Thursday, February 20, 2020

Welcome to the Gender Ball Game Dr. Tom Nettles

Today, Founders Ministries published an article by my friend, Dr. Tom Nettles, where Tom takes me to task for writing that the Bible teaches leadership in the home, the church, and society is never gender-based.

I think Founders Ministries brought out the big gun (Dr. Tom Nettles) because the article I wrote this week entitled The 2000 BFM and the Theological Triage Tragedy struck a chord.

I learned a long time ago that when a big gun is fired, people are concerned. A writer only receives flak when flying over the target.

I seem to be successful in convincing Christ-followers within the Southern Baptist Convention what true, biblical, Christ-like leadership looks like, enabling them to lay aside the traditions of men.

Tom writes that "Burleson cites Scripture and condenses ideas that are false or have no relation to the position he wants to establish." 
The position that I wish to establish is that leadership in Christ's Kingdom (eg. "the church") is always based on gifting, not gender; humble character, not hubristic control; and a spirit of service, not a position of power. In other words, gifted males and females are part of shared leadership in the church, the home, and in society.
Tom writes that "Burleson overlooked passages like Hebrews 13:17." 
No, Tom, I haven't overlooked it at all. This message I preached on Hebrews 13:17 was delivered to my church nearly ten years ago. 
Tom writes that "with breathtaking confidence, Burleson asserts that it is a mistake to teach male leadership in the home and the church...(and) the idea of a 'submissive attitude' on the part of a woman is a violation of New Testament standard."
No Tom, you misunderstand. I'm not saying it's a mistake for females to have a submissive attitude toward males. I'm saying it's a mistake for males not to have a submissive attitude toward females. I'm also not saying its a mistake for a gifted man to lead. I'm saying it's wrong and sinful for a man to keep a gifted woman from leading.  As far back as 1998, two years before the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message was adopted, I pointed out to Southern Baptists that the Bible teaches mutual submission of the husband and wife, mutual leadership of the man and the woman, and mutual love of men and women (see image below).
Tom writes that "(Burleson) should consider arguing that John Broadus's argument against women...speaking in a mixed assembly...did not represent the general consensus of Southern Baptists at the time."
Tom, I agree with you! I can't disprove that John Broadus's views on women did not accurately present Southern Baptists' view of women "at the time" (eg. 1850s and 1860s). But John Broadus was wrong!  Just as he and the other FOUNDERS (pardon the pun) of Southern Seminary were wrong about slavery in terms of their interpretations of the Bible. Only the Bible is infallible;  man's interpretations of it are not.
As Southern Seminary recently reported, Southern Founders John A Broadus,  James P. Boyce, Basil Manly Jr., and William Williams, all owned more than 50 slaves between them. Shame on them. Yet, they all used their faulty interpretations of Scripture to justify slavery.
I'm uninterested in debating Founders' views on women. I'm only interested in telling others what the Scriptures teach.
Tom quotes the Philadelphia Association and says (in agreement with the Association) that "women in the church of God should be silenced (and that the Bible)... excludes all women whomsoever from all degrees of teaching, ruling, governing, dictating, and leading in the church of God.”
Hogwash. That is not what the Bible teaches. The overwhelming teaching of Jesus and the New Testament is that men and women as gifted by Christ (the Head of the church), and as led by the Spirit, and as called by the church, should serve others without restrictions.
But what about I Timothy 2:9-15? (see Artemis and the End of Us: Evangelical Errors Regarding Women).
But what about I Timothy 2:12?  (see 'The' Woman of Error in I Timothy 2:12).
But what about I Corinthians 14:34-36? (see A Free Speech Ekklesia for All Brothers and Sisters).
Now, I'm asking you a question. Why do you base your views on three passages of Scripture that at your first glance "prohibit women from speaking or teaching," but you ignore the overwhelming and clear teachings of the Scripture that all men and women who follow Jesus are to serve as the Holy Spirit gifts them?

