By Elizabeth Prata
This 3-part series looks at Jen Wilkin’s “Redefining Rahab” lessons from 2014 and 2018. We have a background & intro part 1, a look at her gender emphasis in the Rahab lesson part 2, and finally this essay, part 3, a look at her academic ethics & her situational ethics from that Rahab lesson.
Teachers of the Bible are supposed to be charitable, use their words wisely, and be fair & ethical with the material they handle. (Romans 15:2, Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 11:1)
Jen Wilkin’s Joshua lessons look at the Bible’s history and characterization of Rahab through the lens of her own modernist agenda, which by now we can see is gender driven, not hermeneutic driven. She read several comments from commentators. She mocked the commentators’ assessment of Rahab, which was to name her as a prostitute. This is confusing, because the Bible names her as a prostitute. One commentator in particular seemed to rile Wilkin, and this is the point in her lesson at which she said to her audience-
“If I ever meet him I’ll probably sock him in the face.” (here, 5:08)
This is uncharitable in the extreme. I do not want to sit under any teaching where such anger is expressed.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29).
So then, let us pursue what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19).
Further, there was absolutely no need. This is where her academic ethics comes in. Jen read part of the commentator’s words, but not all of them. Cherry picking portions of a work and skewing them to your audience in order to make your point is unprofessional. Wilkin attempts to paint the commentator as misogynist and selects part of his comment to do so, while failing to mention his subsequent remarks relieve him of that characterization. Classic out of context mischaracterization.
Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be! (James 3:10)
Wilkin spent a good deal of time in her Redeeming Rahab lesson attempting to downplay Rahab’s prostitution as a sin and also her lie, by appelaing to culture, situational ethics, and casting aspersions at the make commentators. I covered that in part 2.
Alarmed as Wilkin’s assessment of this commentator whom she wanted to “sock in the face’, I went to his book to read the pertinent portion. It was here that I felt a broken trust between teacher and student.
Wilkin failed to read the remaining two sentences of his commentary on Rahab which says: “frequently women like Rahab are more sinned against than sinners. Man’s lust for the unlawful is responsible for harlotry.”
This commenter’s conclusion was totally Jen’s point in her 2014 podbay lesson, (5:08). That both men and women are responsible for the sin of prostitution, but she chose to ignore that part, probably because it didn’t fit her feminist narrative. Here is a more complete comment from his book. The commentator actually wrote generously and by the way, glorified God, something absent in Wilkin’s lesson:
Rahab’s house was built against the town wall with the roof almost level with the ramparts, and with a stairway leading up to a flat roof that appears to be a continuation of the wall. Thus, the people of Jericho knew all about the men who entered and left such a disreputable house. While her name came to be sanctified and ennobled, both Paul and James affix the label to her name, Rahab the harlot. She still carried the evil, distinguishing name, thus declaring the peculiar grace of the transforming power of God. …
…and thus, Rahab, the one time heathen harlot, married into one of the leading families of Israel and became an ancestress of our Lord, the other foreign ancestresses being Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba. The gratitude Salmon felt for Rahab ripened into love, and when grace erased her former life of shame he made her his wife.
Both Jewish and Christian writers have tried to prove that Rahab was a different woman from the one whom the Bible always speaks of as a “harlot.” To them it was abhorrent that such a disreputable person should be included in our Lord’s genealogy and by Paul, as a woman of faith, and so her story has been distorted in order to further a scheme of salvation based upon human goodness. Although man’s sense of refinement may be shocked, the fact remains that Rahab, Tamar and Bathsheba were sinful women who were purged by God, and had their share in the royal line from which Jesus sprang.
Jen Wilkin would like to punch the commentator for saying the truth, that God’s grace washed them and Rahab was eventually included in the kingly line? She did the commetator a disservice here, veritably slandering him. Such cherry picking and skewing the commentator’s writing to fit a modern gender narrative, in order to promote her feminist leanings, is an unworthy ethic for a credible Bible teacher such as Jen Wilkin.
