Stop “Empowering” Women and Start Equipping them to Biblically Lead

Stop “Empowering” Women and Start Equipping them to Biblically Lead

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.



The Ongoing Push to Empower Women

Last month, I drew attention to the redefining of complementarity occurring in the SBC (https://bit.ly/2Jkn386). Various leaders were using similar language calling for “the tearing down of all hierarchy” and “empowerment” of women in the SBC. This rhetoric began to translate into action as the election of a woman as the “first trustee chairwoman” at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary was celebrated, followed by the proposal for a woman to serve as president of the SBC.

Some pushed back against this movement with Scriptural responses. For example, I wrote several articles carefully exegeting 1 Timothy 2:12-15 in order to offer a biblical argumentation for the complementarian roles of men and women. With that Scriptural foundation, I argued that a denomination comprised of local churches should not desire a model of teaching and leadership different from God’s design for those same individual churches.

Proponents of empowering a woman as SBC president have given arguments such as the Baptist Faith and Message only prohibits a woman from serving as a pastor; the office of president is not the biblical office of pastor; and the job description for president does not prohibit a woman from serving. What they have yet to advance is an argument for the roles of men and women that proceeds from a careful analysis of Scripture. Rather than interacting with any biblical arguments offered, one writer simply concluded, “in short, there’s no reason a woman cannot be SBC president.”

The impetus behind this recent movement is critical to understand. This conversation did not arise in a vacuum but surfaced in light of the sad revelation of mistreatment of some women in the SBC. To be clear, there is no justification for the abuse of women and it is right to take a strong stand against all its forms. In addition, when such abuses come to light, we should look to Scripture to guide both our reaction to them and the solution for how to rightly move forward. However, emotional pragmatic answers have been controlling the conversation instead of ideas rooted in Scripture.

For example, in a panel discussion at SBC 2018, solutions were discussed for how to respond to the accusations of mistreatment and marginalization of women in the SBC. Repeatedly, the call to empower women and give them roles of leadership were echoed. One panelist commented that when situations arise where women have been mistreated in the church, the wisest answer is to empower women in leadership to bring about a peaceful solution. At face value, that answer might appear completely logical, but it is absolutely unbiblical.

The NT Model of Leadership

In Acts 6, the church encounters its first crisis that created a division in the church. Luke writes, “a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (6:1). The text does not ascribe the motives behind the marginalization of one group of widows over the other as deliberately sinful. Nevertheless, the unequal distribution among these women was serious and needed to be confronted.

This matter was of such importance that the apostles summoned the entire church to address the problem (6:2). Although it was necessary for the apostles to not be distracted from leading the church in the preaching of the Word, the needs of the widows must not be overlooked. Therefore, the apostles called upon the church to choose individuals from among the body to lead in this important task to assure that these women were cared for and no longer marginalized.

The first recorded problem in the church directly involved the mistreatment of women. The apostles identified the need for individuals to lead in the task of bringing about a peaceful resolution that would result in godly care for these women. If there is any task that it would seem appropriate to place women in positions of authority, surely this would be a perfect case. Yet, the apostles directed the church to “pick out from among you seven men” (6:3).

Considering the arguments being made about empowering women, it should be striking that the apostles did not recommend for even one woman to be enlisted in the oversight of this ministry to the widows. It cannot be that the apostles lacked wisdom, failed to be sensitive, or merely acquiesced to the cultural norms of the day. When the apostles saw the need for oversight of this critical ministry in the church, they set a clear example of God’s design for authoritative leadership to be men.

The argument I am making is not that no women could have assisted these men chosen to lead. If they were wise leaders, they would have sought women to assist them in this task. However, the empowerment to lead in resolving this ministry crisis was given exclusively to men. Apparently, male authority in the church is not exclusively restricted to the teaching role of a pastor as some suggest.

It seems unreasonable to believe that the apostles did not deem it appropriate to enlist women to exercise authority in resolving the crisis of the widows, but the SBC should elect a woman as SBC president to address its problems. Perhaps the reason that individuals have not given biblical examples for their argument to “empower” women in the church is because none exist. The apostles were all men; the planting of churches was led by men; the writing of the New Testament was the work of men; and leadership in the churches was given to men.

That said, my ultimate point is not that women should have no leadership in the church. They most certainly should. In fact, I contend that this push to empower women in unbiblical ways will only serve to minimalize and discourage women from valuing the very leadership God has called upon them to exercise.

We Desperately Need Women to Biblically Lead

One of the dangers of responding to issues of this nature is appearing unbalanced. While trying to defend against the onslaught of those promoting unbiblical roles for women, it is easy to get entangled in only addressing what women cannot do. The reality is that women are a wonderful gift from God and their leadership is needed both in the home and the church.

