So, what does John MacArthur really think about young women going to college?


Karl Heitman and Matt Tarr come to different conclusions about whether it is okay for young ladies to go to college. Both cite John MacArthur and the Bible to back up their claims. Who is right?



I’m always thankful for readers who send me information on articles or concerns they see within “Churchianity.” Two men, both strongly influenced by John MacArthur’s teachings, came away with different conclusions of what MacArthur and scripture have to say about the role of young women and whether or not it’s okay for them to go to college.

First, some background:  Karl Heitman, has been lead pastor at Carnation Bible Church, Carnation, Washington, since June 2014.

Pastor Karl earned a Bachelor of Christian Ministry degree from Wayland Baptist University and a Master of Divinity degree from The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA.  He has a passion for Reformed theology, biblical counseling, and the expository (verse-by-verse) preaching of the Word of God. (Source)

Now this part is important and you’ll soon see why soon:

Heitman blogs at Parking Space 23 with nine other men, whom all have connections with John MacArthurGrace Community ChurchGrace Advance, or The Master’s Seminary. Perhaps this is a new type of Pyromaniacs blog?

In the first article by Karl Heitman, 2 Reasons Why My Daughter Will Not Go to College, Heitman refers to his 5-year old daughter as he shares why she likely will not go to college.  But the way he comes across is pretty strong and it’s important to note that he uses the word “biblical” to give extra emphasis to his interpretation. When one hears the word biblical, sometimes it causes one to think introspectively:

“If I’m not doing it the way he says – the biblical way –  does that mean that  I am responding “unbiblically?”

Even if Heitman frames it as his personal belief, when he backs it up with scripture, with a well-known and respected pastor and church leader like MacArthur, and also says “biblical,” the implication is that Heitman’s way is the right way. He’s done the research and has settled it.

Let’s dive in with the first excerpt. This subject is a familiar one. For decades, the religious right has blamed anything having to do with freedom and independence of females  on the F word, feminism, and begins:




To be honest, I have a deep concern for her [his daughter] because of the feministic culture we live in. Let’s face it; feminism has so influenced American culture that it has infiltrated the Christian culture just as much in more subtle ways. The average Christian woman is not trained from the home, nor encouraged, to find a husband as an alternative to going to college and starting a career. This is sad and unbiblical.

Heitman then explains to his readers why his daughter likely won’t be going to college.

I’m sitting here in my office chair, rocking back and forth, hands behind my head, trying to envision this:

  • Can you imagine a father telling his adult daughter what she can and cannot do with her life and her future?
  • What would her response be?  Can we think about that for just a minute?
  • Where is she in all of this?
  • Where do her thoughts, her opinions, her desires fit into his framework?
  • Is she allowed to express her voice?
  • What if she thinks that God is calling her to something different? Then what?

Ok, let’s go on with more of Heitman’s article. He lists two reasons why his daughter might not go to college:


A woman was created to fill the role of a helper and a companion, specifically to a husband. That’s why God created Eve (Gen 2:18). Until that happens, nowhere in Scripture does it command fathers to release their daughter into the world and demand that she learn how to fend for herself. We see from Scripture that a “man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake” (1 Cor 11:9). Again, in 1 Tim 2:15, it
reads, “women will be preserved through the bearing of children.” Not only that, Paul says twice in two different letters that a woman’s primary place of business is in the home (1 Tim 5:14; Tit 2:4).

He uses those two verses – just two verses – to justify that a woman needs to be at home.

And where Paul talks about singleness, Heitman offers the following:

Yes, Paul spoke of singleness and used his singleness for the ministry. However, Paul was a man. It’s wrong to expect women to keep in step with the cultural, not biblical, mandate.

So, am I getting that right – that it’s okay for a man to be single and use his singleness for ministry work, but not for a woman? Umm, Elisabeth Elliot, Gladys Aylward, anyone?  Did they do it all wrong? Maybe he’s never heard of them.  . . . probably not.

When a wife’s husband becomes disabled, he has this to offer:

I would feel a very large and heavy burden to mobilize the church Body and do whatever it takes to care for her, especially if she has no other family support behind her (1 Tim 5:3-4). Even so, that situation is extremely rare.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about churches tending to the heavy burdens of families like this, but I’m not convinced that the hardship is removed on an ongoing basis by the church.

What’s not gray is the fact that young Christian women are indeed pursuing the same things as unbelieving women: independence from a man. Eve acted outside the authority and protection of Adam and, well, you know where that led to.

Right, it’s all Eve’s fault and women have been following Eve’s example all these years.  That woman, Eve, messed it up for all of us.

Ok, Heitman continues with his second reason his daughter might not go to college:


Heitman goes into detail about debt, how bad it is to be in debt, that she will feel obligated to put off marriage and motherhood until debt is paid off. Yea, I get that debt is difficult and a burden, but what if he can afford to send his daughter to college? Do you think he’d let her after what we’ve already read from him?

