Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 08/30/2007 by Leslie Wiggins.
Not Recommended. Though not without value, this book is long on popular psychology and short on sound theology.
"It takes one to know one." Isn't that what we said in retaliation to a schoolyard taunt? Yet Beth Moore turns the phrase, using it to imbibe hope in those Christians who are "living" in pits. Having lived so much of her life in one pit after another, it is her pleasure and passion to show other pit-dwellers the way out of their own personal pits in her latest book, Get Out of that Pit: Straight Talk about God's Deliverance.
In a very interesting and gutsy move, the foreword is penned by the one man who knows the real woman, Beth Moore: her husband, Keith. Without a doubt, after more than 25 years of marriage, he alone is qualified to attest to the genuineness of her freedom from the pit. Sure, they could be in collusion with one another to validate her credibility on the subject of pit-dwelling and finding freedom in order to sell books, but I doubt it. When he writes that "she's no phony," I believe him. This book is replete with words of affection for Jesus and one another; it's sweeter than cotton candy. Not to mention the romance she speaks of having with Jesus, the love and admiration she and Keith have for one another is the kind of relationship married women dream of having with their spouses. If you've ever met her, which I have (though I don't count on her recalling it), or participated in one of her video studies, then you'd want what she has with Jesus, too. And, no doubt, many women have already turned to this book and her studies to help them do that.
As with her Bible studies and other books, Moore shares so much of herself that the reader feels like Beth is her new best friend. She seems willing to share anything if it would help another sister experience freedom in Christ. Yet all of her anecdotes seemed to slow things down. For example, in the opening chapter, she wants to drive home the point that we can be so accustomed to pit-dwelling that we don't notice that we are living in a pit. Then, she goes on for about two pages about how she and Keith love traveling. It is a rather humorous point as RV-ing relates to pit-dwelling, but I had to backtrack a bit to bring it together. This happens in almost every chapter. My favorite, though, has to be the story regarding her golf lessons. As I read this hilarious tale, I wondered how it would make sense and relate to co-dependency. It gets there eventually, but reaching the destination takes a little longer due to all the rabbit trails. This is just personal preference, but I like points to be driven home with a little more force and razor-sharpness. She is funny and so very likable, which makes it quite difficult to come to the reasons why I cannot recommend her book.
Similar to When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, this book was born from "something a number of people recently told me," and a subsequent prompting of God to do a word study. In the following lengthy quote, I want to share how Moore describes how one can know she is in a pit and how Moore defines the word pit. Moore writes,
"Several months ago God threw me into His Word to perform a sort of analysis of what a pit is exactly. I plopped open my trusty concordance, looked up every occasion where the term was used, and went to work. There in the pages of Scripture God showed me three ways we can get into a pit and a couple of ways we can get out...One reason some of you nicer folks are in a pit without realizing it is because you mistakenly characterize pits only in terms of sin. In our Christian subculture, we think a pit of sin is the only kind there is. But as we perform a biblical analysis of a pit, we're going to have to think much broader than that. We need a way to identify pits and know when we're in them. So here goes: you can know you're in a pit when...You feel stuck...You can't stand up...[And] you've lost vision...There you have it. We don't have to be in a stronghold of sin to be in a pit. We just have to feel stuck, feel we can't stand up to our enemy, and feel like we've lost our vision. That's all it takes to constitute a pit."
Though she refers to it as biblical analysis, most of the book is based on word study, and, consequently, one prooftext after another. While she says a lot of good in this book, she also relies heavily on her own personal experience, which, sadly, seems to trump the very Scriptures she dearly loves.
The bulk of the book is devoted to evaluating how one got into her pit and how to get out of it. Based on her word study, Moore discovered three ways in which believers end up in a pit: they can be thrown into a pit, they can slip into a pit, and they can jump into a pit. First, Moore writes, "You can get thrown in...This is a pit of innocence--the kind a lot of believers don't realize exists...You can be thrown into a pit by sudden tragedy..." She then lists all manner of terrible events that cause suffering. Using bits of Genesis' account of Joseph being thrown into the cistern by his brothers, and two lessons from Job, Moore explains that the way out of the pit of innocence is forgiveness and faith. We can blame others, blame ourselves, or blame God, but if we want out of the pit, then we have to forgive others, forgive ourselves, and/or trust God is good no matter what befalls us.
Second, Moore writes, "You can slip in...Unlike the pit we get thrown into, we put ourselves into this one. But here's the catch: we didn't mean to. We just weren't watching where we were going." Here Moore outlines what she believes is Satan's basic plan for helping us build spiritual strongholds which lead to our destruction: distraction, addiction, destruction. Something that begins innocently can quickly descend into sin, which will destroy us if left unchecked.
Third, Moore writes, "You can jump in...Before you take the plunge into that pit, you can be well aware that what you're about to do is wrong, probably even foolish. But for whatever reason, the escalating desire to do it exceeds the good sense not to." In this chapter, she encourages the reader to discern motives and desires so that we can begin to realize that sin does not satisfy our desires. We are left with a hunger for more. She admonishes to trust God, saying, "If God forbids something, the sooner we believe and confess that it's for our sakes, the better off we'll be." If we refuse, continuing to live in rebellion, it will mean misery and death.
