The fact that John MacArthur’s comments against Beth Moore blew up the Internet, in one sense, kind of caught me off guard because I really found it to be relatively mild for MacArthur. In another, I can understand why some might not like how he approached it, the uproarious laughter from many among the crowd, and how Beth Moore was mocked in the process. However, I earnestly believe more people are needlessly offended in what I would dub the “perpetual outrage machine” than anything else.
Could MacArthur have approached things differently? Surely. Is what he said worse than the apostle calling some “pigs” and “dogs”? Not in the least bit. MacArthur obviously is no apostle, nor do I seek to defend him as such. Rather, what I am looking to draw attention to in this post is that I believe the outrage to be unfounded. What this demonstrates then is that we tend to be more outraged over the lack of Christian niceties rather than the pernicious nature of doctrinal error and the subtle whispers of seducers. The reason I believe this is the case is due to a myriad of reasons, but mostly, that people don’t view the pastoral office rightly. This is no surprise, given the prevalence of those who believe women should be pastors.
People don’t seem to grasp the actual magnitude of the role itself, nor the strictness of the qualifications. This is self-evident in seeing how many are currently preaching that have no business teaching anyone, yet it is also evident in how many pastors have fallen in horrendous ways only to return to the ministry of the Word. Many have blotted out the moral qualifications of many high-profile Evangelicals because they like their preaching, or they sense sin has no long-lasting consequences. It seems that many truly do not believe that few should become teachers, but rather, they believe that many should become teachers, for their judgment is not all that strict. We lessen the severity of God’s judgment on those who teach, thereby, we lessen the task of preaching, and finally, the content of said preaching. Thus, when it comes to the errant teaching of a person, we suffer not the rabble-rousers who draw attention to it, even though part of a minister’s role is to call out by name those whom are dangerous to the flock.
Seminaries, churches, the person in question, and laypeople alike are all guilty for passing along a man (or woman) as a capable steward of the oracles of God who is not qualified. A degree, letter of recommendation, personal desire, nor even popularity, confers aptitude to teach, demonstration of the moral character needed, nor even the heart of one who can shepherd and shepherd well. Nothing matters beyond the question: are they qualified? Precious few rightly know how to answer that question; even fewer know how to submit themselves rightly to that answer. Part of the problem in our culture is that pretty much anyone can go anywhere and find a place to preach from because of the sheer lack of biblical wherewithal, the rejection of biblical teaching, or even a simple lack of discernment. The reality is that pastoral ministry is an incredibly high calling, which many, including many pastors, simply diminish and treat like a lesser form of a TED Talk.
Secondly, we live in an age of selective, yet perpetual outrage—and that outrage is rarely ever properly placed. What should outrage us is Beth Moore’s high-handed rebellion to Scripture, yet many desire to relegate this to almost a non-issue. At some point, we either believe this is a clear violation of God’s commandments or it isn’t—and if we do, we ought to treat it as seriously as we would an unrepentant gossip, slanderer, thief, etc. In other words: Beth Moore is either in disobedience or she isn’t, and if she is, she is willfully so and should be subjected to the disciplinary process of the church outlined in Matt. 18. It is sin and it should be dealt with as such if we are ones who truly believe she is in error. She is deserving of a strong rebuke and given that many have tried to speak up and offer correction and she has simply disregarded it; she is deserving of more.
The problem, of course, is bound up within a few major issues, one of which being the celebrity culture that has become part and parcel to the Evangelical world. Even if, by the grace of God, this process was to happen—she could simply move along to a church that would accept her for who she is and what convictions she holds. Her speaking circuit would remain relatively unscathed; in fact, one might even suspect it would be altogether unaffected. The fact that many prominent Evangelical leaders within the SBC and beyond give a free pass to Beth Moore is troubling. The fact that others see her as having a beneficial role in the lives of their wives and children is also quite telling.
The reason being: she has openly voiced support of notoriously false teachers, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Christine Caine. She has openly spoken in favor of doctrines that are notoriously dangerous (contemplative prayer, personal revelations, etc.). While this post is not wholly devoted to picking apart her teachings (others have done a good job at this here & here), one ought to be a little more than careful in embracing her as a model of faithful, biblical exposition. Given her status as a leading Evangelical figure and the warm embrace of other Evangelical figures, her influence likely will not wane in the years to come. Again, we either believe that she is in genuine error in these things or we don’t.
The Natural Result of Usurping the Pastoral Office
In addition to the celebrity culture built into the fabric of the Western Evangelical world is a second issue I’d like to devote more attention to than the former. As a result of minimizing the seriousness of the task of the shepherd, what gets marginalized and made out to be of minimal importance is the role of a mother and wife. Surely, many a modern Christian woman does not want to primarily identify by her ability to make and raise babies, but this is the highest glory of a woman. We have somehow bought into the lie of our age where we view worth intrinsic to success in the business world, or we have pushed so far to the opposite extreme by somehow thinking our worth in Christ is somehow at odds with our calling as Christian parents.
