If I Mention Beth Moore, Will You Read This?

 

Tulip SilhoutteI’m disappointed.

Yesterday I blogged about the mystery of the Trinity. I thought it was a helpful lesson in discernment, demonstrating how good doctrine can guide us in discerning truth from error.  To tell you the truth, I still think so.

At the time of this writing, however, only 28 people have read that post.

Over the past two-and-a-half years that I’ve operated this blog, I’ve noticed that readers flock to articles with the word “discernment” in the title, and you absolutely swarm to anything with Beth Moore’s name. But you aren’t nearly as enthusiastic when I write about topics like the resurrection or the Trinity. And Bible Studies? I’m lucky if 20 of you read any of them!

Evidently, you like the idea of being discerning, but you’re not that interested in the doctrinal work that builds discernment.

That problem puts me in an awkward position. You see, the Lord has convicted me to name false teachers only rarely. I’ve come to believe that discernment is best developed, not by being up on all the  latest celebrity teachers, but by knowing God’s Word and key Biblical doctrines.

We all know that the appalling lack of discernment among 21st Century evangelicals directly corresponds to an overwhelming spike in Biblical illiteracy. Beth Moore succeeds in developing her following because her fan base doesn’t understand principles of hermeneutics well enough to recognize that she consistently wrenches Scripture out of context and misapplies it, all while appealing to her audience’s narcissistic hunger for self-esteem.

There’s a time to expose Beth Moore, most assuredly. My blogging friend and colleague Elizabeth Prata has arguably the most comprehensive collection of articles on this false teacher imaginable. If you really need evidence that Beth Moore doesn’t teach correctly, Elizabeth certainly can provide the assistance you need.

Similarly, Michelle Lesley offers resources on a variety of false teachers ranging from Beth Moore to Lysa TerKeurst, and I recommend that you avail yourselves of her excellent research.

But I believe Elizabeth and Michelle would agree with me that the most effective way of developing discernment comes from studying Scripture and knowing sound doctrine. I may occasionally call out a false teacher here and there in this blog, but I’d rather direct you to good doctrine as a way to cultivate discernment skills. I believe that drawing you toward Bible Study and highlighting main doctrines will best show you how to discern.

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. ~~2 Timothy 2:14-16 (ESV)

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A Wife, Sister And Aunt — But Am I Like The Trinity?

Shamrock ShadedThroughout church history, people have attempted to explain the Trinity. Patrick, the 5th Century missionary to Ireland, famously used the shamrock to illustrate how God can be three distinct Persons and yet one Being. Others have likened the Trinity to H2O (water, ice and vapor) or and egg (shell,  white and yoke). There are other analogies, most of which I happily don’t remember.

A friend recently reminded me of an analogy that used to be my favorite. I would explain that, though I’m DebbieLynne in all situations, I am a wife, a sister and an aunt. As such, I have three different roles. Ignore all my other roles (friend, employer, niece, blogger, church member, patient to my doctors and  so on).

Obviously the analogy breaks down very quickly. And it should for a few reasons. Two of those reasons particularly trouble me, and I think they should trouble most Christians who really give serious thought to their implications.

Firstly, my roles as wife, sister and aunt depend on how my husband, sister and nieces are related to me. Apart from John, I would not be a wife. If John dies before I do, I will cease to be a wife. Therefore, my identity as wife relies completely on John rather than being intrinsic to my nature.

Yet the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit exist independently of Their roles in relating to the Church. They have definite roles in bringing about salvation and in sanctifying believers, certainly, and we ought to rejoice in how intimately each Person of the Trinity works in our lives. But if God had never created anything, each Person of the Trinity would still exist in His fullness, not needing us to define Him. My various roles hinge on my relationships with others, but God is Father, Son and Spirit eternally, with or without us.

Secondly, and more importantly, it borders on blasphemy to compare ourselves to the Triune God. I tremble in shame at the thought that I ever did such a presumptuous thing! Although He created us in His likeness, we cannot — and indeed, must not  — consider ourselves models for describing anything about Him. Especially the Holy Trinity!

God commands Christians to reflect His character qualities like love, righteousness, patience and above all holiness. But He never suggested that anything about us could explain His very essence. My roles as wife, sister and aunt in no way demonstrate the astounding mystery of the Holy Trinity, and God never intended them to do so. Again, the very idea creeps dangerously close to blasphemy, in my opinion.

