Troubled by Beth Moore’s teaching, Part 3- Contemplative Prayer

I am working on a series of essays looking at the teachings of Beth Moore. She is currently a wildly popular Christian bible teacher. Her books, DVDs, lessons, devotionals and tours sell like hotcakes. She regularly fills stadiums and arenas to capacity. She is sought after for speaking engagements and has a regular spot on a television show called Life Today. She teaches Sunday School in her home town of Houston when she is in town and has had that position since 1984.

We are in the times of the doctrines of devils, of false teachers and of deception. Beth Moore may be true or she may be false (we’ll explore that this essay and the next) but because the bible warns of these problems with teachers and teachings at the latter days, it is important for us to take a careful look at any and all teachers who have this much influence. I mentioned in Part One that I am headed to a Beth Moore conference this weekend. I’ll be listening to her for 6 hours and may have more to say afterward. In preparation for these essays I’ve listened to Beth Moore for several hours, prayed, read others’ concerns, and studied.

So far I’ve looked at Mrs. Moore’s manner of delivery. In these next essays I’ll look at the content of what she teaches and whether the Word is handled rightly. I’ll be looking at five issues- Contemplative Prayer, Legalism, Personal Revelation, Eisegesis vs. exegesis, and outright error. This part will  look at Mrs Moore’s drift to eastern mysticism and Contemplative Prayer.

Troubled by Beth Moore Teaching, Part 1
In which I declare my biases, give a short lesson on discernment, and begin with a concern about how casually Mrs. Moore delivers her lessons.

Troubled by Beth Moore Teaching, Part 2
In which I look at one of the things that happens when women teach (tag-end questions and affirmation seeking), the undignified delivery of her lessons, and the problems with a rapid-fire teaching.

Contemplative Prayer:

On June 10, 2011, I posted a blog entry about a congregation that voted to rejoin the Catholic church. They were so happy, saying, “It’s like correcting 500 years of history.” Their yearning for the ‘rigor’ and authority of the old Catholic traditions is really a disguise and a diversion for a more insidious liberal Christian drift: Catholic Mysticism. The Catholic traditions have always been rooted in what every false religion is rooted in: some bible PLUS man’s traditions. Some of the Catholic traditions were gained from mystics and monks who claimed special revelations after having engaged in certain kinds of prayer, or other behaviors suspiciously similar to Native American spirit walks and aboriginal dream quests. It was this problem among many others what Martin Luther rebelled against, stripping away the layers of man-built doctrines to get back to the pure Word taught directly taught to the people and available directly for the people.

Special revelations have always attracted sinful and prideful man. We want to hear from God and we want it now. Diligent searching of the scriptures and patience to hear His Spirit speaking softly to us are too hard. A vision will do. Why study hard when I can wait for a neon writing in the sky that I can then use to exalt myself and prove I am really, really religious. The current drift back toward these practices should not surprise us, it has been a problem since the beginning. Contemplative prayer is a mystical kind of prayer session in which the penitent actively engages in a consciousness-altering methodology in order to better hear the Spirit speaking. As with so many of satan’s successful tactics, true contemplative prayer is a hunk of manure with a superficial layer of something that seems good on the outside. Initially, you’d think that contemplative prayer means being quiet, and pondering the Word in a reverential moment. No doubt that was what it was at the beginning.  Monks and Anchoresses engaged in contemplative and mystical practices along with their other ascetic exercises and things are coming full circle now.

Asceticism is defined here: “The most blessed of all people are those who exhibited the greatest repentance, with pain and inner contrition, and, in this way, extinguished the proud enemy. They humbled their unruly flesh with asceticism – subdued it to the spirit – and granted the greatest joy to Heaven with their repentance (their return to God). (Elder Paisios). That definition brings to mind this verse: “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11). And notice who subdued the flesh: man, not the Spirit. The Spirit subdues the flesh (1 Thess. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:2-4; Gal. 4:6). But in contemplative, mystical practices, man’s efforts are supreme.

So the penitents were the guys who wore hairshirts, flailed themselves, and knelt on stones to prove they were more pious than other people. It’s the same-old same-old, Pharisaical practice of showy faith and the false belief that what I do gets me into heaven, rather than what I believe. Wrap contemplative prayer in this set of practices, include practitioners such as New Agers and Buddhists, and you’ve got the picture.

The Fuel Project addressed Catholic practices and the Reformation in their fine series.