My experience as a pastor is that we need more women, not less, leading as God calls for in Titus 2:3-5: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior… and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” In other words, God calls women in the church to lead other women in fulfilling the vital role that he has given them. Only in Scripture can God’s intended design for women be found.

Paul respected women and worked side by side with them in the work of the gospel (Rom 16). However, the only ministry in which he called upon them to lead was the discipling of children and other women. Mothers in the home should take great joy in the privilege to raise their children in godliness. Women in the church should devote themselves to the crucial role of discipling other women. Women have the unique privilege and responsibility of leading in these significant ways. It is sad and tragic that so many women feel unfulfilled in the beautiful design for which God created them. It is an even greater tragedy when the church cultivates that emotion.

Rather than enticing women with empowerment and cultivating a dissatisfaction towards their God given design, the SBC should call upon churches to equip women to serve in their Titus 2 role. I believe in the radical equality of men and women as image bearers of God. I also know that women have suffered greatly in this world at the hands of sexism. But it is the sin in this world that truly oppresses women, not the role God designed for them or the biblical authority structure of the church. Ever since Satan deceived Eve in the garden, the world has been selling “liberation” for the price of rebelling against God’s design. We should not allow them to set up shop in our individual churches or in the SBC.

Therefore, we should stop “empowering” women and start discipling them to follow Scripture.

The Too Little, Too Late Voice of Russell Moore Regarding Revoice

The Too Little, Too Late Voice of Russell Moore Regarding Revoice

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.


Russell Moore is not generally known for his silence nor slowness in addressing hot social topics. For example, recently he spoke loud and clear about President Trump’s immigration policy that separated children from parents who were arrested for crossing the U.S. border illegally. Dr. Moore expressed his legitimate concerns about the damaging effects that this could have upon those children. When Trump reversed direction, Dr. Moore tweeted his support of this decision within minutes of the announcement.

Therefore, I became increasingly troubled by Dr. Moore’s silence regarding Revoice – a conference designed for the purpose of “supporting, encouraging and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians.” If the ethical implications of a U.S. Immigration policy were worthy of Dr. Moore’s attention, surely Revoice holds equal weight. The latter hits much closer to home for evangelicals and has the potential to result in a far greater and more lasting damage.

Russell Moore’s Days of Silence

On June 13, during the ERLC report at the SBC, Dr. Moore was asked by a messenger about Revoice and its endorsement by ERLC Fellow, Dr. Karen Prior. Dr. Moore responded by saying, “I don’t know about the Revoice Conference,” and then proceeded to give a lengthy defense of Dr. Prior. I consider Dr. Prior a friend, and although I disagree with her endorsement of Revoice, I share Dr. Moore’s appreciation for her. However, Dr. Moore dismissed the core of the messenger’s question, “Will the ERLC disavow Revoice?” Furthermore, he ignored the messenger’s disconcerting description that quoted Revoice’s promotion of the conference as a “celebration of queer culture and the plight of LGBT Christians.”

Considering that concerns about Revoice had been echoed across social media for weeks, it was hard to believe that Dr. Moore could not know about it. Dr. Owen Strachan, an ERLC Research Fellow, published his concerns on May 31. Drs. Jason Allen, President of MBTS, and Albert Mohler, President of SBTS, both tweeted about it on the same day. It is strange that Dr. Moore, who was on Twitter that day and most every day since, could have missed a highly promoted article that addressed such a hot social topic.

Nevertheless, whatever Dr. Moore’s knowledge about Revoice was on June 13, his voice remained silent. After a week, I began to call for Dr. Moore, via Twitter, to please address Revoice. His busyness with other things – both trivial and significant – appeared to communicate a lack of concern. In the days after June 13, he tweeted twice about a rap video, in which he appeared, congratulating J.D. Greear on his election as SBC President. He tweeted about hoping to never hear another political address at the SBC. Four times he tweeted about an ERLC initiative on abuse of women. No less than twelve times he tweeted about his concerns with the effects of President Trump’s immigration policy upon children.

Surely, the risk of redefining the ethical teaching of Scripture on sexuality was as important to Dr. Moore as the danger of children being separated from their parents at the border for a matter of days. Long after any emotional trauma those children experienced has passed, the children of our churches will still be spiritually traumatized growing up with the false teaching that could take root in our churches if Revoice gets its way, while leaders like Dr. Moore remained silent. However, the silence finally broke.

