Complementarianism

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

Originally published August 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

✢ Sin is a thing, and I am a sinner.

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

✢ Jesus was God in human flesh.

✢ Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a helpful article to which I always refer people who have questions about tiers of doctrine, and I agree with Dr. Mohler’s thoughts wholeheartedly1 …except on one point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, we cannot.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Complementarianism, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Women teaching men- Questions from a young reader

I received this very astute line of questioning from a young lady who left a comment on one of my articles. The comment and questions were rather lengthy, so I’ve broken it up into portions in order to answer it in an organized way. If you need to read the entire comment, uninterrupted, for context or ease of understanding, scroll down, reading only the portions in bold.


Hi! Just to let you know, though it may seem, I have no intention of being rude in this question, and genuinely want to know your response to this. I am only in 9th grade, so I have a lot to learn, and want to know what you think about my comment...Thank you, and I am very curious to find out what you think about my questions and things that I might have misunderstood or missed.

That’s awesome! I wish I had been thinking as deeply about these things as you are when I was in the ninth grade. And, rest assured, your questions didn’t seem rude to me at all. I’m so glad you want to learn! I hope you’ll understand that my answers aren’t meant to be rude either, although they may not be quite what you’re expecting or wanting to hear.

You didn’t mention whether or not you’re a Christian or what your church background, if any, is, so let me just start off by saying, if you’ve never been genuinely born again, my answers might not make much sense. I would encourage you, even if you’re pretty sure you’re saved, to examine the materials at the What must I do to be saved? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page before moving ahead.

I was just wondering, if women are not allowed to teach men, and you are a woman and this blog is public to men and women, then aren’t you technically providing biblical insight and evangelizing to whatever gender is reading this to inform them of the Bible?

Nope. I’ve answered that question in detail in my article Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

Additionally, “evangelism” and “teaching” (“providing insight” isn’t really a biblical category) are two different, separate things. You might find our podcast episode Women Preaching the Gospel? helpful for understanding the distinction.

Also, the book of Timothy, like you said, was a letter written from Paul to Timothy, so this was just the teachings that Paul gave to Timothy as instructions for the churches, and not necessarily coming from God.

I’m afraid that’s one of the things you’ve misunderstood. This wasn’t just a letter from one human being to another. The words in 1 Timothy, just like every word of every book of the Bible are from the very lips of God Himself. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” There aren’t some parts of Scripture that are from God and others that aren’t. It all comes from God, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.

First and second Timothy and Titus are what we call the pastoral epistles (“epistle” means “letter”). That means they are God’s instructions, written through His human instrument, Paul, to Timothy and Titus and every pastor who came after them, about how to run the church.

I know Paul was a prophet and one argument could be that he got this information from God,

No, Paul was not a prophet, he was an apostle. And, as I discussed above, the Bible says that all Scripture is breathed out by God, so “Paul got his information from God” is the only argument that can be made, especially for Christians. Because, for Christians, the Bible is our authority on what to believe, not human arguments, opinions, and ideas.

but even prophets (besides Christ) make mistakes in their instructions to others,

I’m afraid that’s also incorrect. There’s not a single prophet in the Bible who, when speaking as a prophet to people on God’s behalf ever made one iota of a mistake about what He said. There were false prophets (who received the death penalty for saying they spoke for God when God had not really spoken to them), but none of God’s true prophets – like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Habakkuk, etc. – ever got anything wrong or “made mistakes in their instructions to others” when speaking on behalf of God.

such as Abraham, who instructed people to be stoned for certain sins,

I think you mean “Moses” here. Abraham wasn’t a prophet, and I don’t recall any instance in Scripture in which Abraham “instructed people to be stoned for certain sins”. Moses didn’t either. God did. God gave Moses the law on Mt. Sinai, and Moses wrote it down and taught it to the people.

and you can see that it was unlawful in God’s eyes

I’m sorry, but that’s incorrect as well. Since God is the One who gave the laws about stoning people for certain sins, He would never have said that someone properly obeying His law was doing something unlawful. That would be like God saying He was wrong when He made that law. And, of course we know that God is never wrong.

and you can see that it was unlawful in God’s eyes when Jesus told the priests about to stone Mary of Magdala that they should not stone her because they have sinned as well and God sees all sins as the same.

