OK, a few quick confessions: I know very little about American Bible teacher Beth Moore, and up till this point I have not had a desire to learn more. Thus when a little storm erupted recently on the social media over something she said, I paid little attention to it. However, someone just now asked me particularly about her comments, so I gave a generic response.
But I decided to look into it a bit more. Let me say a few more introductory remarks before specifically commenting on her tweet about Bible reading. As I have said so often now, while there certainly are such things as heresies and heretics, we also need to guard against becoming heresy hunters, condemning everyone plus their uncle if they do not think exactly as we do.
I believe the heresy hunters who condemn just about everyone else besides themselves and their followers can cause just as much damage to the cause of Christ as real heretics can. I really have little time for such heresy hunters. And I have given detailed reasons as to why this is the case: billmuehlenberg.com/2014/04/09/on-heresy-hunters/
And if you want to take all this a bit further, here are two more articles on this:
Hopefully those three articles make a careful case as to what I believe on such matters. But back to Beth Moore. As I mentioned, I know little about her. But I have seen much about her on the social media – both positive and negative. However, as I have come to learn over the years, one has to be a bit cautious here.
There is a lot of fake news on the social media. Moreover, this avalanche of both positive and negative commentary is true of basically any public Christian figure, pastor or leader. They ALL will be praised or denounced on the social media and elsewhere. There is just no avoiding that.
Indeed, I am sure that if you googled my name with the word “heretic” added in the search field, you will find plenty of pieces seeking to prove that I am an arch heretic, and likely a very good candidate for the Antichrist. I certainly am aware of plenty of Christians who think that way about me.
So I already know that if I type in a search phrase with the words “Beth Moore heretic” I will get plenty of hits on google. Indeed, I just did, and sure enough: some 129,000 hits came back! Again, maybe one day I will make an in-depth study of her and her ministry and report my findings, but not just now.
That is really not my calling. Yes I have often called out clear-cut cases of apostasy and heresy, and I will continue to do so. But as I also keep saying, far too often we call someone a heretic when they are NOT a heretic. They just happen to have differing theological views on some issues, and that in itself certainly may not make them a heretic.
Anyway, with all that introductory material out of the way, let me go back to what she actually said about Bible reading that caused such a stir. Without going back to see what she actually said, I offered my social media questioner this quick reply:
Thanks – I have not followed that incident closely, so let me offer just a quick, generic response. It can be said that one might have a lot of head knowledge of Scripture and not really know and love God. That can happen often. But one cannot really know and love God without regularly and prayerfully reading the Word of God.
OK, so now I have just done a quick search on what this recent firestorm was all about. I assume the first piece I clicked on gives us a more or less accurate account of what took place. According to this article, Moore first tweeted this:
Spending time with God and spending time with the Bible are not the same thing. The Bible is the Word of God, crucial to knowing Him, but it’s not God. We can study our Bibles till the 2nd coming & leave God completely out of it. We can grow in facts & never grow a whit in faith.
And after some reaction to this, she said further:
Do not be deceived. People who study the Scriptures constantly and are continually mean-spirited, rude, slanderous and, aside their religious rhetoric, bereft of outward evidences of the Holy Spirit are having Bible study without God. He affects us. You can take that to the bank. I will emphasize once more that my point is NOT studying Scripture less. I am a proponent of daily Bible study. It’s my practice. My life work and my delight. My point is that we need to God in our study of His Word. I’m just saying don’t leave Jesus out of Bible study.
As I said, I am not at this point interested in becoming an authority on Beth Moore and her beliefs, nor in defending her. She may well have said or taught unhelpful things elsewhere in the past. But on this particular matter, it seems what she said may not be all that harmful, and is the sort of thing I might also say – albeit perhaps a bit differently.
Indeed, as I have said elsewhere, we all know of Christians who have a ton of head knowledge. Their minds are crammed full of theology and even plenty of biblical knowledge. But they seem to live like the devil. They can be the most ungracious, unloving, uncaring people around.
Yet they are so very proud of how much they KNOW. Now make no mistake about it: I have said zillions of times that yes, we must know about our faith. We must know what we believe and why. We need biblical knowledge desperately. There is far too much biblical ignorance and theological illiteracy in the church today.
But as had been pointed out, the difference between heaven and hell is around 18 inches. If the heart is left cold and untouched by the Spirit of God while the head is absolutely full with knowledge alone, then you can go to hell just as easily as any pagan can.
The biblical aim is to have sound biblical knowledge in our heads, but ALSO a heart and life that have been radically transformed by the Spirit, based on that knowledge. Mere head knowledge will do you no good, just as a soft and fuzzy heart with no biblical knowledge will also be problematic.
People who are emotional and “loving” but devoid of sound doctrine are easy prey for Satan and the cults. But people who have all the “right” beliefs and doctrines but have a heart cold as ice are also easily manipulated by the devil. So we need to avoid both extremes.
And if that was the main point Moore was trying to make in her tweets, then I have no real problems with it, and would basically agree with it. Again, I am not necessarily seeking to fully defend her here on this particular matter. And even if I were, to defend her here on this one issue does NOT mean I might approve of all she says.
But my main reason I guess in penning this piece is to warn against another error: some Christians are as eager as all get out to find something – anything, even the slightest thing – as a gotcha moment. Anything will do as an excuse for them to exclaim: “See, I told you she was an arch heretic! Death to the apostate!!”
Well, perhaps in other areas she is, and again, I would have to explore such things further and more carefully. But it is not a good Christian practice to just run on hearsay, Facebook memes, or rumours about such things. This post then was really about just two things:
1) Answering a direct question from a person about a particular issue;
2) Giving a broad-brush look at how we might seek to wisely and biblically deal with such matters.
As always, we need to avoid the nasty and unbiblical extremes. Pretending there is no such thing as heresy and claiming there are no heretics is a dangerous place to be in. But so too is the one where we discover heretics under every rock, behind every door, in every church, and in every ministry. That too is more the work of Satan than it is of God.
So let’s pray to get the biblical balance right here. That is absolutely essential.