The Silence Breaks

On Friday, June 22, at 4:27 PM (EST), Andrew Walker with the ERLC tweeted an article (https://bit.ly/2txd3i8) that spoke of his “pastoral concerns about how the Revoice Conference is being framed and the potential confusion it might sow among impressionable audiences.” At 5:26 PM (EST), Dr. Moore retweeted Walker’s article with the comment, “Good balanced analysis by my @ERLC colleague @andrewtwalk.”

I was immediately thankful that the silence had finally broken, and that Andrew Walker was “deeply skeptical” about The Revoice Conference. He expressed his concern for how Revoice was labeling homosexuals as a “sexual or gender minority,” and how they were “appropriating the language of sexual and gender progressives who have zero interest in maintaining any semblance of Christian teaching.” In addition, Walker stated that “speakers and presenters at Revoice have made alarming arguments in the past.”

That said, I was surprised and remain concerned by several things. I know, some will say, “First he had a problem that Dr. Moore had not said anything. Now he has a problem with what he did say.” As a pastor, I know what it is like to have people who are never satisfied with anything I do. I pray that is not my attitude. I have not been an avid critic of Dr. Moore, and I detest those who paint him with a tail and a pitchfork no matter what he does. However, I share equal disdain for the fanboys who circle the wagons whenever a legitimate concern is raised. Certain things are still troubling.

The Timing and Manner of the Response

The timing of the response’s release was strikingly odd. If you missed the statement altogether, you are likely not alone. It was released, in what is called in media, as a “Friday News Dump.” No one who is media savvy publishes anything remotely significant on a Friday – especially at around 5:00 PM. In addition, while Dr. Moore tweeted no less than twelve times in a week about Trump’s immigration policy, he has not pointed to Walker’s article since his Friday evening tweet. It makes one wonder whether Dr. Moore sees this issue as critical of an issue as Walker communicates.

This raises the question of why Russell Moore would delegate addressing this issue to a colleague. It was Dr. Moore that was personally asked at the SBC about Revoice, and he claimed ignorance about it. Why would he not educate himself and personally address the concerns?

Understanding the problems with the Revoice Conference does not require PhD level research. Fifteen minutes is sufficient to familiarize yourself with its direction. Dr. Moore could have gone to the Revoice website (http://www.Revoice.us) where he would have discovered topics such as, “Redeeming Queer Culture,” where attendees will learn about the “virtues of queer culture,” and “what queer treasure… will be brought into the New Jerusalem.” Dr. Moore could have been enlightened to “mixed-oriented marriages” where “gay men” – who continue to label themselves as such – are married to “straight women.”

If Dr. Moore did not want to take the time to peruse the website, he could have relied on the vast amount of research that was already available. On June 20, Dr. Mohler once again drew attention to what he called an “important article by Colin Smothers” that extensively detailed “the Revoice conference and its fundamental problems” (https://bit.ly/2tgGUeH).

If Dr. Moore had personally taken the time to research and respond, he would have been prepared to give a much stronger argument against Revoice than was offered in Andrew Walker’s piece. Walker’s approximate five-hundred-word response to Revoice was less than robust in comparison to all the lengthy and thorough responses that preceded it. Amazingly, neither Moore nor Walker even referenced any of these articles – many written by SBC leaders – that warned about Revoice.

While Walker merely referenced that the speakers held troubling views, other articles gave their graphic details. There is little doubt that Revoice is intended to be revolutionary in shaping the thinking of evangelical churches. What was once unimaginable to even openly voice is now considered worthy of “celebrating.” The views of many of the speakers are an assault on the doctrines of sin and sanctification. Although they all declare that LGBT people should not engage in homosexual behavior, they offer new definitions that are not biblical and will not help people overcome its power. Consider the published words of some of those speaking at Revoice :

  • “the desire to have sex with others of our own sex is a temptation to sin which is a result of the fall, but it is not, in itself, sinful.” – Ron Belgau
  • “the sexual aspect of Sodom’s sin involved gang rape, not a consensual and monogamous relationship between two men.” – Ron Belgau
  • “It wasn’t, for me, a matter of whether to be gay or Christian; I knew that I was both…” – Wesley Hill
  • “Perhaps celibate gay and lesbian Christians, precisely in and out of their celibacy, are called to express, rather than simply renounce and deny, same-sex love.” – Wesley Hill
  • “What if we could imagine a scenario in which a Christian businesswoman, after hearing her pastor preach a sermon about these issues, decided that her conscience would allow her to sell products to a gay couple to use in a wedding ceremony?” – Nate Collins
  • “To discern a path forward that enables gay people to view their sexuality as a possibility and not merely as a problem.” – Nate Collins

In addition to these few examples, Nate Collins, is the founder of Revoice. In his personal bio, he describes himself as a “married, same-sex-attracted/gay man.” At one time, this would have been shocking language coming from a pagan. However, it is stunning that this biographical description is chosen by Dr. Collins – a graduate and former NT Professor at SBTS.