I think you’re talking about the story of the adulterous woman in Luke 7-8, right? Again, I’m sorry, but there are many things that need to be corrected here:

  • Stoning a woman caught in adultery was not “unlawful in God’s eyes”. It was lawful. God is the one who gave this law. The scribes and Pharisees correctly cited the law in 8:5.
  • Jesus wasn’t speaking to the priests, He was speaking to the scribes – experts in the law (which was an important point of this passage) – and Pharisees.
  • The text does not say the unnamed woman was Mary Magdalene.
  • Look carefully at the passage. In which verse does Jesus say “they should not stone her”? Answer: He didn’t say, “Don’t stone her.”. On the contrary, He said that they could commence with the stoning as long as whichever one of them was without sin cast the first stone.
  • He also didn’t say they couldn’t stone her because “they have sinned as well”. Every lawful stoning that has ever taken place on planet earth was carried out by sinners, because (except for Jesus) every human being is a sinner.
  • The Bible doesn’t say that God “sees all sins as the same” (In fact, we can see in the way that God deals with various sins in various ways throughout Scripture that this isn’t true.), so Jesus would never have said this nor given it as a reason that these men should not have stoned this woman.

Jesus didn’t say the law against stoning an adulteress was wrong. That would have been equal to saying God was wrong for giving that law. He didn’t tell the men not to obey the law, either. The key to understanding this story is in verses 4-7:

4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

They didn’t care about this woman or what happened to her. They didn’t care about the man who was sinning right along with her. They didn’t care that this sin wrecked the man’s and woman’s lives. They didn’t care that God’s law had been broken. They didn’t care that adultery grieves the heart of God. They didn’t care.

All of those things were just a means to an end for them. All they cared about was trying to get the advantage over Jesus. To trick Him into saying something they could use against Him so they could discredit Him or bring Him up on charges with the Sanhedrin (Jewish court). And they were using God’s precious and holy Word as a tool to accomplish this evil goal. They were blasphemously using God’s own Word against Him.

That is the entire point of this story. God’s Word is His representation of Himself to us. It is our lifeline to Him, because it is how we come to know Christ as Savior. It should be revered as high and holy, not twisted and abused for wicked purposes.

This is just one example of many things that God’s prophets have taught wrongly.

No, none of the things you’ve mentioned, nor the corrections I’ve given, have demonstrated that any true prophet of God has ever taught anything wrong when it comes to prophecy or commands of Scripture. Second Peter 1:20-21 tells us:

…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

So, since times were different in the first century and women were not seen as important to men, couldn’t this have been something Paul told Timothy to do based off of his own understandings culturally?

No. Again, 1 Timothy is a passage of God-breathed Scripture, not Paul’s personal human opinion. It was not based on Paul’s human understanding (see 2 Peter 1:20-21, above), culturally, or in any other way. This is God’s command to pastors, based solely on God’s reasons.

And God kindly shares those reasons with us in verses 13 and 14 of 1 Timothy 2:

11Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

God gives us two reasons for His command that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the gathering of the church body: the creation order and pattern of male headship (13), and the fact that the woman was the one who was deceived into sin (14).

That’s why. Not culture, not Paul’s personal opinions, not because men didn’t value women at the time, not because the women in that particular church at that particular time were unruly or false teachers, not for any of the man-made theories that people have come up with. God tells us exactly why He made this rule for the church in verses 13-14. I’ve discussed this in greater detail in my articles Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit and The Mailbag: Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism. Here are a few of the pertinent excerpts:

You’ve asked some really great questions here, and your reasoning skills are sharp. It was my pleasure to serve you by answering your comment. Keep asking questions, studying, and learning all God has to teach us through His authoritative, inspired, all-sufficient written Word.


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.

Complementarianism, Rock Your Role

Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

“You say that women shouldn’t teach men (1 Timothy 2:12), but what about men who read your blog? Aren’t you teaching them?”

