Thursday, July 21, 2011

Troubled by Beth Moore's teaching, Part 5: Personal Revelation

I am working on a series of essays looking at the teachings of Beth Moore. She is currently a wildly popular Christian bible teacher. Her books, DVDs, lessons, devotionals and tours sell like hotcakes. She regularly fills stadiums and arenas to capacity. She is sought after for speaking engagements and has a regular spot on a television show called Life Today. She teaches Sunday School in her home town of Houston when she is in town and has had that position since 1984.

We are in the times of the doctrines of devils, of false teachers and of deception. Beth Moore may be true or she may be false (we'll explore that this essay and the next) but because the bible warns of these problems with teachers and teachings at the latter days, it is important for us to take a careful look at any and all teachers who have this much influence. I mentioned in Part One that I am headed to a Beth Moore conference this weekend. I'll be listening to her for 6 hours and may have more to say afterward. In preparation for these essays I've listened to Beth Moore for several hours, prayed, read others' concerns, and studied.
Troubled by Beth Moore's Teaching, Part 1: Introduction and Casualness

Troubled by Beth Moore's Teaching, Part 2: Un-dignified teaching

Troubled by Beth Moore's Teaching, Part 3: Contemplative Prayer

Troubled By Beth Moore's Teaching, Part 4: Legalism

In exploring whether the content of Mrs. Moore's lessons contain solid teaching, I'll be looking at five issues- Contemplative Prayer, Legalism, Personal Revelation, Eisegesis vs. exegesis, and outright error. This part will look at Mrs Moore's penchant for personal revelation.
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Direct revelation

Personal revelation...everybody and their brother is a prophet these days. Have you noticed? Seems like everyone has had Jesus show up in their living room, their bathroom, their potato. Seems like some special ones get a free tour of heaven or a lengthy visit with grandpa up there. This is because as the emergent church asked and asked and asked what truth is, actually chipping away at it as they asked, we began to substitute direct revelation and personal experience for truth. If the bible isn't thoroughly true, then I'll just accept these experiences, tongues, visions, and voices as truth. After all, it happened to me, and I know it's true.

Another effect of the emergent church's chipping away at truth through incessant questioning is that if there is no one truth, we accept it all. "You had a vision? Cool! Wanna hear mine?" "God talked to you in the shower? He spoke to me in the kitchen!" It is the result of a decade of charismatic emphasis on personal experience as a substitute for systematic theology and disciplined study.

Now, it is true that the LORD speaks to us today. The Lord does speak; through prayer and the bible. Read this for explanation and verses. He spoke to people audibly in the past, mostly to the prophets, but He certainly could speak to someone today, though I don't think it happens nearly as often as we read about.

But personal experience is NOT a substitute for intimacy with the Lord. The bible is the only barometer of truth. How often are we are told that we are, could be, and are likely to be deceived? Many times in the bible! (2 Thess 2:9; John 4:48; Rev 13:14, etc)

Beth Moore often says thing like "God spoke to me..." Or, "God said..." In her book "The Beloved Disciple: Following John to the Heart of Jesus" she wrote that God said, “My child, in between more intense rests, I want to teach you to take Sabbath moments.” It is nice that God speaks in such complete sentences to her. Moore doesn't say how He spoke it to her...just "God told me." And look at the sentence carefully: He said he was going to teach her to take these moments. Is a new doctrine being taught? And is it just for Beth Moore? I have no quarrel with someone saying that they feel that Jesus spoke to them in some way, but I'd like a lot more specificity as to how and where.

Here is an example of a direct revelation in a clip from Life Today, called "It's scary to be us" in which Mrs. Moore said, "He knows it's scary to be us. And I know that He does. I know that He does. He does not take lightly what you are going through. ... I don't know if we think He is so far removed that He doesn't feel it, respect it, esteem it... But He knows what you are going through."

Now that's a nice sentiment. I happen to believe it is true- He does know what we are going through. He does attend to even the smallest of our needs. Do you know how I know? Matthew 10:29; Matt. 6:25-34; Matt 10:31; 1 Peter 5:7 and others. God knows the number hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). If a bible teacher makes a claim that she knows something about God,  I expect that teacher to use the verses as proof of her assertion. All Mrs. Moore said was, "I know that He knows." That is spiritual arrogance.

