MacArthur, Moore controversy leads to Calvin prof response

“Go home.” Those were the words evangelical pastor John MacArthur associated with evangelist and author Beth Moore at his “Truth Matters” conference in Sun Valley, California in late October. This statement came amidst debate within the Southern Baptist Convention (to which both Moore and MacArthur belong) regarding the allowance of female pastors in the denomination.

At a celebration of his 50th year as a pastor on Oct. 18, MacArthur and other panelists were asked to play a word association game in which a phrase was given to them by a moderator and they were asked to respond with the first words to come to mind. The first words given to MacArthur were, “Beth Moore.” After his dismissive initial response of, “Go home,” he continued to say, “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher.” MacArthur’s audience can be heard on the recording laughing and applauding loudly.

The Southern Baptist Convention currently prohibits women from taking on pastoral roles. The position statement on their website reads in part, “While Scripture teaches that a woman’s role is not identical to that of men in every respect, and that pastoral leadership is assigned to men, it also teaches that women are equal in value to men.” This idea that women have different roles to play in the church is a complementarian view of the issue, and one which Moore herself subscribes to. She has repeatedly made clear that she does not wish to overthrow the complementarian beliefs of the SBC.

Controversy arose this summer when Moore spoke from the pulpit in an SBC church on Mother’s Day, attracting the attention and criticism of many evangelicals, including Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Owen Strachan, who called a woman preaching in church “functional egalitarianism” — a view directly opposed to complementarianism.

Moore has spent the past 40 years of her life working as an author, Bible teacher and ministry leader. As the founder of Living Proof Ministries, she’s spoken at numerous conferences worldwide, written bestselling books, and created many Bible study programs. According to a tweet posted in response to Strachan, she’s already spoken from the pulpit in SBC churches 15 times in 40 years.

Her life’s work was quickly dismissed by MacArthur, who said that “Just because you have the skill to sell jewelry on the TV sales channel, doesn’t mean you should be preaching.” Later in the panel, MacArthur also stated that the church has been “caving” to women preachers and feminists whose only goal is power, not equality.

Moore took her time in responding, sending out a tweet on Oct. 21 declaring her calling as one to God, not man. Others responded more directly to MacArthur’s comments, including Calvin’s own Kristin Kobes Du Mez, professor of history and gender studies.

On her website and on Patheos, Du Mez published a letter addressed to MacArthur calling him out for his “condescending and degrading” comments towards Moore “and by extension to all women.” Her letter, which proceeds to argue against each of MacArthur’s comments individually and label them as the result of “white (Christian) patriarchy,” was viewed 25,000 times in its first week online. 

In a comment to Chimes, Du Mez said, “I was also frustrated by the deference so many insist on showing ‘Dr. MacArthur.’ He’s a powerful man, and he’s treated as such — even by many of his critics. Having spent the last several years studying abusive religious systems, I’ve seen how that deference ends up propping up abusers of power.”

Du Mez’s upcoming book, “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” will deal directly with the topic of patriarchy in the church and is scheduled for release on Jun. 23, 2020.

Moore has continued to be active both on Twitter and in speaking engagements. On Nov. 19-21, Moore will be speaking alongside Calvin’s university pastor, Mary Hulst, at the National Preaching Conference at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas. Hulst said in light of MacArthur’s comments, “I’ve been really impressed with how Beth has responded. I think she’s been incredibly gracious.”