After speaking a good while on Rahab’s prostitution, in the middle portion of her lesson Wilkin looks at Rahab’s lie. She says that if Rahab hadn’t lied the spies would have been taken out and killed, and Rahab too. Yet this is not a given. God could certainly save the spies without Rahab’s lie. We don’t know what was in His mind and plan when Rahab lied to the king, but we do know that lying is a sin. Rahab sinned by lying.
Wilkin makes much of Rahab’s lie here, attempting to redeem her sin not only from prostitution but also lying. She spent time advising her audience that “We have to take into consideration that we owe the truth to whom the truth is due. Does she owe the truth to a wicked king who is bent on doing evil in the sight of God? She does not.”
This is classic situational ethics. It’s ethics that allows for personal judgments about who to treat righteously in any given situation, instead of adhering to an absolute moral law. Definition here.
In other words, what Wilkin was teaching was that I judge that you don’t deserve the truth, so it’s OK to lie to you. Wilkin expands on this by rendering the midwives’ lie to Pharaoh as situationally appropriate. (Exodus 1:19).
First, Wilkin said that the midwives’ lie was obvious, that the Hebrew women deliver the babies early and thus don’t need their services by the time the Egyptian midwives arrive. But that isn’t so obvious. Take into consideration that the midwives were truthful, God allowed an easier birth process and the babies were born quickly. Perhaps the Hebrew women lied, deliberately calling the midwives late into the process.
Here is what John MacArthur said of Exodus 1:19 and the midwives’ statement:
Rather than trying to argue for a justifiable lie on the part of the midwives seeking to protect God’s people, take it as a statement of what was true: God was directly involved in the affair of the birth and national growth. That’s the key to understanding why no decree of Pharaoh would work out as he intended it, and why Hebrew women were so healthy and gave birth with ease.
Paul exposes the justifiable lie argument by taking it to its logical end, antinomianism. That the more you’re given grace the more license it is to sin. No!
But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:7-8).
Rationalizing sin is not a good argument for a Bible teacher to make. But Jen Wilkin did and does.
Here are a few good essays on the Bible and situational ethics that regards lying.
God says one of the things He hates is a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-19). Many other scriptures indicate God’s stance on lying. (Psalm 119:29, 163; 120:2; Proverbs 12:22; 13:5; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9; and Revelation 21:8). Yet Jen Wilkin says we do not owe the truth to people we decide don’t deserve it.
Now, I understand there are situations where one can make a case for lying, or what would seem to be a case. But that isn’t the job of teaching Joshua, to redeem Rahab from some sort of characterization that has been commonly understood for 2000 years, but one which Jen Wilkin disagrees. In teaching Rahab we look at her faith more than we look at her lie. We look at what God had done through her, not her backstory, motivations, or conjectures. At least, that is my opinion.
I was greatly saddened to discover these things in Jen Wilkin’s lessons. Twisting the scriptures to ‘redeem’ a woman she personally felt was mischaracterized for 2000 years, misusing academic essays to make a personal point fitting her agenda, and teaching situational ethics, is not proper. Since her book came out in 2014 and perhaps Wilkin was new to teaching at that point, I looked at her Rahab lessons from more recent times, and she is still teaching the same thing in the same way. We cannot put it down to innocence or inexperience. Add to that her functional egalitarianism in violation of scripture that I had researched and presented in the previous series, I can no longer recommend Jen Wilkin.
Who, then, can I trust?
Younger friends ask me for recommendations of women Bible teachers, and I often recommend men instead. Women don’t have to be taught by women. Of course there are solid women teachers out there, many are on my blog list and are friends. But in the main, I feel that being taught by a man has slightly less chance of being taken in by false doctrine or wayward teaching ethics. And I recommend that once you find a credible cache of teachers, stick with them. Don’t go after the newest and shiniest thing coming down the pike. Teachers with track records are best. Finally, I reply that even the most credible and long standing male teacher, or female teacher, can and do go astray in the end, so keep vetting them with an open mind.
I enjoy John MacArthur, Mike Riccardi, Phil Johnson, Don Green, Paul Washer, Justin Peters, (Peters here too), Steve Lawson, Alistair Begg, any woman from Every Woman’s Grace Ministry, Any Chapel talk at TMS … there are numerous credible and solid ministries and teachers to hear from.
And most important don’t forget to support your own pastor and teachers!