primary reason, I would encourage every church that doesn’t already have this leadership structure in place to look into it and give strong, prayerful consideration to transitioning into leadership by a plurality of elders.

However, secondarily, there are practical benefits to your church being led by a plurality of elders, and avoiding being “pastorless” is a huge one. My own church recently welcomed a new pastor after being without one for two full years. That two years was a struggle. The interim pastor was a stranger to us and we were strangers to him. He did not know the ins and outs of life at our church or the strengths and weaknesses of our church. As affable as our interim pastor was, it was always in the back of everyone’s mind that he was temporary. This was not our pastor and everyone knew it. And then there were some other issues that arose during his tenure that awaited the new pastor’s arrival.

When a church is led by a plurality of elders, many of these issues can be avoided or lessened. When a lead teaching elder dies, moves, or steps down for whatever reason, there is, ideally, already another elder available to step in and take over. This elder already knows the church and the people and they know him. There’s no need to assemble and train a pastor search committee, launch a nationwide search, wait on resumes to arrive, interview candidates, present them to the church for a vote, and then hire a stranger about whom you know virtually nothing except what’s on his resume and whatever he says in his interview. The transition from elder to elder is smoother and immediate with little upheaval and relational trauma to the church body.

Just something to think about.

¹I’m not saying that churches which aren’t elder-led are apostate or intrinsically sinful, I’m just saying that if you want to get as close to the biblical model as possible, go with a plurality of elders.

I am a relatively new (about one year old –  but growing in discernment!) Christian, and I attend a small Baptist church of about 15 people in the remote area in which I live. The pastor’s wife leads both men and women in a “Bible” study group using popular (biblically questionable at best, such as Max Lucado) books instead of reading Scripture. I choose not to attend these studies, but because the church is so small, my absence is obvious and noticed. People comment that they have not seen me at “Bible” study. 

Everything else that happens in the church, the sermons, worship, prayer, are all on point biblically, thus far. My pastor is a godly man as far as I can tell, so my only issue to date is these co-ed, led by a woman, “not-Bible” studies. Should I take my concerns to my pastor? I’m already on a bit of shaky ground with the pastor’s wife. I’m reluctant to upset the apple cart any more. However, if the right thing to do is to address it and deal with potential consequences (shunning, whatever) then I want to do the right thing by my Lord and Savior. How would you guide me in this situation?

I know this is a really difficult situation to be in and I’m sorry it’s making you uncomfortable at church. Yes, when we see sin in the camp, we must speak up, so you should begin preparing to address this situation. Normally, I encourage women to go to the person most directly in charge of the issue first, which in this case would be the pastor’s wife, but I’m guessing that if you’re on “shaky ground” with her it’s because you’ve already tried to address this with her. The next step is to go to the pastor.

I would encourage you to spend a little time studying through the book of Esther, realizing that she was in a somewhat similar situation to yours: God revealed to her an ungodly situation that would harm His people, and she – at great personal risk – had to go to the man in charge and implore him to right the situation, not knowing how he would respond. It could be that God has specifically placed you in this church “for such a time as this”.

Notice that Esther asked that her people be gathered to pray for her. If you have any like-minded friends or loved ones who will pray with you as you prepare your heart to talk to your pastor, that would be beneficial. I have already prayed for you, and I am asking everyone reading this to stop and take a moment to pray for you as well.

If the pastor tells you you’re wrong or doesn’t rectify the situation, and there’s another, better church you could join, even if it’s not as convenient as this one, prayerfully consider moving your membership there. If, as you said, everything else at your current church really is doctrinally sound, and you have no other options for a doctrinally sound church to attend that’s within achievable driving distance of your house, my counsel to you would be to stay at this church, continue not to attend the “not-Bible” study, and fervently pray for God to change the hearts of your pastor and his wife.

If you stay and people continue to say, “We missed you at ‘Bible’ study!” all you have to say is, “Thank you!” or “It’s nice to be missed,” or something like that. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I say, “I missed you at _____,” to someone, it’s not a demand to know why she wasn’t there, it’s to let her know that I love her and missed fellowshipping with her. Hopefully, that’s all your fellow church members mean by saying that. If a nosy Nelly asks why you weren’t there, keep in mind that you’re not required to give her that information just because she asked. You can say something like, “I have a conflict and can’t attend,” which is truthful (you have a biblical conflict and can’t, in good conscience, attend), yet gives no one the opportunity to say that you were gossiping or trying to stir up division in the church. If she continues to pry, look her dead in the eye and keep repeating, “I have a conflict and can’t attend” until she comes to her senses and realizes it’s none of her business why you weren’t there.

