Saturday, May 12, 2018

Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and Spiritual Policemen

Before I went to seminary, I naively thought the Christian world would band together in praise of the people I admired. In the South Carolina Southern Baptist world of my youth, we cherished people like Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Henry Blackaby, Kay Arthur, and the then up and coming Beth Moore.

What a shock to me in seminary when I began learning how much learned men and women criticize other people in the body of Christ who don't interpret the Bible or practice Christianity according to their particular brand, theological camp,  tribe, interpretation, or tradition.  

Through the years, I've heard numerous reasons why all of the five aforementioned Christians are bad representatives of Christianity and why I should not pay them any attention - and all of this from other Christians. Graham preached too simply and manipulated people emotionally. Stanley was divorced and not biblical enough. Blackaby shouldn't teach that God speaks today. Arthur and Moore should never teach men.  And Graham, Arthur, and Moore all dare to suggest that a Catholic could actually be a Christian! And that is just for starters!

Shocked and Grieved - Again

Though I probably should not be at this point in my life, my spirit grieved recently when I came across a few articles this year by a so-called "discernment ministry" called Pulpit and Pen severely criticizing and condemning Bible teachers Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. The tone of the articles is arrogant, the stance of them is another Christian soapbox, and the conclusion of them is that Moore and Meyer are "false teachers" and are not really Christians. 

The posts included edited videos of Moore and Meyer's teachings, including many pithy, inserted remarks from the blog author. The remarks attempted to correct, rebuke, and put down the two women. The spirit of the article is not simply disagreeing over some theology. The spirit is a vicious attack, damning the women.

It both saddens and angers me to read blog articles like this one.  I disagree with about every point the author tries to make and see no need to be a policemen to other Christians and ministries.  One of the videos made the ridiculous assertion, “True Christians do not serve the same Jesus as Joyce Meyer and Beth Moore.”  

Good grief. I listened to the M&M video, and I would take their spirit any day over the one exemplified in that article.  

My godly mother has done almost every Beth Moore study for 20+ years – and taught many of them herself.  Moore has helped her and 1000’s like her to dig into God’s Word. I can't imagine Moore or Meyer stopping so low as to waste their time publicly ridiculing and and mocking another ministry that tried to point people to Christ and teach His Word.

Joyce Meyer has never been on my top 10 favorite list of Christian authors or speakers. My including her in this post is not a blanket endorsement on her teaching. For that matter, In almost 1400 blog posts, I think this is the first time I have ever mentioned her name. So it's not like I'm a Joyce groupee. It is a response to an article I read that groups Moore and Meyer together.

I do believe Mrs. Meyer is a Christian, loves the Lord Jesus and His Word, and tries in her own way to serve Him and fulfill the Great Commission. She shares practical, motivational speaking and writing with millions on a weekly basis. In my estimation, I would call her a Christian motivational speaker. And I say, "God, bless her!"

I learned years ago that if someone is not against you - they are for you! And who am I to sling mud on my brother or sister in Christ?

The Bible also says, in matters of disagreement, to not let what you think is good be spoken of as evil.  In every day there are some, who in zealous pursuit of “doctrinal purity” or in the name of “discernment” or “holiness,” become policemen of other Christians and ministries.  They “warn the brothers” of what preachers to listen to, what Bible translations to read, what music is acceptable, ad nauseam.  

Simply put, it is a form of “spiritual bullying.”  And it comes from what Richard Blackaby calls "self-appointed orthodoxy police."

That Awful False Teacher Billy Graham

Billy Graham received much of this in the 20th century from the ultra-fundamentalists, particularly from Dr. Bob Jones and Bob Jones University.  They severely criticized the evangelist because he “hung out” with people who were liberal and did not have correct theology.  He preached with and befriended liberals, Catholics, Pentecostals, etc.  His approach was much like Jesus’ and Paul’s: he would go wherever her had an opportunity so that he could preach Christ.  Some of them even said that Graham was Satan’s greatest tool of American Christianity – and more self-righteous nonsense.  

Here is one example.  Graham announced he would hold a crusade in Greenville, South Carolina, home of BJU, at the new Textile Hall.  In response, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., ordered the students to not attend the meeting (they were not allowed to attend my home church either in the 1980’s), and he wrote The Position of Bob Jones University in Regard to the Proposed Billy Graham Crusade in Greenville, A Chapel Talk by Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., on February 8, 1965. ” 

It proclaimed, “The Bible commands that false teachers and men who deny the fundamentals of the faith should be accursed; that is, they shall be criticized and condemned. Billy approves them, Billy condones them, Billy recommends them… I think that Dr. Graham is doing more harm in the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man; that he is leading foolish and untaught Christians, simple people that do not know the Word of God, into disobedience to the Word of God.”  

The fundamentalists “warned the brothers” about the deception of people like Graham, calling him everything from a tool of Satan, to a false prophet, to someone deceiving others – blah, blah, blah.  

