I just read a post over at the Living Proof blog written by Beth Moore’s daughter, Melissa. Evidently Beth is the featured subject of a series of articles in the August issue of Christianity Today and, according to Melissa, at least one of the articles took some liberties in quoting Beth, even going so far as to take some of her statements completely out of context.
I think Melissa’s point a valid one. Certainly a magazine of the caliber of CT can and ought to adhere to strict journalistic standards. My interest was peaked, however, by the comments vilifying CT for presuming to criticize “Mama Beth” and asserting their belief in Beth’s sincerity which, for those commenting, not all but some, is enough of an apologetic to render her teaching above any sort of critical examination.
It frustrates me. But first, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Beth Moore’s ministry. Prior to participating in A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place, Beth’s study on the Tabernacle, nearly fifteen years ago, I had no idea the Bible could be studied with such depth and passion. Now, some of you may quibble with my use of the word “depth,” but compared to the sort of Bible study I’d been exposed to up to that point–which was none–I was shocked. I had no idea. And, I was hooked. I began to devour any and every study Beth wrote and get to any and every conference that was remotely possible. Some accused me of being a groupie and while there may have been some truth to that–after all, Beth has a wonderful gift of making each of us feel as if we are her BFF–I really think it was more an instance of me pursuing the sustenance–any sustenance–of Scripture with the desperation of the starving.
I don’t know when my discomfort began. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t due to any scholarship–or lack thereof–on Beth’s part. Not at first. It was the cult celebrity deal that made me uneasy. Fellow Bible students were more apt to discuss Beth’s hair, clothes or kids more so than the Bible she presumed to teach. As a result, I began at first to alternate a Beth study with a non Beth study, and the number of women participating reflected it. The last Beth Moore study I facilitated, Daniel, had over thirty women in the group, the largest number of participants I’ve ever had by double.
The interesting thing was, as I studied and taught and studied in order to teach, my disillusionment with the celebrity culture of so-called women’s Bible studies was soon coupled with a disappointment in the studies themselves. Many seemed more full of the woman herself, the student, her feelings and problems, and little of the Bible. Finally, I decided to be deliberate in choosing studies that teach the Bible. I will freely admit it is a little more difficult to find gospel-centered, Scripture-saturated studies for women but it’s been well worth it.
I love theology; I love doctrine; I love wrestling with the deep things of the Lord–and I love studying God’s Word. I am so grateful the Lord used Beth to provoke in me a love for Bible study, yet at the same time I am tired of the wimpy fluff, the self help drivel that publishers seem to be marketing to women under the guise of “Bible study.” How I long for us to be women eager and determined to seek after the knowledge of God through the diligent study of His word, and yet how revolutionary and rare is this sort of mindset in the realm of studies for women!
Some fault Beth Moore along with other prominent Bible teachers. While certainly I’ve been disappointed in the turn her ministry seems to be taking, I find that most of my frustration lies with her followers, not all of them but enough of them. Does that sound like I’m a snob? Hear me: I don’t feel that way because I feel myself superior but because I know that the Word of God is superior…
Think my frustration is unfounded? A cursory glance through the comments on the post I referenced at the Living Proof blog will quickly prove my point. Over and over the commenters, not all but some, say it is Beth’s sincerity that trump any sort of criticism one could render. I am troubled, not by the outpouring of love and support so much, but by the apparent blind disregard for anything that could cast aspersions on their beloved Beth. I have no doubt of Beth’s sincerity, yet our standard for integrity in teaching–for Beth or any other teacher, this one included–is not sincerity. It is the Word of God. We ought to examine the spirits, the Bible teaches us, to be like the Bereans examining Paul’s teaching in light of the Scriptures. We are to hold our leaders accountable! Discerning examination is not an affront; it is necessary and good.
Sisters, we are not to blindly follow anyone! We are to know God’s Word for ourselves and know it well enough that we may exercise discernment and identify sloppy interpretation and inconsistent instruction, partial truths that as such are no Truth. We must ask whether a sermon or Bible study or devotion exalts Christ or us–or, God forbid, the teacher–and we must carefully and diligently hold it up to the light of Scripture. Please, do not let your faith depend upon another, no matter how sincere and personable she may be. Work out your faith with fear and trembling, refusing to settle for secondhand knowledge and secondhand intimacy.
One of the more troubling things I’ve read was in another long comment thread on a different site, this on a post describing the author’s affection for Beth Moore and expressing a desire to meet her. One of the commenters said that without Beth Moore she could not thrive. I am saddened even as I tell it to you. Another commenter said that if Jesus were a girl His name would be Beth Moore. Are you kidding me? With heart breaking, I want to tell these women–I want to tell you–that Jesus is better. Jesus is better than Beth Moore. You do not need her to thrive. You need Jesus. You need His Word. You need His Spirit. Look to Him in repentance and faith. Find in Him all you need, all you desire, all you long for. It’s Him. Seek Him. Know Him. The glorious gospel promises that when we seek Him with our whole heart, He will be found–what grace! What mercy!