Many non-Christians dare us to defend the doctrine of the Trinity because they view it as illogical. Consequently, we concoct analogies that seem nifty, supposing that we can convince people with our little illustrations. But in truth, the Trinity lies well beyond the grasp of human reason. Instead of presuming to explain God’s triune nature, maybe we should stand in awe of this marvelous mystery.

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Internet Worship Only Goes So Far

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For the first time in eight weeks, weather allowed me and John to attend church yesterday. Extreme temperatures affect our breathing, as well as causing my muscles to contract more than usual, so we’re pretty much confined to our apartment each winter. Yesterday was unusually warm for a New England January day, so we joyfully took advantage of the opportunity to worship with our church family.

The Lord extends amazing grace to us when weather forces us to stay home on Sundays. Daily devotions as a couple, personal Bible study and prayer, podcasts, YouTube videos, interactions with Christians on Facebook and Twitter and reading other blogs has helped us through the isolation from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Astounding though it may seem, I believe we’ve both grown spiritually during this past two months.

However (and please hear me on this matter), returning to church yesterday reminded us that we desperately need corporate worship. Missing church ought only be done when absolutely unavoidable. Watching a streaming church service may be helpful, but it doesn’t provide the wonderful fellowship of worshiping with people you know and love.

You see, I’ve made investments in people at First Baptist Church Weymouth. I know some of their children, and I know others’ struggles. I’ve prayed for unsaved family members, for God to bring spouses, for pregnancies and graduations. I can look across the Sunday School room and tell when certain people are gearing up to crack a joke. They can all tell when John is gearing up to crack a joke.

More importantly, we can talk deeply about the Lord, reminding each other of sermons we’ve heard together and songs we’ve sung together. His Spirit draws us together through the Word preached to us, and we grow as one body intent on following the Lord. We love Him by demonstrating love toward each other.

The best part of our annual winter exile is returning to church and seeing how profoundly we belong to those dear people. I praise God for the sound Biblical teaching He makes available online, and for my online Christian friends. But, oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like church!

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Hallelujah! What A Friend

Today’s hymn reminds me of Christ’s compassion on sinners like  me. He well knows our myriad weaknesses and failings, yet He gently loves us through each one of them because of His goodness.

This hymn particularly ministers to me this weekend. A dear  brother in the Lord from our former church is, unless God intervenes soon (and please pray for a miracle), is losing his battle with cancer. I thought of his wife and children as I listened to the third verse yesterday, and I pray they will cling to Jesus during this heartbreaking time.

In hard times and joyful times, Jesus stands with us, keeping us till the end.

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Saturday Sampler: January 21 — January 27

Wings on Hearts

Using godly wisdom, Tim Challies offers Seven Thoughts on the Billy Graham / Mike Pence Rule that make better sense than anything else I’ve read on the topic. He applies both Scripture and common sense application of Scripture artfully, reminding all of us that we are accountable, first and foremost, to the Lord.

Consider reading What Does Your Love for Self Cause You to Do (or Not Do)? in Leslie A’s Growing 4 Life blog. Okay, she says a lot of really uncomfortable things — all of which indicate that she uses Biblical wisdom with precision.

I love Julie Ganschow’s compassion and wisdom in Dear Post Abortive Sister, On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Appearing in Biblical Counseling for Women, this article empathizes with women who have terminated pregnancies and gently leads them to the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ.

The arguing over whether or not women should be pastors annoys me. So I appreciate Denny Burk for writing A mere complementarian reading of the most contested verse in the evangelical gender debate — 1 Timothy 2:12 to explain the clear meaning of the verse. People, this isn’t rocket science!

In Is It Possible for Christians to Idolize the Bible?, Tom Olson takes on the current attitude that we should focus less on Scripture and more on Jesus. His article, which appears in Unlocking The Bible, addresses this attitude fairly and wisely. Please make time to read it.

Secular media is abundantly reporting the story of Larry Nassar, the doctor for the U.S. Gymnastics Team convicted of molesting over 150 little girls. The media, however, is downplaying the victim impact statement of Rachel Denhollander, the woman who made the first accusation. Why? Most likely because of her stunning presentation of the Gospel. Thankfully, Todd Pruitt of Mortification of  Spin provides both the transcript and the video in his post, Law and Gospel in Judge Aquilina’s Court.

Writing for For The Church, Lara d’Entremont teaches us How to Be Both a Grace-Filled and Discerning Church Member. We sure need to implement her advice in this climate of bickering among self-proclaimed discernment ministries.

