John MacArthur was recently asked what he thought of Beth Moore. In addition to telling her to ‘go home’, he said: “There’s no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher – period – paragraph – end of discussion.” (Video here.)
[For those less familiar: if you want a flavour of the more recent controversy around Beth Moore, try reading this Church Leaders article from May 2019: Beth Moore Has Had Enough of ‘Sinful’ Evangelical Misogyny. John MacArthur is on Wikipedia here.]
This ‘no case that can be made biblically’ statement has got me scratching my head a little. I mean…
Before Zelophehad’s daughters, there was no scriptural case for daughters inheriting. (Numbers 27:7-11)
Before David, there was no scriptural case for bloodguilt being forgiven without the death of the murderer. (Numbers 35:33, compared with Psalm 51:14)
Before Isaiah, there was no scriptural case for eunuchs serving in the temple. (Leviticus 20:21-23 and Deuteronomy 23:1, compared with Isaiah 56:4-5)
Before Peter, there was no scriptural case for eating unclean foods. (Leviticus 11, compared with Acts 10:9-15)
Before Cornelius, there was no scriptural case for a man to be counted amongst God’s people without undergoing circumcision. (Genesis 17:10-23, compared with Acts 10-11 and Galatians 2)
All of which makes me think that God has a history of working outside the structures that even he has established. God has a history of calling and commissioning, whomever, wherever, whenever he wants — even against traditional practice. So, it’s a pretty bold claim any day of the week, to say “there’s no case that can be made biblically”.
But to say “there’s no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher” is especially bold when the Bible has examples women who have been:
- Prophets (Miriam, Huldah, Anna)
- Military leaders (Deborah)
- Political influencers (Bathsheba, Esther)
- Students of Jesus’ teaching (Martha’s sister Mary)
- Church leaders (Junia, Nympha, Priscilla)
- Businesswomen (Susanna, Lydia)
- Evangelists (the Samaritan woman at the well)
- The first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (Mary Magdalene, the ‘other’ Mary, Salome, Joanna)
What exactly is this ‘preaching’ MacArthur speaks of, that is such a hallowed task, categorically beyond the reach and calling of all women? Even women who are Spirit-filled prophets, culturally astute leaders and courageous message-bringers?
Honestly, I’d like to know.
If you want my take on the qualifications needed for women to be preachers, check out this short video on Facebook.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to read some more sermon-like writings of mine:
- here’s one imagines Mary teaching Jesus after he went into the temple aged 12: Skandalon: Mary teaches the boy Jesus. There’s an audio file on that page if you want to hear me reading it.
- here’s another (more in a sermon format) on Romans 12:1-8 about gifts: Good Gifts for Growing People: A sermon on Romans 12:1-8. Also links to a YouTube video of me reading it.