Now what does Beth Moore have to do with Contemplative Prayer? In participating in a DVD called “Be Still”, about Contemplative Prayer she identifies herself with those who are part of a growing Counter-Reformation movement. The old ‘God will let me in because of what I do’ and mystical, personal revelation, experiential, vision quest approach to faith (faith by signs and not faith by belief) is becoming increasingly popular even as it has already infiltrated the more conservative realms of the shreds of what used to be a strong fundamentalist faith. Satan got the Catholics long ago. He’s got the liberal Christians now. Who is left? Satan knows that the last bastion of people who preach the truth are the fundamentalist, conservative evangelicals huddled at the corners of places like the Southern Baptist Convention and other pockets, so he figures the best way to attract them to falsity is not by luring them back to the obvious errors of New Age, Wiccan, Buddhist etc. Those practices would turn off the conservative evangelicals, identifying it for what it is, false and wrong. Instead, he turns the prideful eyes to a near-Christian practice, embedded in our religious psyche: Catholic and Orthodox mysticism. All that unpleasantness about the Reformation happened so long ago, can’t we all just get along? And bingo, we have Beth Moore saying:

“You know, one of the things that time gives us is that it erases the lines in between people so many different sections of the people of God. Because many years later it doesn’t matter any longer that this person was of this practice in the Christian faith and this person of another. Time somehow blurs those lines and we are profoundly moved by the historical narratives of all their lives, of so great a cloud of witnesses; that we can look back on and see what kept them running the race, what kept them running toward the face of Christ at the end of that finish line.”

So, ‘all that messiness’ was so long ago it doesn’t count anymore? All the martyrs burned for daring to oppose the Catholic Church’s authority can be dismissed, while we embrace the forefathers of this perpetration of evil because we’re moved by their historical narrative? I don’t think so. Yet suddenly the lines are not blurred when she teaches on generational bondage and advises women how to extract themselves from the historical hold addictions have on them…

In the Be Still promotional writing, the producer says of the practice: “We wanted people to know that you don’t have to be a super scholar or saint to experience this type of listening prayer and intimacy with God.” It is the old, false drift to personal revelation extant of the bible, my truth versus your truth, and experience not scholarship. This appeals to women because they are busy. Either they are at home with kids, in which case their middle name is “run-run-run”, or they are working AND raising kids which means they really have little time at all. Being told by famous Christian women that you don’t have to study and you can just tune into God’s frequency and have it all plopped down into your mind has great appeal. The danger, of course, is that what is plopped down into it may be untruth, but since women are being told they don’t have to study, how will they know?

The Be Still producer continues, “Look for times to stop and grab ‘be still’ moments. One of my favorite times is when I pull into the driveway after being out in traffic or running errands. There is a perfect silence just as I turn the car off and the door is still closed. Sometimes I will sit in the driveway with the Lord for five or 10 minutes before I go into the house. We have these moments all throughout our day, but if we don’t make time to learn to recognize them, we won’t notice them and will miss God’s little gifts of silence and peace.”

But we’re supposed to meditate on the scriptures! you say. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)

Yes we are supposed to meditate on His Word. Read Charles Spurgeon’s explanation of what that means and how to do it. I don’t see anything in there about emptying your mind, breathing deeply, and sitting in the driveway.

Now I want to mention that I think we have become too casual about praying in the Word. The liberal theology of past generation has instilled in us an undue focus on the Buddy Jesus and not the JUDGE ALMIGHTY. We focus on His friendship, His lovingkindness, and forgo the reverence that used to define private worship. We finish the dishes, plop down, fold our hands, and start yakking. This is fine as one kind of prayer, but there should be some kind of reverential attitude at some point. When I sit down to pray, I take a few deep breaths, to separate in my mind the previous activity from the upcoming one. I clear the cobwebs and prepare my body to respect the moment. I wait a few minutes and let the mundane thoughts bubbling around my mind dissipate. In Old Testament times the High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once per year, on the Day of Atonement. “Even as the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he had to make some meticulous preparations: He had to wash himself, put on special clothing, bring burning incense to let the smoke cover his eyes from a direct view of God, and bring blood with him to make atonement for sins.” (source). He didn’t sit in the driveway and grab a few minutes just to stick God into the day!

Just because we can do this: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22) doesn’t mean we should be calling driveway prayers special intimacy with God. New Covenant access to Him doesn’t mean casualness, but that’s what intimacy with Him has become. And that is one of the issues I have with Moore. (See part one). And what about the thief on the cross? I don’t think he had time to be still and quiet, so he missed out on “God’s little gifts of silence and peace”? Beware teachers who say do it my way or you’re doing it wrong. Of contemplative prayer, Beth Moore said; “[I]f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.”

And that brings us to an even greater concern of her teaching: legalism. You have to listen carefully and do a lot of note-taking because she goes so fast, or listen online and use the pause button a lot, but Beth Moore has a tendency to shape the scriptures away from pure faith and toward legalism. She splits sentences, putting a crowbar between words and inserting things you’ve ‘got‘ to do. There is a lot of ‘do this or else’. Re-read her contemplative prayer quote: “[I]f we are not still before Him, we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.” Tell that to the thief on the cross.

Next essay: Beth Moore’s Legalism
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