My New Blog

The above address is to my new blog. I don’t intend to post on this one again.

The reason for the move is that the name and the URL referring to a cracker might have racial implications which didn’t dawn on me when I began the blog. I deeply regret the oversight.

I would delete this blog altogether, but people have linked to several articles, especially the Janet Mefford- Mark Driscoll analysis. For that reason it is important that I not change the URL because I think my analysis is a small but possibly important part of that story.

I would also like to say that I appreciate Janet Mefford and the work she did in bringing those issues to light. And I hope we can work together in the future.

Pascal’s Wager on Women in Ministry Leadership

Blaise Pascal, the renowned seventeenth century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and philosopher, is perhaps best known for his Christian apologetic known as Pascal’s Wager.

Stated simply: Whether you believe in God or not, you’re either right or wrong. Pascal’s Wager analyzes both the benefits of being correct and the consequences of being wrong about the existence of God.

Believers have little to lose if they are wrong about God, because they will simply die and be gone. But for the scoffing unbeliever to be wrong about God is unthinkably tragic. There is much to lose by one’s unbelief, according to Pascal.

In short: If you don’t believe in God, you’d better be right. Because if you are wrong there will quite literally be hell to pay.

Now, I don’t know how Blaise Pascal felt about women in church leadership, but let’s apply his thinking to the Egalitarian/ Complementarian debate. What is at stake?

To an Egalitarian, gender has nothing to do with whether a person is suited for church leadership, but rather that determination is made based on a person’s giftings. An Egalitarian is just as likely to appoint a woman to  Senior Pastor as they would be to appoint a man to that position if they believe she is the more gifted of the two.

Complementarians, on the other hand,  believe that gender is crucial to the mission. They believe that God has assigned specific roles for each gender to follow, and given gifts that correspond to their assigned roles.  A Complementarian would never appoint a woman as Senior Pastor, because they believe God has not equipped women for that role.

So in Pascal’s way of thinking, what are the risks that result from error these two positions?

If Egalitarians are wrong, there will be leaders who shouldn’t be leaders, pastors who shouldn’t be pastors, and Bible teachers who shouldn’t be teaching the Bible. In other words, things won’t be much different than they already are.

I really don’t desire to trivialize disobedience, but the fact is, if Egalitarians are making a mistake, it tends to be an honest one. So it’s not really a matter of disobedience at all, but one of error, if in fact Egalitarians are wrong. And from my perspective, I don’t see grave consequences in the error.  Yes- some men may lose leadership, pastoral, or teaching positions, but one would assume that these would be the men who demonstrate a lack of giftedness in those areas.

If Complementarians are wrong, there will be people that could have been leaders, pastors, and teachers, people who had giftings and /or a calling on their life to be these things, but who were limited, prevented, or barred from reaching their God-given potential. And if that’s the case, let’s just call it what it is: The work of the devil.

Of course, no Complementarian that I know would willingly participate in the devil’s work. The point of their strong stand for proper “gender roles” in the church (and the home) is obedience to God and the Bible. I believe they mean well.

But it is the particular work of the devil to oppose leadership in the church. It is his work to discourage leaders, to raise up opposition to their ministry, to place limits on what they can accomplish for the Lord, and if at all possible to stop them from ever becoming leaders in the first place. That is exactly what Complementarian theology does to women who aspire to be leaders in the church.

In short: If you believe in Complementarian theology, you’d better be right.



Patriarchy: No Longer Acceptable

My friend Kate Wallace at the Junia Project wrote a thought-provoking piece this week:  A Complementarian View of Justice? It’s a great article, and I highly encourage you to read it.  I very nearly tweeted out a link and a comment like I do practically everything they write at JP.

But not this time. This time I really had to think about what she wrote and absorb the implications, not just of what she said, but of the bigger picture. To call on my Pentecostal roots, I think something profound is occurring in the Spirit. Right now.   This article by Kate is only one little piece of a much greater puzzle.

Patriarchal Bible school professors can engage Kate on the merits of her article with weak-sauce attempts at finding “hints” of male rule prior to the clear and obvious pronouncement of Genesis 3:16, but it’s all to no avail.