It would be one thing if this conference were being conducted by a group of liberals from mainline Protestant churches, but these individuals are from our own theological camp. Dr. Moore’s slowness, timing, and delegated response is far from adequate. But there is one more critical point.

The Glaring Oversight of the Response

Some suggested that Walker chose a more cautious approach in his article, writing, “the Revoice Conference has not yet even occurred, so speculation about the conference could potentially be unwarranted.” Many have declared that we should “wait and see” rather than “rush and judge.” Perhaps Dr. Moore is taking the posture of “wait and see.” The only problem is that an ERLC Research Fellow has taken an attitude that gives the appearance of “embrace and endorse.”

When Dr. Moore was asked about Dr. Prior’s endorsement at SBC 2018, he declared ignorance about Revoice and waxed eloquently about his confidence in Dr. Prior. He spoke of her commitment to Gospel centeredness regarding homosexual issues. I also believe Dr. Prior to be deeply concerned about giving Gospel answers to those struggling with homosexual desires. This is why, being concerned about her endorsement, I privately contacted her because I was concerned about why she would endorse this event. I was not convinced by her reasons, but it was a pleasant interaction.

So, if I contacted Dr. Prior, why did Dr. Moore not take the time to do the same? Why would he not seek to understand her position before taking a position himself? More importantly, if he now believes Revoice to be dangerous, why has he not asked Dr. Prior to withdraw her endorsement as a Research Fellow for the ERLC? I know several people who would confirm that Dr. Moore is not shy to confront those who take a position that is opposite of his – especially if they are leaders in the SBC.

Therefore, shortly after Dr. Moore’s retweeting of Walker’s article, I gave four responses with this tweeted reply:

1. Thankful @andrewtwalk of @ERLC finally spoke on this.
2. Thankful @drmoore pointed to it.
3. How does @ERLC rectify saying the conference is deeply problematic, yet it’s endorsed by @KSPrior (ERLC Fellow).
4. @drmoore was asked this at SBC & it’s still a valid question.

Although Dr. Moore did not respond, Dr. Prior did respond with this tweet:

“We’re Baptists, Tom. We’re allowed to disagree with one another in the application of biblical principles.”

I responded:

“Yes. Baptists disagree. But there is complete agreement on this among the leaders of SBC about the serious doctrinal problems with this conference. After reading the strong words of @albertmohler and @ostrachan – and now @ERLC – would you reconsider your endorsement?

Dr. Prior responded:

“I never expected they would endorse it, and my endorsement of the aims of the conference is well-considered. I don’t know why you need everyone to agree on this, but I don’t have that particular struggle. I stand in support of those with SSA who desire to obey God.”

With all due respect, the issues surrounding Revoice are far deeper than “support of those with SSA who desire to obey God.” It is whether the kind of support Revoice offers is actually biblical and whether the answers the conference gives will help anybody truly obey God. I agree with every warning that I have read about Revoice – including that of Andrew Walker – and I believe this conference is a threat to the Gospel. Dr. Albert Mohler is correct to say, “My biggest concern in this conference and in the language that is used and in the conversation that many evangelicals are now having is that what you see in this conference is the acceptance of the idea that our sexual identity or any individual’s sexual orientation becomes a defining issue that isn’t changed by the gospel and isn’t transformed by sanctification.”

The glaring oversight of Dr. Moore, is that he has failed to ultimately address one of the fundamental questions that he was originally asked on June 13. The question that he answers only with silence. What about Dr. Prior’s endorsement of Revoice? Although his support of Dr. Prior was understandable when he was ignorant about Revoice, I believe his silence now is negligent.

Dr. Prior has every right, as a Baptist, to disagree and be the lone endorser of Revoice among SBC leaders. However, I do not believe that she has the right, as an ERLC Research fellow, to endorse something as dangerous as everyone declares that it is – including the voice of Dr. Russell Moore. I consider Dr. Prior my friend – I hope to remain her friend – but I believe she should step down from the ERLC or Dr. Moore remove her unless she withdraws her endorsement with a good conscience. I do not consider Dr. Prior to be a heretic, nor do I question her love for the gospel. My problem lies not with her sincerity, but her discernment. As Baptists, we can disagree, but our chosen views might prohibit us from being able to lead in certain capacities. It concerns me when someone serving on the ERLC does not exercise better discernment about crucial ethical matters that plague our culture. Dr. Moore should also be concerned, and once again break his silence.