God has said: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8). Moore does not use scripture as the basis for making the claim that she knows what God is thinking. That is not only spiritual arrogance, it is dangerous.

In 1997 the Baptist Press began their feature on her with this sentence: "Beth Moore talks about God so personally, it is easy to imagine her reaching over and squeezing his hand." She does seem to have an over-familiarity with the King Jesus that is precious, but not so reverential.

In the Old Testament God raised up prophets who spoke for Him after He spoke directly to the prophets. They spoke aloud and they wrote things down. The people knew which prophets were true and which were false by the standard laid out in Deuteronomy 18:22. When the people heard the prophets speaking the words from the LORD, they would have heard something like this:

"But My people have changed their Glory
For what does not profit.
12 Be astonished, O heavens, at this,
And be horribly afraid;
Be very desolate,” says the LORD. " (Jer 2:11b-12b)

In the New Testament we hear the Lord say through John, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Rev 3:14-16)

Because the veil was torn now we all have direct access to the Lord now, our buddy, old pal. We can hear Beth Moore say: "Just that morning God confirmed His desire for me to drive all the way to the other side of Houston...I got in my car and prayed. I pulled out of the parking lot, fighting the tears. A few blocks later as if on autopilot, I turned my steering wheel straight into the parking lot of the Houston Zoo! Christ seemed to say, “Let’s go play.” And that we did. I hadn’t been to the zoo in years. I heard about all the improvements, but I never expected the ultimate: Starbucks coffee! (OK, so I don’t have my health issues down pat.) Can you imagine watching a baby koala take a nap in a tree on a rare cold day in Houston with a Starbucks grande cappuccino in your hand? Now that’s a Sabbath moment! God and I had a blast." (source)

So now a zombie Jesus takes over the body of a person and drives her to the zoo to watch a koala.

I'm not saying that Jesus doesn't care for us in all aspects of our being, and that stress reduction isn't an important part of the life of a restful and healthy Christian. I'm just trying to show how God spoke to His people throughout the eons and that over-familiarity and careless handling of His word diminishes His august majesty when we say things like, 'I was driven to the zoo by Jesus to watch the koalas.'

The method of receiving her direct revelations changes too. Sometimes it is an audible voice. Sometimes it is in her mind. Sometimes it is across the wall of her heart. Dr. Kurien did a good job of examining the issue at "A Time To Discern", here. It is a .pdf. If you want even more examples of the direct and personal revelation claims from Mrs. Moore, go on over to The Watchman's Bagpipes for a gentle dissection and rebuttal, here.

Pastor Bob DeWaay of Twin Cities Fellowship in Minneapolis, Minnesota said- " We have ideas in our minds – that may or may not be from God. They are not God’s authoritative binding revelation. Ideas, dreams, or visions – are part of God’s Providence and they contain good and evil. We are free to have ideas – but you never know for sure because they are not God’s binding revelation. These words, thoughts, ideas or visions may or may not be from God. There are no new revelations since the closing of the Canon of Scripture.”

This is true. Look what the bible says is within us: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (Matthew 7:21-23)

When Beth Moore says "God told me" I want verses to back it up because that should be the source. Otherwise it could by from any source and according to the Lord's own Word, that source could be pretty ugly.

In his series, "How does God Guide Us? Guidance Through Divine Whispering (Part 2)", Mark D. Roberts said: "Unfortunately, a multitude of contemporary Christians have trivialized this ministry of the Spirit. “God spoke to me” has become a virtual replacement for “I thought,” except that by saying “God spoke to me” a person avoids having to take responsibility for his or her actions. After all, if God told me to buy a new computer that I really don’t need, who are you and who am I to question God’s command? Claiming God’s authority for my own thoughts not only appears to protect me from being corrected, but it also gives an added punch to my own preferences.... While recognizing that the Spirit will speak to us, we must also acknowledge our tendency to misinterpret what we hear, or to mistake our own inner voice for the voice of God." It is an excellent post on the issue of Divine Whispering. Please take a moment to read it. It is not long. Roberts' whole series examining "How Does God Guide?" us is here.

As I said, the whole "God told me" thing could be real or it could not be real. I tend to think that it's less real than Moore hopes it is. One of my favorite preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” Moore is almost right ... but in the end will that be enough?

