November 12, 2009

Critiquing Beth Moore...this could be dangerous! :)


Let's face it...Christians, particularly Christian women--particularly Southern Baptist Christian women!--love Beth Moore.

That's an understatement...like saying "Catholics love the Pope."

Christian women LOVE Beth Moore.

And what's not to love? She's encouraging, witty, humorous, self-deprecating, candid, smart, a snazzy dresser, and (I gotta admit) a good lookin' lady!

More than that, her Bible studies (of which there are a bazillion--now thankfully available in stores other than Lifeway!) are like crack to the women (and even men!) who participate in them.

Seriously, how many people do you know who've done a Beth Moore study and haven't then done a dozen more?

I know from my experience as a former Pastor of Discipleship who oversaw the church's small group ministry! I couldn't keep these studies on the shelf in my office, and was constantly asked if the church could buy the newest one for this or that women's group!

Most of the time I was happy to oblige because even though they do not target my demographic (18-40 yr old males), I could see that they were really helping grow people's faith and study of Scripture.

The only study of hers that I ever had reservations about, from a Pastoral perspective, was her "Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy." However, I truly believe people benefit from hearing opposing theological views, so I didn't want to tell the group asking to do it that they could not--especially since Beth did try to lay out other End Times views in the study and stated that good faithful Christians did not always agree with the view she was presenting.

So instead of saying no, I told them to wait a few weeks so I could go over the study and see how best to incorporate it into small group ministry at Good Shepherd.

I purchased the participant's guide and proceeded to work through it. I was pleased at how good the first half of it was. Other than the sentimental language that Beth is (in)famous for ("precious one", "dear sister", etc.), I found the first 5 sessions of the study to be very well done and insightful.

However, the second half of the study is where Beth's theological sketchiness begins to emerge. By sketchiness, I mean her adherence to the recent theological system of thought known as Premillennial Dispensationalism. This view is widespread among evangelical Christians--particularly Southern Baptist and Charismatic brothers and sisters--but is a recent innovation in theology from a church-history perspective.

So rather than veto the study, I decided to take Beth up on her advice to participants throughout the book that they check with their pastors and church leaders for different perspectives (something I commend her for including!). I came up with an appendix to the study that I printed out and included in the leader's guide to the study. This way, the group could do the Daniel study, get Beth's insights, be exposed to the system of theology presented in it, and then be made aware of how it contrasts with more theologically sound views (of various traditions from church history, not just Good Shepherd's) held by the entirety of faithful Christians for the first 1800+ years of Christian history.

Below are the leader notes I appended, which I encourage anyone from any church who does Beth's Daniel study to use as well. The page number in the Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy Participant's book is given, followed by a topic or quote from Beth along with my notes in response.
------------------------------------------

“Daniel: Lives of Integrity Words of Prophecy”
(Participants’ Workbook)

By Beth Moore

*Notes reflecting what many evangelicals
believe to be a more Biblical approach
to the study of Daniel, Revelation,
and Eschatology in general.*
Copyright - James-Michael Smith, 2009


Session 6

[p.119]: Babylon


Moore takes Babylon quite literally. However, in Scripture, Babylon as well as Jerusalem and Egypt function both literarily and symbolically on different occasions—context determines which is the case in any given passage.

[pp.120-121]: Rev.18

Many, if not most, evangelical scholars hold that:

  • Babylon” is primarily symbolic of the Roman Empire in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD

  • Babylon’s fall” describes primarily the coming fall of Rome to John’s original readers.

  • Such a fall of the mighty Roman empire foreshadows the fall of all worldly evil empires at Christ’s return.

  • To try to identify “Babylon” as a literal city or state in the future obscures the point of the passage and often misleads the reader into trying to identify a particular ‘Babylon’ in current world events instead of seeing the bigger picture of universal evil being defeated by Christ.

Session 7

[p.136]: “One is to develop a working knowledge of the dispensational-primillennial model of understanding the end-time events…My hope is that you’ll be able to chart end-time events on a timeline in potential chronological order by the conclusion of our series…Check with your pastor and other teachers. Ask their views and their recommendations of sound materials they’d suggest.” -Beth Moore

Note: A Disclaimer about Pre-mill Dispensationalism

While it is good to be familiar with all views on end-time events, many evangelicals thoroughly reject the model taught by Dispensational Premillennial teachers and believe “charting” end-time events to be of relatively little importance, as it can sometimes force a pattern onto the text that the text itself may not be speaking of.

