January 28, 2021

Where Are They Keeping That Secret Book?

UPDATE: One actually should be wondering at what kind of church will a person be ostracized and labeled for not believing the whole enchilada. Who is drawing the lines here on what is and is not “essential” to the complementarian position?

Listening to the discussion at the “Send in The Clowns” post, I had a thought.

Some evangelicals seem to have a very detailed view of the issue of authority as it pertains to men and women in the church and in the family. Extremely detailed. Like they’ve got a book or something.

When I say detailed, I mean these brethren have a view of authority that answers all sorts of questions- detailed questions- right down to some rather astonishing specifics like who can read what book on what topic in what room with whom present.

Where is this information? Can I get my hands on it?

This view of authority must be out there somewhere in some accessible form, because various evangelical leaders- especially Southern Baptist ones- are able to make all kinds of “rulings” on gender matters with confidence and authority.

For example, how did SWBTS President Paige Patterson know that it was against Biblical authority for a female professor to teach Hebrew to male students?

Where exactly is that kind of thing explained? Is that in print, or is it just running around in the head of certain people?

Where in Southern Baptist theology is it explained, from the scriptures, that a woman can’t teach any man the Bible in any context unless she’s “under authority?” Just where is it explained that a woman can teach the Bible in the church at all? To anyone? Where is it explained exactly why the secular realms are not held to the same kind of authority structure as the church and the family? (In other words, where is it explained that Sarah Palin has to be under the authority of her husband at home and in church, but not under the authority of a man if she becomes President of the United States?)

Where are fathers told that they must see that their adult, unmarried daughters remain under their authority until they are married?

Where in Southern Baptist or evangelical theology do we hear whether a woman can be a youth pastor or an associate pastor? Write a theological blog? Write theological books for a general audience? Where’s the age break for a boy being able to have a female Bible teacher in Bible study, VBS or youth camp?

Why did I get in trouble once for having a female worship leader, even though no rule stating a policy existed anywhere in our church constitution? Where is it in the Bible that a woman can’t lead a song or a choir?

Where in Southern Baptist theology is it explained that, while elders and deacons are separate offices, a woman cannot be a deacon? (In fact, where is the authority of deacons discussed at all?)

Where will I be able to read a thorough discussion of authority within marriage and family that is recognized by Southern Baptists and is specific enough that I will know what to tell my daughter regarding what is permitted and not permitted?

How do Southern Baptists and other evangelicals KNOW that Vaudie Baucham isn’t correct when he says that Sarah Palin cannot be President because of the Biblical teaching on gender and authority? It appears that Baucham’s church has thought more deeply about these issues than any church I’m familiar with, and their position seems more consistent with a strictly literal view of the passages involved.

I’m being a bit facetious. I don’t believe these detailed theological discussions of the issue of authority exist. In fact, I doubt that these issues were addressed in any detail until very recently. I do completely respect the broadly complementarian position and I respect those whose reading of the scripture leads them to complementarian convictions. But I am very doubtful that any version of complementarianism that questions whether a single mother can teach the Bible to her own sons is standing on sound interpretation.

It appears to me that these issues of authority are not spelled out within broadly accepted Southern Baptist theology or tradition. Certainly these issues aren’t expounded in the kind of detail assumed by those who claim to have detailed answers to such questions. I grew up in Southern Baptist Sunday School, and aside from hearing that women shouldn’t wear slacks and guys shouldn’t have earrings, I heard nothing I can recall about why a woman couldn’t teach Hebrew.

Yes, my brand of fundamentalism was very strongly against “women preachers,” but we never went into finger-wagging mode over women speaking in associational meetings (and we knew churches that did) or huddled discussions disapproving of women telling about their Bible teaching on the mission field. We wouldn’t have made the first “Together For The Gospel” meeting for men only, that’s for sure.

No, my Southern Baptist fundamentalism was OK with Lottie Moon, Bertha Smith, Annie Armstrong, and Sylvia Russell (the woman who was President of the school where I serve in the 1920’s and kept the place from going under.) We didn’t have any pushy feminists, but we also didn’t have any men saying that women who were “out from under male authority” were violating scriptural order. (From my experience in church, we had a lot of women out from under male authority, and that’s about the only way anything actually got done at our church.)

It seems to me that we’ve got a class of men who are occupying some kind of authoritative interpretative role in these detailed questions, expounding a tradition that’s only vaguely available to the rest of us, and making case law as they go on issues like who can blog and who can write a book. It’s way out in left field, it’s far past the Catholic view of a magisterium interpreting scripture and tradition, and it’s rather like something you’d encounter in Islam, where issues of female behavior and male authority are ruled on by some guy who’s been given that job by some other guy.