Cell phones bug me. So I really love Allen Cagle’s piece, Deep Growth in a Shallow World, which Parking Space 23 features. His counsel isn’t especially ground breaking, but it gets terribly neglected in this digital age.

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The Unexpected Bible Scholar

OpenBible John 1Chronically, she was in her mid 30’s — just a few months younger than I was at the time. Her moderate intellectual disability, however, left her unable to read beyond a 7th grade level and unable to carry on a conversation that didn’t relate directly to her immediate circumstances.

She attended our Bible Study group primarily because she could walk to it from her home. Since everyone else had Bachelors or Masters Degrees, she never participated in the actual discussions, though she always had prayer requests and sometimes asked if we could sing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Did I say she never participated in the discussions? Typically, she didn’t. After all, we tended to get quite cerebral at times, pretty much excluding her by default (though not maliciously or deliberately).

But one night we hit a verse in Mark’s gospel that, for all our collective brain power, none of us could figure out. We must have spent a good ten minutes flipping to cross-references and asking the teacher what the commentaries said. He replied that none of them shed much light on the verse, leaving us puzzled and  frustrated.

Then she spoke, her voice betraying her surprise at our inability to understand the very obvious meaning of the verse. Using just one simple sentence and her limited vocabulary, she explained the verse with an accuracy that left us speechless. We followed her uncomplicated reasoning, amazed that she was right! Merely by relating the verse to its immediate context, she resolved the mystery.

Proud of our college educations, we’d cluttered our study of God’s Word with fleshy attempts to interpret it, whereas that simple lady read it at face value and rightly understood the Holy Spirit’s intent.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple; ~~Psalm 19:7 (ESV)

I share my favorite memory of this sister in Christ to demonstrate that, for those willing to believe the Word of God for what it plainly says, interpreting Scripture needn’t be arduous. The Lord gave us His Word in order to reveal Himself, not to play hide-and-seek or to increase our intellectual pride.

Sadly, we delude ourselves into thinking that the Bible is difficult to understand. And, while diligent Bible study definitely enhances our understanding of God’s Word by drawing out its richness, we need to acknowledge its clarity and simplicity. Even children and people with cognitive disabilities can comprehend it.

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A Less Popular Approach To Discernment Ministry

Intricate Boarder 03When I started The Outspoken TULIP, I considered myself a discernment blogger because I named false teachers. Frequently.  At the time, I believed doing so was necessary because so many Christian women fell for popular teachers who characteristically mishandle God’s Word and promote errors like mysticism and self-esteem.

Sadly, even excellent pastors who preach solid, expositional sermons neglect to warn women about these teachers, and consequently women (even women in the best Bible-believing churches) erect War Rooms and claim that God speaks to them personally. So yes, the Church does need people who will expose false teaching and even call out false teachers.

Did you know that all but one of the New Testament epistles deal with false teaching in the First Century Church? Neither did I, until a few years ago.  Momentarily, I want to tell you why we seldom recognize these letters as corrective tools against error, but right now I want to acknowledge that, from the very beginning of church history, false teaching was a dominant problem. My longtime readers will recall that Jude found this matter so pressing that it kept him from writing about the subject nearest to his heart.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (ESV)

So okay, there’s Biblical precedent for identifying false teachers. And all too often, it’s even necessary, as in Jude’s case. In reassessing the role of discernment ministry in the Church, therefore, I’m by no means implying that we should ignore the tremendous impact that false teaching has on evangelicals.

But lately many discernment ministries (particularly online blogs and podcasts) have become downright nasty. The obvious intent to ruin reputations and unearth salacious details has become obsessive, while there seems to be precious little genuine pleading for these teachers, or even their followers, to repent and find restoration in the Lord.

We in the discernment community forget that the New Testament epistles typically address false teaching by offering correct teaching rather than evaluating all the points of the heresies that prompted each letter. And while Paul and John certainly do name names, they do it very sparingly (Paul mostly does it in his letters to Timothy, not in his general epistles). For that reason, we have trouble understanding the epistles as refutations against false teaching.

Most reputable discernment bloggers agree that 21st Century evangelicals show an increasing susceptibility to false teaching because of Biblical illiteracy. This being the case, shouldn’t we follow the Biblical model of combating false teaching with sound doctrine, directly confronting error gently and only when necessary? This isn’t a popular approach to discernment ministry, I realize, but it may be worth consideration.

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