Methodist Kudzu – The Problem of Beth Moore

If someone is setting fire to your house, why let them in?

flickr_beth-moore-simulcast-2010

One of the more frequent arguments I’ve seen in the church lately is about Beth Moore. A colleague was asked why they wouldn’t allow a Beth Moore bible study to be used by a Sunday School class. The colleague responded with this concise one-liner that we’ll expand on in one of the longest posts ever at Hacking Christianity:

“If someone is setting fire to your house, why would you let them in?”

The Problem of Beth Moore: Introduction

Beth Moore is a Southern Baptist author, teacher, and evangelist, and the founder of Living Proof ministries that offers videos, bible studies, and events for women. She is very popular and is probably the #1 moneymaker for LifeWay Christian Bookstores, a Southern Baptist affiliated chain of bookstores (similar to Methodist’s Cokesbury).

Because she is massively successful, her videos are inspirational, and her events are empowering to women, it is not uncommon to find a Beth Moore bible study in a United Methodist Church in the Bible Belt. It used to be that pastors could prohibit it by saying “We only allow curriculum from Cokesbury” but Cokesbury sells her materials now. Also, there’s usually pressure for male United Methodist ministers to allow this dynamic woman into their Sunday Schools or else they get accused of misogyny.

Therein lies part of the problem of Beth Moore. One of my facebook friends described Beth Moore as Methodist Kudzu: a plant that was taken from its natural habitat and now runs wild causing havok. While Moore is perfectly at peace and in sync with the Baptist tradition (other than being a female teacher in an anti-women-preacher denomination), her brand of theology and way of reading the bible conflicts with the Wesleyan tradition and the United Methodist Church’s doctrine to which it has spread.

So what is a United Methodist clergyperson or church to do with Beth Moore?

Here’s where I’m on shaky ground: I’m not a woman. I have no idea what it feels like to be a woman and see a confident, capable female biblical scholar whose passion about the Bible is infectious. I haven’t watched these videos in a woman’s group and been inspired and had the discussions afterward. So I don’t know what that is like and I’m hesitant to comment on it…

But luckily for you…I have woman friends! To be more specific, a half-dozen mainline (not crazy liberal and not crazy conservative) United Methodist women who are either clergy or clergy spouses have done at least two full studies and video programs with Beth Moore in their churches and wrote about their concerns to me.

I’ve categorized them and I’ve done some light editing to proofread/anonymize them but 98% of the quotes is their words.

Some disclaimers (or pre-emptive strikes, if you will):

  1. I am ABSOLUTELY not dismissing Moore’s ministry, faith, perspective, or obvious love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for helping women form a relationship with Christ. I am saying Beth Moore is appropriate for Baptist women within their theological system and NOT appropriate for Methodists and the Wesleyan system.
  2. I am ABSOLUTELY not dismissing women’s lived experience of Beth Moore or the transformations that she has had in their lives. That’s awesome and I celebrate that for you. Really! However, for those women who do not have a positive experience or are wondering about it, I offer these women’s lived experiences for you. If you think I’m dismissing women’s experience, I’m actually celebrating these women’s experience and holding them up as a counter-narrative to the Beth Moore phenomenon.
  3. Finally, I am ABSOLUTELY supportive of women in ministry. If you search online for Beth Moore criticism, almost all of them start out with the bullhonky about “women shall not have authority over men.” Most online criticism is thus not helpful to United Methodists, who by empowering women are closer to Jesus on that point (BOOM!).  So this is an attempt to add to the conversation but without the fundamentalist hangups that, frankly, discredit most online commentary on Beth Moore in my eyes.

We good? Good. Read on…

The Problem of Beth Moore: Biblical Scholarship

Quotes:

[1] Beth Moore cleverly hides that she is a literalist. She does not just shoot from the hip, she uses a lot of commentary and you can learn about the cultures at the times the stories were written…probably the best part is when she explains why God hates the Amalekites and other groups and that’s why it’s okay for David to kill philistines and why the one guy in Esther hated Mordecai. She never approves of it officially, just explains it matter of factly without ever mentioning that the perspective of the authors may have been biased obviously.

[2] Beth Moore uses the New American Commentary as her primary source for Biblical exegesis (This is from their website–The New American Commentary is for those who have been seeking a commentary that honors the Scriptures, ….The New American Commentary assumes the inerrancy of Scripture, focuses on the intrinsic theological and exegetical concerns of each biblical book, and engages the range of issues raised in contemporary biblical scholarship.)

One of the main disagreements between her commentary and others is the four kingdoms that are represented by the beasts in Daniel. The whole idea of Daniel is taken as a literal prophecy (no consideration that it could have been written after the time of Daniel–he wrote it himself of course.) So she uses the Romans as one of the conquering armies, and keeps tying Daniel’s visions into the Romans conquering the Jews, and thereby brings Jesus into it.

She furthermore uses Revelation as a confirmation and continuation of the visions of Daniel, and ties them all together into this weird little package of end-time prophecies, with a literal Antichrist, matching the “big horn” in Daniel with the AntiChrist in Revelation.

It gets confusing, and a little dangerous, because there is just enough solid scholarship, in the names of the Greek Rulers, the Seleucids, Maccabees, the Babylonians, etc., that people tend to “buy” what she is saying, and tying this all in together.