Because what Kate is saying here is what I’ve already been feeling in my heart for weeks: The paradigm has shifted. We’re not going back. Patriarchy is no longer acceptable in polite company, or any company for that matter. Some folks realize that already. Others will find out next week, and more next month.

Because here is the connection that has been made continually over the past several months, and will be made continually until the whole church of the Lord Jesus understands it:

Patriarchy and racism are cut from the same cloth.

Know that and understand that. Egalitarians will be preaching that, and it will not go away. Patriarchists can and will try to blunt the force of it. But they cannot prevail, for it is the truth, and is the key to the demise of their devilish doctrine.

Some time ago, most of us white Christians repented of whatever racism was part of our childhood and early adulthood.  Yes, there were still a few folks here and there that harbored some racism, we knew that. But they were otherwise good people, weren’t they? And, well, we could overlook that and try to love them through that and hope they’d get it.

And then as time went on, and they kept telling their racist jokes, we weren’t laughing, but we put up with it. Surely if they notice we don’t like that kind of thing, they’ll get it. We don’t want to cause a stir over Thanksgiving dinner, right? Everybody knows that Uncle Steve has always been that way and we’ll just grit our teeth and bear it and he’ll get it after awhile.

And some folks actually did catch on and change their ways. But others, not at all. They kept on with it, and we began to realize we were taking part in it by our silence. We were helping to perpetuate the injustice by continuing to allow racist jokes and attitudes in our presence. It was no longer acceptable. It became, “Don’t be talking like that around me, Uncle Steve, because I’m not going to tolerate it. At all. Period.”

Very few white Christians have any tolerance for racist churches or racist pastors conferences because they devalue people of color. There is no room for compromise on that at all, whatever “good” such churches may otherwise be doing and saying. Their racial hierarchy stand is completely unacceptable.

And that, I think,  is where we are, right now with gender hierarchy as well, because people are starting to grasp that it’s the same thing. That’s where I am, and I feel deeply in my heart that many other people are there as well. The days of going along to get along are over. The full inclusion of women in the church is not a secondary issue and we can not and will not settle for any less.

Gender in the American Church: Why the Racial Past Matters

I was astounded by this 10 minute video on the Gospel Coalition blog of Justin Taylor.

Two Southern Baptist leaders discussed the issue of racial injustice in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention and why it matters today. They didn’t have to elaborate- it is well known and documented that the primary reason for the formation of the Southern Baptist denomination was their strong support for owning black slaves, and their contention that such slave-holding was fully vindicated and supported by God and the Bible.

That seems ludicrous today, of course. The two men, Dr. Russell Moore,  President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Matt Hall, VP for Academic Services at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary here in Louisville, Kentucky,  seemed humble and apologetic as they discussed the awful, racist past of the Southern Baptist denomination and what relevance that has for them today.

“Frankly, I think the number one reason is missiological,” said Hall. “If we are going to be serious about the Great Commission, in the United States and beyond, that we need to carefully and honestly think through where we’ve come from, and the things that have provided some impediments and some obstacles in our witness and our testimony in the culture.

Of course, slave-holding was that impediment to the gospel preached by Southern Baptists in the nineteenth century. And I believe the oppression of women is that today, and that the detrimental effects of that oppression to the witness and testimony of the Southern Baptists and other gender hierarchist Christian groups will increasingly become a stone around their necks that they cannot bear.

Some folks, perhaps even many good Southern Baptist ladies, may object to my use of the word “oppression” to describe the gender based hierachy of the SBC. I’m sure a good many of these ladies don’t feel at all oppressed.

But then again, as Dr. Moore himself lamented, many of them are living in marriages that are functionally egalitarian. These couples may pay “lip service” to the gender hierarchy preached from the pulpit on Sunday, but  like many couples, they’ve found that a dictatorship doesn’t feel Christlike and doesn’t work well in their marriage. Following Philippians 2:3 and Ephesians 5:21, they consider each other more important than themselves, and they choose to submit to one another. That won’t feel like oppression to most women, even if the man carries a trump card that is seldom, if ever, played.