When I was first in ministry, the fundamentalists were trying to tell Christians what music was “really of the Lord” – and which was of Satanic origin (like, according to them, Steve Green, Truth, Sandi Patti, Larnelle Harris, etc.).  One well meaning lady told me any music besides hymns should not be used in church. One of the reasons was that people can move their bottom and sway their hips to non-hymn music, and that can make people think sexual thoughts. (I kid you not.)

It is a symptom of what Charles Swindoll calls, in his excellent book The Grace Awakening, “grace killers” – the drive to criticize or control other Christians whose convictions, methods, preferences, or doctrines differ from mine or my camp’s – and to stand in judgment of them – instead of having the grace, as Swindoll says, to “let them be.”

Jesus encountered this attitude: “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not accompany us. Do not stop him, Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”   (Luke 9:49-50).

Henry Blackaby, an influential Christian well-accustomed to sharp criticism from certain parts of Christianity, writes, "Jesus' response to His disciples must have surprised Him as He said, 'Don't stop him" (Mark 9:39). He assured them that 'whoever is not against us is for us' (40). Have you learned this vital lesson? Are you able to genuinely rejoice in the spiritual victories of others? Are you encouraging those who serve the Lord in a different way or who belong to a different group than you do?" i 

Same Song, Third Verse

Today it is the same song, third verse.  This tendency can arise from any Christian camp. Today It seems spiritual policemen keep coming up in the ranks of some ultra-Reformed folks (what I call folks in the Reformed camp whose zeal over their Reformed theology seems to rank converting other Christians to Reformed theology right next to the Great Commission), or what some people call hyper-Calvinists.  I first encountered the mindset at seminary.  

I remember some ultra-Reformed guys having a long talk with me, explaining how Billy Graham was the worst thing that happened to Christianity in the 20th century, how horrible was the practice of the altar call, and how parachurch ministries were not “biblical.”  These people and practices were not “doctrinally pure” and needed to be “resisted.”  They told me, “If James Dobson wanted to serve the Lord, he should have been a pastor.  God does not recognized ministries like Focus on the Family.” Thankfully, when I questioned one of my professors about such things the following week, he told me, "They do not represent the majority of our students."

These sincere, but very misguided opinions, are often self-serving.  

Today we have more people under the name of “discernment” serving as self-proclaimed policemen.  

No thank you.  I would rather have the spirit exemplified by Paul in Philippians: “It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (1:15-18). 

Paul recognized a false teacher by two characteristics:

(1) they did not teach salvation was by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and 

(2) they promoted sexual immorality.  

Apart from these qualities, if the Word was shared and the gospel preached in some way, even by someone with false motives, he rejoiced that the gospel went forth!  

Critical Thinking

For years, my wife and I have been proponents of classical education. And much of Christianity the past 200+ years has valued such an approach to education. One of the goals of classical education is to develop critical thinkers - ones who learn how to truly practice discernment as they wade through complex, and sometimes opposing, information.

I believe it much wiser to raise up people who learn to think for themselves with a biblical framework (Ro. 12:2) than it is to tell people in blanket statements who to listen to and who to not. Baby Christians need to be spoon-fed and guided closely. However, as Christians mature, we should be able to stand on our own feet and apply our critical thinking skills - for ourselves - to the wide range of material out there in our information age.

I learned years ago that I could learn positive things from people with whom I do not agree on everything. And having a solid, biblical foundation, I can read people who are not necessarily in my theological camp and still benefit.

And I don't think it wise to try and be the Holy Spirit for other believers.God is a whole lot bigger than me.

Reformation Adversaries

Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, two great Reformers, were adversaries who had a historic and bitter feud over theology.  One of their differences was what actually took place at the Lords’ Supper, the Eucharist. I read one account when Luther actually used profanity to describe Zwingli’s view.  To Luther, the doctrine, or idea, of sacramental union  was essential and critical.  He labeled Zwingli a fanatic, grouping him into a “camp” with other people with whom he disagreed.  I can imagine today these two great Reformers, setting up websites to warn the brothers of the false prophet.  “Use discernment, brothers.  Don’t be deceived by this false teacher Zwingli!  He denies the essentials of Christ.  What a fool!  Remember the words of Jesus!”  

No doubt they would have tried to be policemen, warning Christians of the other.  They placed each other in “camps” based on certain tributaries of their doctrine and practice.  And they warned people of the “other camp.”  That is called majoring on minors and missing the point.  It is an overzealous lack of perspective.  One church history professor writes, “How ironical that the service of communion, which most dramatically depicts Christ’s prayer for Christian unity, would be the one point on which Luther and Zwingli would bitterly divide. But, that was unfortunately not the first, nor the last time for such division among Christians.”  

Luther and Zwingli would have been perhaps wiser to take to heart Paul’s admonition, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his master that he stands or falls.”

Zeal is a great thing.  But zeal misfires and wounds unless combined with wisdom, maturity and love.  

People who love God's Word are wise to remember that the apostle Paul shared that the goal of good Bible teaching is to produce the most mature quality of all within us - love.

[T]he goal of our instruction is love (1 Timothy 1:5).

Read my related articles, Room at the Table: Beth Moore and John MacArthur, and Grieved: Review of Pulpit and Pen.

i - Experiencing God Day by Day, February 25

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

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