This SBC is shaping up to be remembered as the Convention where Saddleback Church and its founding pastor Rick Warren, are “kicked out” of the SBC for allowing women to teach the Scriptures to men during Sunday morning worship services.
Rick Warren attended Southcliff Baptist Church in Forth Worth during the late 1970s, the church my father pastored. I remember Rick leading music on a stool during the Sunday night services with a guitar and bare feet. Rick left Southwestern Seminary (and Southcliff) to begin Saddleback Church in California, a new SBC church plant that grew by 2022 to the largest SBC church in the country.
Now, Rick’s SBC family is voting on whether or not to affirm the SBC Executive Committee’s decision to kick Saddleback out of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Rick’s crime is that the church he founded allows a woman to teach the Bible when men are present.
Some might object and say, “NO! The crime of Saddleback is that the woman teaching is ordained a pastor!”
Well, riddle me this: Is a pastor a noun of status or a verb of service?
If a pastor is supposed to serve through preaching, teaching, ministering, and serving God’s people, then the issue at Saddleback is that a female is preaching, teaching, and serving as she is gifted by the Holy Spirit.
Truth be known, the reason so many men are upset in the SBC is that too many SBC men falsely believe the Bible teaches only men can have spiritual authority over people.
Their concept of spiritual authority is what I call Fraudulent Authority.
When “authority” is the ideal, man’s religion is the focus. When service is the ideal, Christ’s Kingdom is the focus.
AL MOHLER AND WOMEN TEACHING
I appreciate Dr. Mohler and his love for Christ and His Kingdom. Al Mohler used to believe women could teach men the Scriptures. He often wrote papers defending gifted women serving in Christ’s church.
But at the age of 33, when the SBC came calling for Dr. Mohler to become President of Southern Seminary, old values became forsaken virtues.
I find it amazing how politics and power push biblical principles aside.
I, like most Southern Baptists, believe the Bible is God’s infallible and inerrant Word. I’ve published commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures from the original Hebrew and written many theological books. I learned Greek from Spiros Zodiates, pastored Southern Baptist churches for over four decades, and I do all I can to encourage people in their walk with Christ.
I take offense at no one, but sometimes my writing offends. Thus, my motto in ministry:
“Sometimes offends, never offended.”
What I’ve discovered during my leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention is that there are some men in SBC leadership who like to tell you what the Bible means and don’t like for you to disagree.
Listen carefully: There’s nothing wrong with a pastor giving other people his interpretation of God’s Word. Christians do that all the time. It’s called exegesis, or “giving a critical explanation or interpretation of a text in Scripture.”
However, the Southern Baptist Convention invites trouble when there is a demand for conformity on tertiary matters of theology instead of a decision for cooperation around the primary message of the Gospel.
There’s a huge difference between believing the Bible is God’s Word and interpreting the Bible as God’s Word.
God doesn’t stutter when He speaks, but we’re often at a loss when we listen.
“He that has ears to hear let him hear,” Jesus said. The problem is us, not God.
If I don’t think I can make a mistake in interpreting God’s Word, then I have a problem with pride. I’ve placed myself in the position of God, telling you that you better believe what I say. God doesn’t like pride, and pride will always lead to a personal fall.
That’s why we all better be humble about telling others what God is saying. We may actually be misunderstanding God’s Word. To believe God’s Word is infallible is a confession of faith in God and God’s Word. But to believe my interpretation of God’s Word is infallible is a confession of faith in myself and my abilities.
So Christians have a simple job as fallible people who follow Jesus Christ.
We are to always make sure we don’t confuse our interpretation with God’s inspiration.
That’s why I went to the microphone to ask Dr. Mohler a question at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Al Mohler has “changed his mind,” and no longer a woman can teach pastors the Bible.
Not one of them is a woman.
Al Mohler represents a belief about women in ministry that goes like this: “No woman shall ever teach a man or have a position of authority over a man (e.g. especially as pastors).”
I disagree with Dr. Mohler.
God commissions His people to serve His Kingdom based on their giftings and not their gender.
None of the gifts of the Spirit are gender qualified.