But a benevolent dictator remains a dictator, and for many Southern Baptist women, oppression is exactly what it feels like… and what it is… in their marriage, and in their church.  

To say that one people group has less power than another people group based solely that person’s identity is, by definition, oppression. It was true for race, and it is true for gender.

And I was astonished that these men could discuss the one and not think of the other.

Southern Baptists were so certain that their pro-slavery/ pro-segregation interpretation of the Bible was correct, they split their denomination, separated themselves from fellow Baptists, and formed a new denomination that favored racial hierarchy, segregation, and slave holding.

“The things that haunt me most is that how many people just like me could have been so wrong for so long,” said Hall. “In the Southern Baptist Convention we cannot afford, missiologically, to not be honest about these things….and we have a generation of pastors…who.. wonderfully and encouragingly…have a vision for what the Gospel calls from us in terms of the inclusive nature of the Kingdom, in terms of racial and ethic diversity.

But what about gender diversity, Matt? When your churches are led exclusively by male pastors, teachers, and elders, isn’t a fundamental aspect of diversity missing?

And of course, Southern Baptists believe the Bible teaches it should be that way, just as they formerly believed the Bible taught slavery was normal and good, a belief they now decry, shaking their heads and wondering how people just like them could be so wrong for so long.


You are oppressing women in your churches. You are denying pastorates to female seminary students, denying leadership roles to qualified women, holding back able leaders who want to advance the Kingdom of God.

And that is evil. Perhaps not as evil as the slavery of a human being, but evil nonetheless, and detrimental to God’s Kingdom.  And these men don’t see it.

I’m sure they mean well, and these things are done with the very best of intentions.
Just like Jim Crow.

Back to the video:

“One of the things I try to teach people,” says Dr. Russell Moore, “is that no one sees himself or herself as a villain. In the narrative of someone’s own life one is always the hero, the protagonist. So there are very few people that actually believe themselves to be plotting to do evil. They think they are doing something good, which of course is consistent with what Scriptures tell us, ‘there is a way that seems right to a man, the end thereof is death,’ Jesus says they will put you out of the synagogues and think they are doing service to God….. so when you think about people in the past who held to some really obnoxious views of white supremacy, who used levers of power of government and of the community and of the church to oppress people on the basis of skin color and ethnicity… what did those people think they were doing? How did they see themselvs as actually doing right?”

Matt Hall agrees.

“The irony and the tragedy is, I think, that Southern Baptists, out of often good intentions, thought they knew the way things really were around them. But they were blind and oblivious, often, to the world that black men and women inhabited in the Jim Crow south. And often they would appeal to the Bible….” 

Yes. That. The irony and tragedy of the blindness required to use the Bible to oppress other human beings, who God created to bear His image.

But an even greater irony and tragedy is that these men could have this discussion and miss the heartache of the women who have seminary degrees but who can’t find a church that will hire them, who are the most qualified people in their churches to sit on the church board, but who aren’t considered because of their gender, or the women who are slaves in their own homes.

These things go on in their churches today because of their gender hierarchal doctrine, and these men are blind and oblivious to them.

Hall continues in the video:

“It’s a sobering warning to those of us who often see through our own blinders, and we don’t often see the world around us as other people, even often our brothers and sisters in Christ experience it. And I think that’s one of the great calls of the Kingdom of Christ: to see the world as others experience it.” 

“Over and over again foreign mission board workers would appeal to Southern Baptists saying, ‘Please, please, stop this. You’re impairing the work of the gospel.‘ And that is one of the most heartbreaking things about this whole story.”

What’s even more heartbreaking is that these spiritual descendants of those racist Baptists of the south,  contrite and humble as they are over the blindness of their ancestors, fail to see the parallels between the racial oppression of the SBC of old and the gender oppression of the SBC today, often citing the same passages as proof-texts.

Just as their forebears separated from their fellow Baptists over the slave issue, Dr. Moore has separated from other Bible-believing Christians over gender hierarchy.

