Below, you’ll find some running observations on the unmatchingly emotionally loaded topic of Beth Moore. I pray it may be helpful to some.
If you’re on the internet at all—or you know someone who is—you’ve almost certainly heard something about John MacArthur’s now-infamous invitation to Beth Moore to “go home” [video]. Of course, the reactions were immediate and explosive. John MacArthur has “attacked” Beth Moore; there’s no excuse for such a vile, violent, immature mockery of a fellow Bible teacher. Many have declared (with a not insignificant amount of virtue signaling) that, due to this two-word response and the laughter it garnered, they have “lost all respect for John MacArthur.” Mrs. Moore expressed her opinion via twitter that this was a “shameful” example of “misogyny,” even as she asked her followers not to return insult for insult.
I’m assuming you have seen or heard the reactions of others already, whether positive or negative, so my goal here is simply to fill in a few of the cracks in the discussion.
What’s wrong with her preaching?
If by “preaching,” we simply mean teaching the Bible, well, there’s not necessarily a problem with a woman “preaching” in that sense (depending on the context). If by “preaching” we mean the announcing of the gospel, with no reference to context, well, of course there’s nothing wrong with women giving the good news. But if by “preaching” we mean a woman expounding the text authoritatively to a congregation of men and women, in a way that binds the conscience in directing how one might obey Christ, well, others have dealt abundantly with the problem here as explained by Paul in 1 Timothy 2; but, of course, this is what Mrs. Moore and others would prefer to reinterpret in light of our enlightened cultural progress.
Now, if by “preaching” we mean the particular style and homiletical techniques employed in the communication of the Word, then let me explain something that I think most women do not consider, because it doesn’t affect them the way it does men, and thus is not as readily apparent. When a woman “preaches”—in this sense of having authoritative and powerful communication techniques—it actually comes across as aggressive, and is thus repelling to masculine men. This is, at the basic level, because masculine men value and appreciate and are attracted to feminine women; and when a woman preaches in this authoritative, aggressive manner, she’s actually becoming less feminine in order to do it. And just as men assuming effeminate manners is nauseating (particularly in the pulpit), women donning the trappings of masculinity is repulsive. The pulpit is reserved to men because of the inherently combative nature of preaching. And, as Pastor Wilson often points out, when a woman steps onto the front lines of conflict, either the nature of the combat changes, or the nature of femininity changes, and often both.
But the fundamental reason a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man, is not that she is inferior, not because she is incapable of theological study, not because she is unable to effectively communicate truth (obviously none of that is true), but because that’s how God designed it from the moment of creation (1 Tim. 2:13).
What’s wrong with her teaching?
But is there anything actually problematic in Beth Moore’s teaching? The actual content of her instruction? I’ll share more specific critiques at the bottom of the post; but for now, I’ll simply quote Pastor Tom Buck on the matter.
1) Claims Jesus talks to her and she recounts the exact words exchanged between the two of them… including things like Jesus telling her to “come out and play” to “build a snowman” and calling her “honey” and “babe” when they talk.
2) Claims to get revelation, knowledge, and directions from God that she records and speaks: “God began to say to me, ‘I’m gonna say something right now, Beth. And boy you write this one down. And you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it.’”
3) Claims God speaks to her in visions. “… something God showed me sitting out on the back porch…. I’m a very visual person. So he speaks to me very often by putting a picture in my head…”
4) Promotes and partners with known false teachers like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen (just google it). Claims that God gave her a vision that churches that preach a false gospel (e.g., Roman Catholicism) are part of the true church.
5) Violates God’s created order and usurps the role and function of an elder in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. She regularly assumes the function of teaching and leading men, including in corporate worship gatherings.
These are but a FEW examples.
The rest of Pastor Buck’s post is very worth reading, here.
To this list, I would add the numerous attacks Mrs. Moore has made on complementarianism, the issue of contemplative prayer, her increasing emotionalism (treating experience and emotion as a guiding principle, sometimes outweighing objective truth), social justice, her newfound softness on the issue of homosexuality (example)—even calling Christians who unqualifyingly teach that homosexuality is sin “hyper fundamentalists”, and devaluing the writing of the apostle Paul in order to defend her practice of preaching to men.
What’s wrong with listening to her?
But many who are made aware of the problems with Mrs. Moore’s teaching argue that it’s not all that bad, she doesn’t always say these things, so it’s okay to still listen to her. Indeed, I have long been reluctant to say that you should not listen to Beth Moore at all. But there does come a point (read the apostle John’s letters) when a teacher should be marked and avoided. I think we are there. We are responsible for whose teaching we put ourselves under (Galatians 1), and it’s just not enough to say that she has helpful things mixed in as well. It’s not worth it to sit at the feet of someone who misinterprets and defies the Word of God, simply because she’s an effective communicator and has some helpful things to say. Ideas have consequences, and theological error in some areas eventually seeps into and affects other areas. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Find a faithful pastor. Find solid women teachers who have some talks or have written some studies who may not be as prolific because they are busy serving as a wife and mother. It’s no longer wise to associate with, sit under, promote, or endorse Mrs. Moore.
