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.

KVJ tampering

From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 22

KJV infallibility

From Jesus and His Followers, A Beka Book, p. 24

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.

holywar

From The Holy War, p. 79

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.

 

15 comments

  • Interesting. My mother bought me books from the Beka catalogue too, mostly the literary ones with their carefully sanitized extracts for Christians. They were more an auxiliary resource, rather than the main meal which was the ACE and the Heavenly Sensible-Haircut Warriors of Highland City.

    But my parents were advocates of Gail Riplinger’s KJV only position, and had books on the shelves bearing titles like Satan’s Music Exposed(!). We also had Jack Chick tracts on rock music confabulated during the Christian Right’s Satanic Panic in the eighties.

    Example: http://rationalwiki.org/w/images/f/ff/Jack_Chick_Angels.jpg

    Well, it might be fitting to close with one of those malign devil tunes…

    Maybe we’re all ‘Jessie’?

    – TheLemur

  • Wow is that rock music chart for real? Syncopation puts you under the control of the devil? I’ve heard it all now.

    • This ignorance…boggles my mind. Even the whitest and most respectable European classical music uses syncopation. And speaking of “respectable” music written by a white man, how about a sample of classical music that is heavily rhythmic and extols the pleasures of sex, gluttony, drunkenness, sex, gambling, and sex? *evil grin* *bwahahaha*

      Isn’t this more fun when everything doesn’t fit into the neat little fundamentalist boxes?

      • Weren’t the lyrics for CB written in the Middle Ages, probably by people who were in what we would now call seminary because that was the only way they could get a job? So they spent their off hours writing about booze wimmen ‘n’ jerks?

      • “Isn’t this more fun when everything doesn’t fit into the neat little fundamentalist boxes?”

        Oh totally. 😛 Way more fun.

    • Yup. For reals.

      People actually believe this.

      You can read the book I’ve excerpted. It’s called the Holy War by Frank Hamrick.
      http://www.amazon.com/The-Holy-War-Frank-Hamrick/dp/1929784953

  • Wow. I think they’re trying to be more perfect and holy than Jesus Himself in the matter of wine. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

    • Just for the record, good enough for Jesus isn’t much of a standard. I mean, dude didn’t say anything against slavery. You’d think that if he were a divine totally ethical being, popped down on earth to teach us a better way, he could have managed to toss in something about, “Hey folks – it’s straight-up wrong to own people, mm-kay?”

    • @Jemima Right?! My thoughts exactly. ^^

  • I homeschooled my two young children a few years ago and began by using the Abeka curriculum. I really liked their reading and math, but the social studies had an uncomfortable emphasis on American patriotism and I don’t recall a science book. We used a health and manners book I liked. I remember too, being surprised by the emphasis on the KJV for little kids. I never used it, but looked the verses up in my NIV Bible (gasp! 😉 ).

  • With thousands of denominations since the beginnings of the early church, I wonder how anyone can be certain that they knew the ‘real truth.’

  • Hey there Girl Who Once Lived in a Box, even though I already know your whole story fairly well, it still breaks my heart. I remember the trepidation the first time I play REAL drums, yep, syncopated and all, in church. It was so plainly better than the weird marching-band version that the other old guy played, but I was tense enough for a panic attack.

    Most of my music “abuse” came through Gothard/ATI, which has very similar beliefs to what you’ve described above. In fact, listening to anything with a “rock beat” is probably among the top three worse sins ever, including masturbating or forming a vaguely romantic relationship with whichever gender you prefer.

    I’m still amazed all this goes on today, albeit with far fewer people involved.

    • Real drums? 😛

      As real as it gets. (Real enough to hand out earplugs to everyone within a 50-foot radius.) And even on the offbeats too. 😀 (See? Beats 2 and 4 really are evil, so Verdi used them to depict God’s wrath.) Wait, what?

      Seriously though. I think they spit out a lot of this to disguise the racism…

  • Michael Davis

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I graduated from Pensacola Christian College. I grew up in a fundamental Baptist church. I too had many questions and my questions grew more numerous as I attended college. I was a pastor for many years. Through a long journey my wife (who I met at PCC) and I have found the answers to those questions in the Catholic Church. We found the Church that has been here all along, that is faithful to Christ and the scriptures, who has not split into thousands of opposing denominations, and who shows mercy and forgiveness to all. Growing up and in college we experienced legalistic judgment, unforgiveness and no room to be human. But now we experience mercy, love and joy from everyone in our parish and in the many parishes we speak at. We get the opportunity to speak at many parishes because we have a ministry serving the homeless that is unique and effective and so churches want to know how they can join us. Anyway, we never in our wildest dreams thought that we would ever have been Catholic, but now that we are we have found the answers that Christian fundamentalism could not give us. It has shown us how to go deep in Christ, how to give and receive love, how to give and receive mercy, and how to live in a community with God’s people. Many blessings on you as you continue you’re journey.

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