John MacArthur clarifies views on Beth Moore, women preachers: 'Empowering women makes weak men'

Beth Moore (L) and John MacArthur (R).
Beth Moore (L) and John MacArthur (R). | Photos: ERLC/Karen Race Photography; Grace Community Church

Several weeks after publicly criticizing well-known Christian author and speaker Beth Moore, John MacArthur once again weighed in on the issue of women in church leadership, warning that “empowering women makes weak men" and "weak men make everybody vulnerable to danger.”

“Today, I want to address a very important issue that has been stirred up on the internet with me kind of in the middle of it,” the pastor of Grace Community Church in California told his congregation in an hour-long message delivered Sunday. 

“I do not like to give short answers. I don’t like to get put in a position to do that, because I feel like that just escalates confusion, so I want to take the opportunity to address the issue of women preachers this morning and to give you a more thorough answer from the Word of God on this very, very important subject.”

MacArthur was referring to a controversy that erupted mid-October when he publicly told Bible teacher Beth Moore to “Go home” when questioned regarding his thoughts about her. 

The 80-year-old pastor then followed that up with: “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.”

In his message Sunday, MacArthur continued the discussion by arguing that Scripture exhibits “no lack of clarity” regarding the role of women within the church. But despite this, it has become a “monstrous” issue of late. He cited various Bible verses, including 1 Corinthians 14:35, which reads in part: “it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.”

“Women are to maintain submission to men in all churches in all times,” MacArthur maintained. “Women pastors and women preachers are the most obvious evidence of churches rebelling against the Bible ... Women who pastor and women who preach in the church are a disgrace and openly reflect opposition to the clear command of the Word of God. This is flagrant disobedience.” 

MacArthur argued that 1 Corinthians 14:34, which reads: “Women should remain silent in the churches,” shouldn’t be “hard to understand.”

“You don’t say anything,” he stressed, later adding: “Women need to get themselves under control and realize they are not to speak in a church.” 

The pastor then referred to Isaiah 3, where the Lord promised judgment on the sinful women of Judah as a consequence of their rebellion against Him. MacArthur suggested that when women take up places of authority in society, it leaves men weakened and the level of vulnerability “keeps escalating.”

“When women take over a culture, men become weak; when men become weak, they can be conquered,” he said. “[W]hen all the men have been slaughtered, you [women] can sit there with all your jewelry and junk. You’ve been conquered, because you overpowered your protectors.”

“Don’t misunderstand this: This is what we are living in today,” he warned. “Empowering women makes weak men. Weak men make everybody vulnerable to danger.”

“Let me tell you something, if children are in charge, we’re in trouble,” MacArthur continued. “If women are in charge, we’re in trouble. And if you look carefully at our nation, you would have to agree that it’s childish, young, inexperienced, ignorant women who are ascending into power. When you overthrow the divine order, the results are always disastrous. And again, it’s not anti-women any more than it’s anti-children. But it’s a divine judgment on a nation that its young and its women are in power.”

MacArthur also touched on “typical women’s sensibilities,” which he identified as “compassion,” “mercy,” and “kindness” and “care.” Because of these “sensibilities,” he explained, women are “more vulnerable” and susceptible to deception.

He pointed out that Eve sinned because she was “deceived” by Satan, while Adam sinned knowingly.

“Eve got out from the protection of Adam, she was vulnerable, she was deceived,” he explained. “He sinned because he couldn’t live without her. She had become everything to him. When the roles are reversed, the women are deceived, bad things happen, the men are made weak, worse things happen. The whole human race went down with Adam. You tamper with this order, chaos is unending.” 

While men and women are equally sinful and “need” one another, authority and submission were established in the fall, MacArthur said, adding: “Adam was not deceived, Eve was deceived. If we stay in the order that God has designed us everybody flourishes.”

MacArthur's initial comments about Moore were made during the “Truth Matters Conference,” held Oct. 16-18 at Grace Community Church. MacArthur’s 50th year in pulpit ministry was also celebrated during the event.

At the time, he said, "Just because you have the skill to sell jewelry on the TV sales channel doesn't mean you should be preaching. There are people who have certain hawking skills, natural abilities to sell, they have energy and personality and all of that. That doesn't qualify you to preach."

While MacArthur’s view that women should not be in pastoral leadership is common in evangelical Christianity, many took issue with the “mocking tone” he adopted when communicating his perspective.

Following MacArthur’s comments, Moore received an outpouring of support from leaders in the evangelical Christian community. 

J.D. Greear, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted that she is “welcome in our home any time.”

Kay Warren, wife of megachurch pastor Rick Warren, called Moore a “class act” and a “faithful witness of how to be clay in the Potter’s hands; a flesh and bone disciple willing to be made something or nothing.”

Bestselling author Max Lucado said he was “grieved” over MacArthur’s “derisive” comments, adding: “Are we, white, male, aged leaders of the church, listening? Are we heeding the message of our sisters in Christ?” 

“Listening to our astute and capable female Bible teachers? Listening to their longing to minister from a feminine perspective? Listening to their willingness to lend their intellect, energy and passion to the cause of Christ? What wealth of wisdom they bring!”

In an apparent response to MacArthur, Moore noted in a series of tweets that: “I did not surrender to a calling of man when I was 18 years old. I surrendered to a calling of God. It never occurs to me for a second to not fulfill it. I will follow Jesus - and Jesus alone - all the way home. And I will see His beautiful face and proclaim, worthy is the Lamb!”

Moore further noted: “Here’s the beautiful thing about it & I mean this with absolute respect. You don’t have to let me serve you. That gets to be your choice. Whether or not I serve Jesus is not up to you. Whether I serve you certainly is. One way or the other, I esteem you as my sibling in Christ.”

Moore also encouraged her Twitter followers to remain civil toward MacArthur, tweeting, "Hey, y’all. Let’s cool it on the slander toward JMac et al. Doesn’t honor God. Let’s move on."

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