I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see thee [Timothy], being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that is in thee also. 2 Timothy:1:3-5
And that from a child thou [Timothy] hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy:3:15
Timothy's grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice are mentioned in God's Word for something quite simple yet so very consequential. They are given as examples to be followed by every generation from the time of Christ's death, burial and resurrection until at least His return, and perhaps through the Millennium. What exactly did they do? They taught their children the Scriptures.
Lois and Eunice were women of the faith, the content of which "cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom:10:17). This objective, biblical content which they lived out and taught was able to make their children "wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." Take your pick: brain surgeon, corporate CEO, head of state, world-class athlete, university professor, peace negotiator, research scientist, etc.—there is no more significant "job" than that performed by Timothy's mother and grandmother. Not that other functions are without value; it's just that all other occupations quickly pale when compared to the significance of teaching children the true ways of God.
Let me insert a couple of further qualifiers before I continue: 1) This article is meant to be an encouragement and exhortation to women, and in no way do I mean to relieve men of any of their spiritual responsibilities in the home. 2) I have no doubt some women do hold meaningful positions while also ministering the Scriptures to their children. 3)Many single women throughout the ages have been latter-day Loises and Eunices to multitudes of children through their work in youth Bible studies, orphanages, Sunday-school classes and so forth.
Regardless of a woman's involvement in personal ministry, the most critical aspect of teaching young ones (or anyone) is imparting knowledge of "the holy scriptures." No more, no less. This may sound too obvious for comment, yet it is in this very thing that many women miss the mark. In fact, it is an apparent indifference toward "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim:2:15) which, as in the past, continues today to adversely affect women's ministries in general (not that men's ministries are immune!). The basic problem is allowing unbiblical information, no matter how it is derived, to undermine biblical truth. While rampant today, this is hardly a new problem.
In Genesis, chapter 3, we find Eve being seduced by Satan. He begins his deception by raising doubts as to what God had clearly said. Eve takes the bait, even the serpent's denial of the consequences God would impose, and then adds something of her own to God's specific instructions (Gen:3:3). The result of Adam and Eve's sin of disobedience, as we know, was disastrous for all mankind. Continuing to draw upon unbiblical "wisdom" has wrought further destruction for each successive generation, and much of professing Christianity is now in apostasy due to the rationalizing and well-intentioned supplementing of God's Word.
Eve allowed herself to be seduced by the serpent's guile. Dispensing with God's objective command, she was driven by an inclination toward self and all its brood—self-love, self-indulgence, self-improvement, even self-deification (Gen3:5): "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat" (Gen:3:6). This is "...the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," which the Apostle John tells us "is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 Jn:2:16). She, her husband, and their progeny became slaves of their own self-will, led along the way "which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov:14:12).
While the Bible has many heroines of the faith, my concern here is with the problem among women of letting their own intuitions and feelings draw them away from God's will. For example, Sarai's own way (Gen 16) of producing offspring for Abraham, rather than obeying God's way, created enemies who plague the Jews to this day. Lot's daughters' incestuous way of continuing their family line produced the Moabites and the Ammonites. The women of the former seduced the men of Israel, causing the death of 24,000; the latter violently opposed Israel from the time of Abraham until the days of Judas Maccabeus. Job's wife had her own recommendation for remedying his suffering: "...curse God and die" (Job:2:9). Certainly there were those shining examples such as Deborah, Abigail, Rahab, and Esther; and on the other hand numerous men in the Bible who failed God even more miserably than Sarai, et al. However, the point not to be missed here is that intermingling unbiblical ideas with biblical truth in an attempt to solve life's problems—or even to worship God—has dire consequences.
The 1800s produced women with great religious fervor who nevertheless led multitudes of Christians astray. Ellen G. White's mixture of biblical instruction with her own counterfeit visions and faulty teachings have established erroneous doctrines within Seventh-day Adventism, including the Investigative Judgment which denies Christ's finished work on the cross for salvation. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, revamped her own Congregational beliefs into a Christianized version of Hinduism. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder of Theosophy, a mixture of spiritualism and eastern mysticism, enticed many nineteenth-century professing Christian women into her forerunner of the New Age movement, a westernized religious trend which is mostly led and certainly dominated by women. But perhaps the woman who has had the most adverse influence on modern Christianity was the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries to China, Agnes Sanford.
Agnes epitomizes the chief concern of this article. Although reared by parents who taught her the Bible "from Genesis to Revelation," she was never satisfied with what God had to say. Dr. Jane Gumprecht is an evangelical Christian and medical doctor whose background growing up in a Religious Science cult (Unity Church) enabled her to write a very insightful book (AbusingMemory: The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford). It addresses Agnes's many New Age and otherwise biblically erroneous teachings. Jane writes,
Sanford was a free spirit. Her rebellion against orthodox Christianity led her to rely on personal experience over what God says in His Word. Several times in her books she expressed the thought, "experience comes before theology."
