Three Bad Arguments for Lady Preachers

The Rev. Amy Butler preaches at The Riverside Church in New York. Photo courtesy of Riverside Church

There is a cacophony of noise telling why we can disregard clear Biblical injunctions for the present sentiments of our culture in the area of women in the pulpit.

In one recent online publication, Church Leaders, Geoff Surratt wrote an article entitled, “Beth Moore: Please Don’t Go Home.” Surratt is a pastor and coach of pastors. Yet, in this article, he sounds less like a pastor, if I were to look at him through the lens of the Pastoral epistles. In writing his article, Surratt uses three typical arguments for lady preachers-arguments we should learn to recognize from afar.

First, Geoff Surratt gives syrupy stories of women preaching, of grandmothers’ influences, and even tales of his own wife, who Surratt assures us is an ordained pastor and wonderful teacher. When he discusses Beth Moore, Surratt lavishes praise upon her as a humble and wonderful teacher. She is “one of the best teachers I have heard,” says Surratt.

What is missing from this pastor, who is probably a great story-teller, is any biblical justification. The short remark that Jesus elevated women vis a vis the Judaism of His day is something every Bible-believing Christian can affirm (see here). But, that hardly amounts to a reversal of Jesus’s three-year program training men as leaders and the twelve as those who are to preach (Mark 3:14). Nor, will we find in the letters to come that govern the life and order of the church that women will be elders and thus exercise the preaching duties reserved for elders and pastors.

A second typical strategy Surratt employs is a false understanding of giftedness. There are many who will hail Beth Moore and other women like her as “gifted” teachers. Now, one can say that many folks across the planet are quite good at communication. Indeed, you can earn a PhD in the skill of public speaking and not have any inkling as to what Christ and Christianity are all about. No doubt, Moore is gifted, but human ability, ingenuity, winsomeness, pleasantness, and passion do not a spiritual-gifted shepherd make.

The Holy Spirit, who is the author behind Paul’s statement that women should not teach or have authority, will not lavish the spiritual gift of “Pastor-Teacher” upon those that are forbidden from the office. This is merely a case of misunderstanding what spiritual gifts are.

Finally, Geoff Surratt presents women as heroes, and presents John MacArthur as a villain. The epithets start piling up. He says that MacArthur “was repugnant. His arrogance and lack of grace stand in stark contrast to the women who’ve spoken into my life. It is not, however, MacArthur’s tone but rather his message that causes the most damage.” This pastor is telling the timeless tale of the baddies and goodies! But at the end of the day, he has not a Scripture to stand on to support his case that women, Beth Moore included, should not go home but continue to preach.

[Author’s Note: Surratt’s post may be seen here]