Some Thoughts on Moore and MacArthur

I doubt you need the backstory, but in case you missed it, last week renowned pastor and author John MacArthur was asked during a panel discussion to give a one-word reaction to the equally well-known name “Beth Moore.” His two-word response? “Go home.”

We’re not sure where that came from. Did Pastor MacArthur mean Miss Moore should not, as a woman, ever speak in public, and therefore should take the next bus home? Did he think it’s OK for her to speak, but doesn’t like what she says when she does speak, so he wants her to say it only at home? Did he think she was on third and needed to sprint to the plate? Whatever his “Go home” was meant to convey, just scan Facebook and you’ll see plenty of uproar over it.

The general consensus is that MacArthur’s comment was dismissive and arrogant, an unwarranted slap against a vibrant, influential fellow minister who happens to be female.

His position as a Complementarian (one who holds the view that women should not serve as pastors, preachers, or teachers to men) is not under fire so much as his tone, which was applauded by those in attendance but has generated widespread boos elsewhere.

Moore, in contrast, probably energized her following with a direct response to MacArthur which was a study in gracious assertion:

“Here’s the beautiful thing about it & I mean this with absolute respect. You don’t have to let me serve you. That gets to be your choice. Whether or not I serve Jesus is not up to you. Whether I serve you certainly is. One way or the other, I esteem you as my sibling in Christ.”

Reading the multiple comments folks are making about this, what stands out to me is not so much the difference between Complementarians and Egalitarians (those believing the Bible places no limits on female leadership), but the assumptions the two groups often have about each other, the way those assumptions are communicated, and the “at the end of the day” level of importance we should place on this age-old debate
about women preaching.

Let’s look at each of these.

“Complementarian” Need Not Mean “Sexist”

The Complementarian is often assumed to be a sexist hiding behind theology. Yet sexism is, by definition, “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination … on the basis of sex.”

Well, yeah, there are guys who show prejudice against women, treating and stereotyping them with open contempt. But you can’t accuse Complementarians of that just because of their theological position. Their writings and, in most cases, their actions don’t show any belief in the superiority of men over women, nor do they assume that women are all a certain way or type. (See here)

You could technically say they discriminate (not a dirty word; anyone who says something is right or wrong discriminates) since they believe that a limited number of roles or offices are intended for men only. So they discriminate by determining, according to their best understanding of scripture, which roles or offices are best suited for which sex. (See Chuck Swindoll’s article on the subject, where he supports female gifting and leadership short of the the elder board or the pastorate.)

But whether you share it or not, the belief that God assigned men and women certain roles or offices is a big jump from the belief that one is of more value or competence than the other. As a feminist friend of mine wrote years ago, “Equal does not mean the same; difference does not
mean deficiency.”

Far from being Good Ole’ Boy sexists, Complementarians generally do recognize women’s gifts, encourage their use, and celebrate their ministries with few and limited parameters drawn.

I knew, for example, prominent Complementarian pastors who would bus their congregations to attend the late Kathryn Kuhlman’s preaching and healing services, or invite women of influence like holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom to testify to (and yes, exhort) their flock. So their belief in sex-specific roles hardly negated their appreciation of women’s anointing and capacities. Sexism, then, is by no means a shadow automatically trailing Complementarianism.

“Egalitarian” Need Not Mean “Feminist”

Orthodox Christians may differ over the role of women, yet those differences neither make nor break a conservative’s credentials.

Certainly, some who’ve rejected the Complementary view have rejected a high view of scripture as well, but the one needn’t follow the other. No one should be assumed to have abandoned orthodoxy just because of an Egalitarian stance.

Take Pastor Jack Hayford, a revered conservative leader, who’s openly expressed the egalitarian view . Or the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, founded by Aimee Semple MacPherson and led by men and women, where “liberal” and “Foursquare” aren’t even good friends, much less dating.

The Assemblies of God likewise offers full leadership participation to women, while remaining solidly orthodox on Biblical authority, marriage, and sexuality.

And Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz preaches a gospel message as unvarnished as her father’s. Indeed, a 60 Minutes segment showed Dr. Graham in his later years informing Anne, before he stepped onto the platform of a crusade, “I feel a lot better knowing that you’re here because if anything happens to me, you can just step up and take over.” 

So let’s not make assumptions about each other based on where we stand on this issue. Complementarians are generally not anti-woman, and while Feminists may be Egalitarian by nature, Egalitarians should never be presumed to be Feminist.

Land, With Grace

Paul’s advice to the Romans, “Let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5) is pretty relevant here. We can each examine the scriptures ourselves like good Bereans (Acts 17:11) then conclude, having prayerfully analyzed and compared verses (II Timothy 2:15) where we’ve landed on the topic of female leadership. It’s a subject to wrestle with.

But not to divide over, much less take cheap shots over, and there’s my biggest disappointment in all of this. I disliked Pastor MacArthur’s “go home” remark because I felt it was condescending and uncalled for. But no less so than the many remarks I’ve read since then about MacArthur.

