Mailbag

The Mailbag: Questions about the Open Letter to Beth Moore

 

Since the publication of the Open Letter to Beth Moore, several questions have arisen that I’d like to address in today’s edition of The Mailbag.

(Ladies who would like to add your signature to the letter- click the link above, scroll all the way down, and add a comment in the comment box. Your comment will not appear immediately, since I manually approve comments.)

If you’re not familiar with the context of this article, please read An Open Letter to Beth Moore – Timeline of Events.

 

1. Michelle, why did you write the letter?
I didn’t
(long-time readers can probably tell from the format and phraseology), and it was not my idea. I was asked to give input on the letter, be one of the original signers, and help publicize the letter, and I agreed to do so. Most of the original signers have also posted the letter at their websites.

2. What is the purpose of the letter?
The purpose of the letter should be self-evident if read carefully in its entirety. It is to learn Beth Moore’s position on homosexuality in light of the fact that she has been virtually silent on this issue.

3. Why is Beth Moore’s position on homosexuality any of your business?
Ironically, the people who have asked this question consider it their business to know why it is our business.

First of all, let’s clarify something. This is not a personal question like, “Boxers or briefs?” or “How’s your relationship with your husband?”. Those are questions that can rightly be answered with, “None of your business.” The questions we have asked are more akin to asking a politician, “What is your position on the First Amendment?” If someone asked a politician that question in a public setting, we would find it very odd if he did not answer and his supporters told the questioner it was none of her business.

Beth Moore has said repeatedly that she has been a Bible teacher for forty years. Asking a Bible teacher questions about what she believes about the Bible is perfectly reasonable, especially when that Bible teacher has decades of experience, is an evangelical celebrity, and publicly shares what she believes about the Bible on various topics every day on Twitter. Asking what Beth believes about homosexuality is a legitimate biblical question that cannot be credibly answered with, “None of your business.”

One of the reasons I personally believe it is very much my business is not mentioned in the letter. (Again, I did not write it, though I do not fault the author for omitting this point.) It is my business and that of every single one of the 14.8 million other Southern Baptists out there.

Largely because the world has made homosexuality the litmus test of “Are you for us or against us?” the Southern Baptist Convention has, not unwisely, also made it a litmus test for whether or not churches can be in cooperation with the SBC and whether or not LifeWay will carry an author’s materials (we’ve seen this with Jen Hatmaker, Eugene Peterson, etc.).

Beth Moore is the best known Southern Baptist in the world, hands down. I have no doubt that she influences more Christians than the president of the SBC, the heads of all SBC entities, and all SBC pastors. If the SBC is going to make homosexuality the iconic issue on which we judge churches and authors, why should Beth, as LifeWay’s best selling author, and the best known and most influential Southern Baptist in the world not have to make it clear where she stands on homosexuality? If any Southern Baptist should have to clearly and publicly declare where she stands on the issue of homosexuality, it’s Beth. I mean, if any Southern Baptist church member walked into her pastor’s office and asked him these questions and he equivocated, refused to answer, or couldn’t biblically answer them, he would be flirting with violating the SBC requirement that churches hold a biblical stance on homosexuality or face being disfellowshipped. But Beth Moore doesn’t have to answer? No, she owes it to every Southern Baptist to clearly state where she stands on this issue – especially to LifeWay and to the women and churches who use her materials.

But, as original signer of the letter, Elizabeth Prata, asks, “Does the SBC and Lifeway apply a double standard to Beth Moore?

But Beth also owes it to her followers to make it clear where she stands on this important biblical issue. I’m surmising – from the comments of several people who have defended her – that some of her followers are practicing homosexuals or are affirming of homosexuality. If she is a Bible teacher, it is her obligation (whether she answers the letter directly to us or not) not to “shrink from declaring to [them] the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), which includes the Bible’s teaching on this currently ubiquitous issue. Certainly, any Christian must broach this issue lovingly and compassionately, but it must be broached, and broached clearly, firmly, and unashamedly. It is not loving to neglect or decline to call sinners to repentance for fear of hurting their feelings when those people could die in their sins and spend an eternity in Hell. Beth has a large platform and could bring biblical clarity to this issue to her many followers. We are prayerfully hoping she chooses to steward her platform to the glory of God by helping those in her sphere of influence to understand the Bible’s clear teaching on homosexuality.

4. Beth is under no obligation to answer this letter.
Of course she’s not, and no one ever said she was. She does not answer to me, personally, or any of the other signers of the letter. We have also not “demanded” as some have put it, that she respond to the letter. We have merely asked a few simple questions. Speaking for myself, it is immaterial to me whether or not she ever directly responds to me and the other signers of this letter. But as I mentioned above in #3, she is under obligation to Southern Baptists and to her followers to make her position on homosexuality known and clear. The venue or method she chooses for doing so (i.e. a direct response to the letter, writing a Bible study on homosexuality, a letter to Southern Baptist leadership explaining her position, etc.) is unimportant.

