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This was an ideal setup for the father of lies, however, as he now had ample opportunity to undermine the clear Word of God with his distorted version of the truth. And so, as pragmatism and worldly influence came to define the gathering known as "church," so too did liberalism sneak into the pew. As with other worldly trends, the church was a few years behind the culture, but still did the sinful, upside-down ideals of feminism creep into the church where they have been nurtured and thus continue to flourish today.
Preaching in 1986, Dr. John MacArthur would say:
The dialogue and debate and even conflict that goes on over the issue of the role of women in the church has reached massive proportions. It is amazing to me that it all began with a sort of self-justifying effort on the part of a group of lesbians who wanted to have their day in the sun and gave birth to the modern feminist movement. Feminism rises out of sinful perversion and yet in spite of its origin it has found its way into the culture of our society in almost every area and even lately into the church. And the church for years committed to certain standards of behavior for men and women is systematically and rather progressively throwing aside all of its former doctrines in favor of newer ones. I am amazed at how many evangelical churches, schools and even seminaries are fast jettisoning things that they have for all their life long held to be biblical truths.
Books are coming out written by people who have for all their ministry been known as evangelicals now denying the things they've always believed and affirming new truth regarding the role of women. They're going back to passages in the Scripture and saying they have to be reinterpreted. Some are saying they have to be ignored, they reflect only Paul's anti-female bias. Others are saying they were added later by editors and they do not reflect the intent of the biblical writer or even his own verbiage. One or another kind of approach is used to do away with what has been the traditional interpretation of the Word of God. In fact, interpreting passages which are so patently obvious that even a rather brief reading of the passage, as I have just done, leaves you in little doubt as to the intent of its meaning.
But nonetheless, the church which is to be the last bastion of the truth of God is falling fast to the march of the feminist army. 1
These are not pastors and leaders who sit on the fringes of Christianity, rather these are the celebrities of the evangelical world. These are those who are setting a precedent for the 'ordinary' and unknown Christian woman. Throughout the visible church, women are usurping the roles of men and forsaking their own God-given roles within the Body of Christ. This is not simply happening in one-off occurrences when a pastor is away and invites a guest speaker to preach. This is not simply a matter of women preaching to mixed audiences at conferences. This is not even only about the role of the primary preaching elder in the church. Everyday women (meaning, not celebrities like Beth Moore or Christine Caine), have usurped the leadership roles of men even within the local church. Why? Because the culture fosters feminism, and thus so does the pragmatic church as it seeks to appeal to the world rather than desiring to obey the clear Word of God.
When asked his thoughts about women usurping roles of leadership and authority within the church, Executive Director of Grace to You, Phil Johnson, had this to say:
What’s most unbiblical is easily boiled down to this: women are not supposed to have authority over men in the church....
The biblical issue is the question of authority. It’s not to say that men are smarter than women; it’s not to say that men inherently are better teachers than women, none of that is the case. It’s just the order God established for authority and it’s an issue of authority and the leadership duty in the church.
It’s for the women’s benefit as well, that men, their husbands and fathers and the men in the church, should take leadership because you can see in our culture what happens when this is reversed....
It doesn’t boil down to something as simple as, “Should women literally keep silent and never say anything?” The issue is authority and if you take all of those texts in context, you can see that. Paul is saying men should lead the church. Qualified men should lead the church. It’s just as bad for unqualified men to lead the church as it is for women to lead the church. So it’s not a sexist thing, it’s just that this is the way that God has established order in the church. Christ is the head and He has under-shepherds who are qualified men. Both disqualified men and women who take that office have intruded into a role that God hasn’t assigned to them and that’s disobedience. 2Disobedience. This seems clear enough and even a cursory glance at the Scriptures addressing the topic lends itself to an understanding of God's clearly established and commanded order of the church. But man is rebellious and so he seeks to bend the Word to his own purposes rather than submitting himself to the Word clearly provided to him by God.
Women desire positions of authority and control, of that there is little doubt. As part of the curse of the Fall, the God-ordained roles of men and women were distorted:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)In the book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, in a chapter entitled, "Male-Female Equality and Male Headship," Ray Ortlund makes a very important distinction between male headship and male domination. The concept of male headship is gleaned from the model that Christ is the Head of the Church and, likewise, the husband is the head of the wife (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23). Male domination, says Ortlund, is the antithesis of this, as the man asserts his will over the woman's will with no regard for her spiritual equality, rights or value.3 It is crucial that one understand the difference, as well as understand that even the Christian who holds to complementarian thought would denounce male domination.