Summary & Commentary:

Moore says often that scholarship and higher-level thinking gets in the way of the Gospel message. As a bible scholar, nothing offends me more. In her Daniel study, she takes everything very literally and does not offer any scholarship on what a message meant back when it was written, only at face value.

It also offends me that the very passages she quotes are often taken out of context and sometimes is read into beyond what is there. It might be helpful to slow down or pause her videos. In her videos she speaks so quickly that if you slow her down and look up the Scriptures she is referencing, you might see something different than what she is saying. I found that several times in her references to Mark and Romans in her Believing God DVD.

Further, a female blogger writes about Moore’s book So Long Insecurity:

This gets at the heart of the problem; Beth does not explain the meaning of the passage as derived from the context, she reads the passage in isolation, an elementary Bible study error. What she often fails to do, as is the case in this instance, is to explain how in submission to the scripture she arrives at her conclusions. She admittedly speculates and introduces personal experience and psychologizing of the text to back up her claims…sadly, she leaves her readers, many who are unfortunately disenchanted with the intellectual nature of the Christian faith, revisioning Paul the apologist as someone whose defense is motivated by self-centered weakness instead of a necessary defense of the gospel.

In short, students often learn how to read the Bible based on their teacher. By the way Moore presents the bible as Literal Truth but doesn’t read it literally, she is not modeling a consistent or helpful hermeneutic for students.

 The Problem of Beth Moore: Unhelpful Theology

 Quotes:

[3] My biggest problem with her theology is that she’s a Calvinist and though she avoids emphasizing it at times, she will wait for scripture that supports her perspective. Case and point: Esther (“but who knows that you have come to this position for such a time as this”). She really drilled it home on Esther and I couldn’t make it through the whole study. Now, like all successful modern Calvinist she always discusses the pain she has been through and never officially suggested that women are raped, abused, etc. for some higher purpose. She almost always uses her Calvinist perspective in a positive way like that we are destined for something greater that what we are living right now.

[4] From the Esther study, the main [problem] is her extreme doctrine of Providence. She believes, states, and teaches that everything that happens in our lives is an event caused by God, in order to teach us, or help us, etc. God causes everything to happen, whether good or bad. She goes on and on about it extensively, almost every lesson. I had to tell my ladies to really think about this–and where it leads. Because if they believe this, then do what do they tell a mom whose child has just died–that God caused it? To teach her what? Of course, the women don’t believe that, as most UM’s don’t…

[5] My Beth Moore criticism would include teaching that God causes bad things to happen to us to teach/test us. Lots of women in my church are ODing on BMoore – end up in my office for counseling when God “causes” tragedy & they can’t trust Him.

Summary & Commentary:

In addition to the above, my personal take is that Moore overuses the idea “God spoke to me” and people feel inadequate b/c God doesn’t always speak to them the same way. I am not doubting her experience, but as a pastor, I doubt she realizes the effect this has on some people. There’s a pastoral issue when one emphasizes special revelation in a study that is meant to be empowering and illuminating…and given her role, of course she doesn’t have to deal with the ramifications for the individual women trying to make sense of why God “willed” their son to die.

Thus, to these women, Moore’s biggest conflict with United Methodism is whether God wills terrible things to happen. From the Esther study, her main teaching is on Providence. “God causes everything to happen, whether good or bad” as our commentator mentions. This is absolutely unhelpful to women who have lost a child, have cancer, etc. I have never been able to look a woman in the eye who had a stillbirth and tell her God has a plan for her child to die (though God does have possibilities for healing!).

For example, the United Methodist Book of Worship includes a healing service for a family who has lost a pregnancy. Nowhere in this painful service do we ascribe to God that God had a purpose in this. We talk about mystery, we talk about “limited understanding” but never do we assume God’s intention in this, either the content of the intention or if there is an intention at all!

United Methodists are a diverse lot but if you really got down to it with the Methodist Middle and our Doctrine and Polity, we do not believe in this form of Providence (also called Determinism which is also taught by Rick Warren). It’s fine if individual Methodists believe this (and find meaning in it), but I do not and anyone I let into my house to teach ideally should not.

The Problem of Beth Moore: There’s Few Alternatives

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emagic/56206100/in/photostream/

This situation was fully avoidable, and while no one can point fingers at women who were inspired and wanted to share that inspiration with their friends (because that’s excellent!), I can point my fingers at one entity and blame it for the Methodist Kudzu problem: Cokesbury and the United Methodist Publishing House.

Cokesbury and UMPH went the wrong way on the Beth Moore phenomenon. Instead of seeking out and offering publishing deals to a spunky United Methodist woman who loves the bible (a dozen of them I know just off the top of my head), they sold out and went where the money was and supported Moore’s publications.

What happened then is that Methodists had no equivalent to compare to Moore. What, suggest a women’s group just do a Disciple bible study instead? Please. BORING.  Even the Living the Questions studies on Uppity Women are great theology but snoozer presentation (and SO EXPENSIVE that they are inaccessible to most). While these studies reach a certain segment of the denomination in really inspiring ways (I love them personally), the population segment that is attracted to Moore is not as attracted to these studies.

Why? Here’s my claim and feel free to debate it: People who watch Beth Moore aren’t as interested in the Bible as they are in someone who loves the Bible. One of my pastor friends expressed his frustration with Beth Moore being so popular by saying “she’s just so excited about reading the Bible.”  While flippant it points out that while there may be better theologies out there, the UMPH is not offering comparative personalities.