5. Why didn’t you contact Beth privately as Matthew 18:15-20 says to do?
The Matthew 18 passage on church discipline does not apply in the case of public discourse in the public square or to asking a Bible teacher questions about the Bible. It is about sin in the local congregation where you actually know the offender personally and have access to him/her. It has to do with correcting sin in the local church and removing the offender from the local church if she refuses to repent. Jesus, Paul, and others addressed public teaching and other issues publicly many times without following the (again, inapplicable) steps in Matthew 18. D.A. CarsonJosh Buice, and Randy Alcorn have each written excellent articles further explaining the inapplicability of this passage to public teaching. The only way to apply the Matthew 18 passage on church discipline in this situation would be if Beth’s own church and pastor applied it to her.

Furthermore, even though the Matthew 18 passage does not apply to asking someone questions or teaching in the public square, many people (including me) have tried to contact Beth privately on numerous occasions only to have their e-mails ignored. One of the ladies who added her signature to the letter mentioned that she has known Beth personally since the days when she was in Beth’s aerobics class (before Beth became a Bible teacher) and has tried several times to contact her about concerns over her teachings, and even her e-mails have gone unanswered.

6. I don’t think the “open letter” format is the appropriate venue for addressing issues like this.
I’m not crazy about open letters myself, but consider the following:

1. As I mentioned in #5 above, even though this is not a Matthew 18 issue, many have tried to contact Beth privately numerous times about various issues and have been ignored, including at least one woman who has known Beth personally for decades. There is no reason to expect that she would respond to this issue in private correspondence.

2. Southern Baptist and/or LifeWay leadership has either not held her publicly accountable on this issue or she has refused to be held accountable by them.

3. Beth has not answered public social media questions about this issue.

4. Beth has not spontaneously/voluntarily made her position on this issue clear.

Since none of these venues have been effective, and some feel the open letter format is inappropriate, what is the appropriate venue?

Original signer of the letter, Elizabeth Prata, has more to add here concerning Beth’s availability to be contacted.

I would also remind those objecting to the open letter format that Beth herself wrote an open letter on her own blog about a year ago. It’s still on her LPM blog and is titled “A Letter to My Brothers” if you’d like to read it. It would be inconsistent to object to our use of the open letter format without also objecting to Beth’s use of the open letter format.

7. If Beth makes an unequivocally clear biblical statement on homosexuality, does that mean she is a doctrinally sound Bible teacher?
No. If Beth makes an unequivocally clear biblical statement on homosexuality, we would rejoice that God’s Word has been rightly proclaimed on that issue to all who hear or read it, and we would offer our thanks and encouragement to Beth for doing so. It would be a wonderful, courageous step in a godly direction for Beth’s theology.

We hope that wonderful step would be her first step down the road of submitting to and teaching sound biblical doctrine in three other major problematic areas of Beth’s theology which render her doctrinally unsound: mishandling God’s Word, preaching to men, and partnering with false teachers.

8. So what if Beth is friends with Jonathan Merritt and Jen Hatmaker? People can be friends with people they disagree with.
Of course people can be friends with people they disagree with. That’s not the question. The question is – does Beth actually disagree with them? She hasn’t said so. And if she does disagree with them, why has she not made this clear to her followers? When someone is a public figure and Bible teacher she has to be very careful and circumspect about her associations and the example she sets. Beth’s followers look up to her and consider her their teacher. When public adulatory interactions take place between Beth and those who have clearly affirmed homosexuality (especially when Beth has been virtually silent on this issue), many of her followers will take that as a tacit agreement (or at least not disagreement) with their theology.

9. Who is Martha Pearce?
It’s not Martha PeaRce, who was one of the original signers of the letter, it’s Martha Peace. Like “peace on earth.” Martha Peace is well known in doctrinally sound women’s ministry and biblical counseling circles. I believe a few articles and/or broadcasts may have spelled or pronounced her name incorrectly. It’s my hope that journalists, interviewers, etc., will make sure they have her name correct since the fact that she signed the letter will be impactful to many women.

10. Has Beth responded the letter or the questions yet? Do you anticipate that she will?
As of this time, no, Beth has not responded to the letter or the questions yet in any meaningful way.

