Thursday, June 9, 2016

Discernment Lesson: Deconstructing Beth Moore's most popular story

My first introduction to Beth Moore was in 2011 at a Southern Baptist Church in Georgia I was a member of at the time. The women regularly read her books, talked about her, and watched her show on LifeToday, where it was broadcast then. Now it is broadcast on TBN, tucked in a scheduling line-up among many well known heretics and false teachers.

I was invited to go along on a Ladies Retreat weekend. We would launch our study from having watched a Beth Moore DVD segment. The Ladies Ministry leader (pastor's wife) would then facilitate a discussion. The centerpiece on day 1 of the video teaching was Beth Moore telling a story about being in an airport and sitting next to a old man in a wheelchair with extremely matted hair. It's known as the Hairbrush Story.

There are a number of items one can focus upon when deconstructing her story. I and others have noted Moore's propensity for teaching from a word she had been given from the Lord, a direct revelation. This is problematic to say the least. I'd like to call your attention to an excellent 90-second video from the WWUTT (When We Understand The Text) folks who succinctly explain, from the text, why receiving direct revelation is unbiblical. Here it is, and please, take a listen. As I said, it is only 90 seconds.

Visions and Voices From God? (A Still Small Voice?)



Another angle on which one can focus regarding this popular Beth Moore story is the fact that some teachers who claim to receive direct instruction set up a two-tier Christian hierarchy. At the top are the super-spiritual, super-intimate believers who are blessed with God's favor in receiving this special revelation directly. The bottom tier are the unlucky/unfaithful/less-than believers who don't ever receive such personal ministrations from Jesus. Indeed, one blessed older lady said at the conclusion of Moore's hairbrush story, "I wish I had a relationship with Jesus like she has."

The Gnostics were a group of false teachers who were active in Apostle John's day (as they are now). Their teaching focused on receiving direct knowledge and naturally led to a hierarchical structure, which implicitly demean and discourage the less-thans. Gnosticism was not directly mentioned in the Bible though it seems to have been alluded to in 1 Timothy 6:20. Its influence in late first and second century believing life was a potently anti-Christian (as it is now).

Erin Benziger has written an essay covering this aspect of the fallout from direct revelation. Why Beth Moore and Not Me? The Danger of Claiming to Receive Direct Revelation

A third way to look at this popular story of course is to compare it directly to scripture. It's hard to know exactly where to start because Moore doesn't teach scripture. She teaches feelings, events, and stories. Joel Osteen waves his Bible at the beginning of every broadcast. The crawl along the bottom of the TV flashes scripture addresses, but Osteen never really says what the scripture is about. Thus he and Moore and others look like they are teaching the Bible, but they really aren't.

The Bible tells us this is a common approach from false teachers. No, the Bible doesn't say "they shall wave their Bibles around" like Osteen does, or "They shall mention the Word frequently but not teach it' like Moore does, but here is what the Bible says about the subtlety of false teachers --

--they "secretly bring in destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1). Secretly, which means their aberrant doctrine is not immediately apparent.

--they "create obstacles contrary to the doctrine". (Romans 16:17). Direct revelation is an obstacle. How? You will hear Moore deliver a "teaching" she received directly from Jesus, and then say "test it," but we can't ... because it's from her own mind and not from the Bible. We have to rely on her and her special relationship to Jesus for the "teaching". In so doing, she has inserted herself between us and Jesus, creating an extra step and a barrier directly to Him that everyone else can get simply by reading His word. Without her teaching from a vision, you would not know about it, so the teaching depends on HER, not Jesus.

--the false teacher "takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit" (Colossians 2:8). They take you captive by the method above. Once you start buying into Moore's or other false teachers' vision-teachings, you HAVE to keep following them in order to hear it explained again, or to receive more teachings. It comes from them so you have to keep following them to see what they will say next. Pretty soon her philosophy and deceit has captured you.

--For certain people have crept in unnoticed (Jude 1:4). Easy enough- they creep, and they're unnoticed.

So, sister, do not feel bad if you're been duped or feel that your discernment skills are slow to grow. I found Tim Challies' book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment helpful here.

On to the third angle and today's point, comparing Beth Moore's most popular story to scripture. Chris Rosebrough recently deconstructed Moore's story and compared to scripture. As I said, it's hard to compare to the Bible what isn't there, but he logically takes us through each sentence of Moore's story to show why it isn't a teaching, but an anecdote with a Christian-y veneer.

This link will bring you to it, and it begins as minute 5:53.
Beth Moore's Most Popular Story

Please allow me to summarize some of what Pastor Rosebrough taught and from my own insights.

