On Oct 19, 2019, John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, claimed that the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) had taken a “headlong plunge” into no longer believing in “biblical authority” stating, “When you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority.”
In response to a panel question asking for the panelist’s gut reaction to the words “Beth Moore” (a well-known Southern Baptist Bible teacher), MacArthur responded, “Go home.”
While sounds of laughter echoed the auditorium following this inflammatory statement, Smietana in his article explains that,
The pastor [MacArthur] went on to say that the #MeToo movement was a sign the culture was taking over the church and accused feminists of wanting power rather than equality. He also seemed to compare women preachers to salespeople who hawk jewelry on TV. When asked if the Southern Baptists were now moving toward “soft complementarianism,” MacArthur replied, “I don’t know about terms. I just know women are not allowed to preach.”
What is so shameful in this situation is that MacArthur in this exchange has missed the heart of God toward women, has undermined the propagation of the Gospel itself, and has engaged in ad hominem while setting up a straw man argument in order to stand on what he believes is the “truth,” resulting in shameful behavior toward fellow servants of God: Beth Moore and women teachers like her.
First, we must analyze the actual claims to determine and define his terms. A study of some of MacArthur’s commentaries and teachings reveals his tendency, as seen here, to manipulate the semantic range of biblical terms in different contexts in order to make an argument appear logical, because he is using the same word, but in reality, he consistently alters the semantic meaning of the word in different contexts in order to justify his bias.
MacArthur in this exchange claims the following.
- Letting women “preach” is “equal” to “overturning the teaching of Scripture.”
- The motivation of women preachers is solely “power” based.
- Women who desire to preach the Word of God have the same motivations and desires as those of the #MeToo movement.
- The “culture” is “taking over the church.”
- Feminists want “power” rather than equality.
- Women preachers are nothing more than “salespeople who hawk jewelry on TV.”
- Women are not allowed to “preach.”
First, is “letting women preach” equal to “overturning Scripture?” In order to answer that question, one would have to define what MacArthur means by “letting women preach.” In this case, who is letting women preach? And what does one mean by preaching? In this context the referent would have to be the Southern Baptist Convention and letting women “preach” or “teach” in their pulpits.
The modern structure of SBC churches did not exist in biblical times. The “church,” in both method and structure as we know it today, did not exist in biblical times. Likewise, the Complementarian “tradition of these elders” as applied in modern churches today did not exist. MacArthur’s claim that women preaching would “overturn Scripture” assumes a biblical authority in the modern SBC church system itself that was unknown to the ancient world, thus creating a straw man argument.
The fact that “authority” is given by modern SBC churches to male preachers today cannot possibly to be compared to authority given by Scripture in the manner MacArthur claims, because such “authority grabbing” would be the equivalent in kind to the false authority grabs of the Catholic Church’s concept of papal infallibility, papal “authority over” Scripture, and papal authority of the salvation of church members. The SBC convention cannot “violate” the Scripture in the way MacArthur claims concerning women preachers, because such a church authority structure did not exist in biblical times and is not addressed by Scripture (except perhaps one could argue it is addressed in part in the negative sense of “lording over” others, which was forbidden by Christ for both men and women). Thus, MacArthur cannot say the SBC would violate Scripture in changing their policy to allow women to preach from their pulpits, he can only claim the change would violate the SBC’s independent manmade Complementary tradition, which cannot be proven to hold the same weight as canon.
Second, MacArthur unjustifiably and obnoxiously ascribes an “evil motive” to the heart of all women who desire to preach the Good News just as men preach it, claiming that these women’s motives are “only a power grab.” Such accusations are unfounded, dishonest, hate based, and ad hominem to the core. The idea that the desire of all men to preach God’s Word is pure and undefiled, and all women’s desires to preach God’s Word are unclean or defiled is fallacious, dishonest, and should be dismissed outright.
Third, MacArthur tries to tie the #MeToo liberal feminist movement to Christian women. Can anyone take MacArthur seriously when he makes such outrageous accusations in a vain effort to smear godly women teachers by implying that they are all really “extreme liberals” who have unbiblical motives? Are we really to believe that all women teachers, who desire to make disciples through preaching the Gospel out of a heart of love for God and others, are “really just” motivated by a female desire to “take power from men” and have it for themselves? Again, this type of rhetoric is not helpful and is just more unjustifiable ad hominem and straw man argument tactics by MacArthur.
Fourth, MacArthur claims that the “culture” is “taking over the church.” By this statement, MacArthur again tries to argue that all cases of women preaching are cases of extreme liberal feminism entering the church through these women preachers. The reality is that no Christian woman preacher would ever agree nor ascribe to such extreme liberal feminism. However, MacArthur is not entirely wrong about unbiblical cultural influences entering his church. Those influences are simply not entering in the manner he thinks they are. In making extreme, unjustified arguments like this, MacArthur discredits his own statements and denies the idea that a woman could have a legitimate claim of mistreated based on Complementarian teachings. Nor does such faulty arguments serve to justify MacArthur’s Complementarian bias.
