We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Monday, February 2, 2009

Beth Moore's "Breaking Free"

I have been slowly reviewing the title book for the past few months and now I felt the need to post analysis of what I read. Let me say firstly that, even though it took a long time due to my not taking the time to just sit down, it is still a very cursory review which doesn't detail all the problems I found.

Let me say up front that I think Beth gives some very good advice in this book, but her credibility is denigrated by the problems she presents in her teachings. If she could eliminate the claims of special revelations and correct her hermeneutics, this could be a valuable book for women. Unfortunately, there will never be changes made so I have to recommend against the book if I am ever asked, unless it is used by very discerning Christians - or at least provide this information to them!

I’m not going to address every time Beth has poor or misleading teaching, rather I am going to concern myself only with poor use of Scripture, claims of special revelation, and eisegesis. To point out every problem would be an arduous task! (She also has some pop-psychology that disturbs me.)

Claims of Special Revelation: (I skimmed much of the book for these later, so I may have missed some)

1.  “You see, the finished work that falls in your hands represents untold hours of intensity with God in which He first taught it in ‘long hand’ to me.” P.4

2.  “God spoke to my heart and said something like this: ‘I sent my Son to set the captives free. You will go forth and ring the liberty bell.’" p.6

3.  “The words He first gave me after I began walking the path to freedom still echo in my mind.” P.6

4.  P.43. “When I finally bent the knee to the Prince of Peace over hurts in my childhood, I realized He was directing me to forgive the person who hurt me. God did not insist on my forgiving for the sake of my perpetrator but for the sake of peace in my life. Once I began to surrender to Him in this painful area, He began to give me a supernatural ability to forgive.” Besides the pop-psychology evident here, what is the evidence that God insisted Beth forgive her offender; did He say something audible? Was there a sign given? And what is the evidence that she was giving a “supernatural ability to forgive.” Again, did God reveal this to her audibly or with a sign? 

5.  “As God began stirring the tremendously heavy burden in my heart to write this study…” Who’s to say that this was just her own emotions instead of God “stirring” her?

6.  P.102 Moore lists five reasons she believes God allowed her childhood abuse. I can agree from biblical principles that the first four items are highly likely, especially since Beth starts each statement correctly with, “He knew.” And God knew all the things would happen as she says they happened because God sees the future. It is her last statement that bothers me because she says dogmatically, “He wanted me to teach how to make freedom in Christ a reality in life from the passion of personal experience.” Beth CANNOT know this! Therefore, this becomes a de facto claim of direct revelation. (And it may well be that God never wanted her to do anything about it!)

7.   P. 181 Beth says, “I believe this week will be a supernatural turning point for all who take advantage of what they learn.” I wasn’t sure whether I should also include this under “revelation” or “other problems,” so I’m putting it here. Is it not arrogant and presumptuous to believe that your teaching will be a “supernatural turning point”? Is Beth then saying that God supernaturally meets everyone who studies Beth’s work? Of course this only works if we “resist the temptation to take any shortcuts or skip any homework!”

Misuse of Scripture and other problems:

1.  Pp.14-15. We have first looked at 2 Chron. 26:21-27:9 and then Isa. 6:1-8 for the context of this section. “Isaiah grew up under the reign of the mighty King Uzziah and no doubt idolized him as a young boy…” is how Moore begins on p. 14. Then she decides that when Uzziah died it was “perfect timing” for God to choose that very same year to call on Isaiah because Isaiah was now “hero-less.” She continues on the next page, “I believe Isaiah idolized King Uzziah.” I think the word “idolized” is a bit extreme. Beth continues with an analogy of how she sees sports figures and in the world. But I don’t think the Israelites would put their kings in the position of idol, since that would be a rank violation of the Commandments.

Moore then gets really extra-biblical as she imagines all sorts of things about these passages. “People crave a human worth worshiping. We are wise not to try to deliver. Uzziah accidentally left poor Jotham hopeless to measure up in the minds of many. I believe Isaiah was one of them. Notice Isaiah 6:1 does not say, ‘in the year Jotham became king, I saw the Lord.’ Not the existence of something new but the removal of something old opened Isaiah’s eyes to the kingship of God.”

