Women Should Be Silent in the Church Assembly
We warned you for years that Beth Moore would not be content preaching to women. Yet, pastors – yes, men who should have known better – continued to lend her a platform to speak. It started small with Bible studies for women. Then, it became a Sunday School class for both men and women. Then, her influence grew to conferences where both genders were invited to attend. But most recently, Moore began to speak from the pulpit in once-conservative Southern Baptist churches.
Although both Owen Strachan (former president and current Senior Fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) and Albert Mohler (president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) expressed disagreement with women in the pulpit on the Lord’s Day assembly, Beth Moore continued to double and triple-down in her rebellion against God and Biblical authority over the last week.
In the face of criticism from basically anybody who was biblically sound, Moore said:
“I am compelled to my bones by the Holy Spirit – I don’t want to be but I am – to draw attention to the sexism and misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC, cloaked by piety and bearing the stench of hypocrisy”
Speaking probably of the election of Donald Trump, Moore said she had an “eye-opening experience” in 2016.
She continued, “All these years I’d given the benefit of the doubt that these men were the way they were because they were trying to be obedient to Scripture. Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin. It was over power. It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses and misuses of power. Shepherds guarding other shepherds instead of guarding the sheep.”
So, you know. We’re all sexist misogynists and stuff. Suddenly, Beth Moore’s bony, manicured finger is pointing at all of us with accusations of bigotry for holding to positions that up until 5 minutes ago we all held. The thing about the Great Awokening is that those who sleep in get beaten.
The argument consistently made by those who are newly-okay with women preachers typically have two facets.
The first facet is that we are all still complementarian, even if we believe in lady preachers. We’re just complementarians who hold to egalitarianism. Women can do everything except be a senior pastor. They can even do the job of the pastor, so long as you don’t give them the title. And even then, so long as it’s not the lead pastor, it’s okay. But, but, but, you guys…we’re still totally complementarian. It’s just a different kind.
The second facet is that they’re still against female lead pastors (but children’s pastors, women’s pastors, youth pastors, and anything with the title, ‘minister,’ is okay). However, this argument is not about the pastorate. They assert that this only about preaching. As long as they’re not senior pastors, that’s all that really counts to be called a complementarian.
The argument reminds me of the high school girls who went to True Love Waits and kept their “virginity” by avoiding vaginal intercourse, even though every other orifice had been used for carnal purposes. They were technically “virgins” just like these theologians are technically “complementarians” so long as that one, all-important line of “senior pastor” isn’t crossed. It’s an adventure in missing the point.
First, to be a ‘complementarian’ means that we believe men and women have different roles, not just different titles. That the Bible teaches this is beyond doubt. We see this primarily in the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy 2:12-13, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6), but the explicit instructions regarding this are everywhere.
Conservative evangelicals have skirted around this issue for years by referring to women by titles other than pastor (like ‘minister of [fill in the blank]’). The word pastor, πάστορας, clearly denotes someone who has been ordained for the task of ministry, a long-standing tradition in the church that involves the laying on of hands of a presbytery or council and commissioned by the church for pastoral ministry (going back to Acts 8, Acts 9, Hebrews 6). But evangelicals have avoided the clear breach of Biblical tradition in appointing women as πάστορας by just calling them “ministers,” “directors,” or some such thing. Or, in more daring Southern Baptist churches, they apply the term πάστορας to those who have oversight of women or children.
We would argue that this rhetorical invention is nothing but careful egalitarianism.
Even still, most would agree with Albert Mohler that leadership belongs to men in the church, just like it does in the home (Ephesians 5:22-23).
Second, one of the roles that are exclusive to men is the public teaching and preaching of doctrine among the assembly. Back to the pastoral epistles, Paul forbids women to have authority over men by teaching them (1 Timothy 2:12-13). It is hard to argue that one can teach the Scripture without authority. If it is possible to teach the Scripture without authority (and I doubt it), it should probably not be done at all.
However, if you look more carefully, you will see that it’s leaders within the church who do the teaching. The elders who are to be submitted to in Hebrews 13:17 are those who in verse 7 are the leaders who first “spoke to you the word of God.” Those who are laboring in the Word by preaching and teaching are elders (1 Timothy 5:17), meaning that preaching – even if not done by a technical pastor – is still a pastoral task in nature.
Likewise, we see women teaching in two places in the New Testament. The first is Priscilla who – along with her husband – taught Apollos in her home, but not in the Lord’s Day assembly. Likewise, we see that older women are to teach younger women, but the lessons are to be regarding how to be a good housewife and how to be good examples (Titus 2:3-5), not doctrine and not within the Lord’s Day assembly.
However, those seeking a way around the Scripture find different excuses for their misbehavior. A popular notion is that a woman may preach if she has the permission of her male pastor. JD Greear, the president of the SBC, holds this view and explains it here.
John Piper dismantles it:
Okay, all that to put in place the question. Here is the question. Let me remind the listener: Does 1 Timothy 2:12 leave open the possibility that women are permitted to preach in the weekly gathering of the local church as an extension or under the governing authority of the male elders of the church?
My answer is no.
Neither of those qualifications — that is, an extension of or under the governing authority of — overrides the teaching of verse 12. Paul would say a female is not a proper extension of male leadership. That doesn’t make sense. That is a contradiction of male leadership, not an extension of male leadership.
A woman teaching men with authority — week in and week out or every other week or regularly in an adult Sunday school class or whatever — a woman teaching men with authority under the elders is not under the authority of the New Testament. She may be under the authority of the elders, but she is not under the authority of the New Testament, and neither would they be for putting her in that situation.
However, I might remind you of this clip from John Piper, which is hard to reconcile with his position above, in which he encourages men to learn from Beth Moore’s preaching…
I can only surmise that Piper distinguishes between Beth Moore preaching on the Lord’s Day gathering from Beth Moore preaching at a conference (like Passion, where he preaches alongside Moore).
What I’d like to point out is that by giving Moore a platform to thousands of poorly-discerning Passion Conference attenders – and thereby inadvertently lending her his credibility – Piper helped to give Beth Moore a platform in the local churches where she is now preaching on Sunday.
The question shouldn’t be whether or not women should be preaching to the gathered assembly. That answer is an obvious, “heck no.” The question shouldn’t be whether women should be preaching to men outside the gathered assembly, and the answer should be “heck no.”
The question should be if women should be preaching at all, even if it is to other women, and the answer should still be, “heck no.”
Largely, conservative evangelicals like Southern Baptists approved of women preaching – so long as it was to other women – at some point about fifteen years ago. When that change happened, largely because of the popularity of Beth Moore (who by all accounts is a really awful teacher), it happened without much debate. There should have been a debate. It should have been talked through. I’m convinced had it been talked through, Beth Moore would still be leading aerobics classes and her toxic, terrible teaching wouldn’t be the gold standard of desperate housewives with The Message Bibles across America.
We must return to the days when we embraced biblical gender roles. God has a particular order he has established, and we must honor it.
People sometimes ask, “Who are the good female preachers?” There aren’t any. The godly women who can responsibly handle God’s word know they don’t belong behind a pulpit, but are to serve the Kingdom in equally important but different ways. This means that those who do dare to stand behind the pulpit are not the cream of the crop, but the sludge at the bottom of the barrel.