Three of the six respondents mentioned that the attraction of Moore’s work wasn’t her theology but the way she made bible studies exciting. Her cadence, her structure, and the rhythm were well done…and easily/authentically imitated by a UM woman. As one of the commentators said and I promised I would include for balance sake:

[6] Here’s the kicker: I couldn’t have talked to you about any of those characters in the old testament before i did her studies. You learn the names, the stories, you get excited about the Bible, and she funny and interesting to listen to for the most part. I would have stuck with her, but her newer stuff is just too Calvinist. My favorite of the three i have done was David because it is a really exciting story and I never got bored. Please emphasize at some point that what she really has is a good structure for a well-paced study of the bible and she isn’t boring. I really think that’s why she has the Methodists. That, and the fact that none of us know anything about the Bible

That last line is flippant but it’s true for more people than you think!

All the above said, in an ideal situation personality shouldn’t dictate whether a study is good or not. From another female blogger Kim who reviewed The Patriarchs study:

A bible study should NOT rest on the strength of the speaker; it ought to rest with the strength of how God’s Word is presented and explained. When we rely on style alone, it becomes a matter of taking the Scripture and adjusting it to make us look more dynamic. That will invariably involve more personal narrative than exposition, and then where are the students left? Nothing wrong with personal narrative; it just should NOT form the bulk of the teaching.

Excitement is contagious, but instead of supporting a UMC equivalent, Cokesbury went where the money was, to our shame.

Conclusions, Suggestions, and Call for Resources

In short (for those of you that skip to the conclusions), there’s three things about the Beth Moore phenomenon within the United Methodist Church.

  1. Moore offers biblical criticism that is anti-intellectual even though it wraps itself in appeals to a commentary (one that interprets Scripture literally). There’s a difference between using biblical criticism and commentaries (which she does) and valuing intellectual engagement with the cultural context of the Scripture (which she typically doesn’t but has started to use more with her more recent material, thankfully).
  2. Moore’s expressed theology does not fit within a Wesleyan system. Her reliance on special revelation and emphasis on determinism often requires a pastoral care response that must deal more with the problems with that theological framework than the personal problem the individual has.
  3. There is undoubtedly an equivalent voice to Beth Moore in the UMC, but the publishing house and Cokesbury bookstores sold Moore (and now David C. Cook too! Argh!) instead of finding and supporting a comparative UM voice. We give money to the Baptists in our United Methodist bookstores and invite in a theology that John Wesley opposed fervently.

For me, any teacher who disregards scholarship and paints a very different image of God than I’m comfortable with would be very difficult to deal with in a Sunday School setting or a women’s group study. If I spend all my time building up a Methodist theology in my church, why would I want a Calvinist theology that is antithetical being taught (and indeed, Wesley is one of the few evangelists of his time that resisted Calvinism). Thus, if someone is trying to burn your theological house down, why let them in and run unchecked?

Even though one-liners to prohibit Beth Moore studies are entertaining, here’s some suggestions for dealing with Moore Kudzu in your congregation:

  • Teach the studies yourself. This is by far the #1 suggestion. If you are a clergyperson or Sunday School leader who is well versed in United Methodist doctrine, it might be most helpful to allow the group to watch the video with the requirement that you be given time to respond at the end. By the third session of this, one of my clergy friends who did this had the participants look at her whenever they heard something out-of-sync with United Methodism. It works and it meets people where they are, but only if the clergyperson is well versed to handle it. And honestly it may stop people from asking for it so they don’t have to hear your comparisons! Ha!
  • Continue to not allow Moore and print off this blog post as a conversation starter. Educate and show your congregation why Moore is problematic. Engage the person in conversation about these issues and why it is out of your pastoral care for them that you think it is not helpful.
  • Lift up an alternative suggestion and emphasize WHY it is important to hear the voice of women in our same ecosystem. There’s a whole range of UM women who have great books, studies, and work even if they don’t have the same cadence or rhythm of Moore. I’m not going to add my preferences at the moment–I’d rather other voices lift up their experiences below. If you have an alternative suggestion, mention it below in the comments and the compilation will be published as a future blog post (and this one will be updated too).

Your turn! Requests for further engagement:

  • Share who the alternatives are! There are a ton of United Methodist women (or other religious leaders whose expressed theology doesn’t inherently conflict with Wesleyan systems ie. Calvinism) who are excited about the Bible and offer comparable experiences for pastors and laity who want similar exposure. Who are they? What has been your experience? Leave them as comments and we’ll publish them for a future post.
  • Comment below your experience of a Beth Moore study. Remember to read the ABSOLUTELY disclaimers above before you accuse me of discrediting yours or Moore’s faith. If you’ve had a good experience of Beth Moore and have grown as a follower of Christ, I couldn’t be happier for you. Comment, please!

Thanks for reading and sharing.

 (Photo Credit: [1] “Beth Moore Live Simulcast 2010” by Brian Hendrix, Creative Commons share on Flickr; [2] “frustration” by e-magic, Creative Commons share on Flickr)
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Comments

  1. John P. says

    Very confusing article. I don’t see any problem here, unless your saying the UMC is the only determining factor in theology. Last time I looked John Wesley was a human like the rest of us. Looks like your trying to keep the UMC away from other opinions. Running scared?

