(I will get back to the transcripts from the Quiverfull movement, but wanted to respond to this discussion first.)
A couple days ago I received an e-mail from a dear friend wondering if I had been following the exchange between Pyromaniacs’ Phil Johnson and Wretched Radio’s Todd Friel that included a discussion on good and bad discernment articles online and the women bloggers who write them. Borrowing the phrase “monstrous regiment of women” from reformer John Knox, Johnson lamented the number of women bloggers, “mostly amateur discernment experts who are housewives and homeschool moms” who are “shrill” and out of line in their critiques of popular ministries, apparently including his.
His initial comments came off the top of his head and in the context of discussing online discernment forums in general, and specifically The Elephant Room conferences that are being hosted by James MacDonald (not Stacy’s husband but the other one) and Mark Driscoll. Later he followed up these thoughts with a blog entry on his website. I googled and watched and listened and read and, though the comments were, I believe, disappointingly sexist, especially coming from a homeschooling dad (there are plenty of shrill, ranting men bloggers and I often find Johnson and Friel themselves offensively lacking in graciousness), there was an even bigger idea and attitude than one disparaging these homeschooling moms in both the video and the comment section that I found very troubling.
Just prior to the comments regarding homeschooling moms, around the 25 minute mark, Johnson defended himself for not being willing to discuss certain issues (again, in reference to The Elephant Room), comparing himself to Nehemiah, a man he says was called by God to do a great work and was so busy that he did not have time to come down and have dialogue with others. I might not have been as bothered by that statement alone though there is a particular manly arrogance it exudes, but taken alongside this entry in the comment section, it sent off all sorts of alarm bells for me:
“No matter how broadly you want to interpret 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, one of the clear implications of that text is that it’s not fitting for a woman who has no teaching authority in the church to raise a public objection against a teaching elder whose office is recognized by the church. That’s not to say the pastor is infallible or above critique, and there is (of course) a proper venue for a lay woman to share her concerns or ask her questions, but a blog on the Internet is not that venue. If any woman fancies herself a gift to the church as a guardian of sound doctrine because she thinks she has a special “gift of discernment” that entitles her to go online and write insulting epithets against a duly ordained and divinely-called pastor, She is seriously mistaken and grossly out of line–and she is an embarrassment to propriety and feminine modesty.”
First of all, Johnson is warning half the body of Christ that we need to remember our place, that women are not to expose false teachings for what they are, specifically because we have “no teaching authority in the church.” Since Pastor Johnson also maintains the Spurgeon Archive, perhaps he would enjoy this quote from the Prince of Preachers, commenting on the two femininely modest Marys at the tomb:
“They were the first to see their risen Lord, and we will try to learn something from them tonight. It should be an encouragement to those members of the church of Christ who are neither pastors nor teachers that, if they live very near to God, they may yet teach pastors and teachers. Get clear views of our Lord, as did these holy women, who had no office in the church and yet taught the officers, for they were sent to bear to the apostles the tidings that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. Not first to them who were the heads of the church, as it were, but first of all to lowly women did the Lord appear, and the apostles themselves had to go to school, to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to learn that great truth, “The Lord is risen indeed.”
Though there are a variety of opinions out there regarding women teaching men among conservatives, all true Bible teachers I am aware of would agree that older women have most definitely been given the authority to teach younger women in the church. Part of that, I believe, is to warn of false teachings that specifically threaten relationships with husbands and children. Johnson failed to mention that.
Secondly, Johnson sounds a bit like the quotes I shared in my last article from Luther, Kostenberger, and Calvin. Does this mean that women aren’t to seek to be discerning since they are more easily deceived? Perhaps the lady Bereans misunderstood Paul’s commendation of their faithfulness to holding ALL teachings from ALL teachers, including Paul himself, up to the light of Scripture.
And, finally, aside from the command to admonish one another, since when is the blogosphere an organized church? In my opinion, this is another one of those attempts to shut down questioning and examining truth by attempting to pull rank, a rank that does not even exist! Is it any wonder so many people are leaving the institutional church in droves when there is this sort of discourse being continually bandied about?
“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” ~ Luke 4:22