Hey, John MacArthur. You have a culture. It’s called white (Christian) patriarchy.

Hey, John MacArthur. You have a culture. It’s called white (Christian) patriarchy. October 24, 2019

Dear John,

So I imagine you’ve been caught by surprise at the popularity/notoriety of that little audio clip released last week. I mean, it wasn’t as though you weren’t expressing something you haven’t said, in one form or another, for decades now.

More people than I can count have already taken to Twitter and the blogosphere to call you out for disrespecting Beth Moore, and rightly so. But Moore said she’s ready to move on, and besides, I’m guessing the whole “women preaching is biblical” argument is something you’ve closed yourself off to long ago. That’s a shame, but more on that later.

Instead, I thought we should focus on something else you said in this clip. You know, that thing about culture: “We can’t let the culture exegete the Bible.” You added a “footnote” of sorts, to clarify. It went something like this:

“When the Southern Baptists met in June, they passed resolution 9, and they said intersectionality and critical theory are useful tools in interpreting the Bible, that was a watershed moment for that entire movement, because if culture has the right to interpret the Bible they will interpret the bible and liberalism will take over.”

Your great fear, it seems, is people who are “allowing the culture to interpret the Scripture.”

Here is the thing, John. There is no such thing as “culture.” There are cultures. And we’ve all got them. Or we’re all enmeshed in them. We’re all enculturated, if you will.

The tricky thing about cultures, though—cultural systems, cultural values, however you want to put it—is that they’re largely invisible to us when we’re inside those cultures. When you’re comfortably ensconced within a culture, it’s really hard to see your culture for what it is—instead, it tends to take the appearance of generic, standard, normal, common-sense reality. Of Truth.

I can understand how you might not have the eyes to see this. After all, you’re celebrating 50 years of ministry—50 years of being at the center of the culture you helped create—a culture in which you have more than comfortably ensconced yourself. An empire, really. So allow me to sketch the contours of that culture for you.

Let’s call it white (Christian) patriarchy. The parenthetical is optional, but as a Christian myself, I’m making a bit of a normative claim here, suggesting that when Christianity becomes enmeshed in white patriarchy, it becomes something else entirely. But let’s not let that distract us for the moment.

What does white (Christian) patriarchy look like? Well, for Paige Patterson it involves cowboy hats and an office filled with big-game hunting trophies. And, of course, a ruthless display of power. For Mark Driscoll it looked a bit more hip, in a 1990s sort of way, more crude perhaps, but the ruthless power was the same. For the likes of Doug Wilson or Doug Phillips, it’s always been a bit more quirky—more of a caricature, really. Then there’s the kinder, gentler version, at least on the surface—the James Dobson and John Piper varieties. But there, too, the power dynamics are largely the same. Power over women, children, church members, and the community. A chain of command, with (white Christian) men at the top.

While specific manifestations may vary (clean-shaven vs. neatly-trimmed beards, hunting vs. rock climbing, fine Scotch vs. craft brews), some things remain consistent. White (Christian) patriarchy always entails men patting each other’s backs, sharing stages, endorsing each other’s teachings, blurbing each other’s books, and calling one another “brother in Christ.” (I imagine it feels good to call someone a “brother in Christ.” It probably feels even better to be called “brother in Christ.” But this language, too, conveys power. For good and ill.)

What does white (Christian) patriarchy feel like? For those at the top, I imagine it’s a pretty heady experience, but I don’t actually know for sure. But for those caught beneath, it can be a harrowing existence. I do know, because I’ve run up against it myself from time to time. More importantly, I’ve listened to other people’s stories. You know—stories like those that cause a university and seminary to lose accreditation because of “a pervasive climate of fear, intimidation, bullying, and uncertainty.”

I’ve listened to stories, too, first only whispered—stories of violence against women, stories long swept under the rug. When you run an educational institution, though, accreditors care about these things, too, it turns out.

YouTube

I’ve also listened to the voices of Christians who are not white. For these Christians, the whiteness of white (Christian) patriarchy is unmistakable.

With all this in mind, let’s take another look at this now infamous clip. Here we have you and two brothers, dressed in suits and ties, sitting authoritatively in dignified leather chairs, on a stage, between three ferns, before an audience of (predominantly) other white men. To an outside observer, you seem secure in the knowledge that you command the stage. That you are entitled to command.

To my mind, the most striking feature in all of this is the chuckling. No, the guffawing really. It expresses such comfort, such a high level of confidence that all those in the room share your views on the subject. On all subjects. That’s power.

It’s also a sign that there’s a coherent culture at work here. When this audio was leaked to those outside of this culture, most people didn’t find it funny. Most people found it disturbing. Shocking, even. Again, another sign of the often unspoken yet highly distinctive cultural values at play in white (Christian) patriarchy.

And then we get to Beth Moore.

“Go home.”

It’s a memorable line, to be sure, and yes, it is condescending and degrading to Beth Moore, and by extension to all women. To be honest, it’s also degrading to the home. So much for focusing on the family and all that. The smug tone here makes it clear that the home is for losers. Or for second-class citizens, at the very least.

And then there’s the supreme certainty: “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period, paragraph, end of discussion.”

You know, you could have stopped there. It seems an appropriate place to stop, end of discussion and all. But you were all having too much fun. So we have the benefit of learning more about this culture of yours.

