Doctrine & Devotion on Women Preachers: A Balanced Observation

A few days ago, Bible Thumping Wingnut (BTWN) released a post claiming Joe and Jimmy—of the popular Doctrine and Devotion podcast—agreed women could preach on a Lord’s Day to a local congregation… in theory. Joe and Jimmy responded in kind with a bonus podcast episode. Now, before I say anything more, I want to preface this article. I believe Joe and Jimmy to be dear brothers in Christ (although I’m not a fan of the direction of their podcast). I also have reason to believe Joe and Jimmy are faithful pastors of Redeemer Church in St. Charles, IL. Lastly, I want to distance myself and The Baptist Reformation as a whole from JD Hall and BTWN. We not only have doctrinal differences, but we also take a much different approach in hopes our interactions will adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than serve as a stumbling bock. Moreover, I do not consider The Baptist Reformation a discernment blog, but only respond to various things being said when I feel the issue may provide a moment of edification for everyone, myself included.

I was particularly bothered by the podcast Joe and Jimmy did in response to JD Hall and BTWN. We all know JD is off the rails at times, but to discredit a critique based on how a person has acted in the past is not satisfactory. Perhaps their critique is valid, notwithstanding their character. And, to discredit a critic based on what they say while also taking their critique seriously by responding to it is counter-intuitive. It looks as though Joe and Jimmy in fact do think Hall and BTWN are credible—at least credible enough to respond to. Not to mention, Joe admittedly believes JD to be outside the faith. I found this to be rather below the belt. Why would a pastor make this kind of judgment based on what he sees online? How can we judge one’s faith rightly through Facebook and a blog? Just because JD makes outlandish claims like that doesn’t mean we have to return the favor.

There were three things that irked me about their response:

The Way They Responded

There was a tinge of self-aggrandizement. Apparently this critique of Hall and BTWN was “enough” to get them to the mics, as if (a) Hall & BTWN required a response and, (b) as if Joe and Jimmy are just too busy for such things… most of the time—they were sure to boast in their busy schedule so everyone would know they “condescended” to the mics in order to handle this matter. “This was enough to get us out… on the mics,” they said. Ironically, the way they responded was almost just as bad as the way JD initially approached them. These people, Joe says, are “infections” in the body. This is not the right way to respond to a critique. Responding this way may be rhetorically useful in getting your people on “your side” by diminishing the reputation of the “other” side. But it really does nothing to produce a useful response. Beginning this way is really nothing more than finger-pointing. It would have made their stance much more attractive if they would have risen above the name-calling and instead went directly for the central issue.

However, unfortunately for Joe and Jimmy, I really think they’re on the wrong side this time; and I think that—as much as it pains me to say this—Hall and BTWN had an actual point. Two reasons follow for why I believe Joe and Jimmy to be on the wrong side of the doctrinal and historical fence.

A Doctrinal Mistake

They separated the act of preaching to a local congregation on the Lord’s Day from the concept of authority. Preaching the Word on the Lord’s Day is one of the marks of a true church. If preaching the Word is not the impetus of authority, then what is? Paul writes to Timothy, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence (1 Tim. 2:12).” The phrase “or to have” (Lit. “nor,” Gk. “oude”) is the continuance of the first negation, not a contrastive. It’s not as if Paul is saying, “I do not permit women to teach, and I also do not permit them to exercise authority,” as if the two things are separate. Teaching and having authority go hand in hand. If one teaches, they wield authority in that moment of teaching. That is why women are not permitted to teach or preach.

A Lack of Historical Perspective

They granted that a woman, in theory, could preach on the Lord’s Day to a local congregation. In their clarification (the response bonus podcast linked above), they reaffirmed this. But, in light of point (2) above, this is ridiculous. It’s a contradiction in terms to say one can teach or preach yet also not have authority within the setting of the local church. Our common Confession, the 1689, says:

Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it. ( Acts 11:19-21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11 )[1]

In the context of the seventeenth century Particular Baptist churches, these “gifted and fitted” by the Holy Spirit were often referred to as “gifted brethren” who were on deck for pastoral ministry. Nehemiah Coxe and William Collins, two of the framers of our Confession, were gifted brethren at Petty France Church in London before they became the pastors (John Bunyan’s successors). Women preachers would have never been entertained by men like Bunyan, Coxe or Collins.

Concluding Thoughts

I do not have much else to write on this, but it is very important that we consider what the Scriptures say first, and then peer into Baptist history to see what our forerunners thought. Indeed, it hasn’t only been Baptists who would’ve been against the practice of female preaching, but nearly the entirety of church history right up until the last century or so.


[1] The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 26.11.

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