Friday, May 31, 2019

Dr. Mohler, May I Introduce You to Bertha Smith?

Miss Bertha Smith
Dr. Al Mohler, the erudite President of Southern Seminary tweeted earlier today (May 31, 2019) that the Southern Baptist Convention has "reached a critical moment."

He tweeted that there are "open calls (in the SBC) to retreat from our biblical convictions on complementarianism."

In other words, Dr. Mohler seems concerned that women are now in leadership roles around the Southern Baptist Convention, in Southern Baptist churches, and in Southern Baptist entities.

Dr. Mohler tends toward exaggeration for the sake of illustration, just like most of us who speak or write for a living. I'm sure it's unintentional on his part.

But I do like to recount anecdotes to Dr. Mohler from Southern Baptist history to help cure him of his denominational dementia.

So Dr. Mohler, may I introduce you to Olive Bertha Smith? Those of us who knew her or had the privilege of hearing her preach the Word affectionately called her "Miss Bertha."

Al, I would invite you to listen to her preach via the wonder of the Internet at one of our Southern Baptist Churches.

Miss Bertha died in 1988 at the age of 100. Unless you weren't paying attention to Southern Baptist Convention life in the decades before you became President of Southern Seminary (1993), you will surely remember that Miss Bertha preached the Word of God in hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention churches during her lifetime.

Ben Cole messaged me that he has a box of "hundreds of SBC church bulletins where Miss Bertha is the Sunday morning preacher."

But today you tweeted:
"We have reached a critical moment in the Southern Baptist Convention when there are now open calls to retreat from our biblical convictions on complementarianism and embrace the very error that the SBC repudiated over 30 years ago. Honestly, I never thought I would see this day" 11:14 am - 31 May 2019
Really, Dr. Mohler?

I realize that some who read your tweet might actually think you are representing a historical fact, and the readers of your tweet might not understand that Twitter is a tool that transforms tomorrow rather than a mirror that accurately reflects the past.

You are as old as I am, and you probably listened to Miss Bertha teach us the Word of God in a church, or from a Southern Baptist Convention platform.

There are some great lessons in our mutually shared SBC history

It would be worth your time to read the 1979 letter I've scanned and attached (below). It's written by Southern Baptist evangelist Jack Taylor. He, Dr. Russell Dilday (President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979), Dr. John Earl Seeling (Vice-President of Southwestern Seminary in 1979), and my father, Paul Burleson (Pastor of Southcliff Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas in 1979), as well as dozens of other leading Southern Baptists in 1979 were raising $100,000 to install Miss Bertha on the faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve Southern Baptists pastors in a fully endowed Chair of Prayer.

Our Southern Baptist Convention leaders in 1979 wanted Miss Bertha to teach our Southern Baptist preacher boys how to talk with God. 

Dr. Mohler, when you say "I never thought I would see this day!" - people like me will take you back to 1979 and introduce re-introduce you to women who preached, taught, and guided men in the Southern Baptist Convention.

What Beth Moore is doing today in the SBC - teaching men and women in our Southern Baptist Churches on Sunday morning from the platform - has been going on for a very long time in the Southern Baptist Convention.

It takes books, not tweets, to accurately reflect the past 50 years in the Southern Baptist Convention, and a book with a better historical context of the SBC is coming this Christmas.
You and I both believe the Word of God is infallible and inerrant.
You and I both believe that Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
You and I just disagree on the history of the SBC.
We've seen this day before.

It's biblical. It's beneficial. It's beautiful.

More to come...

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Free Speech Ekklesia for All Brothers and Sisters

34 "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church." é What! (Nonsense) 36 Did the word of God only come to you (Judaizers)? é What! (Nonsense) Or are you (Judaizers) the only people it (God's Word) has reached? (I Corinthians 14:34-36).
          37 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy..." (I Corinthians 14:39). 

In the first two verses above (v. 34 and v. 35), Paul is giving the false belief of Judiaziers who have infiltrated the church at Corinth and other early Christian churches.

These two verses (v. 34 and v. 35) articulate the Judaizers' attempt to bring 1st Century synagogue traditions into the Christian assembly.

These Judaizers were "zealous for the Law," or the teachings of the Talmud (Acts 21:21). They caused all kinds of problems in the early church.

Paul is blunt about them in II Corinthians 11, calling them "false apostles" and "deceitful workers" (II Cor. 11:13).

Paul tells the Christians at Corinth to resist the false practices of the Judaizers and stand firm to the New Covenant "traditions" that Paul had taught them (see  I Corinthians 11:2).

Paul is consistent throughout all his writings that all the members of the assembly, both male and female, could participate in congregational worship (see I Corinthians. 14:31 and I Corinthians 11:5-15).

In fact, Paul expects that women in the church will publicly pray and teach just as men publicly pray and teach (see I Corinthians 11:5).

The entire discourse of the New Covenant Scriptures is that God's priesthood is composed of males and females, slave and free, Jews and Gentiles. There is no separation of race, nationality, gender or color in the God's New Covenant priesthood. Each of us has been made a priest (Revelation 1:5) and we all form a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9).

So, the startling prohibition of I Corinthians 14:34-36 "Let the women keep silent in the churches" seems discordant and unconnected to the rest of the New Covenant Scriptures.

There's a reason for this -- it is.

Paul is quoting the views of the Judaizers regarding women in I Corinthians 14:34-35, false views about women that the Judaizers are attempting to bring into the Christian assemblies.

Paul quotes what they were teaching in order to refute it.

The Judaizers had been taught four things about the role of women in the synagogues when they were Jews, and they wished to make "the church" conform to these restrictions.
1). The Jews believed women were not qualified to be learners in the synagogue because the talmudic literature forbad them from learning. Their presence in the synagogue was tolerated, but they were to be unobtrusive and silent, never interferring with the work of the men. The Judaizers wished this tradition to be carried over into all the churches. But Paul argues throughout I Corinthians for full participation of women within the assembly (see I Corinthians 14:31 and 39).
2). The Jews recognized that a woman in the synagogue might at some point wish to move from passive attendance to actually learning something in the synagogue, but this was viewed as an exceptional occurance and not the norm. Therefore, on the rare occasion a woman desired to ask a question in order to learn, she was instructed to maintain her silence in the assembly and wait to ask her husband after leaving the synagogue and returning home. The Judaizers wished to keep the same passivity of women in the earkt Christian churches. But Paul expects women to pray and prophesy, the two acts of worship in the assembly, in the same manner that men pray and prophesy. Women compose half the priesthood (see I Corinthians 11:5).
3). There is the assumption in the synagogue that all Jewish women would be married; it was even expected by leaders in the synagogue that Jewish women would marry. The Judaizers believed the same thing should be true about all women in the early church. But Paul argues his preference that Christian women remain single for the purpose of ministry (see I Corinthians 7:34).
4). The Jews believed, and it was reinforced by the Talmud, that only the males should receive religious instruction. Jewish husbands were the source of their wives learning. Women should remain silent within the context of the synagogue. The Judaizers carried this tradition into the early churches and taught just as firmly that all Christian women should be silent in the churches. But Paul has taught that the priesthood of God is composed of both males and females, and there is an equality within the priesthood in both role and function (see I Corinthians 11:11 and Galations 3:28-29)
Paul states the Judaizers beliefs about women in I Corinthians 14:34-35, and then he begins to refute it. 

