I recently read Corrie ten Boom’s Holocaust memoir, The Hiding Place, for the umpteenth time. It’s radically different from other Holocaust memoirs, as ten Boom writes about her enemy, the Nazis, with angelic empathy. Although ten Boom is frank about her momentary anger and bitterness, by the end of the book she opens up a home where Nazis and their victims are able to learn the truth of the gospel.
Most of us can’t imagine the amount of forgiveness it requires to serve the very people responsible for the deaths of millions. Heck, most of us can’t muster the forgiveness required to deal with random strangers on the Internet. And the reason we can’t fathom forgiving these people is because we allow ourselves to be offended by their behavior in the first place.
In Matthew 5:39, Jesus preaches, “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Accepted at face value, the verse makes no sense and it isn’t practical in our sin-filled world. For Christians are also expected to protect those who cannot protect themselves, which often requires putting up a resistance to evil. For instance, during World War II, the ten Booms saved the lives of dozens of Jews by resisting the Nazis.
And Jesus reinforced the importance of having leaders and laws to protect the people, which included punishing those who harm others. He would not have suggested that a victim proclaim earthly clemency to her rapist, thereby freeing him to rape again. He would not have suggested that robbers be allowed to rob, murderers be allowed to murder, or adulterers be allowed to cheat without consequences. And yet, we are to turn the other cheek. Somehow.
I don’t experience a ton of persecution in my daily life. On occasion, acquaintances make derogatory comments concerning my faith. I’ve been called names, including slut, prude, dumb, and ugly. Most people have experienced this. It’s not new to our culture, although the slang changes with each generation. But the one area where I often feel the most persecuted is within the church itself.
It’s one of the unfortunate side effects of being female. Step into many conservative churches and find that they have created a set of rules that apply only to you. Don’t preach. Don’t lead. Obey your husband without question. And that is the sermon that John MacArthur preaches. Over and over again. He publicly berates female speakers as false prophets, tells them to go home, and he uses the Bible to do it.
By doing this, John MacArthur has made several enemies. Enemies who love to take the worst pieces of his sermons and create clickbait, knowing that his words will enrage anyone who believes in empowerment. It works, because that’s how I felt when I read those articles.
It was offensive to read about feminine vulnerabilities as interpreted by a man who has never experienced them. It was offensive to read that John MacArthur believes I’m going against God’s will by writing a Christian blog, because a man might read it and *gasp* learn something. And so my first inclination was to listen to his entire sermon for the sole purpose of ripping it apart.
See, I’m great at arguing. Ask my husband, or my mother, or anyone who angered me while I was growing up. I can present a great argument for almost anything because all it takes to be great at arguing is confidence, persistence, and a little bit of truth. And that is the basis for John MacArthur’s war on female leadership within the church.
People like to claim that MacArthur’s theology is wrong. But it’s not. At least not entirely. There are bits of truth sprinkled in there, which is what makes his argument seem plausible. So I listened to the entire seventy-five minute sermon. I listened to parts of it twice just to ensure I didn’t misunderstand him. There were parts that were convicting, there were parts where I just shook my head, and there were parts where I laughed hysterically because I couldn’t take him seriously. He started out the sermon by saying, “I don’t like to give short answers,” and his answer was certainly long. But it can be summed up easily.
According to John MacArthur, women should not be preaching, teaching, praying, or leading from the pulpit. He used all the right Bible verses to make this point, including Titus 2, 1 Timothy 2, and 1 Peter 3. He used facts from the Bible, including the lack of known female leadership. Sure there was Deborah and Holda, but they were exceptions, used only because there were no men available.
That’s a paraphrase. What he actually said was, “In the absence of a man, the Lord used Deborah to bring about His will on one occassion.” I suppose all the men were too busy, which meant the Lord’s only option was a woman. He left out Judges 4:9, where Deborah prophesied to Barak, leader of Israel’s army by saying, “The Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” And he failed to mention Jael, the housewife who killed Sisera, enemy of Israel, by driving a tent peg into his temple, thereby fulfilling Deborah’s prophecy.
MacArthur got it wrong. He views women as shallow creatures more concerned about their hair than the body of Christ. He views us as lacking self-control. I could go on and on disproving these views. But I’d rather take some time to explain what he got right, because those parts do require some further explanation that he left out.
