Satan delights in denigrating what God created as good. It has always been God’s plan for his Church to possess a certain masculinity in leadership and that masculinity flows into the general membership as well. One of the depressing realities of our modern culture is the assault upon masculinity as if it’s somehow a bad thing. While we can all certainly agree that male dominance is not God’s plan for his Church—the plan to extract male leadership and characteristics from God’s Church is certainly not healthy—in fact it’s downright sinful.
When Paul was closing out his letter to the church in the city of Corinth, he wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” We must recall that Paul was writing to a church that was in desperate need of theological and practical correction. The apostle took a firm stance against their sin, and then pointed them to the proper means of living out the gospel of Christ. Apparently one of their struggles was centered on love and their lack of manliness. William Robertson Nicoll observes that these exhortations are “directed respectively against the heedlessness, fickleness, childishness, and moral enervation of the” church at Corinth. 
Today, we continue to see the Church of Jesus Christ suffering from a lack of manliness. This has been the result of the radical feminist attack as well as the problem of perpetual adolescence that continues to prevent men from rising up and taking lead roles within the local church. These problems together create added friction over offices, giftedness, and the need for strong leadership. We would do well to remember Paul’s words to the church in Corinth—”act like men.”
The Feminization of the Church
The liberal agenda has masculinity in its sights and has for many years dating back to the radical women’s liberation movement. From this rank liberal ideology, they teach that God is not a male, Paul was a sexist, and Jesus was a feminist. This agenda took aim at Bible translations in an attempt to produce gender neutral texts while removing references to God’s masculine characteristics. However, the progressives of our day within evangelical circles have adopted that type of language and it has continued to soften the church. Today’s social justice agenda is moving rapidly through evangelicalism beneath the banner of liberation. They claim to work for the liberation of oppressed segments within our evangelical circles—and women are at the center of this debate.
Apparently, we have done a poor job of allowing women to flourish and use their gifts for God’s glory so we must tear down our hierarchies and develop new leadership structures to allow women to bloom. With varying degrees of opinions on this subject—including an eclectic array of interpretations on biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-15; Titus 2, do we stand in need of clarification on complementarianism? Is The Danvers Statement (1987) unclear? More importantly, is the Bible silent or insufficient to answer these questions?
In her article “God’s Feminist Ideals” published in Christianity Today, Wendy Alsup writes:
Gloria Steinem famously said a feminist is “anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Is God then a feminist by her definition? If feminism in its purest sense is the quest for justice and equal rights for women, then, yes, God was the first feminist. God created woman in his image and bestowed on her equal dignity with man. By a woman’s mere existence, God has bestowed on her dignity and privileges that transcend race, economic status, and physical ability.
At least that’s the language being used by leaders in evangelical circles today. In a recent article on SBC Voices, the question of a woman leading the SBC has once again emerged for discussion and debate. William Thornton critiques our current culture within evangelicalism by stating, “Seems we can’t celebrate women doing much of anything without inserting ‘in biblically appropriate ways.'” Apparently it’s taboo to appeal to the Scriptures and to uphold God’s original design for men and women within the local church and society as a whole.
Make no mistake, complementarity is under assault today and it’s a divisive agenda fueled by ancient errors that not only degrade masculinity—but they call into question God’s sovereign design. Does God need to revise his design for women and men and their roles to align with our modern culture? That type of thinking depicts our God as an aged grandfather in the sky who is not up with the times and apparently hasn’t been reading the latest blogs on his iPhone. In short, it’s a blasphemous assault on God and his sovereignty.
The fruit of this assault will be the feminization of the church. Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, in their book Megatrends for Women wrote the following back in 1992:
Women of the late twentieth century are revolutionizing the most sexist institution in history—organized religion. Overturning millennia of tradition, they are challenging authorities, reinterpreting the Bible, creating their own services, crowding into seminaries, winning the right to ordination, purging sexist language in liturgy, reintegrating female values and assuming positions of leadership. 