It’s the canard that will not die. Complementarian women bloggers, authors, and content creators are frequently asked this question, often by dissenters looking for a “gotcha” moment. Other times it’s a genuine concern from Christian women who want to write but still be in obedience to God’s Word as it speaks to the role of women. But, whatever the motivation for asking, it’s a great question that needs to be answered. Biblically.

It is true that God has ordained different roles for Christian men and women. Both roles are needed and important, but different. Part of the role for women is outlined in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Women are not to preach to or teach men in the gathering of the church or hold other positions of authority over men in the church body.

But notice that key phrase “in the church.” The context of all of the passages dealing with women refraining from teaching men refers to the teaching of God’s Word in the gathering together of the body of believers.

That’s not the same thing as blogging in the public square. The gathering of the church body might take place within the four walls of a church building, at a park for a Resurrection Day sunrise service, at a Christian conference, at a chapel service at a Christian college or seminary, at a Bible study in someone’s home, or a myriad of other venues, but it’s just that – a physical gathering together of the body of Christ for the purpose of worship, studying the Word, sitting under the preaching of the Word, observing the ordinances, prayer, practicing the “one anothers,” and other “churchy” things.

You’re reading this blog right now. Are you practicing the “one anothers” with anyone? Is anyone standing in front of you preaching the Word? Are you actively worshiping? Do you see an offering being taken up? Baptism? Communion? Prayer? Do you consider yourself to be attending church right now? Of course not. You’re staring at a screen reading an article. This is a blog. Not the gathering of the church.

The Greek word for “church” in the New Testament is ἐκκλησία, or ekklesia. It literally means a gathering or assembly. No gathering, no church.1 And because of that, women bloggers and other content creators aren’t violating the Scriptures that prohibit them from teaching men in the gathering of the church. (And, by the way, this all applies to women on social media, too. That’s not the gathering of the church either, praise the Lord.)

When I explain this biblical distinction to the “gotcha” folks, the pushback (that’s a polite word for it) I often get is, “You’re just hypocritically splitting hairs and doing hermeneutical gymnastics to justify yourself!”. No, you’re just conflating things the Bible clearly distinguishes from one another.

Think of it this way: If I say that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful, but I joyfully fulfill my marital duty to my husband, am I a hypocrite? Am I splitting hairs or doing hermeneutical gymnastics? No. Because there are right and wrong contexts for sexual activity just like there are right and wrong contexts for women teaching the Bible, writing on biblical topics, and so on. The Bible has defined categories and contexts. The Bible draws lines of distinction. Conflating a biblical “do” with a biblical “don’t”? That’s what’s unbiblical.

But let’s consider something else, too. Even though Scripture doesn’t require it, most godly, doctrinally sound women bloggers and online content creators – including me – aim our content primarily at Christian women. I have set up parameters for my blog (and my book, when it was in print) and for my ministry to do everything I can to place myself under the umbrella of 1 Timothy 2:12. Look at the title of this page and my Facebook page. It specifically says “Discipleship for Christian Women“. My book was always labeled and marketed as a women’s Bible study. If you’ll take a look at the “Welcome” tab at the top of this page, you’ll see I explicitly say that this blog is for Christian women and that I’m a complementarian. When I address the readers of this blog I nearly always address them as “ladies,” both because my target audience is women, and also to remind the handful of men who follow me that they are not my audience; they are, in a sense, “eavesdropping” on what I’m saying to women. My speaking engagements are for women only. I ask men not to use my Bible studies. I’m not really sure what more I need to do to make it clear that my blog and my ministry are for women, not men.

Don’t men bear any responsibility here? Why should the entire burden for women not “teaching” men fall on the shoulders of women bloggers and content creators? Why don’t the Christian men who are ostensibly so concerned about men consuming content from women address the men who are reading our blogs and following our platforms?

But sometimes these “gotcha guys” – who often have ulterior motives of undermining complementarianism – will visit my blog, claim to have learned something, and then turn around and attack me as a hypocrite for “teaching” them. This is akin to a man listening at the door of a women’s Sunday school class, then bursting in and saying, “Aha! You taught a man.” To those men, I would ask a simple question- If a female blogger puts a fence around her blog and you jump over it and trespass on her property, how is she the one at fault?

