Category Archives: Pragmatism

Beth Moore And The Subtle Overthrow Of Scripture’s Sufficiency

In writing about Beth Moore and the serious problems with her teaching, I realize my inability to present any new information. It’s not my intent to replicate research that other discernment bloggers have presented for the mere sake of joining the chorus. However, to reassert what I said in my last post, I’ve mentioned this woman many times on this blog, always identifying her as a false teacher. Lately I’ve been convicted that I should substantiate my remarks by demonstrating why I believe she teaches falsely.

Please understand that, although I firmly believe Beth Moore has caused tremendous harm to the Body of Christ, I don’t believe she realizes that she does so. After watching numerous videos of her sermons and reading her blog posts and Tweets for years, I’ve concluded that she honestly believes she’s serving the Lord. Therefore, I definitely pray that He will mercifully lead out of deception, just as He mercifully led me out of deception. I have no interest in writing articles simply to bash Beth. I dearly hope you’re not reading these articles looking for ammunition against her, but that God will motivate you to join me in praying for her repentance.

That said, we bear a responsibility to examine her teaching in light of God’s Word, and to call her out on deviations from it. Along with that, we must help women understand how Beth Moore misrepresents the Lord, and then offer correctives to her errors.  Obviously, I can’t adequately address all the problems with Moore in a single blog post. Actually, I don’t intend to address all the problems anyway. But let’s look at one today, just to begin establishing why Beth Moore poses such a danger to Christian women.

As I said Wednesday, perhaps the most disturbing problem with Beth Moore is her repeated dependency on personal revelations. Despite her protestations to Jessica Lam, she does tend to “hear” God “speak” in actual words. Whether she admits it or not, she is adding to the canon  of  Scripture because God cannot speak less authoritatively depending on the venue. If He truly speaks to her directly, His words are every bit as authentic as they are in Scripture.

Here is her most popular story. I post it to draw your attention to her claim that God “spoke” directly to her. In words. You’ll find this claim at the 3:08 mark of the video.

Certainly, the fact that Beth Moore ended up witnessing to the flight attendant lends credence to the notion that God told her, in clear words, to brush that old man’s hair. But ask yourselves, ladies, if the happy result of the story — which undeniably points to God’s wonderful providence — necessarily means that He would violate His own Word, which explicitly says that He finished His revelation in sending His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4) and sternly warns against adding to His Word (Revelation 22:18-19).

Twenty years before I’d ever heard of Beth Moore, I had a similar experience of believing God “spoke” to me, in words, telling me to do something that seemed ridiculous. Like Beth Moore, I argued. And like Beth Moore, I eventually obeyed, seeing a good result. But now I understand that I simply had an idea, debated against it, and eventually tried it. Providentially, my idea worked so well that I began telling the story, embellishing it as the years passed. I honestly believed the Lord had spoken to me personally until I learned that Scripture is His final word. I’ve since repented of telling that, and other, stories of God speaking to me.

Perhaps Beth Moore brushed that man’s hair because she subconsciously remembered Scriptures about doing good to those who can’t care for themselves. In that respect, we might say that God spoke to her as she remembered Scriptures. But that’s not what she’s claiming, is it? Rather, she couches the story in a way that enforces the teaching that God speaks directly to Christians (or, to be more precise, to Christians who are “filled up” with Him). We are to be like her, hearing directly from Him, in order that He can work through us.

Sisters, it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit brings Scriptural principles to mind and prompts us to act on those principles. But claiming that He speaks directly and personally to us flies in the face of God’s Word. Rather than seeking to emulate Beth Moore, godly women should depend only on Scripture as the way to hear His voice. Please avoid the false teaching that God speaks apart from His Word.

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I’d Rather Trust My Readers Than Write A Successful Blog

Success

Lately I’ve been reading a blog about blogging. As far as I know, the writers don’t profess to be Christians, but the point of their blog has nothing to do with religion anyway. These bloggers simply want to show other bloggers how to craft good blogs and build good followings.

I like some of their advice, and I hope some of the things I learn will help me be a better blogger. I especially appreciate their encouragement to blog regularly and consistently. Although I occasionally skip days (most notably in good weather months when John and I can go to Boston), I try to provide my readers with a daily post.