Here are some resources I hope will help you:

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

Searching for a new church?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Complementarianism, Ministry, Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

Originally published August 3, 2018

When it comes to Christianity, are the specifics of what people believe important?

I think most of us would answer a resounding “yes” to that question. Of course, the various concepts we believe are important. You can’t just believe anything you like and still be a Christian. There are certain things you must believe in order to become a Christian at all, and there are certain things you will come to believe because you are a genuinely regenerated Christian. But what are those things, and how do we know which is which?

Maybe you’ve heard the terms “essential doctrines” or “primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues” or “first, second, and third tier levels of doctrine”? For years, theologians have been attempting to organize beliefs of the Christian faith – all drawn from the Bible, naturally – into nice neat categories in order to make things a little simpler. As someone who thrives on organization and categories, I’m grateful for their efforts. But if you begin to study this categorization of beliefs, you’ll find that we haven’t reached an across the board consensus yet.

Generally speaking, “essential”, “primary”, or “first tier” doctrines are those which you, biblically, have to believe in order to become a Christian and/or be considered a Christian. For example:

✢ Sin is a thing, and I am a sinner.

✢ God exists and is the supreme authority of the universe.

✢ Jesus was God in human flesh.

✢ Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

See how this works? If you don’t believe you’re a sinner, you’re not saved. If you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, you’re not saved. Here’s how our friend, Pastor Gabe, briefly outlines essential doctrines:

 

(Gabe later tweaked the acrostic a little and added an “S”, which I think is helpful.)

The vast majority of brand new Christians have only the most basic understanding of most of these tenets at the moment of salvation. But it’s not an issue of fully understanding – or else we’d all have to be theologians in order to get saved – it’s an issue of believing. Someone who is genuinely regenerated may not completely understand how the Trinity works (honestly, no one does), but when she’s introduced to the biblical idea of the Trinity, she believes it, learns more about it, and does not reject it.

There is typically agreement among most reputable theologians regarding what constitutes first tier doctrine. Scripture is clear about these things, and several of these issues were settled long ago by the church fathers in assorted church councils (Nicea, Chalcedon, etc.)

Secondary issues are routinely defined as non-salvific but still extremely biblically important, if not quite as biblically clear-cut as primary issues. Doctrines surrounding baptism (credo versus paedo, affusion versus immersion), for example, are usually cited as a secondary issue. A disagreement on a secondary issue doesn’t mean one person is saved and another isn’t, but it normally prevents close partnership in ministry activities involving these issues. For example, my Presbyterian friends and I can join together in pro-life ministry, but we would most likely not plant a church together.

Tertiary issues are non-salvific, less immediately urgent, biblical issues in which the Bible is even less clear-cut and open to wider (yet still biblical) interpretation. These are issues over which Christians can disagree and still maintain close doctrinal fellowship, even in the same church, if they’re in agreement on first and second tier doctrine. Eschatology – the order and timing of events at Jesus’ second coming – is a doctrine that’s often considered third tier. Someone can hold a different eschatological view than mine, yet it doesn’t affect our ability to worship together, work together, or participate in the ordinances together in the same church.

Some theologians add a fourth category – issues of adiaphora, conscience, or Christian liberty. Usually these are issues of much less importance that the Bible either doesn’t specifically address, or doesn’t give commands about one way or the other. Individual Christians may use biblical principles to inform their consciences and decide for themselves. These would be things like whether or not to take your child trick-or-treating or deciding whether to dress formally or casually for church.

While theologians are largely in agreement about primary doctrines, there is wider spread disagreement on which doctrines are secondary and tertiary (many consider eschatology to be a second tier doctrine, for example) and whether or not there is a need for a category of adiaphora, since such issues are normally not considered to be “doctrinal” issues. In fact, there’s enough space for disagreement that pastors and theologians often wisely refrain from making concrete lists of secondary and tertiary doctrines.

But when we’re talking about the different levels of doctrine, what you won’t find is questions like these: Is murder a first, second, or third tier doctrine? What about gossip? Rape? Adultery? Lying? Gluttony? Pride?

