Women, Preach! A Response to John MacArthur

Women, Preach!

A Response to John MacArtur

John MacArthur telling Beth Moore that she and other women who preach ought to “go home” has been well documented. He further insisted, “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion” (something I believe is a load of bunk). Except with those whom also espouse this hermeneutic, MacArthur has been decried and challenged in his views across the board. Many people would simply back down and acknowledge that not everyone agrees with them and move along, but MacArthur apparently is not content to go quietly about women preachers. Much like certain elected officials, MacArthur chose to double down on his remarks during a recent sermon.

“Women are to maintain submission to men in all churches in all times. Women pastors and women preachers are the most obvious evidence of churches rebelling against the Bible … Women who pastor and women who preach in the church are a disgrace and openly reflect opposition to the clear command of the Word of God. This is flagrant disobedience.”

Oh, is it now? Are you sure about that? You might think that “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” is the way one should read the Bible but this is where you’re wrong. This attitude underscores the danger and outright ignorance that ensues when this hermeneutic is employed (I’ve written/preached about this before). Let’s remember that all scripture was certainly divinely inspired but, at the end of the day, this collection of stories, songs, letters, and biographies was written and compiled by human authors. These authors were often writing to specific people or groups. They were also writing in specific contexts with specific issues that they were addressing. This is not to say that the larger truth contained in them is not timeless but the circumstances described were often constrained to a moment in time. The sort of cherry picking and proof texting that MacArthur and his ilk engage in and claim authority under is nothing short of a disservice to scripture and to their pastoral office.

MacArthur invoked 1 Corinthians 14:34 as a proof text for his assertion that women should be silent in church. According to the article linked above, MacArthur stated, “You don’t say anything,” he stressed, later adding: “Women need to get themselves under control and realize they are not to speak in a church.” For a highly educated man, he certainly does not employ much intellect. If he knew anything about historical context and how to apply it to interpretation, he would know that Paul was not issuing a blanket ban on women speaking in church, rather he was addressing the fact that women who preached in the pagan temples of Corinth wished to preach in the newly established Christian churches. Paul was simply telling them to become educated in the gospel before undertaking this task. That’s it. Dr. Ben Witherington III, the Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, has written an excellent commentary on the Pauline letters, including this about 1 Corinthians 14:34:

Those asking questions were not yet educated enough in the school of Christ to know what was and was not appropriate in Christian worship. Paul affirms their right to learn, but suggests another context. In any case, Paul is correcting an abuse of a privilege, not taking back a woman’s right to speak in the assembly, which he has already granted in ch. 11

Witherington, B., III. (1995). Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (p. 287). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Let’s not fool ourselves though. MacArthur can claim biblical authority all he wants to but this is about something else entirely: Good old fashioned sexism.

“When women take over a culture, men become weak; when men become weak, they can be conquered. When all the men have been slaughtered, you [women] can sit there with all your jewelry and junk. You’ve been conquered, because you overpowered your protectors.”

There you have it: John MacArthur is afraid of women taking over the world. He feels threatened by women having any sort of power, including the authority of the pulpit and sees this as a threat upon his power. This sort of rhetoric is much more than an old man spouting off outdated cultural norms. This is a man who sees women as inferior, or at least wants to give that appearance, and who will demean any woman who dares to speak up or to take authority.

There is no valid excuse for this kind of sexist, bigoted, weak-minded thinking.

MacArthur’s views are completely unbiblical. The first one to witness the risen Lord was a woman who was told to go and tell the other men. Yes, a woman – often maligned as a prostitute in an attempt to downplay her contribution to the gospel story – was the first one to preach resurrection when she burst into a room where the men had been hiding and shouted, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18) In Romans 16, Paul specifically sends greetings to several woman, including Priscilla and Aquila who he refers to as “co-workers” in the gospel, and to Junia who was respected among the apostles. The original Greek of these instances indicates that these women were on equal footing with Paul and any other man who was in the trenches of pastoral ministry.

One might be quick to say that MacArthur’s view is a simple difference in interpretation of scripture but I disagree. I believe this is something much more malicious. The fact that MacArthur refuses to employ interpretation beyond “God said it, I believe it” aside, MacArthur’s demeaning comments about women in general reveal that he sees women as beneath him and as unequal in God’s kingdom. His point of view has no place in the church and the sooner this sort of attitude is eradicated, the better. This is more than “an old man being an old man.” This is evil. Pure and simple. This is a man who feels threatened by a woman holding power, even going so far as to say that empowering women weakens men. As we say in the south: MacArthur needs to go and sit down somewhere and be quiet.

The only weak man I see in this situation is John MacArthur.

Jesus and Swords

 

if-you-dont-own-an-ar-15-sell-your-cloak-and-buy-one-luke-2236
Filed under “Thing Jesus Never Said.”

Earlier today I was involved in a discussion about gun policy and then it happened: Someone said, “Jesus would be in favor of guns, he told his followers to buy a sword! SEE! LOOK!” They then quoted Luke 22:36: “‘But now,’ he said, ‘take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one!'” This was something I expected, as many Christians have used this one verse to try and state that Jesus would be against gun control. There’s just one problem with this line of thinking: That is not what Jesus meant. As Dr. Ben Witherington III is fond of saying:

 

A text without a context is merely a pretext for a proof text and it can be whatever you want it to be.