Along with Christian women, Christian men ought also to be obedient to 1 Timothy 2:12 by not seeking out female content creators for biblical instruction for themselves. While I welcome male readers – especially those who are vetting me for their wives and daughters or the women of their church, or to gain a better understanding of the issues affecting Christian women in order to lead and shepherd them better – I do not want men seeking me out for personal biblical instruction. All of my readers should look to the doctrinally sound teaching of their pastors and elders for biblical instruction. For women, my blog should only be a leisure time supplement to their sermons and classes at church.

Being a godly female blogger or content creator can be a tightrope walk. All of us have fallen off from time to time, and in those cases we ask that you extend us grace and forgiveness, knowing that we didn’t do it intentionally or rebelliously. Praise God for the “net” of God’s mercy and cleansing that catches us and puts us right back up on that tightrope so we can encourage and build up the lovely Christian ladies in our audience. You mean so much to each of us. We love you and want you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why we do what we do.


1This is why it is impossible to “attend church” by watching an online church service. You are not “attending church” online, you are watching other people attend church.

This article is an updated and revamped version of the original article by the same title, published on October 23, 2015.


Additional Resources

Rock Your Role – a series examining the Scriptures governing the biblical role of women in the church

Rock Your Role FAQs

Sisters Are Part of the Family of God, Too!

Women Preaching the Gospel? at A Word Fitly Spoken (on the issue of conflation)

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (What to do about Litton?…Couple teaching at marriage conference…False teachers- deluded or deceived?…You don’t need a Bible study)

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 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!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


Biblically speaking, what would be the appropriate Christian response to Ed Litton’s plagiarism? More precisely, what should that response be among the masses who will never have access to Litton or those closest to him?

It’s a great question with an answer that will leave most of us Southern Baptists frustrated, I’m afraid.

To quickly catch up readers who aren’t in the know: Newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Litton, has been caught in numerous instances of preaching plagiarized sermons going back several years. Many have called upon him to repent and step down as president. As far as I’m aware, to date, he has neither biblically repented nor commented on stepping down. There is no mechanism in place in SBC governing documents for removing a sitting president from office. (For more details, see the “June” and “July” sections of my article What’s Going On in the Southern Baptist Convention?)

There are several responses that could be appropriate in this situation for the average Southern Baptists who doesn’t know or have personal access to Ed Litton:

  • Pray. It is always appropriate to pray for someone who is sinning to repent. Additionally, if this situation is to be resolved biblically, God is the only One powerful enough to resolve it and wise enough to know the best way to resolve it. You also need to pray for your pastor as he guides your church to decide whether to stay in or leave the SBC, and you and your family need to pray together about your pastor’s decision and whether or not you can abide by it.
  • Inform. If you and your church are going to remain in the SBC for now, you have to stay informed on the major issues, and this is one of them. (That’s why I wrote the “What’s going on…” article linked above, to help you stay informed.) Keep yourself informed, keep your pastor informed, and keep your Sunday School class, circle of friends, and any other appropriate people at church informed. Ask your pastor how things stand with your local SBC association, and whether or not, and how, it might be appropriate for you or someone else to keep the association informed.
  • Connect. I would strongly suggest joining, following on social media, subscribing to the newsletter/email list, etc. of both the Conservative Baptist Network and Founders Ministries. If any action is taken on the plagiarism issue or any other problematic issue in the SBC, it will likely spring from one or both of these groups, and you and your church will want to consider joining forces with them.
  • Take action(?). There are a few ways to take action in this situation as an individual, such as sending Litton a (kindly worded, non-harassing) email urging him to repent and step down, expressing your concerns to the appropriate SBC leadership, or possibly starting a petition of some sort, but I would really suggest getting some advice from your pastor first.

    Honestly, I can pretty much guarantee any effort like that from an individual is going to be ignored. If the Resolutions Committee can refuse to allow a vote on a resolution proffered by 1300+ Southern Baptists, they’re not going to pay an ounce of attention to an email or a petition. Bluntly, you and I aren’t important enough to matter to those in SBC leadership. Your pastor probably isn’t either, nor the director of your association, nor even the head of your state convention. Maybe if somebody with enough power, position, and platform made enough noise about Litton stepping down (or any of these other issues) maybe, something might get done. But at this point, I’m not even sure who that might be.