18 comments :

  1. Great post. It has me reexamining some things, and mulling them over. (Aside from the Beth Moore discussion)

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  2. "This is because as the emergent church asked and asked and asked what truth is, actually chipping away at it as they asked, we began to substitute direct revelation and personal experience for truth. "

    I'm not so sure the Emerging/Emergent church began this, even in recent times. I know growing up in a Lutheran denomination in the 1970s and 80's I noticed this sort of mysticism lite was epidemic at least among the laypeople and in some cases the clergy also.

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  3. Now, it is true that the LORD speaks to us today. The Lord does speak; through prayer, the bible, circumstances, and impressions.

    How do you tell if 'impressions' are God speaking or you just thinking?

    I would say he speaks through his word, and possibly leads (but not speaks) through those other things. If God speaks to me in prayer how is that any different than what Moore is suggesting?

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    1. http://www.openbible.info/topics/hearing_god

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    2. Anonymous, it is helpful, if you want to add to the conversation, to use words and not simply links. Doing so leaves us wondering what you're thinking and I'm not a mind reader.

      You linked to a bible page that scours the bible for all verses that contain the search word. In your case, you searched for "hearing God"

      The search result yielded a mixture of verses which include Old Testament verses. When discussing whether the current church members hear God's voice literally, it is not relevant to include OT verses because of course, in OT times, God spoke audibly and directly to the prophets, giving them new revelation. The bible wasn't concluded yet. After apostolic times, the Lord stopped speaking directly when the canon was closed. (Rev 22:18-19).

      In addition, to illustrate the irrelevance of some of the verses on your page, let's take John 10:27:

      "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."

      If God is literally speaking audibly we can hear His voice, then we are literally sheep.

      God's revelation to His church ended with the Revelation verses I mentioned. He is not speaking directly to His people and He is not giving new insights, new information, or new direction, as Moore claims she received.

      Next time if you'd like to join the conversation, please care enough to contribute your thoughts and not simply post a link. Thanks

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  4. terriergal,

    as for the emergent church's tactic of questioning under the guise of seeking wisdom (but it really being intellectual gamesmanship designed to chip away at God's authority). I guess I could say if the emergent church did not begin the tactic, they have brought it to its height in Rob Bell's book "Love Wins." It was there that the tactic was stunningly on display in copious quantities.

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  5. Terriergal, as for the question on distinguishing between man's voice and God's inspiration, the link above in Divine whispering is helpful. Also this link from Christian Apologetics Research Ministry uses scripture to answer your question-
    http://carm.org/questions/other-questions/how-do-we-know-when-we-hear-holy-spirit

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  6. I remain skeptical of God 'speaking' to us (as opposed to leading us) through inner impressions even if they do line up with Scripture. You can't possibly be sure, unless he comes down and personally reveals himself to you. After watching people who believe God speaks to them in this way, one after the other, wander off into myths, I can't really ascribe much validity to such a teaching. But I really do appreciate your criticisms of Beth Moore overall! Excellent job.

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    1. http://www.biblestudytools.com/kjv/job/33-16.html

      JOB 33:16
      Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
      God speaks to us by conscience, by providences, and by ministers; of all these Elihu discourses. There was not then, that we know of, any Divine revelation in writing, though now it is our principal guide. When God designs men's good, by the convictions and dictates of their own consciences, he opens the heart, as Lydia's, and opens the ears, so that conviction finds or forces its way in. The end and design of these admonitions are to keep men from sin, particularly the sin of pride. While sinners are pursuing evil purposes, and indulging their pride, their souls are hastening to destruction. That which turns men from sin, saves them from hell. What a mercy it is to be under the restraints of an awakened conscience! Matthew Henry

      Not the ears of his body, which remaining shut while things are presented to his mind in a dream or vision, but his internal ears; it is the same with opening the heart or understanding to attend to and receive the things delivered in this visionary way: John Gill
      Sealeth - He imprints those instructions upon their minds. Wesley

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    2. I liked how Matthew Henry said "...Divine revelation in writing, though now it is our principal guide". This is via the bible

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  7. I remain skeptical of that too. If a teacher uses personal conversations with God as revealed to them by their own claim, and bases a whole teaching on it, then I have a problem with that. In the beginning of the convention, Mrs Moore had said that she prays to receive a word from God. He whispered "hold fast" to her mind, and she went through the bible and then picked the verses that have 'hold fast' in them. She then built the lesson around those verses.

