I have no doubt that Lisa Bevere and I have some things in common. After reading her bestselling book, Without Rival, I can safely say we share some of the same struggles and passions.
She admits to wrestling with pride, comparison, and fear of man in her every day life. Similarly, I often care far too much about others’ opinions of me, and too little about pleasing God.
She expresses her desire for women of God to be valued, highly-esteemed, and loved. I want the same thing–and it’s a major reason why I write these book reviews and articles.
She loves dogs. Now, I’m primarily a cat person myself, but I’m fond of dogs, too. We’re animal lovers, Lisa Bevere and me.
(She’s also a brunette. But I’m getting a bit irrelevant here.) My point is, even though I don’t know her personally, I’m aware that she is a person–not just an author, but a woman, made in the image of God, and one I can relate to, at least to some extent. Even though as we’re about to see, we are at odds theologically in several ways, I still have respect for her and have no malicious intent behind writing this review. (Or any review of any author, for that matter.) In fact, I hope that it will be edifying and helpful–not just for her readers, but for her.
I say all this by way of introduction, because having read Without Rival and evaluated it objectively and biblically, I have many serious warnings to give.
Whenever I read something true and beautiful about God in this book–and there were such statements–I almost wanted to stop, put the book down, and pretend the “bad stuff” in the rest of the chapters didn’t undermine the good I had just read.
Truths like God’s holiness, preeminence, and strength, along with the comfort of His love toward His people in Jesus. At these times, Bevere does not shy away from declaring God’s character, and it is admirable.
I’m left saying, “If only…” If only she had consistently applied these truths, and the sufficiency of Scripture, to all of her beliefs! If only what she claims to believe about God were not contradicted by the false teachings she spreads!
Perhaps someday these “if only”s can become reality? One can hope.
You can learn a lot about a book by looking at the endorsements the author includes. They show not only the people who approve of the teachings of the book, but the group the author supports–and those with whom she likely finds herself most compatible.
Who has given Without Rival a thumbs-up? On the list are some interesting folks. We have some famous men and women, and others less well-known, but still telling in their positions and titles:
- Brian and Bobbie Houston, pastors of Hillsong Church
- Victoria Osteen (wife of pastor Joel Osteen)
- Holly Wagner, pastor and author
- Caroline Barnett, co-pastor of The Dream Center
- Charlotte Gambill, lead pastor of LIFE Church
- Jenn Johnson, worship leader/songwriter with Bethel Music
If some of those names stick out to you as a big red flag, then we’re on the same page. Hillsong Church, Bethel Music, and the Osteens are well-known teachers of false doctrine and heresy. But there is something else intriguing here. Notice how many female “pastors” endorse this book. I noticed, before I even read the book. I had a sinking feeling that I knew what Bevere would be teaching about women in the church. My suspicions were, sadly, confirmed.
But more on that in a bit.
MISLED BY MYSTICISM
In my recent article on mysticism, I addressed how mystics want us to “hear from God” in an unbiblical, emotion-driven way. They explain how if we just get quiet and “listen,” God will somehow speak or whisper to us directly–in words outside of Scripture.
You can see the problem, can’t you? God has spoken in His infallible Word. The days of the prophets are over. But somehow, the mystics believe everyone can (and should) be a prophet. We can all “hear” from God the Spirit and quote Him directly, and no one can hold us accountable for what we heard, because, well, it’s personal.
But what the mystics are hearing isn’t the Lord–it’s their own thoughts and feelings, wrongly attributed to Him. That’s why they usually won’t claim it’s an audible voice, but just a “feeling” or “leading” when the Spirit “speaks.”
In Without Rival, Bevere clearly teaches and supports this practice. She explains how she hears from God and quotes Him as though He were speaking (sometimes, entire paragraphs!). On several occasions, what “God” says is something unbiblical and contradicted in the Word, as you’ll see later.
