Discernment Lesson: Deconstructing Beth Moore’s most popular story

My first introduction to Beth Moore was in 2011 at a Southern Baptist Church in Georgia I was a member of at the time. The women regularly read her books, talked about her, and watched her show on LifeToday, where it was broadcast then. Now it is broadcast on TBN, tucked in a scheduling line-up among many well known heretics and false teachers.

I was invited to go along on a Ladies Retreat weekend. We would launch our study from having watched a Beth Moore DVD segment. The Ladies Ministry leader (pastor’s wife) would then facilitate a discussion. The centerpiece on day 1 of the video teaching was Beth Moore telling a story about being in an airport and sitting next to a old man in a wheelchair with extremely matted hair. It’s known as the Hairbrush Story.

There are a number of items one can focus upon when deconstructing her story. I and others have noted Moore’s propensity for teaching from a word she had been given from the Lord, a direct revelation. This is problematic to say the least. I’d like to call your attention to an excellent 90-second video from the WWUTT (When We Understand The Text) folks who succinctly explain, from the text, why receiving direct revelation is unbiblical. Here it is, and please, take a listen. As I said, it is only 90 seconds.

Visions and Voices From God? (A Still Small Voice?)

Another angle on which one can focus regarding this popular Beth Moore story is the fact that some teachers who claim to receive direct instruction set up a two-tier Christian hierarchy. At the top are the super-spiritual, super-intimate believers who are blessed with God’s favor in receiving this special revelation directly. The bottom tier are the unlucky/unfaithful/less-than believers who don’t ever receive such personal ministrations from Jesus. Indeed, one blessed older lady said at the conclusion of Moore’s hairbrush story, “I wish I had a relationship with Jesus like she has.”

The Gnostics were a group of false teachers who were active in Apostle John’s day (as they are now). Their teaching focused on receiving direct knowledge and naturally led to a hierarchical structure, which implicitly demean and discourage the less-thans. Gnosticism was not directly mentioned in the Bible though it seems to have been alluded to in 1 Timothy 6:20. Its influence in late first and second century believing life was a potently anti-Christian (as it is now).

Erin Benziger has written an essay covering this aspect of the fallout from direct revelation. Why Beth Moore and Not Me? The Danger of Claiming to Receive Direct Revelation

A third way to look at this popular story of course is to compare it directly to scripture. It’s hard to know exactly where to start because Moore doesn’t teach scripture. She teaches feelings, events, and stories. Joel Osteen waves his Bible at the beginning of every broadcast. The crawl along the bottom of the TV flashes scripture addresses, but Osteen never really says what the scripture is about. Thus he and Moore and others look like they are teaching the Bible, but they really aren’t.

The Bible tells us this is a common approach from false teachers. No, the Bible doesn’t say “they shall wave their Bibles around” like Osteen does, or “They shall mention the Word frequently but not teach it’ like Moore does, but here is what the Bible says about the subtlety of false teachers —

–they “secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1). Secretly, which means their aberrant doctrine is not immediately apparent.

–they “create obstacles contrary to the doctrine“. (Romans 16:17). Direct revelation is an obstacle. How? You will hear Moore deliver a “teaching” she received directly from Jesus, and then say “test it,” but we can’t … because it’s from her own mind and not from the Bible. We have to rely on her and her special relationship to Jesus for the “teaching”. In so doing, she has inserted herself between us and Jesus, creating an extra step and a barrier directly to Him that everyone else can get simply by reading His word. Without her teaching from a vision, you would not know about it, so the teaching depends on HER, not Jesus.

–the false teacher “takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit” (Colossians 2:8). They take you captive by the method above. Once you start buying into Moore’s or other false teachers’ vision-teachings, you HAVE to keep following them in order to hear it explained again, or to receive more teachings. It comes from them so you have to keep following them to see what they will say next. Pretty soon her philosophy and deceit has captured you.

For certain people have crept in unnoticed (Jude 1:4). Easy enough- they creep, and they’re unnoticed.

So, sister, do not feel bad if you’re been duped or feel that your discernment skills are slow to grow. I found Tim Challies’ book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment helpful here.

On to the third angle and today’s point, comparing Beth Moore’s most popular story to scripture. Chris Rosebrough recently deconstructed Moore’s story and compared to scripture. As I said, it’s hard to compare to the Bible what isn’t there, but he logically takes us through each sentence of Moore’s story to show why it isn’t a teaching, but an anecdote with a Christian-y veneer.

This link will bring you to it, and it begins as minute 5:53.
Beth Moore’s Most Popular Story

Please allow me to summarize some of what Pastor Rosebrough taught and from my own insights.

Moore is an effective story teller. However you should notice that she lays the premise of the teaching by focusing on something other than on Jesus, which no Bible teaching should ever do. Every Bible teaching should tell us from His word something about the Person or Work of Jesus Christ and/or focus on Him. That is the entire point. Instead, in this anecdote, Moore spends time relating a spiritual feeling to herself and says how we can obtain that feeling that she has. She also begins the anecdote by saying how much Jesus loves us. All of Moore’s stories begin with herself and end with herself and she makes it all about us. As you listen to more and more of them you will notice this. At the end you always go, “Wow, Beth Moore is great!” Not “Wow, Jesus Christ is great!”

Then in the first moments of the story she begins the scene in vivid detail in an engaging way. She relates her journey through the airport, and then describes herself, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the packed waiting area at her gate. She is reading the Bible, John 1. She goes on for a few moments saying how deeply she was reading it, absorbed completely. However, she does not teach from John 1, she only mentions this as an activity she was doing at the time she saw the matted hair man. The Bible thus becomes a prop. She could just as easily have said, “I was reading Time Magazine”, or “I was dong the NY Times crossword” or not saying she was reading her Bible at all but just sitting cross legged on the floor. This is what I hate about her stories. Her bible is a prop.

Rosebrough rightly says that her story could have been a practical application of James, being doers of the word, or Matthew, loving your neighbor as yourself. But it wasn’t. It was a lesson on how Moore received ‘a full measure’ (never defined) so that she would ‘have power’ to ‘do amazing things.’

Moore’s “amazing thing” that she was able to accomplish after being in full measure, was to brush a man’s hair. Obviously Moore never read of missionary Gladys Aylward, who, with pneumonia, trekked across winter mountains during war to rescue 100 orphans. Or young Mrs John G. Paton voyaging months on a rough ship to land at the South Pacific cannibal island and under daily threat of death in the boiling pot to minister to the female natives there before expiring of childbirth complicated by ague. Should we place Moore in that same pantheon, her dramatic deed done in full measure of God’s loving power was that for 10 minutes she brushed a guy’s hair?

I recommend Rosebrough’s lesson on deconstructing Beth Moore’s story. It is not only a lesson on that particular story, but implicit in the lesson is a lesson on HOW to discern. As you go through the story with Rosebrough you will see how he thinks biblically and relates that thinking back to the story.

I bring your attention back to Tim Challies’ book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.  Challies defines that skill as

the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. … the book teaches people to think biblically so they might act biblically.

I pray for sisters in the faith to increase in discernment. It grieves me and hurts me very deeply to see sisters post things on Facebook from false teachers. This is because I know that they are not seeing Jesus as clearly as they could, and since Jesus is the most beautiful and adorable person in the universe, my heart’s desire is for sisters to grow in discernment so they can enjoy Him even more clearly and accurately.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, (Philippians 1:9)

[By Elizabeth Prata]