As I read their suggestions, however, sometimes I can’t help equating them with tactics that seeker-sensitive churches use. This angle challenges me to ask myself whether I see The Outspoken TULIP as a business or a ministry. If it’s more of a business, then certainly I have every reason to embrace their pragmatic approach and tailor my blog accordingly. To be sure, I’d attract and retain more readers.

One of their recent articles caused me to consider the probability that adopting a pragmatic approach to blogging for the Lord might not be the best way to honor my readers, much less to glorify Him. The article insisted on keeping paragraphs down to one or two sentences (preferably one), and writing sentences that don’t exceed 25 words. Additionally, the article advised against using an expansive vocabulary that (horrors!) force readers to use their dictionaries.

The writer of this particular article explained that attention spans in this age of 280 characters are too short to put up with any sort of reading that challenges them. That reasoning eerily parallels the argument that hour long sermons that exposit Scripture verse-by-verse will repel unbelievers. In both cases, the assumption is that people no longer have the capacity to rise to the level of bloggers or preachers. Unless we cut up their food in bite-sized fragments that they don’t even need to chew, they won’t come to the table.

If The Outspoken TULIP is a ministry, I prefer to regard my readers as women who indeed can read a robust vocabulary, complex sentences and full paragraphs. I hope many of them also belong to faithful churches with pastors who fearlessly exposit God’s Word verse-by-verse without worrying about a 25 minute time limit. I trust my readers with be serious about God’s Word to the degree that you don’t require me (or your pastors) to dumb it down. Maybe my blog will never attract a large audience as a result of my writing style. But if it draws women who aren’t afraid to work at understanding and applying Scripture, my blog will be successful.

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How To Tempt A Christian Blogger And Why You Shouldn’t Do So

liberal-religionThe ugly fact about social media (including blogging)  is that controversy generates hits. I regret to say that Christians follow the world in this regard. I have followed the world in this regard. A decade ago, the popularity of discernment blogs demonstrated the fascination with controversy as people flocked to blogs that called out false teachers but shied away from those that offered good Bible teaching.

There’s definitely a place for naming names and exposing false teachers that seriously threaten the purity of the church. Where would we be if the 16th Century Reformers hadn’t stood up to the perverted doctrines of Roman Catholicism? And many of today’s discernment blogs have helped people come out of a wide range of deceptions. As my readers saw this past Friday, occasionally I deem it necessary to write about controversial matters.

But we bloggers learn all too quickly that we attract many more readers when we  insert certain names into our titles. Sometimes we rationalize that, by addressing controversial issues, we attract readers who will then stick around for our more theological posts.

Only they rarely do.

Instead, they skip over doctrinal articles and wait (almost like vultures) for the next juicy essay exposing a false teacher. This craving for sensational blog posts puts bloggers in a tough position. Do we sacrifice our responsibility to direct readers to the Lord in order to retain readers? Or do we put blood, sweat and tears into writing Bible Studies that only a handful of people will bother to read?

Most of us pay WordPress to host our blogs. We don’t receive payment beyond occasional donations or (as in my case) Kindle books. And that’s okay. We blog because we love the Lord and want to help our readers know Him better. We feel deep concern about all the false teaching and evangelical trends that distract people from sound doctrine. We don’t blog for material gain.

At the same time, we invest so much time and energy (and yes, money) into our blogs that we feel discouraged when readers ignore the posts that offer the most spiritual nourishment in favor of those about whatever controversy happens to be in vogue on a given week. Can you see how your preference for more sensational pieces tempts bloggers to compromise what the Lord would have us write in favor of articles that garner more visitors?

Readers, I won’t compromise my blog, especially in this time when social media threatens to silence anyone who stands for Biblical truth. But I ask, ladies, that you might consider reading the theological posts I write as enthusiastically as you read the ones that call out false teachers. Really, the more you understand sound Biblical doctrine, the more easily you’ll discern false teachers for yourselves.

