When it comes to Bible analysis, I have a hard time dealing with the verses in the New Testament that seemingly decry female preachers. Growing up, nearly all of my Methodist pastors were women, and they gave me a firm foundation for my Christian faith. We have incredible female preachers in several Christian denominations like my pastors and Beth Moore. They all inspire others to trust God, so I can’t comprehend why people speak against them.
What “Moore” Could We Ask For?
I got the idea to write this article after watching this video by God is Grey on YouTube:
Brenda Davie’s video here introduced me to both John MacArthur and Beth Moore. And I gotta say, this was a doozie!
At the “Truth Matters Conference” held at Grace Community Church back in October 2019, MacArthur spoke derisively against fellow preacher Moore. When MacArthur was asked to respond to the phrase “Beth Moore”, he responded by saying, “Go home.”
Beth Moore is a former Southern Baptist preacher who spoke out against the rise of Donald Trump. After Trump’s old “locker room banter” comments surfaced, Moore used her gift of writing to eviscerate the revelation on Twitter.
Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power. Are we sickened? Yes. Surprised? NO— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) October 9, 2016
Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal.— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) October 9, 2016
I’m one among many women sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to. Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it.— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) October 9, 2016
“Keep your mouth shut or something worse will happen.” Yes. I’m familiar with the concept. Sometimes it’s terrifyingly true. Still, we speak— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) October 9, 2016
I love how strongly Beth Moore advocates for bringing awareness to sexual abuse. With her advocacy in mind, understanding the backdrop of the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) in 2019 makes this whole scandal much uglier.
When I did my research for this article, I found this article by an author on Crosswalk.com. The author pointed out that the panel at MacArthur’s celebration ignored the revelations of sexual abuse in the SBC. Instead of using their platform to discuss how to help the victims or seek justice, the panelists zeroed in on Moore being a female preacher.
In recent years, Moore has used her voice to decry the sexism present in the SBC. This tweet below captures her advocacy against it:
I am compelled to my bones by the Holy Spirit – I don’t want to be but I am -to draw attention to the sexism & misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC, cloaked by piety & bearing the stench of hypocrisy. There are countless godly conservative complementarians. So many. ->— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) May 11, 2019
To ask a genuine question, does this count as “legalism”? I’m seeing male leaders in the SBC ignoring their denomination’s abuse to obsess over the validity of female preachers. Do they not understand the nasty message that sends to the world?
Condemning women wanting to speak in any context is already Godless. But this becomes even uglier amid victims aching to be heard after suffering in silence.
Are We “Well Versed”?
I understand that this debate centers on a handful of verses, especially this couple from 1 Timothy:
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
After reading this, I have a genuine question. Is it possible that what we’re reading is merely a reflection of the culture back then? I ask this because of the disturbing verses I’ve read in the Old Testament. I hate reading these verses about stoning disobedient children, recounting commands to kill children in opposing factions, etc.
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
“Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:17-18)
One might answer that what we’re reading here is simply a reflection of turbulent, violent eras. That these commands were only necessary for the protection of the Israelites. In that case, that would explain why we don’t abide by these verses, even with them being a part of the Bible.
This is why I can’t take the Bible literally. Like the one in Numbers, there are passages in it that seem to showcase a more violent era. I can’t see anybody wanting to take these passages literally, and use them as an excuse to kill others.
Going off of this, I can’t see literalism ever being objective for this very reason. We can’t claim to “take the Bible literally” while ignoring multiple “inconvenient” parts in it.
Take, for example, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. In this passage, Paul advises that men shouldn’t have long hair and that if a woman refuses to wear a covering, she might as well shave her head. I found an article from GotQuestions.org that explains this debate on hair length.
This debacle over hair length was the result of cultural issues in Corinth. Back then, a woman not wearing a head-covering typically indicated that she was a temple prostitute. What I’m getting out of this (and I’m prepared to be wrong) is that this is an example of cultural relevance in the Bible.
Nowadays, men having long hair or women choosing to shave their hair off has no relevance to their faith status. What really confuses me here is, didn’t many artists choose to portray Jesus as a man with relatively long hair?
I’m sorry if this comes across as heresy to some. As contentious as this might be, I truly believe that some parts of the Bible are only pertinent to the culture of those times.
There are other passages in the Bible that literalism conveniently ignores. Contrary to this argument against women having spiritual authority, there are references in both Testaments to women leading in various ways.
Female Leaders of the Bible
To say that women should always be silent contradicts the powerful female speakers throughout the Bible. One famous example is Lady Wisdom, the personification of Godly Wisdom in Proverbs 8.
“To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” (Proverbs 8: 1-7)
When wise women speak, urging us to take heed of God’s Wisdom, it would do us all well to listen.
Another example of Godly women is Deborah, the judge and prophetess in the Book of Judges. Deborah advises Barak the general to take 10,000 men to meet the army of the Canaanites. There, she tells him that God will deliver the opposing general, Sisera, into the hands of a woman. Make no mistake (an extremely cheap pun for the sake and honor of Jael).
God indeed delivers Sisera into the hands of a woman, a clever woman named Jael. Jael lures Sisera into her tent as he flees from the destruction of his entire army. After luring Sisera into sleep with a drink of milk, Jael kills him by hammering a stake through his skull. You see, the stakes were too high to avoid this opportunity! Ah, this is going to be a source of endless puns.