    While this may sound logical approach, it is fraught with danger. The use of the word 'hold fast' may apply to different situations. You lose the context.

    In one example, let's say the word 'love'. We can all identify with God's love, right? We all know what that means because He loves us equally. Well, does love mean the same thing in every situation? No.

    There's His providential love as when He sends the rain on the just and the unjust. That is one kind of love. Then there is the love He expresses within the Trinity when the Father speaks to the Son and the Son speaks of the Father and the Holy Spirit is the enactment of that Holy love. Intra-trinitarian love, they call it. It is another kind of love.

    Then there is His love based on obedience. He killed Sapphira and Ananias for lying to the Holy Spirit in front of the church. He killed Korah for rebelling against Him openly. He killed Uzzah for touching the ark. They were disobedient in egregious ways, and they died for it. A holy justice kind of love.

    So praying, hearing a whisper, and cobbling together verses that you 'feel' are applicable, extant of the context no less, is not a sound approach to teaching 11000+ women month after month. It is not proper exegesis, it is teaching by divine revelation. And that is a bad thing.

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  8. Elizabeth,

    A side note, I read your profile and you care about cats, do you want a few more cats? My mom is developing an allergic reaction and we are trying to find a home.

    On to my comment and please don't take this as a negative to your blog, it's good that you do this. I do it in a way on my website.

    Scripture is clear that God talks to us whether via the HS promoting as you affirmed when you felt Him promoting and you followed it by going to a Beth Moore event or through Scripture or through others and circumstance. That's not the issue, He does it and will until His return, Eph 4:11-13 & Mat 10:19-20, are two examples. The test we are to do is to match what someone says God told them, which they may be telling others, and what Scripture says; if what is "proclaimed" does not match Scripture there's an issue to address, if not, there's not. It's that simple.

    Lest you think otherwise I'm not defending Moore, I'm not a fan of Moore because of her doctrine. If God told her or lead her to the zoo, big deal. IF God "told her" something that is contrary to Scripture, SPEAK OUT.

    You have attacked her style and other superficial things. Attack her doctrine, her twisting of Scripture, or her taking Scripture out of context instead.

    One such example. I tend to do things in a routine. I had a bunch of errands to run. As I was leaving my subdivision I usual turn right, to the errands making a circle and return from the other direction, however on that day I believe God told me to do the errands in the opposite direction. I resisted at first to do my routine, but yielded at the entrance of the subdivision and did as God told me. My last stop became my first and I was able to help someone in need that I would not have been able to if I'd gone the opposite direction. I would have been there too late in the day. I have no Scripture to support the voice I heard tell me to go the way I did. I followed what did not contradict Scripture and was used by God.

    I know for a fact God want's to use us more then we let Him because we don't listen, I've seen and heard it in and from others and myself. As for Moore's day at the zoo or the fact she said, "I know that He knows." and you said: "That is spiritual arrogance." It's not spiritual arrogance to know what God has already revealed. You said you're self that you know He knows because Scripture says so. Do you think maybe she knows those Scriptures too? We don't need to quote what is obvious and what is well known by Christians when we are speaking to each other.

    Again, as stated, I'm not a fan of Beth Moore because of her misuse of Scripture and her doctrine, but we cannot knock her or anyone else that is trying to listen to the Lord and hearing Him and following what they think He told them to do, unless that person says “God said” and what they say contradicts Scripture, for we are to test the spirits. 1 Jn 4:1. Find quotes of Moore where she says “God said” and where what she says contradicts Scriptures and blog on it.

    Lastly, you are welcome to tare apart my writings (that was meant in a good way).

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  9. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the offer of cats, but I have two and I only live in a two room apartment so I am full up.

    You said, "You have attacked her style and other superficial things. Attack her doctrine, her twisting of Scripture, or her taking Scripture out of context instead."

    I do not consider her comportment superficial. The bible does not either. Not for teachers of the word, anyway. In part 1, I used four verses that specify exactly how bible teachers and elders are supposed to behave when they teach. If Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit considered it worthy enough to be included in scripture, then it is not superficial.

    You asked for examples of where Mrs Moore has said "God said" and I gave examples in this essay. With links. And discussion of how they vary from scripture.