 

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 4)

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 4)

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.

As I reflect upon the 2018 SBC gathering, I am both encouraged and concerned about the practice of complementarianism in the Convention. I was greatly encouraged to hear several of our SBC leaders articulate a clear and emphatic commitment to the distinct roles of men and women as taught in 1 Timothy 2:12, which I sought to explain in part two of this series (https://bit.ly/2JtPwEz). When Dr. Al Mohler was asked a question from the convention floor about the role of women in teaching, he made it abundantly clear that SBTS was committed to only men teaching in their School of Theology due to the pastoral nature of that role. When asked in another venue about the role of SBC President, Dr. Mohler replied that the gathering was more than a business meeting and included responsibilities that should limit that role to male leadership.

While Mohler’s comments instilled confidence about the future of complementarity in the SBC, I continued to have serious concerns as I engaged in conversations with others. The repeated mantra – both in private conversations and voices from the convention floor – was the need to “empower” women. If this means ensuring that our churches are enlisting women in every possible way to serve the church and not marginalizing them in their service, I fully embrace that call. However, if “empowerment” means to elevate women to all the same roles as men or to employ such a narrow application of complementarity that there is little more than a paper-thin wall separating it from egalitarianism, then count me out. As I argued in my last article, the “empowerment” of women will not reverse the results of The Fall, it will simply repeat the mistakes of The Fall (https://bit.ly/2JCBEMB).

For the sake of clarity, I believe women should serve in many ways within the church, and there should be no limitations beyond Scripture. At the same time, women will never flourish by being “empowered” to forsake the important role that God has given them to fulfill by his design. It is foolish to think that women will find fulfillment by following Eve in her folly exemplified in The Fall. If women want to flourish – as God intended – they should model Eve in her faith as illustrated in her ultimate response to God.

Following Eve in Her Faith Not Her Folly

Paul gave a clear prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men (1 Tim 2:12) based upon God’s created order (1 Tim 2:13). He then pointed to the circumstances of The Fall to exemplify what happens when we rebel against God’s design (1 Tim 2:14). In closing, Paul wanted women to see that they can be joyfully and beautifully fulfilled in their distinct role. This requires them to model Eve’s faith, which is exemplified in her response to God’s word of promise. Paul writes, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim 2:15).

Although there is much debate about Paul’s closing words, I believe his meaning becomes clear if we understand he is concluding the Genesis story of Eve followed by a call to all women to follow her ultimate example of faith. This is the reason verse fifteen begins with the feminine singular (i.e. Eve) and concludes with the feminine plural (i.e. all women).

First, regarding Eve, Paul is simply following her character in the plot of the Genesis account. Adam was created, then Eve (Gen 2:15-23). The Fall exemplifies the results of rebelling against God’s created complementarity order (Gen 3:1-13). Eve’s is saved from what led to her deception by trusting God’s word of promise, which included a return to embracing God’s design for her as a woman (Gen 3:14-16).

Understanding Paul’s illustration in 1 Tim 2:15 requires a correct interpretation of his use of “childbearing.” Some argue that Paul is illustrating the biological distinction between men and women and instructing them to find their fulfillment in bearing children. However, there is good reasons to think otherwise. Practically, Paul taught elsewhere that some women have the gift of singleness (1 Cor 7:7), and not every woman has been blessed with the ability to have children. Surely Paul would not exclude these groups from his universal argument that he is making. Furthermore, Paul’s points have all been theological. Therefore, it seems likely he continues with that line of reasoning.

The key to Paul’s meaning is best found in what William Mounce calls “a more serious suggestion” that recognizes the presence of the definite article in the original language before the word “childbearing.” This view recognizes Paul’s building on the context of Genesis 3, which led to Paul’s conclusion that “Eve’s deception will be overcome by the deliverance prophesied in Gen 3:15, which foretells that Eve’s seed (descendant) will bruise the serpent’s head, i.e., salvation is announced in terms of a child to be borne by the woman.”

Therefore, the way Eve would be saved from the results of the Fall – which included her sinful desire to usurp the role of her husband and his sinful desire to dominate her – was to trust in God’s promise that her seed would be the one to bring salvation to all mankind. Having God’s word of promise in Gen 3:15, Eve was faced with another choice. Would she choose to embrace God’s word and submit herself to the role that God had chosen her to fill? Scripture reveals that Eve chose to submit herself and fully embrace God’s promise. Eve went from twisting God’s word to trusting God’s word. This is illustrated in her words of faith recorded in Gen 4:1: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’” Later, after Cain’s failure could have led her to despair, she remained fixed in her confidence in God’s promise as she declared at the birth of Seth, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him” (Gen 4:25). After The Fall, Scripture only records Eve’s voice two other times, both expressing faith in Gen 3:15. Eve’s faith in God’s word of promise and role that God gave her in the fulfillment of that promise became the focus of her life.

