Nearly three years ago, popular SBC Bible teacher Beth Moore said that she “had no idea that if you felt God had spoken something specific to you, you’d be labeled a mystic.”
Now once again Moore shares her bewilderment over those who raise a skeptical eyebrow when a professing Christian celebrates his or her experience as if not greater than, at least equal to, the objective Word of God.
Writing at her Living Proof Ministries Blog in an article titled, “Scriptural or Experiential: Can the Categories Never Coexist?” Moore writes,
But I’ll share with you the teaching in that first Bible doctrine class that I couldn’t accept for long. I couldn’t accept that a believer must fall cleanly into one category or the other: the Scriptural or the experiential. Of course, that’s why I had critics counting me among the experiential crowd 15 years ago but I’ll be forthright with you. The criticism, no matter how mean-spirited it got, was worth enduring because I was not about to let somebody convince me that Scripture and experience were always mutually exclusive. I wanted them both. I wanted to thrill to the Word of God with everything in me AND I wanted to experience the presence of Christ as palpably as He’d permit me.
Curiously, this sounds keenly similar to what Sarah Young wrote in the forward to the first edition of her book, Jesus Calling:
I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. (Source)
So many people want more than what God has graciously given in His Word. Such a thought ought instead ring as nearly unthinkable in our minds.
Nevertheless, Moore continues,
I would not deny for a moment that there are people in the wide stretch of Christendom who rely strictly on experience and rarely if ever open their Bibles. I also have no doubt that many study their Bibles but never have what they’d qualify as an “experiential” encounter with the Holy Spirit. But there is another category and it is chock full of people who have devoted their entire lives to the study of Scripture and could also testify to rich experiential encounters with Christ. They are not the either-or’s. They have known both.
They are people who would not dream of giving their experience the same weight as the Scriptures. They know full well that it doesn’t mean everything. But must it mean nothing??
Does the Word of God itself not validate experiencing the presence of God?
Moore’s question, then, is worth considering: “Does the Word of God itself not validate experiencing the presence of God?”
Let us ask it this way in order for Moore to better understand the concerns of the skeptical critics: “Can the Word of God be invalidated by one’s experience, or lack thereof?”
In other words, if one’s experience, or lack of one, does not seem to bolster the truths that are claimed in the Bible, which is to be trusted, one’s experience or the Word?
Jesus said as He prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them in the truth. Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). He also said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Jesus did not say, “Sanctify them by their experience. Subjective feelings and anecdotes are truth.”
In her post, Moore goes on to ask a series of questions that she fails to support with scripture. Questions such as:
In those moments when we’re brokenhearted and bewildered and we suddenly feel embraced by His love and assured of our chosenness, are we not experiencing God?
In our worship when we feel moved inside with the sense that His thick presence around us in that place is a greater reality than anything we can see or touch, are we not experiencing God?
Again, then, let us ask this of Moore: In those moments when one is brokenhearted and does not “feel embraced by His love” (indeed, what does that even mean?) does that mean that the omnipresent God is not near? Does it mean that His promises to His children for provision and protection and care are not true?
If, as one worships the Lord corporately or individually and does not “sense His thick presence around” (again, what does that mean?) does it mean that He is absent?
Beth Moore offers a prophecy of coming ‘outpouring’
at James Robison’s Awaken conference.
Moore describes these feelings and senses and the “thick presence” without offering scripture to support such notions. Yet a Christian may worship the Lord, and worship Him rightly in spirit and in truth, without feeling a stifling, enveloping “presence.” The lack of such a thing does not prove God’s absence, nor does it invalidate the Christian’s worship.
Beth Moore continues her lament by briefly describing what is known across the Internet as “the hairbrush story.” She writes,
No story I’ve ever told publicly has gotten me in more trouble than the one that occurred in an airport many years ago when I felt a profuse stirring of the Holy Spirit to go over to an old man in a wheelchair and brush his tangled, matted hair. Nothing has thrown me into the “experiential” category with my critics more than that story. But here’s the ironic part: I had my Bible wide open in my lap actively memorizing John 1 at the exact moment the Holy Spirit moved on me to stand up and walk over to that man. In fact, I was nearly annoyed by the inconvenience of having to get up and go serve somebody while I was busy with my memory work. They weren’t two separate things. They were happening simultaneously.
To be clear, the fact that Moore’s Bible was open on her lap does not validate anything. Joel Osteen waves a Bible in the air every week, but it is more than evident that he is utterly ignorant of its teaching. Beth Moore is of course more biblically literate than Osteen, but it has been demonstrated that she is quite adept at twisting the truths and teachings of scripture rather than presenting them clearly and rightly, and thus her deception may perhaps have the potential to be more dangerous than the ignorance of Osteen.
Yet for a moment one might concede that Moore simply, for whatever reason, inexplicably felt the need to brush an odd man’s hair. But is that really the way she tells the story? Is it simply that “the Holy Spirit moved on” her to perform this act? Actually, no. Beth Moore claims that “as clear as I’m talking to you now, the Lord spoke to my heart…and I’m telling you word for word these words came into my heart: ‘I’m not asking you to witness to him, I’m asking you to brush his hair…'”
In spite of Beth Moore’s attempt to downplay in this blog post her so-called “experiences” with God, it remains that she fails to adequately address her many claims of direct communication with the Lord. What about her playdate with God at the zoo? Or the erroneous “twelfth month redemption” teaching? Or her prophecies of unity? Or her dreams? Or hervisions?
Moore concludes her post with these words:
I write these words to you today who have devoted your lives to the study of God’s inspired Word and make it your daily bread. You don’t have to choose between the Scriptural and the “experiential.” You can have a devout study life and esteem the Bible more than any other tangible possession on this earth and you can also validly experience the presence and palpable activity of the Holy Spirit. You don’t need human permission to do so. You have the Bible’s permission.
Don’t let anybody take that right from you.
“You have the Bible’s permission,” she writes. Permission to add to God’s Word? Permission to claim and teach that the Lord has said things personally to us that actually contradict His Word? Where is that in the Bible, Ms. Moore? Or is that one of those instances where one simply must rely on “experience”?
Rather than relying upon Beth Moore’s desire for experience, the Christian would do well to remember the words of the Apostle Peter, whose experience witnessing the transfiguration no doubt far exceeded any hair-detangling murmur in Beth Moore’s heart:
For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’—and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
(2 Peter 1:17–21)
The Christian who seeks to have subjective experience trump, or even complement, the clear, revealed, objective truth of scripture is one who necessarily must spend more time in that scripture. There one will find words that will never pass away (Matt 24:35; Luke 21:33), and a God who does not change or waver (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). There, and there alone, will one find the abiding and living truth of God.
God Speaks, but How?
Why Beth Moore and Not Me? The Danger of Claiming to Receive Direct Revelation
Where Is Beth Moore’s Husband?