Recently GES received an inquiry about our thoughts concerning Kay Arthur and her ministry, which is known as Precepts Ministries International. I feel fairly confident there are different opinions on this matter, but in answering the inquiry I will be glad to give mine.
Kay Arthur’s ministry is very popular and successful. She has written numerous books and is a much sought after speaker. Perhaps she is most known for her emphasis on studying the Bible. Many of her books have that as their aim as they teach students to study the Bible in an inductive manner.
My contact with Kay Arthur’s writings revolves around what is known as PWOC—Protestant Women of the Chapel. When I was a chaplain in the army, this was the program that Protestant women who were associated with military chapels joined. They would meet together for various activities, including studying the Bible. Occasionally I would be asked by such a group to lead a Bible study, since I was the pastor of the chapel. Many times the ladies told me that they were studying or had just completed a study by Kay Arthur.
Almost without exception, the ladies spoke highly of the material. It was also clear that the things Kay Arthur wrote had an impact on the desire of the women to come to Bible study. What was most notable was that this excitement went across denominational lines. In a military chapel there are people from all different kinds of denominations. Arthur was able to reach ladies from all types of theological backgrounds.
Her popularity probably came as the result of a couple of reasons. First, her life story is captivating. She has been through many difficulties and comes across as a very genuine person. People look at her as authentic. In addition, she obviously writes and speaks from a woman’s perspective. It is just human nature that she would be able to reach out to other women who share similar experiences.
I think another reason for her appeal is that the material is not dogmatic. Her theology is inclusive. As a result, she is able to share a stage with Arminians, Calvinists, Charismatics, prosperity theology teachers, and even Catholics. This was one of the reasons she was popular in military chapels.
Some have a problem with the fact that men attend her conferences. Those who have a problem with it feel that the Bible forbids such teaching. I must admit that I do not have a problem with this aspect. I believe the prohibition against women teaching men applies to the meeting of a local church. It does not involve Bible conferences.
For me, the biggest problem with Kay Arthur’s ministry is her theology. The doctrinal statement of her ministry on salvation states:
We believe that (a) salvation is by grace, a free gift of God apart from works, (b) salvation involves repentance, a change of mind in respect to God and thus turning from one’s own way to God’s way, (c) salvation is through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, (d) all who receive Jesus Christ are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and become the children of God, and (e) true salvation will be manifested by a changed life.
As you can see, the gospel here is not one of Free Grace. In order to receive eternal life, a person must turn from his own way to God’s way. True salvation will be manifested by good works. This is a typical Lordship presentation. A quick look at her material shows that she often uses the word “repent” (and not “believe”) when presenting the gospel.
Arminians would also not have a problem with her gospel. It is easy to interpret her theology as saying that one must have works to make it into the kingdom.
Kay Arthur has often appeared on the 700 Club, a Charismatic program. She also speaks of demon possession and casting out demons and of the need and appropriateness of rebuking Satan. Some Christians will have issues with these things, but perhaps a majority of people will not see it as a major issue.
So how should Free Grace people look at this situation? Some might argue that under certain circumstances, it would be good to use Arthur’s material. It might cause some women to study the Bible, who, under other circumstances would not. I have seen the enthusiasm some women have shown doing so. It may also lead some to want to study the Bible inductively and search for meaning by studying the context of a given passage.
In addition, it is just a fact of life that good, ongoing Bible study material is hard to find. There is no Free Grace Sunday School material that is published that way. If a woman’s Bible study starts up, they may see no other option than using material such as Precepts.
My opinion is that if the material is used in this way, there is a great need for a knowledgeable teacher. The teacher can point out if the material strays from the truth. Even with such a teacher, I feel that it is better simply to use Free Grace material. It is easy to obtain Free Grace books that can be used for a study in place of recurring material. That is what I used with PWOC. I never asked the ladies which material they preferred (GES or Precepts), but the number of women taking part in the study did not fall as a result of using Free Grace material.
The bottom line is that even if there are good things in Arthur’s material, the probability of confusion on the gospel is not worth the advantages. In addition, if the purpose is to study the Bible, and if the material gets the gospel wrong, how much good inductive Bible study is going to occur?