    • Gram says

      I totally agree with you, John P. I’ve taught the Esther study and it was scripturally sound and provided much needed encouragement and hope for the women. It does sound like the UMC may be afraid of the truth of the Word.

  2. N W says

    I am a pastor’s wife who is doing research on which Bible study I will be sharing with the women of our community. I googled Beth Moore Bible studies and your blog post came up. I quickly read it and realized you put a LOT of time and effort in trying to discredit her. I am neither Methodist or Baptist, but the arguments you give for her degredation are not ‘Heaven or Hell’ issues. I am taken aback that a pastor would try to tear down what God is oviously blessing and anointing…it doesn’t take a doctorate of ministry degree to see that women’s lives are touched and changed in a positive way through her ministry. Maybe instead of posting negative comments about someone trying to do something amazing for God, you can harness your negativity about fellow ministers, your colleagues, and use all of that energy and time wasted into something God wants to do through you and impact people and His Kingdom in a positive way. Be blessed and be a blessing.

  3. Margo says

    Wait a minute…
    Beth Moore is a CALVINIST? Where are you getting your information? This is definately not so. I should know, I was in her Sunday school class for 5 years and heard her teach on scriptures that are proof-texts for Calvinists, and she had an Armenian view of them.

    • Bethany says

      im picking up what youre puttin down. im no armenian and agree that beth is no calvinist, but i do love beth moore, anyway. whatever happened to unity in the body?! i find no basis for her being off the mark for biblical truth. but you do have to use discernment and know what you believe on any nitty gritty theological issue when you listen to anyone speak about scripture!

  4. Michele says

    I suggest that you read about the origins of Methodism. After reading what the Methodist church was founded on I suspect you would throw John Wesley. George Whitefield and Charles Wesley out of “your” Methodist Church. Read about the true source of your denomination.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methodism#Origins
    http://christianity.about.com/od/methodistdenomination/a/methodishistory.htm

    Compare this with what you write about and actually profess. You seem to keep trying to stop God’s people from becoming one body. Your opinion is not doctrine. I thank God that He cannot be kept in any box that man makes. God is love. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. In Acts 15 there was a box that some Jews tried to put the new believers in. Read the results.
    Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

    Let Jesus be the last to speak.

    Jn 13: 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  5. Jon Altman says

    This was written before Jessica LaGone’s “Namesake” became available. Have you “road tested” it?

  6. Rev. Steve Neal says

    The author needs to do a little study of Baptists. American Baptist Churches USA, Formerly American Baptist Convention, Formerly Northern Baptists, have always affirmed and supported women in ministry. His assumption that there is one set Baptist theology is offensive and shows a real lack of knowledge concerning Baptists.

  7. Jodi Green says

    I am a Southern Baptist Bible study teacher and Beth Moore fan. I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and I commend the author for his thoughtful comments. I have done several Beth Moore Bible studies, and I have heard comments from Christian sisters who were concerned with the same issues mentioned in this article. I think it is very beneficial for the body of Christ to be able to discuss issues that concern us the way this author has. Even though I am a fan of Beth Moore, I respect this pastor for wanting to monitor the perspectives developed in his congregation. I love the idea that he would personally teach the studies and point out areas of disagreement. I think Beth herself would feel very happy with that scenario. Rather than allowing our differences to divide us, let’s discuss them respectfully (the way this author does) and continue to walk together in unity.

    • says

      Thanks Jodi! I appreciate it when people see that I’m talking about Beth Moore in context, not dissing her as a teacher and motivator. Many of the 180 other comments didn’t take that time.

      Blessings to you this day!

  8. Vicki says

    I personally cant’ stand Beth Moore. I hate her stiff, poofed up hair, her irritating accent, her preachy delivery style. I don’t want grandstanding and sermons in a bible study – I want introspective, analytical lectures (like Teaching Company videos, with less droning/reading from notes). Also, as an English major, I hate the sloppy way she (and so many others!) do “textual analysis”. They grab some commentary here, a personal anecdote there and slice and dice something together that sounds meaningful (but isn’t). My favorite Christian authors are literary and literate – like Devin Brown or Lauren Winner or Rhoda Janzen. I can’t stand calvinist/evangelical sunday school schlock. I don’t really mind Disciple. It might be boring, but at least it doesn’t make me want to gouge my own eyeballs out with a pencil, which is what Beth Moore’s stuff does (hey, I was nice, I stopped short of calling it “crap”!! Well, almost….).

    • Joan Hall says

      Good Lord vicki you personally don’t know Beth Moore , so why would you even shame yourself to say you can’t stand her? Think about your introduction to the comment “I personally can’t stand Beth Moore” and you go on to say I hate her stiff, poofed up hair, her irritating accent, her preachy delivery style. Vicki you need to turn your bible to the book of psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast Spirit within me. Hate is something only God can deal with you can’t conquer it by yourself. Beth is a chosen vessel whom is not afraid to walk in her calling…God has made her stewardship over a Women ministry, He (God) purposed her in that vineyard. You was called to teach english and you majored in english why don’t you use your gift in english to help someone in your community with proper grammar instead of belittling someone who is following God. You are missing some of the fruit of the Spirit “Love”, Self-control. self-control would have stopped you from calling God’s Servant crap and in my two year granddaughter voice Don’t say that…that’s not nice. Love you vicki spread the love around it’s enough hate out there to last until eternity.