There are some real problems here. Firstly, Moore assumes Isaiah was worshiping Uzziah and then decided Jotham wasn’t worthy of worship. Secondly, she decides that Jotham was “hopeless to measure up” to his father “in the minds of many,” including Isaiah. Where does Scripture even intimate this? The Bible tells us Jotham, except for not tearing down the pagan “high places,” was more godly than his father! Moore’s idea comes because Isaiah says it was the year Uzziah died that he saw the Lord instead of saying it was the year in which Jotham became king. That is a non sequitur: what difference does it make how Isaiah recorded time? Perhaps he used Uzziah’s death because it was something that stood out? We don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say. But Moore says that the death of Uzziah was what “opened Isaiah’s eyes to the kingship of God.” So does this mean that Isaiah, in chapters 1-5, really didn’t understand God’s kingship? That’s what Moore implies. I think this is a gross misreading of Scripture.

At the bottom of the page Moore then makes this statement about Isaiah: “Isaiah was probably just as corrupt in mind, mouth, and practice as the people surrounding him.” I would think if this was the case that the Bible would have at least hinted at it. Isaiah was certainly a sinner, as everyone is, but it does not follow from this that Isaiah was so corrupt. Isaiah saw the corruption and I believe he was pained by it. After all, he was a prophet of God! Yet Moore has decided on her own that, “I don’t believe He called Isaiah because he was a man of character, like Noah. I suspect He may have called him because he was just as sinful as the rest of them.” But there is no Scriptural justification for this idea.

2.  Pp. 32-33 Beth uses Isaiah 43:10-13 as if it is directed at the Christian, but the context of this passage is God talking to Israel. She asks, “Why have we been ‘chosen’ according to Isaiah 43:10?” But Is. 43:10 says nothing about us being chosen. The whole context of Is. 43:10-13 is about God and Israel yet Beth finds many parts of it addressing Christians. Can we as Christians take lessons about God from this passage? Yes: there is no other god besides God, there is no other Savior besides God, and no one can undo what God has done. Is Moore’s conclusion about who we are correct? Yes, but her method of coming to the conclusion is erroneous. (She misuses this same passage later in the book.)

3.  Pp. 34-35 Beth again misuses Scripture to make her points. This time it is Isaiah 43:7. In context God is again talking about the nation Israel, but Beth asks the questions, “According to Isaiah 43:7, why did God create us?” In context God is talking about why He created Israel. Is Moore’s answer to her question correct? Yes, but again her road to the answer misuses the text.

4.  P.39 we are to look at Jeremiah 31:23-25. God is talking about what he will be doing for Israel when He brings them back from captivity. Beth makes a spiritual application of this passage, saying that God “will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint” when He releases them from spiritual captivity. If she wanted to make an analogy, I’d have no problem with this, but to take the passage out of context and spiritualize it is another matter.

5.  P. 46. Beth again is using Isaiah out of context with Isaiah 43:1-7. The context is God’s relationship with Israel but she makes it about His relationship with us. Again, if she discussed it as an analogy or a principle of God’s attributes, that would be okay. But she makes it a specific application to us.

6.  P.73 begins a lot of pop psychology, which in itself can be harmful to individuals if that’s the route they take to deal with their problems. On page 75 Beth mentions things that keep us in bondage because of things we “inherit.” Then she defines what she means: “learned environmentally” (agreed), “genetically predisposed” (also agreed), “binding influence passed down through other means” (if this isn't the same as environmental influences, then it appears she is going into the “generational sin” of the aberrational spiritual warfare movement.).

7.  On pp.79-80 she gives her interpretation of what Exod. 20:5 means, which really becomes no more than the unbiblical idea of generational sin. She starts by giving the example of “alcoholism” (a psychologically-incorrect term that pretends a lack of self-control with alcohol is a disease) and how many “alcoholics” (i.e., “drunks”) are in a family throughout generations because “alcoholism had been deposited in the family line.” But what she doesn’t see is that drunkenness is a learned behavior, not a “deposited” behavior. She seems to say these problems are learned behaviors with her citation of a story by Gilda Radner, but then she becomes inconsistent in whether it’s learned (environmental) or “deposited.” Maybe that’s why I’m confused about her teaching! While Beth, in that section, seems to be saying we can determine whether we want to continue with the sins of our progenitors or change for the better, there is also much to make me think she may want us to believe we can inherit these things, as Bill Gothard teaches (and as do many false “spiritual warfare“ teachers).

