Saturday, August 27, 2011

Discernment lesson: The Shack and Beth Moore's treatment of Paul. Part 2

I have extensively written against Mrs Moore as a false teacher in a 7-part series titled Troubled by Beth Moore Teachings. I wrote a second series of my reactions to a two-day Beth Moore conference, here. All those essays, however, were based on video and auditory presentations. I watched her online. I listened to her online. I sat through a DVD teaching. I heard her in person. How about when she writes? Is her doctrine improved when she has time to choose her words carefully over time, edit, and reflect?

The answer is NO.

Mrs Moore wrote "To Live is Christ: Joining Paul's Journey of Faith" in 2001. This book is touted as "A spiritual odyssey through one of Christianity's most fervent journeymen and one of Christ's most passionate followers, Apostle Paul." One would have hoped Mrs Moore would have taken the attendant time to present the man clearly and biblically, but she did not.

Some of the book is good and some is entertaining, but much of it is based on the original problem I have with Mrs Moore: she approaches her lessons through a personal lens. She admits she is insecure, and then from that humanly flawed perspective sees everyone else that way too. Worse, Mrs Moore then attempts to show that people's subsequent actions are caused by their insecurity, including reactions and actions of biblical people. I wish she would approach her video, live, or written lessons from a biblical perspective but she prefers to look at the bible as a self-help book populated by people with flaws similar to her own. This is reason enough to reject her teachings. But I'll be specific.

I am not saying that the people who read the bible are not flawed nor am I saying that the people IN the bible are not flawed (except for Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit). I am saying that there is a difference in noticing a biblical character's humanness and it is quite another to see them through your own lens and expect that they have behaved a certain way because of that flaw.

Here is one example. It is actually from Mrs Moore's book "So Long, Insecurity", but this passage provides a basis for her approach to Paul. Who, of course, is insecure. Here, she is addressing 2 Cor 11:5-6,

"I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way." "Tell me that’s not insecurity. If you’re not convinced, take a look at what blurted from his pen only a chapter later: "I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the ‘super-apostles,’ even though I am nothing." [2 Corinthians 12:11]. Do you think just maybe he protests too much? In all probability, he fought the awful feeling that he wasn’t as good as the others who hadn’t done nearly so much wrong. I totally grasp that. At the same time, Paul also battled a big, fat ego. He was a complex mound of clay just like the rest of us, belittling and boasting of himself in a dizzying psychological zigzag.” (source p. 56-57).

Now let's look at how bible teacher John MacArthur explains the same verse (2 Cor 12:11). In his sermon "Signs of an Apostle", he wrote,

"Now starting at the beginning of chapter 10 and up until now, Paul has been directly confronting the false apostles. He started that in chapter 10 and he'll conclude it in our text. Starting particularly in chapter 11 verse 22, he has given his own credentials as a superior apostle. And as I said, in this two verses he sums that up. And basically there were three things that indicated his true apostleship. The first one he mentions here was the supernatural. He did the signs of a true apostle. The second was his perseverance during suffering, he mentions that in verse 12 when he says, "With all perseverance." And the third was his utter unselfishness. In verse 13 he says that he did nothing to become a burden to them. When he wants to affirm the character of his true apostleship, he has them look on the supernatural power of God coming through him. He has them look at his perseverance in suffering. And he has them look at his utter unselfishness, because those are in contrast to the false apostles who are void of the power of God, who don't want to suffer anything but get rich at the expense of the people that they deceive, and who, thirdly, are self-centered and self-focused, seeking only personal gain."

"In distinction to them, Paul does show the power of God, willingly suffers and perseveres and is utterly unselfish, never being a burden to them in any sense at all. But as far as compared to them, I am not inferior to them in any category. But when he refers to the most eminent apostles, he's a little sarcastic. That is the extra-super apostles, that's what they had labeled themselves, these false apostles. They are also called that back in chapter 11 verse 5 where he says, "I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles." It's sarcasm. They called themselves the extra-super apostles and they demeaned Paul as a nobody. But he says you know in no category do I come behind them, though myself I am nothing. You have forced me now to this comparison. You have forced me to it because you wouldn't come to my defense. You have forced me to this folly." "

My, oh my, how two bible teachers can come to such wildly divergent conclusions over the same passage. MacArthur's is biblical and Moore's is emotional. Moore's, therefore, is wrong.