At this point, Phil chimes in. The problem with Beth Moore is that she’s “narcissistic.” She likes to “preach herself” rather than preach Christ, apparently. Which is funny, because Beth Moore may be many things, but a narcissist doesn’t really seem to be one of them. At this point I’m starting to sense that there may be a bit of projection going on here. Also more on that later.

But first, an interlude. Turns out Voddie Baucham was supposed to be there. In some ways it’s too bad he wasn’t, since I would have had to spend more time explaining that yes, this is still primarily about white Christian patriarchy. But he wasn’t there. Why? Because, well, “he’s weak…he wanted to rest.” Again, the smug laughter reveals shared cultural values. Men are strong. The men on the stage (who in this case happen to be white) are the strongest. Bullying keeps lesser men in their lesser places. Or at least threatens as much. All in good fun, of course. So much fun.

And then, back to back-slapping: “And by the way, dude, you killed it…That sermon…” [More applause.] Ok, I’ve really been wanting to say this to you white evangelical men for a while. What is with this “dude” thing? I mean, we even have The Dude’s Guide to Manhood. Granted, I don’t hang out with surfers or spend time at our local skate park, but as far as I know white evangelical men (of all ages) are the only ones still using this term in public discourse. To use your own terminology, I’d call this a “cultural cue.”

But let’s keep our focus on matters of substance. Next up we have another dig at Beth Moore that plays up all the stereotypes: “Just because you have the skill to sell jewelry on the TV sales channel doesn’t mean…there are people that have certain hawking skills…that doesn’t’ qualify you to preach.”

Let’s unpack this just a bit, shall we? In your world, it seems quite clear that anything associated with femininity is fair game for ridicule. The home, jewelry, consumerism. But really, hasn’t evangelicalism itself become little more than a sanctified consumer culture? In the end, doesn’t it all come down to selling things? More on that later, too.

Back to projection. And here we really come to the heart of things:

“The primary effort for feminism is not equality. They don’t want equality. That’s why 99% of plumbers are men. They don’t want equal power to be a plumber. They want to be senators, preachers, congressmen, president, the power structure of a university, they want power and not equality. And this is the highest location they can ascend to that power in the evangelical church and overturn what is clearly scripture. I think this is feminism going to church.”

Ah, it’s all becoming clear now. For you, it is all about power. Because it’s your power you’re thinking about. When you’ve enjoyed that power for so long, it must be a frightful prospect to imagine what it would be like to be stripped of it. Just ask some of the women in your own community.

And all this brings you to your point about “culture,” and how absolutely absurd you find the notion proposed by certain Southern Baptist leaders, the idea that biblical translation committees should include more than just white men, that maybe it would be a good idea for “a Latino, African American, and a woman” to serve on translation committees. Here, your incredulity is unmistaken: “Translation of the Bible? How about someone who knows Greek and Hebrew?” [More chuckles, more applause; both are easy to come by with this audience]. But no, this is a serious matter: “This is not a minor issue. When you literally overturn the clear teaching of scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority. This is not a small issue.”

OK, let’s be serious then.

First off, let’s examine this not small, not minor assumption that you make here. Did you know that there are African Americans and Latinxs and, yes, women, who know Greek and Hebrew? White men did not invent Hebrew or Greek, it turns out. Nor are they the only ones who’ve mastered it. Who knew?

Actually, a lot of people know that. Because this isn’t a new thing, really. I can understand, though, how you might have missed this fact, because you’ve worked so hard to maintain exclusive (masculine) religious authority. As have your brothers who have come before you. And then you’ve written the histories to make it seem like men have always held exclusive religious authority. But they haven’t.

I’m a historian by training, and I spent ten years researchDu Mez, A New Gospel for Womening the history of female biblical interpreters. My favorite was Kate Bushnell, and I wrote a book about her. In some ways, she’s a lot like you. When the fundamentalist/modernist controversy came around, she identified as a staunch fundamentalist. She believed every word of the Scriptures was sacred, inspired, and inviolable. Oh, and she taught herself Hebrew and Greek. But with this expertise, she began to notice gendered patterns of mistranslations. That is to say, English translations of the Scriptures (first the KJV, then the Revised Version) routinely translated the same Greek or Hebrew word one way when it applied to a man (“strength” or “courage,” for example), and another way entirely when it applied to a woman (in this case, “virtuous.”) Dedicating decades of her life to a close examination of the Scriptures, Bushnell eventually published an extensive critique of traditional translations and interpretations. It was a solid piece of scholarship—even the reviewer at Moody agreed.

Bushnell had a few theories about why so many examples of male bias had worked their way into translations of the Scriptures over the centuries. Sometimes she allowed for a more innocuous explanation—every person, no matter how admirable their intentions, has the tendency to pull ever-so-slightly in their own favor when it comes to interpreting texts. The problem, then, comes when a certain group of people defend their right to be the exclusive interpreters of the Scriptures. Other times, however, she entertained a more conspiratorial notion. In pursuing and maintaining their own power, men were allied with the devil. Either way.

Did I mention, by the way, that it was white Christian men who drove Bushnell to embark on her theological project? You see Bushnell, like so many other enterprising white Christian women of the late 19th century, was a social reformer. She worked primarily with prostitutes, and with victims of sexual violence more generally. You might think of her as a precursor to modern-day antitrafficking activists. But, time and again, she ran into men—eminently “respectable,” white Christian men, pastors and preachers—men very much like yourself—who showed no sympathy towards “fallen women.” Men who believed such women were beyond redemption. Men who tacitly condoned—or even perpetrated—acts of horrific violence against women. Against white women, and especially against women of color. Ultimately, she concluded that “the crime” must be “the fruit of the theology.” And so it was.