8.  Her citation and use of Exod. 20:5 is common among proponents of this teaching, in that they overlook the next verse. She points out (p.83) how God allows “the sins of the fathers to visit the children to the third and fourth generations” but completely ignores the part about thousands of generations in verse 6! But even vs. 5 says “of those who hate me.”

9.  P.99 Moore says that she believes Matt. 18:5-9 “specifically apply to child victimization or abuse…” While it is highly possible that victimization and abuse may lead the child into a sinful life, I think Jesus is talking specifically about leading them to sin in any manner. I’ve read some commentaries which say this isn’t addressing children so much as it is addressing those who are children in their faith. But Moore needs her meaning to apply in order for her to discuss her topic of child abuse. ( I think one can find plenty of passages to show God’s view of any abuse of a child!) The remainder of this section and the next is based on Moore’s interpretation. So, although her teaching on the subject may be helpful, her misapplication of Scripture is unacceptable.

10.  P.120, Moore starts with a little bit of, “studying the tender - and may I say, romantic - ministry of Christ.” There is nothing “romantic” about Christ’s relationship with women any more than with men. This is one of the problems with many women’s teachings - they often tend to put a romantic slant on our relationship with Christ. Christ is not their individual husband as Moore claims beginning on p.121- He is the Husband of the Church. And that is a metaphor, not literal. Yet Moore continues to call each woman, and even each man, a separate bride of Christ, and she carries the analogy much farther than biblical. What she really leaves out by this teaching is the LORDSHIP of GOD the SON; he is not a lover. Beth continues the next chapter also teaching that Christ can fulfill “girlish dreams” of romantic relationships. This is unbiblical.

11.  Beginning at p.126, Moore claims that the Song of Songs is “ultimately a story about Christ and His beloved bride - us.” This is 100% false. The Christian church, under Rome, started making this claim long ago because of prudery over the story. But if one reads the story in context, there is no way it can be about Christ and the Church. It is about a romantic - and even sexual - relationship between a husband and wife, and this cannot be made to be about Christ and the Church without eliminating the romance and sex, and then spiritualizing it all. P.135 ends with the romantic Jesus slant and the S.o.S nonsense. I will cut Moore a wee bit of slack on identifying S.o.S. as Christ and the Church because that has been taught by many.

12. P.148 “Even the Father and the Son had a Potter-Clay relationship. Christ obeyed the Potter. Beth needs to be clearer here, because it sounds very much like she is saying Jesus was created by God the Father. I don’t think this is what she means, nor do I think she believes it, but she needs to be very careful of her verbiage, nevertheless.

13.  P.163 Beth endorses a book by Francis Frangipane. I find this extremely disturbing! Frangipane has many, many aberrational teachings and is heavy into the “signs and wonders” movement and should never, ever be recommended in any teaching.

14.  P.174, item 3. This sounds much like pop-psychology, self-esteem theology. Beth says that Jesus “thinks it will be heaven because you will be there.” So if you weren’t there it wouldn’t be heaven to Jesus? What if you choose not to follow Christ and end up in Hell - does Christ then think heaven isn’t heaven? Then Beth cites a song saying, “When He was on the Cross, I was on his mind.” No, it wasn’t anyone personal who was on Jesus’ mind, rather it was the salvation of mankind in total.

15.  P.203 Beth says, “This journey has required the full participation of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. If you have fully participated in every lesson and every exercise, you have withheld nothing from Him.” This equates withholding participation in a Beth Moore study with withholding yourself from God. I find this a bit arrogant, as well as presumptuous.

Well, there you have it - my cursory review of this book by Beth Moore. I can only guess that the DVD probably has obnoxious behavior as seen on her "Believing God" series.

I really would like to see Beth Moore get some good theological training and retract a lot of her bad teachings, even pulling publications that have them. With her popularity, she could really do some good if she cleaned up her act.