A third, and personal favorite example of mine, is Abigail. Abigail was the wife of a vulgar man named Nabal who was known for running his mouth inhospitably. When David and his men helped guard Nabal’s shepherds from harm, David had a few of his men politely ask Nabal for a favor of hospitality in return. In response, Nabal spoke disdainfully against David and his men.
When David found out, he took 400 of his men to violently attack Nabal’s estate in vengeance. One of the young men in Nabal’s estate hurriedly told Abigail of her husband’s brashness. Abigail quickly organized a mini caravan of food and gifts, without telling Nabal.
She went to meet David before he could attack her home, and successfully talked him out of his anger. David was supremely grateful for her diplomacy and later took her as a wife.
Abigail chose to inform Nabal of what had transpired the next day. The poor bloke took it horribly, had an implied heart attack, and died 10 days later. It’s a shame that men in power think that their status is an excuse to slander without repercussions.
Abigail is a shining example of women speaking for God, who know that it’s better to harken to God’s wisdom than their husband’s brashness. Sometimes it’s necessary for the sake of peacemaking, not peacekeeping, to pursue a “Neutral Good” path. In this regard, I see a parallel between Abigail and Rachel Held Evans, a legendary woman of God whose love lives on.
The Legacy of Rachel Held Evans
I regret not knowing more about the late Rachel Held Evans. I just finished reading her blog post affirming LGBTQ+ individuals. It was so sobering, getting to the end and reading the note from her husband, Dan. Dan published this post for her after her untimely death in 2019, knowing how important the message was and still is.
Rachel Held Evans (also known as RHE) had a powerful but humble voice that manifested in both her writings and her voice. This is a reading she did of Mark 8:27-38, to remind us that suffering is a natural part of our walk with Jesus:
RHE also wrote a blog post addressing the issue of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. In her post, she provided evidence that Paul was addressing an ongoing problem in Ephesus in his letter to Timothy. In Ephesus, there was a massive cult dedicated to a specific incarnation of Diana (the Roman version of Artemis).
I found another detailed explanation of this cultural history in this post by a different author. Marg Mowczko discusses the other part of the 1 Timothy passage, where Paul discusses the creation order in Genesis:
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Timothy 2:13-14)
This part has always confused me. Why did Paul deem it necessary to add this to this passage?
Mowzcko explains in her post that Paul was addressing heretical Gnostic teachings in Ephesus. People believed that Eve came first in these false teachings, then Adam. This is evidently part of the “secret knowledge” that Gnostics purported to obtain. False teachings were an obvious threat to the 1st generation of the Christian church.
Paul identified false teachings with those people with an unhealthy love of quarrels (1 Timothy 6:3-5). He must’ve seen both men and women in Ephesus clamoring to speak over each other.
Hatred Against Female Teachers
I knew that Rachel Held Evans ruffled feathers, but good golly, the reactions to her death have been disturbing to read. Some Evangelical authors have implied or outright asserted that she was condemned to Hell. They’ve chosen to violate the verses against judging out of what looks like either zeal or outright bloodlust against RHE’s memory.
Behold this clip I found on YouTube, from a man who believes that God ended her life because of her views:
I also found this article from a fellow Patheos writer asserting that RHE is responsible for leading people astray to Hell. He also accused her of not believing in the “Biblical Christ” that he believes in. This is a recurring accusation I’ve seen thrown at Christians who question fundamentalist Christian views.
Granted, the vitriol surrounding RHE is due primarily to her shaking up the Evangelical arena. She pointed out the many issues with literalist views of the Bible, especially the notion that all parts of it have equal, applicable authority to our lives.
After watching Christian leaders constantly make excuses for former president Trump’s transgressions, I see an absolute double standard regarding this talk on applicability. We could spend decades (well, haven’t we already?) wasting time on this debate over 1 Timothy. Or, we could apply passages like this one from the 2nd chapter of James, which calls out partiality as a sin:
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2:8-10)
Choosing Words Carefully
When I read about the comments John MacArthur made against Beth Moore in 2019, I read a quote from him decrying people who bend Scripture to “empower people who want power”. Isn’t that precisely what Evangelicals did to justify their love of Trump? This passage from 2 Timothy practically screams Trump:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, words bolded for emphasis.)
I read online that MacArthur said that “true Christians” would vote for Trump in the 2020 elections. So, because Trump said he was anti-abortion and would support anti-gay legislation, that made him a “true Christian”? Despite his actions that were Godless, like trying to gaslight America?
To be fair to MacArthur, it also bears mentioning that he later cracked down on Trump’s narcissism. But even then, the damage by Evangelical leaders cheering on Trump still lingers on.
Evangelical authorities might accuse those who support Godly female leaders of “diminishing the Bible’s authority”. But they’ve done exactly that by trying to persuade the rest of us that Trump was a “man of God” despite all of the evidence otherwise.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
“Acquitting the guilty and condemning the righteous–both are detestable to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:15)
Featured Image by Pexels/Pixabay
Hello, and thank you for supporting my work here on Patheos! If you’d like to support me further, please feel free to “Buy Me A Coffee” here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/connorb943C