Gilbert Bilezikian writes:
"It is worth noting that in 1 Corinthians more than in any of his other Epistles, Paul uses the é particle to introduce rebuttals to statements preceding it. As a conjunction, é appears in Paul's Epistles in a variety of uses. But the list below points to a predilection for a particular use of é which is characteristic mainly of 1 Corinthians."
Bilezikian points out Paul used the é particle throughout I Corinthians, and in each case translates it as "What! or (Nonsense) to give the é (eta) contextual meaning. I Corinthians 6:1-2 is an example:
1 Corinthians 6:1-2--"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? (é What! Nonsense) Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?"
Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton wrote a book entitled Why Not Women? That book listed 14 places in the book of 1 Corinthians alone where that little é (eta) particle is found. 1 Cor. 1:13; 1 Cor. 6:2; 1 Cor.6:9; 1 Cor. 6:16; 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Cor. 7:16; 1 Cor. 9:6; 1 Cor. 9:7; 1 Cor. 9:8; 1 Cor. 9:10; 1 Cor. 10:22; 1 Cor. 11:22; and 1 Cor. 14:36.

One of this blog's regular commenters, Victorious, pointed this book out to me and writes in the comment section of this post:
"The authors call that little word an "expletive of disassociation" and compares it to (as you do, Wade) to "What?" "Nonsense" or "No Way" in today's vernacular. Most translations have unfortunately eliminated this é which makes verses appear to as "commands to be followed"  and garner agreement by Paul.... but this is not so."
For the belief that "women should be silent" in the church, a belief that Judaizers were attempting to force on the early churches, Paul uses the é to dispute such a notion in I Corinthians 14.
I Corinthians 14:34-36 -  Paul states the Judaizers' belief in the beginning of v. 34, a belief that that he intends to refute, and so he uses the Greek uses the eta é like he does in I Corinthians 6:1-2.
Corinthians 14:34-35  - "34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church" é What! (Nonsense)"
I Corinthians 14:36"Or did the word of God come only to you (Judaizers)?  é What! (Nonsense) Or are you (Judaizers) the only people it has reached?"
After refuting the false belief, Paul writes:

"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy..." (I Corinthians 14:39). 

So the "What" (the Greek eta), is used by Paul throughout Corinthians to refute false teaching. 

There are actually two of these eta particles in I Corinthians 14:34-36. Paul is expressing his disbelief (a compounded disbelief) that anyone would think that men only are the mouthpieces of God and that women should be silent in their presence. 

Paul states his objection to that kind of thinking very clearly.
"What! Did the word of God come only to you? What! (Note: this "What!" is the second eta in the text) Are you the only people it has reached?"
Paul is refuting the Jewish Old Covenant belief that men only can hear from God and speak in the assembly (synagogue), which Christian Judaizers wished to carry over into the ekklesia (churches).

In other words, the "women keep silent" passage is not God's commandment to obey, but it is a Judaizers corrupt teaching to avoid.

The internal evidence that "women should be silent in the assemblies" is false Judaizer teaching is clear:
1.  The two Greek é particles used in at end of v. 35 and the middle of v. 36.
2. The absence of quotations to "set off" the false teaching in the original Greek, but the "woman should be silent in the assemblies" is directly opposite the abundant and clear teaching of the Apostle Paul in the rest of this letter and all of his other epistles.
3. The context of I Corinthians 14 shows that Paul is correcting Judaizers' false beliefs that were creeping into the early churches. 
I once spoke on this topic during a Wednesday night Bible study. I spent time reviewing the overwhelming number of verses, including those from Paul's own letters, which are diametrically opposed to the principles taught by the Judaizers. If you think I Corinthians 14:34-36 is from God and not the Judaizers, then you will have a hard time explaining why the rest of Bible directly contradicts the prohibitions in  I Corinthians 14:34-36.

We always have a question and answer time at the end of Bible study and a new member of our church, a woman about seventy years of age who was life long member of a traditional SBC church in Nevada, desired to comment about what I had taught. She was seated next to her husband, and she raised her hand to be recognized and was called upon, she spoke and disagreed quite strongly with my interpretation. She believed I Corinthians 14:33-35 was a commandment from God and after explaining her reasoning, she concluded emphatically that God wanted women to be silent "in church."

When she was finished I gently suggested that if she believed my interpretation of I Corinthians 11:34-35 was wrong and her's was right, then she should have never raised her hand to be recognized, she should have never voiced her beliefs in the assembly, and she should have waited until she and her husband arrived  home before she asked a question of HIM or made a comment to HIM about what I had taught.

That is what the text says!

So either she must believe that what I'm teaching is right and then she is FREE to ask questions of her pastor, at any time, any place, for any reason the assembly is gathered, or she must be true to and consistent with her beliefs and remain absolutely silent in church.

Her response?

She said she was not "in church," so she could speak. Mind you, we were in our Fellowship Hall on Wednesday night with a couple of hundred believers present. There were numerous other small groups from our church meeting throughout our facility and around the city that night. But, in our new member's mind, we were not "in the church" that night because we weren't in the "auditorium" and having a typical Sunday morning "church" service.

Her comment led me to think many Southern Baptists don't have a working, biblical understanding of what the church is. Traditional Southern Baptists often seem more Jewish or Roman Catholic in their views of the assembly (church) and authority (clerics) than the writers of the New Testament. I believe that the Bible teaches that where two or three are gathered in the name of the Jesus Christ, the assembly is gathered and Christ is at the center of His people.

So Wednesday night is as much church as Sunday morning. Tuesday night small group is as much church as Wednesday night Bible study. Tuesday morning's gathering for fellowship, service, and worship is as much church as Sunday night's discipleship classes.

We, the people, are His church, and when or where we assemble, as few as two or three, His church is convened.

So move over Judaizers; all the people of God are free to function.

Monday, May 27, 2019

A Biblical Defense of Gifted Women Ministering and Leading In Our Southern Baptist Churches

Among Bible-believing Southern Baptists, there are differing interpretations of the Scripture regarding women in leadership roles at local Southern Baptist Churches. 

Some Southern Baptists believe that the biblical qualifications for church leadership are a person’s giftedness and personal character with no restrictions because of that person’s gender or professional credentials (or lack thereof). 

Others believe that only males with ordination credentials can be in leadership positions in Southern Baptist churches and that any church who has women in leadership roles – or that ordains women and gives professional credentials to them -  is violating the Scriptures.

This paper is offered as a biblical defense for any Southern Baptist church that chooses to allow a gifted woman of Christian character to serve, lead, and minister in areas of service where a similarly gifted man of Christian character can also serve, lead, and minister.

 Initial Questions:

1. Won’t allowing a gifted woman of character to lead others in a Southern Baptist church be a violation of The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message? Answer: No.

“While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men...” (Section VI. The Church)

The New Testament sacred text never uses the word “office” to describe the gift of shepherding or pastoring. As long as a Southern Baptist church refuses to recognize "the office of pastor" - meaning an office of authority - then there is no violation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message because an "office" of authority doesn't exist in that church. The New Testament ministry of shepherding and discipling followers of Jesus Christ is a verb of service, not a noun of status. People who “hold offices” in society rule over others with authority, something that is directly forbidden by Jesus Christ for His disciples (Matt. 20:25-28). According to the teaching and the examples that are given to us in God's Word, both gifted men and women of character can humbly shepherd, teach, guide and pastor Christ’s people. However, no Christian, be it male or female, can "rule" over anyone else in the church through an "office of authority" per Jesus' command.