    All of which brings us full circle to our first and most effective response: pray. This is a mess that only God can clean up.

My husband and I were talking about women teaching/preaching to men, and he brought up an interesting question: what about when your church has a marriage conference and there is a husband/wife team who comes and they both teach?

Thanks for asking this question, because this seems to be a common teaching model for marriage and family conferences. It seems like a complicated situation to us, but it’s not to God. He said what He said in Scripture, and He means it, regardless of the circumstances.

A Christian conference is a gathering of the church body for the purpose of biblical instruction. That is a context in which Scripture’s prohibition of women instructing men in the Scriptures applies (see #7 here). So whenever the husband/wife team are addressing the co-ed audience, they just need to make sure that the wife is not giving biblical instruction to the group at large. That should fall to the husband.

That doesn’t mean that the wife can’t open her mouth at all in front of the group. It would be fine for her to…

  • give her personal testimony
  • offer practical advice (ex: “Joe and I have found it really helpful in our marriage to start the day off in prayer and a discussion of that day’s schedule.” “Guys, we ladies really like foot massages!”, etc.)
  • speak directly to the women in the audience about their role, behavior, or attitude in marriage as needed (Ex: “Ladies, Ephesians 5 is clear that we are to submit to our husbands.”)
  • answer any questions during a Q&A time that don’t require her to exposit Scripture to a male questioner
  • ask a question or make a brief, non-exhortational comment after her husband gives the biblical instruction portion of the session (ex: “Honey, I’m thinking some people might need a little clarification on what ‘depriving one another’ means in 1 Corinthians 7. Can you explain that to us a little more?” “Yes, 1 Peter 3:1-6 has always been so helpful to me as I strive to be a godly wife. And verse 7 has some good instruction for husbands, right, Joe?”)

And, of course, the conference can be structured so there are times of co-ed instruction and times when the wife teaches the women and the husband teaches the men.

For a husband and wife team who are doctrinally sound, spiritually mature, and committed to obeying Scripture, it shouldn’t be that difficult to lead a conference like this in a biblical way.

As far as whether or not to attend a marriage conference in which a husband and wife team will be speaking to a co-ed audience, you’ll have to do your homework to find out how committed they are to obeying Scripture in this regard. Listen to some of their previous conferences, if they’re coming to your church, ask your pastor about it, or you could try emailing the couple and asking them.


I know that some of the false teachers we see on TV are delusional and really think they create things on the same level as God, but are some people genuinely confused and simply don’t understand that what they are teaching and believing is false? Are the ones who are just confused still heretics and false teachers?

Let’s take that last question first. If you teach false doctrine or heresy, you’re a false teacher or a heretic, regardless of your motive. Whether you think what you’re teaching is right, or you know it’s wrong and you teach it anyway, the end result is the same: you’re teaching error.

Now let’s clarify the first part of your question a bit, because you bring an interesting point to the table with the word “delusional”. “Delusional” is really mental health terminology rather than biblical terminology. Is it possible some of these folks are truly mentally unbalanced? Yes. But you know what else looks a lot like mental illness in some cases? Demon possession. And I’m convinced that at least a few of these heretics are demon possessed.

But I do think the truly possessed are in the minority, and the majority are simply deceived. They are of their father the devil, so they speak his language and their will is to do his desires:

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies…Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:43-44, 47

And this holds true whether we perceive the false teacher to be a conniving, greedy charlatan, or a “good guy” who’s just “honestly mistaken”. It’s also true whether or not he’s made a conscious decision to proactively serve Satan by knowingly teaching false doctrine. There are only two potential masters in a person’s life, Christ or Satan, and if you’re not a slave of Christ, you’re enslaved to Satan. There’s no middle ground for lost “nice people”. The “honestly mistaken” guy who’s teaching false doctrine is still doing his master’s bidding, he’s just deceived into thinking his master is Christ.

But when it comes to how we’re to regard and handle false teachers, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s delusion, deception, or demon possession, because God doesn’t require us to know what’s going on in their hearts and minds to be able to biblically evaluate them.