I refuse to call him, as many are now doing, a buffoon, chauvinist, or prideful jerk. On the contrary, the man has faithfully preached, taught, and written about the Word for decades with a consistency and discipline
I admire hugely.

That admiration is one sided – I am, after all, both a Charismatic and a Counselor, two C’s that don’t sit well with him – so I approve of him far more than he’d ever approve of me. Still, he doesn’t deserve to be denigrated or have his motives and character called into question, as many are now doing. On this point let’s take a lesson from Beth herself who plainly said, “I esteem you as my sibling in Christ.” That he is.

Which is, I guess, why I’m so disappointed in his remark, and even more so, in the enthusiastic approval he got from those present when he made it. Some say it sprang from sexism; some say it was ego.

I say we’ve got a sweeping problem of worldliness infecting way too
many of us.

This is the age of the mob scene, the tantrum, and the sad, juvenile tendency to run and observe whenever someone yells “Fight! Fight!” We gather around controversy for entertainment, and we follow people who huff and puff and berate others, stupidly telling ourselves their public aggression is strong leadership; deep conviction. Dear Lord, what a sad trend has settled onto America!

But we, the church, can do better. We can do it by denying ourselves permission to use social media as a platform to belch when a reasoned statement is called for.

We can call each other out if we resort to name calling, put-downs,
and sarcasm.

We can believe in each other enough to believe we can all state opinions without robbing the dignity of another, and we can refuse to give our allegiance to cultural influencers who may hold a good position, but express it so boorishly that they bring out the worst in us.

So come on, all of us. Grace and truth. Speech seasoned with salt. Speaking the truth in love. All that stuff we punctuate our conversations with.

Beth Moore herself recently tweeted some advice along these lines:

“Let’s cool it on the slander towards JMac et al. Doesn’t honor God. Let’s
move on.”

If we can’t even manage that, then let’s take Pastor MacArthur’s advice instead, and just go home.


Dr Stan | Oct 24, 2019

As usual Brother Joe, reasoned and reasonable, full of grace and truth.

Kent | Oct 24, 2019

For what it's worth, John MacArthur has demonstrated his lack of discernment, some could say jealousy, in the past with his attacks against Rick Warren. Frankly, as far as who is being used by our Lord to impact the lives of many more men & women for Jesus Christ, Beth Moore & Rick Warren leave John MacArthur in the dust. And maybe, just maybe, brother John doesn't like his role as much as he'd like to be a leader of a huge ministry that was expanding the Kingdom. I will say that the attack against Warren was much more revealing of MacArthur's un-Christian ways, it was libelous.

Thomas Harmon | Oct 24, 2019

I think this was a very good take on the whole thing. I believe pastor John, could have, and should have, been more diplomatic, and gracious in his disagreement. I definitely fall on his side theologically, and Beth definitely came across more gracious, although not agreeing with her dismissing the Word's not suffering to teach, nor usurp authority over men. Once again, Joe, a good tempered admonition about the whole thing from the wisdom God has given you! "In all"

Sharon Noble | Oct 26, 2019

Joe - your perspective is so sound! There is so much room in the Kingdom of God for a difference of opinion and even a difference in how we interpret Scripture, in passages that aren't fundamental to who God is and what Christ has done for us. My personal history is filled with women who used the spiritual gifts that God gave them and made a difference in their world! They were courageous, bold and powerful in a righteous, godly way. They preached God's Word and many came to know Jesus because of their influence. My Grandmother and two Great-Aunts studied under Aimee Semple McPherson who was an amazingly gifted and complex woman who lead a revival across the country and specifically in Los Angeles. Thousands were healed and saved because of her call to follow Jesus as a preacher and pastor. She inspired my Grandmother and Aunts to step forward and use their gifts. My Grandmother had a vision one night that Jesus was standing at the end of her bed beckoning her, and her twin sister, to go to Montana and tell the Native Americans about Jesus. She told her sister, they packed up and went to Montana! They planted four churches and brought Jesus to hundreds of people who desperately needed to hear about the hope that Jesus gives. When I look at the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, I don't see any distinction between male/female which has also been demonstrated in my family. Rather I have seen this verse played out before me ...1 Peter 4:10 says "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." I have a lot of grace for those that interpret Scripture differently then me (or Beth Moore) but where we go wrong is when we dogmatically and rudely state our opinions, views or interpretations especially in these areas that are not fundamental to the gospel. There is room for a difference of viewpoint, in the Kingdom of God, but no room for rudeness, sarcasm or pride between "siblings" as Beth Moore appropriately called us! I will be looking more introspectively at my own attitude and asking the Lord to help me better reflect Him in all I say and do. Thank you Joe for the challenge!

Rick Francis | Oct 28, 2019

Nicely stated Joe! Can't we all just get along?

James Kral | Nov 11, 2019

I agree that John MacArthur should have been more kind and gracious toward Beth Moore, although I agree that a woman should not pastor, because that's what the Bible seems to teach. Also, I heard that Beth Moore approves of the LGBTQ lifestyle, though I don't know if that's true or not.

Add Comment