Therefore, if neither men nor women in the church are given this imaginary “office of authority,” then both men and women can shepherd others as gifted and not violate the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Gifted Christians of both genders can pastor (think 'verb') and shepherd children, youth, young adults, senior adults, or the entire church body as the Spirit leads. God gifts His people and the church recognizes and affirms the character of those gifted to lead, setting them aside for this service. The artificial division of "Senior Pastor" or "Lead Pastor" made by church congregations is sometimes practical and helpful when it comes to organizational structure, but it has no basis in Scripture and there is certainly no "office of authority" for that position either. In addition, the Spirit never limits His gifts according to gender (see I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4). 

2. Isn’t it important that all Southern Baptists agree on women in church leadership? Answer: No.

Among Bible-affirming, evangelical Southern Baptist churches, there is not a clear consensus of interpretation on the Biblical passages related to women in ministry. But this isn’t the only tertiary position where there is no consensus among Southern Baptists. For example, Southern Baptists disagree on the coming of Jesus Christ. Many are dispensational, others are historic premillennial, and even others are amillennial or postmillennial. Interestingly, dispensational Southern Baptists believe and teach Daniel 9:24-27 is about the Anti-Christ, while others (historic premillennial, amillennial, and post-millennial Southern Baptists)  believe Daniel 9:24-27 is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. If Southern Baptists can fellowship with one another while disagreeing over whether a text is about the Anti-Christ or Jesus Christ, then surely we can fellowship even though we disagree over the sacred texts regarding both men and women proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. Healthy churches exist on both sides of this issue and no core Christian doctrines are threatened or distorted by either position.

3. Won't affirming women in leadership lead to an affirmation of homosexual behavior? Answer: No.

The Bible never gives approval to homosexual behavior. Rather, there is only condemnation of the conduct with expressions of love for the individuals in need of repentance from such conduct. To oppose the promotion of biblical gender equality with statements that it leads to the promotion and approbation of homosexual behavior is a non sequitur

Bible-believing Christian men and women who believe in gender equality see a shared mirror which reflects God’s image to a fallen world, an image that is only the full-orbed image of God when reflected in the equality of both genders. In addition, adherents of biblical gender equality recognize a shared mandate to fill the earth (pro-creation) and rule over it (lex-creation). Finally, all evangelical Christians believe in a shared mission to declare Jesus Christ and His love to the nations (The Great Commission). So Christian men and women share their gifts, their talents, their service, and their ministry with the church (ekklesia) of Christ. 

Acts that lead to gender equality are part of the Creative order and are biblically commanded; acts that lead to homosexual behavior are not part of the Creative order and are biblically condemned.

4. Are there proper descriptive words that can identify the two sides of this issue? Answer: No.

The extent to which women can minister, serve, and lead in Southern Baptist churches is a divisive issue, and over time two words have been coined to describe the two differing positions. The first word coined, complementarianism, suggest that God created men and women to complement each other, but their roles in the church, home, and society must always remain different. The second word coined, egalitarianism, suggests that God created men and women equal in all aspects, including their ability to lead others.

Both words may be necessary for dialogue, but they fall short in accuracy. All Southern Baptist egalitarians will tell you they believe men and women complement one another, and all complementarians will tell you they believe in the equality of men and women.  

The issue is not so much gender as it is the unbiblical view of hierarchal authoritarianism.

Neither Christian men or women,  according to the teachings of Jesus, are ever to rule over anyone else in the home or church.


The Creation Account

 1. Genesis 1:26-28 affirms that God’s original intent in His new and perfect creation was for male and female as a unit to be seen as the image of God and to exercise co-rulership over creation. “Then God said, ‘Let US make MAN in OUR own image, in OUR likeness, and let THEM rule…over all the earth. So God created MAN in His own image, in the image of God He created MAN, male and female He created THEM. God blessed THEM and said to THEM, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule…over every living thing.” (See also Genesis 5:2)

 2. When the Lord specifically speaks of the creation of woman and her role in relation to man, He describes the woman twice (Genesis 3:18, 20) as a “helper suitable to him,” and creates the woman from his side (not his head or foot). The key word in these passages is the Hebrew term “helper”—what does it imply? It cannot imply an inferiority of status or subservience since the same Hebrew term is applied to God to describe His relationship with Israel (Psalm 33:20; 70:5).

 3. After sin comes in, God declares the “Adamic curse” = God’s pronouncement of a curse first upon the serpent, then the woman and finally the man in Genesis 3:14-19. Only then does God declare, along with many other tragic consequences of sin (such as intense pain, hardship and ultimately death), that for the woman “your desire will be (“for” or “to control”) your husband.” But instead “he will rule over you." This "rule over you" represents the destruction of the Creative order where God original united the man and the woman in co-rulership over the earth pictured in Genesis 1:26-28.

 Note: Complementarians believe that male “rulership” is now the normative ideal until the Second Coming to protect the woman’s unique role in the home and society. Egalitarians believe this status of ruled and ruler is part of the fallen creation that, like the rest of this curse, should begin to be reversed within the structures and relationships in the “new creation” of the new community of faith in Christ, i.e., the church (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Old Testament Examples of Female Leadership and Teaching

The New Covenant Scriptures reflect Jesus saying, "Behold (watch closely), I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). Jesus came to restore the destroyed Creative order, including restoring gender equality which was destroyed in the fall of man. Yet, even in the Old Agreement where the Law, the sin, and the curse prevailed, the reader catches glimpses of the Creative order through both men and women leading the nation of Israel. 
1. Miriam, the sister of Moses, is a “prophetess” (Exodus 15:20)
2. Deborah in Judges 4 and 5 is a “Judge” over Israel. Deborah served Israel as a leader and a redeemer as well as a “prophetess” who spoke the word of the Lord to Israel and its leaders (see especially Judges 4:4-5). She leads, settles disputes and ultimately takes supreme command of the army in a decisive battle. Deborah is clearly a strong OT model of female leadership and teaching in the name of God. 
3. Huldah the “prophetess” in 2 Kings 22:11-20 and 2 Chronicles 34:22-33 is accorded a unique role of highest authority in speaking and determining the meaning of the “Word [and Law] of the Lord.” In this story KingJosiah, Hilkah the High Priest and the top scribe (scholar) of Judah turn to this woman as God’s authoritative voice for counsel and to clarify the meaning of the written word of the Lord. 
4. In summary, Deborah and Huldah make it clear that God was willing to bestow leadership authority and teaching gifts on women in the Old Testament.