Moore is an effective story teller. However you should notice that she lays the premise of the teaching by focusing on something other than on Jesus, which no Bible teaching should ever do. Every Bible teaching should tell us from His word something about the Person or Work of Jesus Christ and/or focus on Him. That is the entire point. Instead, in this anecdote, Moore spends time relating a spiritual feeling to herself and says how we can obtain that feeling that she has. She also begins the anecdote by saying how much Jesus loves us. All of Moore's stories begin with herself and end with herself and she makes it all about us. As you listen to more and more of them you will notice this. At the end you always go, "Wow, Beth Moore is great!" Not "Wow, Jesus Christ is great!"

Then in the first moments of the story she begins the scene in vivid detail in an engaging way. She relates her journey through the airport, and then describes herself, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the packed waiting area at her gate. She is reading the Bible, John 1. She goes on for a few moments saying how deeply she was reading it, absorbed completely. However, she does not teach from John 1, she only mentions this as an activity she was doing at the time she saw the matted hair man. The Bible thus becomes a prop. She could just as easily have said, "I was reading Time Magazine", or "I was dong the NY Times crossword" or not saying she was reading her Bible at all but just sitting cross legged on the floor. This is what I hate about her stories. Her bible is a prop.

Rosebrough rightly says that her story could have been a practical application of James, being doers of the word, or Matthew, loving your neighbor as yourself. But it wasn't. It was a lesson on how Moore received 'a full measure' (never defined) so that she would 'have power' to 'do amazing things.'

Moore's "amazing thing" that she was able to accomplish after being in full measure, was to brush a man's hair. Obviously Moore never read of missionary Gladys Aylward, who, with pneumonia, trekked across winter mountains during war to rescue 100 orphans. Or young Mrs John G. Paton voyaging months on a rough ship to land at the South Pacific cannibal island and under daily threat of death in the boiling pot to minister to the female natives there before expiring of childbirth complicated by ague. Should we place Moore in that same pantheon, her dramatic deed done in full measure of God's loving power was that for 10 minutes she brushed a guy's hair?

I recommend Rosebrough's lesson on deconstructing Beth Moore's story. It is not only a lesson on that particular story, but implicit in the lesson is a lesson on HOW to discern. As you go through the story with Rosebrough you will see how he thinks biblically and relates that thinking back to the story.

I bring your attention back to Tim Challies' book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Challies defines that skill as
the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. ... the book teaches people to think biblically so they might act biblically.
I pray for sisters in the faith to increase in discernment. It grieves me and hurts me very deeply to see sisters post things on Facebook from false teachers. This is because I know that they are not seeing Jesus as clearly as they could, and since Jesus is the most beautiful and adorable person in the universe, my heart's desire is for sisters to grow in discernment so they can enjoy Him even more clearly and accurately.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, (Philippians 1:9)



9 comments :

  1. Thanks Elizabeth, yes there will always be false preachers, and I don't like screaming preachers anyway. But that does not mean that we ought to throw out the baby with the bathwater so to speak.
    Remember that the Lord Jesus said that His children will hear His voice John 10:27 – 28.
    And we need to hear His voice NOW and not when we leave the earth.

    When a person is born of God, that person will hear His voice, or else he is not born again.
    Dead people can not hear, only those who are born (again) will hear, they are those who are alive.

    Again we need to believe what Jesus said and not someone else who is speaking contrary to Jesus.
    The Lord Jesus did say that we hear His voice John 10:27.

    It troubles me if the children of God don't hear His voice.

    I think that those who are born of the Spirit surely will be able to discern what is of the Spirit of God and what is not.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi Paul,

      The verse you refer to about hearing God's voice is this one:

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

      It breaks the most basic rule of hermeneutics (correct biblical interpretation) to use that as a basis for claiming that all Christians will hear God's voice. This is because when one interprets the verse, we have to stay consistent in interpreting it. If a verse is being interpreted as poetry it has to be interpreted as poetry throughout. If it's history, then it's history. If it's narrative, then it's narrative.

      The verse you use to say we should hear God's voice is being twisted by two interpretive methods: If we are literally supposed to hear God's voice then that means we're literally sheep.

      At CARM.org we read this: "It is important to interpret Scripture according to its literary styles so we might better grasp what is being said. For example, when the Bible says that God “shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge...” (Psalm 91:4), it’s imperative to understand that poetic language is being used, and not historical narrative."

      It's the same with the sheep/voice verse.