What was foundational to Bushnell’s entire project was her understanding of power. After a careful study of the Scriptures, she concluded that the bulk of evidence establishing men as authorities in the household, and in the church, could be traced not to the Greek Testament, but rather to English translations. Moreover, it became clear to her that no Christian man would ever seek such exaltation. Jesus himself emptied himself, became human, suffered, and died. Why, then, would men who claimed to follow Jesus seek to assert power over others? Such men who sought power over others did so in exact proportion to the sinfulness of their own hearts, she surmised.

I wonder if you’ve heard of Bushnell before. A number of women (and some men) have worked to keep her teachings alive. But for the most part she’s been lost to history, as have so many other female biblical interpreters, before and since. This, too, was no accident. Bushnell recognized that men had claimed for themselves the right to teach theology. It was men who assumed for themselves “unusual and unique spiritual enlightenment,” who granted themselves “a thousand-and-one privileges and prerogatives” over women, effectively giving free reign to their own egotism under cover of “headship.” It was men who, through the outworkings of “masculine egotism,” had left us with “a whole fossilized system of theology,” a system that made one half of the human family “some resplendent glory,” and gave that half the power “to teach theology and the love of God to the other half”—not because of a man’s moral or spiritual character, but because of his physical body—“solely because he is a male!” The only way to keep women from “repudiating utterly such theology,” Bushnell understood, was by reserving to men the right to study, translate, and interpret the Scriptures.

I don’t know about you, but to me this doesn’t sound like a very “legitimate hermeneutic.”

You can learn more about Bushnell by reading my book. Come to think of it, I have another book that you might find interesting. It’s called Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. I think it really will help you understand this whole culture of white (Christian) patriarchy. In fact, you’re in the book. So are a lot of your friends. It’s not out quite yet, but it is available for preorder. (I know you don’t like women hawking jewelry, but I know white Christian men love to hawk each other’s books, so I’m going to assume book-hawking is ok.)

Sincerely,

Kristin Du Mez

 


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  • Mike Dunster

    Thank you Kristin, you have said what I would have liked to have said on this issue, but with much greater wisdom and skill.

  • cagedvole

    You’ve got a bit of a chip on your shoulder?

  • Caudill

    GO HOME.

  • Caudill

    Mike, you’re pathetic. BE A MAN.

  • Jonathan Kratz

    In the end, we are all sinners before God, and deserve wrath, and hope for heaven only in Christ. And there is what scripture says about cetain things. Setting all the historical hurst and cultural affectations aside, there is God’s word, and let all the rest of us comply.

  • Jonathan Kratz

    “hurts”

  • Ray Fritsch

    Bullseye! Delivered with a touch of sugar and a touch of bitters… a perfect balance.
    Kate Bushnell or Fryer John “cook’n” Calvin….you decide.

  • Jeff

    “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher.”
    I’ve no argument against this, but there’s also no case that can be made biblically for a preacher who openly denies the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ and declares the blood of Christ to be worthless for salvation.
    Yet MacArthur taught the former heresy for over thirty years (before being pressured to recant by two Baptist theologians, whom MacArthur then insulted, naturally), and still teaches the later to this day.

  • Brian J Munro

    My general response to this and most of the posts on this issue – regardless of perspective – is that they are all unhelpful at every level.

  • cagedvole

    MacArthur “declares the blood of Christ worthless for salvation” –
    Does he, how so?

  • Speck

    Thank you for this. I had not heard of Bushnell before, though I’ve read a fair amount of work by theologians who are women. I’ll be picking up your book. I do think it’s fascinating to watch people argue they can somehow remove themselves from their cultures. A bit akin to “I thank God I am not like other people – I can remove myself from such pernicious influence – only those others are corrupted.” Of course, the fact that we are all embedded in our various cultures means we are all challenged to listen carefully to other readings and other stances – and none of us have the perfect interpretation. But the process is imperative. And the process itself is part of what we are called to – not perfection, but to be the Body of Christ.

  • Lauren B

    Mike, you’re admirable. A great example of for men to look up too.

  • Lauren B

    seems like you were able to really think deeply and challenge yourself to consider your own privilege today…

  • Kevin Young

    Kristin,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    As a believer I would have hoped for a bit more love and grace in your tone. You seem angry and bitter, and rightfully so. White men have done a lot of harm, and being a white male I know we have a lot to confess and repent of: bully culture, suppression of minorities and women and children, misuse of Scripture, etc.

    However, I would also think that there are sins on both sides, as in Genesis 3. Men have their faults, and women do too (as you point out near the end). Humility and an attitude of gentle correction go a long way in my book. Harsh critique and jabs at other “brothers” do not.

    As an aside, I say “dude” all the time. I’m not exactly sure why, but yes I’m sure it does show my whiteness. I had a female student call me out because I referred to her as “dude” without even thinking about it. We would all do well to be more careful with our words, spoken or written.

    Grace and Peace,
    Kevin

  • all gw

    Sadly, I never finished reading this diatribe. I couldn’t get past the incessant racism and sexism. I cannot understand these blatantly racist and sexist people who seem unable to get past skin colour and gender. And then to have Kristin call herself a Christian! This is why Christianity is so demeaned in the eyes of the world; because hateful people like this self-identify as Christians and the ignorant masses [and rightly ignorant because there is nothing that says people have to know anything about Christianity] think this is what Christians must be like when, in reality, they are what true followers of Christ are repelled by. Patheos, in the relatively short time I have been here, seems to enjoy encouraging this hate by giving it a platform. I would encourage readers to not be affected by such hate as shown here and instead recognize it for what it is, deplore it, and seek to raise up humanity by labelling it for what it is and reducing its effects by being better than that online and off.