Male SBC pastors who wish to have “spiritual authority” over people are practicing Fraudulent Authority in Christ’s Kingdom.
Taking spiritual authority over anyone in Christ’s church is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. The idea that male pastors have some kind of “special authority” is the result of a misinterpretation of just one or two passages from the New Testament.
Yet SBC pastors pontificate on pastoral power as if this pagan principle is actually a Papal bull! (As you might tell, I love alliteration!)
Fraudulent Authority is why female Hebrew professors of Hebrew have been wrongly fired from seminaries in the SBC. Fraudulent Authority is why male students leave class when a female seminary student exegetes the Scripture. Fraudulent Authority why no females are in leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention?
So, in light of the above, I stepped to the microphone at the Southern Baptist Convention to ask Dr. Al Mohler a question.
MY QUESTION TO DR. MOHLER
“Dr. Mohler, I want to thank you and the other seminary Presidents for your leadership and your reports. I’ve sat through many years of annual meetings, and the reports from our seminary Presidents this year constitute the best I’ve heard. Thank you all for your transparency, theological acumen, and love for Christ’s Kingdom.
In light of several Southern Baptist women writing to me and telling me that Southern Baptist male divinity students are encouraged by seminary professors to walk out when female students fulfilling M.Div. requirements exegete the Scriptures out loud, and personally knowing that there have been unjust terminations of Hebrew and Old Testament professors in our Southern Baptist seminaries because they are females, and observing the lack of competent, gifted women in leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, I have a specific question that I’d like to ask you.
In 1863, Joanna P. Moore (-1916) was appointed the first female Baptist missionary to the Home Mission Field by the American Baptist Convention, an original member of the Triennial Convention (1814), the forerunner of the Southern Baptist Convention (1845).
According to the Home Mission Monthly Magazine, Joanna Moore arrived for her first mission assignment on Island #10 in the Mississippi River. She ministered among former African American slaves who were now being protected by the Union Army. These former slaves had their own male pastors, mostly illiterate men who faithfully shepherded their fellow Christians in the plantations of the south.
These African American plantation preachers had never heard or thought it was wrong to get drunk occasionally until Joanna P. Moore arrived. She faithfully taught these pastors the Scriptures, especially expounding I Timothy 3:3 and the biblical prohibition against drunkenness. The pastors reformed their conduct, ceasing their occasional habit of getting drunk, and were better pastors due to the influence of Joanna P. Moore.
So here’s my question:
“Was it sinful for Joanna P. Moore to teach those male pastors the Word of God, and should she have remained silent and let those pastors continue in their drunkenness?”
After some laughter from the crowd, Dr. Mohler gave his response to my question.
Dr. Mohler is sharp. He thinks quickly on his feet. Just one listen to an episode of his podcast will convince you of Dr. Mohler’s ability to multi-task intellectually.
But Dr. Mohler was trapped. It was either a good thing for Joanna Moore to teach preachers the Word of God, or it was not. If it wasn’t, the ministry of drunk preachers would have continued on Island #10 to the detriment of Christ’s Kingdom.
Dr. Mohler, for the first time in a long time, mumbled an answer that made no sense.
That’s not because he’s not sharp. It’s because his position is unbiblical and unprincipled. By the way, for your information, I’m not attempting to convince anyone of the error of Dr. Mohler’s interpretation (though I believe it is an egregious error).
All I’m asking is for humility in the SBC to let churches discover the truth on their own.
Demand for conformity is the daughter of tyranny when governing.
Delight in cooperation is the daughter of trust in God.
My goal with this post is to encourage Southern Baptists to be critical thinkers. Male authority in the church is a false interpretation of the biblical text that prevents Spirit-gifted women from teaching men or pastors the Holy Scriptures.
Never give in to demands for conformity on a specific interpretation of Scripture when your Master is Jesus Christ, and His Word alone is infallible.
Search the Scriptures for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
And I believe my interpretation of the sacred biblical text advances the Kingdom.
For more information on Baptist evangelist Joanna P. Moore, watch this short video.
And if you are voting at the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention, I’d suggest a little humility – and a prayer – before you vote.
Always remember, pride (in your interpretation of the Scripture) comes before the fall.