Monday, as I discussed Glenn Beck's masquerade as a born-again Christian, I pondered how evangelicals who admire Beck will react to his Lincoln Memorial speech last Saturday, and how they'll reconcile his Mormonism with their own faith.
At the end of Monday's essay, I provided a link to a blog post by Southern Baptist seminary professor Russell Moore, and I was pleased to see Moore's same post as the headline article Tuesday on Crosswalk.com. But I've been utterly shocked at the ambivalence with which many professing evangelicals regard Beck's allegiance to one of the world's most cunning cults. Some are enraged that evangelicals would dare question Beck's Christian credentials. And the vitriol with which Beck defenders mock Moore appears more spiteful than anything they accuse Moore of being.
What Dr. Moore Wrote
Let me copy and paste a direct quote from Moore's essay which encapsulates his viewpoint:
"A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they've heard the gospel, right there in the nation's capital.
"The news media pronounces him the new leader of America's Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America's Christian conservatives have no problem with that.
"If you'd told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it's not. It's from this week's headlines. And it is a scandal.
"Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this... What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.
"It's taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined "revival" and "turning America back to God" that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement."
Pretty strong stuff, right?
Beck's Followers Are Quick To Defend Him
Well, apparently a lot of pew-warmers who also tune-in to Beck's programs think Moore has just about become evil personified.
Consider some of these comments directed towards Moore and his essay from readers of Crosswalk.com (with my own comments italicized in parentheses - not that Moore needs me to defend him, but I just couldn't resist):
- "Apparently you suffer from the inability to separate love of country from love to God." (Um, well, according to the Bible, there is a distinct separation. This world is not our home. John 15:19, Philippians 3:20)
- "I found your article mean and an intolerant attack on Mr. Beck's faith. Shame on you. People like you have driven me away from the organized church." (Actually, only your own sin can drive you away from the church universal. Hebrews 10:25)
- "I TOTALLY disagree with [Moore]. He has definitely fallen into the Koolaid with the rest of the liberal media, and hiding himself as a Christian. Glenn Beck is probably the most broken, and yet most generous Christian I have ever heard or seen in today's media. To label him a Mormon is no different than labeling our Founding Fathers a quaker, baptist, episcopalian, or catholic..." (Whew! Where to start? OK: first, any comparison between Moore and Jim Jones is cruel; second, Moore is most certainly NOT a liberal; third, Beck's "brokenness" and "generosity" need to be clarified from a Biblical perspective before their legitimacy as attributes can be qualified; fourth, the theologies of Quakers, Baptists, and Episcopalians - regardless of how inaccurately their adherents may model them - are all based on the God of the Bible; fifth, to thrown Catholics into the mix is to start a completely different conversation.)
- "Beware of 'Christians' that judge others. God has said do not judge, He will be the judge. We each are to search and find the truth for ourselves." (So you've never judged Bill Clinton or Barak Obama, who also claim to be saved? Believers are to stand for God's truth and to be discerning when false disciples try to lead people astray. Job 34:4, John 7:24, Philippians 1:10)
- "...the real issue isn't what faith these people following him are or what faith he is but what kind of governmental leadership our country is seeking..." (Oh, this is such a dangerous assumption! Whether or not a person trusts the Trinitarian God for their salvation is the most crucial issue of life. Joshua 24:15, Deuteronomy 4:39)
- "As for [Moore], go work for the New York Times! They love to employ people who ignore the truth so they can put a biased spin on any story that does not fit their template or agenda." (The writer of this post should take their own advice, since they're the one ignoring the truth and putting a spin on this issue.)
Wouldn't it be wonderful if these feedback writers were as passionate about Christ as they are of Beck?
Basic Distinctions Which Make Mormonism Heretical
So what if Beck's a Mormon?
Since so many churchgoers seem to have zero knowledge of Mormon doctrine, here's a brief overview from Watchman Fellowship of what they believe concerning God and Jesus:
Who is God?
- Mormons say: The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods, though one Godhead. God the Father was once a mortal man like us and became exalted to Godhood. He still has a physical body. He has a wife in heaven, a Goddess.
- True Christians say: There is one and only one God; the “Godhead” is one divine, triune, infinite Being existing as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Only God the Son, Jesus the Christ, has ever taken on human flesh, and that was to be the perfect Substitute for our sins. There is no Goddess.
Who is Jesus?
- Mormons say: Jesus was the firstborn of God’s billions of spirit children. He became a god in the spirit world. He was conceived and born of Mary and God the Father as his literal, natural mother and father in the flesh. Belief in Jesus is but one part of the salvation process; the other being good works.
- True Christians say: Jesus is the only heavenly, divine Son of God. He has always been God. He was conceived and born of Mary by the Holy Spirit. He is the Savior of His people because He is the only One who could die in our place as an acceptable offering to God the Father. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. We do good works out of love for Christ, not to gain salvation.
If you cannot see the difference - or if you don't care that a difference exists - between how Mormons and Christians view God and Christ, then please consider the possibility that you have not been touched with the love of Christ, the grace of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Without these, you're not saved, just like Beck isn't saved. I'm typing this out carefully, aware that some people may be offended by the gravity of what I'm writing. But this isn't my homemade theology - it's orthodox Christianity.
So What? How Important Is Beck's Religion?
Others of Beck's supporters, who agree with everything I've said in the last paragraph, might continue to shrug their shoulders. Sure, they'll concede, Mormonism is evil, but why is approving of Saturday's rally wrong? Beck wasn't trying to convert anybody to Mormonism. All he's trying to do is wake America up to the liberal fallacies which have wreaked havoc on the Judeo-Christian ethos of our Founding Fathers.