I think at least one important pit is missing. Moore does not mention the fact that we are all born in a pit. Indeed, we are sinful from the time of conception, as David put it in Psalm 51. We are born into this world in need of a Deliverer. It is this omission, I think, that allows Moore to believe that most people are not having fun in their respective pits and really would rather get out. It seems to me that she believes that people are basically good and really want to be successful, effective, and healthy. Some of us slip into pits and some of us have rebellious personalities that cause us to want to jump head first into pits. But once we're there, we all want to get out before total destruction comes, right? I mean, it just doesn't make sense to her that people would want to ruin their lives on purpose. However, the Bible tells a different story about our fallen state and the lengths we will go to satisfy our sinful desires. John 3 makes it very clear that "people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." And Paul wrote to the Romans that men would rather suppress the truth about God and exchange "the truth about God for a lie." Left to ourselves, we would choose sin over God every single time.
Graciously, God does not leave us to ourselves. After discussing the three ways we get into pits, Moore moves to getting out of the pit. Make no mistake, Moore says that God is the only one who can pull us from our pits. However, she does not explain how He rescues us from the pit. Instead, she spends the rest of the book sharing her own experience and giving three steps for deliverance. In her quest to be "more than just spiritual. Please, Lord, I'm asking to be practical," she sacrifices sound doctrine and glorious gospel truth in favor of a "system" (her word) that works. That sounds really harsh, so please allow me to try to explain what I mean.
In a book entitled Get Out of that Pit you might expect to find a few chapters on salvation, repentance, and maybe even the doctrines of justification and sanctification. I don't expect a book written for women to contain meaty chapters detailing doctrine (but I sure would like to!!). So, it's not that my expectations were unreasonable. But I was hard pressed to find one instance of the word 'repent,' or even the phrase 'turn away from your sin.' In fact, though she writes that faith is critical to the process, she believes all you really need to get started on your path to freedom is your mouth. She bases this on her interpretation of Romans 10:17, which says, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." All you need is your mouth, saying the word out loud, and then your faith will grow. She even included a section of scripture prayers for every day of the week to help get you started. But I've gotten ahead of myself. Before one can repent, she has to first realize she is a sinner, right? Absent is the looking into God's perfect law to see that I am a sinner who has offended a holy God. Rather I am encouraged to look at my situation and decide that I want a different kind of life. Absent is the gospel. You won't find it in this book. When I finally finished the book, I was shocked to realize that the woman who loves Jesus with such a passion didn't even write about His amazing work on the cross. The one event that ensures that God can and will lift us up out of the pit is not even addressed. Without, at the very least, those two doctrines (salvation and repentance) you have a system that people can perform without Jesus and get pretty far in their religious life.
According to Moore, all you have to do is cry out to God (she places major emphasis on doing things out loud to "get some attention"), confess that God is God, and consent (make up your mind that you aren't going to live in a pit anymore). To Moore, God is the quintessential gentleman. "God gives us a firm place to stand, but we have to decide we want to take it. John 3:16 tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son," but He doesn't force anyone to take Him either. God is ever the Giver (see James 1:17) but, by His sovereign design, each individual gets to exercise the prerogative whether or not to be a taker...Without hesitation God offers you a firm place to stand, but your feet are not firmly set in place until you've made up your own mind that's where you want to be. He will not force you to stand. And He most assuredly will not force you to stay." She makes no mention of His grace which enables us to stand and resist the temptation to slip back into a pit. Or jump back into a pit. Showing a frightening misunderstanding of eternal security and what it means to be truly regenerated, she seems to believe that "we can live the other way [in a pit] and still be Christians, but we will live a tragic portion of our lives in ever-deepening misery and insecurity." And that's the whole issue for her--personal misery and insecurity are the main reasons to stay out of a pit.
Finally, the reader will not escape the man-centeredness of Moore's theology. When speaking of a recent trial with her health, she explained that she thought the reason for it was because God missed His relationship with her. It's not like she had been neglecting her spiritual disciplines or anything like that. He just wanted deeper intimacy with her. She describes God as more of our needy cheerleader. You get to decide for your own good whether you will get out of that pit. Not only is it for your good, but God is watching you. He really wants you to succeed. So, be a trouper. Resist and try harder. Rather than a God who graciously moves and acts for our good, He watches and hopes that we end up in victory. And He sings. He is singing songs of deliverance about you, and you'll get to hear your songs when you finally get to Heaven. "I hope it won't be just a CD. It needs to be a DVD. Real drama happens to real flesh and blood, playing out on the stage of earth's own sod but narrated from heaven's viewpoint. We won't just hear the music; we'll see the movie...Because our King is a drama King." Sure we will have a song of praise to God, but even more exciting to her than that is the idea that God will be singing about us when we all get to Heaven.
In several points, Moore chides the church for being long on addressing the sickness but short on prescribing the cure. "For crying out loud, we have cars today that do a better job of telling us how to get where we want to go than the Christian community does." Unfortunately, Get Out of that Pit is long on popular psychology and short on sound theology, which is what the church desperately needs. I cannot recommend this book.