Second, Paul is not ultimately calling upon women to follow Eve in childbearing, but to model Eve in her expression of faith in God’s word and role for them. Although God has not designed women to teach or exercise authority over men, they will find complete fulfillment in in their God-given role to serve in the church. They, like Eve, will find their salvation by faith in the Gen 3:15 promise that was fulfilled by Christ, which will lead to the fruit of “love and holiness.” Ultimately, their submission to God’s command in this will require the same “self-control” as they needed for submitting themselves to modesty (1 Tim 2:9). The question remains for women today as it did for those of Timothy’s church in Ephesus: Will they repeat the mistakes of The Fall or will they follow Eve’s example of faith by trusting God’s word and exercising the self-control needed to submit to their God ordained role?

Where We Go from Here

I share the concerns of fellow Southern Baptists that any abuse of women is abhorrent, and the marginalization of women is equally unbiblical. However, the “empowerment” of women to leadership roles outside of God’s biblical design will not stop either of those things. Obedience and complete submission to God’s Word are the only things that will lead to valuing women for the treasured gift that they are from God. We will never fix unbiblical and ungodly actions with anything short of a robust biblical response. Rather than seeking to empower women, we should seek to entrust to them their biblical role that will produce genuine flourishing. This means we need to train women in our seminaries and churches to serve in teaching and leading children and other women (Titus 2).

In twenty-five years of serving as a Senior Pastor, I have not found that we need less women to serve in these capacities, but that we are always in need of more. We are not serving the families or our churches well by taking women out of the home when their children are in their formative years or removing godly women from teaching and leading the women of the church in order to place them in positions of authority over men. It is a first-class job God has given women and we should encourage them in the value of their role, not facilitate a longing for “something better.”

If the SBC is not training women in our seminaries to help them serve in the roles God has designed, then we are involved in a task that has less to do with the command of the Lord and more to do with taking our cues from the world. If we allow the culture to shift our focus away from the biblical teaching of the distinct roles of men and women, it will be to the detriment of the church and the family. What the SBC desperately needs is not one more resolution about the empowerment of women, but a resolve to return to God’s created design for men and women so that both can flourish as God originally intended. If we choose to do otherwise – ignoring the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 2:12-15 – we will soon discover that the empowerment of women did not reverse the effects of The Fall, but simply repeated the mistakes of The Fall. May God help us to stand firm in an age that wants to destroy our foundations.

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 3)

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 3)

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.

In part one of this series (https://bit.ly/2Jkn386), I addressed how the recent revelations of the mistreatment of women within the SBC has led to a call for their “empowerment.” It has been proposed that women should be placed in the highest positions of denominational leadership – including the office of president.

In part two, (https://bit.ly/2JtPwEz), I examined the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-13 as the foundation for complementarianism. This passage clearly commands that a woman is not to teach nor exercise authority over men. Paul bases his prohibition not upon the cultural distinctives of his day, but upon God’s created order in Genesis 2:15-18. Therefore, Paul was establishing leadership in the church upon theological truth. Furthermore, I argued this same model should be followed in the SBC leadership structure as it has throughout its history. If a woman is not permitted to preach and lead in one church, it makes no sense to place her in that role in the gathering of thousands of those same churches.

That said, I am certain some will object to the timing of these posts. Why address the limitations of the role of women at a time when their marginalization, mistreatment, and even abuse has come to light? Should this not be reserved for another day?

I wish all I had to make clear was that I firmly believe that any abusive treatment of women is an abhorrent, ungodly, and a violation of God’s Word. I only chose to write these responses due to some using these circumstances as an opportunity to push the SBC towards an unbiblical position. Rather than react to these things, we need to rightly lead with the Scripture. We will not solve the wickedness of the abuse and domination of women by reversing God’s biblical design for the roles of men and women. In fact, that is what led to the domination of women in the first place.

Paul’s Example of the Fall in 1 Timothy 2:14-15

After Paul declares that a woman is not to teach or exercise authority over a man and grounds that prohibition in God’s created order, he points to the circumstances of the Fall to exemplify his point. “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim 2:14). Paul is not saying that women are more susceptible to deception than men. Neither Scripture nor experience would support that claim. Paul simply shows how God’s ordained design is exemplified in The Fall. It demonstrates what happens when we rebel against God’s created order. As Tom Schreiner writes, “In approaching Eve, then, the serpent subverted the pattern of male leadership… Adam was present throughout and did not intervene. The Genesis temptation, therefore, is a parable of what happens when male leadership is abrogated.” The details of the Genesis 3 account support this assertion.

