A Response to John MacArthur and an Appeal for Common Courtesy91
It seems that everyone is weighing in on the comments made by John MacArthur at his recent conference in California. For those of you not yet aware of what happened, MacArthur was asked to give his brief response to what was supposed to be a one-word utterance. It turned out to be two words: “Beth Moore.”
MacArthur’s immediate response also came in the form of two words: “Go home,” which provoked uproarious laughter from those in attendance. He proceeded to make a few additional comments about there being no basis in Scripture for women preachers. His assistant, Phil Johnson, was heard to say that what comes to his mind when he hears her name is “Narcissist.” He cites Beth Moore as an example of what it means “to preach yourself rather than Christ.”
I am a complementarian, but I fear in making known my convictions I may be linked with those who claim the same label and yet speak unkindly and in snarky, snide sound-bites of our Christian sisters. I couldn’t help but ask myself as I listened to the panel discussion, “What has become of common courtesy?”
Just over a week ago Beth Moore was in Oklahoma City at an event hosted by her Living Proof Ministries. About 75 of our women from Bridgeway attended, my wife included. Not one returned with concerns that Beth preached herself “rather than Christ.” Her messages, I am told, were profoundly biblical, Christ-centered, and life-changing. I thank God for Beth Moore.
Although I have never attended one of her conferences, I have heard her speak on a number of occasions and have found her to be anything but a Narcissist. She is a self-less servant of the Lord who aims only to magnify our Savior and to build up others in their faith.
But my aim in this short article isn’t to defend Beth Moore. My concern is with the ever-increasing loss of common decency and kindness on the part of some of our male leaders. Many will wonder, “Who are you to criticize John MacArthur, who at (or near) the age of 80 has served the body of Christ so faithfully?” Well, let me say first of all that to the degree that MacArthur has been faithful to God’s Word, I do honor him. In case you’re wondering, I turn 69 next February so I do have a few years on earth and 45 of them spent in ministry. But age and longevity in ministry do not give anyone, male or female, a free pass when it comes to how we treat or speak of other believers.
As I look at the ministry of Jesus, I never once find him speaking in such a snide and condescending way to any woman. Dorothy Sayers put it best in her comments on how Jesus treated women:
“They [women] had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made jokes about them, never treated them either as 'The women, God help us!' or 'The ladies, God bless them!'; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything 'funny' about women's nature” (Dorothy Sayers).
Let me pose a question to the married men reading this article. Would you want other men to “honor” your wife even as the Apostle Peter calls on you to “honor” yours (1 Peter 3:7)? I certainly do. Yes, I know that 1 Peter 3:7 is addressing how men should “honor” their own wives, but do you think Peter would permit any professing Christian man to “dishonor” any Christian woman? I don’t.
Beth Moore has devoted her life to ministering to the body of Christ. She loves Jesus, she affirms every foundational doctrine of the Christian faith, and has done remarkably well in restraining herself from issuing any dishonoring comments about men who speak to her and of her in the way we have recently witnessed.
O.K., so you disagree with Beth Moore on the question of women preaching or teaching. Does that justify making her the object of disdain, ridicule, and raucous laughter? Why can’t we learn to honor one another and encourage one another and speak the truth in love to one another, even when the “another” does not agree with our personal doctrinal distinctives?
If it is a discussion on the role/relationship between men and women that you want, or a debate about leadership and authority in the body of Christ, fine. Let’s do it. But let’s not forget that there are numerous Bible-affirming, Christ-exalting men and women on both sides of the egalitarian-complementarian divide. My appeal is simply that we engage in such robust dialogue in a way that reflects our love for one another and our affirmation of the dignity and respect that each person, regardless of their view, is deserving from every other person.
I’m quite sure that my comments here will elicit equally snide and snarky denunciations from those who believe it is their calling to police the lives of other Christians. I’m also quite sure that it will do little good for me to remind us all that the distinguishing mark of the followers of Jesus is their “love for one another” (John 13:35). Perhaps the rejoinder will be that it was an act of “love” to call out Beth Moore in this manner, but I cannot discern an ounce of sincere affection for our sister in either the tone or the substance of the comments made by John MacArthur and Phil Johnson.
So, do I have a two-word response to MacArthur and Johnson? Yes. “Please apologize.” Do I have any reasonable hope that such an apology is forthcoming? No.