New Testament Examples of Women Ministers of the Gospel

1. In all four of the Gospel accounts, following the resurrection of Christ, both the angels and the risen Jesus appear first to the women—and to them is first given the commission to “go and tell” the Gospel of the risen Christ’s victory over death. See Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:6-7Luke 24:1-10; John 20:10-18. This commissioning of women as the first to proclaim the Gospel, even to the eleven key disciples of Jesus, is seen by some scholars as an intentional allusion to the beginning of the reversing of the “curse” of the fall in Genesis. In other words, the woman was the first to fall into the deception of sin in the old creation, and so now the women are the first to share in and proclaim the victory of Jesus over sin and death as He establishes His “new creation.” 
2. On the Day of Pentecost Peter preaches the first great Christian sermon following the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. In this message, Peter uses the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 in a paradigmatic way to set the agenda for the new community of Christ—the Church. The heart of his message is the twice repeated affirmation: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My spirit on ALL people and your sons and daughters will prophesy… Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days—and THEY will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).  There is an equality here in the calling of all Christians (men and women, young and old) to be prophetic declarers of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Revelation 19:10 says: “For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy” (or the Spirit who inspired the prophets). The NLT says: “For the essence of prophecy isto give a clear witness for Jesus.” This challenge to proclaim Jesus is handed equally to men and women.
3. Romans 16 is a key chapter on women’s roles in the New Testament Church. Paul sends greetings to the leaders and key teachers of the “house churches” of Rome. In this list, women are both preeminent and prominent. The first mentioned is Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2). She is a “servant” of the church in Cenchrea, the term Paul uses to describe himself in 2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23, 25, as well as the word Paul uses to describe his fellow ministers of the word in Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7; 4:7). In addition, verse 2 describes her as a “helper” (NASB) or “benefactor”(TNIV). The Greek word prostates, from which helper or benefactor is translated, means “one who stands before, front-rank man, leader, chief, protector, champion.” This not only affirms her ministry role, but her leadership of men as well.
 4. In Romans 16:3 Paul greets a wife/husband team, giving preeminence to Priscilla, then affirms they are both “my fellow workers,” a term he especially applies to those who share in teaching the Gospel. See Romans 16:9; 1 Corinthians 3:9; Colossians 4:11; see especially Romans 16:21 and 1 Thessalonians 3:2 in reference to Timothy; 2 Corinthians 8:23 in reference to Titus and see especially Philippians 2:25-30 in reference to Epaphroditus. This role in the teaching of the Gospel is confirmed by Acts 18:26 where both Priscilla and Aquila teach Apollos, an evangelist, the clear and full message of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 16:19 Paul again mentions this couple as the leaders of a “church in their house.” Priscilla is functioning as a teacher and leader within a “church” community.
 5. In Romans 16:7 Paul speaks of Andronicus and Junia (female) “who are outstanding among the apostles.” In this instance, a woman, Junia, seems, along with a man [who might be her husband] the role of an apostle (see Ephesians 4:11-12). Apostles specifically had the task of the equipping (teaching) in the church. See also Romans 16:12, which identifies two other female workers in the church as “workers in the Lord,” a phrase that usually applies to those who teach the Gospel.
 6. In Philippians 4:2-3 Paul affirms Euodia and Syntyche as two women who had “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers.” The whole context puts them on a par with others who labor in sharing the Gospel. See also Colossians 4:15.
 7. Paul ranks apostles and prophets among the most important leadership gifts for equipping the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6). Yet he not only affirms Junia as outstanding among the apostles (Romans 16:7), he also clearly endorses prophetesses (1 Corinthians 11:5; cf. Acts 2:17-18; 21:9); and among spiritual gifts Paul emphasizes prophecy no less than teaching (1 Corinthians 14:1, 26, 29). 

Two New Testament Passages Which Prohibit Women from Speaking in Church:

If one could win the debate over women’s roles in the church by who had the most verses, the weight of the debate would favor women in leadership. But we hold the Bible to be God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word, so no text can be ignored. 

There are two passages in the New Testament that prohibit women speaking at all in church. One of these two specifically prohibits women as teachers. What should we make of them? Should they be interpreted according to then-present cultural conditions and location-specific situations or as universal norms for all churches in all places always?

It is important to establish that in Paul’s New Testament letters, there are many specific commands or prohibitions that are clearly recognized by evangelical Christians everywhere to be culturally and historically conditioned prohibitions, and are not to be commands enforced universally in all churches for all time.

Two examples will suffice: 

First, there is the culturally conditioned apostolic command, given by both Paul and Peter and repeated five times in the New Testament, that Christians are to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (see Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). 

Each time it appears, the call to use a kiss of greeting is in the imperative (command) form, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26 even says to “greet ALL the brethren with a holy kiss.” Yet few, if any, churches require all their members to use a kiss to greet one another at gatherings.

Second, of even greater weight for our discussion is the serious issue of Paul’s commands concerning slavery. They are straightforward and clear—and if not evaluated in a cultural and historical light, seem to offer a strong Christian endorsement of slavery. For example, in 1 Timothy 6:1-4 Paul begins by saying “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of our God may not be spoken against.” He ends by saying that if anyone disagrees with this teaching “he is conceited and understands nothing.” In Ephesians 6:5 Paul admonishes “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and respect, just as you would obey Christ.” 

Christians are quick to point out the historical context of a Roman world where two in every three people were slaves and any direct challenge against slavery brought the full wrath of Rome. But of even greater importance than the historical reality of an oppressive empire was the overall strategy against slavery used by Paul in his writings. Paul did not call for the immediate abolition of slavery. Instead, he used the power of the Gospel to elevate the status of slaves in respect to their masters to that of equals in Christ—and therefore true brothers (or sisters) in Christ (see Ephesians 6:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:3-4 and especially Philemon 15-16). Paul does not call for an open slave revolt in the name of Christ, but through the implications of the Gospel, he lays the sure foundation for the destruction of slavery. 

Through the saving work of Christ, the universal principle of equality of slave and master is clearly identified in Galatians 3:28, a verse that also speaks to the male/female issue of equality. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female—for you are all one in Christ. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29). How could those who are one in Christ, fellow heirs with Christ and equally loved by Christ subject each other to bondage? 

So the twice-repeated admonition for slaves to submit and obey their masters is interpreted by virtually all contemporary Christians as a command within a specific historical context. These are but two of many examples of verses containing apostolic commands that require a cultural context and therefore are not universal commands for Christian assemblies for all time.

Two Passages that Command Silence from Women in the Church

1. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NASB): “Let the women keep silent in the assemblies (e.g. churches), for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is improper [disgraceful] for a woman to speak in church.”
           General Observations: 
There were no large structures called “churches” in Paul’s day. “Churches” indicated the gathering or assembling together of God’s people for worship, fellowship and study, and this took place usually in homes. So, the prohibition here is against women being allowed to speak in any gathering of Christians.
This prohibition to the Corinthian Christian gathering is absolute and repeated three times. It is far more restrictive than saying that women are not allowed to teach. It is saying that women are not allowed to speak. They are to maintain silence, no talking, no asking questions, at all, during Christian gatherings. If the verse is a universal principle, it prohibits far more than women serving as teachers or leaders. It enjoins silence on all women always in Christian gatherings. This is very odd considering 1 Corinthians 11:5, where, in the same epistle, Paul very clearly endorses women publicly praying or prophesying during Christian gatherings.

2. 1 Timothy 2:11-15: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise [usurp?] authority over a man; she must be silent! For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived—it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 
            General Observations:
 The issue here (and in Corinth) seems to be inappropriate and talkative female learners during the study time of the church. There is a problem with disruption due to inappropriate questions or comments. 
Once again, the specific prohibition placed on the women in Ephesus, like those in Corinth (and if universal, on all Christian women everywhere), goes well beyond not serving as teachers or leaders. Paul commands total silence from the women at Christian gatherings.