Even worse, she encourages the reader to try it on their own, and tells them how. What she ends up describing is something called automatic writing, a mystical practice not contained in Scripture. Do not try this at home:
“Before we go any further, pick up a pen, close your eyes, and ask your Creator to whisper his unique designations over you. Don’t be afraid that you are making up words of love and value. These words are really how he sees you. Be still a moment and know. I challenge you to write down three words or phrases that he whispers over you. When you have finished this exercise, look at the words you heard when you were able to push aside everyone else’s definitions of you and hear what God was whispering over your life….
But because we have a Bible in our possession, should we only read and cease to listen?… It is my very urgent hope that this book awakens your ears to hear. We can yet turn and hear the voice of God. What might happen if we invite the Holy Spirit to speak into the very places of our lives that we have declared him silent? Will you let him speak to you one-on-one? … Hearing corporately as a body begins with individuals who decide to listen. Do we dare awaken our ears to hear?” (26-27)
Bevere tells us not to worry about whether or not we’re making it up. And she takes it a step further by insinuating that if we don’t hear these “whispers from the Spirit,” we are actually deaf and not listening to Him.
In other words, the Bible is not enough. We need more. We need extra biblical “revelations.” What a dangerous teaching to give to fallen, sinful people like us, who are already prone to add to the Word our own thoughts and emotions!
LET’S FIX THE BIBLE?
When she isn’t relying on the “whispers of God” to find her truth, Bevere turns to various versions of the Bible.
And yes, that includes… the dreaded Message. In fact, that’s the one she seems to prefer above any other.
Other versions include the more-literal ESV and KJV, but also very loose translations like the NLT and the Passion Translation. It’s a little strange, isn’t it, that she chose to use 5 completely different versions throughout the book?
Even more strange is when she switches between the ESV and the Message. Usually, when she is teaching something orthodox and solid, such as God’s holy character, she supports it with ESV passages. But in the parts of the book when she strays from orthodoxy into mysticism or feminism, suddenly the Message is there to save the day–I mean, to claim something the text of the Bible doesn’t actually say, or to leave out an inconvenient truth.
I compared the Message verses to the ones in the real Bible and found huge, glaring disparities.
For one, the Message isn’t even written in individual verses, but chunks–which means the writer can manipulate the text and move around the points much more easily.
It also waters down or leaves out the truth entirely; it is man-centered, overly modernized, and completely irreverent toward God’s Holy Word.
Let’s look at an example that Bevere uses in chapter 6, “Gender without Rival,” her chapter on feminism and women ascending the pulpit. Here is the Message version of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (that inconvenient passage that outlaws women preaching in the church):
I don’t let women take over and tell the men what to do. They should study to be quiet and obedient along with everyone else. Adam was made first, then Eve; woman was deceived first—our pioneer in sin!—with Adam right on her heels. On the other hand, her childbearing brought about salvation, reversing Eve. But this salvation only comes to those who continue in faith, love, and holiness, gathering it all into maturity. You can depend on this.
Now compare it with the ESV version of the same passage:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
See the difference? The Message doesn’t mention women teaching and exercising authority at all. It very loosely speaks of them “taking over” and “telling men what to do”–leaving the door wide open for eisegetical misinterpretations of the Bible.
No wonder Bevere prefers that version.
Another dangerous, not to mention irksome habit of Bevere’s is to take a passage or story in Scripture and add in her own “poetic” or “artistic” interpretations. In other words, she adds details that are not in the Bible but fit her own storytelling style. No matter how you phrase it, that’s unlawfully adding to Scripture.
In her own version of the story, David defeats Goliath, not through his simple faith in God’s promise, but through his “grit.” He also has “father issues,” apparently. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is in the tent when the angels visit because she feels too ashamed and left out as a woman to join the discussion, not because of the biblical reason–she was making food for the company.
But worst by far is Bevere’s storytelling of John 4. She writes from the perspective of Jesus, inventing thoughts and attributing actions and words to Him that are completely missing from Scripture.
If we as mere humans are offended by people putting words in our mouths and saying we did something we didn’t, how much more offensive is it to the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Himself!
ALWAYS A TRINITARIAN HERESY SOMEWHERE
Somehow, it seems like every book I’ve read that teaches false doctrine ends up also making an unbiblical, heretical statement about the Trinity.