      • Virginia Richards says

        I agree with your comments. Thank you for presenting truth. I also would suggest that Vicki pray for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit as she studies the Bible daily. I like the way Beth uses different Bibles and commentaries so as to get other views of a topic.

    • Andrew Ong says

      Hi. I came here to find out more about Beth Moore because my church in Malaysia will be watching her live steam soon. I find that this article and some of the comments are somewhat amusing. Just wondering, how should a preacher look and preach if they can’t be ‘preachy’? I ask ’cause sometimes I have to lead the Word in my cell group. What if Jesus had poofed up hair, would that be okay? My hair is spiked… Maybe I should change. Haha :) God bless

    • Laura says

      Whoa! I completely understand Vicki. Let me be diplomatic: Beth Moore’s style is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve only done the Esther study and will never do another. I had to spend a good half hour praying and psyching myself up not to be irritated, and just be open before each meeting. I’m a very mellow, kick-back, practical, studious kind of person. I have a degree in history, which means I love a good story and a lot of proof and accuracy. I thought that in her approach, she psychologized things to the hilt and made leaps that are just beyond fact (though at times interesting and plausable–but that doesn’t belong as a cornerstone in a Bible study.) I found too often her delivery heavy in overwraught dramatics. Her voice and frequent demeaner were like nails on a chalkboard (or I guess these days, a really squeaky marker on a white board). I have described her as the combo of Dr. Phil + Oprah Winfrey of Bible studies. Perhaps this is particular to the Esther study, but all those insecurites women have that she constantly brought up and was a cheerleder for overcoming, (which permeated the study as a constant theme throughout)? I outgrew those a loooooong time ago. Could have changed my life as a teenager, for sure.

  9. StampHappy says

    Let me start off by saying I’m a non-denominational Christian (falling closer to a baptist or evangelical than any other denomination). So I can’t agree or disagree with any of the denominational reasonings you don’t like Beth Moore. I have completed two of her studies (Breaking Free & James) and have tried to complete two of her studies (Believing God & Daniel). I absolutely loved Breaking Free, I felt it really helped me grow closer to God, take my faith to the next level and helped me to “break free” of the bondage satan had on me, however, while doing this study I also had some uncomfortable moments with the way she took verses out of context. I found this in all four of her studies, it is why I didn’t complete Believing God and part of the reason I didn’t complete Daniel (also bordom & personal issues that made it hard for me to do that study). I also have a problem with being told how to interpret the bible, which is basically what Beth Moore does. I like to study for myself FIRST, then hear from others so I know what they are teaching is truth. In her studies you are predominately in Beth’s word, not the word of God. I think she has a lot of good to say and I can’t say I’ve read/heard her say anything tha isn’t scriptually sound so I can’t say she a false teacher or anything. But I do believe her method of study is wrong, especially given how she takes things out of context so frequently. I just finished James and decided I will not be doing another one of her studies and as a women’s ministry coordinator at my church I won’t be encouraging them (unfortunatly lots of people love them and because I have no biblical reasons for not allowing them I can’t say not at all in my position. I do share my concerns though). I think the biggest problem I have with her studies is that new believers that aren’t as scriptually sound may have issues, but I also have to trust if they have truest given their hearts to God that He will protect them.

    • Kathy says

      There is no reason that you can not take the time to study prior to the lesson Beth presents and in doing that do the “study for yourself FIRST”. Would you have her just go to the front of the class and sit there silent? Sorry but teachers teach, thats why they are teachers.

  10. says

    My church have run five Beth Moore bible studies for fifty women twice a week over the past couple of years. I have been privileged to be part of three of the studies.. They require about one hour’s bible study and homework each evening for several weeks, which honestly was more bible reading than I have ever done before in my life. The woman has interesting things to say and working through these studies have led me to regular Bible reading and quiet times. This has been far more inspirational than any other teaching I have listened to, so please don’t knock her. Many of us ladies have waited a long time to find someone who can communicate so well with us and her teaching has helped to bond many of us together to praise The Lord and be excited to know more about our religion and the Bible. D

  11. Wyatt says

    Interesting perspective. While I have not studied under Beth Moore, I have watched a few videos of her and my wife has taken a Beth Moore bible study. i witnessed my wife become motivated to read and study – this is a very good thing. Personally, I do struggle with the bible. I should read more often and I sometimes need help interpreting the lessons. I do think anyone who brings us to God is beneficial. I also believe that we ought to study several different ways/methods/theologies so we can form our own relationship with God. I don’t think any one religion is the “right one” and we need to learn as much as we can. I do think the author did offer some balance and I am glad I found and read the article.

  12. Karen says

    I am a 52 year-old United Methodist woman (yes, from the South) that can say without a shadow of a doubt the Holy Spirit worked through Beth Moore and her “Breaking Free” study to save my life. I signed up for study not having a clue what the study was about. I just knew I desperately needed to get back in the Word and couldn’t do it on my own (as I was emotionally depleted and spiritually withering away.) I wanted to be “hand-fed” but also be held accountable by being committed to the small group of women participating. Of course, there was more to watching Beth’s video – Bible study, homework, self-reflection and much more. I did not accept every interpretation Beth offered, but that is what we all need to remember, Beth Moore is giving her interpretation as many, many, many other’s have also done. If you question what she says, great! Whatever or whomever drives you delve into God’s word, seek God’s guidance, and/or live, again or more abundantly, in Christ is a great gift.