And it’s not because these issues aren’t important or because the Bible doesn’t address them. It’s because they’re in a different category from the other issues: the category of sin. They aren’t doctrines upon which salvation hinges, they aren’t open to interpretation, and the Bible is clear that we are absolutely not to do these things.

In 2005, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote an excellent article about the different levels of doctrine entitled A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. He carefully explains the importance of each level of doctrine and what it covers in a plea to keep each level’s urgency in its proper place of significance during discussion, debate, and decision-making.

It was a helpful article to which I always refer people who have questions about tiers of doctrine, and I agree with Dr. Mohler’s thoughts wholeheartedly (as I usually do) …except on one point:

“In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue.”

Women serving as pastors, women preaching, women teaching men Scripture in the church, and women exercising authority over men in the church is not a secondary issue. Nor is it a primary or tertiary one. It does not belong in the category of “doctrine” in the same way baptism and eschatology do. It belongs in the category of sin in the same way murder, gossip, and adultery do. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.

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

(The preponderance of Scripture supports and affirms this concept, so to keep things simple, we’ll use this verse as an exemplar.)

✢ The prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a clear command against a certain behavior. And when we behave in a way God has prohibited, that is called “sin”. All of the tenets in the three levels of doctrine are affirmative statements regarding beliefs (you must believe in the resurrection of Christ, we believe in baptism by immersion, etc.). None of them are commands, in the negative, against sinful behavior (Thou shalt not murder, I do not permit a woman to teach… etc.)

✢ Secondary and tertiary doctrines can be open – to varying degrees – to biblical interpretation. Every stripe of non-heretical eschatological thought can provide you with chapter and verse passages that can, depending on the angle from which you approach the subject, be biblically plausible and scripturally supported. There is no biblical support for anything God prohibits. No one can cite a properly handled, in context Bible verse in which God says, “It’s OK to commit adultery,” or “Women are allowed to preach.” There can be multiple views on a secondary or tertiary issue that can all be considered biblical, but there can only be one view of sin that is biblical.

✢ Differing beliefs on true secondary and tertiary issues are not sin. My Presbyterian friends have a different view of baptism than I do. That doesn’t mean either of us is sinning. I may think their interpretations of the verses they believe support paedo baptism are incorrect, but they are not breaking any of God’s commands. Differing behavior (again, we see the distinction between doctrinal belief and sinful behavior) on issues of sin is sin. If someone behaves differently from God’s command about lying, she is sinning. If a woman behaves differently from God’s command in 1 Timothy 2:12, she is sinning.

✢ Differing beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. When someone has studied a theological issue enough to hold a particular position on it, it’s usually because she is striving to please God and to be biblical in her beliefs. Differing behavior on issues of sin is born out of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Someone who steals has already decided in her heart that her desires are better than God’s command. A woman who knowingly holds improper authority over men in her church is doing so because she has already decided to defy God’s clear command against such.

✢ Because different beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of rebellion and are not sin, they do not require church discipline. Sin does require church discipline. If someone in your church is openly dishonoring her parents, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. If a woman is pursuing a career as a pastor, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. 

Since the publication of Dr. Mohler’s article (and perhaps as a result of others teaching the same thing) the idea of the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 being a “secondary doctrine” has spread in a most unhelpful way, leading many Christians to treat the issue in a c’est la vie, “We can just agree to disagree on this,” manner.

No, we cannot.

We would not say, “We can agree to disagree,” on lying or adultery or homosexuality or abortion, and we cannot say it about women preaching, teaching men, or holding unbiblical authority, either. We disciple and teach a sister in Christ who is unaware of what the Bible says on these matters, and if she is committing any of these sins, we begin the process of church discipline. But it would not be loving toward her, or honoring God, to allow her to continue in biblical ignorance or in willful sin.

Furthermore, the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 brings with it dangers to the church that true secondary and tertiary issues, and even many sins, do not.

I have mentioned several times when dealing with this issue that women preaching to men is highly correlated with women teaching false doctrine. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches false doctrine. False doctrine and heresy are infecting the church – via female preachers – at an alarming rate.

We dare not simply “agree to disagree” on this.