Some of this has naturally flowed out of the massive swath of single millennials in the church today, but the normative teaching of Scripture is to get married, make babies, and raise those babies to become faithful Christians who likewise fulfill the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply. Obvious exceptions to the rule exist (i.e. barrenness or an inability to marry), but thanks be to Christ, the Scriptures plainly speak to these things as well: you are to glorify God in whatever stage of life you find yourselves in and devote yourselves to Him fully (1 Cor. 7). The manner with which you do so might look different from your sister, yet nonetheless your worth bound up in Christ flows into every sphere of life so that your motherhood becomes glorious, or your singleness becomes glorious, or your widowhood becomes glorious.
Yet none of this changes the plain fact that from the beginning of time, what has been normative in the church is marriage and child-rearing. The majority of perpetual singles I have interacted with have only the first half of Paul’s heart in mind: that they be free from any concern in having a spouse or children (1 Cor. 7:32a). What most singles do not bear in mind is the latter portion, in that being free from this concern is a freedom which allows you to be wholly devoted to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:35).
What I generally see perpetual singles, or willfully childless married couples desire to be free from is the responsibility so they can be free to travel, attain their goals, love on their “fur-babies”, save money, or just simply not have to be concerned with doing things they don’t desire to do or be beholden to other people. These are all patently unbiblical desires and unworthy excuses of those who should know better, but again, many have bought into the lie that marriage and child-rearing is not the beautiful, normative, God-given design for humanity. Again, simply because one desires to be single or childless does not make it so that they have desired such a thing for good and noble reasons, especially in an age where perpetual adolescence is valued and prized above all.
Yet what I believe underlies it all is the pernicious idea of self-worth. We must feel worth and value in everything we do or somehow, it isn’t what we ought to be doing. We don’t feel these things build our intrinsic value and dignity, or perhaps we believe they even devalue us—and so the “higher calling” gives us greater worth than motherhood. Some rightly desire to be the Proverbs 31 woman, yet in the very same breath, we have no real desire to be a homemaker, because our dreams, goals, etc., are all more worthy pursuits. The same could be said of men in their respective role; many a men have bought into the lie that their intrinsic worth is defined by their goals and pursuits rather than being a faithful father and husband, even though we recognize the innate desire, if we are Christian, to do better by our children and wife. Do we not recognize the cognitive dissonance in these things? Do we not recognize that at some point, our culture—the Christian culture—has seen it fit for a woman to bear not only the curse of child-bearing, but the man’s curse as well?
What I am drawing out here is that surely, the issue of women in the pastorate has roots in the same idea that devalues being a faithful mother or wife: it is not a worthy pursuit to “be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Tit. 2:5). It is not a worthy pursuit to be a life-giver of an image-bearer—no, women must attain to something greater. She must bear under both curses. Far too many view it a “higher calling” to preach in a setting where the apostles would have said, “Go home” than one where the apostles would have said, “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (2 Tim. 1:5-6).
If it is not clear enough already: we find it a shameful thing, by and large, for a woman to be faithful devoting herself to the instruction of children, even into old age. Even many within the Reformed crowd cannot possibly fathom why some would have the audacity to believe that these are things worthy of all women to aspire to. We wince; we hem and haw; we soften the blow, yet the one thing many will not do is accept the truth of the matter: God does not need Beth Moore to do His work, just as much as He does not need any one of us. God has not designed her for the purpose of pastoral ministry. God has not designed for any woman to teach or be in a position of authority over men within the church.
This says nothing of ability, intelligence, dignity, worth, nor even the capacity to serve in ministry in a broad sense. Surely, there are many churches and households which do not assign appropriate value to the woman who works diligently with her hands, makes insightful and savvy purchases, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Yet none of that somehow makes it acceptable to favor another form of neglect to the responsibilities and roles of those within the church. No amount of negligence can somehow make it acceptable to proffer another form of disobedience.
When will we learn to stop propping up people in positions of influence who cannot even be in subjection to Scripture in the most basic of ways? My sentiment is that the broader church won’t this side of heaven, namely because the people of God have had an infatuation with those of renown since the days there was no king in Israel. Instead, what we will get are men without a backbone who will not rise up, women who rise up and take a place of prominence within the family and the church, partly because of the men without a backbone, but also partly due to the people who prop them up, and many families that have no clue what a truly godly mom and dad are to look like. The fact of the matter is that we have far more women like Beth Moore than men of God who are willing to stand up with courage and lead, regardless of the cost and reaction of others.