I recently finished Beth Moore’s Bible study, The Quest. Going into the study, and even now, my feelings are fairly neutral towards her even though this post is mostly a critique of her book. I’ve heard people demonize her as a false teacher (based on women not being leaders in the church and how outspoken she is about hearing directly from God). I’m not siding with those views, and at the end of the day, I have to tip my hat to someone who will devote her life towards ministry. We can’t get everything right, but we can try our best to be a light, and any attempt at that is commendable.
My main issue with the book is that the theme of the book is about asking questions in order to become closer to God, but her questions are centered around our personal experience with God instead of grappling to understand Christianity as a whole. Asking questions and digging to understand our faith has been a theme in my life. In 3rd grade, I watched the movie “Joseph” and saw how his faith in the midst of horrible trials never wavered, and I stayed up late nights wondering to myself how much faith you needed in order to be saved. I knew that by faith I was saved, but faith wasn’t something I could quantify. How many faiths did it take to get to heaven? How did I know if I had enough? If the standard was Joseph, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to withstand what he had gone through. Did I truly believe, or was Christianity a talisman that I clung to in order to escape an eternity in hell?
I remember one day begging my mom not to go to work because I was terrified that if I died that night, I might not get to heaven. From that moment, it was constantly on my mind, and I struggled to understand Christianity daily. Finally, in the 5th grade my parents sent me to a Christian school, and I slowly grew in understanding and became more confident in my faith. After graduating college, my desire was to help other young people think. The most important thing we can do in life is to think and to ponder and to figure out our salvation. Ravi Zacharias’s slogan of “let my people think” is music to my ears and is the kind of teaching I want to hear.
I was excited to hear Beth Moore also emphasize the importance of asking questions instead of accepting Christianity by blind faith (because when our foundation is shaky, it is easy for it to be toppled over at the smallest opposition), but each time she mentioned asking questions, it always veered off into questioning situations we’ve experienced that we never quite understood. It was me-centered in our relationship with God instead of simply trying to know God and search our hearts and minds for what we believe and why. On page 142 of The Quest, she talks about questioning why injustice and evil are allowed in the world and says, “With an earnest heart and respect for His sovereignty and supremacy, I think those kinds of questions are welcomed. They are not questioning His character. They are cries of a finite lover of Jesus begging to understand His higher ways.” I am fine with that statement, but then, as usual, she goes on to describe how she struggled with unanswered questions in the face of a friend’s sudden, accidental death. Instead of investigating a valid question of God’s nature and free will, she focuses on seeking a resolution to that specific circumstance.
I don’t discredit asking God why certain things have happened in our lives or why atrocities occur on a global scale. Job asked those same questions, I’ve asked those questions, and anyone who has ever lived has likely asked God those questions. However, in a quest to know God better, let’s turn our attention on getting to know Him.
Jodie Jensen from Pulpit and Pen critiqued Beth Moore’s The Quest and said:
“When seeking intimacy, we have a tendency to desire our own benefits, and this is not a healthy way to acquire intimacy in any relationship. Our goal should be to understand God better, get to know HIM better, not find all of the Bible passages which lay out how forgiven we are, how much we are loved, how to attain peace. Rather than being constantly aware of what we lack, we are to be satisfied with the fullness that Jesus has given us, growing closer to Him as we learn more about Him…
Ladies, we have to STOP treating our relationship with God as an endeavor to feel better, have our hearts filled, or have our emotional needs satisfied. God isn’t a movie star, staring adoringly in our direction so we can lock eyes and croon “You complete me”. He is the ALMIGHTY GOD, worthy of our honor, owing nothing to us. Instead, we owe to him every ounce of our efforts to glorify Him in our lifestyle, our trust in Him, our actions, and our contentment in who He is. Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp and their recommended evangelical motivational speakers will help you focus on YOU. Studying God’s Word will help you better understand and draw nearer to HIM.”
Ya-esh! I couldn’t agree with that more. As I was reading through this book and becoming increasingly more frustrated, I about threw in the towel when I went through one of her 5 leading questions we can ask God in our quest for intimacy, “what do you want?” There were two sections where she has the reader journal about the desires of their heart, asking God what you really want with Beth Moore’s encouragement, “You know He can do anything. You know all authority has been given to Him. You know He loves you completely and unconditionally… He knows your heart intimately. He knows your fears and your dreams… If you know based on the Word that what you’re asking is God’s will, be bold enough to thank Him in advance. It’s coming.”
A while ago, I wrote that my deepest desire is to adopt someday. Clearly, that desire isn’t evil, and we know that God supports adoption. We could even say that His will is for followers of Christ to take care of orphans. But I believe God has challenged me to surrender that, to still obey, and to still love him even if that never comes to fruition. He never promised me more children, like he did others in the Old Testament. Foster parents know that it is extremely dangerous thinking to read permanency in a temporary situation, and I’m being asked to follow a thought process that I know I shouldn’t be entertaining.
I’ve already dealt with this question, and it did not end in God giving me what I want. It ended in surrender. And yet, here I was, trying to be a good Bible study participant, staring at this open page being asked to persist in my line of questioning over a topic that I’ve painfully put to rest. In my book, I scribbled my response, “I am so stinking frustrated with this constant question. After all of this, why are we still going back to what our simple, one perspective minds want from God? This question does not need to be a focus in my walk with God. I am so done with this!”
I eventually finished the book, and I can’t say I’ll be recommending it. I don’t hate it, but there were a couple things that definitely rubbed me the wrong way. At the end of it, I’m more resolute in that Christian women need to be thinking people. It’s okay to critique books we’re reading, even if they’re written by a Christian author. And it’s okay to disagree and move on.