The leading chatter within evangelical circles suggests we suddenly have a need to liberate women in 2018 and swing all doors open for our sisters to flourish in God’s grace. Was Paul sexist in his appeal to the church in Corinth to act like men? Certainly not since we understand that Paul is driving at spiritual maturity. Therefore, spiritually mature men and women will desire to serve God within their roles as God designed from the beginning.
Today, men are behaving as if they must apologize for being created as a man and desiring to lead in the home and in the church. Is it sexist or is it Scriptural for men to desire to act like men and desire offices of leadership in the church while humbly leading in the home as well? Another question should be asked at this juncture—is it oppressive to women for men to act like men? Today’s church doesn’t need softer hands—it needs humble men who act like men and lead with biblical conviction.
The Childishness of the Church
Notice Paul didn’t say, “Act like boys.” There is a pervasive trend among many men today who desire an extended childhood. They avoid responsibility, delay marriage, downgrade family, and elevate play-time far above the need to work. That mindset has crept into the church long ago, and in many ways that’s why we have worship services that look like extended children’s church for adults. Furthermore, that’s why we have such a disconnect among leadership roles in the church in many cases where women are taking the lead because the men want to focus on delaying adulthood and the necessary responsibilities that come along with being a man.
Paul thunders over and over through the New Testament about the need for maturity. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he placed it as a central goal of pastoral ministry that labors to bring the church to spiritual maturity—to mature manhood (Eph. 4:13). Here in his closing words to the church at Corinth, Paul simply writes—”act like men.” We read Paul’s words today, and seek to make application to our context while the radio and television is providing another message that says growing up and becoming an adult is a really bad idea.
In many church cultures, men find no problem getting together to watch MMA fights or to have video game parties, but they find it extremely awkward to get together and talk about the doctrine of God, the meaning of the atonement, or the meaning and purpose of marriage. We have adopted delayed adulthood and created the “forty-something teenager” mentality—a perpetual adolescent who finds no value in adulthood and maturity. What an appropriate time to read and mediate on Paul’s words to the church at Corinth as he says, “act like men.” Paul had already written to them earlier in his letter providing them a warning:
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature (1 Cor. 14:20).
We would do well in our day to heed this warning and to obey Paul’s words to “act like men.” One of the most loving things that a church can do is to pursue maturity and celebrate masculinity which produces true love. This is where both men and women can flourish within God’s original design. Biblical manhood is not defined by how much a man can bench press, the thickness of his beard, or how many tattoos he has about Jesus on his arm. It’s not even connected to his love and affection for cigars. Biblical manhood is rooted in the gospel and has a profound submission to Christ and a love for the roles of men and women as God has designed.
- W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Commentary, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 949.
- Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, Megatrends for Women (New York: Villard Books, 1992), 119.
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.”
“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.
In recent days, the cultural climate within evangelicalism has been chaotic. It seems that we are moving at break-neck speed with complex ideas being tossed at us like bombs. In recent days—many pastors have felt as if the racist card was being thrown at all white people—suggesting that those of us who are white need to apologize for our positions of privilege and our deficient gospel. This ideology has caused great division and confusion. The climate in evangelicalism is filled with chaos rather than peace.
It has been stated that evangelicals (especially those within the Southern Baptist Convention) once slugged it out over the inerrancy of Scripture, but they soon turned their backs on the sufficiency of Scripture. This has given way to a longtime commitment, by many people within evangelicalism, to the god of pragmatism. Once a group of people bow to this false god, suddenly whatever is necessary to gain numbers receives the mark of orthodoxy. The direction is set by the cultural winds rather than God’s Word. This is the story of modern evangelicalism. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that when the cultural winds of systemic racism, white privilege, intersectionality, police brutality, and the oppression of women blow through our culture that such winds find their way into the Christian community. After all, if it’s in vogue in the culture it should be in vogue in the Church—right? Actually, no—that’s not correct at all on the basis of several key truths found in God’s Word.
The First Mark of an Authentic Church Is Not Woke Theology
You may or may not have been following the #wokechurch or #woke hashtag floating around social media in recent days, but the fact is—the movement is rolling through evangelicalism with a sense of entitlement and arrogance. For many, the idea of “woke” theology is synonymous with what it means to be a healthy church. Before we move on to address this assumption, it would do us well to define “woke church” in order to fully evaluate the claim.
Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, has defined woke as, “an urban colloquialism used by black nationalists and those in the black consciousness movement of being woke, in the sense of the systemic, sociological, economic, and comprehensive disenfranchisement of African-Americans.” Thabiti Anyabwile defined “Woke Church” by stating:
What we call “woke” today is pretty close to the Afrocentricism of the 1980s. Afrocentricism, a word coined by Dr. Molefi Asante, professor of African-American studies at Temple University at the time, was about centering Africa and Africa-descended peoples in their worldview much the way Europe has always been at the center of the worldview of European peoples. Afrocentrism taught that Black people should see the world as Black people.
He went on to write:
This has massive implications for local church ministries in communities of color. Churches must understand the need to reconstitute the whole person with biblical teaching responsive to the lived realities of those communities. In simpler words, our approach to discipleship must simultaneously repair the psychic and social destruction done to the identities/personhood of Black people while recognizing and equipping them to counter the social and political realities that contribute to that destruction in the first place. We have to teach people how to be their ethnic selves in a way that’s consistent with the Bible and how to live fruitfully in contexts that don’t affirm their ethnic selves. Hence, we need a “woke church.”
What if we don’t have a woke church—do we have a church at all? As the terms are defined—is woke church necessary to have Jesus’ church? Historically, the first mark of an authentic church was the right preaching of the Word. Interestingly enough, theologians of church history didn’t evaluate a the validity of a church or the health of a church based on cultural trends or political activism. The way a church has been evaluated historically speaking has been based upon, by order of importance, the preaching of the church. Is the gospel being preached?
Albert Mohler—the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—preached the spring convocation chapel service on January 31st 2006. In his sermon, he said, “Preaching is the first mark of the authentic church, the essential mark, the mark without which the other marks do not matter,” he said. “… Where this mark is not found, there is no church.” What type of preaching is necessary to constitute a true church? It’s authentic preaching, biblical preaching—and as the Reformers taught it is the right preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, it’s not woke preaching or woke theology that constitutes a true church. We should find a biblical church and identify with those people (regardless of shades of skin color) under the banner of the gospel and the right preaching of God’s sufficient and inerrant Word.
The reason the emphasis is placed on the right preaching of the Word is because when the Bible is proclaimed and explained properly through a proper hermeneutic—the Spirit of God brings dead sinners to life, drives God’s people toward sanctification and a pursuit of holiness, and it creates unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Such a gospel centered people will be moved to care for one another, pray for one another, and serve alongside one another for the glory of God. That type of gospel centered life under the preaching of the Word will produce genuine discipleship and passionate evangelism in the local community. Therefore, the question is not whether or not the church is woke that matters. A better question is—does the church have the right preaching of the Word? Cultural trends come and go with the winds of time like flowers of the field—but God’s Word will stand forever.
The Church Does Not Need Political Methods and Ideas—We Have the Bible
James Montgomery Boice once wrote, “Inerrancy is not the most critical issue facing the church today. The most serious issue, I believe, is the Bible’s sufficiency.”  If he said that back in 2001, what would he think of today’s evangelical climate? On an average Sunday, in our culture today, one almost has to strain to hear God’s Word coming from the pulpit. In some circles, the Bible has been so contextualized that you can hear more of culture than Christ coming from the pulpit. If the Bible is truly inerrant, and you embrace this reality, it should only follow that you would likewise cling to the absolute sufficiency of God’s Word. To suggest that the Bible is inerrant but not really sufficient for all of life and worship—is a contradiction of ideas.
When Jesus was questioned or tempted, where did he turn? He often quoted from the Old Testament to prove his point and to establish his position (Matt. 4:4; 5:27; 12:38-45; Mark 7:10). When Jesus called out the self-righteous Pharisees, he did so by asking a simple question, “Have you not read the Scriptures?” Remember what Paul said to the Jews in the city of Rome? He told them that they had been entrusted with the oracles of God to bring people out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ (Rom. 2:17-29 and Rom. 3:1-8). To deny the sufficiency of the Bible is to become a slave to the culture. That culture may cling to the radical leftist arguments in one neighborhood while leaning radical right in another neighborhood. At the end of the day—under this way of thinking—culture drives the ship rather than God’s Word.