Ortlund then explains the error made by evangelical feminism:
Evangelical feminism argues that God created man and woman as equals in a sense that excludes male headship. Male headship/domination (feminism acknowledges no distinction) was imposed upon Eve as a penalty for her part in the fall. It follows, in this view, that a woman’s redemption in Christ releases her from the punishment of male headship.4This, then, sets the stage for the erroneous reasoning behind evangelical feminism. The concept of male headship, however, is not rooted in the Fall. It did not first appear in Genesis 3:16. Rather, it is rooted in the creation order before the Fall ever took place.
God created male headship as one aspect of our pre-fall perfection. Therefore, while many women today need release from male domination, the liberating alternative is not female rivalry or autonomy but male headship wedded to female help. Christian redemption does not redefine creation; it restores creation, so that wives learn godly submission and husbands learn godly headship.5Yet the curse of the Fall is demonstrated throughout history as mankind perpetuates this distortion of roles both outside and inside of the church. The language Paul uses in his first letter to Timothy indicates that women at the church in Ephesus already were appropriating for themselves the roles reserved for men. Hence, Paul had to clearly restate God's intended order:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:11–15)It seems astonishing, then, that any church claiming submission and fidelity to Scripture would blatantly disobey such commands. Yet it happens and it happens frequently.
With the success of his Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicagoland area, Bill Hybels quickly became one of the founders of the seeker-driven movement, thus popularizing the lure of liberalism into the visible church as it is known today. The most recently released "Willow Weekly" newsletter includes a brief article about elders and what is required for those desiring to be in this position of leadership at the megachurch.
From the "Willow Weekly":
Of those passages listed above (Titus 1:9, Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1–4, 1 Tim. 3:2–7), the two that speak most clearly of the character qualifications of those in leadership are those found in the Pastoral Epistles, namely 1 Timothy 3:2–7 and not merely only Titus 1:9, but Titus 1:5–9.
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:2–7)
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:5–9)A full discussion of these passages would take more space than ought to be granted to this one post. Though there are many similarities between these two passages (thus demonstrating that the qualifications for elders set forth by God are an unchanging standard), take careful note of this phrase: "the husband of one wife." At the risk of over-simplifying the issue, how is it that a woman can be the husband of one wife? Does this not immediately disqualify women from holding such a post?
The broader context of these passages, especially that of 1 Timothy 3:2–7, draws a distinct line between the roles of men and women in worship. Men are to lead prayer in worship (1 Tim. 2:8), while women are commanded to be present in the worship service so that they, too, may learn (1 Tim. 2:11). While women today may bristle at the idea that a woman is to "learn quietly with all submissiveness," the cultural realities must also be acknowledged. At the time of Paul's writing, in both Jewish and Greek society, women often were not encouraged to attend public worship. Their presence there was unimportant.6 The fact that Paul commands them to be present and affirms their right to learn must have been a great joy to the women of that day. And why must women be present to learn and be instructed in the Word of God? Because they too have grand ministry opportunities to raise godly children (1 Tim. 2:15) and to instruct fellow women in the faith.
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5)
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 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. (Titus 2:3–5)"That the word of God may not be reviled." In the church, when women usurp the authority granted to men, or when men abdicate their role, thus opening the door for women to take their place, the Word of God is reviled. It is disobeyed, defied and denigrated. The roles of men and women within the Body of Christ are clearly defined by God Himself. The distinction between these roles does not nullify the glorious reality of spiritual equality in Christ (Rom. 3:22; Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13), but it does demonstrate the importance of submission—by both men and women—to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.
When Willow Creek elder Missy Rasmussen states that "to be an Elder, you should feel God is leading you. It's a calling," one can know for certain that it is not God who is "calling" her to this role. Rather, it is a deception by the Great Deceiver himself, whose great goal is to confuse and destroy God's ordained plan and corrupt His perfect design. It is Satan who successfully tempts women to be discontent with their God-created roles in the church, family and society.7
Shame on the church, then, for allowing such corruption within its walls. Ironically, it is a failure of leadership that has led to the allowance of this role-reversal. When the leadership capitulates to the liberalism of the land, welcoming it into the God-designed structure known as the church, it is only a matter of time before the rest of Scripture is seen by that church as merely a helpful guide, and not the pure and holy Word of God. Like God Himself, the Word of the Almighty does not change. How sad it is that those who have been entrusted to teach this Word are the very ones willing to transgress it.
1. John MacArthur, "The Call to Lead the Church—Elders, Part 1," preached 6 April 1986.
2. "An Interview with Phil Johnson, Part 2," Christian Research Network, 31 July 2012.
3. Ray Ortlund, "Male-Female Equality and Male Headship," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 86.
4. Ray Ortlund, "Male-Female Equality and Male Headship," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 86.
5. Ray Ortlund, "Male-Female Equality and Male Headship," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 95.
6. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 83.
7. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 78.
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