And just as the racist past of the SBC hampered their evangelistic efforts, the gender hierarchy they teach in the present impedes their witness and testimony today. To some degree all Christians are tarred and our evangelistic work also slowed by this false doctrine.

I do pray fervently, that Dr. Moore’s words at the end of the video come to pass.

“I hope that in the year 2065 a historian looking back at Southern Baptist life will write a very different chapter about the next few years to come.” 

Amen, Dr. Moore. Amen.

The Gift of Leadership

Recently at a “men’s ministry” event, one man said the following: “The men are the leaders of the church and home. Not the women, the men.” At another, similar event, another man said, “We are the men of the church. Therefore we are the leaders of the church.”

Statements like that are often heard in Christian churches around the world, usually in the context of encouraging men to step up, to raise up leaders among the men of the church. And of course the church does need more men to step up. But are these statements Biblical? Are they true? Are they helpful? And what are the consequences if they are not?

Leadership is a critical need in the church of the Lord. New ministries form, struggling ministries are righted, and successful ministries achieve even greater excellence when God raises up a leader with a vision. The leader then transmits the vision to other people who help make the vision a reality. Without the leader who rises up and takes action, the idea never gets off the ground. Likewise, without the other people helping and serving, the leader alone cannot accomplish much.

But does the Bible say that all men are leaders, and that all leaders are men? Not at all.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Romans 12:6-8 NIV

“And God has placed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, gifts of healing, helps, gifts of leadership, different kinds of tongues.”
1 Corinthians 12:28 NET

These passages state that leadership and servanthood are gifts from God.  No reference at all is made to the gender of the believer in these or any other Bible passages concerning the distribution of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The gifts are not given according to gender, but  “according to the grace given to each of us” by God. (Romans 12:6)

So the statements in that men’s ministry meeting, encouraging  the men to stand up and be the leaders in the church and home might be detrimental to the man, the church, and the home if the man is not so gifted.

In 1 Samuel 17:38-39, Saul put his own armor on David so that he would have the best equipment possible for fighting Goliath. But as David soon learned, we don’t do well when we attempt to wear another person’s armor. Likewise, attempting to function in areas that we’re not gifted by God can often result in frustration.

When husbands are pressured to be spiritual leaders at home, that is a good thing if the armor fits. But it may be that the wife has the God-given leadership gifts in the family, or in some cases it may be that the wife is more mature in the faith than the husband.

It can be very intimidating and frustrating for the husband to try to push him into a role for which he is neither gifted nor prepared. He can easily become discouraged, and even feel unmanly, depending on the way he has been taught.  (Gender hierarchists often link manliness with leadership in such a way that it is easily inferred that if you are not leading, you are not a man. Is it any wonder that many men don’t feel comfortable in the church environment where often women are seen as more knowledgeable and more spiritual?)

Likewise, it can be very discouraging for the wife, who may be gifted and trained, full of zeal and the Spirit of the Lord, and yet feels she must set those gifts aside and wait for her husband to take the lead. Perhaps one of the reasons that God has so gifted her is to help her husband grow in the faith, but she is thwarted by hierarchist doctrine which says she cannot lead her husband in any way theologically.

So her gifts, which God intended for her to use, lay dormant in this family. Neither husband nor wife nor anyone else benefits from them. She hides her talent in the sand and waits for judgment day, falsely believing that God will judge her husband for the spiritual condition of the family. This is a tragedy, and the work of the devil.

The same thing happens in the church, where women may  have leadership gifts and theological training that goes overlooked  in favor of an ungifted or unqualified male. Women with the gift of leadership were given that gift by God with the intention that she use it. Failure to exercise our spiritual gifts is an avenue to discouragement and frustration in any setting, whether the church or the home.  Romans 12 is clear in this regard, – whatever gift a person has been given by God, let them do it.

One man in the Bible that seems to have done that was Lappidoth. The Bible tells us only one thing about Lappidoth: Judges 4:4 tells us He was the husband of Deborah the prophet, and that is the only Biblical information we have of him.