She posted a cryptically vague Facebook post warning her followers about “Bible beaters void of the Holy Spirit” roughly coinciding with the release of the letter, but while this may have been a visceral reaction to the letter, I personally (I believe some of the other original signers may have differing opinions), do not consider it a response, or answer, to the letter. It did not mention or even allude to the letter, any of us who signed the letter, anyone or anything mentioned in the letter, or the topic of homosexuality.

Beth also posted this tweet thread, which may seem to sort of answer the letter, but actually does not. A couple of excerpts from the thread:

Let’s review the questions from the letter:

1. Do you believe homosexuality is inherently sinful?

2. Do you believe that the practice of the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with holy Christian living?

3. Do you believe a person who dies as a practicing homosexual but professes to be a Christian will inherit eternal life?

4. Do you believe same sex attraction is, in and of itself, an inherently sinful, unnatural, and disordered desire that must be mortified?

5. Why have you been so silent on this subject in light of your desire to “teach the word of God?”

There is nothing anywhere in the questions or the letter addressing who Jesus “didn’t love,” “did not give His life for,” or “would’ve refused to be seen with.”

There is not even a hint of a suggestion in the questions or the letter that she, or anyone else, should “shun” anyone.

Assuming this tweet is responding to the letter (we have to assume because she doesn’t say one way or the other and, again, she never mentions homosexuality in this thread), this is a passive aggressive ad hominem dig at the signers of the letter.

Why would I ask Beth to clarify her tweet (which she has yet to respond to)? Well, for starters, you’ll notice she intentionally chose a verse that does not use any form of the word “homosexuality,” even though she is undoubtedly familiar with the ones that do. Why? Why not use 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (also written by Paul) which uses the more specific term?

For those of us who are familiar with Galatians 5:19 and the Greek behind it, we already know that “sexual immorality” covers all sexual activity outside the monogamous heterosexual marriage bed, which does include homosexuality. Therefore, many of Beth’s followers from a conservative church background will take her quotation of this passage in Galatians 5 to mean, “Yes, I agree with the Bible that homosexuality is a sin.”

However, as I pointed out earlier, Beth also has homosexual and homosexual affirming followers, many of whom likely subscribe to the “gay Christian” movement’s ideology that the verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality are only speaking of homosexual temple prostitution and assorted other perversions, not loving, faithful, monogamous homosexual “marriages” or relationships. Additionally, as the letter cited, Beth’s friend Jen Hatmaker has made it abundantly clear that she believes homosexual unions can be “holy” and that unrepentant, practicing homosexuals can be Christians, which Beth has never publicly refuted. Beth’s adulatory friendship with Jen and Jonathan are likely seen by many of her homosexual/homosexual affirming followers as a tacit endorsement of their errant theology. People who believe all of these errant ideas about homosexuality are not going to to see the term “sexual immorality” as applying to faithful homosexual relationships (How could a relationship be “holy” and “immoral” at the same time?), so they will see Beth’s tweet as saying that she considers “sexual immorality” a sin, but not that that term includes “moral” homosexual relationships.

So we’re basically right back where we started. This tweet is not an answer, and it doesn’t clarify her position on homosexuality. It is an obfuscation in an attempt to deflect any further questioning of her position on the issue.

Personally, and I believe most of the other original signers would agree, I do not anticipate that Beth will respond directly to the letter or clearly answer the questions. As I stated earlier, it seems to be her practice to ignore e-mails and social media comments that request biblical accountability from her, and I don’t see why our letter would be treated any differently.

11. You’re just trying to get attention, make a name for yourself, or build up your own ministry by publishing this letter.

DebbieLynne Kespert, one of the original signers of the letter helpfully answers this false accusation in her article Did I Publish The Open Letter To Beth Moore In Order To Get People To Read The Outspoken TULIP?

 

The question we should all be asking ourselves is – whyWhy is Beth afraid to answer these very simple questions that she knows the answers to? Why has she avoided answering them for five days? Why, when she finally “responded,” did she give such an evasive answer instead of clearly stating her position on homosexuality as she has on many other issues? If you took these questions to your pastor or Bible study teacher at church and he responded to them the way Beth Moore responded, what would you think?

Whether Beth chooses to answer our letter directly or not, it is our prayer (and we are praying for her) that she will boldly and unashamedly take a clear biblical stand on the issue of homosexuality in order to help her followers better understand the truth of God’s Word – that sinners may be saved, that saints may be properly discipled, and that God may receive all the glory.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

13 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Questions about the Open Letter to Beth Moore”

  1. It may not be the great one, but we are living in an age of postmodern apostasy wherein the only damnable sin is being too clear and certain about ANYthing.

    Daring to so much as hope for unambiguous clarity from somebody on a topic like the created order of almighty God is ironically seen as arrogant enslavement to the bygone era of modernism.