Before we set sail on this trajectory—it would be wise to ask honest questions about God’s Word. Does the Bible talk about personal racism and human depravity? Does the Bible explain how the church is to be organized and the distinct roles of men and women in the life of the church? Does the Bible talk about homosexuality as a sin? If the Bible addresses these cultural agendas—why do we need to look to the culture for the definitions?
It’s the Bible that teaches us how to treat all people—including different ethnicities. It’s the Bible that provides us with the best way to uphold the dignity of women and to lead them to flourish for the glory of God. It’s the Bible that teaches us how to submit to the governing authorities and to honor and pray for those in public office. It’s the Bible that provides for us the definition of Christianity and allows us to see our identification in Jesus rather than a sin category. It’s the Bible that provides for us the qualifications for the office of elder. This is true of all cultural categories—because the Bible is sufficient.
J.C. Ryle once wrote, “Whenever a man takes upon him to make additions to the Scriptures, he is likely to end with valuing his own additions above Scripture itself.”  How true those words are in our present culture. If you import your own ideas of black liberation theology, white supremacy, political left, political right, systemic racism, critical race theory, intersectionality, or any other cultural trend into the white spaces between the verses of the Bible—soon enough you will have a whole new Bible.
The more we read the Bible and aim to submit ourselves to the God of Scripture, we don’t become more woke, we become more conformed to the image of Christ. When we strive to setup the structure of the church according to God’s Word—we will no longer need to debate the role of women preaching and teaching to a mixed audience. Within our modern evangelical social justice movement, we need to ask an honest question—are we trying to make Jesus look like our culture or call our culture to bow to Jesus? The culture runs to politics, sociology, and psychology for the answers of life—and they remain miserable. The Church has been entrusted with the Word of God—so why should we run to the same empty wells and broken cisterns of the world? Yet, that seems to be the pattern of our modern evangelical culture and that’s what leads to a culture of chaos within evangelical organizations and denominations.
- James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001) 72.
- J.C. Ryle, Matthew Commentary, Chapter 15.
Years ago, the evangelical world was abuzz with controversy over inerrancy. This was especially true within the Southern Baptist Convention. You could ask two different people if they believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, and while both answered “yes”—both of them when pressed would provide two different understandings of inerrancy. For the liberal, his view was that the Bible “contains the Word of God” which is quite different from the other individual who was contending for total, verbal, plenary inerrancy.
In short, words matter and definitions lead to the defining of positions. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) was helpful in defining terms and providing clarity on a very important theological subject. It would take a good number of years before the Southern Baptist Convention would be rerouted back to a historic position on biblical inerrancy—and this move has been labeled the Conservative Resurgence.
Today, there are new winds of controversy blowing in the evangelical world. The winds of controversy are centered on the issue of women serving in leadership. With varying degrees of opinions on this subject—including an eclectic array of interpretations on biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-15; Titus 2, we stand in need of clarification on complementarianism. In an age where being soft is in vogue—we must remember that watering down masculinity, beefing up femininity, and redefining biblical roles as designed by God for the home, the church, and society will have a negative result in all areas. We need real men and women again!
As we consider this issue, it’s not one that can be approached without crystal clear definitions. While The Danvers Statement (1987) deals with the issues of complementarity, there are some voices in evangelicalism who are suggesting that The Danvers Statement would permit a woman to serve as the president of the SBC. Others seem to disagree. While the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is rather broad, it points to the office of pastor in article VI and states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Some voices are arguing that this is only in regards to the “senior pastor” within the local church, and does not place the same restrictions on associate pastors and denominational offices.
With all of the opinions blowing around in the wind, we need to clarify positions on the definition of comlementarianism. I propose the following list of questions that need to be seriously reviewed and considered.
1. What does the term complementarianism mean? There is a maximum view and a minimum view, so what exactly should we think when we use the term itself and from what passages do we derive the definition from?