Since that is all we know about Lappidoth, we don’t know how he felt about her leadership.  But his wife, Deborah, was a genuine prophet of God, meaning that God had given her a spiritual gift of revelation for giving his message to his people. God did that through His own choice, not Deborah, nor any other human.

Further, Deborah became a judge over Israel.  Judges 2:16-19 says that the judges were raised up by God to deliver Israel to save them from their enemies. Deborah  was the leader of the country, including the military. Again, God did that. It was God’s work in Deborah, God’s gift for Deborah. If Lappidoth had opposed Deborah’s leadership, he would have been opposing God, to the detriment of his people.  Through the leadership of Judge Deborah, God delivered Israel from their enemies and gave them forty years of peace. (Judges 5:31)

Another man who let his wife lead was Shallum, son of Tikvah.  (2 Kings 22:11-20) Apparently Shallum was a prophet of the Lord himself. But it wasn’t to Shallum that Hilkiah the priest and several royal attendants went to inquire of the Lord. It was to Shallum’s wife, Huldah.  They went to Huldah, not for her wisdom, but to hear from God through the supernatural gift of prophecy that the Lord had imparted to her.  And God spoke through Huldah the prophet that day.

This was not Huldah speaking. This was God speaking through Huldah, with a message that changed King Josiah and changed the nation. If Huldah had been out of line be speaking these words of guidance, God could have simply withheld the gift. He did not.

If Huldah had felt compelled by her husband to be silent in deference to him, or if Hilkiah and the other leaders had passed Huldah in favor of letting her husband take the lead in this ministry situation, this critical message from God might well have been lost.

The gifts of God, prophecy, leadership, service, administration… all of God’s gifts-  are given according to God’s choice and by His grace, not according to gender, nor through human decisions or training.  God chose to gift women of the Bible to lead and teach men in the cases above, just as he chose the men in their lives, Lappidoth and Shallum, to support what God was doing through their wives.

For anyone- men or women, even these women themselves, to stifle these spiritual gifts in the lives of Deborah or Huldah would be to stifle and oppose God.

For these men to do anything else would be to rebel against the work of God in their lives and the lives of their wives. We must do the same.

Why Denny Burk is Wrong about Egalitarian Exegesis and the Functional Authority of Scripture

Sarah Bessey posted a great article this week about the Candace Cameron Bure controversial statements concerning marriage and her “Biblical Submission” to her husband, which, she says,

I quickly learned that I had to find a way of honoring his take-charge personality and not get frustrated about his desire to have the final decision on just about everything.  — Candace Cameron Bure here

Sarah’s article rather nicely addresses Bure’s logic, reasoning, and understanding of Scripture in a way that soundly corrects it. Its effectiveness is obvious because it stirred up Denny Burk, who felt compelled to comment.

Burk downplays most of Sarah’s article as “standard egalitarian fare,” i.e. “Move along, now, there’s nothing to see here.”

He chooses rather to focus on Sarah’s exegesis and “the Functional Authority of Scripture.”

Burk writes:

Nevertheless, there was one line in her post that jumped off of the page at me. It stood out not because it is new, but because it is “Exhibit A” of what is wrong with egalitarian exegesis. Here’s the sentence:

The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.

The unblushing error of this statement is breathtaking. It is a stark denial of the straightforward teaching of scripture.

I love that last sentence! Can we be any more dramatic, Denny?

Denny goes on to address two New Testament scriptures he claims Sarah mentioned, even though his citation of 1 Corinthians 11 isn’t mentioned in Sarah’s article at all. (Gee, talk about unblushing errors!)

But wait… aren’t we talking about the roots of the idea that the man is the head of the home? Roots, as in, where it all began? Then don’t we have to go back earlier than the New Testament? Yes. Yes we do.

Giving Denny the benefit of the doubt, I’ll say he accidently misses Sarah’s point. The point is that patriarchy was well established long before Jesus was born and the New Testament written. So quoting New Testament scriptures back to Sarah while crying about HER unblushing error is… well, breathtaking.

