By Elizabeth Prata
In part one of “Troubled by Beth Moore’s Teaching,” I outlined some of my biases, and listed one of my first concerns with her approach to Bible teaching. I’ll go on to the next concern now, a concern about her method of delivery. I’ll get into her theology in part three.
In this essay I’ll explore her tendency for seeking affirmation tag-end questioning, the lack of dignity in delivery of the teaching, and her rapid-fire talk. In the next piece I’ll look at her attempts to extract biblical truth from personal experience (eisegesis) and finally, her theology.
In one pet peeve that drives me crazy about females in general, as part of their gender rhetoric they ask for affirmation at the end of their sentences. The less secure a woman is, the more she will use questioning affirmations to relate to the audience, whether it is one (husband) or thousands (Beth Moore audience.)
An example of Beth’s seeking affirmation at the end of sentences: “Are you with me?” “Do you understand?” She does this a lot. These are called tag-end questions and the woman’s tendency to use them as a method of establishing rapport and relationship building was observed by gender sociologist and linguist Deborah Tannen and Robin Lakoff in the mid to late 70s. People say their research has debunked the female tendency to use hedge language and tag-end questions, but anyone who has listened to a mother on the playground, restaurant, or checkout line knows this kind of speech is alive and well:
You hear it in moms who don’t declare things, as in “put your toys away now,” but instead they ask the child’s permission: “Put your toys away now, OK?”
It is an unfortunate tendency in women, but it is absolutely credibility-diminishing for women Bible teachers. The Bible is authoritative. Teachers delivering a teaching message from it should be authoritative! Just make declarations about its truths! You don’t have to check for understanding every five minutes. The Holy Spirit does that. He delivers its teaching. (John 14:26). The Spirit delivers the wisdom (Eph 1:17).
On to my next concern with her method of teaching. I haven’t gotten to the content yet! I’m going in order of least offensive to greatest offenses.
Next: She isn’t dignified. Yes, that’s what I said. Beth Moore is not dignified on her stage. She moves around a lot, quickly delivering scriptures and her interpretations in rapid-fire fashion. She will use tricks like having a wastebasket prop to “throw away” negative behaviors, she presses participants to wear bracelets that supposedly mean certain things (I read this from three blogs) and she will contort, kneel, dance, and generally cut up, sometimes while holding the Bible. Laughter is frequent.
|Call me staid (Decorous? Sedate?) but I don’t think Paul hung “I AM” posters around the necks of hapless volunteers in the synagogues when he was reasoning with them…|
A Bible lesson is not a comedy routine. I am all for laughter. Our pastor says some funny things sometimes and the congregation will of course laugh. I am among those who laugh loud and I’m sure even the choir can hear me from where I sit. But teaching the Bible with respect requires some gravitas. It requires some dignity. It isn’t a prop or a party trick. I shun antics as the main behavior of the teaching session. Funny sometimes, yes. Zany Bible teachers? No.
Lest you think that I am too picky, let’s turn to the scriptures and see what they say about mature leaders of the church handling the word of God. Be sober, be alert, be wise–
Instructions for Ministers:
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;” (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
Instructions for wives of ministers:
“Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” (1 Timothy 3:11)
Instructions for aged men:
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12)
Instructions for aged women:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:3-5)
Do you get the idea that the church leaders, teachers, and elders should be dignified? I hope so. The scriptures are clear. Anyone who has seen a Beth Moore clip knows that self-control and circumspectness is less than optimal. Her bio says she ‘teaches with energy and passion.’ She even calls herself obnoxious. I call it undignified.
Awww, cow patties, you might say. That is part of who she is! She’s from Texas! Well, let’s look at women leaders from Texas and see if they are fast-talking, jumping bean, let-it-all-hang-out leaders: Laura Bush? Lady Bird Johnson? Kay Bailey Hutchinson? Hillary Clinton? (Beth Moore was raised in Arkansas). Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor? Can’t picture them being fast-talking, jumping bean, ‘energetic and passionate’ in front of a crowd in order to get an important point across? There is a reason. It’s distracting to the point you’re making. The problem with energetic and passionate delivery is that is puts the speaker at center stage when it should be the Word.
I mentioned Beth Moore’s rapid-fire delivery. This next issue is a bit more problematic. She talks fast. And I mean F-A-S-T. She spits out verses, explains its interpretation like lightning, and then launches into a personal story that supposedly confirms the verse and interpretation. The Word deserves better. It takes a moment to find the address of the verse, it takes a while to absorb the truth being presented. Spitting it out fast and furious, flinging it all around the stage like fast food is not respectful to the Word and its meanings. It also makes it harder to detect error. What I want is gravitas. Beth Moore talks of Bible truths so fast and at such a high pitch, that as Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio said, ‘she makes my ears bleed.’
Now a staunch supporter could dismiss the verses on being sober, grave, and self-controlled and put the rest down to my individual preferences. I don’t think so, but in any case, in part three I’ll take a look at some of the more troubling things about Beth Moore’s teaching: its content, her penchant for eisegesis versus exegesis, (those terms are defined here) and aberrant interpretations.