I know I’ve been writing about women who step into biblically unauthorized leadership positions frequently of late. I thought I was done, but then I came across something and I wanted to add to the cache of previous essays I’ve done in the last couple of weeks. I believe this is a highly important topic. However, I also believe this will be the end of the topic for a while. The previous essays on the topic of women preaching are here:
I was continuing to read about Anne Hutchinson, cleaning out some bookmarks of sites I’d intended to use but hadn’t. I got re-involved in the topic. Anne Hutchinson is such an amazing case study of the damage one lone woman could do to the faith. In this article written in the New England Quarterly in 1937, I thought this author did a good job of summing it up. In the first sentence, the ‘they’ refers to the Puritan colonists-
While they were maintaining a precarious existence, Anne Hutchinson joined them. At first she was welcomed as the godly wife of a pious and successful merchant; but before she has been long in Massachusetts, she broached a doctrine that was absolutely inconsistent with the principles with which the colony had been founded. She began to affirm a new basis for absolute truth: immediate personal communion with the Holy Ghost. If this communion has been merely for the purposes of illuminating the meaning of Holy Scripture, the puritans might have had no quarrel with her. The communion she described, however, was one which resulted in immediate revelation from the Word. To accept her doctrine would mean the abandonment of the fundamental belief for which the Puritans had crossed the water- the belief that truth for man was to be found in the Bible.
Her errors led to the logical conclusion, one which Anne propounded herself, that ministers were not needed, since, according to Mrs. Hutchinson, God preferred to deal with his children directly.
Morgan, E. (1937). The Case against Anne Hutchinson. The New England Quarterly, 10(4), 635-649. doi:10.2307/359929
Anne preached, taught men, caused division, (for which she was unapologetic), and she claimed she received direct revelations that were not in the Bible. Her behavior and her assertions might have helped the Puritan cause to begin to fail and almost caused the colony itself to fail.
In this simple sentence, the author in Biblical Doctrine makes a distinction between personal revelation and Holy Spirit illumination, saying,
However the Bible says that illumination does not render the need for human teachers unnecessary (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:2). ~Biblical Doctrine, MacArthur & Mayhue, Eds.
Two essays were published today which remark on the evangelical church’s tendency to allow and even seek after personal revelation and emotional experience at the expense of biblical truth. Sadly, though there are many men engaging in the pursuit, more women than ever are at the forefront of this error. If you notice, it’s the females who tend to bring in emotionalism, mysticism, and direct revelation to the church. This opens the door wide for all sorts of errors, such as women preaching or pastoring, and then all kinds of heresies, as John MacArthur points out here. Sadly, the result is fragmentation of the body-
That is why they put such an emphasis on doctrine. … Today’s evangelicals are losing the will to hold that line. Voices within the camp are now suggesting that experience may be more important than doctrine after all. Modern evangelicals can no longer define their identity in terms of doctrines they hold in common because the movement has become fragmented doctrinally.
There are many reasons for the fragmentation, as there are many attacks on the global church. But no matter the main causes, fragmentation and watered down doctrine is devastating.
One of the ways this doctrinal slide is occurring is on the back of the Evangelical Social Justice movement sweeping in. Several elders in the faith wrote a Statement opposing Social Justice and affirming the doctrinal truths the church has held dear for millennia. After the Statement was published, the original writers & signers were tasked with writing an essay to explain each of the Statement’s Articles. Justin Peters was assigned #9: Heresy.
He gave an interesting overview of what heresy is and isn’t, how the Evangelical Social Justice movement is introducing it, and as one of the results,
There can be no credible doubt that the ESJ movement is promoting egalitarianism.
Women preaching may be a secondary or tertiary error to some, but no matter where any theological error is on the scale of errors, unchecked drifting from the narrow way of truth leads to heresy- always. Pastor Peters said,
Error almost always begets more error.
Sisters, be vigilant in your own walk. Stay in the Word, pray deeply and persistently, guard against error, and test all things.
The Lord will return soon. Until He does, let Him find us doing well for His name.