  • Grace

    I was lost from the beginning because the first part, and basically the title’s premise, was based on saying that he doesn’t think he is in a culture. But when Christians say “culture” or “the world” they just mean un-saved people. It is not to say Christians don’t have a culture, it is to say that Christians are called to have a radically different culture than the world around them.

  • TUC

    The problem is that the writer falls into racial stereotypes himself in his discussion of white patriarchy in that he seems to assume that being a white male automatically puts you into a position of greater power and influence. That totally misses the effect of social background. If you have grown up in a affluent, middle class background that tends to make you far more confident in social situations and better at knowing how to unconsciously network than someone from a poor working class background. I would go as far as to say that middle class people of any ethnicity have those advantages over those from poorer backgrounds.

  • Johannes de Silentio

    If the quality – both logically and empathetically – of your book’s writing is anything like this article, I’m gonna make sure and get a copy. Thank you so much for this. I am aware of Bushnell, mainly due to Mimi Haddad and all the other admirable folks at Christians for Biblical Equality – cbeinternational.org . I deeply appreciate the emphasis on cultures and subjectivity re theology and “being biblical.” I more and more avoid saying “this is biblical”… at least before being extremely careful to examine what exactly is Bible and what is of my own cultural frame / blinders. Events in the past few years have caused me to reassess much I once thought of as “biblical.” It has been a painful but also very freeing experience.

  • Ste

    This is about how to crack the white Evangelical voting block and get them to support liberal candidates and policies.

    One exciting possibility is to delegitimize the power structure of white Evangelicals and put in new leadership who are innately hostile to them, their opinions, or the idea that they should have opinions at all.

    This could work unless white Evangelicals figure out the plot and resist.

    It should be interesting to watch.

  • Luis Gutierrez

    The patriarchal culture of male headship (Genesis 3:16, Ephesians 5:21-33), by inducing irresponsible human procreation, is the root cause of overpopulation and the ecological crisis. As long as the church remains a patriarchal institution, mere calls for “ecological conversion” are not compelling. Given that the “impedimentum sexus” is not dogmatic, and is no longer credible, why ordain more married men? Why not ordain celibate women?

  • Darrell B

    After reading this post and another on militant masculinity in American Christianity I am really looking forward to reading your upcoming book “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation”. Thanks for your work.

  • Darrell B

    Why?

  • Darrell B

    Class discussion is important indeed but I did not get the impression that the author failed to understand that.

  • Margreet Rutgers

    This article was brought to you by a Woman™

  • Margreet Rutgers

    One of the points I am taking away from this article, is that it is impossible to read and comply with God’s word without historical hurts and cultural affectations, for the simple reason that translations are inherently influence by these hurts and affectations.
    Unless all of us learn Greek and Hebrew and read the root text for ourselves, there’s no setting aside these issues while reading God’s word.

  • Roger Tornga

    How ironic that John MacArthur’s ministry is called, “Grace To You”! As my dad always said, “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear a word you’re saying”.

  • John S.

    This is a liberal pseudo-christian blog or website. The whole thing here is heretic. We love John MacArthur and he lives worthy to the Gospel and teaches the Biblical truth.

  • Angelique

    As a conservative Baptist women I see so much truth in what you have written. It took me so long to muddle through the biblical role of a women. I attended one of the conservative seminaries after my children left home and earned an Associate Divinity degree. I saw first hand a lot of arrogance, and agree with you on many of your points. I am enjoying reading and learning, and have found the Wesleyan view on women in ministry to be so much more freeing and biblical. The only thing that bothers me is your bent on pointing out the word “White” men. The same patriarchal ideas and views are found in many cultures and the Middle Eastern Patriarchs and religions dominated over women just as White American men. – some even with much more control and abuse. I am not, by any means denying the things you have pointed out. I just feel that blaming a “race” of people is not very diplomatic or fair. So very much of the world suppresses women, and many of the countries that do are not predominantly white. I am sure you are aware of this and I know that that is not entirely the scope of your article, but the race card is really overwhelming the narrative. I sincerely did glean from your perspective and will look up Busnell .

  • Kristin Du Mez

    I understand your desire for a tone of “love and grace.” I considered my tone carefully. For 10 years I’ve studied abusive religious systems. I’ve see how deference (even reverence) shown perpetrators props up their power and contributes to an abuse of power. I want no part in that. What if our deference as Christians were inversely related to people’s power?

  • Kristin Du Mez

    Thank you for posing this question, and for the opportunity to clarify. By focusing on this particular culture of white Chr patriarchy I in no way want to suggest that there are not many other manifestations of patriarchy—there are! In this case, whiteness is a key component (more on that in the book). But other books can be written on other manifestations. There will be similarities, but also differences I imagine, in what forms patriarchy takes in different cultures and subcultures.

  • Richard Hollerman

    I’m sorry but I fear that your presentation is far different from the inspired words of Paul the apostle. You know the scriptures as well as I do (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:8, 11-15; 3:1-15; Titus 1:9-15; 2:3ff; and many others. An accurate translation can’t change the clear truth of Scripture. As you know, the woman is forbidden by the Holy Spirit from speaking in public, thus she must not write books and articles either. This doesn’t go along with Patheos.com or other neo-evangelical sources, but it does go along with the inspired message of God’s Word–regardless of how unpopular this may be.

