French poets, in the eleventh century, discovered or invented, or were the first to express, that romantic species of passion which English poets were still writing about in the nineteenth. They effected a change which has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched, and they erected impassable barriers between us and the classical past or the Oriental present. Compared with this revolution the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.
— C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love
Pastor John MacArthur outraged a large portion of the complementarian world recently by stating that Beth Moore should “go home” and stop preaching, since she has taken on an unbiblical role for a woman. You can hear the audio of the exchange at Pulpit and Pen.
There really should be no controversy among conservative Christians regarding MacArthur’s answer. Scripturally he is on quite solid ground. But (mostly unwittingly) chivalry has become the dominant religion for conservative Christians, despite the fact that what we call chivalry (courtly love) was created as a parody of Christianity. While scripturally sound, MacArthur’s comments are strikingly unchivalrous, and this is what has created so much consternation.
It was the chivalry of the founding complementarians that created the feminist role Moore has refused to be confined to. In Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism Drs. John Piper and Wayne Grudem rejected what they acknowledge was the traditional reading of Timothy 2:14, torturing the verse to permit women to preach to women but not men*. Their argument was that the Apostle Paul wasn’t saying women were more gullible than men, but he was merely saying men were created first (emphasis mine).
28. Do you think women are more gullible than men?
First Timothy 2:14 says, “Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” 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. We think that Satan’s main target was not Eve’s peculiar gullibility (if she had one), but rather Adam’s headship as the one ordained by God to be responsible for the life of the garden. Satan’s subtlety is that he knew the created order God had ordained for the good of the family, and he deliberately defied it by ignoring the man and taking up his dealings with the woman…
If this is the proper understanding, then what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 2:14 was this: “Adam was not deceived (that is, Adam was not approached by the deceiver and did not carry on direct dealings with the deceiver)…
So the complementarian position from the beginning has been one of radical innovation to accommodate feminist demands. No longer are women prohibited from preaching because they are more easily deceived, instead they are to focus on preaching to other women because… Adam failed to protect Eve!
In a separate chapter dedicated to the subject, Dr. Moo reiterates that the Apostle Paul can not have meant that women were more easily deceived, because this would mean that women shouldn’t be preaching to women:
But a statement about the nature of women per se would move the discussion away from this central issue, and it would have a serious and strange implication. After all, does Paul care only that the women not teach men false doctrines? Does he not care that they not teach them to other women?
The complementarian objection to the plain meaning of 1 Tim 2:11-15 should be obvious. The Apostle Paul’s lack of chivalry is quite jarring (ESV):
11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
After reading the passage it is no wonder that Piper and Grudem were “attracted to” a chivalrous reinterpretation of the passage. It is also no wonder that Macarthur’s defenders have felt the foremost need to stress that his adherence to Scripture is in no way unchivalrous. Pulpit and Pen defended MacArthur’s chivalry in Let Me Explain That Laughter at Beth Moore Real Quick by explaining that the crowd’s reaction wasn’t an example of dreaded toxic masculinity, because women were laughing too:
First, contrary to what some have suggested, this was not laughter done by a group of “men” who were laughing out of an abundance of poorly misplaced testosterone.
In fact, there was a significant number of women in the room. This was not a pastors’ conference like ShepCon. The women also laughed. This wasn’t a man versus woman thing, as much as Critical Theorists who bathe in victim ideology would like to characterize it. This was not a group of oppressors laughing at the oppressed. This was a group of Christians laughing at a statement in regard to a false teacher.
Pulpet and Pen doesn’t explain why they would adopt the feminist frame of “toxic masculinity”, so it is possible that they have recently been won over by a group of Women’s Studies majors even while they claim to refute them. However, this is highly unlikely, and the far more obvious explanation is that they recognized the implicit charge of unchivalrousness, and that is what they were defending against.