The Bible clearly teaches that both men and women are to minister and lead in Christ's Kingdom and in our Southern Baptist churches.

For further reading, peruse A Biblical Primer on Women in Christian Ministry.

The problem in the SBC is men acting like "Gentiles" (Jesus' words) and seeking to exert power, authority, and control over people. Power. Authority. Control.

PAC men (Power. Authority. Control. men) are running the SBC, but the days are soon coming when the Spirit will move and Christ will become the Head of His people and this infatuation with authority and control will come to an end.

Spiritual power trips typically end in twisted trysts of sexual submission.

When Jesus is the only authority over His people, then His people - that means every brother and every sister in Christ - are empowered to serve as Christ gifts and commissions us.

I tried to write a comment to Tom's post on the Founders Ministries website. The Founders would not let it through. So, in closing, I ask you to read my full response to Dr. Tom Nettle's article. The comment was written "off the top of my head" in about 2 minutes, and I post it here without edits, in case the Founders at some point in the future decide to take my out of 'moderation.'

"Tom, I'm honored you would respond to my writings. The "office of pastor" may have a long and early pedigree in Baptist history and ecclesiology, but you may be missing my point. Slavery has had a long and early pedigree in Southern Baptist history and ecclesiology. Neither one of us would say it has precedent in Scripture (at least I don't think we would). However, Southern Baptist preachers during the 1850s and 1860s would have defended tooth and toenail the right - those pastors would say the biblical right (I have their sermons) - for Southern Baptists to own, trade, and purchase slaves.

My point is that the BIBLE - nowhere - speaks of "the authority of a pastor to rule over people." Period. The Bible refers to Christ as the one with authority over His church, and He gifts men and women as He pleases. We are His body, and there is only one Head. A multi-head church doesn't exist, no matter how long and how often Baptists try to say a "Pastor" has authority over anybody. I've written a book called "Fraudulent Authority: pastors Who Seek to Rule Over Others."

If "ordination" means that a person is bestowed some "mystical authority" over God's people, then I am against ordaining women - and men.

Christ gifts His people - men and women - as He sees fit. There are no "render by gender" spiritual gifts. The men and women gifted with teaching should teach. The men and women gifted with prophesying should prophesy (preach). The men and women gifted with serving should serve. Those are the "roles" of the church.

Now, if a local body of Christ which incorporates as a 501 C-3 wishes to designate a man or a woman to be a "pastor" of that non-profit, then they must file papers with the state and declare who is the local 501 C-3 "pastor" - for tax purposes and for officiating marriage ceremonies. However, few people realize that "legal authority" in any church is not the pastor, not the members, and not even the congregation. Legal authority - as defined by the state - are those men and women listed as "trustees" on the Secretary of State Certificate of Incorporation, and those so designated in continuing By Laws.

Baptists have historically been "people of the book." We wrote our Confessions first (1644), and in that London Confession, the "ordinances" (baptisms and the Lord's Supper) were called "Christ's ordinances," not church ordinances, so any convert of Jesus had the privilege of baptizing others they led to Jesus, and any convert had the privilege of sharing the bread and the wine with other. By 1689, after the Presbyterians issued their Westminster Confession, Baptists in London wrote another Confession to more align with Cromwellians ruling England. It's then that this mystical idea of "an office of pastoral authority" came into existence among Baptists. King James and the Anglicans, Cromwell and the Presbyterians, and other denominations all viewed "the office of bishop" as an office of authority, and only they (eg. "the bishops") could handled "the ordinances."

I know you read Gill (as do I), and this brilliant Hebrew linguist convinced me that the ordinances are Christ's, not the church, and every follower of Christ is a minister.

Some just happen to get paid.

I'm pushing back against this awful doctrine that "Preachers" or "Pastors" (i.e. MALES) have some kind of inherent authority over females. The doctrine of eternal subordination of the Son was ruled heresy a long time ago, but it lives today in the hearts of many attempting to keep females eternally subordinate to males.