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Alfie Evans And The Arrogance Of Doctors

This weekend, a Twitter friend encouraged me to blog about Alfie Evans, the disabled toddler who died because the British courts refused to allow his parents to seek treatment in Rome (at Pope Francis’ expense). The Twitter friend based her request on a Tweet I had sent:

Could Have Beeen Me

When I was born, the doctors told my mother that I’d never be anything more than a vegetable. They advised her to put me in an institution and forget she ever had me. By God’s grace, my mom was a stubborn Irish woman who didn’t often think doctors knew what they were talking about, so she took me home. As time progressed, her decision vindicated her; here I am blogging, after all! Not the most vegetative activity, to be sure!

But over the days since I sent that Tweet, I’ve struggled with whether or not my situation really compares to that of Alfie Evans.

On the one hand, I believe the courts definitely should have permitted his parents to take him to Rome. First of all, as parents, they should have had the final say, just as my mother had when the doctors determined that I’d live in a persistent vegetative state. I proved the doctors wrong. Alfie may well have proven his doctors wrong as well.

On the other hand, I regret having implied that Alfie’s situation would have turned out as favorably as mine did. It very well could have, I suppose. Obviously, the doctors made enormous miscalculations about my future. But little Alfie may not have grown up to attend college, get married and find useful ways to occupy his time. By using myself as a measuring rod, I subtly suggested that Alfie should live because he might surprise the world in the same way I did.

Alfie Evans should have been given the chance to exhaust every possible treatment. But not because he might gain all the abilities that I have. Rather, his life had value simply because he was created in the image of God. If treatment in Rome could have enabled him to live at any level, he should have been allowed that opportunity. Maybe he really would have surprised the world.  It breaks my heart that we’ll never know.

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The False Comfort Of Pope Francis

Thoughtful BoyIf you haven’t yet seen the video of Pope Francis assuring a grieving child that his atheist father went to heaven (because said dad allowed all four of his children to be baptized), I suggest that you Google it. Not because it should soften your stance on either the Roman Catholic Church or on Christ’s claim to be the only means of salvation (John 14:6), but because it puts forth a question that Bible-believing Christians absolutely must face as we console the bereaved.

Obviously, the pope failed to give the little boy either a Catholic answer or a Biblical one. I’d guess that many bloggers (both Christian and Catholic) are burning up their keyboards explaining why this pope erred in his response to the boy. As well they ought! But I want to explore an angle of this situation that probably hasn’t received the attention it requires.

As I watched the video, I cried. Since my dad died when I was 10 and my sister was 7, I understand some of that little boy’s heartache and confusion. He loved his daddy, and he desperately needs some way of coping with a loss that he can’t understand. Although I care passionately about sound theology, I also passionately believe that heartbroken children must be treated with compassion, and in age-appropriate ways. So despite my manifold disagreements with the Catholic Church in general and Pope Francis in particular, I appreciate the man’s tenderness toward a hurting child.

Alas, compassion never excuses perverting truth. And the truth is that good works don’t admit anyone into heaven. Pope Francis offered that poor little boy a false assurance about his father’s eternal state. Far worse, he reinforced the erroneous notion that salvation rewards human goodness. As a result, he inoculated the child (as well as everyone else in the audience) against the truth that salvation comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis should have allowed for the slight possibility of a deathbed conversion, but then he should have moved the focus to God’s perfect justice. As a just Judge, the Lord deals with each person justly, and according to His eternal purposes. Although we lack the prerogative to make a definitive declaration about anyone’s eternal destiny,  we can encourage those who grieve to trust God’s authority to make the right decision.

At that point, it would have been best to acknowledge the pain of the very real likelihood that the loved one won’t be in heaven. When my mom died, many people suggested a deathbed conversion, and I admit that possibility. But the most comforting comment I received came from a man at church who said, “I’m so sorry. That must be hard.” Rather than offering a comfort that may or may not be true, this man acknowledged that I faced Mom’s death Biblically, despite the sadness involved. His words affirmed that my pain over her probable rejection of the Gospel is legitimate. Pope Francis should have given the little boy that sort of validation.

From there, we should gently remind the grieving person of his or her own responsibility to repent of sin and believe that Jesus died to bear the punishment for the sins of all who believe in Him. We can’t do anything about our departed loved ones other that trust that God will glorify Himself in how He judges them, but we certainly can make our own election sure by believing in Him.

In situations such as the one with this sweet little boy, of course we must extend compassion. But true compassion never sugarcoats truth with a false gospel. That little boy deserved so much better.