    Beth will probably at some point make her position unmistakable although most likely in an indirect manner, but by that time, if she isn’t ‘t there already, she may consider her own celebrity to who have made her association with the SBC expendable.

    Or, given the present postmodern trajectory of the SBC, they may (at least for a while) continue their biblical condemnation of homosexuality AND continue their embrace of Beth as long as she doesn’t outright proclaim it’s non-sinfulness.

    Quintessential postmodern practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Michelle, for taking time to clearly explain the importance of receiving clear, precise answers from Mrs. Moore. I pray that all will see this letter as a truly loving way to simplify, rebuke and exhort teachers of God’s Holy Word. A simple response would suffice…yes or no. It is not complicated. No one is “Bible-beating” Mrs. Moore, unless one considers the desire for clear Bible responses to be as such. As a teacher of God’s Word for “40 years,” I would think she would be eager to clarify her stance! I am praying for complete honesty and a zeal to stand firm with the truth of God’s Word in all humility. May ALL of us in humbleness and meekness be willing to stand on and proclaim God’s Word. Again, I appreciate the time you have given to disciple myself and others on such an important issue.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I was raised independent Baptist. I ended up in a Southern Baptist church in this area because there really wasn’t anything else close to what we believe. I got introduced to Beth Moore studies through a friend. I started following her on Twitter years ago because she seemed to be very open and personable there. That is when I started seeing comments coming from her and her daughters that made me gasp and my jaw drop. I hate to say that I went through a lot of her studies before I got my eyes opened. I refuse to bring her material into our church any longer (sad to say I did lead some of them a few years ago). I will say this: Beth has a huge following of fans. I found that out when I taught one of her studies. It was one of the biggest groups I ever had sign up (over 40 from different churches). The last study I did was on Hermeneutics and I had less than 10. It showed me that most women want their favorites and not necessarily want to learn how to accurately study the Word of God. That was my last women’s Bible study. I still teach Sunday school. I do enjoy teaching women and I pray for them constantly and ask God to open their eyes/hearts to the truth. We are currently in the book of 1 Timothy and going over false teaching.

    Michelle, I will say that you have been such an inspiration to me and have really helped me when I didn’t have the words to express why something was error, you had it down pat. My daughter introduced me to you and I am so grateful she did.

    Thank you for all you do to direct women in Biblical truth.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sheila- Thank you so much for your kind words. It is my pleasure to serve you in Christ. In case it would be helpful source material, my current (every Wednesday) Bible study on the blog is going through 1&2 Timothy. Just click the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page. I’m so glad you’re doing the invaluable work of teaching ladies sound doctrine! :0)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fighting for the Faith just published an excellent teaching about this entitled “Autonomianism.” Answers many questions on this and other issues.

    Like

  5. Michelle, you know how much I appreciate your ministry and all the careful research you do. I was about to get my “defenses” on when I read that a lot of the blame from the supporters of Beth Moore was aimed at “our” Michelle. Maybe perhaps that’s because your ministry is well known on the internet.

    Since you mentioned the SBC, do you know if anything has been addressed to them, or to Lifeway Publishing (owned or affiliated with the SBC)?

    Is there a course that can be taken by local SBC members or even whole churches to bring in to question what she is or is not teaching as it relates to sins addressed in Scripture?

    Concerning the decision-making roles of SBC and Lifeway, isn’t it obvious for us to wonder if it is a “follow the money trail” sort of thing that factors in? There’s a lot of money made from those books.

    Wouldn’t be the first time for Christians and even self-perceived sound doctrinal churches in various denominations to be accepting of things they shouldn’t be in order not to make waves or lose money. Shame to write that, but we all know it’s true.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Robin.

      “Since you mentioned the SBC, do you know if anything has been addressed to them, or to Lifeway Publishing (owned or affiliated with the SBC)?”

      Yes, we are encouraging every Southern Baptist (especially pastors/leaders) to contact the president of the SBC (JD Greear), LifeWay, Russell Moore/ERLC, and anyone else in leadership requesting that they hold Beth accountable on this.

      “Is there a course that can be taken by local SBC members or even whole churches to bring in to question what she is or is not teaching as it relates to sins addressed in Scripture?”

      Yes, it’s very much going to have to be a grassroots, “bottom up” effort, since SBC leadership isn’t doing anything from the “top down.” Churches/pastors/individuals can contact SBC leadership as I mentioned above, contact their local SBC associations, and help get the word out to fellow Southern Baptists. There is also the possibility of presenting a resolution at next year’s convention, but since resolutions have to be submitted to the resolutions committee for approval before they can be presented to the entire convention, I doubt that will go anywhere. They will decline to approve it so it can’t be presented for a vote.

      Liked by 1 person

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