Denny does claim to cite something from where it actually did all begin:

Bessey denies that headship is a concept rooted in scripture, yet here are verses from scripture that teach about headship. She further denies that headship is rooted in the order of creation. Yet here are verses that appeal specifically to the original creation of man and woman in Genesis 1-2.

How does she set aside these texts?

Except Denny didn’t actually cite any texts other than his vague reference to the entirety of Genesis 1-2. Perhaps he meant to actually cite a text, but got too caught up in his own drama.

But for what it’s worth, Genesis 1-2 never establishes that “man is the head of the home.” That idea begins in Genesis 3:16 with the consequences of the fall of mankind. Hierarchical relationships has its origins in sin, and the sinfulness of mankind brought that hierachy about in secular ancient culture long before New Testament times.

Sarah Bessey’s exegesis is exactly right. And Denny Burk is completely wrong.

What Paul Disallowed in 1 Tim 2:12

“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” 1 Tim 2:12 NASB

The verse above is “the go-to verse” for disqualifying women from ministering in the church to anyone other than children or other women. It’s really the only verse in the Bible that seems to disqualify women from the highest church leadership. But does it really? Let’s unpack it.

There are two significant verbs in that verse- διδάσκω (didásko) and αὐθεντέω (authentéo).

The first verb means to teach, and that one apparently isn’t a problem.  John Piper says it’s not about the woman teaching, it’s about the woman’s authority. Thus, Piper feels free to learn from Bible commentaries written by women, or teachers like Beth Moore.

In some churches, women can speak, but not from the pulpit. If they put a small podium in the front, that’s fine, but she can’t be seen as speaking authoritatively lest some line of propriety be crossed leading inevitably to the posting of an Ichabod sign above the door of the church. Or something.

So the issue is one of authority, and that is where the second verb comes into play.

The Online Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon lists the following definition of authenteo:

αὐθεντ-έω, to have full power or authority over, τινός 1 Ep.Ti.2.12; πρός τινα BGU1208.37 (i B. C.): c. inf., Lyd.Mag.3.42.2. commit a murder, Sch.A.Eu.42.

Ok, the women can’t do that. But here’s the thing: Neither can the men. No, they can’t.

Jesus said this:

 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,  and to give his life as a ransomr for many.” – Mat 20:25-28 NIV


How much authority does your senior pastor have over you personally? Unless you’re in a cult, not much. He can make you step down from singing in the choir or some other church ministry. He can excommunicate you. And that’s about it.

When the pastor “speaks authoritatively from the pulpit” you don’t believe everything he says, hook, line and sinker, do you? Do you not judge his words per Acts 17:11? So the fact is, he doesn’t “speak authoritatively” at all. You judge his words by the Word of God just like you’d judge any other brother or sister speaking in any other setting. That’s your obligation as a believer.

So if nobody is allowed to do what Paul was talking about in 1 Tim 2:12, why did Paul single out the women?

Because Paul was writing to Timothy in Ephesus, the home of the Temple of Artemis, the goddess that was worshipped throughout Asia. Do you remember the riot in Acts 19:23-41 over that?

Bob Edwards writes the background in his book Let My People Go- a Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church:

“The priestesses were called bees, and were virgin, the priests or megabyzi were eunuchs, drones which “die” in fertilizing the queen bee.” –Let My People Go, Edwards, Kindle edition, page 51

These priests practiced ritual castration (Edwards, p 50) -their ‘dying’- as part of their devotion to their female deity. And this practice was the overwhelming religious custom in Ephesus at the time of Paul’s letter to Timothy.

Paul wanted no part of the melding of Christianity with the pagan religion of Ephesus, so he gave this specific instruction to Timothy about the practice of the men and women in Ephesus, reminding them that the sisters weren’t to αὐθεντέω –  have full power or authority over the brother- for that kind of thing to go on. It should go without saying that brothers aren’t to have that kind of authority over the sisters either, nor over anyone else. But that wasn’t the problem in Ephesus, so it wasn’t addressed.

So the issue of authority in a healthy church today is a non-existent one. Women can and should be allowed to teach and preach, just as the men. Because 1 Tim 2:12 does not apply.