Controversy and the Beth Moore Article

I will often post articles on my Twitter feed and Facebook page which contain ideas or arguments I find interesting. Seldom will I post an article with the intent to stir controversy. And, truthfully, I often do not post articles I know will annoy people. However, from time-to-time, it is worth it to pass along something I read which, though controversial, contains some thoughts that we should at least consider.

 

Recently, I shared the following on Twitter: Another controversial one–thoughts? – Why Your Pastor Should Say “No More to Beth Moore” – http://tinyurl.com/hwymypy. In the piece, as the title suggests, Josh Buice recommends that pastors of churches not endorse the use of Beth Moore resources in the church’s women’s ministries. The author suggests that Beth Moore and her studies should be avoided because of three reasons. First, the author argues that Beth Moore violates biblical commands regarding women teaching men. Second, he suggests that Moore utilizes faulty hermeneutics (standards of biblical interpretation). Finally, Buice believes Moore to be an ecumenical charismatic.

 

The post received several comments on my Facebook page, including some pretty offended folks. Since I’m not one who is out to offend, I decided I’d like to reread the article and actually offer my opinion of the author’s arguments.

 

In general, I believe that Buice has some very valid points that need to be considered by pastors and laypersons alike. How could I say that? Lots of people love and are inspired by Beth Moore’s teaching. How dare I attempt to invalidate their experiences? While I mean no disrespect to Moore or those who have greatly benefited from her studies—which I certainly know many have done—that does not mean that Buice’s points are totally invalid.

 

Addressing the three arguments Buice makes is the only way to fairly evaluate his article. Any other reaction to it is going to be one based on emotion—I like her so Buice is wrong or I don’t like her, so Buice is right. I have no use for either opinion based on emotion.

 

One more disclaimer is needed. The three points that Buice makes are based on three significant theological positions. If a person disagrees with those theological positions, they will disagree with Buice’s evaluation of Moore. If one is egalitarian, they will disagree with the first point out of hand. If one is given to mystical or allegorical interpretation, they will disagree with the second point out of hand. If one is open to charismatic gifts or more ecumenical in their theological bent, they will dismiss the third point out of hand.  In actuality, I believe that most of the strongly offended commenters on Buice’s post are people who disagree with at least one of the three theological positions, and thus are not going to go along with Buice’s argument regardless of whether it was made well or poorly, cruelly or respectfully. Add in those who will reject Buice’s article because of personal experience and fondness for Moore’s studies, and he faces long odds against being well received.

 

I will not attempt to make an argument in general for complementarianism, conservative hermeneutics, or cessationism. Someone who disagrees with these out of hand will disagree with the article. I think, however, that Buice is writing for pastors who actually agree with the three theological principles he lists, but who do not understand that Moore, in Buice’s opinion, could lead church members to the opposite side of each position. Thus, the article should be evaluated, not on whether or not you are complementarian, non-allegorical, or Cessationist, but whether or not you believe that Buice actually has a point that Moore’s teaching could lead church members away from those beliefs.

 

When I read the piece the first time, ,I was disappointed with the sweeping and unqualified statements Buice made in describing the complementarian position. Buice writes, “The point of the Bible is clear, women are not permitted to have authority over men, and how is it possible to teach the Bible without authority?” While many complementarians will agree with Buice here, the statement is less nuanced than is helpful. Does Paul mean that a woman could not teach a class on church history, which will inevitably include the Bible, in a small group, mixed setting? Does Paul mean that a woman cannot teach the Bible in writing that will be read by men? Is this about only the pulpit? Complementarians have thought these issues through, and sometimes disagree among themselves, but Buice does not have either the time or inclination to help clarify that this is a more complex issue than it might appear at first glance. Unfortunately, his lack of nuance here prevents Buice from being persuasive to those struggling with a desire both to be fully biblical and to value the wisdom and gifts that God has granted many women in the church.

 

With that all said, Buice has a point. Complementarians should be concerned about some of the actions of Moore. Her willingness to attend Lakewood church when a female friend of hers was preaching to a mixed congregation must be seen as a tacit approval of the action. Moore’s influence is so great, especially among women in the Southern Baptist Convention, that she rightly should be challenged for publically affirming a woman acting as a preacher.

 

The author’s second point is that Beth Moore employs a faulty interpretive framework for Scripture. Buice argues that Moore often uses an allegorical method of Bible interpretation. He also suggests that she practices Lectio Divina, emptying one’s mind in order to allow God to speak directly to the individual during Bible meditation. Sadly, Buice does not cite examples of these allegorical interpretations as proof of his point. The Lectio Divina practice is easily documented from this Youtube clip.

 

The level of agreement that one will have with the second point of the article, then, will be divided into two parts. Is Moore really guilty of improperly allegorizing texts? Is allegorizing texts improper? If a pastor is a proponent of historical, grammatical exposition, he will likely find himself uncomfortable with some of the ways that Moore handles Scripture. No, it will not be the case in everything she teaches, as very much of what she teaches will be sound. But, if a pastor is concerned with church members finding meanings and allegories in texts that may not have been intended by the author, they must check Moore’s work carefully in order to see if she is engaging in this type of interpretation.

 

The third point has to do with ecumenism and charismatic practices. Again, a pastor who embraces the continuation of spiritual gifts such as divinely given words of prophecy will have no problem with the charismatic side of this discussion. However, a pastor who is not interested in his people being taught by a person claiming to be given personal visions from God will want to recommend his church members not follow Moore, who has clearly claimed that she has visions given to her by the Lord and who has claimed to have others speak to her words from the Lord that are not words of Scripture.

 

In one such vision that Moore claims to have been given from God, she expresses an ecumenical desire. Of course many believers want the church to be united and for denominational differences to disappear. However, many pastors know better than to mislead their congregations by acting as though denominational differences are unimportant. The truth is, the church must be divided over issues such as the use of charismatic gifts, baptism, or the doctrine of the atonement. So long as groups believe diametrically opposed things regarding central doctrinal issues, there will be differences in congregations and denominations.

 

So, what do I think of Buice’s article? I wish he had written it better. I wish he had been able to cite more of what he claims. I wish he had expressed an understanding of the need for nuance and kindness in the complementarian discussion. But none of those things invalidate his concerns regarding Moore’s ministry.

 

As a pastor, I have not, for a long time, recommended Beth Moore studies to our women. This is not out of any sort of personal rancor. I simply would far prefer that our women learn from teachers who are more faithful to exposition, who are less open to the charismatic, and who are less emotionally driven in their presentation. I do not condemn anyone who has loved a Beth Moore study in the past or who will happily buy the next one out there. But, I would suggest that concerns about Moore’s interpretative method, her recounting of visions and words of knowledge, and her association with false teachers like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen as well as her embrace of the Roman Catholic Church—a group which denies salvation by grace alone through faith alone—are valid reasons to think twice before starting that next group study.

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