A Former Independent Fundamental Baptist Pastor’s Perspective on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood
For seven months in 2004 our family attended a vibrant, growing church in Central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly (my wife) was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.”
In a split second everything changed. You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises but they were not to work outside the home.
From that day forward the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.
In the 1990’s I pastored a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Texas. A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman. Her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.)
The woman wanted to give a public testimony but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. The standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and told her that her husband was standing between her and Christ. I counseled her to disobey her husband. Needless to say my counsel to her set off a bomb in the church.
This church also believed that church business was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question they had to whisper their question to a man and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.
While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the above mentioned churches I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to the male authorities in their lives. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to authority and obey every command given to them.
I believed that the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept in order to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible there is no Christianity. (in any meaningful way) As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant words of God. The Bible was the final rule for everything.
IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under shepherds of the church, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching the church what the Bible says. (or better put, what his interpretations are) The pastor, called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit is the mouthpiece of God.