Beth Moore and Blind Spots

Even though it’s supposed to be my thing, I still find I have blind spots.  One of them was Beth Moore.

I was introduced to Beth Moore while serving in an SBC church between 2005 and 2009.  Her studies were a regular part of the women’s ministry offerings, and I flipped through a couple while helping with the discipleship program.  They were clearly woman-oriented, using language and emotive emphases that didn’t really appeal to me.  But, they seemed to be pretty solid. 

Over time, I heard some rumbles.  First, it was that she was not only leading women’s studies but teaching couples.  In the SBC and other conservative Christian circles, this raised some eyebrows.  After all, the historic understanding of Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 2 indicate that a woman was not to teach or be in authority over a man.  How exactly that applied varied.  For some, it meant they shouldn’t have a pastoral title.  For others, it meant that women should be restricted to teaching only women and children.  Often the fulcrum of the debate was the “authority” part – was the “authority” connected to the teaching, and thus teaching implied the prohibited authority, or was the authority separate, and one could teach without “authority” have more liberty to teach?

I didn’t give it much thought.  I just decided that she was mostly teaching women, that anyone could give couples marriage or parenting advice, and that since she didn’t claim a pastoral title, that it was not an issue. Her influence continued to grow.

As the #metoo movement grew, Beth Moore chimed in – but in a way that was not easy to nail down.  She wrote a letter describing what she considered misogynist behavior from church leaders,  I was empathetic toward her expressions of disappointment, particularly some of her examples of church leaders acting inappropriately toward her.  But some didn’t see it quite that way.  I also read, at the time, the reaction of the Pulpit and Pen, a “discernment blog”. 

I hate “discernment blogs”.  The church is the discernment blog, not some self-appointed policers of orthodoxy based upon their own opinions.  If you click on the link, you will find out quickly why I can’t stand these guys – their writing drips with condescension and self-righteousness.  They go out of their way to come across as aggressive jerks, no matter the subject.

But something caught my attention – his claim that Beth Moore wasn’t actually a good Bible teacher.  I realized that I had no idea if she was or not. I had let my vague familiarity in a positive place be the foundation of my perspective.  But, I have to admit, I didn’t click the links that supposedly showed her bad teaching or the testimonies of those women who had “broken free” of her teaching.  After all, Moore wasn’t leading a cult, so even the idea of “breaking free” of her teaching seemed alarmist. I just moved on, since the ladies in my church of the time didn’t do Beth Moore studies, anyway. 

But, a couple of months ago, my ability to ignore my blind spot was removed by Moore’s response to an SBC professor who expressed that to be orthodox was to agree that women did not preach from the pulpit on Sunday to the church.  Even with the range of disagreement among conservative churches on how exactly the role of women teachers should look, that seemed reasonable for that group.  But Beth was having none of it.

She is not longer hiding her position.  She believes that the historic, orthodox position that prohibits women from being the Sunday morning preacher is terrifying, that anyone who holds to the historic position – including the millions of women who do – are motivated by fear, power, and misogyny. 

Those jerks were right.  Gosh, I hate saying that. I was wrong.  Beth Moore has not, for a long time, held to the historic biblical position on roles in the church (which has some wiggle room), and cannot be a faithful Bible teacher if she just chooses to ignore elements she doesn’t like.  She makes up stuff, telling people that a good idea or feeling she has is “God speaking to her.” She has seemingly kept the full package on the down low, creeping outwardly toward the position she is now holding – where the orthodox are the oppressors…which is, of course, exactly what the current cultural attitude is toward much of biblical ethics.  But, I wasn’t willing to see, or even question her, because of an initial impression I received several years ago.

What do I believe?  Why do I believe it?  Where did that belief come from before me?  And, are the answers to those questions good enough?  Those are the four questions I challenge others to ask of themselves – but, clearly, I need to keep asking them of myself.