In Mrs Moore's book "To live is Christ" which is also about Paul, she uses the words 'probably' and 'I believe' a lot, but the dots are far from each other. However, that does not stop her from connecting them. In the chapter Idols of Athens, Moore said, "Admittedly I am speculating based on hints in the accounts." Well kudos to her for alerting her readers that the next part of the paragraph is based on speculation. She continues,

"I suspect that Paul's visit to Athens was affecting him far more than we realize..."
"Paul was overwhelmed by the polytheistic beliefs of the residents." (no bible verse given to support this statement)
"During those long hours, I believe he convinced himself that every effort in Athens had failed."
"I suspect he became so focused on the negative that he lost focus of the positive."
Then Mrs Moore goes on to explain how aloneness affects us and our state of mind. "Solitude exaggerates our negative feelings," and concludes,
"I believe the more Paul thought about his experiences in Athens, the worse he felt.
"You can imagine the beating his ego took in Athens."
"I think Paul felt like a failure."

She finishes by saying "Obviously, Paul's experience had a great impact on his next opportunity."

No, not obviously. An author can spend a page and a half gleaning suspicions from the bible as Mrs Moore does here on page 132-133 but to conclude that her beliefs add up to an obvious impact on his next Godly task is more than a stretch. It is wrong.

She asks, "Does seeing Paul's experience in this light help you to relate to him as a fellow struggler on the road to serve Christ?" Frankly, no. The struggle she presented was based on her admitted speculations.

Blogger Kim at The Upward Call wrote of Mrs Moore's approach, addressing Moore's speculative approach in her lessons on The Patriarchs,

"Speculation doesn't introduce me to God. It may get my imagination going, and it may engage my emotions, but it does not help me understand God. The appeal to emotions and imagination is popular in "women's" bible studies, and it is understandable: women like that kind of thing. Emotions and imagination can be set apart for God, but to use them as bible study tools just does not sit well with me. My emotions and my imagination are frequently mistaken."

If Mrs Moore wants to show Paul as a struggler then she should show his actual struggles from the bible. He had plenty.

Back to choosing certain words. Do you believe that Paul engaged in a 'dizzying psychological zigzag' because of his struggle with insecurity and a damaged ego? Presenting him this way does him, and the bible, a disservice. When we get to heaven, we can ask him directly. Meanwhile, gleaning speculations from the bible based on her personal struggle with insecurity is just another in the long line of ways Mrs Moore disrespects her pupils, readers, and the bible itself.

The most egregious effect of the words chosen in So long, Insecurity are these, "If you’re not convinced, take a look at what blurted from his pen only a chapter later: " She then quotes 2 Corinthians 12:11, interpretations from Moore and MacArthur I shared with you above. It is egregious because what Mrs Moore is saying is that because of Paul's struggle with a battered ego and deep insecurity, he took out his emotions toward the Corinthians through the pen. 'Blurted' evokes a mindless, knee-jerk emotional reaction to a situation. Thus Moore claims that the inspired and carefully constructed words of the bible in that verse were in actuality written hastily, with Paul practically crying over his candle, tears blotting the page as he tore through papyrus to get the words down before his emotions overwhelmed him. Her interpretation is awful. But how many readers will overlook or not even notice her carefully chosen words which skew the bible's integrity in this way? Many.

Synonyms for blurted are babble, blab, burst out with, jabber, let slip, run off at the mouth, ...

Let's substitute Mrs Moore's word blurted with a few of those synonyms and remember, we are talking of the holy scripture, every word of which was inspired and is good for reproof, doctrine, and education (2 Timothy 3:16).

