The Pen

Beth Moore: Taking the Fast Track to the First Woman President of the SBC?

By Cody Libolt

On March 4th, Beth Moore tweeted the following (image above):

Somewhere along the way, Denny, we have to reckon with the fact that we — myself included — went too far. We put limitations on women that exceeded what Christ demonstrated. We did it instead of wrestling with the tension between the Gospels & epistles. We’re watching a backlash.

In case you’re concerned that this tweet from Beth Moore isn’t saying what it appears to be saying, here is the full context of the discussion:

Denny Burk is the President of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He tweeted a criticism of the book Girl, Stop Apologizing, calling the teaching “both exhausting and damning.”

So far, so good.

Beth Moore responds:

I think the larger conversation that needs to be had is the vacuum that conservative Christianity left for women…

Hmm. Alright, Mrs. Moore, let’s talk about the errors that you see within conservative Christianity and its approach to women and ministry. That’s not really what Denny Burk’s tweet was about, but we can talk about your thing too.

Denny Burk responds graciously:

Great question. Why are Christians so open to self-help moralism at odds with gospel principles?

Now, it might just be me, but are we seeing a little push-back in this reply? Read: “Thank you Mrs. Moore. Anyway, let’s try to stay with the subject, please.”


Beth Moore is back:

We all agree on Christ’s call to deny ourselves. Absolutely. No arguing with that. Fact is, there’s no other way ultimately to find joy and freedom. But we must not confuse that with denying what Jesus called women to be part of, who He called us to be & what He invited us to do.

Beth Moore lays down a solid statement about Christ’s call to deny ourselves as a way to ultimately find joy and freedom. Well said. But it’s somewhat lost as to what this has to do with Denny Burk’s concern about a watering down of the gospel with moralism. Beth Moore seems to believe there is a connection, however, it’s not clear what it is.

At this point there is definitely more than one conversation going on. And the major point of contention seems to be this: What conversation are we actually having? Are we talking about a specific “Christian” self-help book or are we talking about women’s roles in Christianity?

Beth Moore continues. (Hopefully, you’ve reached the point that you’ve found this entertaining. But prepare yourself — this little drama is about to take a tragic turn. Here is where the tweets become *problematic*.)

Beth Moore claims:

Somewhere along the way, Denny, we have to reckon with the fact that we — myself included — went too far. We put limitations on women that exceeded what Christ demonstrated. We did it instead of wrestling with the tension between the Gospels & epistles. We’re watching a backlash.


Yikes and a half!

Tension? Between the Gospels and Epistles? As in —  Beth Moore is concerned that they do not teach the same thing?

Teachable Moment:

When there is a catch-phrase found within Christendom on the tongue of nearly every preacher, yet not found within Scripture — in either word or concept — that is rarely a good sign.

“Healthy tension” is one such phrase.

“Healthy tension” is a concept used by people who do not know how to think in principle. It is a short cut to saying, “These two ideas are both true at the same time, and it’s a bit mysterious to me how they work together without contradicting each other. Also, I am too imprecise and ill-trained to care whether my phraseology has epistemological consequences.”

In many churches, we hear of “healthy tension” on a weekly basis. We may hear that there ought to be a healthy tension between “truth and love.” Or between a love for sound doctrine while still leaving room for the moving of the Holy Spirit.

You may hear that there is a healthy tension between two different teachings found in the Bible. Both teachings are true, but they seem to “pull against one another.” It might remind us of the way a kite flies: The wind pulls it up, but the string ties it down — thus it flies steadily.

Or it may remind us of the tension of a tightrope strung between two poles. If you’re planning to walk that tightrope, you better hope there is “healthy tension” in the rope.

But these are only analogies. And analogies are not a means of thinking in principle. People who know how to think in principle understand that it is preposterous to speak of there being “tension” between two true principles or propositions.

If I love my wife, and I also love my children, I would never speak of there being a “healthy tension” between those two facts. Or if I love God, and I also love my neighbor, I would not call that a “healthy tension.” There is no contradiction between the two. They are not mutually exclusive.

Today’s preachers speak of “healthy tension” when they are confused as to how two things could co-exist. But does this phrase honor God? Would we speak of a “healthy tension” between Jesus’ divinity and his humanity as if they were in contradiction? Would we speak of there being a “healthy tension” between the members of the Trinity?

What is is wrong with Beth Moore’s tweet?

It is not merely that she ascribes to the questionable idea of “wrestling with tension.” It is worse than that. She is not referring to some kind of tension between principles like truth and love. She is referring to what she sees as a tension between the Gospels and the Epistles — between Jesus and Paul.

This is how a lot of bad things get started. (Ever heard of “red letter Christians?”)

To be as charitable as possible, let’s “steel-man” Beth Moore’s argument. Perhaps all she intends to say is that there are instances in the Gospels of women taking a prominent role in telling people about Jesus. The Samaritan woman at the well tells her town. The women at the tomb are the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.

True. Fair points.

But where is the “tension” that Beth Moore sees? Perhaps she sees the role of women in the Gospels as being incompatible with the role Paul describes for women in the churches…

“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim 2:12) seems to be the kind of passage from the Apostle Paul that may weigh heavily on the soul of one of America’s least silent female Bible teachers.

My main concern about Beth Moore has never been whom she teaches. It has always been what she teaches. But there is concern enough to go around.

How does Denny Burk respond to Beth Moore? As you’ll note, his reply ends the discussion:

Once again, Denny Burk takes the high road: He professes agreement that we should uphold Scripture as our standard. Solid juke. Then he reminds Beth Moore that he affirms the Danvers Statement which outlines the orthodox Protestant vision of women in ministry.

And that’s that. The discussion grinds to a halt.

Some will see that there is an unresolved dispute underlying the public statements between these two significant Christian voices. There is what is said, and there is what is left unsaid. There was some give and take. In the end, Denny states clear biblical truth. That ended the discussion.

But what about the non-specific inferences in Beth Moore’s comments? In these, there is, as I have said, concern enough to go around.

[Editor’s Note: Author, Cody Libolt writes at The New Christian Intellectual.]