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The Tragedy Of The Entertaining Church

Powerful Word“Show people that Christians are just like  everyone else.”

“If we have non-threatening activities like movie nights, people will get comfortable enough with us that they’ll want to come to church.”

“Unless we have games and refreshments, kids won’t come to youth group.”

I heard all these comments, and more, from a church I used to attend, usually in connection with evangelism and church growth strategies.  We want to attract people to the Lord, not scare them away from Him, the leadership of the church reasoned. For a while, they even made sense. Why not make visitors comfortable before hitting them with the Bible?

Sometimes the promoters of such ideas supported them with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Never mind that this passage, in context, refers to restricting one’s Christian liberties to avoid offending people with anything but the Gospel. But in his next epistle to that same church, Paul made it clear that presenting the Gospel would, in fact, offend those who would not receive salvation.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. ~~2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (ESV)

Churches, including youth groups, act deceptively when they advertise themselves as being cool, hip and in touch with the world, only to slip Jesus in there when they can do it inconspicuously. They know that a blatant bait-and-switch will expose them, so they have to continue making Scripture palatable. Sermons include stand-up comedy, movie clips and props rather than verse-by-verse exposition of the text, knowing that the folks they attract through entertainment require continuing entertainment in order to keep them coming.

Contrast that mindset with Paul’s command to Timothy.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

God’s church can, and should, be overflowing with joy. Fellowship halls should ring with laughter, and youth groups should include extra activities outside of Bible Study hours. As someone known for practical jokes, I’m hardly adverse to having fun at appropriate moments.

But when we use fun as an evangelism tool, and especially when we blur the lines between Christians and the world, we tend to obscure the Gospel. After all, the call to repentance can’t be slipped in between funny stories or during a game of Pictionary if we expect non-Christians to take their sin seriously.

Churches must preach the Word, even if so doing makes people uncomfortable. In fact, we want people to feel uncomfortable about their sin in hopes that they will then desire the Savior. Preaching a compromised gospel that elevates human comfort over the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ may fill churches, but it won’t save souls.

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A 2017 Retrospective You May Not Expect

Medieval TowerOnce again, presumably to increase traffic to their blogs, bloggers have been producing their Top Ten lists of their most popular articles of 2017. Once again, I’ve decided not to follow suit.

For a while this week I considered compiling a list of the five blog posts I believe were my most important this past year. Although the one I considered the most important happened to be far and away the most popular essay in the history of The Outspoken TULIP, for the most part the pieces I really wanted people to read received the lowest amount of views. If I listed them here, I doubt readers would be any more attracted to them now than they were when I originally published them.

I felt particularly disappointed that my year-long series on the Protestant Reformation didn’t interest many readers. Granted, I remained indifferent to that point in history for many years myself. In writing those articles, I guess I forgot how long it took for the Lord to wake me up to the monumental significance of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through Luther, Calvin, Tyndale and others in the 16th Century. Therefore I felt impatient with readers who didn’t share my newfound passion for the Reformation.

Since October 31, I’ve pretty much backed away from writing about the Reformation, largely because I know that people are even less interested in it now that the 500th anniversary has passed. Certainly, my posts since then have drawn more views. If I had any business sense, I’d get the hint that people want to read about discernment and longings of physically disabled women more than about old dead guys standing for the recovery of Biblical doctrine.

But if pragmatism is a major cancer in the 21st Century church, surely Christian blogs dare not practice pragmatism in determining content. I wish more people would read my Reformation posts instead of posts that they think might offer some juicy gossip.

As I’ve said before, we can learn the most about discernment through studying the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers teach us how learning and properly applying Scripture leads to true discernment. Although we might think that the Reformation, being 500 years behind us, can be tucked away with our high school history books, the truth is that we desperately need its lessons.

This week, bloggers are presenting retrospective lists looking back on 2017. And that’s entirely appropriate. But for Christians, isn’t it even more appropriate to look back to the Protestant Reformation for instruction on how to discern sound doctrine? I hope you’ll read some of the essays I wrote about the Reformation this past year (click “The Reformation” link in my Categories index). I’d much rather you read some of these articles than my Top Ten posts.

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