Dispensational Premillennialism originated with John Nelson Darby in 19th century England and was popularized by C.I. Scofield, D.L. Moody, and Charles Ryrie. Dallas Theological Seminary was founded in order to train pastors and teachers in this view and many of the scholars Moore quotes from in this study are DTS graduates. Despite its popularity, Dispensational Premillennialism is held by very few Christians outside of North America and Australia (and almost no Christians before the 1850s) and is not borne out by a careful reading of Scripture. For a thorough critique of Dispensationalism from an evangelical Methodist standpoint, we recommend the section on Dispensationalism in Ben Witherington’s book The Problem with Evangelical Theology (Baylor Univ. Press, 2006).

However, Moore’s acknowledgement of the multiple views held by others is commendable and should be emphasized.

[p.141]: On Daniel’s vision of the beasts and kings: “Basically, two possibilities exist for fulfillment of this prophecy. It must either apply to ancient Rome or it must be yet future.” – Beth Moore

  • This is a false dichotomy. Apocalyptic literature is much more fluid and images frequently function as both referents to then-current events as well as a broader future fulfillment.

[p.141]: We presently live in the church age, but the 10 kings prophesied in Daniel 7 may emerge in the future. Many scholars ‘hold that the time of the 10 horns is yet future, that the present church age is not seen in this vision, and that the 10 kings will coexist over a future revived [or realigned] Roman Empire.’” –Beth Moore

  • This interpretation by Walvoord—a dispensationalist scholar—is based on many other assumptions. The primary one with which we disagree is that the “church age” is not envisioned. Dispensationalists see the Church as a type of “historical parentheses”, a period in history when God puts His dealings with His other people, Israel, on hold.

[p.146]: On Characteristics of the Anti-Christ

  • The Anti-Christ may be a future individual, but may also be a corporate evil symbolized by a human figure in Scripture. The passages which Moore notes when describing the Anti-Christ are not speaking primarily of a future individual when read in their contexts.

[p.146]: On “Israel” as God’s People: “This could be the nation of Israel (as His covenant and chosen people), Christians, or both.” -Beth Moore

[p.149 and 151]: “The ‘woman’ symbolizes the nation of Israel…Compared in their contexts, they refer to a horrific season of unparalleled persecution through which God will sustain Israel as a nation.” “Dispensationalists understand Israel to be a people of God distinct from the church.” -Beth Moore

  • This again is a mistaking of the modern nation of Israel with the Biblical concept of God’s people. The result is that now there are two “peoples of God”—Israel and the Church. But this is not a Biblically sound notion. There is only one “People of God”—those who believe in and follow the Messiah, Jesus (cf. Ephesians ch.2). This ‘People of God’ is made up of both Jews (Messianic Jews) and Gentiles (non-Jewish followers of Jesus).

Session 8

[p.166]: On Israel and the Church: I believe God has two distinct peoples: national Israel and the church.” –Beth Moore

  • See comments above regarding the concept of “two peoples of God.”

[p.166]: On Paul’s writings: Chapters 9-11 of the Book of Romans contain very difficult passages to understand fully. Paul wrote them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and yet I believe even he found them beyond human comprehension…” – Beth Moore

  • This is an opinion that most evangelical scholars do not share. Inspiration does not mean that the author did not understand what he wrote; it means that God superintended what was written to preserve it from error. [For more on the Christian Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture, we recommend “The Living Word of God” by Ben Witherington and “The Blue Parakeet” by Scot McKnight.]

[p.167]: A look at the “Tribulation” See the hand-outs, “Assumptions within the Pre-Trib Dispensationalist view” and “A Conversation between a Pre-Trib Dispensationalist and an Amillennialist” (available by email request)

[p.168]: “The nation of Israel will endure and emerge from the future terror of the Antichrist…” -Beth Moore

  • The Israel spoken of in the Bible is, again, not the current political nation of Israel. Rather, it is the “Israel of God”—those who follow the Messiah, both Jew and Gentile united under the New Covenant, and are therefore God’s People. (cf. Psa. 73:1, Jer. 31:31, Rom. 9:6, Gal. 6:15-16, Eph. 2:11-13, 3:6, Rev. 7)

[p.168]: On “Christ’s secret return partway to the earth…”:

  • There is nothing in Scripture about Christ “secretly” returning to rapture believers to Heaven. The only passage that can be appealed to as speaking of a “rapture” is 1Thes. 4:13-18. Yet when read in context, there is nothing “secret” about this event—it is accompanied by trumpet blast and a loud shout.

  • Rather than describing a secret rapture, the 1Thessalonians passage is describing the return of Christ to reign in power and execute final judgment. The imagery of “meeting the Lord in the air” is a well-known image of a Roman Triumphant Procession whereby after a tremendous victory, citizens of the city would go out into the countryside to meet their victorious ruler and accompany him back to the city where he reigns in power. This is Paul’s metaphor for Christ’s triumphant return to earth as true victorious emperor of all creation.

