Vox.com recently announced A major evangelical leader just lost his job. It’s a huge moment for #MeToo.
Paige Patterson was removed as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president after sexism controversy
Dr. Patterson was a founding member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), and was instrumental in realizing what is arguably the CBMW’s greatest lasting accomplishment. Thanks to Patterson and the other CBMW founders, nearly all conservative Christians now believe that it is essential to have women be the ones who teach Christianity to women. The CBMW has been so successful in this regard that scarcely anyone remembers that for two thousand years 1 Tim 2:12 was understood as prohibiting women from preaching.
The CBMW’s opening salvo against the traditional reading of 1 Tim 2:12 came in 1991, in the group’s founding book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. In Chapter 2 Drs. Wayne Grudem and John Piper explain that they wish to break with the (then) accepted reading of 1 Tim 2:12, and replace it with a more feminist friendly reading:
Paul gives this as one of the reasons why he does not permit women “to teach or have authority over a man.” Historically this has usually been taken to mean that women are more gullible or deceivable than men and therefore less fit for the doctrinal oversight of the church. This may be true (see question 29). However, we are attracted to another understanding of Paul’s argument.
Grudem and Piper brought in Dr. Douglass Moo to write an entire chapter making the case for their desired innovation. Moo would go on to be an influential figure in the NIV’s push to make the Bible more feminist friendly, but at the time he shared a common cause with the CBMW.
Under the CBMW’s new interpretation of 1 Tim 2:12, women are permitted to preach, so long as they only preach to other women. This new interpretation meant that women preachers like Beth Moore were formally accepted by conservative Christians. As time went on, the CBMW founders pushed to further expand the loophole they had created for women to preach. In 2010 Piper offered an even more feminist friendly doctrine. Women like Beth Moore could in fact preach to men, so long as the men didn’t become dependent on her:
I’m a guy. Is it wrong for me to listen to Beth Moore?
No. Unless you begin to become dependent on her as your shepherd—your pastor.
But reinterpreting 1 Tim 2:12 wasn’t enough. To fully achieve their desired revolution the CBMW had to create women’s studies programs at conservative seminaries in order to produce an army of women with the credentials they would need. This is where Patterson came in. With the assistance of his wife Dorothy, he personally created women’s studies programs at two different seminaries:
[Dorothy] Patterson, along with her husband, were instrumental in establishing women’s studies programs at Southwestern and at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Paige Patterson was president until his election at Southwestern in 2003.
As time went on, the doctrine of women preaching to women continued to expand. What started as a novel reading granting women permission to preach quickly turned into a mandate. The army of complementarian women’s studies majors started aping their secular feminist counterparts. At the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lore Ferguson Wilbert complained that complementarian church leaders are “maddeningly male”:
In the 35 years or so since then, liberal churches grew more liberal and the conservative—heaven help us. McQuinn uses the term androcentrism to describe the shift in neo-reformed environments in particular. It means being dominated by or emphasizing masculine interests or a masculine point of view. It wasn’t that the theology was all wrong, it was that the voices of church leaders were maddeningly male, through the male perspective, with male interests paramount, and evaluated by males.
Imagine with me for a moment a room of chimps all chimping about how to be a better room of chimps and pandas.
Over at The Gospel Coalition (TGC) Wilberts asked: Who Will Teach the Women Who Want to Be Taught? The answer of course is not the woman’s husband (1 Cor 14:35, Eph 5:26), and not male pastors (1 Tim 2:12), but other women.
As secular feminism rises, more and more women within the church will be looking for strong female voices.
The Women’s Studies section of Paige Patterson’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary makes the same case:
Will you tell her?
Most women will hear and respond to the Gospel through the words and influence of another woman. Are you ready to engage in woman-to-woman Bible teaching and discipleship and extend your talents and gifts to meet the needs of your family, to serve the church and to reach the world?
The Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will equip you for kingdom ministry. You will prepare theologically through biblical studies; practically through the development of home, life, and ministry skills; and spiritually through mentoring and accountability relationships.
Become a woman who can open God’s Word and teach eternal truths, engage the culture, and help women and their families come to Christ locally and around the world.
For a period the plan seemed to be working. Complementarian feminists were appeased by men like Piper and Patterson and didn’t make them the object of their revolutionary zeal. But it wouldn’t work forever. This spring the complementarian wing of the SJW lynch mob descended on Patterson for (among other things*), counseling separation instead of divorce in cases of abuse.
While the lynch mob made the issue about Patterson ostensibly forcing women to endure abuse, the real issue is about all women having the ability to use threats of divorce to gain power over their husbands. Academic feminists Wolfers and Stevenson explain this in their paper Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress (emphasis mine):
To see how divorce laws affect the external threat point, note that prior to unilateral divorce, a partner wishing to dissolve the marriage could leave without their spouse’s consent. However, in such a situation, a legal divorce is not granted and, as such, the right to remarry is forfeited. Under unilateral divorce the value of the exit threat increases for the unsatisfied spouse, as the right to remarry is retained regardless of the position of one’s spouse. Thus, the exit threat model predicts that changes in divorce regimes will have real effects. If the divorce threat is sufficiently credible, it may directly affect intrafamily bargaining outcomes without the option ever being exercised.
But facts don’t matter to a lynch mob. The mob smelled blood and came after Patterson, with Beth Moore carrying the banner. The Christian Post headline read: Beth Moore Slams Christians Who ‘Demonize’ Divorce as Worst Sin: ‘We Do Not Submit to Abuse’
Evangelist Beth Moore, founder of Living Proof Ministries, has slammed Christian church culture that she says “demonizes” divorce as the worst sin even as wives are being abused by their husbands.
Moore’s comments come in the midst of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson seeking to clarify past comments of his that many say appeared to support women staying with abusive husbands rather than separating.
Now that Patterson has resigned as head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the mob has responded by demanding yet more power. The new Christian Post headline reads: Beth Moore on Paige Patterson Controversy: ‘Broken System’ Will Not Mend If Men Refuse to Listen.
The men of the CBMW and TGC saddled this bronc. We shall see if they can ride it.
*Patterson was also accused by a women’s studies major at his former seminary of not responding correctly to her allegation of date rape against another student.