The violation of God’s command that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures nor hold improper authority over men is a sin like any other. It is not a doctrinal issue in the same sense that other second and third tier doctrines are. If left undisciplined, however, it can lead to first tier doctrinal issues infiltrating a church and eventually destroying it. It is detrimental to the church to label and treat any sin as a secondary doctrinal issue.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Sexual abuse, Feminism, Serpent seed doctrine…)

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


Can you please suggest an iPhone app Radio station that plays biblically sound worship, praise and messages?

A reader asked this question via Facebook recently. I mostly listen to podcasts, and though I’m aware of a few good sermon apps, I wasn’t familiar with any apps that provide both sermons and music. I asked my Facebook readers for some help and got lots of great answers. You can check out their suggestions here (even if you’re not on Facebook). I’m not personally familiar with all of these sites and apps, so use good discernment and make sure everything they’re teaching lines up with Scripture.


Do you have advice on Christian women and feminism? I have friends who are reading Jesus Feminist. The title makes me cringe.

Secular feminism is not something I handle a whole lot here on the blog, although I have touched on it in these articles:

Toxic (Evangelical) Femininity

Feminist Infiltration and the Emasculation of Christian Men

6 Reasons Godly Women are Stronger Than Feminazis

 

I would recommend that you head over to Sheologians. Summer and Joy have done several very good podcast episodes and articles on the history of feminism and its current influence on society and the church. I cannot remember whether they covered Jesus Feminist or not, so you may want to make use of the “contact us” link at the top of their site and ask. (Tell them I said hi!)


My husband and I are having sexual problems that stem from the fact that I was molested as a child. What should I do?

I have intentionally left out the specific details of this particular reader’s question, first, in order to protect her identity, second, because I have no doubt that many readers have this same general question, and third, because, being a stranger on the internet, I am not the person who can best help anyone in this situation, so I can only give a very general answer anyway.

I grieve with those of you who have had this terrible sin perpetrated against you. I hope the person who abused you was caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is also my prayer that God has taken what was meant for evil against you and used it for good in your life by drawing you to Himself, teaching you to depend on Him, and deepening your walk with Him.

As I mentioned, although I’m humbled and honored that readers sometimes reach out to me for help with staggering griefs and difficulties, I would be doing you a disservice if I tried to help you via e-mail or a blog article with complicated personal problems that require ongoing counseling from someone you have (or can develop) a face-to-face relationship with.

Generally speaking, it’s important that you understand that, as a child, the abuse was not your fault, regardless of how you responded to it at the time. A physiological response (orgasm) to the abuse does not mean you enjoyed being violated, wanted it to happen, or were “asking for it”. Neither does having kept it a secret, being friendly with the abuser, “allowing” the abuse to continue in order to receive gifts from the abuser, etc. You were a victim.

It’s important that your husband understand that the sexual difficulties you are experiencing are no reflection on him. Sex is a very personal thing, and he may be incorrectly assuming that your aversion to sex is an aversion to his performance or to him, personally. He will also need to come to grips with the fact that there’s no quick, cut-and dried, three or five or fifteen step plan to “fixing” this. It will be a growth process for both of you.

Assuming you’re in a doctrinally sound church, I would urge you and your husband in the strongest possible terms to set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling. Shepherding your souls through life’s difficulties is part of his biblical job description, and if he went to a decent seminary, he was trained in marital counseling.

If you absolutely don’t think you could look your pastor in the eye during the sermon every week after discussing such personal matters, ask him for a referral to a certified biblical counselor (not a “Christian counselor” – biblical counseling, formerly called nouthetic counseling, is different) who can help you and your husband heal by learning and walking out in your marriage the Scriptures that apply to your situation. If your pastor isn’t familiar with biblical counseling, find a referral through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, the counselor search links here, or contact a nearby (doctrinally sound) seminary or Christian university and ask if you can speak to someone in their school of biblical counseling.

I know it seems like it will be painful and embarrassing to discuss this situation with a third party, but don’t let it continue to fester. It will destroy your marriage. Getting biblical help will set you and your husband free.


What are your thoughts on a woman teaching an introductory class in biblical Greek to adults (men and women) at church?

Not knowing the context and spiritual climate of your church and assuming the class is taught in the same way other academic foreign language classes are taught – alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, etc. – I don’t see any more problem with it than if she were teaching French or Swahili or Chinese.