Our job is to evaluate what we can see – the person’s behavior, writings, sermons, teachings, and conversation – and determine whether or not it aligns with Scripture. If it doesn’t – regardless of what we think of the teacher’s motives or mental state – those teachings, and the person who teaches them, have no place in our churches or personal study materials.

The condition of the teacher’s heart and mind? That’s above our pay grade. We leave that to God.

Can a False Teacher Be a Christian?


I am looking for a Biblically sound women’s study on healthy eating habits and am hoping you can point me In the right direction? 

I think I’ve mentioned before that the top two questions readers ask me are, “Is _____ a false / sound teacher?” and “Can you recommend a Bible study on / for _____?”

I love the heart behind both of those questions because it tells me that the person asking wants biblical teaching, and nothing could make me happier. Truly.

But, no, I can’t point you in the direction of a doctrinally sound study on healthy eating habits for two reasons:

First, as a matter of principle, I don’t recommend what I call “canned” studies (books, workbooks, DVDs, etc.), even doctrinally sound ones, at all. I recommend women study (and teach) straight from the text of Scripture. You can read more about why I hold this position and how you can learn to study/teach straight from the Bible itself at the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

The second reason I can’t recommend such a study is that such a study does not exist. Here’s why. Doctrinally sound studies start with a passage of Scripture and teach you what it says. And other than condemning gluttony, and making a few general statements about using your body to glorify God rather than to sin, the Bible says nothing about healthy eating habits (at least not in the way we use that phrase in 21st century America). And any study that says it does is mishandling Scripture and taking it out of context, and, therefore, isn’t doctrinally sound.

A perfect example of this is false teacher Rick Warren’s book The Daniel Diet, which is based on a mishandling of Daniel 1:8-16. (Daniel didn’t refuse the king’s food because it was unhealthy or to lose weight, but to obey God’s law and to avoid making himself unclean. Also, you’ll notice v.15 says that after ten days on this “diet” Daniel and the boys were actually “fatter”.) I would also warn you away from Lysa TerKeurst’s Made to Crave since she is a false teacher as well. And, it would not surprise me to learn that a number of other false teachers have written health and diet “Bible studies”.

The truth is, you don’t need a Bible study, you need a new paradigm. The paradigm you and many, many Christian women are currently operating under, probably without even realizing it is, “I have an issue. A book or Bible study will give me the solution for it.”. That’s not necessarily a bad or sinful paradigm (in fact, like I said, it’s very good and right that your instinct is to turn to Scripture), it’s just that there’s a better, more biblical, more helpful paradigm which, in a nutshell is, “Pursue Christ and trust Him with your issues.”

Here’s what I’d recommend:

Read my article about biblical decision-making: Basic Training: 8 Steps to Finding God’s Will for Your Life and begin applying those principles to your walk with the Lord and your eating issues.

As you go about pursuing Christ, you can certainly study any biblical passages that relate to your particular issues of healthy eating. Are you failing to exercise self-control? Failing to be content? Is it an issue of laziness? Do you have an unbiblical view of your body itself? Maybe you have a particular medical condition that requires a new diet. You’ll have to prayerfully determine exactly what your issue is, then study (in context and rightly handled) the passages that pertain to that issue1, repent of any sin you might be committing, and trust, believe, and obey God’s Word.

Pray, pray, pray. Ask God to help you with what you’re studying in His Word, to help you lose weight, to see your body the way He sees it, etc.

Make an appointment with your doctor and ask what he recommends.

Get some godly counsel. Is there a godly older woman in your church who could disciple you through this? Or maybe there’s a nutritionist or dietitian who goes to your church2? If you’re not sure, ask your pastor.

And, truly, this is what I would recommend to most of the women who write and ask me if I can recommend a Bible study or book on a very specific, personal life issue. Because it’s not necessarily about finding the “solution” to whatever your issue is. Often, it’s God giving you an issue to grow you, to move you to cry out to Him, and to lead you to depend on Him to carry you through whatever it is.

1If you’re not sure where to find those passages, ask your pastor or a godly friend for help. You can also Google “Bible verses about _____” and probably get some good lists of verses, but it’s imperative that you look those verses up and read them in context so you’ll know whether or not they actually apply.