God had placed Adam in the garden and entrusted him with the responsibility of its governance and with God’s word of command (Gen 2:15-17). Since Eve was created after this (Gen 2:18), it was clearly Adam’s responsibility to lead Eve and teach her God’s prohibition and its meaning. The story is clear about who is the leader and teacher at the point of creation. The setting at the end of chapter two is one of harmony and peace between Adam and Eve. “And the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed.”

A dramatic turn occurs as the serpent enters the storyline. He was “crafty” in his approach – bypassing Adam as the leader and going directly to Eve (Gen 3:1). Thus, the reversal of God’s created order began as the serpent questions Eve about God’s command. God’s prohibition was clear that they should not “eat” of the tree’s fruit (Gen 2:17), but Eve adds to it saying, “neither shall you touch it” (Gen 3:3). The text informs us that Adam was with her as this exchange took place (Gen 3:6). Therefore, Eve usurped the teaching role given to Adam, and he let her do so.

The serpent then challenges Eve’s garden homily and offers his own spin. He repudiates God’s Word as having authority over her, and challenges Eve to take her life into her own hands (Gen 3:5). With her new worldview, Eve took of the fruit and ate. However, she did not stop there. The text declares, “she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6). The reversal of roles was now complete. Eve rejected the Word of God, assumed the role of teacher of the new command to eat whatever you like, and exercised authority over her husband by directing him to eat.

At this point, it is critical to watch the development of the story. The Fall does not take place until the full reversal of roles is completed. After Eve becomes the teacher by rejecting God’s command in exchange for the serpent’s version, and after she takes authority by directing Adam to eat, “then the eyes of both were opened” (Gen 3:7). At this moment, God’s created order was fully rejected, the perfect world was compromised, and the earlier shameless state was ruined – “and they knew they were naked.” The previous condition was not destroyed until Adam forsook his God-given role and fully followed Eve’s lead.

Paul points to this story to teach what happens when we rebel against God’s created order. Eve’s failure to submit to Adam’s leadership in that moment is what led to her being deceived by the serpent (Gen 3:13). Adam’s failure to teach and lead his wife – choosing to listen to her voice (Gen 3:17) – brought about tragic results. The sin of reversing the roles that God designed led to the sinful battle of the sexes. Fallen women would persist in the desire to usurp the role given to men to lead and fallen men would respond with sinful domination over women (Gen 3:16). Therefore, it was the abdication of that godly, biblical, male leadership by Adam and the refusal to not learn in quiet submission by Eve that ultimately led to the domination of women.

Repeating the Mistakes of the Fall

Abandoning God’s created design for spiritual leadership will accomplish no more for women today than it did for Eve in the story recorded in Genesis. Men dominating women is a result of The Fall and can only be overcome by both men and women being transformed by the Gospel and returning to their God-given roles. We will not solve the problems of male domination by leading women to follow the pattern of Eve in The Fall. It would be foolish to think that the evil act of men abusing women will be overcome by once again twisting the clear commands of God. These sinful instincts are a result of The Fall not its cure. If we want men and women to flourish and desire to abolish the shame that sin has produced between the sexes, we need to return to God’s original order in creation.

Nonetheless, how should women be encouraged to think about the role God has given them in the church? The temptation may be to think that male leadership is somehow just another form of domination and offers no truly significant role to women. Lord willing, I will address that tomorrow in my final post.

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 2)

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 2)

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.

A Call to Empower Women

Some are calling for a resurgence in the SBC that leads to the “empowerment” and placement of women in the highest positions of denominational leadership – including office of president (https://bit.ly/2Jkn386). SBC presidents are viewed as leaders of the denomination and regularly preach during their tenure. Therefore, I have claimed a woman holding this office would violate 1 Timothy 2:12 that forbids a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. I have encountered two primary arguments to this objection.

First, it is said the SBC President is not inherently powerful and would not exercise any real authority. That is an odd response since the recommendation is for the purpose of “empowering” women. Surely the empowerment of women is not electing them to meaningless, powerless, positions that are devoid of any authority. Furthermore, whether some view the office as authoritative or not, it is certain that most within the SBC and the watching world will view it as such.

Second, those who want to limit the scope of complementarianism argue that the Scriptures only prohibit women from teaching or exercising authority over men in the local church. Before addressing that argument, the biblical text should be examined.