And while I’m at it, since the damage is done… you ought also to steer clear of many other popular, prominent speakers such as Priscilla Shirer, Jen Wilkin, Rachel Hollis, Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Lysa TerKeurst, Lisa Bevere, Christine Caine, and Joyce Meyer, to name a few.
Now, regarding that heinously insensitive laughter…
Todd Friel asked John MacArthur to give a pithy response to the word (or name) he said. When Pastor MacArthur, who has always conducted himself with a statesmanly dignity and care, came back with the unexpected, and undeniably pithy response, “Go home,” what do you expect the reaction to be? Well, the reaction many people think would have been appropriate is audible gasps from the audience, perhaps with a number of the more mature pastors standing up and walking out of the room in appropriately woke disgust.
Ironically, Phil Johnson was much harsher toward Mrs. Moore than MacArthur, and yet somehow MacArthur seems to be getting all the heat. Yet after his pithy word-association response of “go home,” MacArthur’s comments were all as serious, careful, and weighty as his responses normally are. Do I think Pastor MacArthur was a bit harsher or more blunt than I would be? Yes. He probably would have done better to say his other comments without voicing the infamous “go home.” But our modern inability to objectively evaluate the truthfulness of the content when we find one’s tone distasteful means that I’m going to push the other way. Pastor MacArthur was not really very abrasive. Let’s think about it objectively.
So what was the deal with that raucous laughter? How DARE they?!
It seems that the laughter is the primary target of the internet outrage. The infamous laughter is seen as evidence that the whole event was some kind of locker room mocking and bullying session… an old boys club stuck in their outdated ways having a laugh at the expense of the innocent victim.
I am in no way arguing that Mrs. Moore has not been the victim of real mocking, or of even worse treatment than that. But allow me to offer another interpretation of that hearty laughter, in light of the culture (both secular and Christian) in which we find ourselves.
I believe the ill-famed laughter was not that of a mocking, immature locker room full of boys making fun of a poor victimized woman. In fact, this wasn’t a pastors conference, it wasn’t a room full of boys, you can hear the women laughing more clearly than the men. But this was, it seems quite clearly to me, the laughter of unexpected relief and delight at Pastor MacArthur speaking truth more bluntly and pithily than we’re used to from the politicized, feminized pulpit of today. (Oh, but now I’m in trouble for referring to something as “feminized”). It was the laughter of a congregation relieved to be given, by Pastor MacArthur’s statement, the opportunity to breathe in the midst of a culture that devours with the efficiency of piranhas anyone who would dare, oh, for example, give a pithy rebuke to a public Bible teacher who is out of line.
When Todd Friel said “Beth Moore,” there was initial laughter because of the way Friel introduced it, saying (sarcastically) that he was starting out with an “easy” one, which of course, was humorous precisely because of the tension surrounding the issues. So, when MacArthur gave his brotherly but blunt admonition, “go home,” it was as if he cut through the tension with a machete, and the audience, not knowing exactly what to expect (though the general theological sentiment of MacArthur’s comments would not be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about him; this is the conservative, inerrantist understanding of Scripture), they burst into laughter at the surprisingly light, witty, and straight-shooting response that perfectly spoke to the issue. You are out of your lane; you have ventured into an arena that is off limits; your true glory is in being a wife and keeper of the home (Ps. 128; Pr. 31; Titus 2; Ephesians 5)… reclaim that glorious calling.
A couple of resources to read for a fuller and better articulation of the biblical response:
Doug Wilson discusses the increasing trend of inviting women to preach on Sundays.
Toby Sumpter has an excellent post here.
Rachel Jankovic (a woman worth following) is helpful both here and in the video below.
Kyle Labosky shares some helpful thoughts on Pastor MacArthur’s tone.
Kyle Mann gives a balanced but not entirely positive (toward MacArthur) analysis of the controversy here.
Here’s a list of more critiques examining the specific issues with Beth Moore. Disclaimer: some of these resources are harsher than I would be, such as calling Moore a false teacher etc. Be willing to look past the angle or specific labels these critiques take, and honestly examine the content of Moore’s teaching they bring to light.
In that regard, I’ll quote Anthony DeRosse, a friend and pastor in Tampa:
Do I think she should stop teaching men? Absolutely.
Do I think she should go home in that regard? I do.
Do I think Beth Moore is being extremely unwise, and potentially misleading for a massive group of people? Yes.
Do I think she’s a heretic and a false teacher? I don’t.
…Being egalitarian and a continuationist is not enough for me to call you a heretic and a false teacher.
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