And then we get to this part:

The question then leads to this: what is she supposed to do if she doesn’t go to college until she finds a husband? What if she never marries? What if she wants to be single? This question is strictly asked with the presupposition that it would be utterly insane to stay home. However, that is precisely what women did until the feminist movement. Women employed their gifts, talents, and God-given abilities to benefit the home while being under the care, protection, and tutelage of her parents.

The blame for the church’s cultural compromises fall squarely on the shoulders of church leaders and fathers. I pledged to myself that I will not sacrifice my daughter on the altar of men by sending her out of my home, care, and protection at age 18 just so that she can get a degree and achieve some worldly status. I will count those years as a precious time for my wife and me to prepare her for the wonderful task that’s ahead. The job of being a wife and mother is a high calling and I would argue is the most important job under the sun.

Now this part is important. He recommends listening to two different audio series by John MacArthur as if to imply that MacArthur endorses what Heitman is suggesting:

I know this issue is very controversial and unpopular. If you would be open to learning and being challenged, please listen to Pastor MacArthur’s series called “God’s High Calling for Women” and “The Fulfilled Family.” He talks about this issue in depth.


At the end of the article, we get more words that bring down the gavel on what is biblical and what is not biblical. So you’ll have to find which category you fit in. I’m obviously part of the hedonistic culture because my 19-yr old is out of our home, living half-way across the country going to college (a Christian college, though, so maybe we can get some credit for that):

The bottom line is this: the Bible does not command women to leave home at a young, vulnerable age, get a formal education, get a reputable job, and then have a family when she feels like it. The individualistic hedonistic culture does. One [sic] the other hand, the Bible reveals that it is God’s will for women to get married, raise godly children, and keep the home. It’s a high calling.

Do you see the language used here? It really feels like he is a judge hitting his desk with the gavel as he says “the bottom line is this.” Is there room for disagreement with this tone? Again, think about what someone in his church might feel listening to “the bottom line.” Just reading the words, the guilt is heaped upon my head. I’m going to call my daughter right now and tell her to turn over her volleyball jersey, pack up her stuff and come home to her father where she can serve him, her 5 brothers and most importantly, tend the house while this wayward mom goes to college full-time. Oh boy, our family is really messed up.

Let’s move on to the second article at the same blog on the same topic . Matt Tarr’s article came pretty quickly, only three days, after Heitman’s article.  Note that Tarr “serves in the counseling department at Grace Community Church” (Source) and is obviously in John MacArthur territory, while Heitman pastors his church in Washington State.

Now think about this for a sec. Why would Tarr come out quickly with a new article which seems to challenge, albeit graciously, Heitman? I wonder how Heitman felt when he saw his co-team member’s article which clearly challenges his words? I’ll post a quote from both articles to see the contrast:

I pledged to myself that I will not sacrifice my daughter on the altar of men by sending her out of my home, care, and protection at age 18 just so that she can get a degree and achieve some worldly status. ~Heitman


But let me be clear, just because you sent your daughter to college, does not mean you’ve sacrificed her on the altar of men.  ~ Tarr

In Tarr’s article, So… Can My Daughter Go to College? we read that Christian young ladies can indeed go to college, he includes a link to MacArthur’s (of course) college:

College can be a great thing (in fact, there some [not many] colleges and universities that even equip young women to be lovers of their husband, lovers of their children, and workers at home – The Master’s College is one of them), and your daughter can still honor God by her decision to go to college.

I’m not going to be detailing Tarr’s article, because it is much more balanced, but I’m struck at the timing of the second article and the widely different conclusions.

It’s important to note how convincing Heitman was in his article. Couldn’t you see Heitman on the speaking circuit with the likes of Voddie Baucham, Doug Phillips, and Kevin Swanson where Patriarchy and stay-at-home daughters is commonplace?

Another concern is this –  imagine you are a pew sitter at Pastor Heitman’s church, listening to him preach on this subject. Imagine you have a teen daughter who wants to go to college. How would that fly if your daughter went away to college? Come on, now, think that one through. Would you be rebuked by the pastor or other church members if you sent your daughter off to college? What would the response be? Would this family be labeled as unbiblical or even rebellious?

Sometimes this is what happens in churches when a pastor issues a strong stance on a particular subject – a subject that is not directly discussed in the Bible.

Does the church body’s climate change to fit a pastor’s views and practice?

A pastor’s strong stance, even when he cloaks it with “this is what I’m going to do for my family” and doesn’t say that you need to follow his stance, can create a climate that binds the church body to extra-Biblical rules. I hope that Heitman considers how powerful his voice is as a pastor and how it can come across as a reader or a pew sitter with such a strong message.

So, there you have it. One blog, two contributors who highly respect MacArthur, and two completely different responses on a topic that is not so clear in the Bible.

Be careful folks! These are decisions that we wrestle with for our families. Our pastors and church leaders don’t get to decide these things for our families. God has given us His Word, His Holy Spirit to guide us. We do not need our pastor’s backing for our family decisions, we do not need MacArthur’s backing, either.


photo credit: funkandjazz via photopin cc

photo credit: via photopin cc

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