  • Xavier de la Torre

    Whenever I see people using the term ‘overpopulation’, I like to ask them if they’d do us the favor of volunteering to lessen the load by removing themselves. I’m not saying overpopulation isn’t a problem. I’m saying ALL of us are part of the problem – which pretty much nullifies any right we think we may have to bitch and moan about overpopulation.

  • Xavier de la Torre

    In this case, harsh critique is an absolute necessity.

  • all gw

    I am no fan of MacArthur and utterly disagree with him on this but, once again, we have another racist, sexist tirade on Patheos.

  • Luis Gutierrez

    Of course, we are ALL part of the problem. Going forward, we ALL must be part of the solution. Population must be reduced via responsible parenthood. The church must help by renouncing religious patriarchy. Aborting female vocations to ordained ministry is NOT responsible parenthood. We ALL must give good example of responsible parenthood.

  • CJ

    Kristin,
    Seeking to understand and think this through … from your perspective, is privilege itself a sin?

    John is totally in sin with his whole attitude and words toward Beth. Even IF Moore’s ministry or teaching were “ensnared by the devil” (worst case scenario) … his response should be “kind,” “not quarrelsome,” and “correcting with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 2:23-26) So I’m not trying to prop up or in any way excuse MacArthur’s sinful words or attitude. Or his MacArthur-centered kingdom that he’s made for himself. Not even a little bit.

    But is privilege *itself* a sin? It is usually treated in our modern society as an evil that must be eliminated, but I wonder … what if the real issue is the sinful *misuse* of privilege?

    God actually establishes priviledged positions in the Bible. The king of Israel, while under God’s authority, had a privileged position. He even was able to make a copy of scripture for himself and take it home with him (which no one else, not even the priests we allowed to do). That was a very special God-established privilege. The Israelites themselves were chosen by God as his people, giving them an ethnic privileged position. So according to the Bible, God is not inherently anti-privilege … but he is always against a sinful misuse of privilege. So the king was commanded not to take lots of wives or gather lots of gold for himself. That would be a misuse of his place of privilege. He was to ensure justice in the land and lead the nation toward obedience to God. Because he was entrusted with much, he was responsible to God for how he used that privileged position. The whole nation of Israel was not to say to themselves “my own hands have acquired this for me” … but instead to use their God-given privilege to help the poor, the widows, the oppressed and the foreigner among them (plus all kinds of other ways God wanted them to love him and serve one another).

    Even Jesus had a position of privilege, but Philippians 2 tells us how he (amazingly) set aside (although not eliminating) his privilege, so he could serve … becoming a human, and sacrificing his life as a ransom fo the sins of people.

    So, without trying to be contentious … is it possible that our anti-privilege stance is driven more by what the society deems “evil,” rather than what the Bible says? What if obedient use of privilege could honor the Lord? Abuse of privilege is certainly neither loving God nor loving our neighbor … but, is it somehow wrong to be born into privilege? And is abandoning privilege (or “redistribution” of privilege) the only answer? Why not use privilege (with thanksgiving and humility) to serve others? What if truly seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness … what if that would address all the sinful inquities?

    With all the angst surrounding multi-generational privilege issues, this might sound like an “out-of-touch” philosophical question … but I think it would have some practical implications for us to properly identify the things that really are sin, and which things aren’t.

    Is privilege *itself* a sin? (Thanks)

  • CJ

    Actually, not just to Kristin … I’m open to any helpful comments on this question.

  • Kristin Du Mez

    I welcome theologians (or any others) into this conversation. I’ll take a stab at it. No, I don’t think “privilege” is necessarily sinful. Again, to look at Jesus’ example–though the very point you make here is that he set aside that privilege. We are explicitly told that to follow Christ is to take up our cross, and to minister to the least of these. So, if our definition of privilege is modeled after this, it seems it can be redemptive. But (fair warning: I’m a Calvinist!) I think we are also prone to fool ourselves into thinking the power we’re wielding is for the good of others, when in fact it’s just an example of a sinful quest for power that goes back to Eden, really. So we would do well to hold that power very loosely, to check ourselves, to be accountable, and to share whatever power and privilege we find we have as generously as possible, especially with those who who have less power/privilege, perhaps most especially with those who can do us no favors. And, always, to keep in mind that we just might be wrong…

  • Jay Johnson

    Let’s consider whether MacArthur’s leadership of Master’s University and Seminary is “worthy to the Gospel.” The institution was placed on probation in 2018 following a site visit by WASC Senior College and University Commission that concluded the **“lack of leadership ethics and accountability that emerged was unmatched for members of this review team.”** Additionally, the commission reported conflicts of interest regarding student financial aid, staff without qualifications for their positions, and **“a climate of fear, intimidation, bullying, and uncertainty”** among faculty members.

    MacArthur rules his little fiefdom through intimidation and bullying. That is his _modus operandi,_ and that is what he is trying to do to Beth Moore. MacArthur’s life and behavior violate the clear teaching of Jesus Christ our Lord. I think there’s a word for that, and “truth” isn’t it. Give “sinful” a try and you’ll be closer to the mark.

