By Elizabeth Prata
Follow up essay: Beth Moore’s Spiritual Biography
Answer: Beth Moore is a false teacher. She has always been false.
Who is Beth Moore?
Beth Moore is a Bible teacher based out of Houston. She is married with two grown children, and is a grandmother. Her company is called Living Proof Ministries, a tax-exempt corporation founded in November of 1995. She has written numerous Bible studies and one novel. Moore has a television program on the TBN channel, and also travels around the country teaching at Living Proof Live (LPL) weekends, two-day sessions that fill arenas with enthusiastic women. These LPL attendees are a unique crowd in that some are groupies who follow her from city to city. Others who don’t physically follow Moore from venue to venue but follow her online and her teachings, are fervent in their embracing not only of what Moore teaches but her entire persona. If Moore is critiqued negatively in any way, her followers defend her madly.
Whenever I do a discernment essay showing that this teacher or that teacher is false, invariably I receive comments defending the teacher. The most common defense is that “She used to be good.” Or, “Her early studies were good.” “She’s just drifted a little.”
How long has Beth Moore been teaching?
Moore has been teaching for a long time, since 1985. Thirty-five years is almost a generation of teaching. If a teaching career is good we can praise the Lord for a long-term edification of His saints. If it’s false, we can mourn the pollution such continual poison brings.
Moore has published a study just about every year since the beginning. It stands to reason that many women who do her studies today are unaware of her teachings from 35 years ago. Some assume that since she has been teaching so long that whatever missteps (a common word) occurred in decades past, Moore must have matured and rectified them. I get this comment a lot, too. But the Bible says no. See my conclusion below.
What were Beth Moore’s beginnings?
Moore began in 1985 by teaching an aerobics/Bible study at her then-home church at Houston First Baptist. When the aerobics dropped off, it became a Sunday School class only. Men began attending. As the numbers of the class swelled in membership, Moore said that the ladies asked repeatedly for her to write the studies down. Eventually she did, and her first Bible study “A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place” was published by Lifeway in 1995.
In order to answer this essay’s question, “Is Moore just drifting, or has she always been bad?” I bought Moore’s very first study and read it.
Her first Bible study: A Review
Here is my review of that study, called “A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place” (1995). Below, the Author page for the 1995 edition. Below that, the author page for the 17th printing, 2004. I’d bought two editions to compare.
Problem #1: Hyperbolic language
A good place to start in reviewing a study is the introduction. I noticed that Moore’s writing even in her first published study was filled with adjectives that work to evoke emotions and fervency. She uses words like “vital” and “crucial” repeatedly (the green dotted arrows in the photo below). If everything is vital and crucial, then nothing is.
She over-states things emotionally, using words like “with all my heart” and “deeply desire” (striped arrows). By 2020, Moore of course is known for this emotional language, but it was present from the beginning. If I put an arrow on all the emotional language and hyper-adjectives throughout the book, you’d see how saturated it is with overblown hyperbole.
Problem #2: Direct revelation
The butterfly arrows represent from the outset the most troubling item of all. With those Moore announces that participants should “hear directly from God.” Below are just some of the quotes from the study. Underlines are mine.
“At the conclusion of each lesson you will find two questions: 1) How did God speak directly to you today? 2) What is your response to Him?”
“By the conclusion of each lesson you should be able to identify something in particular that you believe He was saying directly to you.”
Proper teachers derive the passage’s authorial intent and arrive at a common meaning. Moore tells participants to expect a particular message uniquely revealed to them individually. That’s why “answers will often differ”-
“If you choose to share your answers in your discussion group, your answers will often differ from those of other members.”
At the end of every lesson, she concludes by writing “How did God speak to you directly today?”
So on almost every page over 221 pages, women are told that they should have heard God speak to them directly. Over and over, Moore pounds this expectation into readers. This expectation brackets the beginning and the end of every lesson. This is repeated over hundreds of pages. ‘You should hear from God’, ‘You should hear from God’, ‘You should hear from God’.
Throughout the lessons, Moore asks the question “What did this verse/sentence/lesson mean to you?” The question of course should be, “What did you learn about Jesus?”
Problem #3: Busywork fluff rather than true exegesis
Another problem with her studies is the length and the busywork. I’ve read that some women who even love Moore complain that the lessons seem like busywork, or they’re too exhaustive. The 221 page study I bought was used, and a woman had begun the lessons writing down all answers in every blank. She faded out by page 42. She picked up again in bits and pieces intermittently until page 100, halfway through, where after that there was no more writing.
Problem #4: Taking words and verses out of context
One of the reasons women abandon Moore’s studies part way through I suspect is not only because of its excessive busywork, but because they don’t make sense. Moore cherry picks random words out of random verses unrelated to the main teaching verses. Then she explains a Greek or Hebrew meaning of a word from an unrelated verse, randomly. Her lessons are like a crazy quilt and thus, hard to follow.
