Recently, a Pentecostal-Charismatic lay pastor told me that he used to be a Methodist. “So what prompted you make the move to Pentecostalism?” I asked. “Because,” he answered, “in our church today, when the singing starts, tears start running down my face.”
Evangelicals, in what Professor Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary in California calls the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience (QIRE), have largely equated Christianity with experience. In fact, they consume by far a lot more Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, When God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado, Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen, and “Encounter God Retreat” by the G12 Movement than books explaining what the Christian gospel is or why Christ is paramount in preaching.
And this is why evangelical itching ears have always emptied shelves of books and DVDs about “experiencing God,” “encountering God,” “and he walks with me and he talks with me” in the garden, and “worship experience.” For example, “Be Still” is a popular DVD that “demonstrates contemplative reflection” and features Beth Moore, who “has become the most popular Bible teacher in America,” and “some of today’s most highly respected authors, educators, and ministers,” who happen to include Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Calvin Miller and Priscilla Shirer. These last names figure prominently in contemplative/spiritual mysticism, which includes a form of an “altered state of consciousness” called contemplative/centering prayer, which is transcendental meditation disguised in “Christian” camouflage.
Why do evangelicals want more of Moore? Because they have turned Christianity into Eastern mysticism, gnosticism and pop psychology. In a review of Moore’s recent book, Believing God, Susan Disston writes,
Basically she says, don’t let theology and doctrine confuse you when you can figure it out with God for yourself in a way that works for you. Unfortunately, people who use her materials can’t help but absorb some of that reasoning. Even more troubling is that they think they’re doing Bible study when they are really getting a heavy dose of mysticism, storytelling, psychology, and prosperity gospel.
Prosperity gospel? Yes. In Believing God, she teaches that the “primary reason God left us on earth after our salvation was for our Christianity to ‘succeed’ right here on this turf.” For Moore, this turf is your earthly Promised Land where God’s “personalized promises over your life become a living reality rather than a theological theory.” Let’s see if she doesn’t get an egg in the face if she teaches this to depraved, suffering, persecuted believers all over the world, because the surest “living reality” promised by Christ in the here and now until he returns is this, “In the world, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33) and this, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
Thus instead of desiring to receive God’s grace through the hearing of God’s Word preached and partaking of the body and blood of Christ, evangelicals covet sanctification by listening to experiential testimonies and repeatedly rededicating their lives in altar calls.
Halee Gray Scott writes in “First Came the Bible” (Christianity Today, August 2010) about four things that magnetize people to Beth Moore’s teachings: biblicism, spiritual warfare, mysticism, and popular psychology.
1. Biblicism. “Me and my Bible alone.” Isn’t this sola Scriptura, one of the great principles of the Reformation? Far from it. Scott says Moore, although self-taught and shows no interest in doctrine and tradition, depends mostly on her own intuition, and because of this false self-reliance, she is “not able to draw, as much as she might, on the solid biblical and theological scholarship that emanates from trustworthy seminaries and universities, teaching that actually guards us against heresy and reminds us of the hard lessons of history.”
2. Spiritual warfare. The danger in Moore’s strong emphasis on spiritual warfare is that it threatens to minimize humanity’s radical fallenness, and instead portrays man as victims of “generational strongholds, bondage from past sins, or increasing oppression by Satanic influences.”
3. Mysticism. In almost every book or video, Moore claims direct revelations from and conversations with God. She says in a video, “And this came as a direct revelation of the Spirit, because this would never have come to me. I know God spoke this over me as he began turning through a concordance in my mind and I started thinking about one Scripture after another.” “Be Still” is a video that promotes contemplative prayer, a form meditation rooted in Eastern mysticism, wherein a person slows down and silences oneself in the midst of a busy and noisy culture to not only talk to God but listen to him as well.
4. Popular psychology. Moore’s works are mostly therapeutic and experiential, although she tries to generously sprinkle them with Scripture texts. Her works have “a lot of wisdom, but it is long on anecdotes and short on theology and biblical analysis.” Because of her emphasis on spiritual warfare, her main concern is freedom and healing from bondage to past sins, generational curse and Satanic oppression.
This self-help, self-esteem man-centered emphasis comes out in Believing God, where she prescribes a five-point pledge of faith, a daily devotion that involves memorization and speaking out loud, “God is who he says he is; God can do what he says he can do; I am who God says I am; I can do all things through Christ; God’s Word is alive and active in me.”