      Hebrews 1:1 says that in the past God spoke in many ways but now in these times He has spoken thru His Son. His Son is the Word, and the word is recorded for us so that in one sense, yes, ALL CHristians can "hear" Jesus by reading it. We "hear" his voice when we read the Bible and obey its commands. Expecting all Christians to be able to literally, hear an audible voice is mystical and incorrect. The reason you are perplexed at its absence from most Christians is because it's not happening with most Christians and that is because it's not supposed to

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    2. True believers are given the Holy Spirit and we are told that the Spirit will teach us all things. John 14:26. We will "hear" his voice because we know him (and the more we know him the better we can discern his voice - comes from reading his Word and obeying him), because his Spirit resides in us, and because he has told us that we, his sheep, will hear his voice.
      This hearing is of the heart...he spoke to me as a child (about 5 years old while sitting in church). I didn't know what he was saying but my heart literally burned and I knew it was God talking to me. What that voice did that day for me was confirm for a lifetime that God is real and he is who he says he is...the great I AM.

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    3. Hi Anonymous,

      I loved how you distinguished between the audible voice (not biblical today) and the leading of the Spirit (totally biblical today). I agree.

      I'm so glad you know God is real! But I'm concerned, I gently say that inspired scripture says we convert not because of a temporary heart feeling at age 5, but having heard the Gospel and repented. Paul said in Rom 10:14,

      How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

      There is a difference between head knowledge (knowing God is real) and conversion into a new man (reborn). Even the demons know God is real and who he is...they call Him the Most High, they shudder, and tey htremble.

      Have you repented of sin and have demonstrated that repentance by producing fruit? That is the genuine evidence of rebirth. I'm sorry, I have to ask. :)

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    4. Hey Elizabeth
      No need for concern...I'm in :)
      My sins, which are many, have been forgiven thru the shedding of Christ's blood. I am a disciple of Jesus and hope to hear "well done, good and faithful servant" one day.
      I chimed in on this conversation because God did and does speak to us...or at least he has to me. This was no "feelings" incident. The burning in my heart was physical and I knew that it was God and he was talking to me. I told my mom and my pastor and was told to go down front the next week and profess that Jesus died for my sins and that I believe in him for my salvation, which I did. Funny, I remember there was no feeling of any sort when I professed or afterwards. It was simple childlike obedience and faith.
      It was years later that I actually understood and surrendered my will - still a hard and continuous thing for me.
      God making himself real to me that day gave me a lifetime of certainty of his existence and of his
      majesty. He kept me safe and was always with me thru a very difficult childhood and during my days of rebellion as a teen and young adult. Knowing him only in that way was enough to pull me back in when I headed down some disastrous paths. He was/is my Shepherd. I listen to his voice.
      As for fruit? I think I'm a seed planter. I till the soil and plant which doesn't lend itself to enjoy the fruit so much here on earth.
      Thank you for asking and being concerned about my salvation :)

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    5. Thanks so much for the clarification. "Surrendered my will"...there you go. Good. I am assuming that means obedience.

      As for fruit, it's good that you plant seeds. We all do. Evidence of salvation, though, is production of fruit that will be visible to the people around you, your family, husband, pastor, etc. It's how we identify who the Christians are. GotQuestions explains:

      "Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that everyone receives the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14). One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit coming into a Christian's life is to change that life. It is the Holy Spirit's job to conform us to the image of Christ, making us more like Him."

      Thanks again for the clarification. I wrote the above in case there are lurkers wondering how important visible fruit is to our lives.

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  2. Excellent article! It is sad, and ridiculous to watch men and women glorify charismatic and attractive leaders above the eternal word of God. I love Isaiah 53 and 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, because they make it clear that God is not concerned with attracting people through the flesh. Heaven and earth will pass away...but God's word will never, ever pass away:
    https://followingjesuschrist3.com/2014/12/02/the-written-word-what-did-jesus-the-apostles-and-the-psalmists-say-about-the-written-word-of-god/

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  3. Very clearly explains how they operate in order to seduce and deceive, thanks.
    I believe these gnostics (false teachers) are the nicolatians (literal meaning: to rule over the people) also mentioned in Revelation 2-3 (message to the churches).

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  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    The problem with glorifying direct revelation from God goes further than this too. In such a church be prepared that most followers are completely faking visions 'words' and direct revelations to get 'in' with the celebrity pastor bigshots. I believe the Holy Spirit does encourage and convict us on a personal and intimate level, but such revelations need to be discerned and more importantly, kept to oneself, not used to gloat about how special you are compared to the other poor souls who don't hear God's voice.

    Most prohecies in the bible were very negative, and for a reason. God brought vocal prophets as a last resort, because his people had already rejected his inner voice from within their hearts. This warranted God using a vocal and angry human to yell about God's feelings and imminent discipline to their faces. The gooey feel good prophecies today are both fake and unnecessary. Generally when things are going good in the nation state, God doesn't say anything.

    As someone who has lurked on this blog a while, I'm quite eager to hear your opinion on the uprise of supernatural schools. Really, churches are now holding guarantee your money back courses and schools on supernatural ministry, and promise to graduate you as a prophet. Check out Bethel's school of supernatural ministet.

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