One of the major stories throughout the first quarter of 2023 is the SBC’s debate on the biblical doctrine of an exclusively male pastorate. Because they finally disfellowshipped Rick Warren over his ordination of women as pastors, the banners have been called from all over Big Eva to rally to his defense, decrying the Executive Committee’s actions for being political rather than biblical. Ironically, the only political factor was the overdue process it took to disfellowship Warren, not the action itself.
Among those who have rallied their banners to the feminist side includes Dwight McKissic, whom the Conservative Baptist Network wrongly treated as a brother, spearheading the effort to reverse the EC’s decision.
In the aftermath, Warren took to his friends at Christianity Today to gather his support, gaining an ally in Russell Moore, a former Southern Baptist who has long disregarded SBC orthodoxy. On Russell Moore’s podcast, Warren used three verses unrelated to pastors to support his heresy: Matthew 28:19-20, which is the Great Commission; Joel 2:28, a verse about the general outpouring of the Holy Spirit beginning on Pentecost; and John 20:17, a verse about Mary Magdalene being instructed to tell the disciples about the Resurrection. All three are unrelated to Church eldership. Unironically, heretics throughout Church history have clung to Mary Magdalene while The Chosen heightens her significance.
In his latest column, “Let’s Rethink the Evangelical Gender Wars,” Russell Moore goes full male feminist in his support for Rick Warren and female pastors. In popular vernacular, when a man comes out as gay after previously being seen as normal, he is considered to be playing for a different team. So to is this the case as he laments his previous views.
Last year I came across stinging words of rebuke against the ministry of Beth Moore. Her preaching and teaching was a “gateway drug to radical feminism,” said a young conservative. I found the rhetoric appalling, but I couldn’t tell that to the author of those words because he no longer exists. He was Russell Moore, circa 2004.
It sounds like 2004 Russell Moore was spot on regarding Beth Moore. The question should be pondered, what would 2004 Russell Moore think of today’s version? In 2004, he was against female preaching, against gay “marriage,” presumably for border security and enforcement of law, against abortion, and presumably did not believe Caesar was head of the Church. He was even an advocate of Patriarchy.
All these other shifts coincide his falling away from orthodoxy on patriarchy.
I was wrong about Beth Moore, but I’m even more chastened by the phrase gateway drug. The gender debate between complementarians and egalitarians was often fraught because it was a debate about just that: which views were “gateway drugs” to what abyss, which “slippery slopes” led to what error.
Some were convinced that egalitarians would lead us away from what the Bible declares to be good: that God designed us as male and female, that we need both mothers and fathers, that sexual expression is limited to the union of husband and wife. Meanwhile, others warned that complementarian arguments wrongly used Scripture the way an earlier generation did to defend white supremacy and slavery.
His calling of his prior arguments as slippery slopes is coincidental given that the same accusation was leveled at those opposing gay “marriage,” that it would lead to a host of other practices which now includes state sponsored pedophilia. As for the issue of female pastors, it correlates heavily with the adoption of Side A/B Theology, like Saddleback, and the revisionist definitions of sexual abuse via the adoption of Rachael Denhollander Theology. Stemming from the French Revolution, Egalitarianism is the root of all Marxist and Critical movements today, which includes Feminism. The Slippery Slope is undefeated, and Russell Moore has long fallen into the abyss.
In recent years, many of us have seen old coalitions and old certainties torn apart. We’ve also discovered “slippery slopes” in unpredictable places. For those who are more traditional, the frustration started with an ever-narrowing definition of complementarian, measured increasingly by countering one’s “enemies” rather than by finding actual biblical consensus. First-order issues that define the catholicity of the church were treated as in-house debates while secondary or tertiary matters of “gender roles” were treated as matters of conciliar-like boundary-definition.
Qualifications for elders/pastors/bishops is a primary issue as there is clear teaching in Scripture. No church should permit an adulterous man to return to the pulpit, just as a divorce post conversion is disqualifying. In the same way, the male pastorate is explicit in scripture. It ties directly to the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, which is why Egalitarians often attack the authority of the Apostle Paul.
As Moore also described, the ever-narrowing complementarianism becomes coopted by egalitarians, which is why he previously advocated Patriarchy! He knew then that it was a squishy middle ground.
More importantly, recent scandals have demonstrated that the slippery-slope arguments of egalitarians were at least partially right—by pointing out that, for some, what lay behind a zeal for “male headship” was not responsibility before God but a psychologically stunted loathing of women or, worse, a cover for the sadistic silencing of women and girls. We see this not only in the uncovered horrors themselves but also in those who give no evidence of meeting the 1 Timothy 2 requirements for ministry—who, rather than putting away “anger” and “disputing” (v. 8), are the most eager to apply the rest of the chapter to castigate women leaders who’d dare to be a church’s guest speaker on Mother’s Day.