Sanford's preference for the experiential led her into worshiping in a Buddhist temple (which she conjectures resulted in her own demonization); teaching occult visualization; promoting Jungian psychotherapy; believing that Jesus became a part of the collective unconscious of the human race; characterizing God as a "Force"; seeing the makeup of the world in terms of thought vibrations; and claiming that through visualization we can create virtue in people, forgive them of their sins, and heal them, all from a distance and without their knowledge. In Sanford's The Healing Light, she explains to a non-Christian mother how visualization in the name of Jesus can help her transform her troublesome youngster into the child she wants her to be.
Sanford's many books and School of Pastoral Care spread her false teachings and therapies throughout the church, greatly influencing leaders such as Richard Foster, John and Paula Sandford, Morton Kelsey, Francis MacNutt, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Leanne Payne, Karen Mains, Rita Bennett and David Seamonds. Agnes singlehandedly began the Inner Healing movement, with its terribly destructive healing-of-memories techniques. This not only became a chief therapy of many Christian psychologists but was highly promoted by the Vineyard Fellowships, initially by Kenn Gulliksen, the movement's founder, and later by John Wimber, who recommended the writings of Sanford and her inner-healing disciples. Most recently, many churches of the Foursquare denomination, founded by "pastor" Aimee Semple McPherson, have been fostering Sanford's unbiblical methods through Cleansing Streams, a rather costly inner-healing program utilizing videos, workbooks and a "spiritual" weekend laden with psychotherapeutic encounter-group methods.
The inclination of women toward things emotional, subjective and feeling-oriented has not been lost on those who would make a buck in the popular spiritual marketplace. Not too long ago I attended a "Women of Faith" conference in Portland, Oregon. The conferences are the brainchild of businessman Stephen Arterburn, founder/chairman of New Life Clinics, the national Christian psychotherapy chain. Marquéed as a relationship-building seminar, the event featured the "dream team of Christian communicators": Gary Smalley, Larry Crabb, Kevin Leman, Neil Warren, Leslie and Les Parrott and Becky and Roger Tirabassi. Entertaining? Somewhat. Gary Smalley was engaging and had a few cute stories; Larry Crabb did his Elvis impression by singing "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" to four of the speakers' wives. Helpful to the couples who came with real relationship problems? Not in the least!
For a day and a half, 10,000-plus persons, paying a minimum of $90 per couple, were sold a host of psychological "how-to's" to fix their sex life, mate's problems, self-image, etc. The bewildering complexity of the methods offered was compounded by each speaker contributing his or her own "steps" to success, some in disagreement with the other performers, some even contradicting themselves at times. Few references were made to the Scriptures; sin was mentioned only twice over the entire length of the conference and never in any biblically viable context.
Writing for the November-December 1999 issue of PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Debbie Dewart gives her impression of the 1999 Women of Faith conference in Anaheim, California, where nearly 20,000 attendees paid $50 each and 1,500 more paid $25 to watch from overflow areas via television. She noted that
...the presentation [by "celebrity" Christian women] was primarily entertainment directed toward the senses. There was no...intensive teaching from any text of Scripture, and no mention of sin, repentance, or man's depravity as presented in the Bible....Instead of sound doctrine, believers are fed the "junk food" of contemporary psychotherapy, couched in Christian terminology that deceives the unwary.
While this particular conference did not have psychologists as speakers, New Life Clinics and its associated business, Remuda Ranch, which treats women's eating disorders, had their psychologically beguiling booths available around the Anaheim complex. After all, at the heart of "Women of Faith" (certainly based upon its founder's perspective) is "faith" in the efficacy of psychology.
These troubling developments compel me to ask crucial questions of the women reading this article. In the spirit of Lois and Eunice, are you women of the faith? Is your faith "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints"(Jude 3)? Are you indeed Christ's disciple, according to His exhortation to abide in His Word, which He says will enable you to "know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"(Jn:8:32)? Is His truth that which you are loving (2 Thes:2:10) and learning and teaching? Or are you taking in the so-called wisdom of mankind...or worse (1 Tim:4:1)? Test yourselves in this.
Is God's Word unequivocally your "lamp" and your "light" (Ps:119:105)? Is what He says your bottom line? Or are even your group Bible studies mostly occupied with the latest opinions of "celebrity" Christians...or "Christian" psychology? Bible studies ought to be the school of God's teachings—where searching out scripture verses to help interpret other scriptures is the key to comprehending the Word of God. Sadly, in many Bible studies today, extrabiblical sources, personal experiences and particularly feelings have become the favored components in Bible interpretations.
Jesus says of His own, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (Jn:10:10). That life is in Him who is "the way, the truth, and the life"(Jn:14:6). In His prayer for us to His Father, Jesus specifies the only way in which those who truly know Him can live their lives pleasing to God. He said, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (Jn:17:17). Lord, may we all heed Your words and grow in Your love. TBC