Early on she was encouraged to take “a doctrine class” which she said in several interviews she ‘just knew would bore her to tears’ (learning about Jesus is boring?’) but it turned out that she said she liked it. Not for the doctrine she learned, but because of the emotional response of the man teaching it. Here is her response to the class-
His passion for the Word so inspired Beth that after the first class, she ran to her car, shut the door, looked up toward heaven and said, “I have no idea what that was, but I want it.” … “taught us with such a passion that tears filled his eyes” Source & Source
What she wanted was the passion for Jesus, not Jesus Himself.
As far as I know, that’s the only Christian education Moore ever had on how to study and teach the Bible. And I’m not sure it was a good one to begin with.
Her spiritualizing and cherry picking occurs because Moore never learned and never employed proper hermeneutical methods to her learning or her teaching. She has admitted that she begins by picking a theme, then finds verse that matches her theme, or worse, a word.
In one of her lessons in this book she mentioned the thorn in Paul, (not an actual thorn, but a demon harassing him). She matched that thorn to the ‘thorn’ Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane (the thorn was something she likened to Jesus’ emotions) then to the thorns on Jesus’ head (actual thorns). She patched them together just because they were the word thorn. In a heady, emotionally charged paragraph, using some of her favorite loaded words like “vital” and “crucial” she concluded by asking the reader to imagine their own thorns.
One reason I believe women don’t finish her studies is that they are not hearing directly from God. Can you imagine how defeating that would be? You start a 200-page study and see on almost page that you ‘should’ be hearing “directly” from God, but never do? Ever? So many women must end up feeling like a failure.
Ladies shouldn’t hear directly from God, He stopped speaking when He gave His Son, and all He has to say now is in His word. (Hebrews 1:1-2). But not according to Moore. It’s on almost every page in her very first study that hearing directly from God is normal and expected.
Problem #5: Softening of centuries-long, understood Christian words & concepts
In this study Moore uses soft language instead of normal Christian vocabulary. The word sin is used only rarely. Adam and Eve “made the wrong choices”. Moore urges women to “cooperate with God,” not submit to God. We “resist His direction” rather than disobey. The word repent is just about absent. (I didn’t see it). Do this enough and pretty soon women forget what submit, obey, and sin really means.
Problem #6: Legalistic warnings and scare tactics
At the end, Moore concludes with another typical pattern we see in all her studies- scare tactic. Her lessons are peppered with legalism. You must ‘do,’ you must ‘try,’ you must ‘accomplish,’ such and such to reap benefits of the Christian life, even intimating that is what you need to be saved. On page 220 she actually concluded with a warning to readers that-
“…we can be in Christ but not with Christ.”
No. We can’t. This is impossible. If we are in Christ, we have Christ, always and forever. (Matthew 28:20, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”)
She does a lot of “If-then” warnings, and “must-do’s”, putting a wedge between members of the Trinity and inserting her man-made-up conditions.
This study “A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place” (even the title is flesh-centered, not God centered) reminds me of a farmer feeding chickens. Moore’s scattershot approach to verses is like feeding chickens by throwing out seed, scattering them everywhere on the ground, and then going back later to connect each seed with a string, and saying voila, here is a Bible lesson!
To sum up, the problems with her teachings today are the same that were in her very first study. They didn’t happen slowly over time. They didn’t appear late in her career. She didn’t drift. They were present from the first study. This first Beth Moore study is full of the same issues we have been seeing all along till today-
- Direct revelation
- Poor hermeneutic
- Twisting verses, taking things out of context
- Overblown language & emotionalism, hiding the vacuousness of her teaching
False teachers don’t drift into apostasy. They were always false. A teacher can have an incomplete knowledge and be taught more fully and accept it, like Apollos. A teacher can change his or her mind on a certain doctrine, and offer biblical reasons why, like RC Sproul did when he became a six-day, young earth creationist.
But a true teacher will not, for 35 years, preach error, rebel against the word, reject and refuse correction, and engage in public snark and ungraceful language. She will not promote man-centered teaching, direct revelation, and legalism continually. You might not spot her errors, but they were always there. There are only two paths. A teacher, or any living person, is either one or the other.
It’s hard for women to accept Beth Moore is a false teacher, destined for condemnation (2 Peter 2:3, 2 Peter 2:14). Partly it’s because she speaks of “Jesus” so often. Her Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible however. This below, a preview from tomorrow’s blog on Moore’s spiritual biography, is from a PhD. Associate Professor at Baylor University, who attended a Living Proof Live event to research her book, published in 2012,
Moore depicted Jesus as a woman’s best friend and ideal companion. In his role as Savior, Jesus was a knight in shining armor, ready to rescue her from sorrow, depression, disappointment, and suffering. … At the close Moore called the women forward to dedicate their lives to a Christ who functioned like an ideal husband and lover, a gentle but manly presence who could sweep each of them into his strong embrace. Source: from book, Into the Pulpit: Southern Baptist Women and Power Since WWII by Elizabeth H. Flowers, Ph.D in religious studies, a synopsis and review of her attendance at a LPL event. P. 181.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
Beth Moore is false and always has been.
On the blog tomorrow, Moore’s spiritual origins and her early life in ministry, a sort of spiritual biography.