Beka Horton’s Theology: Eleanor Skelton’s Story
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.
By Eleanor Skelton, HA Editorial Team. Eleanor also blogs at The Girl Who Once Lived in a Box.
Beka Horton wrote and edited most of the A Beka Academy curriculum, produced by Pensacola Christian College. And she’s also the reason I started questioning fundamentalism.
Christianity seemed so simple in the early days.
I was born in Southeast Texas, in the Bible belt. At two years old, I prayed to accept Jesus into my heart with my mom before bath-time. She cried over my folded hands.
I was on the right path; I lived in light and not in darkness.
If only life had fewer complexities.
I was homeschooled from preschool to high school graduation, primarily with A Beka Academy Video School and some BJU press and Weaver curriculum sprinkled in. My mom told me the stories of Adam and Eve, Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath with flannel-graph cutouts and the A Beka Bible flashcards.
This was what we believed, and we had the truth.
We were not deceived like the poor Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostals. We had the True Doctrine™. And my churches and homeschool textbooks mostly agreed, until high school.
In 10th and 11th grade, A Beka reveals why all the Scripture their students had been memorizing since kindergarten comes only from the King James Version.
That’s because Arlin and Beka Horton, the founders of Pensacola Christian College, believe all other translations are part of Satan’s plan to confuse the church.
I asked my pastor at our IFCA church in Colorado Springs who graduated from the Bob Jones University Seminary about it. We used the New King James Version in our services, but Beka Horton said this was sinful and contributing to the downfall of modern Christianity.
The same textbook also argued that abstinence from alcohol was the most moral decision for modern Christians, because Jesus only drank alcohol because the water in first century Palestine wasn’t safe.
This argument bothered me.
My parents and pastors had always told me that alcohol itself wasn’t sinful, but alcoholism hurt others. And we had a duty to not cause our brothers in Christ to stumble.
But Beka Horton was telling me the only way to follow Jesus was to be a teetotaler.
Something was wrong here. My textbooks disagreed with my parents, my churches. My parents bought me this curriculum so I could have a better education, so I could learn True Doctrine™.
I asked my pastor about these discrepancies. He told me, “I like Pensacola Christian College, but they are also legalistic. This is why young people lose their faith when they go to college, because they are told things like this, and then they learn it’s not true. So they question their entire faith.”
And he wasn’t wrong.
So in senior year of high school, I questioned when Beka Horton said that Adam and Eve never saw death before the Fall, not even dead plants.
And arguing that the letters to the churches in Revelation was prophesy outlining the ages of the church throughout millennia seemed like an awfully convenient way to scare me into believing the Rapture and Tribulation were imminent.
I kept questioning, looking for more subtle legalism within what I’d thought was the safety of True Doctrine™.
Three years into college, I wondered if syncopated music was really evil or not.
My high school youth group textbook, published by Proteen / Positive Action for Christ, reasoned this:
Syncopated music is disorderly.
All disorder is of the devil.
Therefore, syncopated music (most modern music) is of Satan.
I made Christian friends in college who came from evangelical but not fundamentalist backgrounds, and their love for Jesus seemed genuine. I couldn’t believe they weren’t True Christians™ because they sang contemporary worship songs and listened to CCM.
Then the point of crisis came.
I read Harry Potter. I didn’t believe it was evil. I asked my parents to extend my curfew to midnight instead of 7:30 p.m.
My parents said I was being influenced by the world, that I had to move out or attend Bob Jones University. I told them I had prayed, and I felt like God wanted me to stay at UCCS.
They involved our pastor.
My pastor said I was disobeying God’s will for my life by moving out as an unmarried young woman.
He said it was wrong for me to leave because I was still under my parents’ authority if I wasn’t currently experiencing physical or sexual abuse.
And he said that God had clearly provided another option for me in transferring to BJU, a way to both obey my parents and gain independence.
He said, “If you are going to be obstinate and let Satan confuse you from following God’s will for your life, then I have nothing more to say to you.
And he walked out.
And I’d lost all trust for the label True Doctrine™.
I realized that fundamentalism is colorblind except for black and white. That fundamentalism uses fear to coerce obedience, that fundamentalism makes no exceptions, because that would be questioning Divine Will, and that is what Satan does.
My questions grew.
Did my purity ring actually remind me to stay pure, or did it just seem arrogant to my friends who weren’t virgins? I stopped wearing it.
Why did we use a handful of verses describing pagan temple practices to condemn the entire LGBT community? I remembered many more verses about loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Is creationism versus evolution actually a “salvation issue”? One of my chemistry lab instructors, who happened to be a Christian herself, pointed this out to me.
I took two semesters of Koine Greek, and I learned that museums have copies of scribal errors from the medieval period, something Beka Horton told me never happened, because the scribes destroyed an entire manuscript over slight errors.
Could I still be a Christian if the Bible wasn’t inerrant? My friend Cynthia Jeub reminded me that the disciples and the early church had no Bible. All they had was their experience.
I’ve been moved out since 2012, and I’m still questioning.
Still sorting through what I was told was True Doctrine™ and what the early church practiced historically, how I was told to treat “sinners” and what Jesus said about loving people.
Because I don’t believe Beka Horton has a monopoly on truth.