The biblical prohibition against women teaching men has to do with women instructing men in the content of the Bible, not the language the Bible was originally written in. Greek is just a language like any other. It is not holy or special just because that’s the language the majority of the New Testament was penned in. (Actually, the opposite is true. Greek was the most widely spoken language of the time, so God used it to get His Word out to the largest number of people.)

Even if the teacher has the class translate portions of Scripture or uses a word or phrase from a Bible verse to illustrate the meaning of a word – assuming she doesn’t veer off into preaching on that verse – she is still teaching a language, not giving Bible instruction to men in the way prohibited by Scripture.

As I said, I don’t know the context and spiritual climate of your church so there could be other factors along those lines that need to be taken into consideration as to whether or not it’s wise for a woman to teach this class, but strictly speaking as to whether or not it’s a violation of Scripture, no.


Do you have any teachings on the implications of the serpent seed doctrine?

No, I’ve never written about it because, until I was asked this question, I’d never heard of it.

I did a brief search, and I would say that the implications are racism, false doctrine, and poor hermeneutics. Apparently, the gist of this teaching is that when the serpent tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, a sexual encounter took place between the two, leading to the conception of Cain. Therefore, everyone who is descended from Cain was conceived from the “serpent’s seed” and is of the devil.

This is a concoction of an evil imagination and has no basis in Scripture whatsoever. In fact, Genesis 4:1 clearly tells us who Cain’s father was. Even Cain’s name tells us God caused Eve to conceive him:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

I mean, that’s pretty much a mic drop moment with regard to this ridiculous “doctrine”.

Here are a couple of good resources explaining more:

What is the Serpent Seed doctrine?

The serpent seed and the Kenites


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Complementarianism, Ministry, Sin

Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

When it comes to Christianity, are the specifics of what people believe important?

I think most of us would answer a resounding “yes” to that question. Of course, the various concepts we believe are important. You can’t just believe anything you like and still be a Christian. There are certain things you must believe in order to become a Christian at all, and there are certain things you will come to believe because you are a genuinely regenerated Christian. But what are those things, and how do we know which is which?

Maybe you’ve heard the terms “essential doctrines” or “primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues” or “first, second, and third tier levels of doctrine”? For years, theologians have been attempting to organize beliefs of the Christian faith – all drawn from the Bible, naturally – into nice neat categories in order to make things a little simpler. As someone who thrives on organization and categories, I’m grateful for their efforts. But if you begin to study this categorization of beliefs, you’ll find that we haven’t reached an across the board consensus yet.

Generally speaking, “essential”, “primary”, or “first tier” doctrines are those which you, biblically, have to believe in order to become a Christian and/or be considered a Christian. For example:

✢ Sin is a thing, and I am a sinner.

✢ God exists and is the supreme authority of the universe.

✢ Jesus was God in human flesh.

✢ Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

See how this works? If you don’t believe you’re a sinner, you’re not saved. If you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, you’re not saved. Here’s how our friend, Pastor Gabe, briefly outlines essential doctrines:

 

(Gabe later tweaked the acrostic a little and added an “S”, which I think is helpful.)

The vast majority of brand new Christians have only the most basic understanding of most of these tenets at the moment of salvation. But it’s not an issue of fully understanding – or else we’d all have to be theologians in order to get saved – it’s an issue of believing. Someone who is genuinely regenerated may not completely understand how the Trinity works (honestly, no one does), but when she’s introduced to the biblical idea of the Trinity, she believes it, learns more about it, and does not reject it.

There is typically agreement among most reputable theologians regarding what constitutes first tier doctrine. Scripture is clear about these things, and several of these issues were settled long ago by the church fathers in assorted church councils (Nicea, Chalcedon, etc.)

Secondary issues are routinely defined as non-salvific but still extremely biblically important, if not quite as biblically clear-cut as primary issues. Doctrines surrounding baptism (credo versus paedo, affusion versus immersion), for example, are usually cited as a secondary issue. A disagreement on a secondary issue doesn’t mean one person is saved and another isn’t, but it normally prevents close partnership in ministry activities involving these issues. For example, my Presbyterian friends and I can join together in pro-life ministry, but we would most likely not plant a church together.