2Don’t expect free advice or help just because it’s a church friend. Ask if you can make an appointment, and plan to pay the full fee just like you would if this person were a stranger.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Asked and Answered

Good Monday morning, readers. It is an honor and a joy to serve you in Christ. Welcome to all the newbies and to you seasoned veterans of the blog.

Because some of y’all are new, you aren’t yet aware of all of the resources here to help you. Or maybe you’ve been around a while and haven’t noticed something that might be helpful. Let’s remedy that!

First, if you’re new (or if you’ve never read it), check out Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends. It’s like a Cliffs Notes intro to the blog.

Second, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of the page. That’s where I keep the info I’m most frequently asked about.

Third, there’s a search bar at the bottom of every page (and one in the blue menu bar at the top of every page) which might help you find what you need.

Fourth, if you don’t find your question answered in one of these ways or below, you might want to check previous Asked & Answered articles and The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs.

And finally, let me get you new readers some answers to the questions several of you have asked. Some of you long time friends may have missed these along the way, so I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too!


Is it appropriate for a woman chaplain to teach men, evangelizing and then answering questions using the Bible to present truth in nursing home one on one or in a coed worship service at the nursing home?

I think I must have a number of followers who visit and care for those in nursing homes, because I’ve received several questions over the years about nursing home ministry. Can I just take a moment to say – thank you so much. What a blessing and an encouragement you must be to those precious ladies and gentlemen.

Let’s unravel your question just a bit because there are several issues at play:

First of all, should a woman even be a chaplain? I don’t want to give an across the board “no” because “chaplain” is such a catch-all term these days, and different organizations (hospitals, prisons, the military, nursing homes, etc.) probably all have different job descriptions for their chaplains which may or may not require a woman in that position to violate Scripture.

But if I were asked, “Should women be chaplains?” and I had to give a yes or no answer, my answer would be no, for the simple reason that most lost people (or even Christians) aren’t going to differentiate a chaplain from a pastor. To them, a chaplain is just a pastor who works in a hospital (or wherever) instead of a church. And it’s unbiblical for women to be pastors, so you don’t want to give the evil appearance of someone living in unrepentant sin. Even if you’re not technically violating Scripture in your position, you appear to be.

OK, for your next several questions, it’s immaterial whether or not these things take place in a nursing home:

Is it OK for women to evangelize (share the plan of salvation with a lost person) and answer biblical questions one on one with a man? Yes. Carefully and with wisdom: Rock Your Role FAQs #11

Is it OK for a woman to evangelize (share the plan of salvation with lost people) a co-ed group? Not if she’s essentially preaching a sermon and functioning as a preacher, which is what I’m inferring by your use of the term “worship service”. Rock Your Role FAQs #11

If it’s something more akin to you hanging out with 5 or 6 friends, some male and some female, and you start sharing the gospel with them, that’s different. That’s really more like a one on one situation.

Is it OK for a woman to preach/teach in or lead a co-ed worship service? No, regardless of the venue or her title. Rock Your Role FAQs #7 Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit


This comment was mentioned in your article: “Having a blog in the public square for women that men trespass on is not the same thing as intentionally and unrepentantly preaching to men in the church setting as I’ve explained in further detail in this article.” Is Priscilla Shirer the pastor of a church? (“Church setting” was mentioned above.) I thought what she did was teach in seminars/conferences…Has she ever taken a stance that it’s okay for women to be pastors of churches? (I don’t believe women should be church pastors.) Please help clarify this for me. Thank you and God bless!

Great question! I think the confusion here is over the definition of the church, or “church setting”. I’ve clarified that in my article Rock Your Role FAQs #7.

I don’t know whether or not Priscilla Shirer has ever flat out said, “It’s OK for women to be pastors of churches,” but she yokes with and is friends with women “pastors” and she has preached the Sunday sermon in churches like she did just a couple of weeks ago at Joel Osteen’s “church”.


I discovered again that my husband is looking at pornography.

Oh honey, I am so sorry. I am going to strenuously recommend that you make an appointment with your pastor to get the counsel you need (even without your husband if he won’t go).

