This post is by Kevin Howard:
Southern Baptists owe much to Lottie Moon. As a missionary, I probably owe her more. She did much for what is now the IMB. Her work was risky, exhausting, and commendable, to say the least. (Listen to Danny Akin’s sermon, The Power of a Consecrated Life Lived Out in the Ministry of Lottie Moon.)
While I’m no expert on her life, I’ve read a bit about her from various sources. I’m currently reading Catherine B. Allen’s, The New Lottie Moon Story, 1980. Allen is undoubtedly an admirer of the great Moon and seems to give a fair portrayal of her subject’s life. (Allen, however, seems to regret the fact of Moon’s discomfort with the issue of women preaching to men.)
- We commend Lottie Moon’s positive work among women and children.
- She would sometimes teach for hours a day, speaking six to eleven times. No easy task in English let alone in a second language.
- We commend Lottie Moon’s courage and endurance.
- She wrote of her experience, “…sleeping on brick beds in rooms with dirt floors and walls blackened by the smoke of many generations, the yard also being the stable yard and the stable itself being within three feet of your door…” (p. 131). She also endured being called “devil” on a regular basis in her earlier years on the field.
- We commend Lottie Moon’s zeal and influence with raising money to support missionaries and for the inauguration of what is now called stateside assignments in the IMB.
- With only one small break to accompany her sick sister back to the States, she went from 1873 to 1891 before she got her first furlough.
One thing I’ve learned since picking up Allen’s book is how formally educated Moon was. Along with her well-rounded education, she knew several languages before going overseas, including biblical Greek and Hebrew.
While Miss Moon was an admirable woman she had clay feet. We commend her for her virtues, but where she taught men (pp. 109, 140, 172-173, 176, 180, 183-184), we do not commend her.
Up to the point I’ve reached in Allen’s book, page 184, Moon wasn’t comfortable in the role of teaching men and she avoided it as much as possible (pp. 179-180). She not only understood where most of her fellow SBCers came down on the issue, she understood what Scripture said, or at least how the early church interpreted Scripture on this matter. Here’s how she responded to men wanting her to teach them, even after she’d taught or preached to some men already: “It was not the custom of the ancient church that women preach to men” (p. 179).
A truth often lost on modern egalitarians in the SBC is that Scripture is our standard not any one female’s example (See some comments here exalting Moon for teaching men). That there have been women who could preach better than men is a given. That many female missionaries have taught and preached to men and that many men have come to Christ under the preaching of women is understood. But the issue is, what does the Bible teach? Through what means is God most glorified?
If you’re a man and disturbed by the thought of pagan men not hearing the gospel because there aren’t enough Christian men around them to preach Christ, why don’t you join the missionary force? Why do you want women to do your job?
I’m sure Lottie Moon’s rewards are great and mine will pale in comparison. Who am I to critique her life? She endured far more than I’ll probably ever face. But the clarity of Scripture takes precedence over unnecessary admiration. We have a sure footing on this issue: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Tim 2:11-12). That’s where we stand and where we find our standard.