Okay, so I didn’t think I would ever actually do it, but I saw another upsetting thing on the interwebz today, and I cannot abide bullies. So this is happening.
I’m gonna write a thing about Beth Moore.
For those who are unfamiliar, Beth Moore is a petite, blonde, and Southern Baptist powerhouse who writes and teaches some of the most in-depth packaged Bible studies produced for women today. Men can learn from Beth Moore, too, but we have to say it’s only for women because–somehow–a woman teaching from Scripture is translated by a huge chunk of the Body as usurping authority from a man (selective and bad exegesis spreads like cancer…and like sin). The damage this interpretation has done to the church over centuries is inestimable, but I digress.
Beth—and I can call her Beth because we’re both from Arkansas—starts each week of her studies with an hour-long lesson. Whenever I sit down to one of these videos at home, I tell everyone in the living room to be quiet so I can watch Beth “preachinating.” In these sermons, Beth’s style can get over-the-top (in my view) with melodramatic whispering or hyper-spastic energy. I generally can’t tolerate that kind of thing and I will confess that my husband and I have made more than one joke about what kind of drugs they might be slipping into her coffee, but we say these things out of playful love because Beth Moore is genuine. It doesn’t seem at all like an act, and that’s why it works when she does it.
We really do love her.
We love her because we’re grateful to have access to her work, which is good stuff for beginners in Bible study. We love her because she’s imperfect, but she’s doing the work anyway, and she’s out there answering the call to spread biblical literacy. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written on this blog before, then you know that I think biblical literacy is pretty freaking important. Well, Beth Moore is doing it…and she’s reaching millions.
I was first introduced to Beth Moore when I joined the long-established Tuesday morning women’s group at my church last spring. I joined because I was new in my church; I needed to meet people I could go to with my Bible questions; and I had already bugged my pastor often enough that I didn’t want to press his patience or my luck any further. I needed a dedicated place to discuss the Bible because Scripture study was becoming an overwhelming drive with me, and I had learned enough to know that I needed help. I had waded through Lamentations, Habakkuk, Genesis, Exodus, Romans, Matthew, John, and Job on my own…but now I was in Ezekiel, and the word “freaky” didn’t even begin to cover it. I was out of my depth with solo Scripture study at that point, and I knew it.
I thought a Bible study group would help, and it definitely did.
I walked in, got my “Hello, My Name is:_____” sticker, paid for my study workbook, and sat down. The study was called Entrusted, which sounded suspiciously and patronizingly girly to me, but the cover art didn’t have a bunch of pink flowers on it, so I held out hope that this wasn’t going to be some kind of dumbed-down, “Jesus Loves Me” class for girls. I had never heard of this Beth Moore woman before, and I had never taken a published, packaged Bible study before, so I had no idea what to expect and I had no preconceived notions of what it should be like. I just knew I wanted the Bible to be heavily involved.
It turned out that the only girly thing about Entrusted was Beth Moore. The study was a two-month trip through the 2nd Epistle to Timothy, and I had never experienced anything like it in Sunday school or catechism class. She took us through the life of Paul, his education, and his relationships with Barnabus, Timothy, and Titus. She walked us through the Pharisees and Paul’s time as a persecutor of Christians. Naturally, we talked about the Road to Damascus, as well. Moore showed us everything the Bible tells us about Timothy, and led us through his journey that ended up with his being sent to lead the church in Ephesus. We talked about Paul’s final imprisonment, his relationship at the end with Luke the physician, and his reconciliation with John Mark. And after all of that, which included hours of daily solo study in several different books of Scripture each week, we began to start working in the actual text of 2 Timothy. We went through slowly, verse by verse, looking at anything in other parts of Scripture that provided context.
It. Was. Amazing.
It was what I always wanted from a Bible teacher. I wanted to study the whole thing, in a thorough way, with transparency from the teacher (she is open about her denominational and theological biases) and a rigorous structure for the study to sate my academic curiosity. It was a real Bible study that made me spend real time in the Bible.
Today, even months later, after I’ve gone through five other non-Moore studies and read at least ten other books of Scripture in the meantime, I can still talk to you intelligently about 2 Timothy because the lessons were solid and a lot of the knowledge got retained. I know that letter pretty well, now. I understand where it came from and why it’s in the canon. I know who the author and recipient of that letter were and what they were trying to accomplish. I can talk to you about the church in Ephesus at that time, and I can talk to you about the relevant ways 2 Timothy can be applied to modern concerns in ministry and the church.