In the fifth point, MacArthur again tries to associate all Christian women who desire to teach or preach as having a heart and purpose like that of an extreme group of liberal, god and men hating feminists. MacArthur never even contemplates the possibility that Complementarian beliefs could be unbiblical, even though its reasoning is based on the same false reasoning of “separate but equal” propositions expressed in the old American Jim Crow laws. Separate is never equal, and so called “roles” in any situation are not defined by people (else they may be redefined) but are defined by God alone (ex: Deborah, the Judge of Israel).
MacArthur’s sixth argument (regarding his accusation that women preachers are like salespeople who hawk jewelry on TV) is flat out offensive, unfair, and ad hominem to the core. MacArthur should be ashamed of such a hateful, ad hominem statement that is an unjust character assault on all women preachers and teachers.
Seventh, and the only legitimate statement to take seriously, is MacArthur’s claim that women are “not allowed” to “preach.” Does the Bible say, teach, or demonstrate this claim?
First, when the Bible uses the word “preach,” does it EVER understand the word to imply or be referring to an act of “preaching” in the modern context of the modern “church system” to which MacArthur ascribes it? No. It could not, because such a system was not invented by men yet. Today’s system of church and preaching pastors sets up a church hierarchy and monologue system of “preaching” that did not exist at the time of the apostles. Preaching in Paul’s day was dialogue based, not monologue based as it is today. The “preacher” of today is never challenged by others regarding his message during the time he is giving of the message. He stands with full “authority” over “his congregation,” with no one “to weigh what is said.” That is not the system of “church” in the first century, nor is it the system of church the Bible envisioned. This modern system of church is, however, an invasion of a different, unbiblical culture not known to the biblical authors, which MacArthur sets up as a straw man system of church (as if it were biblical) that then denies women the opportunity to speak the truths of God from its pulpits in those straw man churches. If anything has changed that is unbiblical, it is the system of “doing church” as we know it today. Churches filled with hundreds of passive recipients led by single man fiefdoms are nowhere found in Scripture and do not enter into the systems of “doing church” until hundreds of years later.
Regarding this issue, MacArthur does what he often does in his commentaries when addressing hot button Scriptural topics; he compares apples and oranges and then says an apple is an orange, therefore, the peaches cannot be sweet.
His arguments thus far do not follow logic, nor Scripture. When the world loves women better than the church, MacArthur is right, the culture has invaded his church and, in this case, poisoned men’s minds, but it started long before now.
Yes, the SBC could “open the door” in their manmade church culture for women to “preach,” but the only thing that would be “violated” would be the false “doctrines of men,” not the teachings of God. The real issue at hand is one of authority with regard to both men and women.
Do women have the “authority” to speak the Word of God?
I laugh at anyone who would, with a straight face, try to argue that the Bible teaches that women “are not allowed” to speak God’s Word in the community of believers (i.e. the assembly or “church”). We must question the underlying deception and motive of those who would seek to silence such God glorifying speech. These efforts sound exactly like the same voice of the enemy, who wanted to silence the voices of women and people of color in the early years of American history, and for similar reasons, claiming the same false narratives of “separate but equal,” based on nothing more than prejudice, ignorance of God’s Word and heart toward women, and a zeal to hold onto their own “power.”
We know that in Scripture, God even gave authority and power to a donkey to speak His Word. Thus, it stands to reason that God does not make distinction between male and female, who are co-heirs with Christ. Neither slave nor freeman, black nor white, male nor female are forbidden from speaking the truth, making disciples of all nations, and taking dominion of the earth through their relationship with Christ, because it has never been about the “authority” of the vessel that speaks. The “authority” comes from the Word of God itself. Thus, men who preach have no more “authority over” the women they speak to than the men they speak to, because they are all equal in the kingdom. Respect for an office is not the same as authority “over” another, unless it is unbiblical authority to “lord over” as is the case in the modern church system of some in the SBC.
Ultimately, the speaker, be it a man, woman, or donkey who speaks the Word of God has no authority in him or herself. The Word of God (the truth spoken) is what carries the authority of God, Who through the humble vessel (any vessel that speaks from a heart of faith and love) is able to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples, heal the sick, cast out devils, raise the dead, heal the lepers (whether those ailments be physical or spiritual). Both men and women who are redeemed are restored to the pre-fall relationship in which they are joint-heirs with Christ, priests of the Melchezedekian order, and in which they can only overcome the enemy collectively when they learn to respect what God has gifted in each person and work together to take dominion over the earth for the glory of the King.
In the end, I am blessed that there are strong, gifted men in
the body of Christ like my own husband, who are not, like MacArthur,
intimidated by strong women, and know how to truly lead by serving, respect and
empower the gifting of the women around them to the betterment of their
communities, and know that only when women and men are both side-by-side
working together are they capable of bringing the greatest change for the
betterment of every culture around the world to the glory of God and the
manifestation of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
 Bob Smietana, (Oct 19, 2019), “Religion News Service Accusing SBC of ‘caving,’ John MacArthur says of Beth Moore: ‘Go home,’” retrieved 10-26-2019,