Coincidence? Of course not.
Notice what Bevere says here about Jesus and what happened during His incarnation (when He put on flesh and came to earth):
“Jesus became vulnerable on our behalf when he stripped himself of his divine nature to become like us so we could become like him.” (160)
And again, confirming she really meant what she said:
“I am so thankful that Jesus didn’t stop with the title of being the Son of God and that he was willing to strip himself of his divine nature and privileges in order to do the work of a servant on our behalf.” (208)
But did Jesus really “strip himself of his divine nature” when He became man?
No. Absolutely not! Jesus always maintained His divinity while on earth. Throughout the centuries, orthodox Christianity has taught that Jesus has two natures: human and divine. But He never lost the divine nature–that would mean He would have ceased to be God!
While He did experience a voluntary limiting of His divine power, that is not the same thing. Jesus never, ever stopped being God. In order for His ministry and work on the cross to atone for our sins, He had to be fully God and fully man–perfect and worthy enough to be our sacrifice, yet human to be our substitute.
Plus, if Jesus were ever only human and not divine–even for a second–that would mean ripping apart the eternal Triune God! (See why this is a big deal?)
I really hope Lisa Bevere reads this and corrects this major error on future manuscripts. Maybe she worded it incorrectly and didn’t realize the implications of what she was teaching. Regardless, I don’t want anyone believing these false statements! God’s glory is on the line.
I am now convinced that few authors are as audacious as Lisa Bevere. Unlike others, she doesn’t attempt to hide her unorthodox position on women in the church, but expounds upon it carefully and manipulatively in Chapter 6, “Gender without Rival.”
With the support of the Message, Bevere goes to great lengths to convince the reader that women ought to pursue the pulpit and have authority over men in the church–despite the clear prohibitions in Scripture against it. She also accuses churches and individuals who “restrict” women from these positions of being misogynous, abusive, and oppressive bullies (137).
Unbelievably, she goes as far as to say that this “confining” version of Christianity should be held culpable for the actions of women who struggle with their “gender identity” and try to change it or become androgynous (145)!
But how, you may be wondering, does Bevere find a way to disregard the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-15? How can she unapologetically encourage women to sin and rebel against God’s order?
By declaring Paul’s words in 1 Timothy to be mere cultural “suggestions” (140)–not infallible commands from God Himself. In other words, she claims they do not hold the authority of Scripture. She also groundlessly explains that taking a literal view of this restriction is to follow the “letter of the law” and to fall prey to legalism.
Since when is obeying God “legalism”?
As we might expect, Bevere herself freely preaches in church pulpits. To manipulate us into accepting her behavior, she declares, “He [Jesus] has never once told me I dishonored him by the act of preaching” (138). (Obviously, what He says in the Bible doesn’t count.) She also says that since she can “feel the Spirit’s correction,” she would know if she were sinning. Instead, she senses the “perpetual whisper of encouragement” to keep preaching.
One of those “whispers” is found on page 129, and it undoubtedly contradicts Scripture:
“For more than two millennia religious leaders have limited and at times prohibited thousands of the church’s daughters from preaching and teaching in the sacred spaces under its governance. Read Acts 4:18 again:
So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
As I pondered this verse, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, Far too many of the daughters I called and gifted by my Spirit for ministry have been held back and denied their call by the church.” (129)
But whose whisper is it, really? Would the Holy Spirit ever contradict Scripture? No way. What does the Spirit actually tell us? Exactly what 1 Timothy 2:11 says: women are not to preach or exercise authority over men in the church!
Now we can see the dangerous way mystics use “hearing God speak” in order to manipulate others and excuse their own sin. If anyone questions them, they say, “Well, God told me…” as though that is supposed to be the end of the discussion.
But it’s not. Women who are wise in the Lord’s eyes are not going to stand for that. We want God’s truth. We won’t tolerate or accept the lies.
