Jesus is better

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!

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

21 thoughts on “Jesus is better”

  1. Lisa, thank you for your boldness and courage.

    Although I have gleaned some useful things from some of Beth’s teaching.. I have grown weary of people who put anyone and anything above the Lord Himself and His Word.

    We set up frail human flesh as idols.. and then are disapponited when they fall, and fall they will, for none are meant to be placed in that position.

    If Jesus came and walked among us, His Name would still be Jesus!

  2. I have never caught on to Beth Moore. I’m always a little uncomfortable with celebrity status Christians. I’m sure there are a lot of celebrity Christians who are uncomfortable with the status, too. And amen to examining what someone is teaching and calling them to a higher standard…
    This might be what keeps me from attending Mark Driscoll’s church, too, here in Seattle… the whole celebrity status issue…

  3. Excellent words, Lisa. I could not agree more. My greatest concern has been the tendency of women to act as if they cannot learn apart from Moore. Having gurus of any kind is not wise. And you’re bang on when you say that sincerity is not the same thing as truth. All kinds of people believe in false teachings quite sincerely. I was very sincere about Mormonism when I was 17 years old, but I was wrong about it.

  4. Lisa, this is a great post! I’ve noticed that most of the women (and even a few men – which is another issue altogether) that I’ve talked to seem to fall into one of 2 camps – they either love her or hate her. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.

    I haven’t actually done one of Beth Moore’s studies, but, I did sit down at a bookstore a few months ago with one of her books (I think it was the one on Paul?). Honestly, I didn’t see anything glaringly wrong with the content. But, there was still something that made me uneasy about it. And, I think it is exactly what you explained – my problem is more with those who blindly follow the “celebrity,” and buy into the cult of personality, without discernment – putting more stock in what a (fallible, sinful, imperfect) *person* says above the Word of God. And, just like Kim in ON said (above), there are so many people who may be very sincere in their beliefs, but they are sincerely wrong. Sincerity is not the same as truth, nor is it an accurate gauge.

  5. Very well said. I completely agree. I had much the same journey regarding Beth Moore and Bible study. I’m thankful for the way her studies initially helped me to long for more and deeper study of the Word, but grew very disillusioned with and concerned about the cult of personality that many of her followers seem to generate. I, too, agree that sincerity is NOT the same as truth. Discernment is always needed, no matter who is teaching – always go back to the Bible and make sure what we’re hearing lines up. I also relate to how hard it can be to find studies that are truly Bible studies and not just book studies with a little scripture to make a point. I don’t really want to study what someone says about the Bible or their opinions and sanctified speculating….I want to learn what the Bible says and how to rightly apply it. I’d like to link this as well.

  6. Lisa, your words strike a deep chord with me! There is no priesthood anymore… the veil was torn at Calvary! We no longer need the “filter” of others to interpret or water down or beef up the Word; God desires and expects each of us to seek Him one on one, so that we will never be mislead or find ourselves following man and not Him. I have seen some popular teachings promoted as though they are infallible, and this grieves me greatly. Searching the Word for myself, I have found myself disagreeing with some of what the popular and influential teachers of our time are saying, and I wonder how many people just choose to swallow whatever is offered! You are hearing from God’s heart to remind us that people are just people, and God is God 🙂

  7. Lisa, your post has helped me more than you can imagine. I have never done a Beth Moore study. I’ve wanted to, believe me, but my church doesn’t do them. This has frustrated me over the years, but now I see that our Women’s Bible study leaders may have been more wise than I for the very reasons you state here. Your last paragraph is perfectly said. I love it!

  8. Well-said, my friend. Sincerity is not the measuring stick. Many, many people have been quite sincere in their beliefs. . . . .and they are sincerely wrong. As an extreme example, it’s obvious that the 9/11 terrorists were sincere in their religious beliefs.

    I have enjoyed and learned from a number of her studies, but neither Beth nor any other human is a substitute for Christ.

  9. I agree Beth Moore has been elevated to status that may be a bit too high. And I am encouraged by your braveness to be honest about your views and thoughts.

    There definitely seems to be more fluff than meaty studies. Our church did an out of the norm Advent one I was THRILLED to participate in. My excitement quickly weakened. The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes. I’ve learned I need to take what I can and make it my own by diving in deeper from my own desire and will.

  10. Amen. I agree with so much that you’ve said here. I started out as more of a Kay Arthur follower, but have ended up teaching some Beth Moore Studies too. I feel like I am fighting a losing battle to keep my students from tying to close of an allegiance to either of these fine teachers. What is it with women that we have to cling to the one who is blazing the trail for us? Instead we should let them show us the way, have them shine a little light on it and show us the starting place and then let them move out of the way so we can take the trail on our own – so much more exciting and fun that way! I love studying the Bible on my own and my own personal relationship with Jesus is more precious to me than anything or anyone. I just want that for other women too.

  11. “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.”

    This statement really hit me. Not because I fear I’ve held Beth Moore to a standard of “sincerity.” But because as a bible teacher myself, I realize I must hold MYSELF to a higher standard. I don’t want to ever publish the “fluff” you describe, yet I could see that happening, if I’m not careful.

    Thank you for this open, honest post. And…um…I’m going to see Beth Moore in Lexington KY this weekend. I find that funny after reading this. 🙂

    Blessings,
    Sandy

  12. I concur. But with me, it is not that the writer (Beth or any other teacher) is a celebrity and a beloved one at that. It is more that the study strays (to my way of thinking) from Scripture and wanders into personal development (in a “Christian” sort of way).

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