Bible study author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley has done a stellar job of delving into the teaching of conservative evangelical Kay Arthur, who is held up as a “great Bible teacher.” Michelle begins with this clarification:
I want to be clear from the outset of this article that, while I regret that I cannot endorse Kay Arthur’s materials or conferences, I do not believe the content of her written or verbal teaching contains or promotes false doctrine, and I am not labeling her a false teacher or a heretic.
By Michelle Lesley
Kay Arthur might be considered, and deservedly so, one of the “founding mothers” of women’s Bible study. Kay and her husband Jack served as missionaries in Mexico for 3½ years before returning to the United States and founding Precept Ministries International in 1970. The teaching goal of Precept is to instruct Christians in the Bible “book by book, verse by verse, using the Inductive Bible Study method.” Now in her eighties, Kay is still going strong. She has written numerous books, teaches all over the world, and hosts Precepts for Life, a daily television, radio, and on-line Bible study program.¹
Kay seems to be a lovely person with an almost tangible passion for people to study and rightly handle the word of God. She is a fine role model for younger women, showcasing growth to godly maturity, and a solid example to older women that serving Christ is something we never retire from. Kay comports herself like a lady and exudes warmth, grace, kindness, and a sort of motherly love towards those under her teaching. She is the kind of woman I aspire to be, and I would very much like to be able to wholeheartedly endorse her.
Because of the plethora of false teachers in the women’s Bible study realm, and due to other issues in question, several readers have written to me asking if I recommend Kay Arthur as a trustworthy Bible study author and speaker. With most teachers this answer comes easily, because there is ample evidence of the teacher’s Bible twisting (or doctrinal soundness) and/or sinful (or godly) behavior. Kay’s case, however, is more complex, so I would like to address the issues which are components in whether or not I endorse a particular teacher.
In order to address these issues, on top of my usual research, I have attempted to contact Kay Arthur with some questions (at this time she has not responded). I have also interviewed a doctrinally sound, discerning source who has been a Precept leader for several years and taught many of Kay Arthur’s studies. She has sat under Kay Arthur’s teaching in person at various Precept meetings and conferences, and has interacted with many other Precept leaders. For personal reasons, my source prefers to remain anonymous, so I will refer to her as “Jill.”
When evaluating a female teacher or author to determine whether or not I will recommend her, I research her teaching and habits in three main areas: her doctrine and hermeneutics, her ministry partnerships and associations, and her behavior. Another major consideration is whether or not any problems in these three areas are current, ongoing, and unrepentant, or if there were issues of sin in these areas in the past that have since been repented of and corrected. We need to remember that even the godliest teacher is still a human being who sins as well as a Christian who learns God’s word and grows to maturity over the span of her lifetime. The issue is not whether a teacher has ever sinned in these areas, but whether a teacher knowingly persists in sin or is teachable, repents, and avoids sin when it is pointed out to her. Let’s examine Kay Arthur’s teaching and habits in these three areas.
Doctrine and Hermeneutics
Kay Arthur has been publicly teaching the Bible for nearly fifty years. That’s an extremely large body of teaching, books, and materials. Yet citations of biblical error in her doctrine and teaching from credible sources are nearly non-existent in comparison.
The one major red flag that has been raised by discerning sources about Kay’s doctrine is her endorsement of Neil Anderson’s books The Bondage Breaker and Victory Over the Darkness. Neil Anderson teaches an unbiblical view of spiritual warfare, and Kay should not have endorsed his books. It was unwise, undiscerning, and may indicate that she, herself, holds to an unbiblical doctrine of spiritual warfare, especially if she has espoused those teachings in her own lectures and materials.
That being said, Id like to point out that Victory Over the Darkness was published in 2000. Sixteen years ago. The Bondage Breaker was originally published in 1990, and a revised, second edition of the book came out in 2000. Does the revised edition of the book still carry Kay’s endorsement? Does she currently teach the aberrant view of spiritual warfare Anderson is known for? In the last sixteen years has Kay grown in her discernment and knowledge of the Bible to the point that she would never consider endorsing Andersons books now? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I’m not seeing any accusations out there that Kay is currently teaching unbiblical doctrine concerning spiritual warfare or any other essential tenet of Christianity.
“The association with Neil Anderson…I am completely unaware of that. I will say in regard to her teaching on spiritual warfare that I have led the Precept Ephesians study and read the book Lord, Is It Warfare? and I see nothing out of line in either of those. She is very clear that we are not to engage the enemy (my words, not hers). That our line of defense is the sword of the Spirit – the Bible – just like Jesus defense against Satan when tempted was the Word. She brought out passages like Jude 9 where even the archangel Michael didn’t rebuke the devil.” Continue reading