To avoid utterly exceeding my self-imposed word count limit, I won’t go into every example of feminism in this book. Here is a list of some more errors Bevere teaches:
- She tells women not to rebel against their elders or husbands, but then hypocritically tells them that they need to “fight” and “take a stand” against traditional, orthodox churches so they’ll support female ministers.
- She alleges that “Eve is not our mother,” and that we are no longer bound by the restrictions placed on her, nor the consequences of her sin. Yet the Bible tells us that Eve being the one deceived in the Garden is a reason for why we are not to preach or rule over men in the church (1 Timothy 2:14).
- She uses the example of Ananias and Sapphira to try to prove that the early church had a different view on women’s roles than churches today. Sapphira was admonished for lying along with her husband in Acts 5, but Bevere insists that the church today would have actually taught Sapphira to lie in order to submit to and support her husband. But no true church would encourage a woman to lie to her elders!
- She frequently “feminizes” texts by rewriting them and changing the pronouns to “she,” even for passages that apply exclusively to males.
APOCRYPHA, UNBELIEVERS, AND WORLDLY WISDOM
Though she ironically tells her readers to depend upon Scripture alone for wisdom, Bevere turns over and over again to extrabiblical sources to prove her points.
She appeals to the so-called wisdom of unbelievers, including Malcolm Gladwell (a non-Christian journalist), Ralph Waldo Emerson (a transcendentalist writer), Mother Teresa (a universalist, Catholic mystic), and even Urban Dictionary (a profane non-dictionary; don’t look it up).
Granted, she doesn’t rely on these individuals for much more than a few quotes or a paragraph, but she still uses their words to support her teachings–many of which are ear-pleasing, man-centered platitudes to improve our self-esteem.
One source, however, that she relies upon extensively is the Eastern Orthodox Church and their apocryphal writings. Namely, the histories of Photina and Thecla.
Though these ladies are found nowhere in Scripture, Bevere considers their stories to be conclusive fact. She retells their tales with elaborate details meant to garner sympathy and admiration. But the “miraculous” events of their lives are so fantastic, so hard to believe that one has to wonder: have these stories been fabricated, or at least, exaggerated?
Not in Bevere’s mind, for one very significant reason–they are considered examples of female leaders, or even “female apostles,” in the early church! (Ignore the fact that there are absolutely no female apostles in Scripture.)
Here in these apocryphal stories of dubious background, Bevere finds more ammunition for her case that women should rise up and take over the pulpit. Through her emotional storytelling, she hopes her readers will eat it up and want to be just like Photina and Thecla–and ignore the authoritative and infallible teachings of the Bible.
TRUTH AND LOVE: AN APPEAL
Let me say this briefly, to Lisa Bevere and others…
We don’t want what you’re selling. And we don’t need it.
We are not victimized by churches that are biblically sound. On the contrary, we are blessed.
We are not “deaf” to God because we don’t listen for a whisper. We hear God every day, every time we open the beautiful Scriptures, and every one of His perfect words is our delight.
We who love the Lord, love the Bible. We embrace what you call the “confinements” of God’s law, and see them instead as freedom. When God says we can’t teach or exercise authority over men, we are glad to obey! We believe that since all the commands of Scripture come from our loving and gracious God, they are what is best for us and for His glory. We focus less on what we can’t do, and more on what we are free to do–free to love and serve the Lord submissively in our homes and churches, after the pattern of His Word.
We know sin is actually slavery, no matter how many times it calls itself “liberty.” And that, if we break out of God’s order and rebel, we will not find satisfaction; we will dishonor the One we love, and find grief and shame.
And we know these things from experience. All of us, in different ways, have chosen paths of disobedience and learned it is so much better to follow Christ instead.
That is the truth. If you love us, give us the truth.
Please, repent of these false teachings, and do not deceive any more women into going down these unbiblical paths. Point them to the everlasting Word of God, where they will find our wonderful Savior ready to guide them in this life and the life to come.
As you might have guessed, I disapprove of this book for the aforementioned reasons and would recommend all women avoid it rather than reading it. I have hope it might be revised someday, but until then, it is CHAFF.