“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I ended my last post thinking I was primed and ready to go on. As is often the case, I was wrong. Days have passed, turning into weeks, yet I still felt a check in my spirit, a feeling of needing to wait. There was something I was missing, something I was waiting for, but I didn’t know what it was. Then yesterday, there it was—an article in The Christian Post, published online the day before.
The sudden storm created by the news of John MacArthur’s “Go Home!” statement about Beth Moore at a mid-October conference took a while to subside. I’ve watched and read carefully as people reacted to what he said. I’ve waited for the social media frenzy to settle, waiting to see if MacArthur would respond and if so, what he would say.
Those of you who have been reading my “story” for the past two years (yes, it’s really been that long…amazing stuff keeps happening and drawing me in, even yanking me up and moving me to another state!) should recognize this as yet another skirmish in the ongoing “Holy War.” The title of one article in Religion News read, “Accusing SBC of ‘caving,’ John MacArthur says of Beth Moore: ‘Go home.’” Since you now know the history, you understand their fear of “caving.” 1
I had planned to go on to answer the question of how I make sense of this issue, of how I got to where I am and why I see as I do, but it’s not quite time yet. There is more groundwork to be laid, more work to be done, more weaving together of what I have said thus far. I strongly encourage you to take some time to do some listening, and reading, and thinking about this. As MacArthur said in his sermon this past Sunday, this is a “very, very important subject.” I have some suggestions for you; I strongly urge you to follow up on these. If you want to understand, you need to know. In the end, it will be up to you to decide if it matters enough to you to make the effort. Yes, it will take some time. But all you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.
In trying to get as clear a picture of the current controversy as possible, I did a lot of looking around. One of the best and most helpful resources I came across was a podcast from Christianity Today. The tone and content of this discussion between pastor and counselor Jonathan Holmes and producer Morgan Lee are a breath of fresh air in this emotion-laden (understandably so) issue. I encourage you to listen to what they have to say, or read the transcript if you’re a reader. Knowing that MacArthur considers being labeled a fundamentalist “a badge of honor” will help you understand why he takes the positions he does. The link to the podcast is below, titled “John MacArthur Is No Stranger to Controversy.” 2
Now, to that new article that proved to be what I was waiting for: “John MacArthur clarifies views on Beth Moore, women preachers.” This was worth the wait, as it helps tremendously to hear MacArthur himself clarify his thinking. I want to spend a little time now looking at a few of his statements and responding briefly, but I’ll do most of my responding at a later time. If you read nothing else I’ve suggested, please read this article.3 I’ll make it easy for you and put the link here as well as at the end: https://www.christianpost.com/news/john-macarthur-clarifies-views-on-beth-moore-women-preachers-empowering-women-makes-weak-men.html
In his initial statements at the conference, MacArthur asserted: “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.” In his clarifying sermon this past Sunday, he went further, arguing that Scripture presents “no lack of clarity” about the role of women in the church. There are many biblical scholars who would challenge this statement and would say with me to him, “Not true, John.” Who are some of these scholars, and what do (did) they think?4 Below is a link to a list of eight highly respected evangelicals who would disagree strongly with MacArthur’s position. Notice that one of those who would disagree with MacArthur’s position is John Stott. As you know, this man is highly credible; only someone very foolish would accuse him of having denied biblical authority.
MacArthur also made this assertion in his Sunday sermon: “Let me tell you something, if children are in charge, we’re in trouble. If women are in charge, we’re in trouble. And if you look carefully at our nation, you would have to agree that it’s childish, young, inexperienced, ignorant women who are ascending into power. When you overthrow the divine order, the results are always disastrous. And again, it’s not anti-woman any more than it’s anti-children. But it’s a divine judgment on a nation that its young and its women are in power.”
When I read this I hear echoes of what I wrote about in “We Hold This Trust From God.” In my discussion of slavery and the church then I wrote about preachers who “proclaimed loudly that to refuse to accept slavery was to deny the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. Doing away with slavery would lead to the breakdown of morality, and ultimately, the destruction of society, they shouted. People became afraid.” (https://jancriley.blog/2017/11/17/we-hold-this-trust-from-god/) The argument being posited by MacArthur and others is exactly the same argument used to defend slavery, even using much of the same language, but now it’s women. Think back (or go back and reread that post in light of what you now know) to the quote I used from the Oxford Research Encyclopedias: “By the 1830s, especially after Nat Turner’s uprising in 1831, white evangelicals who previously had questioned slavery were defending it as a divinely sanctioned social order. By the 1850s such a view reigned as a virtually unchallenged orthodoxy among white southern evangelicals…”
The parallel track of the arguments couldn’t be clearer. As for equating women with children: this kind of thinking does not represent biblical teaching nor the practice of the early church. Yes, I can back up that statement, and I will when the time is right. For now, think back to what I wrote in “Course Corrections” (https://jancriley.blog/2018/05/25/course-corrections/). Remember the essay of German philosopher Schopenhauer titled, “On Women”? I used several quotes from that essay on “the Number Two of the human race.” This was one of them: “[women are] short-sighted…hers [women’s] is reason of very narrow limitations. This is why women remain children all their lives…” There you have it. The assertions MacArthur expresses so strongly, the beliefs he clings to so tenaciously have their origin in ancient Greek philosophy. This is no new argument, but it represents a persistent philosophy that is antithetical to the teachings and practice of Jesus.
The only thing that will be new, and that remains to be seen, is what we will do, in our time, in light of what we now know. For now, we must learn to maintain stillness in the storms to come. And do some work: read, think, listen. There is yet much to see.
1 “Accusing SBC of ‘caving,’ John MacArthur says of Beth Moore: ‘Go home’”, Religion News Service, October 19, 2019.
2 “John MacArthur Is No Stranger to Controversy,” Christianity Today, October 23, 2019. Podcast.
3 “John MacArthur clarifies views on Beth Moore, women preachers.” The Christian Post, November 13, 2019.
4 “Prominent Biblical Scholars On Women In Ministry”