“The world is on fire and the firemen are arguing about what tool to use.”
It has been an eventful week in light of comments made by John MacArthur about Beth Moore, telling her to “Go home” (see link below for a YouTube video of the MacArthur’s comment and a screenshot of Moore’s response via Twitter). I’ve watched as prominent leaders in the Church come to Moore’s defense; I’ve been encouraged by the leaders of my own faith tradition, Foursquare, reaffirm women in ministry and in leadership. As I was reading through some comments made on an Instagram video post by Lisa Bevere on October 23, 2019, the quote above caught my eye. “The world is on fire and the firemen are arguing about what tool to use,” stated a sister in Christ.
I am often disappointed but rarely shocked when I hear my brothers in Christ discuss God’s supposed ministry limitations for me based on my gender. In my corner of the world, I’ve listened to arguments against women in ministry from colleagues, classmates, and even family members. It can be painful when it comes from people I love but not surprising. Even though I know intellectually that I have some sisters who agree with these arguments, their agreement always amazes me. In my mind, I understand these precious sisters believe their stance is biblical. In my heart, I grieve for such unnecessary and unbiblical self-restriction.
As I first began to dream about Women Disciples in March 2019, I thought of these sisters. Part of the purpose of Women Disciples is to encourage all women to take movement steps in their faith in whatever capacity God is calling them to. Another purpose is to highlight Women Disciples both in the Bible and church history, so we might have a better understanding of our faith heritage and discover role models to emulate. The above quote reminds me there is much work to do in both of these purposes.
The Missing Conversation
As I was contemplating MacArthur’s comments, I also realized the Church was missing a crucial element in the conversation. Towards the end of the video posted below, MacArthur criticizes the South Baptist Convention’s resolution that the next committee for a Bible translation should include a woman, an African American, and a Latino. “How about someone who knows Greek and Hebrew?” he sneered as though knowing Greek and Hebrew and being a woman, African American, or Latino are mutually exclusive. This reveals yet another sin in the church—racism. MacArthur’s question demeans women, African Americans, and Latinos because it suggests they could not possibly know Greek or Hebrew. Perhaps in MacArthur’s circles, he has not had an opportunity to meet scholars from such diverse backgrounds; as a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, I have. I would encourage MacArthur to enroll in an Old Testament course taught by Dr. Kyong-Jin Lee. She not only knows Hebrew but also teaches in three languages: English, Spanish, and Korean. Dr. Lee is a powerful teacher and preacher, and experiencing her class is eye-opening.
From its infancy, the Church was multicultural. As the Christian faith spread from the Middle East to Africa and Europe, people from diverse backgrounds were moved by the Truth and became followers of Jesus. This new movement faced its own struggles with culture and ethnicity, which led Paul to write these words: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). We must remember our spiritual inheritance. Ensuring a Bible translation committee better reflects the people of the church and the Kingdom of God is one step we can take.
The world is on fire…and a firefighter told another firefighter to go home because of her gender. Considering there are more women in the church than men, MacArthur’s words dismiss over half of the firefighters on the team. This same firefighter’s words also diminished the contributions and the leadership of our brothers and sisters of color. Because we may be uncomfortable with the topics, the temptation is to be quiet, cover our eyes and ears, claim the priority of unity; if we fall for this temptation, our silence is our agreement to unbiblical and harmful statements. If we fall for this temptation, we settle for a unity at the expense of women and people of color. This is why we cannot, we must not, stay silent.
Movement Step: Study the Bible systematically to see the various roles women played in the Bible and pray for God to show you insight. Look up women such as Eve, Sarah, Miriam, Shiphrah, Puah, Deborah, Jael, Huldah, Mary (mother of Jesus), Mary and Martha, Woman at the Well, Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, and others. Then pick up a Christian nonfiction book or a commentary that is written by someone outside your culture or ethnicity. We all have blind spots when it comes to understanding and applying Scripture. Expanding our current “great cloud of witnesses” to include people from diverse backgrounds will help rectify that.