2. Is the theological position of complementarianism oppressive to women in any way?
3. Is the theological position of complementarianism restricting women from doing what God has called them to do?
4. Should we tolerate both minimum and maximum views of complementarianism in the same way we tolerate dispensationalism and amillennialism within the same evangelical circles or local churches?
5. Does the biblical text in regard to authority (1 Tim. 2:12) forbid women from serving as a professor of theology in a seminary setting?
6. Does this passage, as it pertains to teaching and preaching, forbid women from serving as associate pastors in the local church?
7. Does this passage, as it pertains to teaching and preaching, forbid women from speaking to a mixed audience in a conference setting?
8. Does 1 Timothy 2 forbid a woman from serving in a denominational leadership role such as the office of the president of the SBC, ERLC, or similar position?
9. If evangelicals redefine complementarity boundaries for leadership in the church and denominational structures, what affect will this have upon the roles of the home?
10. Will a redefining of complementarianism lead to a redefining of sexual boundaries within evangelicalism?
At one point, The Danvers Statement states the following rationale for the formation of the statement in 1987:
the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;
It seems as if history has repeated itself. So it is within the world of theology. It has been stated well there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9) and all modern heresy is ancient error retooled for an urbane culture. One of the affirmations (#8) of The Danvers Statement reads as follows:
In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will.
Do we still believe that a subjective calling to serve in ministry should be tested by the biblical texts cited in the above affirmation? These are serious questions that need to be clarified. The women’s liberation movement with its egalitarian approach to life was birthed in the Garden of Eden, it has Satan as its father (Satan is the father of all lies), and it has oppression as its ultimate goal. If we fail to be clear on comlementarianism (as a political move, by neglect, or by mere oversight), we will lead people into the trap of the enemy.
People are asking legitimate questions. While I’m not an alarmist, I do believe many organizations and entities are postured for serious problems if we take a left turn at this juncture. With all of the talk of entering a new era where women can flourish and be respected as fellow image-bearers, we need to evaluate this “new era” through a robust biblical lens to be certain that it’s not a false promise from an ancient serpent. Does complementarianism disrespect women and hold them back from God’s intended purpose and his original design? If not, we need to stand firm and stop apologizing for what God has ordained from the beginning.
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.
As we wrap up the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, there is much to be thankful for as we depart from the city of Dallas. First, we must be overjoyed that we have presidents who serve the seminaries of our Convention who are absolutely committed to the protection of women and the safety of both students and faculty members—especially those women who serve and study on their campuses. We must likewise be grateful for the attempt at more honest reporting of statistics by the North American Mission Board—something Kevin Ezell discussed in his report before the messengers. However, as we prepare to head back home today, I’m honestly confused over the amount of time and effort placed into the discussion of empowering women to leadership roles in the SBC. If we have already established our position on biblical complementarity years ago—why has it become such a talking point this year?
I truly appreciated the answer given by Dr. Albert Mohler following his report for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Wednesday morning when asked specifically about women serving in leadership roles in our SBC entities. He explained that the institution he oversees has a clear policy in place that they only hire faculty to teach in the school of theology who meet the qualifications of a pastor. He went on to explain that they have other schools where women can serve — but not as it pertains to the teaching of God’s Word.
All of our seminary presidents spoke of their unashamed embrace of complementarianism, to which they received a passionate applause from the floor by the messengers of the SBC. However, while that sounds encouraging, we must remember that words have meaning and we would be fooling ourselves if we truly believed that everyone in the SBC who claims to embrace complementarianism is unified on the definition of the term itself. It would be wise to have a good concise definition to work from when discussing the issue so as to avoid affirming or rejecting other people on the basis of a misunderstanding of their definition of complementarianism.