The Mailbag: You need to set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel…

Biblical Resources on Pornography


Is it Biblical for me to be a worship leader? I have men on the team (one of them my husband) and I obviously help them to learn the music and I pick the music…I will introduce a new song and talk about it and sometimes read a Scripture that ties in with the song, but I don’t expound on the Scripture. I also pray for the body during worship. Is this Biblical?

I know this is a hard answer to hear, but no, that’s not a position you should be serving in. You need to repent and step down. Rock Your Role FAQs #16

And if, as you mentioned in your email, you are in a church that has let you hold the position of worship leader for several years, allowed you to use music from Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, etc., and was an environment that was conducive to your being steeped in false doctrine for many years, you almost certainly need to find a new, doctrinally sound church.


How would you react if attending a church that still promotes Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer Bible studies and others?

I know that’s a tough spot to be in. I’ve been there myself. Here are some resources I hope will help:

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

The Mailbag: How to Leave a Church

Searching for a new church?


I know what you’ve said about disposing of books by false teachers [3rd section], but what if it’s a false teacher’s study Bible? I don’t know if I should be burning a Bible.

It’s very interesting that I’ve gotten this exact same question twice in the past few days, one about Joyce Meyer’s study Bible and another about the Tony Evans study Bible. Yes, definitely get rid of those and praise God for opening your eyes to the false doctrine these teachers espouse!

I would still recommend disposing of a study Bible in the same ways I described in the article linked above for disposing of a regular book by a false teacher.

I understand the visceral aversion to throwing away, destroying, or burning a Bible, and, believe me, that aversion comes from a very good place in your heart and mind. You love and revere God’s Word. You see it as high and holy. That is a good and right perspective to have. But let me offer you a couple of thoughts here.

Just for a moment, compare (I’m not saying these two things are equivalent) properly disposing of a study Bible by a false teacher, or even a regular Bible that’s old or damaged and no longer usable, to properly disposing of an American flag.

If you’re a patriotic American, you’re probably familiar with the U.S. flag code that tells us that the proper way to dispose of a flag that has been sullied, damaged, or is old and no longer usable is to burn it respectfully.

Just as properly and respectfully disposing of a flag by burning it is not the same thing as burning it in rage-fueled protest because you hate America, properly and respectfully disposing of a Bible that has been sullied and damaged by false teaching (or a regular Bible that’s too old or physically damaged to be used) by burning it is not the same thing as burning a Bible in rage because you hate God. Don’t forget, God can see into your heart and understands exactly why you’re burning that Bible. He’s the one who put the desire in your heart to get rid of it in the first place.

Also, in the same way that the flag you hold in your hands that needs to be disposed of is, fundamentally, simply a piece of cloth, the Bible you hold in your hands that needs to be disposed of is, fundamentally, simply paper.

Hear me carefully. I’m not saying we shouldn’t treat our Bibles (or the flag) respectfully. What I’m saying is there’s nothing supernatural or mystical about the paper pages you hold in your hands. The Bible is waaaaaaaay bigger than that. It can’t be contained by paper and ink. It goes far beyond paper and ink. It’s living and active. It stands forever.

Be careful not to slip across the line from conceptual reverence for the Word of God in toto into superstition about the paper pages you hold in your hands. Respectfully disposing of a Bible isn’t going to cause bad things to happen to you. Again, God sees your heart. He knows exactly what you’re doing and why.

If you’d like, make a little ceremony of it around your chiminea or fireplace. Say a prayer thanking God for His Word and thanking Him for opening your eyes to false teaching. Read part or all of Psalm 119, one of these passages, or another passage that extols God’s Word. Sing a hymn about the Scriptures, like Holy Bible, Book Divine, Standing on the Promises, Every Promise, or Wonderful Words of Life1.

Don’t be afraid to properly dispose of study Bibles by false teachers. You’re not disrespecting the paper pages of God’s Word, you’re doing it because you respect the heart of God’s Word.

1I didn’t vet any of these artists/groups, and I’m not endorsing any of them who conflict with Scripture or my statement of faith. These videos are just to give you an idea of how each song goes.


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.