  13. CJ Taylor says

    You are both right and wrong on this topic. There are indeed some Calvinistic teachings in Beth Moore’s delivery. That stuff dogs the heels of every Christian denomination. You are wise to tell it to “scat” whenever you recognize it. Otherwise, your words make me cringe. I am new to the Methodist church and cannot tell you how much I love being there. However, the most puzzling thing about it is they do not take the Bible literally. I am entirely disrupted by that. How are we become doers of the Word if we do not first take it as literal? Who has time, these days, to figure out the underlying meaning of scripture when there are so many sick and hurting people around us. If we continue to wait to dig out the deeper/side meaning, those around us die. No thank you! I will/must/do take scripture literally. If I tell my son not to play in the street. I mean it. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission–it was literal.

  14. Paul Anthony Preussler says

    There are a number of interesting points this discussion raises. The most pressing concern, where there appears to be a lingering tension between the author of this blog and the commenters, surrounds a very important question: does the Holy Spirit work through Christians who have doctrines that appear to be heterodox or even heretical?

    In response to that, I would say yes. In my opinion Martin Luther seriously erred in his anti-semitism, and completely lost perspective in attempting to excise the Epistle of James from the New Testament, and in declaring that we should “Sin boldly”, in his efforts to counter the doctrine of works righteousness. That said, I believe Martin Luther had a profound impact that was hugely beneficial both for Christians in those countries that became Protestant, and in those that remained Roman Catholic. While the disruption to the Catholic unity of the church was unfortunate (schisms are always dreadful), in response to this incident vernacular-language bibles became widely available, and at the same time, the Roman church was forced to begin the very slow, but very important, process of internal reform.

    There are more ancient examples available than this. John Chrysostom, who I consider to be a saint, and the greatest preacher who ever lived, did, in his sermons “Against the Jews”, inadvertantly propagate anti-semitic sentiment. Gregory of Nyassa, the younger brother of Basil the Great, espoused a belief in universal reconciliation, of the same sort that contributed to the condemnation of Origen in later centuries, and which has led to apostasy in the Unitarian Universalist community. However, the theological work of Gregory of Nyassa has done immense good for the Church in the past sixteen centuries, and his revered as a saint.

    In light of this, we cannot say that Beth Moore does not do the work of the Holy Spirit. Those who have benefited by her work can take comfort in the knowledge that the grace they received was through the Holy Spirit acting through Beth Moore. No one is perfect, and many theologians have terrible faults, but this does not preclude them from serving as instruments of God.

    That said, it is entirely legitimate to criticize the theology of Beth Moore, which sadly, in the manner which has become prevalent in the Baptist and Calvinist sphere in the United States in recent decades, departs from Christian orthodoxy. Just as the mainline denominations have been corrupted by a wave of liberal clergymen who allow contemporary sociopolitical trends to override nearly two millenia of Christian dogma, these unfortunate Baptist and Calvinist theologians and clergy, in reacting against the apostasy of their left-wing colleagues, have similarly abandoned much of the Catholic, Orthodox faith, which historically has not been as abundant in their communities as one would prefer, but even the catholicity that did exist is being eroded. Now, there is a path, albeit a difficult one, for ecumenical reconciliation of Baptists and Calvinists to the rest of the Church; in the case of Calvinists, it begins with Mercerburg theology, and in the case of the Baptists, the way forward is indicated through the pioneering work of theologians such as Steven R. Harmon. However, just as the United Methodist church in North America is risking apostasy through indulging rebellious theological voices, the Southern Baptists and the PCA are risking apostasy through the influence of figures such as Beth Moore, Mark Dever of 9Marks, and others.

    Before continuing, I should remind readers of my initial point: just because I consider, in a rare moment of complete agreement with the author of this blog, that the teachings of Beth Moore are somewhat heterodox, I do not deny that the Holy Spirit works through her. I have no reason to doubt the saving grace of our Lord is at work within her. That said, she makes a number of theological errors that are sadly de rigeur within the Baptist community.

    It may surprise many to note that the early Church derided a belief in a literal 1,000 year earthly Kingdom ruled by Christ to be heresy; they referred to it as Chiliasm. It may also surprise Calvinists and some Baptists to note that the early Church, without denying predestination outright, affirmed the need for a voluntary response on the part of the believer to the grace conferred through the Holy Spirit (the Greek fathers used the word ‘synergy’ to describe this). Finally, the tendency to read passages in isolation, as the author of this blog points out, results in an inconsistent hermeneutic that is pastorally unwieldy. Suggesting that God foreordains infants and the unborn to die in order to teach a lesson to their mothers is almost as dreadful as Augustine’s insistence on the eternal punishment of unbaptized newborns in Hell (yet Augustine is revered as a Saint, for his work in refuting the Pelagian heresy, among other accomplishments; yet more proof that the Holy Spirit can work through those who espouse flawed doctrine).

    To use an example not specific to Beth Moore of the problem of a literal interpretation of passages by themselves, based solely on one’s own life experience and mental faculties, and without regard to Church tradition, consider John 6:51-59. This passage is an obvious Eucharistic reference; in the Eastern Orthodox Study Bible, this passage is correlated directly with the Last Supper and other Eucharistic references in scripture. Orthodox hermeneutics represent a consistent web tying together different passages from scripture.