The problem with employing an ultra-literal interpretation of scripture and a hermeneutic of “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” is that such interpretations ignore important items such as context, cultural considerations, and good old-fashioned common sense. Using so-called “gotcha” texts to make a point that goes beyond any reasonable context for scripture is a poor witness for Christ. Further, while scholars believe that literal interpretation of scripture is considered a high view of scripture, I believe that such is actually a low view because an ultra-literal interpretation does a great disservice to the authors and intended ultimate message of scripture: The story of God’s love for us.

Simply stated: Jesus is not telling his followers to arm themselves. He is not calling for any sort of armed insurrection, revolution, or otherwise telling Christians that employing violent tactics is the way of a disciple. Here is what noted new testament theologian – and professor at Asbury Theological Seminary – Craig Keener said about this passage in the IVP Bible Background: New Testament.

By mentioning the “sword” here Jesus is not inviting revolution like the Zealots did (cf. Pseudo-Phocylides 32–34). Instead, Jesus calls for a temporary and symbolic act—two are sufficient (v. 38)—so he may be charged as a revolutionary and hence “reckoned among transgressors” in accordance with Isaiah 53:12… To be without one’s outer cloak at night would leave one cold; yet Jesus suggests that it is better than being unprepared for the conflict these disciples are about to face.

So, no, Luke 22:36 is not a call for Christians to arm themselves. It’s about the fulfillment of prophecy, specifically a prophecy that said that the messiah must be charged as a criminal. More proof of this comes from verse 37: “For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” Being with people who were armed with swords would certainly give the Romans cause to allege that Jesus was planning an armed revolution against the Roman Empire, therefore fulfilling the prophecy from Isaiah 55.

To think that Luke 22 calls Christians to arm themselves is just plain wrong. Such a notion also flies in the face of the other teachings of Jesus where he encourages peace, non-violence, and to put down their weapons (remember the scene where Jesus stops a stoning?). Further, one taking scripture completely out of context in order to fit their own belief is tantamount to re-constructing God into their own image. Let us remember that the will of God is not violence, but peace. I close with the words of the prophet Isaiah, and also long for the day when this prophecy is fulfilled. May it be during our lifetime.

“They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

What Does Worship Really Mean?

worshiphim“Worship is when all God’s people get caught up in love and wonder and praise of God. It is not the performance of the few for the many.” – Dr. Ben Witherington III

Several times, I have mentioned here that I have had a sense that we, as the wider Christian church, need to get back to our roots. The decline of Christianity in the western world has led to an almost panic-like push to find the best ways for the church to do what it has been doing for about the last 2,000 years. Some say we should get back to using a traditional style of worship service while others say that we should put aside ancient rituals in favor of contemporary styles of worship. Some say that worship means having an organ and a preacher wearing a robe and stole while others say that there should be the feel of a rock concert and that the preacher should be wearing a flannel shirt and skinny jeans. The church is good at a lot of things and having debates such as these seems to be one of them.

Let me go ahead and state that this is not about advocating for traditional or contemporary worship. This is not about robes or skinny jeans or whether any of these things are right or wrong. Instead, this is about us remembering that worship is not about us. Worship is not for the people sitting in pews or chairs. Worship is not to please any person at all.

Worship is about God and is for God.

When we get bogged down in these debates, we lose sight of the real point of why we gather together and sing, pray, hear a message, and depart to serve. Regardless of what music or liturgy is present, the worship service can often take on the feel of a performance meant for the entertainment of the congregation. If this is what worship becomes, we’re doing it wrong.

The quote at the top of this post is from my New Testament Intro professor from a lecture he was giving on the theology of worship. Dr. Witherington was essentially telling us during this lecture that we worry so much about what we get from worship or what others get from worship. The thing we ought to be most worried about, however, is what God receives from our worship. Is God receiving our adoration and praise or is he receiving lip service in favor of self-serving, feel-good acts within the walls of the church?

Church, we have lost our way.

Scripture is filled with instruction on how we are to worship. One of my favorite passages on worship is Psalm 150. “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven!” There and elsewhere is nothing about the style with which we worship or about worship being primarily for us. We need to remember this.

Another source of instruction on worship is courtesy of Methodism founder John Wesley.

“In divine worship, (as in all other actions,) the first thing to be considered is the end, and the next thing is the means conducing to that end. The end is the honour of God, and the edification of the Church; and then God is honoured, when the Church is edified. The means conducing to that end, are to have the service so administered as may inform the mind, engage the affections, and increase devotion.”

— John Wesley, from his commentary on the Roman Catholic catechism

Should the church and those who make it up be built up? Of course. One of the things that worship should do is to draw us closer to God and make us think. Worship should give us the spiritual food that we need to go out and serve God in the world. But first and foremost, worship should be about and for God, directed at him as the primary reason and audience of worship. It’s alright to prefer a certain type of music or a certain preaching style but the first consideration that should be made about worship is whether or not the worship is directed to and dedicated to the glorification of God.

In the end, the how does not really matter as much as the audience. The audience is not us! The audience of worship is God. We need to remember that worship simply is not for us and that our preferences on music, the color of the carpet, and whether or not there are hymnals or projected lyrics should not matter in the end. Unfortunately, we seem to have allowed “worship wars” to take over. We have lost our way.

We need to get back to our roots.