'If you’re not convinced, take a look at [2 Corinthians 12:11] that babbled from his pen only a chapter later:'
'If you’re not convinced, take a look at [2 Corinthians 12:11] that jabbered from his pen only a chapter later:'

Do you believe that Paul was so upset that he was babbling from a fountain of hurt ego, and that Paul's blurted holy scripture is now good for our education? Do you believe the Holy Spirit allowed a babbling and emotional Paul to write the words that have come down to us? I do not. I also do not accept that Paul was on a 'dizzying psychological zig zag'.

Mrs Moore chose these words to include in her book. I reject her assumptions, her lessons, and her approach based on the fact that she does not take a biblical enough approach and that her conclusions in "So Long, Insecurity" and "To Live Is Christ" are admittedly based on her speculation, personal beliefs, and suspicions. I choose not to learn speculations about the bible but rather choose to accept teachings like MacArthur's which are based on solid biblical understanding of context, history, and scripture.

How about you?

5 comments :

  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    Interesting points, for sure!

    I don't like to follow a persons teaching for there are always holes and downfalls. I like to follow God's teaching and use a persons teaching only to help me see what God might be revealing to them so I might be able to glean from what they are learning.

    Thanks for sharing what you are discovering.
    <><

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  2. Wow! It never ends!

    The apostasy and false teaching going on in the church is mind boggling! Thank God the tares are being separated from the wheat! He who has ears, let him hear!

    I seriously fear for these people and pray that God will have mercy on them, open their eyes and those that fallen for their lies from the pit of satan. I just think it takes demonic boldness to say you believe there's an all powerful God and then stand up and TWIST His word. Are they crazy? It's when you see how the word of God is being torn apart for man's own pleasure that you realize how PATIENT our God is....as He has revealed, He will not be patient forever.

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  3. Great job! I have read many of your entries regarding the false teaching of Beth Moore, and all I can say is, wow! I went through two marriages to abusive men and I was desperate for help -- thought I needed to improve my "self-esteem" and it led me to her book, 'So Long Insecurity', which you so painstakingly reviewed. I wrote copious notes and watched her on James Robison's show, etc. But, in all honesty it left me with just more things "to do" in order to feel good about myself, which ironically, was the same message I rec'd from my abusive husbands, "You're not good enough!". Something was terribly wrong!

    I have since discovered, through much prayer and seeking God and reading blogs such as yours that I probably will never feel good about myself - surprise! And that's ok, and actually as it should be! As you've said, "It's not about us." I just need to feel good about God and focus on Him rather than on me. Oh, what blessed relief! He is the perfect One, the whole One, and my eyes are on Him! No more wasting my time on these feel-good teachings...I am so sad that I've lost many an hour on this, but alas, God is loving and forgiving and He is leading me to His truth, His Word.

    Also, I must say I viewed your photos, they are great! I am a fledgling photog and found that many of the things you take photos of are the very same things that I am drawn to, e.g., doors, old bldgs., fences. I like to think you are a kindred friend even though you don't know me!

    Thanks for helping me in the indirect manner in which you have. May God bless you as you continue this ministry.

    Mtn Girl

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  4. If Ms. Moore is a New Ager, this fits in with their denigration of the Apostle Paul. I have some deep concerns about Beth Moore, and appreciate your website.

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  5. Amen again! I did a couple of Beth Moore studies at my church.... It was okay and I didn't see any glaring faults... but her teaching time lasted an hour so we only had a half hour to discuss our homework from our own study guides.

    Many bought the book, but kept them closed because they had not taken time to actually do the study. Very little time to invest in relationships in that time frame..

    Since then I have read about 10 books by John MacArthur... All have been so insightful and biblically grounded. He has a way of taking an exchange in the bible (that I thought I knew) and shedding more light on it by explaining the customs of the time, meaning of certain words, etc.

    Your series has been easy to read, understand and agree with. Beth's 'studies' are 'milk' (and souring fast) compared to the 'meat' I can feed on via MacArthur. He is awesome.

    Pray my church ( ironically named 'Berean') will take notice and move on to more stable, orthodox, evangelical teachers for women.

    Brenna in Nebraska

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