    Finally, you said overall that you wanted more specificity, particularly in "her twisting of Scripture, or her taking Scripture out of context instead." I've written about Mrs Moore 12 times. I think that is enough specificity, examples, and verse discussion of how, why, and where I believe she is off the rails.

    Best to you and I hope you have a nice rest of the weekend...

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  10. Elizabeth,

    Just to clarify, I said, "God said AND what they say contradicts Scripture,". Unless I missed it, in this essay you only gave one example where Moore says God told her and it was about taking a Sabbath rest. My quote about God said was conditional upon whether or not it contradicts Scripture. Her being "taught" that she needs rest is not a contraction to Scripture. We can all get too busy and over worked and not take the rest we need and God may have to "teach" us to take it easy. Without consulting Moore directly, that may be all she meant.

    Additionally, not everything we believe as Christians has a direct verse for support. It may be in principle only: the Trinity or Rapture are two examples. Neither word is in the Bible, while they are both clearly taught.

    May you have a GREAT Lord's Day and enjoy worshipping HIm!

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  11. Hi Elizabeth,

    I have never read a Beth Moore book nor been a part of one of her studies. To be honest, I'm tired of church bible studies that take someone else's thoughts (even if they are Biblical), when we could be studying the ACTUAL books of the Bible! Now there is a thought!! :)

    It would be unfair for me to judge Beth Moore soley from the things you have written, although I do appreciate your willingness to research before posting your findings. I find it difficult to base my opinions on second-hand findings, so I'll be doing a bit more of my own research I suppose.

    The issue I DO want to address is a quotation you made above: "'He spoke to me in the kitchen!' It is the result of a decade of charismatic emphasis on personal experience as a substitute for systematic theology and disciplined study.

    It breaks my heart to witness that Scripture/doctrine no longer seems to be absolute truth, but rather experiences and feelings. I'm so glad you brought this point up in your blog. Our hearts are so deceptive, which will mean our feelings are deceptive. How we need the Word of God for our counsel and not some "new revelation," which is actually heresy.

    Thanks for bringing it all back to the counsel of God. It's unfortunate for Beth Moore that she IS in the spotlight. That means she holds more responsibility and accountability for the things she teaches. It's not uncommom for many teachers in the limelight to "water down" doctrine in order to stay popular. In any case, while we do our diligence to point out error, we must also be compassionate enough to pray for those who are compromising. They may not even be aware of it and they need prayer as well that the Holy Spirit would convict them if they are turning aside from TRUE doctrine.

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  12. Hi Danny,

    Thank you SO much for your wise and sensitive comments. I agree completely with your last statement especially. I needed that reminder.

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  13. This is true about Beth Moore holding accountability to God for her teachings, As all of us do. I however have been to 11 of her studies, my heart has opened up to how she teaches, she makes it true to life, she loves the Lord with all her heart, and has gone throught the same childhood trauma as I have and God has pulled her up and loved her through it. I for one think you are harsh and heartbreaking. I choose to worship our Lord with joy and truthfulness from His word, I also choose to feel His presece in my life, and rejoice in all He haas pulled me through in my 58 years. I say bravo to her teachings. I realize we are all intitled to our opinions, and no one knows if you are right or wrong. But I choose to depend on my Bible and God's love and peace, not fear . I feel sorry for you that you have not experienced that in your life through God. But God knows and we will all be judged according to what we have done to bring people to the Lord and our actions in that process. You may find out you are not as Godly as you think you are. But that is for God to decide. For me I will listen to Beth and learn and enjoy her truth in God's words.

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    1. My husband and I have had the same concerns about Beth Moore. To the comment above, The bible is very clear that we are to discern what it is that we hear, and I believe that is all she is doing.

      Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matthew 7:15

      But solid food belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:14

      I think it is alarming that Beth Moore teaches in such a way that she brings large amounts of crowds. If she were teaching sound doctrine, she would not draw in such a crowd. She would not be loved and praised so much by men and women.
      And you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: Matt 10:22

      It is important that we as christians discern between the good and the evil, especially when it comes to whom we are allowing to be our "teachers". We are in a time where christians will be deceived and pulled away from the sound teachings of the Word of God into something that is more desirable, but does not bring salvation but destruction. It is always good to be on guard!

      That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: Eph 4:14,15

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