Tertiary issues are non-salvific, less immediately urgent, biblical issues in which the Bible is even less clear-cut and open to wider (yet still biblical) interpretation. These are issues over which Christians can disagree and still maintain close doctrinal fellowship, even in the same church, if they’re in agreement on first and second tier doctrine. Eschatology – the order and timing of events at Jesus’ second coming – is a doctrine that’s often considered third tier. Someone can hold a different eschatological view than mine, yet it doesn’t affect our ability to worship together, work together, or participate in the ordinances together in the same church.

Some theologians add a fourth category – issues of adiaphora, conscience, or Christian liberty. Usually these are issues of much less importance that the Bible either doesn’t specifically address, or doesn’t give commands about one way or the other. Individual Christians may use biblical principles to inform their consciences and decide for themselves. These would be things like whether or not to take your child trick-or-treating or deciding whether to dress formally or casually for church.

While theologians are largely in agreement about primary doctrines, there is wider spread disagreement on which doctrines are secondary and tertiary (many consider eschatology to be a second tier doctrine, for example) and whether or not there is a need for a category of adiaphora, since such issues are normally not considered to be “doctrinal” issues. In fact, there’s enough space for disagreement that pastors and theologians often wisely refrain from making concrete lists of secondary and tertiary doctrines.

But when we’re talking about the different levels of doctrine, what you won’t find is questions like these: Is murder a first, second, or third tier doctrine? What about gossip? Rape? Adultery? Lying? Gluttony? Pride?

And it’s not because these issues aren’t important or because the Bible doesn’t address them. It’s because they’re in a different category from the other issues: the category of sin. They aren’t doctrines upon which salvation hinges, they aren’t open to interpretation, and the Bible is clear that we are absolutely not to do these things.

In 2005, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote an excellent article about the different levels of doctrine entitled A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. He carefully explains the importance of each level of doctrine and what it covers in a plea to keep each level’s urgency in its proper place of significance during discussion, debate, and decision-making.

It was a helpful article to which I always refer people who have questions about tiers of doctrine, and I agree with Dr. Mohler’s thoughts wholeheartedly (as I usually do) …except on one point:

“In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue.”

Women serving as pastors, women preaching, women teaching men Scripture in the church, and women exercising authority over men in the church is not a secondary issue. Nor is it a primary or tertiary one. It does not belong in the category of “doctrine” in the same way baptism and eschatology do. It belongs in the category of sin in the same way murder, gossip, and adultery do. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.

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

(The preponderance of Scripture supports and affirms this concept, so to keep things simple, we’ll use this verse as an exemplar.)

✢ The prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a clear command against a certain behavior. And when we behave in a way God has prohibited, that is called “sin”. All of the tenets in the three levels of doctrine are affirmative statements regarding beliefs (you must believe in the resurrection of Christ, we believe in baptism by immersion, etc.). None of them are commands, in the negative, against sinful behavior (Thou shalt not murder, I do not permit a woman to teach… etc.)

✢ Secondary and tertiary doctrines can be open – to varying degrees – to biblical interpretation. Every stripe of non-heretical eschatological thought can provide you with chapter and verse passages that can, depending on the angle from which you approach the subject, be biblically plausible and scripturally supported. There is no biblical support for anything God prohibits. No one can cite a properly handled, in context Bible verse in which God says, “It’s OK to commit adultery,” or “Women are allowed to preach.” There can be multiple views on a secondary or tertiary issue that can all be considered biblical, but there can only be one view of sin that is biblical.

✢ Differing beliefs on true secondary and tertiary issues are not sin. My Presbyterian friends have a different view of baptism than I do. That doesn’t mean either of us is sinning. I may think their interpretations of the verses they believe support paedo baptism are incorrect, but they are not breaking any of God’s commands. Differing behavior (again, we see the distinction between doctrinal belief and sinful behavior) on issues of sin is sin. If someone behaves differently from God’s command about lying, she is sinning. If a woman behaves differently from God’s command in 1 Timothy 2:12, she is sinning.

✢ Differing beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. When someone has studied a theological issue enough to hold a particular position on it, it’s usually because she is striving to please God and to be biblical in her beliefs. Differing behavior on issues of sin is born out of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Someone who steals has already decided in her heart that her desires are better than God’s command. A woman who knowingly holds improper authority over men in her church is doing so because she has already decided to defy God’s clear command against such.

✢ Because different beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of rebellion and are not sin, they do not require church discipline. Sin does require church discipline. If someone in your church is openly dishonoring her parents, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. If a woman is pursuing a career as a pastor, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. 