[p.171]: On “the days of Noah…”

The Dispensational Premillennial view that Jesus’ words about some being “taken” and others being “left behind” referring to a rapture does not hold up under a close reading of the text. Note Jesus’ words carefully:

37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Matthew 24:37-42

The ones “taken” in the days of Noah were those who were taken away by the flood judgment. The ones who were “left behind” were Noah and his family. The idea that this is referring to a rapture and that believers will be “taken” is actually the exact opposite of what Jesus is saying! Only those who are faithful will be “left behind” after God’s judgment on the world—just as Noah and family were left behind after God’s judgment on the world and Lot and his daughters were “left behind” after God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Session 9

[p.179] On “Many wonderful things will also happen toward the end…”

  • The outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17) happened at Pentacost. It is not a future event waiting to happen. The events Moore is talking about began happening after Jesus’ ascension and will continue until the end.

Session 11

[pp.223-224] On Matt. 25:32:

  • Jesus’ words “these brothers of mine” are not referring specifically to the Jews. Jesus said, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:48-50) Jesus’ “brothers” are His followers. This is something that the Dispensational Premillennial view seems to miss.

  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary which Moore repeatedly refers to is a Dispensational Premillenial commentary by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck—two classical Dispensational teachers. It contains many interpretations that simply go far beyond the text of Scripture. An example of this is found on p.224 beginning with the phrase “A Gentile going out of his way to assist a Jew in the Tribulation will…” This is not found anywhere in Scripture and is a conclusion that is based on a prior system of Dispensational tribulation hypotheticals.

Concluding comments:

Overall, the applications Beth Moore makes in her Daniel study are excellent and many of her historical points are insightful and quite accurate, particularly in first 5 sessions. However, because she adopts a prior Dispensational Premillennial theology, including a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of believers, many of her conclusions about various key passages in Scripture are based not on the context of the passage, but rather on the system of interpretation that she has been taught. The Futurist reading by Dispensationalists of the second half of Daniel—as well as Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25) and the book of Revelation—results in much speculation and the ignoring of certain historical events, which the texts primarily refer to.

Those who do this study should make a point of doing a study or taking a course by other evangelical teachers and scholars, which can offer a corrective to the popular Dispensational theology put forth by Beth Moore. Thus, they will be better equipped to separate the many good points and insights Beth presents from the faulty premises upon which much of her eschatology is based.


Iron sharpening iron,


James-Michael Smith

Methodist Examiner


So I hope people who read this will see that while I respect Beth Moore and don't think her studies should be avoided or burned as heretical, I do believe that the system of End Times folk-theology which she has been taught and which she in turn is passing on through this study is what needs to be "Left Behind."

Bracing for inevidable death-threats from the multitudes of angry Christian women,

JMS

:)

ps: For more of my articles on things pertaining to Prophecy and End Times click here

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This site would be well nigh perfect if it were to air "Edward Irving is Unnerving" which is on Google. Ben

JMS said...

Is this the letter you're referring to, Ben?

http://ourdailybreadbyjoeortiz.blogspot.com/2009/11/renowned-prophecy-author-uses-ortiz.html

Anonymous said...

Ben may have found it on "Our Daily Bread" (Nov. 12) by Ortiz because I saw it there on that date. Nate

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I was invited to go to a study of her's on the book of revelations and am a little weary. I said I would go, but I already know I don't agree with on the issue of the rapture. So, anyway, I will be coming back for sure! Thanks!

CraftyMommy said...

I just stumbled upon this, and I realize it is old, but do you mind if I print it out, with ALL the author acknowledgement and blog reference, for some of my friends? I enjoyed the first half of the Daniel study, but after being schooled for a time in premillennialism dispensationalism throughout my early twenties (my tradition before just spoke about Jesus returning one day) and studying it extensively to the point of becoming a fully committed Amillennialist, I really couldn't stomach the 2nd half from the first video session. In fact, it saddened me that so many were being taught the "Beam me up, Scotty while the rest burn!" theology and never once questioning it since, after all, this is Beth Moore teaching and she can't possibly be wrong about anything. Some of my friends at church have never been schooled in dispensationalism, so I thought this would be helpful for them to know in advance of deciding whether or not to study this one. Myself? I would love for us to go through Kim Riddlebarger's book ''A Case for Ammellennialism". I am biased . . . . I no longer prefer her studies. I would rather study the text in several translations,interlinears commentaries, etc and learn that way. That is just me, though. Thank you so much for sharing this, and in nearly 4 years, it doesn't appear you have received any hateful comments!

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