There has been a large outcry at Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s decision to allow the controversial, Mormon Glenn Beck speak at Liberty University’s 2010 Commencement. What hasn’t gotten near as much publicity is the fact that Paige Patterson chose to speak on the same stage with Beck. I remember a major uproar over John Piper inviting Rick Warren to Desiring God 2010, but maybe that was a different situation in people’s eyes than the Liberty Commencement. I think this is possibly a bigger deal considering the major theological differences between Baptists and Mormons. By major I mean that Mormons are heretics, just to clear that up.
Anyway, what do we make of Dr. Patterson’s decision?
I, for one, think it was a great choice by Patterson. Honestly, I can’t think of any drawbacks to it. I highly doubt that anyone would assume that Patterson was endorsing or minimizing the error Beck’s faith, though I’m sure there were some crazies out there who believed that he was by even being in the same zip code.
Patterson would have been crazy to decline to speak at Liberty due to Beck’s presence. Any opportunity for him to have a chance to present the Gospel in the presence of a Mormon is almost obligatory for a Christian. And he did just that, saying:
“The little baby that Mary held in her arms was the eternal God in human flesh. He had no beginning, He has no ending and He became a man to die on the cross for us.”
This was great because Mormons do not believe in the Trinity or the eternal Godhood of Jesus. Patterson, probably purposely, made a simple statement of Scriptural truth with Beck in attendance. He didn’t let any of the minor comments about God that Beck made in his speech overshadow real, foundational theology.
I also like that Patterson represented Baptists at the Baptist school’s commencement, something Falwell, Jr. doesn’t always put forth a lot of effort to do. I am not in huge favor of Falwell, Jr. inviting Beck, but I love the opportunity that Patterson took to be there.