A Brief Assessment of Both These Two Passages

As stated above, both I Corinthians 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:11-15, the prohibition on women calls for total silence (no talking, no singing, no praying, no prophesying, at all). Both texts come from epistles where other commands are given as solutions to resolve time-specific problematic situations. If this command for women to be silent is taken as a universal principle, then why are not other commands in I Corinthians and I Timothy also not taken universally?

For example, there is a lengthy discussion in 1 Corinthians 11 concerning the rule that women must not pray with their hair uncovered and that short hair on a woman is a disgrace is in the context of women praying or prophesying. There is also a brief discussion in 1 Corinthians 15:29 about baptizing the dead. Very few Christians hold that these admonitions are to be applied universally for all Christian assemblies. Similar to "greet one another with a holy kiss" and the issue of slavery, some imperatives from the New Testament are to be understood as temporary solutions for time-specific situations. As we'll see about both these passages, the command for women (or "the woman") to be completely silent in the assembly is a solution for specific situations in Corinth and Ephesus.

The contextual problem is even more evident in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. If the prohibitions in verses 11-12 are universal and strictly literal principles, without a contextual and historical interpretation, then we should also stay consistent and literal with the remainder of the paragraph (I Timothy 2:13-15). This puts Paul’s analogy of women "being saved through childbirth" in direct conflict with the specific teaching of "salvation by grace through faith" in Jesus Christ in Romans 5:12-19. To understand the command of Paul in I Timothy 2:11-15, one must recognize the specific problem in the 1st-century Christian gathering at Corinth that required an injunction that the Christian women keep silent in the assembly. The command is only a time-specific prohibition and not a universal one (e.g. for all churches at all times).

A Detailed Examination of I Corinthians 14:34-35

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 the issue is not women serving the church as teachers in mixed company (teaching is not mentioned). The issue is clearly how the women are learning—and the problem is they are learning too loudly: “..if they desire to learn [question] anything, let them ask their husband at home.” The prohibition is aimed at stopping women from asking disruptive questions and speaking out during the service. The counsel given by Paul is to wait until later to ask questions.

Two different Greek words can be translated speaking: laleo and legoLaleo means primarily to utter sounds, not necessarily intelligible words. It was used by Greeks to refer to the jabbering (la-la-ing) of infants. The verses in question use the verb laleo. The present infinitive tense of the verb indicates continuous action. Paul was saying:
“Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted for them to speak (continue la-la-ing)….It is a shame for women to speak (go on la-la-ing) in the church.”
This is consistent with the first-century Jewish and Hellenistic world. Novices were expected to learn quietly, while it was expected that more advanced students could interrupt with questions. Unlearned questions were considered foolish and rude. In both Jewish and Hellenistic culture, women did not receive formal education and were expected to learn quietly in public situations because they were not trained. 

But in the Gentile city of Corinth, both men and women revered the goddess Diana and worshipped at her Temple in the city. Corinth was the center for temple prostitution at the Temple of Diana in Greece during the Roman Empire. The women who spoke in public religious settings in Corinth were the temple priestesses (prostitutes). These women were powerful, with a direct line to the gods, and the men of Greece and Rome came to receive their blessing in times of war and in times of hunting.  

Because the Christian women were disturbing the gathering in Corinth by asking their questions, causing an undertone (noise) which was distracting and confusing, Paul corrected them. The time-specific correction is needed because the church should always be cautious of the false messages that come from the culture (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-22).  Notice what Paul says to these Christian women in Corinth:
1. The prohibition 1. (v. 34): "Don’t ask questions," and 
2. The permission (v. 35): "Ask questions at home."
In this time-specific prohibition of the women in Corinth, Paul is correcting the Corinthian practice in religious settings for women - who served as priestesses to the gods - to speak loudly and dominate the men. In addition, Paul is elevating the equality of the Christian men to the level of the Christian women, a corrective needed in the culture of Corinth. In the cult of Diana (Latin) and Artemis (Greek), women held sway and rule over men in the spiritual realm! In Christianity, nobody rules spiritually over anybody else.

So Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 ("women be silent") must be interpreted in a consistent manner with his words in 1 Corinthians 11:5  ("women, as you pray and prophecy in the assembly, do it this way").  You can't have both a command for silence and a command to pray and prophecy and claim both as universal principles. The overwhelming teaching of Scripture is that women are free, as gifted by the Spirit, to serve, minister, and teach in the assemblies of Christ. But when problems arise with specific women in specific churches (as sometimes problems arise with specific men in specific churches), then the solution is for those causing problems to be silent. 

The above simple explanation for the prohibition of women speaking the Corinthian assembly (I Corinthians 14:34-35) applies to the 1st-century Corinthian church, and it is is a common viewpoint among Bible-believing evangelicals who believe in biblical gender equality. For a lesser known interpretation that suggests Paul is actually "freeing all gifted, qualified women to teach, preach, and proclaim Gospel truth in the assembly," see Wade Burleson's article All The Ekklesia Have Voices. 

A Summary of I Corinthians 14:34-35:

The silence of I Corinthians 14:34-35 reflects a time-specific prohibition during the teaching and instruction being given because of a specific disruptive situation at the gathering in Corinth which involved either the Christian women talking too loudly and asking disruptive questions, or Judiazers seeking to quiet all the women in the assembly (see A Free Speech Ekklesia for All Brothers and Sisters).  Paul's solution is a progressive one.  Christian men and women were elevated to their rightful place as equals in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be taken as a universal prohibition against Christian women ever speaking in Christian assemblies for all time or the rest of the Scriptures would be violated. 

A Detailed Examination of I Timothy 2:11-15

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is also a clear prohibition that a woman (the woman) cannot teach or seek authority at the assembly of Christians. Instead, she must maintain complete silence when the church gathers at Ephesus.

"The" woman or "that" woman was part of a larger group of women in Ephesus (mostly widows) who were causing problems in the church. In a pagan culture saturated with the belief in the superiority of the cult of Artemis and the power she bestowed on warriors and hunters, as well as women in childbirth, many new Christian converts out of Artemis worship needed instruction and correction before they ever began ministering to the church. 

Timothy writes a letter to Paul asking for advice. "What do I do about the women - and specifically one woman -  who are dominating the men in the assembly and spreading false teaching?" That letter from Timothy we don't have. We only have Paul's response (I Timothy 2:11-15). 

In Paul's response, answering specific questions from Timothy, we see a prohibition placed on a specific Christian woman at Ephesus, a prohibition that is one of at least three prohibitions that Paul gives to the church of Ephesus that are directly contradicted by other passages of Scripture in terms of the normal practice of other Christian assemblies:
 "The" woman should learn in silence... and not teach. She must be quiet. (I Timothy 2:11-15). 
"The" woman in I Timothy 2:11 is wrongly translated "a" woman in some English translations. It is the Greek word en which is "a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality." It's a specific reference to "the" woman that Timothy is concerned enough about to write Paul. She seems to be "the" woman leading a "group of women" (widows) at Ephesus spreading error.

In the Artemis culture of Ephesus, women were to rule and men were to submit

The remedy for a problem sometimes requires a halt to normal practices. For example, when you are ill with the flu, you drink liquids and limit food intake. That's an abnormal practice, but it is used to correct an illness.

