“amateur discernment experts who are housewives and homeschool moms” ~ tell us what you really think

(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

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Comments

  1. Jack Brooks says

    Fact 1: Public discourse always allows for public critique, pro or con. There is no gender limit on that principle. Payk’s command to the Thessalonian church, “Test everything; keep what is good” was for everyone in that congregation.

    Fact 2: The Internet is the modern electronic equivalent of the public square or the ancient Roman plaza. It isn’t church. I agree that Paul taught that women should not pray in tongues or prophesy/preach in the gathered assembly (1 Corinthians 14:34, interpreting “not speak” in terms of the preceding material which was about the right mg’t of the gifts of tongues & prophecy). I also agree that women are not to be pastors/elders in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-15). But Christian women are never forbidden from examining a man’s teachings, or warning others if there is something noticeably wrong with someone’s ministry. An Internet blog is just someone talking out loud in print.

    Fact 3: The Pyromaniacs are the last ones who have the right to complain about the sin of shrill criticism. They are all as haughty and pompous as can be, which is why I dropped them from my blogroll.

  2. says

    Remember waaaay back when, Karen, when we both started blogging and R.C. Sproul, Jr. said that women shouldn’t be blogging and had to do some major backtracking? I thought of that right away when I read your post.

    Johnson’s last comment of the discussion (the one you quoted) is telling. I will give him credit that he is at least consistent with his view and application of the complementarian doctrine. I’ve discussed this a number of times on my own site, especially when I did a series on complementarian versus egalitarian views. Many people who call themselves complementarians don’t fully practice the complementarian doctrine. He does. He apparently thinks women should be seen and not heard in the assembly of the church. I just don’t see how he gets that to jive with so many other passages of Scripture.

    I don’t know which women he has in mind since I don’t follow any of the so-called Reformed “Big Dogs”. I can guess one is the SGM Survivors site which is really too bad because I have personally really appreciated that blog.

    I agree, Karen, with your last paragraph that it comes across as a pulling rank type attitude and an attempt to shut down those who would ask questions. Kind of a “touch not the Lord’s annointed” attitude which always sends my discernment radar into overdrive. Oh sorry. I don’t have a discernment radar since I’m a woman. Silly me. Here I was these past twenty plus years thinking I had that gift and seeing God use it time and time again. I guess not. It must have been all in my mind. 😉

  3. says

    I love the phrase “one of the clear implications….” If it’s so clear, why is it only an implication?

    Basic reading comprehension demands us to recognize that the verses in question say nothing about objecting to an elder but simply “Women must keep silent in the church.” However we decide to interpret that (here I get out a ten-foot pole, look at it, decide it’s not long enough, retreat) it obviously has nothing to do with what women talk about in public outside of the assembly. That’s plain old eisegesis. Also, it’s insulting and misogynistic and hyperbolic and condescending and alarmist and misleading and divisive and ignorant and — oops, I’m getting shrill.

  4. says

    The grotesquely ironic thing to me is that many of the wives and daughters of these men are blogging as well, Stacy McDonald and the like. Of course, they are supporting their husbands’ and fathers’ views in their blogs, so that must make a difference; but frequently they call out what they view to be “false” teachings (which really amounts to those who disagree with them), albeit in a much more indirect and passive-aggressive way that you do here, Karen. Speaking of which, that is one of the things I appreciate most about your blog: your directness and fearlessness. It’s so refreshing.

  5. Adam says

    Karen,

    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.

    However, given the setting he is talking about [the internet], the pastor *is* infallible and above critique. If, at any point in time, a minister is unwilling to be corrected by the scriptures, he has set himself in the position of God, and holds an unbiblical position.

    “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.

    The context of that passage is not even teaching and correction; the context of that passage is chaos within worship service. What Paul is saying is, if there is this chaos, women should not likewise speak up and add to the chaos. One has to explain what Paul means when he tells women that they are to wear a head covering when they pray or prophesy, which makes no sense if they never pray or prophesy.

    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.

    Not only that, but the idea that Eve was deceived because women are just naturally more gullible is disproven simply by finding one example of a man who is more gullible than a woman. That is not hard to do. I believe Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is easily understood; the rationale for it, however, is not so easily understood. What does being created first have to do with teaching authority in the local church, for example? What does being deceived in the past have to do with teaching authority? Paul doesn’t say.

    Also, Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is in the context of the teaching offices of the church. Immediately following this discussion is the qualifications for elder. The only way that this command would be violated is if a woman was teaching in an official church capacity, such as an elder or deacon, and correcting a man.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  6. says

    Karen – I was thinking more about this while reading at SGM Survivors last night. The most current post over there is a discussion called “Trust Me” Verses Totaly Depravity. It is at: http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/?p=3156

    The application to your post? The comments contain a very interesting discussion about the role of the pastor in terms of being practically infallible in identifying sin in others and giving direction to others in every detail of their lives. It is a carry over from the shepherding movement of the 70’s and 80’s where the pastor is standing “in the stead of God”. I’ve had a couple of experiences with this movement and it can clearly be seen in SGM. If someone isn’t familiar with this line of thinking, you really have to become educated in it to understand it because it is not really what one would consider orthodox Christianity.

    So what does this have to do with your post? A couple of things. Members of the body of Christ have access to an incredible amount of information now. We aren’t uninformed lemmings who blindly follow whatever the pastor wants. We have the ability to test what we hear, discuss it with other believers literally around the world, and come to our own conclusions like good Bereans. This is, unfortunately, a threat to those in positions of power. And people who feel that their power is threatened almost always try to tighten the grip.

