Over the weekend, Bible-teacher Beth Moore struck a nerve with some Christians. In fact, she began trending on Twitter after posting her thoughts on the famous Jonathan Edwards sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Edwards was an American theologian and revivalist during The Great Awakening in the 1700s. Many evangelicals today regard him as a hero of the faith. Nevertheless, in recent years, some have raised concerns about Edwards’ teachings due to the fact that he was a slaveholder and defended certain forms of American slavery.
Moore expressed in a lengthy thread that she doesn’t “get the appeal of Jonathan Edwards.” Moore’s statement came after reading from an old book she owns, which contains a compilation of historic sermons.
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“I flipped open to a page where I’d handwritten the words,” Moore said, “But I have Jesus.”
Her response was evoked by Edwards’ words, “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked…You are 10,000 times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is an ours.”
“I get that Edwards is talking to those who do not look to Christ for salvation but I’m just saying, I was so broken and self-loathing and ensnared in my sins, such preaching would’ve made me feel like dying. Like running away, not running toward God,” Moore explained. “I would’ve wondered how he could go straight to loving someone like a son after he had abhorred them like a spider. This thought process breaks down, of course, because I’m certainly not God and, to be candid, I tend to like spiders. I mean real ones. Like granddaddy long legs and writing spiders. Charlotte and all.”
Moore shared that, as someone who came from an “unstable, boundary-less” household, she was a “messed up kid” who experienced a lot of shame and made terrible decisions.
“What drew me to God was merciful beautiful Jesus,” she testified.
“Yes, Jesus who could warn the ever living fire out of you,” Moore continued, “but Jesus who could tell you everything you’d ever done yet somehow, in doing so, be alight with such holy love toward you, that his confrontation gives you dignity you need to feel like maybe, in him—in his eyes—you’re worth saving. And you run into town and tell everyone you can find, Come and meet who I have met!”
Admitting that she isn’t a big theologian, Moore nevertheless disagreed with Edwards’ description of God holding someone over the pit of hell like a spider, saying, “God uses all sorts of means of calling people out of sin and unbelief. At times, I have very much needed the sternest possible warning from God. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m no big theologian but I just don’t think you’re a spider. And I don’t think God abhors you.”
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As Moore concluded her thread by describing her experience of God in her relationship with him: “completely safe, completely loved, completely known and completely helped to pursue a holy life.”
Moore said that it is the Apostle Paul’s words from Romans 2:4 that have remained true for her throughout her life: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”