Not only is our culture seeking to blur the lines between what it means to be a man and a woman—such distinct boundaries and roles are being tested in the religious circles as well. In fact, on Monday evening at a #MeToo panel discussion during the 2018 SBC, James Merritt, pastor and former president of the SBC, was quoted by Jonathan Merritt in a tweet stating:
“A woman can be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t see anything in the Bible that prohibits that,” says and receives a round of applause at panel at
This same type of language was used on social media frequently leading up to the SBC. With all of the buzz on social media about empowering women that led to questions coming from the floor by the messengers, it would be good to explain why electing a woman to the office of president of the SBC is a bad idea—one that would have a lasting negative impact upon our Convention both practically and theologically.
The Annual Meeting of the SBC Is More Than a Business Meeting
If the SBC’s annual meeting was only a business meeting, it would be easier to make the case for a woman to preside over the business as the president of the Convention. The truth is, women are intelligent, articulate, and capable in many ways—so our view of complementarianism has nothing to do with a diminished view of the giftedness or abilities of women. It is focused, however, upon the role distinction of men and women within God’s original design along with the boundaries that God has instituted from the beginning.
The SBC, as a large family of churches (47,000), meets annually to carry out the business and to organize specific missions and discipleship ministries of the SBC. However, more than business and organizing of ministries takes place during the second week of June each summer. The messengers gather to worship in song, prayer, preaching, and much of this worship is under the direct oversight of the president. Add to this scenario the reality that the president of the SBC typically preaches the convention sermon—which would not be possible under a proper complementarity position.
To be clear, a woman serving in the office of the president of the SBC would lead to a violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 which states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Preaching and teaching should be reserved for men—which is not an invention by misogynist men who seek to hold women back, nor is it a an ancient cultural boundary for Paul’s cultural context. Complementarity is rooted and grounded in creation as God placed Adam as the head to Eve and required that Eve submit to her husband. Paul states the same thing in Ephesians 5 as he speaks of the headship of men, the submissiveness of women, and role distinctions between men and women that were instituted by God from the beginning. This complementarity honors God and creates opportunities for men and women to both fulfill their God given abilities for the glory of God.
The SBC President Is Most Often a Pastor
In less than a half a dozen instances in 173 years, the president of the SBC is always a pastor. When leading pastors, it would be good to have a pastor to lead and help give direction on missions and discipleship partnerships that will have a direct impact upon the local churches of the Convention. You would have to go back to the 1960s for the last time a president of the SBC was not a pastor.
Once again—this idea speaks to the authority aspect of the office of president which would seem to violate 1 Timothy 2:12 if a woman occupied that office and carried out all of the necessary functionalities. Furthermore, the office of president most often being a pastor allows for the president to lead, guide, and organize ministry in an authoritative manner while preaching and teaching the Word without violating any of God’s complementarity roles.
Complementarity Is Under Attack in our Culture
The move toward empowering women to fulfill their calling is a worthy movement for the churches of the SBC to support—so long as it’s helping women fulfill God’s original design for them as helpers and disciple makers within their home and local church context. If we’re completely and brutally honest—a biblical understanding of complementarity will not lead naturally toward the pursuit of the office of president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The world hates complementarity and has already slain mainstream denominations on this important distinctive resulting in practical and theological capitulation. That is the exact opposite direction from where the SBC has historically led pastors, missionaries, and messengers of the Convention. A move toward a new or broad complementarity will lead to a fracture of the SBC and potentially a split over what’s being called secondary.
We must never forget the fact that the feminist movement promoted equality for women and a liberation that allowed women to expand their horizons. The feminist movement is not a new movement in human history. In fact, it dates back much earlier than the 1950s or 1960s. The feminist movement dates back to the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit and in doing so he tempted her with more than expanded horizons. In his crafty temptation, he placed before Eve a role reversal opportunity to lead her husband, a violation of God’s authority, and he cast a doubt on God’s Word all at the same time. That pattern continues to this very day and is very much alive in our evangelical culture.
When the world attempts to shame us on our position of complementarity—we need to hear the hiss of the original attack by Satan himself in the Garden of Eden. We will not be loved for following Jesus—and since Jesus invented complementarity in the beginning—we should anticipate the world to despise it, reject it, and mock it. That sounds much less threatening until the hatred and mocking is directed at you or me personally. Be prepared to be hated, but to those who remain faithful, the Lord himself will reward you.