I’m devastated again.
I think this might just be a new season of testing or something, but the church is a problem for me. It always has been. Not my church…the church. The larger body of believers throughout the world continues to break my heart on a regular basis, and this latest division in the church has set my teeth on edge.
I’m talking about the comments John MacArthur made in October about Beth Moore and the responses to it online and pretty much everywhere else.
Yeah. I’m devastated right now.
I’ve already said everything I have to say publicly about Beth Moore. There’s no point in beating an equine corpse, so I won’t go into it again. People either like what Beth Moore is doing and think it serves a good purpose in the Body of Christ…or they don’t. I’ve put forward what I think, and lots of other people have, too.
I’ve never written or even talked about John MacArthur publicly because I’ve not consumed much of his work. My dad loves MacArthur’s books, and so do several of my friends, so I’ve been pointed toward MacArthur a few times. I’ve read excerpts from Strange Fire and bits of his whole-Bible commentary, but I set them aside for other books and other work. Different authors touch different readers, and the authors who lit me up at that time were David Platt, C.S. Lewis, Mike Heiser, and N.T. Wright. I like a different sort of writing style, I suppose, and that’s pretty much all the thought I ever put into it. I have not been a consumer of MacArthur’s work to this point.
As for Moore, I’m more familiar with her written studies. I’ve never read any of her books, and her speaking style is not really my cup of tea, but I have learned from and thoroughly enjoyed–hold on, I need to go count them (seriously, I went to my shelf to count)–eight out of the twelve Beth Moore studies I’ve participated in. The four I can’t include are the three I haven’t finished and the one that I found a bit silly. Hey, 8 out of 12 is a really great average, and you can’t hit a home run with every reader, every time.
The point is: I’m far more familiar with what Moore teaches than what MacArthur teaches, but their work isn’t my focus in this article, and I don’t “follow” either of them (More on that following thing in a minute).
I don’t really care about either Moore or MacArthur outside of the basic concerns I have for any Christian leader:
- I hope for their ministry to bear good fruit that glorifies the name of Jesus.
- I hope that the leader is able to keep his/her eyes on Christ when the enemy comes to destroy.
Both Moore and MacArthur lead ministries that have brought people to Jesus. I routinely pray for pastors and ministries that I come into contact with, and today, I am praying for Beth Moore and John MacArthur.
I pray that they are both looking squarely at Jesus right now.
We have a tendency as human beings to elect kings for ourselves. Just read Judges-Samuel for the biblical context on that, but you don’t really even need the Bible or a belief in God to understand this point. We select and then idolize leaders. Whether they be talented athletes, glamorous celebrities, charismatic politicians, successful businessmen, or religious leaders, people will follow them. We follow what they say, what they wear, what workouts they like, what they read..it’s endless. We attempt to emulate them. We follow them. We don’t just “like” them. We don’t just agree with or enjoy them. We follow them.
That’s what we’re dealing with right now. This rift over Beth Moore and John MacArthur is being framed as some kind of celebrity boxing match. Get your ring-side tickets today! Emotions are high. Pithy quotes are being tossed around. It’s so meme-able. So tweet-able. So…well…bloggable.
That’s the problem.
Instead of having a real doctrinal discussion; Instead of opening the Bible, praying together, and laying out our position in love and humility; we’re choosing teams. Beth Moore has a fan base that cannot tolerate criticism of her. John MacArthur has a fan base that cannot tolerate criticism of him. Just look at the comment sections anywhere this is being discussed right now. There is a cult of personality built up around both of these people. What that means is that their followers are invested. To admit that their investment isn’t perfect–that it might have made mistakes–means risking a huge loss. The loss of the hero. The loss of the idol. The loss of the spiritual goalpost. They took their eyes off of Jesus and fixed them on a Bible teacher, an elected king.
Again. That’s the problem.
“Our king is better than your king.”
Except…neither king in this scenario is Jesus.
I don’t want to address complementarianism or give anyone a dissertation from Paul’s First Letter to Timothy right now. That isn’t the point. The point isn’t which one of them is right about women preaching and teaching from the Bible. That. Is. Not. The. Point.
The point is that this kind of heartless, vicious, and–let’s call it what it is–evil division is not from God. It’s straight out of the Devil’s mouth. He and his are celebrating right now. Two beacons of light in our society, two people who have spent decades talking about Jesus, teaching about Jesus, and bringing people the Gospel message…are being used to throw gasoline on rants full of cruel words, callous disdain, and hateful condemnation all over the world right now.
I watched the panel, and once again I had my breath taken out. One more time, I watched as a Christian man on a Christian panel did something intensely ungodly to humiliate another Christian. The “game” presented to MacArthur was designed to be unkind and provoke exactly the response it got. And he fell right into it. The first words he thought of when prompted with, “Beth Moore,” were, “Go home,” followed by smug, self-satisfied laughs and “ho ho ho’s” all around. MacArthur continues, comparing her ministry to the Home Shopping Network and diagnosing her with narcissism (I didn’t know he had an M.D., but I digress).
A nuclear explosion has now gone off within the church. Anger. Hurt. Disdain. Self-Righteousness. Not the kind of nuclear explosion we want. From two words.
He said “Go home.” He has an entire doctrinal system worked out over decades that leads him to believe what he does, but he didn’t offer any of that to the panel. He simply used his voice–a voice that has followers after decades spent teaching the Word and dedicating himself to the church–to tear down a sister in Christ who has also spent decades teaching the Word and dedicating herself to the church. “Go home.”
Oh, brother John, how I wish you had said, “Come home,” instead.
If you believe that Beth Moore needs correction or if you feel that she is endangering the body of Christ with her ministry, then why didn’t you invite her in instead of telling her to get out?
If you had done that, the body of Christ in America and across the English-speaking world might be having a productive, godly conversation today. But you didn’t do that. You told a woman who has devoted her life to the church that she should leave. You implied that the church isn’t her home. You gave every person on YouTube with just enough Bible study to be dangerous permission to get online and excoriate his brothers and sisters in Christ, whether or not they understand the exegesis they’re using to do it. You emboldened every bitter person with a Bible, in the comment sections all over the internet, to say horrible, dismissive, and damaging things to any man or woman (there are both) who expressed hurt or confusion over your statement and your panel’s little ungodly “game.”
And so here we are. Equal in value and dignity, indeed. Partners in the imaging of God, indeed.
Why in the name of all that is good and holy didn’t you just say, “Come home,” instead? Why?
But then…I’m a woman. You probably wouldn’t listen to anything I have to say, anyway. Instead, I’ll just lean on the words of Christ Jesus. Maybe He can make it clear for you:
“Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: Thus says the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Revelation 2:1-5, CSB