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Alice Whisman was born and raised in a rural town outside of the Ft Worth, Texas area. Her strict religious upbringing sparked her determination to know her true identity in Jesus Christ. Presently she is raising three daughters with her husband and is pursuing a nursing degree. She believes the Holy Spirit is revolutionizing the Church through women and men who are willing to seek Yahweh with all of their hearts, souls, and spirits.

Recommendation from GWTW

We recommend that you read Dr. Sproul’s article “Off with the Skirt, On with the Pants”  in order to have the context for this rebuttal.   While Dr. Sproul may have intended to call men to be serious about their commitment to God and the church and to use their gifts, his underlying beliefs about the inferiority of women are clearly revealed.  To read Dr. Sproul's article, click here

The Sword's Out

A Strong Response to "Off with the Skirt, On with the Pants" by R. C. Sproul, Jr.

by Alice Whisman

A firestorm of controversy has erupted recently in the long-standing gender positions of the conservative religious community.  Why are most church leaders so adamant in their belief that men are the only qualified and God-appointed leaders? Also, why do they respond with such vehemence to the subject of gender equality?

As more accurate Biblical translations become available and more women question their male-dominated elders’ translation that they are only helpers of men, women have begun to function as leaders.  In “Off with the Skirt, On with the Pants” R.C. Sproul, Jr. has taken the men in the traditional church to task for not being true men of God by leading like warriors, but rather allowing women to “lead by default” (par.3).  According to Sproul, Jr., “men’s failure to lead stems from a lack of conviction that is manifest either in a fearful acquiescence to the status quo or ...indifference” (par.2).  His evidence is the fact that women are sitting in the seats authority in some “liberal” churches, or that most men are not stepping up to the plate, leaving women to surreptitiously run their own agenda (par. 3). 

Having been spiritually abused by the doctrine of male superiority, and now the mother of four daughters, I have researched the Greek and Hebrew origins of the translated Bible.  Not only do I question the doctrine of “men only” in charge, but also refute it with the same Scripture given for its support.  It is easy to see that conservative church leaders are offended by women as leaders as evidenced by history.  It appears that religious men are threatened by anything they cannot control.  Women are created by Yahweh to be as strong as men regardless of what they are wearing.

Throughout the ages, Yahweh has been defined in many different ways by many different people.  His Word, the Bible, has been transmuted by a historically misogynistic patriarchy with the final result being a tutorial for white men to be masters over their household with everyone else, especially women, submitting to their rule.  Rev. Dr. Thorwald Lorenzen describes it very well: “When God created the human being, He created the human being ‘male and female’-- different but equal.  This equality was distorted when men began to staff the positions of social, economic, and political power.  Men determined reality, and philosophers and theologians--even the very great ones--found arguments to justify the superiority of the male over the female.” (Lorenzen, par. 26).

Sproul, Jr.  reaffirms the belief that men are superior to women, claiming that God calls men to be bold and strong, to lead with courage (par.5).  In researching the universally used and trusted Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and other Bible search tools, not one verse calls men exclusively to be bold and strong and to lead with courage.

Of course, the Lord spoke specifically to individuals such as Joshua to “be strong and of a good courage . . .” but never to men only as a group to be leaders.  Anyone and everyone who claims the Christian faith is to be bold and strong and to lead with courage.  As a matter of fact, Sproul, Jr.  negates his own points by declaring that “if we but believed in . . . this biblical God, maybe we would again be biblical men and women, exhibiting the strength we are called to . . .” (par. 8)

Which biblical woman does Sproul, Jr. propose I emulate? Would it be Deborah of the Old Testament, who was a judge in Israel and led an army to conquer a nation? (NKJV, Judges 3: 4-14).  Or would it be the nameless Woman Patriot of Thebez who saved the city when she dropped a millstone on the head Abimelech, the advancing king? It is worth mentioning that as Abimelech lay dying, he begged his armorbearer to kill him with a sword so that his death would not be attributed to a woman.  Yet, his death by a woman and his cowardly beseeching are recorded in the best-selling book of all time! (NKJV, Judges 9: 50-54).  Since most Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and every jot and tittle has been preserved for a purpose, why would our Lord include this history if it weren’t significant?

Perhaps R.C. Sproul Jr. believes that the Old Testament is only for historical purposes, and we only live by the New Testament.  Then, let us look at Nympha, named along with seven men as an apostle and the only one of them who actually had a church in her home.  The NIV says of Nympha: “For the most part, the early church had no building, so it usually met for worship and instruction (italics mine) in homes.” (Col. 4:15).  No mention is made of a male pastor.  Or should we be like deacons Phoebe, Priscilla, Chloe, or the apostle Junia, the female ministers named along with the other male deacons and apostles by Paul? (Rom. 16:1, 3, 7).

Heresy! I can hear it now.  What about Paul’s admonitions that a woman is not to teach or to have authority over a man, that a woman must submit to a man, or that a woman is to keep silent? (I Tim. 2:12, Eph. 5:22, I Cor. 14:34-38).  Studying the original Greek and Hebrew will shed new light on these old controversies, and only those who are not afraid of losing power and control will be able to live and abide by this truth if they sincerely want to obey Yahweh.  So far, the only truth that R.C. Sproul, Jr. pursues so fervently is that which serves his own purposes.

Sproul, Jr. also perpetuates that male superiority myth by using feminine characteristics as insults.  Would he dare call Joan of Arc a weak sister to her face? He also has forgotten about Jael, the woman who tricked Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army.  (Jabin was the king of Canaan to whom the Israelites had been sold into slavery.) Deborah had already prophesied to Barak, the commander of the Israelites’ army, that the Lord would sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.  Jael, a simple woman, recognized Sisera as he was escaping from Barak.  After she talked him into taking a nap in her tent, she took a tent stake and nailed his head to the ground, winning the battle for the Hebrew nation. (NKJV Judges 4:17-23).  Sproul, Jr. describes a weak man as wearing a skirt, the opposite of a bold and courageous leader (par.5).  His argument in a nutshell is, “ I’m not sure whether our men in the church wear skirts because we worship a god in a skirt, or whether we worship a skirt-wearing god because the men in the church are so weak.” (par. 4).  (Re-read exactly what he says in the article, esp. “and the God who makes this call is no weak sister.”)

Does Sproul, Jr. want to make a point about our wonderful, strong warrior--Father God--who vanquishes and conquers the enemy in one breath? His majesty is cause for all to quake and tremble.  But Sproul, Jr. tries to make his point by using femininity as an insult.  When he and other religious male leaders take off their male superiority blinders and look at their wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers the way God does, they will see a Deborah leading an army in battle, or a Nympha pastoring a church, or a mother dropping a millstone on a general’s head.  They will see more than just a helper that makes sure they have clean underwear.  Maybe it’s time for men to take off the pants and put on the skirt if they truly want to be bold and courageous leaders.

Works Cited

Lorenzen, Rev. Dr. Thorwald, “Christ and His Friends,” Canberra Baptist Church Sermon, 20 September, 2004.  October 14, 2005.  www.canbap.org/sermon294.html

Sproul, Jr. R.C. “Off with the Skirt, On with the Pants.” The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. October 9, 2004.  www.cbmw.org/resources/articles/off_with_skirt.php

The Holy Bible: New King James Version, Barker, Burdick, Stek, Wessel, Youngblood,
Zondervan, 1984.

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