    If a pastor or blogger is too busy to “come down” and talk to the lowly sheep, then that is his choice. He’s made the choice to busy himself with a huge congregation or a blog with a large following. But he shouldn’t be surprised if the sheep look for another fold where they will be heard and taken seriously.

    Johnson wouldn’t necessarily identify himself as subscriber to SGM theology, but among many of those who would be considered New-Reformed, there is an increasing heavy-handedness in dealing with dissenters. This includes putting women in their place which is to be seen but not heard unless you are parroting the party line which was mentioned above by Emily. If you are talking the party line, then you are welcome to blog as much as you want and are welcome to join the “discussion.”

  7. says

    No, this is a pastor claiming “special revelation” as the gift of discernment….
    and Driscoll no less. And to add more to the irony, it is Phil Johnson who uploaded this to You Tube!

  8. Gayla says

    I am glad you have the energy to keep a watchful eye on those that need to be watched–and held responsible for what they do and say. Keep up the good work.

  9. says

    If this is the same (Grace to You, John MacArthur) Phil Johnson, none of this surprises me. Sadly we’ve had to walk away (no…RUN…FLEE) from two churches pastored by Master’s Seminary(John MacArthur) graduates. Both for their views of women, which are really subhuman. The first “pastor” began teaching the women’s Bible study if there was ever a lesson on scripture…he would allow lessons on “Cooking for a Large Family”, or “How to clean…” but if it had anything to do with scripture he came and taught. When hubby and I were looking into the second church we attended by a Master’s grad, we asked about women’s ministries….bible studies etc. We were told that women could go through a book study approved by him, but not a BIBLE study. Then the wife told me that they would never allow a “weekly Tuesday morning” type gathering of women. At the time there wasn’t any meeting…but they eventually allowed a monthly book study. The last place I wanted to run from immediately, but my hubby didn’t see the “harm” in staying. Being we love MacArthur’s emphasis on scripture and such hubby felt it was ok to stay. I tried for about 6 months to get him to see what I saw. But eventually the Lord prompted me in my personal time with Him to follow my husband and trust Him. Which I did. Long story short we had to FLEE with our marriage barely intact and our faith shaken to the core. Today…a few years later…our marriage is strong & our faith renewed….not our faith in the church….but in GOD…and we long for our four daughters to never walk the paths we’ve taken.

  10. says

    Sorry…got hung up at the mention of Phil Johnson. What I wanted to add was that these people deny the fact that women have the Holy Spirit residing in them. They won’t say it outright, but in essence that is their practice. It’s almost as if anytime a woman speaks it’s tuned out, or discredited solely on the fact that she is a woman. That is what I mean by subhuman…women are treated like they have little worth.

  11. Tricia says

    I wonder if he realizes that the Samaritan woman could very well be considered the first evangelist! “Come meet a man who told all things I ever did…is this not the Christ?”
    Thank you for bringing up the female Bereans. And thank you to all women (and men) who are watchers on the wall. For those who write blogs and books and hold conferences to forewarn others of what is going on in the church world that is not Biblical.

  12. says

    Lynnea, I am so glad you shared your story here. I have great concern about what has been coming out of some groups I used to consider very biblically sound. There is a HUGE agenda for women that seems to be spreading and gaining momentum via the homeschooling community without hardly any push back from many who know better. I often run these sorts of things past how other believers in history would have looked at these more modern notions. D.L. Moody, for example, pushed for women to be educated and then sent them to do evangelistic work. And look at that amazing quote from Spurgeon! Not “allowing” women to study the Bible without a man present? Nonsense!

    Here is a thought that I keep coming back to….why is it that many of these popular big name teaching pastors would impose all these interpretations on women for today and yet they will renounce slavery? To be consistent, it seems to me that these issues have to be examined in the same way.

  13. Adam says

    Karen,

    I was watching the video and reading Phil Johnson’s blog today, and one of the things that struck me is that I am not so much concerned about pointing out tendencies towards certain sins. I think Tom Chantry is right that Paul many times does mention certain sins that, at his time, were typical of individual sexes.

    However, my concern is when 1. no examples are given, and 2. it is used as a stereotype to shut people up that you don’t want to be heard, even though they are speaking the truth, and 3. when it is used to establish an authority that cannot be questioned by scripture. As I said, given what Phil said in that quote, in a public arena such as the internet, when it comes to women, men are the ultimate authority not scripture. Why? Because they cannot be questioned by the scriptures, and hence, what they say in public is final.

    Here is the simple response: When God’s word is being accurately handled, it is God speaking. When a person chooses to ignore that voice simple because it is being mediated by a female, they are the ones who are in rebellion to authority. Let me put it this way, Balaam was accountable to God for his rejection of God’s message mediated through the mouth of a donkey which is not even human. How much more so will leaders be held accountable who reject the message of God mediated through someone created in the image of God?

    This is not to validate all female, homeschooling bloggers; we must always be open to the possibility that there are troublemakers among this group, as there are troublemakers amongst all groups. Still, the way you discern is by going back to the scriptures and seeing if they are being handled aright; not by looking at their gender.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  14. says

    Adam, I so appreciate these words, especially this:

    “Here is the simple response: When God’s word is being accurately handled, it is God speaking. When a person chooses to ignore that voice simple because it is being mediated by a female, they are the ones who are in rebellion to authority. Let me put it this way, Balaam was accountable to God for his rejection of God’s message mediated through the mouth of a donkey which is not even human. How much more so will leaders be held accountable who reject the message of God mediated through someone created in the image of God?”

  15. says

    Adam, I saw that article…outrageous! Kinism and Confederate Idealism, unfortunately, are alive and well in the patriocentric world! Sadly, we have experienced both first hand; it is subtle and “undercover” but it is there!

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