(1) MacArthur states that women have trouble relinquishing control to their husbands. That’s accurate. Even our culture preaches, “Happy wife, happy life.” I mentioned earlier that I’m argumentative. I want security in my life, and when my husband disagrees with me about finances, parenting, chores, or anything else, it’s very easy for me to lose that sense of security. Naturally, I want to fight to get it back. But God says, “Trust him.” And I’ve learned that trusting my husband makes him feel respected and loved, which in turn improves our communication and helps us make decisions together. That being said, too often our conservative church leaders forget to preach the counterpart to a woman’s submission, which is a husband’s love, or his required consideration for her thoughts. And to try and preach on a woman’s submission without giving equal time to the role of a Christian husband is counterproductive to the church’s mission.
(2) MacArthur also claimed, “When women take over a culture, men become weak.” That sounds incredibly misogynistic. But, since MacArthur based his entire argument on the face value of Bible verses without studying history or seeking out the Holy Spirit, I’m going to take this statement at face value, too. If women seek to take over, then yes, men must become weak. But female leadership in the church should not replace or usurp male leadership. Every female pastor I’ve ever heard has sought to work with her male coworkers for the sake of spreading the gospel. They have preached harmony, accountability, and fellowship. Therefore, while I believe women are fully capable of leading and ought to be included in church leadership, that is not at the expense of their brothers in Christ. Likewise, men should not be leading at the expense of their sisters. There should be no power struggle within the church, as we have already chosen Christ as King, and we are all to be His obedient servants.
(3) Finally, MacArthur stated, “Your husband is intended to protect you.” Now every feminist tendency in me wants to SCREAM at him for this. I want to protest and remind him that I don’t actually need a man, and that I can take care of myself. But then I remember that evil is abundant in this world, evil that often victimizes women, and my husband is able to protect me from some of it. Evil respects my husband when it does not respect me, and I appreciate his protection. Accepting his protection does not diminish my own abilities or make me weaker, it simply makes us a stronger unit. To give him some credit, MacArthur does acknowledge singleness as a gift that God bestows on certain women, which suggests he doesn’t believe women to be inept protectors. Nor does he speak against women working outside the home or serving in the military, at least not in this particular sermon.
It took seventy-five minutes to change my mind about John MacArthur. He’s wrong. But he’s simply spouting off the same Bible verses he memorized in seminary, and grasping at straws to try to explain why these verses, and the gender they reference, are actually simple. His sermon contained no evidence of compassion or mercy, although perhaps that’s because he claimed those to be feminine sensibilities. There was no testimony or mention of how Christ empowered women to do what had previously been forbidden because of the Fall. And whether we chalk it up to his ignorance or willful exclusion of truth, MacArthur is living in a very sad world.
I’m not mad. I’m not offended. I truly feel sorry for him. Because if his heart is hardened to the possibility of female leadership, then he is hardened to the wisdom that a woman might be able to impart on his life. He is hardened to the fact that he might have more to learn. And when a man (or woman) has eliminated the possibility that he might be wrong, and that he might have more to learn about our great God and the human race, then he has very little reason to keep living.
John MacArthur doesn’t view us as sisters capable of studying theology at his level. But don’t be offended by his closed mind. Pray for the people who will hear his words and accept it as a simple truth. Pray that they will study God’s truth for themselves. Recognize that John MacArthur is going to continue to spew his version of the gospel but don’t be offended by it. And, of course, pray for him.
Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. Do you know what that means?
Do not be offended by evil. When it attacks you, stay true to your faith and keep your heart open. Do not return evil with evil, but proclaim His name in love, knowing evil will attempt to offend you again.
I’m going to quote one of my favorite Bible passages with a few minor changes. Acts 5:38-39 says, “Leave these (women) alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these (women); you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
I firmly believe that God has gifted Beth Moore and the many, many other women that MacArthur preaches against. So don’t be offended by MacArthur. He’s waging a war on the daughters of Christ that he cannot possibly win. So turn the other cheek, and wait for him to hit you again. Kill him with kindness and keep ministering. You don’t have to argue with him to prove him wrong.