Since the publication of Dr. Mohler’s article (and perhaps as a result of others teaching the same thing) the idea of the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 being a “secondary doctrine” has spread in a most unhelpful way, leading many Christians to treat the issue in a c’est la vie, “We can just agree to disagree on this,” manner.

No, we cannot.

We would not say, “We can agree to disagree,” on lying or adultery or homosexuality or abortion, and we cannot say it about women preaching, teaching men, or holding unbiblical authority, either. We disciple and teach a sister in Christ who is unaware of what the Bible says on these matters, and if she is committing any of these sins, we begin the process of church discipline. But it would not be loving toward her, or honoring God, to allow her to continue in biblical ignorance or in willful sin.

Furthermore, the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 brings with it dangers to the church that true secondary and tertiary issues, and even many sins, do not.

I have mentioned several times when dealing with this issue that women preaching to men is highly correlated with women teaching false doctrine. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches false doctrine. False doctrine and heresy are infecting the church – via female preachers – at an alarming rate.

We dare not simply “agree to disagree” on this.

The violation of God’s command that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures nor hold improper authority over men is a sin like any other. It is not a doctrinal issue in the same sense that other second and third tier doctrines are. If left undisciplined, however, it can lead to first tier doctrinal issues infiltrating a church and eventually destroying it. It is detrimental to the church to label and treat any sin as a secondary doctrinal issue.

Complementarianism

Throwback Thursday ~ Fencing Off the Forbidden Fruit Tree

Originally published April 26, 201612792388_1038946969485405_6014948087227704745_o

Often, with regard to 1 Timothy 2:12, husbands and pastors will reassure a woman that it’s OK for her to teach that co-ed Sunday School class or step into a church leadership role reserved for men because she’ll be doing so “under his [husband’s or pastor’s] authority.” A reader recently asked me about this, and I wanted to share my (slightly modified) response to her with you.

“When God tells us (in context, rightly handled, correct covenant, etc., of course) not to do something and we do it anyway, that is sin, right? Only God has the authority to say what is sin and what is not. No one – not your pastor, your husband, your parents, your best friend, the Pope, nobody – has the authority to tell you that it’s OK to do something God has said is sin. That authority belongs to God alone.

Try inserting any other sin into that situation. Does your husband, pastor, etc., have the authority to tell you it’s OK to lie? Cuss? Covet? Of course not. And why would they even consider doing such a thing?

My point exactly.

The issue here is that this particular sin (teaching/exercising authority over men) has become so acceptable in the church that we no longer even see it as sin. If you were to ask [your husband and pastor] to show you from Scripture where God says it’s OK for them to allow you to teach men, they would quickly realize that they are not basing their decision on Scripture (because there is no Scripture that allows them to do this), but on their own opinion that it’s OK, which has been heavily influenced by the fact that this sin is now so widely acceptable in the church at large.

Beth Moore is a perfect example of why husbands and pastors should not allow or encourage women to violate God’s word by teaching men. Beth Moore started out teaching a women’s Sunday school class in her home church. It grew. Men wanted to attend the class (a problem I’ve addressed here). She was hesitant, so she talked to her husband and pastor about it. They both told her it was OK because she would be teaching the men “under their authority” (despite the fact that there’s no passage of Scripture that allows them to say that or gives them the right to lay some sort of mantle of authority on her) That initial compromise led to another and another. Fast forward to today, and this is still the argument Beth Moore – in all of her false doctrinal glory – uses for preaching to men. And she has influenced thousands of women (and their husbands and pastors) to do the same.

But it doesn’t matter how sound our doctrine is, when women stand in front of co-ed groups and teach (or accept positions of authority over men in the church) we are teaching more than just what’s coming out of our mouths. We’re teaching that group of people by example that it’s OK for women to teach men. That God’s word can be ignored and disobeyed in this area while we stand there urging them to obey it in other areas. How can a woman exhort a group to obey God while she is standing there disobeying Him herself?”

It’s my prayer that we’ll begin to see more husbands and pastors uphold God’s word and protect their wives and female church members from sinning by encouraging them to fulfill all of the wonderful roles God has for women in the church and by fencing off that one tree in the garden that bears the forbidden fruit of teaching and exercising authority over men.

Additional Resources:

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

Why Asking Women to Preach Is Spiritual Abuse by Josh Buice