Blogger Toby Sumpter likewise doesn’t come out and use the word chivalry in his post Beth Moore, John MacArthur, and Clobbering Girls in Football (reposted here as well). However, the hint is in the title, as well as the headline image. Sumpter makes a lengthy digression in the middle of the post to explain the proper chivalrous response to women pushing their way into men’s sports. Sometimes, he explains, the chivalrous solution is simply to forfeit the match to the woman.
A Preliminary, But Related Rabbit Trail
Now in order to address this business, I’d like to draw upon a matter of considerable concern and discussion in my community, a matter that faces most communities in these dark days of ours, and that is the matter of girls showing up to play contact sports with our sons. From wrestling to lacrosse to football to hockey, it’s a real issue since we are committed to teaching our sons to honor all women as sisters and mothers, and the culture we live in is committed to the opposite. In some instances, the honorable choice is clear and obvious: our sons will not wrestle a girl. It’s immodest, dishonorable, and shameful. Period. Full stop. So our boys who wrestle forfeit any match with a girl.
Note that Sumpter doesn’t call this chivalry, because to him it is merely Christianity.
At other times, Sumpter explains, the chivalrous answer is for boys and men to make it safe for women and girls to push their way into men’s sports.
But when it comes to lacrosse and football there are a number of complicating factors, and there are real wisdom calls to be made. The first principle remains in place: our boys are instructed not to tackle or body check girls. Of course in these confused days, it is not always possible to know if there is a girl on the field. But to the best of our ability, we will avoid any and all roughness with girls.
Depending on the circumstances, what position a girl is playing against our boys, this is sometimes fairly easy to accomplish (like if the girl is a goalie or kicker), and sometimes it is nearly impossible (like when she’s playing running back). Our general commitment is to play hard and play as much as we can without compromising our Lord’s requirement to honor all women.
…On occasion, our boys are having to learn how to push a girl out of bounds as gently as possible.
…these problems are certainly not going away any time soon, and we (and our sons) need to learn how to fight, sometimes how to fight with one arm tied behind our back, and how to fight as honorable Christian men.
Sumpter explains that MacArthur was merely being chivalrous in telling Moore to go home**:
John MacArthur’s two word response was one of the best I could imagine. He blessed her even as he gave her a brotherly shove. Get off the field, Mrs. Moore. You are a lady. Your calling is higher. You have a different glory. You deserve better.
But the point to the lengthy diversion into the chivalrous way to handle women invading men’s sports primarily comes in Sumpter’s conclusion. Sumpter brilliantly turns the tables on MacArthur’s detractors and explains that it is John MacArthur that is being chivalrous (again without using the term), and Beth Moore’s supporters who are being unchivalrous:
Ok, last thing. Maybe this is all a bit confusing or convoluted, and you’re not sure what to think or who to believe. Let me suggest this little litmus test: of the parties involved in this little spat, which would give you the most biblical answer regarding boys and girls in contact sports or women in the military? Would Mrs. Moore and her supporters tell you in no uncertain terms that girls should not be playing contact sports and boys should not be clobbering girls on a football field, and certainly not manhandling them on a wrestling mat? Would you get a clear, straightforward answer or would you get caveats and exceptions and relativistic blather? Should women be mustered for combat service or not? Who are you most likely to get a clear, biblical answer from? And if Mrs. Moore and her supporters insist that girls can too get clobbered on a football field, and they can too get blown to bits on a battlefield, then what is everyone up in arms about? Why are the very same people objecting to what Pastor MacArthur said? By their standards, Pastor MacArthur might as well be Mr. Rogers.
What makes the adoption of chivalry, a parody of Christianity, so insidious is that it’s adherents don’t even know they have replaced Christianity with something else.
*Piper has since wiggled this loophole even wider, explaining that it is appropriate for Moore to preach to men so long as the men don’t “become dependent on her as [their] shepherd—[their] pastor”
**Note how similar this argument is to the chivalrous argument against women in the military here.