  • Jay Johnson

    Is privilege itself a sin? Your examples seem to equate privilege with wealth, which is certainly a form of privilege. But “white privilege” cuts across socio-economic lines. Is it wrong for a white, blue-collar worker to be born into “whiteness”? No. But when that person starts to fear that “brown people” are destroying white culture and stealing their jobs, sin is crouching at the door.

    People who have never been discriminated against often are blind to the suffering of those who are on the other end of the equation. In this case, I think Psalm 19:12-13 is instructive:

    But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
    Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
    Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.

    For many of us, “white privilege” is a hidden fault. We don’t even know when we are doing it, but it remains sinful. When that fault is pointed out to us, however, we have a responsibility to repent, which means to “turn around.” When the hidden fault is brought to our attention, we cannot simply pray for forgiveness and keep doing it anyway. That is when it becomes “willful sin,” and a great transgression against God.

  • Jay Johnson

    “to share whatever power and privilege we find we have as generously as possible, especially with those who who have less power/privilege, perhaps **most especially with those who can do us no favors.**”

    Just because it bears repeating. Well said.

  • John S.

    This is not true. God’s men always under attack. People evil and vicious.

  • CJ

    I agree that humble self awareness is vey important. I would agree with what you have shared from Psalm 19 and would echo Psalm 139:23-24, which says “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there be any grevious way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

    But in saying that being born into whiteness is not a sin, you also continued on to say that living out white privilege is a sin. But that’s where I struggle to agree … because being born into “whiteness” is what white privilege is. If I was born a Rockefeller (for example) I would have Rockefeller privilege. I could use that for selfish ambitions, but I could also use that for generous purposes. It is the privilege of a Rockefeller to endow a community trust or to build a personal mansion. But the privilege is a reality of the life, not necessarily wrong. I have American privilege, and for that matter, every person born in America has a privileged life, if compared to those born into third world situations. Which means … every life can be compared to those who are more priviledged, and those who are less priviledged. And so every person has to decide how they will use their life. Either as love for God and neighbor … or something self serving. And this is true, with or without privilege.

    Sometimes we are aware of the privilege *of others* because it just seems so obvious. A Rockefeller might say, “I prefer caviar over escargot. How about you?” Well, that’s privelege talking. An outsider might not just observe that the person has a privileged life, but also find it offensive and annoying, perhaps even disgusting. I think *that level of offense* is what often dominates the discussion about white privilege. Annoyance and disgust. And so we would demonize the guy who eats caviar because that’s just “sinful” to live out that kind of privilege. But for me, if I am eating a fresh salad with 6 kinds if vegetables and some chopped apples … I dont feel like I am the same as the guy with the caviar. But in truth, I am living a priviledged life to enjoy such fresh produce, when a Hatian (for instance) might get little more than a potato for dinner.

    So I also would challenge the idea that some people have never experienced discrimination. Discrimination happens on many levels and for various reasons. The degree of intensity and repetition might vary, but it is a (sinful) human tendency to hatefully discriminate. You probably meant *systemic* discrimination, but I wonder … do we really believe that only certain people are victims of discrimination?

    So I wonder if this incident with MacArthur is not primarily about white privilege, as much as it is simply a sinful attitude. Sure, it takes place in the middle of a ministry that is dominated by a white culture. BUT this same thing *could* have happened in a church conference that was predominantly black, and the person speaking insultingly about Beth Moore could have been a woman … and the sin would have been equally wrong. Just because he happens to be white and male, that doesn’t intensify the sin, or redirect what the “real” sin is. The way John spoke about Beth is wrong, period. And he also is wrong in the way he has bullied his way into the role of being the king of the MacArthur kingdom. And he’s been successful at it because he is a white man in a world that is more accomodating to white males. But there are also black men who have done the same kind of thing … creating little ministry kingdoms for themselves. And so have women.

    But at the end of the day, the problem is not the whiteness or the maleness of his words. Just the un-Christlikeness of his words. If I were speaking to John about what he did, I would be missing the central point of Scripture’s admonition to him if I addressed his white male privilege, when Scripture has given very clear instruction about why his words are sinful. In particular 2 Timothy 2:24-26 where “gentleness” and “kindness” are some of the key words for how we rebuke or coreect others. Some of the additional things about white privelege may be useful for another discussion with him. But even some of that gets into evaluating the status of a person’s heart … which only the Lord himself knows perfectly.

    Misuse of white male privilege is a real thing. But I just think we should be careful in how we label sins … especially when what is clear about sin is already described for us in scripture.

    I can already hear … “you are just a white male, so you’ll never get it.” But I really don’t want to miss what God is saying. When he speaks clearly, that is central … and I don’t want to take a secondary thing which may or may not be intrinsically sinful, and push it forward into the center.

    I really think white male patriarchy is probably more annoying than it is sinful … and that every sin can somehow be connected to white male patriarchy, if that’s what we are on the lookout for. After all, white males do sin … quite a lot (just like everybody else).

  • archidude

    The issue here is not liberalism. The issue is Godliness. The issue is an appropriate hermeneutic. The suspicion and critique is that MacArthur and his sect miss the point of Philippians 2.3 and Acts 2.13. The marginalization of others for the sake of doctrine negates the witness of those who say they love Jesus.

  • Jay Johnson

    >CJ said: “But in saying that being born into whiteness is not a sin, you also continued on to say that living out white privilege is a sin.”