    In contrast, the King James Study Bible, which is largely the product of the Calvinist and Baptist school of theology from which Beth Moore originates (there was a token Methodist amongst its editors), the Eucharistic significance of this passage is largely glossed over; it is not associated with the Last Supper or the Sacrament of Holy Communion, rather, only a vague reference is made to the passage of John 6:53 referring to the Jews abhorrence of Cannibalism, and the promise of a new spiritual life from Christ.

    Thus we see how reading passages in isolation can completely wash away the beauty and life-giving mystery of the Christian faith. The fuel of the Atheistic fire is largely stemming from such unpleasant hermeneutics becoming dominant in Protestantism. This is why it is of vital importance for Methodists and other Protestants to affirm their Catholicity and Orthodoxy; while we are Protestant for objecting to the heterodoxy and corruption of the Roman Church as it existed in the sixteenth century, we are still part of the Bride of Christ, with a direct connection to the ancient faith and the Church Fathers. We must look to the time before the Great Schism of 1054, and go back to the Nicene Fathers, in order to glean a correct and consistent interpretation of the Bible.

    Now, one last point should be made for the benefit of Baptist readers. The United Methodist Church has departed from the Orthodox faith by ordaining female clergy in violation of specific injunctions in the Pauline epistles; in this remarkable respect the Baptists are actually more Catholic and more Orthodox than we are. Now a literal Baptist interpretation of the relevant passages would suggest that Beth Moore had violated the instructions given by the Apostle Paul (this perhaps is why some of her work suggests an anti-Pauline bias). However, in Orthodox, Catholic Christianity of the sort previously embraced in the Methodist communion, that we must urgently return to, this would not be a correct interpretation. While the early canons of the church anathematized lay theologians, these canons are no longer applied; the normal interpretation of the Pauline injunction against female clergy is simply that because the Bishops and Presbyters vicariously represent Christ in consecrating the life-giving sacrament of Holy Communion, they must, like Christ, be male. The Eastern Orthodox in particular tend to view the Eucharist as an icon of the Last Supper, offering a doorway to it, providing mystical access to the sacrifice of Christ, and salvation in His divine Person.

    The Baptists on the other hand would not be able to easily hear this interpretation. Baptist doctrine rejects the Sacramental nature of Holy Communion, and denies that it is life-giving; even its designation as Holy Communion (it is demoted to a mere Ordinance, “The Lord’s Supper). The iconographic thinking of the Eastern Orthodox regarding the Eucharist is commonly regarded as idolatry. Thus, according to a strictly Baptist hermeneutic, logically speaking, Beth Moore should not be allowed to teach on any theological matter. She should, in the manner of some extreme right-wing Baptist churches, not even be permitted to sing, speak or pray aloud in the Church.

    The fact that most Southern Baptists are able to relate positively to Beth Moore is therefore both an indication of the remnant traces of the Catholic Christian faith within them, through the action of the Holy Spirit, and is also a glaring rebuttal of Beth Moore’s own literalism. The Baptist reading this should take this message to heart, and pursue the teachings of the early Church Fathers on the interpretation of Biblical passages; they should strive to regain those traditions lost within their community in reaction to Roman excesses. The Methodist reading this should likewise take this to heart; we are blessed to inherit a theological interpretation of the Bible that comes closer to the ancient faith than that of many other Protestants, yet at the same time we are at risk of losing both our Orthodoxy and our Catholicity by ignoring this correct hermeneutic wherever it is politically correct to do so.

    In summary, I would say that the experience of Beth Moore should be to us a reminder that we must approach the sacred mysteries in fear and reverence; we must pray with love and humility that through the Holy Spirit, the orthodox Christian dogma will be made clear to us.

  15. AuntyEm says

    I’ve become quite disillusioned by Beth’s studies in the last few years. They don’t seem to relate to my life as they once did. I’m tired of Bible studies written by “Stepford Wives” with perfect lives, perfect marriages, perfect children. I want a study written by someone who has been to hell and back and survived.

    However, Beth continues to be very popular at the Tuesday morning women’s Bible study at my United Methodist Church. As long as she keeps churning out the studies, I’m sure the group will stick with her.

  16. says

    I think there’s a lot of truth to what you’re saying, AuntyEm. Consider that throughout history many Christians have intentionally pursued a path of ascetic suffering in order to follow in the footsteps of our savior. Now its very possible that Beth actually has done this in some way, but if she hasn’t, it seems to me such a journey would be very moving for her. Anthony the Great intentionally travelled into the most hellish reaches of the desert in pursuit of purity, in the fourth century, and as a result gave us the superb spiritual tradition of the Desert Fathers (see my current link, to their Sayings, one of the legendary patristic works of our faith). Now that said, I don’t think Christians should intentionally inflict pain on themselves with devices such as the cilice in order to pursue God; what is more many Christians suffer enough pain from external causes so that additional ascetism would not be helpful. Yet, through ascetic pursuits, we can in fact learn a lot from our Savior, and I feel this is something that should be emphasized to a greater extent in the UMC.

    I’m also not entirely sure I am comfortable with the idea of women’s bible studies occurring separately from men’s; since there is only one Bible, surely the laity could glean more from it in studying it together. Dividing the faithful into different genders for purposes of Bible study might even be sexist.