Obviously, if all Beck did was to clarify the evils in our society and encourage citizens to take personal responsibility for how they vote and participate in our civic affairs, it wouldn't really matter that he's a Mormon. But whether you want to recognize it or not, Beck went much farther than that by his repeated references to God, faith, Christ, and his constant allegorically salvific language. In essence Beck crossed the line from simply "rallying patriots" to entreating his supporters with faith-based doctrines and practices which he let them think were their own.
His terminology sounded convincingly familiar to church-going Christians, but his god isn't our God. Christians may freely agree with Beck on principle when it comes to his politics, but they cannot go any farther than that with him.
And why not? First, we have to understand some basic characteristics about leadership and personal responsibility.
Can't we all agree that leadership requires a certain amount of allegiance from followers? And that allegiance requires a certain amount of service? God demands of His followers that we wisely choose whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). If we're serving anybody - particularly in a voluntary fashion, such as a political movement - we'd better have a pretty good reason for ascribing allegiance to somebody who doesn't believe in our Savior. And sorry, Tea Partiers, but bashing liberals and fears of certain economic systems like socialism (most of the governments in Biblical times were oligarchies with oppressive taxation) doesn't really count as a good reason to follow somebody from a false religion (Mark 12:17).
Second, people from false religions cannot co-opt Christian terminology and retain the Biblical implications of the words. If you've never graduated from medical school, you can't walk into an operating room and expect to project any authority simply by reciting surgical terminology. Beck can use the terms for God, faith, and prayer, but since he's unsaved, God does not acknowledge Beck's deployment of those words as personal communication with Himself, and neither should we (Psalm 66:18). Would any evangelical allow an imam to exhort them in turning back to God? When Beck wants you to pray for America, to whom does he want you to pray? His god, or the holy God of the Universe? Doesn't it matter?
Third, Mormonism is known for aggressively recruiting new adherents to their false religion. When former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ran for president, many evangelicals became suspicious of what the secretive Mormon hierarchy might be up to, and what might happen with Mormonism residing in the White House. Granted, Beck himself may be clueless as to the danger he poses to people outside his faith (although I doubt it), but God expects His people to be ever-vigilant against false prophets and false religions.
Fourth, and most importantly, our God is a jealous God, and He will not share His people with anybody or anything (Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 32:16). If you are saved, you have been "bought with a price", and you should have an intrinsic sensitivity through the power of the Holy Spirit to things which do not glorify God. We are to be holy, which means "set apart" for God's service (1 Peter 2:9, Deuteronomy 7:6). Quite frankly, we do not need anybody but God for anything in life, and even though God uses even the ways of evil people for His purposes, God's people must value their identity with God more than their civilian heritage, particularly when somebody of a different faith is trying to organize us.
Being angry with the sin which permeates our country is one thing; getting caught up in a Mormon's patriotic fervor and appealing charisma is at best an unwise fallacy and at worst a blatant sin (Exodus 23:24, Jude 1:19). Agreeing with anyone - whether they be Muslim or Mormon or atheist - that American society does not model virtue can be a good launching point for change. However, isn't participating in the prayers to and acknowledgement of any god other than our Creator God - which is what Beck invited rally attendees to do - simply wicked?
You've Been Waiting For Somebody Other Than Christ?
One of the curious questions Beck's defenders ask is this: why have people like Moore become skeptical of Beck, the one person who has dared to stand up and defend the the heritage of the United States? Why can't we celebrate the fact that Beck is calling people to turn back to God for the healing of our land?
Don't these questions betray a galling lack of personal conviction on the part of Beck's defenders? Do they mean to say they've been sitting on their backsides all this time, just waiting for somebody else to stand up and say something?
As long as someone with charisma will be a cheerleader for Christians, then they'll stand up to be counted. But otherwise, they're literally sheep without a shepherd without somebody like Beck. Is that what they're admitting? Are they saying that their faith in Christ isn't enough for them to serve Him in the public square?
Have Beck's fans been waiting for another prophet to lead them, despite the fact that Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King? Why haven't they been making changes to their personal lives? Why haven't they been voicing their civic concerns to their elected representatives? Why haven't they been fervently praying for our leaders on all levels of government? Have we really lost so much religious freedom that we're incapable of, um, holding back-to-God rallies on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial?
No wonder the American Church has been so ineffectual in our society! No wonder our divorce rates mirror those of the unchurched! No wonder immorality has been allowed to run rampant in our media! No wonder individualism, relativism, and even socialism have flooded the United States. It isn't just because our world is under the control of Satan, it's because we professing Christians have allowed him to dupe us into waiting for another prophet!
If anything good can come out of Beck's rally on the National Mall, it won't be voters ganging up against incumbents (although that won't be a bad thing), it won't be people of faith running for elective office (although that won't be a bad thing either), and it won't be ordinary citizens taking personal responsibility for how they live their lives (although that would be a great thing).
It will be evangelicals waking up and realizing that what they've been waiting for all this time isn't some divorced Mormon earning millions of dollars by scaring them, but for the holy God of all creation to be glorified as His people honor Him with their lives.
Nobody disputes the unprecedented success of the United States of America, or its current ills. But if evangelicals shrug off the power of ascribing holiness to God, then we shouldn't be surprised at where our country goes.
We Christians need to be extremely careful, lest we prove we're not.