    I appreciate your thoughtful response, but I should say that I’m also a white male, and middle-aged to boot! Anyway, the distinction that I failed to make clear was that being born into a privileged position, white or otherwise, isn’t sinful, but when we misuse privilege to harm rather than help others, to withhold opportunity rather than offer it, we have crossed a line into sinfulness.

    >CJ: “And so we would demonize the guy who eats caviar because that’s just “sinful” to live out that kind of privilege.”

    Enjoying one’s privileged position may or may not be sinful, but treating that privilege as an exclusive club and denying others the opportunity to join is more than annoying or disgusting; it is sinful.

    >CJ: “You probably meant systemic discrimination, but I wonder … do we really believe that only certain people are victims of discrimination?”

    I’m glad that you brought up the systemic angle. More on that in a second. You’re right that people divide and discriminate over the smallest details. However, your last statement is problematic for me. First, it reminds me of Christians in this country who see persecution around every corner. That sort of paranoia is what’s fueling our current Culture War. (Not that you are guilty of this. Just sayin.) Second, implying that everyone is discriminated against sets up a false equivalence between the “annoying” discrimination that you and l might experience and the far more serious consequences of what women and minorities face. For example, I taught for 10 years in the juvenile justice system. Nine out of 10 of my students were minorities. I promise you that the population of Dallas County isn’t 10% white. Comparatively, the minor injustices that you and I suffer truly aren’t worth discussing. It’s along the lines of the lawyer trying to find a loophole in Jesus’ words by asking, “And who is my neighbor?”

    On the systemic angle, the Bible recognizes both individual and _corporate_ sin. We see these in the prophetic denunciations of the nation of Israel and its leaders. And what are the primary complaints? Besides disloyalty to YHWH, it always comes down to a corrupt system of justice and the economic exploitation of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. As Christians, we should work to end these things, not contribute to their perpetuation in our own day and nation.

  • CJ

    Jay, since yove clarified your identity, I guess I should say, Your last comment killed it, dude.” 😀

    I generally agree with what you’ve responded.

    I think my whole question about the way we view “privilege” was probably drived by the fact that Kristin’s blog response seems to be an agenda-driven response. She sees white male patriarchy because that’s one of her primary areas of focus. My wife works with the elderly. It was interesting that her first thought was, maybe John has the beginning stages of Alzheimers, or has developed the general “I can say what I want to say” that sometimes comes with old age. Why? That’s her focus all the time, so that’s her first observations and assumptions.

    I think MacArthur’s issue is much simpler than trying to consider all the possible implications of white male privilege. If “MacArthur” was a black female, and “Moore”were a white male, would this get the same attention? It certainly wouldn’t be the recipient of an article saying, “look, its white patriarchy again.” We should view the sin according to what God says, not what particularly concerns us or just in terms of how we view the primary social disfunctions. In other words, the most important offense is the offense against God. We should care that Beth has been offended (and everyone else who is targeted by his words) but more importantly … John’s words are an offense toward God. That’s actually what makes it a sin.

    Its not that white male privilege has nothing to do with MacArthur. Its just that what he needs to confess is not his whiteness or his maleness. He needs to confess his pride, lack of love/gentleness, and disobedience to the God-given process for how to confront those who we disagree with. Misuse of position, power, and opportunity? Probably that as well. But whiteness or maleness? No. That’s not sinful. So in all of our observations, I wonder if we just complicate what’s really at the heart of sin, or end up confessing something that’s a sin of the system … rather than confessing what’s in the heart.

    If John never truly “gets it” about white male privilege … but genuinely apologizes for being arrogant and sinful toward Beth … I think that should be cause for rejoicing.

  • CJ

    I got so caught up in another conversation that I never thanked you for your response.

    I totally agree that serving and loving others who have no resource or position or *anything* to repay or benefit me … that can test or reveal our motives for why we love and serve others.

    I would say that John’s main issue and sin to repent of isn’t his white male patriarchy. That’s the *context* for his sin, but the *heart* of his sin is something in the realm of selfish pride, lack of gentleness, slander … that kind of stuff. Sometimes we get more worked up by what is bothersome to us or problematic an a cultural sort of way, rather than what is spcifically sinful to God. In particular, I find that John MacArthur is that kind of “dude.” I can totally get on a soap box with my objections against him. But usually as I do, my own sinful attitudes start pouring out. (For multiple reasons, MacArthur REALLY pushes my buttons).

    Anyway, back to another area of agreement … I appreciated what you said about holding onto opportunity, privilege, power (etc.) with an open hand. Everything I have is a stewardship from God and none of it is “mine” to do with as I choose. Remembering that (and continuing to learn the implications of that) is very important in the Christian life.

  • NorrinRadd

    This is a bizarre notion. For a couple of decades I’ve been a supporter, often a bit too rudely and combatively, of full equality of women in the church and in the home, but I can’t imagine I would ever “support liberal candidates and policies.”

    I really don’t see the relationship.

  • NorrinRadd

    Fortunately, I’m a male, and so it is Biblically “legal” for me to point out that her presentation is not contrary to Scripture, but only to particular translations and interpretations of certain cherry-picked passages.

  • Roger McKinney

    The problem with insisting that culture determines your truth is that we have no object way of determining truth. This shows how far Christians have followed after atheistic Marxism. Marx invented the idea that economic classes have different rules of logic and so talk past each other. He did so because he couldn’t respond to the tsunami of criticism against his ideas coming from economists. The left has expanded Marx’s polylogism to races and cultures. Old white men can’t understand young black women without walking in the shoes for a while, but that’s impossible so they can never find any common ground on which to discuss anything. Old white men will always get everything wrong about women and minorities because their culture keeps them in change. Of course, what I have described is known as critical theory but it’s hardly different from what Aristotle called sophism.