    What you might wish to consider doing, AuntyEm, is to organize your own Bible study group outside of the women’s group, perhaps along some psychographic lines that differ from the gender segregation that presently exists. In this manner you could pursue a more balanced course of study.

    One last thing I feel I might mention, which may or may not be helpful, is that I personally enjoy reading multiple versions of the Bible; the minor variations in language allow one to correct misconceptions that may occur. I regularly use three bibles, a King James study bible (which has somewhat unpleasant commentary, that I mentioned before), an Eastern Orthodox study bible (which uses the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic text and does a particularly superb job at highlighting Christological references in the Old Testament), and the Murdock translation of the West Syriac Peshitto. It can be particularly helpful to study these along with related Patristic material to aid in interpretation; for example, John Chrysostom’s homilies. Two other extra-Biblical works worthy of study to understand the Christian faith are Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History and the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch.

  17. Carolyn Benesh says

    Doesn’t God’s Word tell us to “touch not His anointed and do His prophets no harm?” We need to be so careful. God will use whomever He chooses. Are we smarter or wiser than God almighty?

  18. Brenda says

    I hope I’m not overstepping by saying that I came to a whole different conclusion on her presenations. (I have done several of her studies and I respectfully disagree with your synopsis.) If she were a hyper-Calvinist, she would not speak so much on the CHOICES that we make and how they affect our lives. Her studies reveal that SATAN brings evil into our lives, but God is aware and can turn that into good in His time…if we seek Him and allow Him to work. Many misinterpret not just speakers, but the Holy Scriptures when they experience a loss of any kind. I think if anyone should understand loss, it would be a woman who has experienced abuse as a child. Women like to know that the speaker really knows what they are taking about, and women understand teaching better when visuals are drawn in our minds through personal experiences. Her studies are well-researched and she takes her presentation of God’s Word very seriously. For example with the Daniel study, they aren’t merely her interpretations of the Bible, but Ryrie’s too. (I’m not about to argue with Charles Ryrie or my professors who made us read his works.) She has inspired me to study my Bible more thoroughly using commentaries and interlinear aids.

  19. Paula Kay says

    All I can say, as a United Methodist – as a political Independent – as with many of the things I believe, I can and do listen to things from a wide variety of sources and consider them. I take what is useful, I discard the rest – I test them against my heart and what I feel is the Holy Spirit inside of me. I can certainly listen to teachings beyond Methodism; after all, I didn’t even start as a Methodist, but my beliefs happen to align most closely with their teachings than anything else, so glad I found this church and was at last willing to search outside of the denomination that I didn’t relate to, even though Methodist teachings did not always agree with it (I agreed with it more!). I don’t take anything as “gospel” except for the gospel itself. (This does not mean I am a literalist.) Ironically, I am nearing completion of listening to a book on tape by Beth Moore. I found this blog when searching for what others thought of Beth Moore. No – I don’t share all of her views. Yes – I have learned things I can use, and am inspired to be in the presence of someone so devoted to living scripturally. If I’m feeling down with the workings of the world, it can be a good shot in the arm. When I was going through a rough time, I read her book “Get Out of That Pit,” and used it as the basis for some good, healing journaling. I do have respect for what Beth Moore is doing and feel that she is a positive influence. That said, I respect your opinion – and it’s fair to point out some of your concerns when bringing it into a Methodist church … and then be open to other opinions of how people actually feel about her work. (By the way, I also listen to Catholic radio at times – half the time I’m in the presence of fine theologians and have learned a lot; the other half of the time, which contains much of their unique theology, I change the channel – though I do respect the humans saints that they honor.) I think it is interesting to know what Christian brothers and sisters are listening to and doing – and listening doesn’t mean I’ll believe everything I hear. Yes, I would also love to listen to some dynamic Methodist materials – they’d likely be my favorite of all.

  20. Jackie a Methodist from OHIO says

    Whats the problem ? Leave her alone, she will have to answer, just all of us will have to, for everything she says or does or thinks. You are distressing her by all your unkind, unbiblical & downright nasty comments. Pardon my bluntness !!!! But I have studied the Bible more when I take one of her Bible studies, than when I don’t take one of her Bible studies. I feel sorry for her & I enjoy her teaching of the Bible for she tries to take in other peoples opinion in her bible studies through commentaries. Which even we Methodists do when we teach the Bible. If she says something that upsets you, then forgive her in your heart, & then get over it !!!. We all have a mind so use it to stop backbiting, nit picking or being jealous of her success. Shame on all of you who have denigrated her for her presentation of the Bible. You will all pay for all your criticism of one of HIS daughters for GOD takes care of HIS own, HIMSELF. If she says something that isn’t truth found in HIS word, HE will correct her in this life or the next. Don’t let the root of bitterness in your heart take root forgive everyone even your enemies the LORD commanded us. HE didn’t suggest it HE commanded it. May the FATHER and the SON and the HOLY SPIRIT be with you all. May you all continue to grow in HIS word, walking just as JESUS walked.

  21. Big Mouth says

    I am a recovering Southern Baptist, now attending a United Methodist Church. Beth Moore is the absolute first choice for the women’s Bible study group. When they run out of new studies, they do the older ones again. When I timidly suggested a different author, there were gasps of horror. This group has been in existence for 20+ years and I have no idea what they did before Beth Moore came along. I like the studies and know now to keep my mouth shut.

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