Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 16, “How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” In addition to this, in Galatians 5:9-10 St. Paul warned the faithful of the circumcision party saying, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.” This article is to warn those of the leaven of Beth Moore and her teachings.
I have reviewed four of Beth Moore’s bible studies and have read three of her books since being called to my current call. Beth Moore is the founder of Living Proof Ministeries. She and her husband live in Texas. Moore is a prominent figure in evangelical theology today. She has authored numerous books on the Christian life and has written volumes of bible studies for women. Her theology is Armenian at best, and at worst a loose form of Universalism. Click here for more on her biography and personal beliefs. The concern amongst Lutherans today is that her bible studies are increasingly being used by women’s groups in LCMS congregations Synod wide. Is this a good thing or is it dangerous to be led by an evangelical guide through the depths of Sacred Scripture? What is the Lutheran take on Beth Moore and her bible studies?
Is it alright for a Lutheran Church to use Beth Moore bible studies? The wider question being, ‘Should a Lutheran Church use materials that are not doctrinally in agreement with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions for bible studies, worship materials, and sermon series?” Should Lutheran Pastors allow other denominational materials to be used in their congregation? Walther would say, “Now, however, since our Church itself has everything it needs, it is unpardonable when a preacher of our Church causes little ones to suffer the shame of eating foreign bread” (At Home in the House of My Fathers 331). From a practical level, any pastor in the LCMS does not and should not allow any foreign materials to be used in the congregation. We have our own publishing house. Why do we need to use materials published by non-Lutherans who do not receive Scripture in the same manner as we do? However, on a doctrinal level, there are many reasons why one should not introduce foreign doctrines and practices into the life of the Church. However, this article is not about the wider topic, but the specific issues with Beth Moore’s theology. However, the arguments in this article can be made against a wide variety of other materials.
One of the main issues at the heart of Beth Moore’s theology is her view of sinful man, specifically the doctrine of the will of man. In her bible study, Jesus The One And Only, which takes the reader through the Gospel according to St. Luke, Beth Moore defines the gift of free will to man saying that God, “purposely created us with free will and affections so that we could choose Him and love Him in the midst of many options and much opposition. God didn’t create robots. He created humans. We humans happen to be His prize creation and an important part of a work He looked upon and considered “very good” Genesis 1:31). When God sees humans cooperate with His good work and fulfill what they were created to be, He still sees something very good. Perfect? No. Respectable? Yes. When the Father sees a human who is prone to selfishness, pride, and arrogance humble him or herself and tremble at God’s Word, He esteems that person. Hallelujah! Oh, how I want to be someone God could respect! (Jesus The One And Only 80). Beth Moore, in this passage, concludes that sinful man, after the fall, has free will to cooperate with God. Is this true? Well, Scripture says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1st Corinthians 2:14), He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13), The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart (Genesis 6:5-6). Scripture does not assert the doctrine of free will, but rather that man’s will is corrupted to the depths of his conscience and therefore he will never choose God, but will instead willingly serve and love wickedness and the evil one.
Should Beth Moore’s material be used in a LCMS congregation? Well, what do our Lutheran Confessions say about the will of man? The 18th article of the Augsburg Confession says, “Concerning free will it is taught that a human being has some measure of free will, so as to live an externally honorable life and to choose among the things reason comprehends. However, without the grace, help, and operation of the Holy Spirit a human being cannot become pleasing to God, fear or believe in God with the whole heart, or expel innate evil lusts from the heart. Instead, this happens through the Holy Spirit, who is given through the Word of God.” Again, Luther says in the Large Catechism, “For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call, and gather the Christian Church, apart from which no one can come to the Lord Christ” (Large Catechism Creed 45-46). Furthermore, the Formula of Concord Solid Declaration asserts, “Second, God’s Word testifies that the natural, unregenerated human mind, heart, and will are not only completely turned away from God in all divine matters, but are also perverted and turned toward every evil and against God. Likewise, they are not only weak, impotent, incapable, and dead to the good, but through original sin they have also been tragically perverted, poisoned through and through, and corrupted” (FCSD II.17). Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions are clear on the topic of free will. Man does not have free will in matters pertaining to God because of sin. Man can only wreak havoc on the world and himself because of sin. Man cannot choose to do good or gain merit in the eyes of God. St. Paul says in Ephesians 2, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
So, should a Lutheran congregation use Beth Moore’s bible studies or her books. No. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Would any of us willingly eat a loaf of bread, knowing that the chef used arsenic instead of baking powder, even though it is only a little teaspoon worth? Would we trust ourselves to avoid the poison and only eat the good portions of the bread? No, because the poison is throughout the loaf and one bite will kill you. Christ Jesus warned His disciples to beware the self-righteousness of the pharisees. St. Paul exhorted the Galatians to watch out for the circumcision party. We must continue to heed the warnings of Sacred Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Beth Moore begins with the premise of free will and therefore discredits the complete work of Jesus Christ for man’s salvation. If man can accomplish 1% of his salvation, he rips Christ Jesus off the cross. There is no purpose for the death of Jesus if man has free will to choose good over evil. This is the primary reason why a Lutheran Church should not allow any Beth Moore materials in their church. The little leaven of false teaching corrupts the whole truth of the Gospel.
The Next article will deal with her doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and healthy alternatives for women’s bible studies.