The modern Egalitarian argument is not so much about Scripture but the “impure motivations” of complementarians, whereby they clutch pearls over women in the pulpit rather than the abuse in the church. This is Denhollander theology, and this is the radical feminism Moore spoke against in 2004. Just like any Marxist-adjacent movement, the issue is the power dynamics.
Whatever one might think of the “servant leadership” rhetoric of Promise Keepers a generation ago, we should agree that it’s quite a fall from that to today’s “theobro” vision of opposing such allegedly feminizing attributes as empathy and kindness. Turns out, there really was more John Wayne than Jesus, more Joe Rogan than the apostle Paul, in a lot of what’s been said to be “biblical.”
This is the “money-line” of Moore’s article, harkening to the Jesus and John Wayne while saying that the church has become more influenced by Joe Rogan than the Bible—perhaps the “get their theology from Fox News” talking point has become antiquated. But there is more Jesus in a drugged up hedonist like Joe Rogan than an effeminate like Russell Moore. Jesus flipped tables and fashioned a whip against the moneychangers in the first century temple. That is more John Wayne than Russell Moore.
Many evangelical egalitarians have found themselves “homeless” too. They’ve been labeled in progressive circles as not “real feminists” precisely because, for them, the issue is how best to interpret inspired, authoritative Scripture—including Paul’s letters—not to deconstruct it. Today, when there really is a slippery slope of gender ideology that challenges the male-female binary, evangelical egalitarians spend more of their time in the outside world defending the idea that there is a complementarity of male and female, just not of the patriarchal sort.
As one woman minister told me, “I can’t go to the conferences I want to attend—with people I agree with on 99 percent of everything—because they think I’m ‘liberal,’ while some of the people who would celebrate that I’m ordained are horrified that I will never give up the essential biblical language of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
This is the paradox of “liberal Christianity.” No matter how many compromises one makes, they will still be despised by the mob outside Lot’s House and distrusted by those inside the true Church. Moore appeals to the need for unity on this issue to fight back against “male-female binary,” but the transgenderism issue is a result of feminism and the erasure of differences between men and woman as God designed. Paul appeals to Genesis as the basis for the roles of Men and Women in the church and in marriage.
Many of us are rethinking who we once classified as “enemy” and as “ally.” Maybe the lines of division were in the wrong places all along. Those who hold to believer’s baptism, for example, have more in common with evangelicals who practice infant baptism than with Latter-day Saints who immerse adults. Those who disagree on how Galatians 3:28 fits with Ephesians 5 but who want to see men and women fully engaged in the Great Commission have more in common with each other than with those who would make gender either everything or nothing.
After lockdowns and mandates, many believers have come to the awakening on who are the enemies within the church. They saw their pulpits take up Critical Race Theory and apologize for orthodoxy. They were abandoned by their leaders who obeyed Caesar as head of the Church, not Christ. There are new divisions, or Fault Lines, which have arisen.
What Moore is suggesting with comparing alliances with LDS vs those between Baptist and Presbyterian is unclear because it is the apostates who would conflate LDS as Christians, like Dallas Jenkins. Like most “Christian entertainment,” The Chosen predominantly appeals to women. The leaders in Tempe, AZ have no problems aligning with those in Moscow, ID. In fact, those two groups understand that they have more in common than many SBC churches do with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Although it should be obvious, Galatians 3:28 has nothing to do with Church leadership and is entirely cherry-picked out of its context, where Paul declares that the Church is exclusively the people of God and “descendants, heirs [of Abraham] according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). And one is not properly fulfilling the Great Commission if they do not disciple the nations with all of Scripture, including Ephesians 5.
A new generation of Christian men and women is coming. When it comes to teaching them how to stand together, and how to equip one another to teach and lead, I trust Beth Moore much more than 2004 Russell Moore to show them the way.
Moore finishes his compromised column by affirming Beth Moore and rejecting the orthodoxy he previously held. He cites the two Moore’s as standing together to equip a new generation of believers, but this is unlikely to be the case. The Gen Z believers are disinterested in these archaic institutions and prefer authenticity. The challenge then becomes providing them authentic teachings that are not the modern, squishy counterparts like Russell Moore who failed their own generation on every conceivable issue. In the realm of Christian YouTube, the squishier channels have the larger followings, and while they might remain in the bounds of orthodoxy, they do not properly catechize praxis or warn against false teachings.
The Evangelical Feminism War remains a major issue in the Church today. As Rick Warren becomes the proxy of egalitarianism and feminism in the church, major figures are going to pick a side. Historic opportunists like Al Mohler will defend the clear language of the BFM. Naturally, it is expected the Executive Committee will defend its decision in what is setting up to be one of the leading stories going into the 2023 convention.