In other words, a good portion of these detailed interpretations of authority that have developed in Southern Baptist life have all the characteristics of being bogus and containing a lot of hot air. These guys have set up their booths and are dispensing authoritative pronouncements on things the Bible simply doesn’t talk about.

These are matters for local congregations to decide. Radio talk show pundits and internet theologians may sound impressive on all this business, but I’m not buying most of it as anything more than grandly stated opinion uttered in the presence of the fan club.


  1. Nicholas..I know my recitations of the patriarchs’ sins was a cheap shot…Everyone has sinned.

    I was using it to make point out the flaw in equating men in leadership with moral superiority.

    There are many scandalous women in Scripture…and many virtuous ones too.

  2. Oh my. I loved this post, but my reaction to these comments is to cry. I cannot say anything that has not already been said, but I confess that in Christ I find equality between all men and women of all races and places. This may not address the authority issue (which I am still trying to understand), but let us never forget that Jesus called us to embrace the heart behind the Law and not legal requirements alone. Sometimes men and women in these arguments sound like legal professionals, quoting verses to one another, hammering each other with the sins of past men and women. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Pharisees came to Christ with specific legal questions, attempting to trick him and he responded with the Heart behind Truth. The real RULE for everything is love. It seems that (maybe) some men are afraid of losing authority and some women are nursing hurt pride at being denied authority. Those are not the proper bases on which to stand when discerning Truth. I hope I haven’t said anything offensive. I really do want to understand God’s purpose for both genders, and follow His way. IMonk, thank you for this post. Thank you for revealing the way many of us cling to rigid rules we THINK are prescribed in God’s Word. Lord, help us to follow you in Love, surrender to one another in love, and discern the important truths.

  3. Nicholas said: QUOTEThe dominance of male choices is not accidental but Sovereign. Sara, Rebecca, Rahab and Ruth, though significant, are not heads of families, tribes and nations.ENDQUOTE

    If GOD’S WILL is that women can never be heads of state, then there would not be a single GOD approved exception in Scripture. Deborah was a spiritual and political leader in Israel- anointed and appointed by GOD.

  4. Nicholas Said:QUOTE 3) God can, did and does discriminate according to age, gender, race etc. as He pleases.

    Jesus chose twelve men (not twelve women, nor any women at all) to be His Apostles Luke 6:13;ENDQUOTE

    Perhaps you should pray about that Nicholas… I can tell that you would not want to be guilty of wrongly dividing the precious Word of GOD!

    Did you know that “apostle” means “sent one”?
    Do you know who the very FIRST post Resurrection apostle is? I’ll give you a hint: Read John 20. Jesus tears down dividing walls of hostility, rends the curtain of the Holy of Holies so ALL can enter; and busts right through glass ceilings. 🙂

  5. Nicholas Anton says


    “Sarah- GOD’s CHOSEN role model for wives married to DISobedient husbands”
    Are you suggesting that this Scripture (1 Peter 3) teaches that Godly women are to be subject to their ungodly husbands, but that this injunction does not apply to Godly husbands?

    I find the material you posted by Katherine Bushnell to be essentially revisionist history and revisionist hermeneutics. It is more “grinding the Sword of the Spirit” to fit her philosophy than using it to teach the Word of God.

    to me the entire quote is feminist and anti male (not egalitarian), because she attempts to justify most every sin committed by women by the misdeeds of men. Her use of history is spurious. Her logic is seriously flawed.

    “SARAH was OBEYING the laws of her land when she offered her maid to Abraham.”
    Bushnell attempts to show that Sarah was simply following the laws of the land (The Code of Hammurabi), which she claims was the product of men. However, she does not qualify that Abraham was no longer living in Ur, Babylonia. In fact, though Abraham may have been influenced by it, he was at that time living among the Canaanites and other tribes. There is no Biblical record that he was living under any nation while in Palestine (Unless Melchisadec is a nation), and, could therefore in fact have been living by his own law or by a law given to him by God (conjecture).

    “Deborah was a spiritual and political leader in Israel- anointed and appointed by GOD.”

    Though Deborah was a prophetess and wise woman who arbitrated disputes/judged and had a significant influence on Israel, nevertheless I find no Biblical evidence to suggest that she was a spiritual leader in any official sense (she did not have a priestly office nor function and therefore did not offer sacrifices), a political leader (she did not wield political power and authority), or a military leader (she neither had nor led an army, nor carried a sword) in the normal sense of the term. In fact she was a submissive woman who subjected herself to the leadership of Barak (Jdg 4:).

  6. Nicholas Anton says

    “Perhaps you should pray about that Nicholas… I can tell that you would not want to be guilty of wrongly dividing the precious Word of GOD!”
    Did you know that “apostle” means “sent one”?
    Do you know who the very FIRST post Resurrection apostle is? I’ll give you a hint:
    (I know what the word Apostle means and am well aware of John 20. Nowhere are these women called “apostles”. Check the Greek.)