    I ask followers of critical theory (the atheist Marx’s polylogism), do you really want to go there? Because if you win the debate and critical theory becomes dominant, then we can never discuss anything because we have no common ground such as reason and evidence. The result will be violence because one side will try to impose its will on the other without discussion and the other side will respond with violence. We’ve seen this before.

  • Roger McKinney

    If you’re going to insist that MacArthur consider he might be wrong then you have to follow your own advice. Maybe you’re wrong about all of this. Maybe no one has sinned. It’s more likely that there is a disagreement over principles of hermeneutics. I don’t agree completely with MacArthur, but that’s because I think he hasn’t considered some important principles of hermeneutics. But he is closer to the objective truth, based on good hermeneutics and reason, than his opponents.

  • Michael Mangold

    Very astute, Kristin. Get ready for Twitter blasts!

    Their arrogance and verbal abuse are NOT Christian. Repentance is required, but as with all Narcissists and Sociopaths, the problem is getting them to admit that they have issues that they need to address. They have built houses of cards on sinking sand.

    Thanks for pointing out that they bully White men who don’t toe the party line. Been there, done that.

  • pablocruize

    So glad the patriarchy of the Holy League of the european catholic state decided to do the “John Wayne” thing and stop the invasion (murder and enslavement) fleet of the Ottoman Empire at the battle of Leopardo. Of course we could have added the matriarchy of say the Delaware tribe and gotten some ritualistic torture thrown in but you can have everything.

  • muzjik

    Of course it’s true. Master’s is on probation and John MacArthur’s leadership has been identified as part of the problem.
    You sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “La la la, I can’t hear you” doesn’t make it less true. It just makes it appear you have no discernment skills.

  • jbishsr

    To the woman God said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
    Genesis 3:16 ESV
    I post this scripture to highlight the latter portion of the LORD’s curse on the woman. “Her desire shall be contrary to that of her husband” the scripture speaks for itself that this word is used in a negative connotation. It doesn’t just mean that she thinks differently.
    Eve was deceived by Satan, led by her emotion, her logic skewed by desire. Adam chose to follow her lead and now all of mankind falls under the curse of sin.
    I’m not pointing at her to take blame. Both sinned, both disobeyed, but this also falls into scripture’s reasoning for men to lead in spiritual matters.
    Women are not obsolete. MacArthur would say so himself. This is about God’s order of things, not man’s. We can easily see in this article how we have been ingrained with the influence of culture. A sin-filled culture.
    I agree that we create our own so called cultures or communities or cliques within the culture. We all like to be around likeminded people. But scripture calls us to be unified in Christ.
    There are many “interpretations” of scripture but there is only one true meaning. There are many applications that stem from that one true meaning, but those applications aren’t divisive.
    This issue is not about men, women, power or culture. It is about the inerrancy, sufficiency and infallibility of God’s written word. The question is will we submit ourselves to it as such.
    May God alone be glorified because He alone is worthy.

  • Media Fire

    You’re peddling old and false information here, Jeff. MacArthur DID deny the eternal Sonship of Jesus, which is not heresy, but as of 2001 has since changed his belief: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A235/reexamining-the-eternal-sonship-of-christ

    MacArthur has NEVER denied the blood of Christ to be worthless for salvation. Heretics were saying that the blood Jesus shed was divine blood, God’s blood, but God is spirit and spirit does not have blood. MacArthur denied their heresies and that’s where the lies about him denying the blood of Christ came from. Here’s his stance from 1987: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-44/the-blood-of-christ

    I suggest you learn what “heresy” actually is. Also, your declaration that such is still taught to this day demonstrates your own ignorance, especially in a day and age where you can get off your lazy duff and do a bit of research in order to discover the truth. But I guess like an old maid you’d rather gossip lies than learn the truth and speak it.

  • Media Fire

    You can try to block me all you want, administrator, but you know for a fact that my words ring true. You’re a coward and afraid of debate and the truth. You don’t want to be proven wrong and just want idiots to puff up your ignorance and idiocy. Sorry, but you’re a fraud, not Christian in the least, and women ARE NOT ALLOWED to be preachers or elders. That’s GOD speaking on the issue. So continue to be rebellious and disobedient.

  • NorrinRadd

    I got an email notification that my comment was “flagged” as “unfair.”

    Could someone explain why?

  • NorrinRadd

    Doesn’t that depend on who gets to decide what constitutes “good” hermeneutics and reason?

  • NorrinRadd

    On your first point, Jeff acknowledged that JM recanted that belief (albeit under pressure, and allegedly accompanying his reversal with insults to those who pressured him).

    On your third point, I concur that the word “heresy” is thrown around much too freely. But so are things like “lazy duff,” “old maid,” “gossip,” and “lies.”

  • Laura Bleichner

    This was so well articulated. You’ve pinpointed why I’ve had such dis-ease about white Christian patriarchy in a way that’s thoroughly gospel centered. I’d never taken into full account the issue of power and the way it’s being clung to by those who’ve ensured their place as leaders. I’ve always been fed the idea that these men’s power is “servant leadership” and that they’re in power for my good. It’s becoming obvious to me that it really is about power though, and that in all reality, if my good gets it the way of their power, they’ll choose power (and say it’s for my good!).