So too, Paul places an abnormal prohibition on a woman at Ephesus to correct a specific problem faced by the church at Ephesus. To make Paul's restriction healthy for all the churches for all time is equivalent to placing healthy people on liquid diets or to forbidding Christian churches from ever calling men as pastors because one male who pastored one church at a time in the past was guilty of sexually predatory behavior. 

Listen to what Paul says to Timothy about the gathering of Christians at Ephesus: 
"The woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety" (I Timothy 2:11-15).
Often Southern Baptist preachers will point to this prohibition and argue it is "universal" and "for all time" because Paul goes back to the Creative order: "Adam was formed first, then Eve." Of course, those same Southern Baptist pastors have no answer for what it means "women are saved through childbearing." 

Paul, very familiar with Artemis culture in Ephesus writes "Adam was formed first, then Eve" because he knew that the women of Ephesus had been taught that that Artemis came first and Apollo came second! Therefore, women were to always be seen as "first" - first to speak; first to the address the room, first in priority, etc.. The cult of Artemis taught the power of women to dominate men through sexual prowess.

However, Christ teaches that men, women and men are equal. Both genders should first learn in humility and show Christian character before they ever attempt to lead. Paul is prohibiting the woman causing trouble at the church in Ephesus to learn in quietness first - even to learn from gifted men of Christian character -  before she begins to teach men with the approval of the church.

Paul also reminds Timothy to remind the Christian women at Ephesus that, contrary to what they learned through the cult of Artemis, males are not the problem. To be deceived and in need of correction is just as much a possibility for the woman at Ephesus was it was for Eve. Women in Ephesus needed to move away from a belief in female superiority to a belief in gender equality.
"Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if she abides in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (I Timothy 2:15).
"Timothy," Paul writes, "Tell the woman that she'll be okay during childbirth, even if she totally and fully renounces her trust in Artemis. Yes, she's been taught by the Artemis cult that Artemis alone has the power to save a woman from death during childbirth. But the truth is that Christ holds "the keys of life and death.' Tell her to abide in her faith in Christ, to abide in hope and love. It will be the one true God who delivers any woman from death during childbirth, not Artemis."

The prohibition against the woman teaching at Ephesus is clearly part of a larger problem in Ephesus where women are given to excessive adornment (2:9-10). More importantly, are vulnerable to false teaching prevalent in the Artemis culture of Ephesus The false teaching of the cult of Artemis appealed to "various impulses" of women, even leading a few Christian converts among the women in the city of Ephesus “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7).

A few of the Christian women in the gathering at Ephesus were spreading their views to the community of believers at large (5:11-16). In fact, the primary problem for the church in Ephesus was the spread of their false teaching (1 Timothy 1:3-20; 4:1-7; 6:6-10, 20-21; 2 Timothy 2:16-26; 3:5-13; 4:3-4).   Sadly, some wealthy Christian widows in Ephesus, who had the financial means and the time available were the ones quickly spreading nonsense among the Christians at Ephesus (1 Timothy 5:13), nonsense taught them by "the" woman that caused Timothy concern (I Timothy 5:11). 

So the core problem in the church at Ephesus seems to have been the spread of heresy through ill-informed and ill-equipped females who were former devotees of the false teachings of the priestesses at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. 

The problems among a few Christian women at Ephesus leads Paul to give Timothy at least three prohibitions that are situational and time-specific to the church at Ephesus: 
1. "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband" (I Timothy 5:9).
That's a time-specific command for widows in Ephesus during the 1st century because of the specific problems, not a universal command for all churches for all time. 
2. "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan." (I Timothy 5:14-15). 
Again, that's a time-specific prohibition for the widows at Ephesus and not a universal prohibition for all churches at all times. 
3.  "(The) woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety" (I Timothy 2:11-15)

In the overall context of the Bible, the two New Testament passages we just examined are the only two that place restrictions on women in the assembly of believers.

But pay close attention to what the prohibitions are. Both I Timothy 2:11-15 together with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 command complete silence in the gatherings of Christians.

But these two prohibitions are time-specific and church-specific and should never be deemed universal for all churches at all times. "Why not universal prohibitions against women?" you may ask. 

The New Testament's clear and abundant teaching is that Spirit-gifted women of Christian character should play as active of a role in teaching, prophesying, and leading the New Testament church s similarly qualified men. To take I Timothy 2:11-15 and I Corinthians 14:34-35 as universal principles for all churches for all time is violating the teachings of the Bible. Gifted men and women of Christian character are needed in the assemblies of Christians for the full-orbed image of God to be reflected by His church. 


Taking the overall weight of Scripture, any Southern Baptist church that endorses the active role of women who are gifted in leadership and shepherding, taking a servant leadership role on ministry teams or staff, including serving as a pastor, is following the teachings of Scripture. 

The Bible teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness, and opportunities for Christian ministry.

Therefore, this author and his church encourage full participation of gifted women of Christian character in all levels of leadership within Southern Baptist churches and entities, including leadership positions and teaching positions, with no restrictions or limitations on the basis of gender.


This paper is a compilation of the writings of Frank Wiederrecht, Richard Fredericks, and Wade Burleson. Frank serves at The Gathering Place in Douglas, Wyoming. Richard serves the people at Damascus Road Community Church in Damascus, Maryland. Wade served as President of Istoria Ministries and as President of Oklahoma Baptists (2002-2004) in Enid, Oklahoma. The adapted content is used with permission and submitted by Wade Burleson as an aid to any Southern Baptist congregation that believes that gifted men and women can minister and lead in Southern Baptist churches. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

True Success from the Life of Uriah the Prophet

When we think of the prophets in the Bible, our minds move toward the famous Elijah and Elisha, or Jeremiah and Isaiah, or Daniel and Ezekiel.

Calling down a ball of fire from heaven for God's glory or going up to heaven in a blaze of fire with God's glory are events that typify the lives of biblical prophets in our minds.

But the life of Uriah the prophet is a closer reality to what happens to any prophet, ancient or modern,  who speaks truth to power.

Uriah prophesied in Judah during the eleven-year wicked reign of King Jehoiakim (609 to 598 BC).

Uriah's story is found in only five verses in the Bible:
"Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did. When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king was determined to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt. King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt, along with some other men. They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people." (Jeremiah 26:20-24)
 Notice five things that happened to Uriah when he spoke truth to the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem, to the political and religious leaders of Judah, and to King Jehoiakim himself."
1. Because Uriah's words didn't flatter those in power and made it clear that the Lord and truth from Him were the highest authority in Judah, those in civil, religious, and political power turned on Uriah. 
2. Uriah lost his home, his reputation, and all future speaking engagements before the king and his court.
3. Uriah fled to Egypt because he was in danger of losing his life. 
4. King Jehoiakim sent troops to Egypt under the leadership of Elnathan to capture Uriah.
5. Brought back to Jerusalem, Uriah stood again before King Jehoiakim, and this time the king "struck down the prophet with the sword."
6. King Jehoiakim would not allow Uriah's body to be buried in his family's grave plot and ordered that the prophet's body be thrown into a pauper's grave. 
Notice something about Uriah and his contemporary friend and prophet Jeremiah.

Both men proclaimed the same message of the impending judgment of God on Jerusalem for refusing to follow the covenant Yahweh had made with His people.

Both men spoke to the same people (the Jewish religious leaders, King Jehoiakim, and his court, and the people at large).