I appreciate the friendship with you and Tom Ascol, and I must say, I'm flattered that the big gun is now writing in opposition to what I write.

I must be making progress in raising the awareness of what I deem a more biblical view of women and leadership. Though you know history (as do I), the interpretation of the Bible can change to more accurately reflect the teachings of slavery.

Ask our Southern Baptist pastor friend, Dwight McKissic, or my fellow Teaching Pastor at Emmanuel Enid, Abraham Wright, if they are glad Southern Baptists changed our interpretations of Scripture on the issue of slavery.

Southern Baptist will also one day have a more biblical view of women.

The Holy Spirit will see to it (Acts 2:17)."
More to come...


Rex Ray said...


You wrote, “…every follower of Christ is a minister…”

I believe it’s more correct to say every follower of Christ is a priest:

“…you are his holy priest…” (1 Peter 2:5 NLT)

And to tell God some of His priest are not allowed to do such and such is putting themselves above God.

Unknown said...

God bless you. Your star will shine brighter and brighter for pointing people to the WAY.

Rex Ray said...


This lady, taller than most men, disguised herself as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War. She was shot twice in her leg. To keep from being identified as a woman, she was able to removed one bullet but the other was too deep. It was still there when she died at 66 from Yellow Fever. She received an honorable discharge at West Point. There’s a statue of her at a public library in Sharon, Massachusetts.

Hey! My daughter is manager of a large and only golf course in Bonham. :)

Susan said...

Thank you Wade for such clear and concise interpretation of Gods Word. I love how you bring us back to our Unity in Christ. Reminding us that Christ is the head of the church and no other. It is He who calls us all, both men and women, to use the gifts entrusted to each of us for working Together as ONE Body.

I wish Danny and I had attended your church when we resided in Ft. Worth.

Anonymous said...

Wade, assuming you are correct in what you write (many will disagree with you) would not the proper "battle" be not to elevate women to a position of false authority currently held only by men but to eliminate men from that false authority as well?

And again, dealt with at least some of the women some want to speak this summer while we were in a totally different denom. Are you willing to address the content of some of their teaching? Some may be totally against letting them speak on that basis, not gender. Are you cool with that? Will you support those folks or accuse them of gender bias?

Would not equality mean women will also be judged by the content of their character and by their teachings?


Christiane said...

I believe it is Christ Who shows us all how to be more fully 'human' and how to relate to one another also, as He did, when He was among us. Hence, it is even more important to acknowledge the truth of this verse from Galatians, chapter 3:

"28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Until we get back to seeing one another as 'human persons' with dignity derived from being made in the image of Our Creator, I don't think that 'respect' for one another can be fully realized, in ANY of the 'categories' mentioned in that verse in Galatians.

Something about that verse: it is seminal to a lot of what is going on today: the misogyny, the racism, the fear of 'the others' who are different.
If we are to be heirs of 'the promise' made to Abraham, we need to take another look at that verse and emphasize how we all now take our identities as human persons 'in Christ Jesus',
or we cannot relate fully with respect to one another in ANY of those categories.

When we deny the dignity of another person based on some sub-category, Who is it that we are really denying in our 'pride'???

Wade Burleson said...


I'm seeking to eliminate all false authority in the church.

Having success.

Cindy Meyers said...

