The central facts of the Christian faith were all primarily witnessed by women.
Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,” as the Apostles’ Creed says, and the Incarnation was witnessed first and foremost by Mary, his mother. Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” The Atonement was witnessed in all four Gospels primarily by Jesus’ female followers. Then, “on the third day he rose again.” The resurrection of Christ was also witnessed in all four Gospels by women.
If we don’t believe women, then we have to dismiss the eyewitnesses to the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection. If we won’t listen, we don’t have access to the evidence for the central truths of the Christian faith.
“Believe women” has become the contested slogan of the Me Too movement. I know what happens if we don’t. In the past few months I have been living in the eye of a storm of trauma, dismay, and profound grief as new allegations of abuse have battered the apologetics organization I previously served with, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Revelations of Ravi Zacharias’s abuse of multiple women are horrendous, and the catastrophic fallout of his wretched duplicity has impacted so many.
But back in 2017, when Lori Anne Thompson came forward with her testimony about sexual abuse at Ravi’s hands, she was not believed. I could rehearse in detail what happened internally, in the global organization, including how some women in the organization did raise serious questions about Ravi’s explanations and were misled, pressured, and persuaded to accept the official narrative. I have apologized unreservedly to Lori Anne and her husband, Brad, and I do so here again publicly.
Devastating consequences flowed from people not listening to the testimony of a woman—consequences I witnessed and endured firsthand, even as I have had to examine and confess my own complicity. It is against this backdrop that the phrase “believe women” has taken on a new potency for me.
As a follower of Jesus, it saddens me that the church seems no better than the world in this regard. Far too often, women are not believed. Renowned psychologist and abuse expert Diane Langberg points out that “across studies the rates of false accusations run between 3 and 9 percent.” Yet time and again, women who come forward with testimony are not believed.
How prescient and poignant then that at the heart of the Christian faith lies the historic testimony of women. The gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to believe the word of women. The Easter message itself—“Christ is risen!”—is the testimony of women.
We know it wasn’t easier to believe women in Jesus’ day than our own. In the ancient world, women’s testimony was not valued. Josephus, the first-century Jewish writer, wrote, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” This was the mindset of the era. Yet at the center of the historic claims of the Christian faith, the testimony of women asks for admission.
This matters. Faith in Christ is not wish fulfillment or cultural superstition; it is rooted in history. If it matters that these things actually happened, it is also hugely significant that women played such a prominent role in observing and then testifying to these events. If we believe the gospel accounts about Jesus of Nazareth, we will need to listen to the female witnesses that they rely so heavily upon.
Women such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others were central to Jesus’ life and ministry. They supported him out of their means (Luke 8:2–3), they were close to him at almost every important moment in his ministry, and they recalled the details of their experiences to those who would listen.