Both men were faithful prophets.

But notice the differences: 
When God called Jeremiah to be his prophet, God told Jeremiah that He would protect Jeremiah. He did so throughout Jeremiah’s life. This promise was never made to Uriah.

In contrast to Uriah, Jeremiah had the powerful scribe Ahikam ben Shaphan who literally served as Jeremiah's protector and body guard. Uriah had little if any support from powerful or influential men in Jerusalem.
People today talk about Jeremiah; few mention much less know about Uriah. When you hear the name Uriah, you think of Uriah the Hittite, the faithful husband of Bathsheba whom King David had killed, not the Uriah the prophet whom Jehoiakim killed. 
The Lesson from the Life of Uriah the Prophet 
Because begin a spokesman for eternal truth involves speaking that truth to power, success should be measured by faithfulness to the message rather than the number of those who follow the messenger.
Measuring success by the numbers of people who follow you on social media, or the size of church you lead, or the number of times you get mentioned at the local coffee shop ultimately causes the prophet to lose focus of his mission by being more concerned with his reputation and material success than his Redeemer and the eternal Kingdom.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Louisiana College and Ladies Mowing Their Lawns

On Sunday, February 10, 2019, investigative reporters Robert Downen (Houston Chronicle),  Lise Olsen (Houston Chronicle), and John Tedesco (San Antonio Express-News) published the first of their stomach-churching three-part series entitled Abuse of Faith.

With bulldog determination and Pulitzer-Prize level reporting, these three reporters uncovered a systemic problem in the Southern Baptist Convention, one that we refused to confront ourselves.

Southern Baptists have a pattern of covering up for their own.

On Thursday, February 14, 2019, just four days after the release of Abuse of Faith, Dr. Joshua Dara, the Dean of The School of Human Behavior at Louisiana College (Southern Baptist-affiliated), spoke at the school's chapel service.

A video or audio recording of Dr. Dara's chapel presentation has never been released to the public.  Other recordings of chapel sermons at Louisiana College, both before and after Dr. Dara's message, can be watched or heard at Louisiana College's website.

Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana
According to those present at the chapel service, Dr. Joshua Dara spoke on the topic of relationships. It was an appropriate topic for Valentine's Day. But what he said was extremely inappropriate.

In the course of his message, Dr. Joshua Dara suggested to the ladies listening that he knew why their phones were not ringing, meaning why members of the opposite sex weren't calling them. Dr. Joshua Dara suggested that men like the ladies who keep their houses clean and mow their lawns.


People fifty years of age and older who compose a majority of the Southern Baptist Convention probably think that mow your lawn means getting on a John Deer lawnmower and cutting the grass in front of your house.

Of course, in the context of a college talk where most ladies live in dorms, that definition of mow your lawn doesn't fit. And besides, cutting grass in your yard as the definition of mow your lawn is from a culture that existed long ago.

Today, in our pornographic "women-are-sex-objects" culture, mow your lawn means "shave your pubic hair." The kids at Louisiana College got the pornographic reference. That's why many burst out laughing.

But there's more.

Dr. Dara suggested that someone who has men go in and out of her house is like a "crackhouse." So, keep your house clean and mow your lawn to get your phone ringing, but don't let all those men who are calling you go in and out of your house at their pleasure or you'll be known as a "crackhouse."

Of course, entering a lady's house is a cultural euphemism for sexual union. To give Dr. Dara the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure he was attempting to relate to college kids with humor.

But even assuming the best intentions of the chapel speaker, the language used by Dr. Dara is wholly inappropriate and offensive. That's why the recording has not been released. Administrators are keeping it under wraps.

That's also why Karen Watkins, the Executive Assistant to Louisiana College President Rick Brewer, sent the following email to faculty and staff less than a week after the chapel message. The first part is written by Philip Caples, the LC administrator in charge of chapel services,  and the second by Josh Dara. Read carefully the apology contained within it:

"What occurred was evidence of differences in cultural perceptions and nomenclatures."

"I am sorry to hear some of you were offended..." 

Dr. Russell Meek and His Offense at the Chapel Message He Heard

Dr. Russ Meek
Dr. Russell Meek, Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Louisiana College, sat horrified listening to Dr. Dara speak during the February 14 student chapel. As a faculty member representing Louisiana College, Russ knew he had to do something.

The next morning, Friday, February 15, 2019,  following the school's Handbook and Procedure Policy Manual,  Dr. Meek asked for and received a meeting with Dr. Philip Caples. Dr. Caples is the Vice-President for Integration of Faith and Learning at Louisiana College, and he is over the school's mandatory chapels.

Dr. Caples listened as Dr. Meek expressed his concerns. He let Russ know that he had heard from other faculty as well. Though the meeting was brief,  Russ felt hopeful. He believed that the administration of Louisiana College would issue some kind of formal discipline against Dr. Dara, or at the very least, a public statement distancing the college from what Dr. Dara had said.

Dr. Meek went on to teach his classes that day and heard from many of his students, both male and female, who expressed their frustrations and confusion over the chapel message. Dr. Meek would later write an email to his students:
 "I just wanted to thank you for speaking up in class today about your feelings regarding the chapel sermon. A biblical view of humans as created in God's image and intrinsically valuable because of that is very important to me, as it is to you."
Then, the following Wednesday (Feb 20), the President's Executive Assistant Karen Watkins sent the email from Caples and Dara which seemed to fault listeners at the previous week's chapel for not understanding the "cultural perceptions and nomenclatures" of the speaker.

Twenty-one minutes after that email from Karen went out, President Rick Brewer sent another email to the faculty and staff of Louisiana College a second email. This email, sent from the office of Norman Miller, Director of Communications at Louisiana College, warns the reader about Matthew 18.

Norm Miller, one of the contributors to the now-defunct SBC Today, followed the instructions of the Louisiana College President and sent this second email as a warning to Louisiana College faculty and staff that they were not to speak of this chapel message to anyone other than to the speaker himself.

President Brewer also sent a Matthew 18 reminder email to students on the same day he sent one to the faculty (Wednesday, February 20, 2019). That email, according to a student who spoke to the President, was intended to protect Dr. Dara.

An Appeal to Address the Issue of the Sexualization of Women at Baptist Institutions

After receiving both emails from the President's staff, Dr. Russ Meek drafted and sent an email to President Rick Brewer on Friday, February 22, 2019.

In his email to the President, Russ stated clearly his offense, not only with Dr. Joshua Dara (the chapel speaker) but now his offense with the administration of Louisiana College and President Rick Brewer himself for not addressing the issue.

Russ wrote, "You admonished us to reach out personally to someone when offended, so I am sending you this email as a brother in Christ. I realize that you are my boss and the leader of LC, so please know that I write this with humility and with a deeply grieving heart. I am not angry; I am very saddened by the events that transpired last week. This is indeed much more than an issue of being offended,; it is an issue of biblical truth and how God himself views women and tells us to view them."