Wade..I'm a woman and, early on in my Christianity, I had trouble with the Word's commands to submit to ANYONE, haha! But, through much time spent seeking the Lord's heart for how to obey what I knew to be true for my female self, submission did not feel so threatening. It began to feel liberating! It didn't matter to me who the one was I was to submit to..husband, Boss, teacher, Pastor, etc. and it didn't matter if it was mutual It all came down to MY attitude..humble or proud, regardless of whether the other person had the heart of submission or not! I DO see restrictions for certain positions within the church regarding women. It has nothing to do with male authority acting wrongly toward women. And, I guess, I don't understand how you can say, "yes, there are those verses that restrict women but "they" neglect all the other mutually submissive verses" as if those restrictive verses don't matter. Of course women have similar giftings as men but isn't it about WHERE they are directed to use or not use them that is at issue? If they Pastor, how can they be "the husband of one wife?"..and other such relevant passages?!? I don't see anything demeaning about how God, through His Word, directs women. To me, it's beautiful! When each child of God, truly, embraces God's commands for them out of love for their Savior, there is a sweet aroma of Christian harmony that must bless the heart of God!

Wade Burleson said...


Superb comment! Thank you! Keep serving and submitting! I have no desire to convince you of anything! Wade

prayer partner said...

Bless your heart Wade!

on 1 Timothy 3... we have traditionally viewed it as a prohibition against women... it is actually giving men permission to be in spiritual leadership... men were not allowed to be leaders in some of the religious cults of Ephesus at the time due to the women being in charge (ie temple of artemis - one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world)... we have incorrectly viewed Ephesus/I Timothy through a patriarchal lens instead of a matriarchal lens... the women didn't need permission to serve in leadership... but the men did!

and the "authority" has morphed over the ages... as a famous fictional spaniard stated "I do not think that word means what you think it means".

Greek word is "authentein" used this once in NT... Greek literature from 300 BC -300 AD used "authentein" or a variation in the context of violent behavior by one in a position of power... ie contexts included massacres, murder, sacrifice of children and suicide... in 4th century Jerome interpreted the "authentein" into Latin meaning "dominate"... and in 16th century erasmus interpreted "authentein" as 'exercise authority'... hmmmm... that should give us some pause to think about what Paul intended when he specifically used "authentein" as the only time it is used in the NT. Why didn't he use "exousia", the word that was used over 30 times?

prayer partner said...

Mark 7:13... the traditions of man can nullify/void the word of God... and it seems the traditions of man regarding women have influenced our understanding of I Timothy for centuries... especially I Tim 2:12...

ps... "exousia" is the common greek word used in the NT for authority...

Rex Ray said...


There’s a ‘job’ in church for women only: nursery workers.

In our church, women take turns. Once, it was a woman’s turn and she had her 3-year-old daughter by the hand. Judy was sitting at the end of a pew.

I think the mother got a little upset when her daughter stopped next to Judy; pointed her finger and said, “I want her.”

Rex Ray said...


Sometimes, I get jealous of Judy. Once, I fussed at my daughter: “If you have something to show, you always show it to Judy first!

“Well, she’s more responsive than you.”

Rex Ray said...


Judy just told me the girl was 5.

Cindy Meyers said...

To Prayer Partner..
Thank-you for your response..I have researched Strong's Concordance regarding the various definitions of authority..
The KJV translates Strong's G1849, exousia, in the following manner: power (69x), authority (29x), right (2x), liberty (1x), jurisdiction (1x), strength (1x).
Outline of Biblical Usage [?]
power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases

leave or permission

physical and mental power

the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises

the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)

the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)


authority over mankind


the power of judicial decisions

of authority to manage domestic affairs


a thing subject to authority or rule


one who possesses authority

a ruler, a human magistrate

the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man, spiritual potentates

a sign of the husband's authority over his wife

the veil with which propriety required a women to cover herself

the sign of regal authority, a crown

It seems to me that God had good, gracious, kindhearted and servant-like authority in mind while two references exist in the gospels where Jesus had to say, "don't use authority like THIS (like the world)".. but look for ways to be a helper! For me, I look for HOW someone's position of authority is acted out toward those they are called to serve..are they all about, "DO WHAT I SAY..." or are they about, "how may I help?" ..more of my two cents!

Wade Burleson said...

Cindy and Prayer Partner,

Good discussion!

My father has also contributed to this topic - Remember Them Who Rule Over You and Submit (Hebrews 13:7)