Beth Moore gave me that. She is a gift. She is a passionate and sincere treasure, and even if she’s not perfect—which she isn’t because she’s a human being and a sinner like everybody else—she is out there filling a need. She is quenching a thirst that people have for serious Scripture study. We aren’t getting it in church. We aren’t getting it in popular “Bible studies.” Leadership in the American church seems to think that the problem is people rejecting depth, but for many of us, it’s the opposite! Beth Moore is giving people the bones of biblical study. She’s giving them a contagious and unashamed enthusiasm for the Word of God. She gave me the confidence to forge ahead with solo study, knowing better now what to look for and what to ask.
But lest you get the wrong idea…
…Beth Moore is not the only Bible teacher I’m studying under, and she is not the only voice I’m listening to. I love reading and listening to David Platt. I love reading and listening to Michael Heiser. I’ve read Bible commentary from too many authors to list at this point, and I’ve been reading various theologies and apologetics when I need a break from straight Scripture study. I’ve listened to sermons on podcast from too many priests and pastors for me to remember, and I’ve taken solid Bible studies from other female teachers. I also value and respect the work of my own pastors at my own church. They are my primary source, and I am more grateful for them than I can say.
The point is: I’m not defending Beth Moore because I think she’s perfect or because I’m a fluttering fangirl. I’m too old and too cynical for any of that mess. I’m defending her because what she does is worthy of a little recognition and she’s apparently in need of some defense.
Some of the nastiest and most horrible things I have ever seen publicly written about another human being were things I found written on the internet about Beth Moore. All of those ugly things were written by people who claim to be fellow Christians…and some of them are pastors.
Beth Moore gets a lot of hysterical condemnation on the internet. She’s had people condemn her marriage, her adult daughter, her youth (as an abuse victim for crying out loud), her hair, her clothes, her speaking ability, and on and on. The personal stuff gets super stalker-creepy in most instances, especially the ones where they go after her family.
She has been called an apostate, a mystic, a heretic, a false teacher, and every other Christianese name for “going to hay-ull” you can think of. I only provided a few links here. The hatred covered in a thin patina of holier than thou is nauseating, and given that I’ve listened to somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 hours of Beth Moore’s preaching over the last six months, I can tell you that absolutely all of this stuff about mysticism and false teaching is based on wild mischaracterizations of what she actually said or wrote down.
Oh, and let’s not forget the problem with her being a girl. Everybody knows that females aren’t supposed to read the Bible aloud or talk about it in public because if a man walks into the room, the Rapture might get cancelled.
It’s absolutely nuts, and it would be funny if it weren’t so thick with the dark and ominous tones of hateful contempt.
Listen, I disagree with some of Beth Moore’s theology and some of her approach, too. I have raised an eyebrow a time or two at some of the examples she chooses to illustrate a passage. I am not as openly emotional as Moore, and sometimes I question whether she’s allowed feelings to make her miss key points. I’ve written things like, “I think this might be a bit of a reach, Beth” in the margins of her study guides. That doesn’t mean her work isn’t making disciples. It is. Why there are so many people hell-bent on painting her as a bad guy is beyond my ken.
I disagree with Beth about a lot of little things and a few medium-sized things, just like I do with several of the pastors I listen to and respect. There’s nothing alarming or
harbinger of doom in any of that. It’s called dissent and discussion and difference of opinion/interpretation/hermeneutic. It ain’t the clarion call of seals on scrolls getting broken upstairs, okay?
I actually walk around with this kooky notion that dialogue between schools of thought is a healthy and beneficial thing. I don’t find differences of interpretation threatening to my faith, and I find the fragility in those who do somewhat disturbing. It smacks loudly of unbelief to my way of thinking, and that’s a much bigger issue than whether or not a bible teacher on TV believes in contemplative prayer. Yeah, I don’t know what that means, either. Apparently, it’s tantamount to witchcraft…or worse, Catholicism.
Anyway, I may not be 100% down the line in agreement with Beth Moore, but she and I have two things in common, and they trump absolutely everything else: We both love Jesus and neither one of us can stand the idea that somebody out there might need help reading the Bible and not receive any.
That’s all I need to know about her, quite frankly, and I would strongly advise the people who spend their time trashing her character and her faith from their pulpits and keyboards…to spend that time and energy on higher things. Perhaps reading their Bibles?