Complementarianism as Taught in 1 Timothy 2:11-15

These five verses should be interpreted in the larger context of 2:8-15 where Paul addresses gender roles in the church followed by the specific leadership qualities for elders and deacons (3:1-13). In 2:8-15, Paul gives distinct instructions for men and women. Particularly, in verses 11-15, he explains the role of women regarding the teaching and leadership in the church.

In verse eleven, Paul begins with a positive command saying, “let a woman learn.” This statement would have shattered ancient conventional stereotypes. In that culture, women were widely believed to be academically inferior. Yet, before Paul makes any prohibition, he writes words of liberation. A woman should learn. As an image bearer of God, she is to be a student of God’s Word. However, there is to be a demeanor in the way she is to learn – “quietly with all submissiveness” – and a limitation to her role. Spiritual equality does not eliminate God’s designed roles. As Paul prepares to give the qualifications for those who will teach doctrine and be spiritual leaders in the church, he first establishes the role is not designed for women.

If a woman is to learn quietly and submissively, she must not assume the position of teaching nor take authority in the church over men. Therefore, Paul gives this clear prohibition, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet.” The qualified men of the church are responsible before God for what is taught in the church and its governance.

Paul’s reasoning behind this prohibition is explained in 2:13-14. He grounds the ordering of the teaching and authority in the church upon the order of creation. Simply put, God created Adam before Eve. This was God’s plan and was not a divine afterthought, and Paul viewed it with theological meaning. Therefore, he was not choosing roles for men and women, nor basing it upon human opinion, nor adapting to his culture. God created man first and gave him responsibility over the garden and moral pattern for life in the garden (Gen 2:15-17). Then God created woman as his helper to carry out that responsibility (Gen 2:18). Therefore, men have been given the God-given role of teaching and governance in the church just as Adam was given that role at creation. As William D. Mounce writes, “Paul is prohibiting two separate events: teaching and acting in authority… Paul does not want women to be in positions of authority in the church; teaching is one way in which authority is exercised in the church.” [1]

One may argue Paul’s words are obsolete or patriarchal privilege that should be thrown upon the ash heap of history, but his words are not vague. I agree with Josh Buice who wrote, “While women are permitted to discuss biblical theology in a mixed group setting such as a Sunday school class, women teaching children or other women (Titus 2), or in a private setting such as with Apollos’ instruction that was gleaned from meeting with Priscilla and Aquila—biblical teaching, when among the church as a whole or a mixed audience should be led by men.” However, should this be limited only to a local church or does it have broader application?

Is the Prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 Limited to the Local Church?

Some argue this command does not prohibit a woman from teaching Scripture publicly to men or serving in positions of authority over men at a denominational level. These commands – so the argument goes – are for the local church, and the SBC is not a local church.

However, SBC presidents are regularly invited to preach in local churches. Therefore, the messengers in voting for a woman for this role would, by that very act, facilitate her preaching in a Sunday morning worship service in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. Beth Moore has already preached in several churches, so her election would make that inevitable.

Furthermore, the president preaches a sermon each year at the convention. J.D. Greear believes a woman can teach men even in a Sunday morning service, [2] so it is possible a woman will preach at the convention if he is elected president. Even if one views a convention sermon as different than one in a local church, the convention is a gathering of local churches. Therefore, how does it make sense that a woman could not preach to one local church, but could preach to thousands of local churches attending the convention?

It seems beyond common reason that a denomination comprised of local churches who partner together for the spread of God’s Word around the world would desire a model of teaching and leadership different from God’s design for the local church. To limit the application of 1 Tim 2:12 to the local church – at the exclusion of the denomination – seems absurd. I cannot imagine that Paul would have told Timothy that only men should preach and lead the church in Ephesus, but if Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae formed a cooperation to reach the world for Christ that any form of leadership would do.

If we pattern our convention after the leadership models of this world, we should not be surprised when the rest of the world’s philosophies flow right into our ranks. More importantly, if the SBC goes down this path, it will follow in the footsteps of every other liberal denomination and should expect the exact same results. I feel certain that what is allowed on the denominational level will eventually creep into the local churches.

But, wait, it might be argued. Will this view not perpetuate the problem of men dominating women? While the domination of women is abhorrent and must be addressed, the answer is not to empower women to places of authority that violate God’s created design. In fact, that is what led to the domination of women in the first place. Lord willing, I will address that tomorrow.


  1. William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary: Pastoral Epistles(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 130.
  2. ]https://jdgreear.com/blog/can-women-teach-in-the-church/