    Mat 13:36;
    “Then Jesus SENT the multitude away, and went into the house…”
    Did this make the “multitudes” apostles?

    By the way, who is misinterpreting Scripture?

  7. Nicholas Anton says


    “If I am Sarah’s daughter, then she is my mother and I don’t appreciate your slandering her.”

    Four of the qualities and practices listed by Peter in 1 Peter 3 to being “daughters of Sarah are;
    1) 1 Peter 3:4; “..a gentle and quiet spirit.”

    2) 1 Peter 3:5; “…being submissive to their own husbands.”

    3) 1 Peter 3:6; “…obey your husband.”

    4) 1 Peter 3:6; “…call your husband lord.”

    The above are included in “…doing what is right…”

    Check off the above and let me know if you truly are a daughter of Sarah.

  8. Ahh, Nicholas, one must go behind the veil to understand this scripture…. and I’m afraid that the section you quoted is addressed uniquely to “wives“. (see 1 Peter 3:1) I am assuming you are not one? So you are not qualified to interpret it for us, KWIM? Are you married Nicholas? There is mail in scripture addressed to husbands too, so you have the authority to understand and obey those 🙂

    Sarah’s a positively wonderful role model 🙂

    NICHOLAS, DID YOU KNOW that Abraham OBEYED Sarah and called her RULER? That’s right!!! This is what any WIFE will discover when she starts digging 🙂

    You’ve heard “Sarah” means “princess”? Well, you gotta stop thinking Disney! “Sarah” means ruler. (click here to read it in the NetBible Dictionary) GOD Himself instructed Abraham thus:

    “God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.” Genesis 17:15

    Do you think Peter’s readers knew that SARAH means RULER? I do. Do you think Peter’s readers knew that Sarah had a great deal of authority in her household? I do. I think they knew their scriptures and I think they honored Sarah. Sarah/ruler/so-named by God was a powerful woman, so much so that when she told her husband that his son must go… “a matter which greatly displeased Abraham”

    Abraham had the spiritual integrity to check with God:

    “So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; … And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham… But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased… whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you,’“Gen 21:10-12

    Exactly how much more authoritative can one get?
    All at once she speaks with authority into Abraham’s life, into history, and right into the Word of God in the new covenant: see Gal 4:29-31

    I think Peter’s readers knew all that. And a careful student of the Bible will likewise come to understand that GOD HIMSELF taught Abraham to respect his wife and submit to her just as Sarah submitted to him. 🙂

  9. Nicholas Anton says


    Please read and learn to understand your own sources.

    Sarah = “lady; princess; princess of the multitude
    my lady; my princess”

    Sarai = “princess”

    “The character of Sarah is of mingled light and shade. On the one hand we have seen that lapse from faith which resulted in the birth of Ishmael, and that lack of self-control and charity which resulted in a quarrel with Abraham, an act of injustice to Hagar, and the disinheriting of Ishmael. Yet on the other hand we see in Sarah, as the New Testament writers point out (Heb 11:11; 1 Pet 3:6), one who through a long life of companionship with Abraham shared his hope in God, his faith in the promises, and his power to become God’s agent for achieving what was humanly impossible. In fact, to Sarah is ascribed a sort of spiritual maternity, correlative with Abraham’s position as “father of the faithful”; for all women are declared to be the (spiritual) daughters of Sarah, who like her are adorned in “the hidden man of the heart,” and who are “doers of good” and “fearers of no terror” (1 Peter loc. cit., literally rendered). That in spite of her outbreak about Hagar and Ishmael she was in general “in subjection to her husband” and of “a meek and quiet spirit,” appears from her husband’s genuine grief at her decease, and still more clearly from her son’s prolonged mourning for her (Gen 24:67; compare 17:17 and 23:1 with 25:20). And He who maketh even the wrath of man to praise Him used even Sarah’s jealous anger to accomplish His purpose that “the son of the freewoman,” Isaac, “born through promise,” should alone inherit that promise (Gal 4:22-31).”

  10. This discussion has become extremely boring. Brague out.

    Except to cite one very ridiculous example of a large Southern Baptist Church in Alabama where a musically gifted husband and wife team are the Orchestra leader and Choir leader, respectively. I would say that in most traditional churches the choir is the primary music ministry; if there is an orchestra it is there as an accompaniment to the choir, the primary music ministry. In this particular large Southern Baptist Church in Alabama the orchestra-of-40 leader (the husband) is the Minister of Music and the choir-of-200 leader (the wife) is the Associate Minister of Music. Because, naturally (so they think there), a wife cannot outrank her husband in the church hierarchy.

    Zounds and egads!!!

  11. I never noticed until just now that this entire discussion took place five months ago.

    I’m always the last to get the word….

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