Dr. Russ Meek then wrote the following to President Brewer. It's rather lengthy, but it's important for you to read carefully. It represents the kind of leaders we need in the SBC to change the culture.
"On Thursday morning, still reeling from the sexual abuse uncovered by the Houston Chronicle and reported on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I came to chapel at Louisiana College looking for a reprieve from the darkness swirling around the SBC. Instead, I was confronted head-on with the culture that makes such abuse possible.
Joshua Joy Dara, the dean of LC's school of human behavior, delivered a message on relationships-fitting for Valentine's Day. He offered sound advice to women about finding a godly spouse. Toward the end of his sermon, his language took an offensive and unbiblical turn. He addressed specifically the women in the chapel service, telling them to think of their bodies as houses. He then told them to "mow your lawn" and advised that if they were not getting attention from men, it was because they were "not taking care of your house." He continued in this vein, at one point stating that women who have "let too many men" into their house are a crackhouse. Let that sink in - crackhouse.
In those final minutes of his sermon, Dara reduced women to physical objects who existed for a man's pleasure. He then told them that if they had sex with too many men, they were not only valueless but indeed repulsive. A crackhouse.
This sermon has not been posted on LC's YouTube channel, which houses dozens of other chapel messages, and those who have asked for a copy of the sermon, including the school's Title IX coordinator, have been denied access to it. I -along with others at LC - expressed my concerns and the concerns of several of my students to the vice president for the integration of faith and learning. I was shocked that a dean at LC had presented such an unbiblical, false picture of women.
Let me say this clearly: no woman is a crackhouse. No woman exists for the pleasure of a man. No woman's value is in her physical appearance. The Bible is very clear about this. In the poem of the valiant woman in Proverbs 31, the only thing said about beauty is that it is fleeting. Peter calls women to be beautiful on the inside rather than focusing on their outward appearance (1 Peter 1:3- 4). The Lord said to Samuel when he was seeking to anoint the next of Israel, "Do not look on his [Eliab's] appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7). Think even of our Lord Jesus Christ, who "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isa 53: 2). When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, did he call her a crackhouse? No, he gave her living water.
Dara wrote an apology that was emailed to the faculty, staff, and student body. In it, he apologized for "the tone" of his sermon, expressed gratitude that it was brought to his attention, and ended by saying, "I'll be sure to weigh my warped sense of humor against my sense of propriety and choose something that isn't controversial. " I am thankful for Dara's apology, but it still troubled me that he did not address the misogynistic view of women in his sermon.
Dara delivered a public message in chapel, at the least implicitly endorsed by those who gave him the platform to do so, in which he reduced women to sexual objects and communicated that their value was in how many sexual partners they had. Yes, this is offensive. Yes, this is a false gospel. And yes, this message was delivered publicly as biblical truth. Such a message goes far beyond the confines of Matthew 18. Louisiana College is not  a church, and this was not  a private sin. In addition, one wonders how victims of sexual abuse and harassment are to feel safe in a place that rebukes them for complaining about misogyny preached in the school's chapel. Is a rape victim supposed to confront her rapist privately before seeking "more 'official' redress"? And what if the rapist repents? Is the  victim supposed to forego "more 'official' redress"? I know such questions are absurd, but  Brewer's email was sent in the context of concern over degrading and sexualized comments about women. How can we protect the abused from the powerful if the powerful are able to hide behind Matthew 18?
The fruits of misogyny are abuse. Physical, verbal, sexual abuse. Men  are told that women are objects for their pleasure. Women are told that their value is in their sexuality and physical appearance. And all this is presented as true . As the  Southern Baptist Convention reckons with the current sexual abuse scandal, we must address institutions that foster the teaching and worldview that engenders such abuse."
Problems at Louisiana College 

If you've made it this far reading this blog,  then you a Christian interested in solutions, not just the problems.

Dr. Russ Meek's email to President Brewer led to a meeting on February 25, 2019, in Dr. Brewer's office with the following four people present: 1).  Dr. Rick Brewer, President of Louisiana College, 2). Dr. Cheryl Clark, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, 3). Dr. Philip Caples, Vice-President for the Integraton of Faith and Learning, and 4). Dr. Russell Meek. 

Dr. Caples didn't say much in the meeting, but Dr. Brewer and Dr. Clark had a great deal to say to Dr. Meek. Three days after this meeting, on February 28, 2019, Dr. Russell Meek resigned from his position at Louisiana College, effective May 4, 2019. 

What was said in the President's office to Dr. Meek will be summarized in five statements with a sentence or two of commentary from me:

1. Dr. Clark said to Dr. Meek, "Why do you want to do that at all (make public what happened at the chapel)?  Why do it? If every action that we take at this institution is either for the good of the institution or it harms the institution? Which do you think that's going to do? How is that going to help the institution? What good comes out of that? That's what I don't really get. I really don't."
Dr. Clark, go back and read article Abuse of Faith. The systemic problem in the SBC is leaders are more concerned with the institution than with the abused. You, of all people, should know better. 
2. Dr. Brewer said to Dr. Meek, "This (Russ's email above)  has already been reviewed by our attorney. He says it's actionable. It's libelous. It's slanderous. It's defamatory, and it's inflammatory. And by the way, you're taking on one of the most powerful, if not one of the Top Five most powerful people, in Central Louisiana. Not me, Joshua Dara. He's an attorney as well, Russ. He's got a strong legal mind."
Dr. Brewer, take it from one who has been threatened multiple times (me). When threats like yours are made, it's a tell-tale sign that the threatened person should keep pressing.
3. Dr. Brewer said to Dr. Meek, "Go see Dr. Dara. Go sit down with him. He's one of our own. He's a dean. Now what if he had been a person who just came and spoke and flew out and he wasn't a member of our team, a member a family? We'd take a different approach most likely on that. Yeah. But, uh, he (Dr. Joshua Dara) is with us. He's a member of our family."
Dr. Brewer, are you serious? Protecting your own is never a Christian principle. Judgment should begin in the house of God. 
4.  Dr. Meek said to all LC Administrators present: "I'm concerned for the women who think that what Dr. Dara said is true. Their identity is not found in how many sexual partners they've had.  My concern is for the women who think, 'I've had sex with a lot of guys.' Is she a crackhouse? I have a family member who was molested as a child by multiple people in her family. Is she a crackhouse? Is her identity bound up in how many sexual partners she's had? If men don't pursue a woman is it because the woman is ugly? He said if your phones aren't ringing It's because you're not getting taking care of your house. Dr. Brewer, women are made in God's image. This is a fundamental gospel issue. Who humans are. I'm not mad; I'm grieved.  If I had a daughter I would be horrified to know that she was being told these things about herself."
5. Dr. Brewer said to Dr. Meek about the chapel video: "We'll post it. But I heard so much riff-raff, why would I put that out there for some of the cynics on this campus, faculty, and students, who will take the clips they don't approve and post them on Twitter and make fun of this man. Would you want me to do that Russ? It's uncontrollable at that point, isn't it? But I'll be glad to put it out there if that's what bothering you and other people that you think I'm trying to hide. I'm not trying to hide anything."
The Follow-Up

The video of the chapel sermon is still not posted. 

Louisiana College administrators canceled the scheduled April 2019 conference entitled "What is a Woman Worth?" - a conference that was to be led by Dr. Meek - and refused to reschedule it for later in the semester.

Dr. Russ Meek resigned and is no longer a faculty member at Louisiana College. 

All the administrators named above remain at Louisiana College. 

On the official last day of employment at Louisiana College, Dr. Russell Meek wrote a paper entitled Misogyny in Baptist Higher Education.

At some point, all Southern Baptists will understand what the issues really are.