Adam Blosser is the pastor of Drakes Branch Baptist Church, in Drakes Branch, Virginia, and blogs at One True Joy.
As you have probably heard by now, Glenn Beck preached a Mormon sermon (on the campus of Liberty University during a recent convocation service. I wasn’t initially going to write about this as I have no desire to appoint myself as the leader of a new one of those dreaded “discernment ministries.” However, I feel it important that this situation receive the same level of attention that other recent “scandals” have received.
It should be noted that I do not approach this situation as an outsider. I spent three years living on the campus of Liberty University as a student in the School of Religion. I completed my B.A. in Pastoral Leadership and Biblical Exposition in December 2009. I was a freshman at Liberty for the final year that Jerry Falwell Sr. was alive. I served as a student leader on several different dorms on campus. I am no expert on Liberty, and have been largely disconnected since graduating, but I am not ignorant of the way Liberty works either.
Liberty University holds convocation three times a week. All resident students are required to attend. This is basically a chapel service, though they do not use that terminology. They typically host Christian pastors and leaders. Some are certainly better and more respected than others. However, on occasion they have other leaders outside Christianity. These are typically political speakers, though some are businessmen and women and other secular leaders.
While Liberty has a long history of having secular leaders from various fields speak for convocation and graduation, I do not recall ever hearing one of these leaders present what could only be called a sermon, when addressing the students.
In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a problem with the criteria used to select convocation and graduation speakers. However, I recognize it as an area where there may be room for disagreement. The recent message presented by Glenn Beck is very different though. He did not give a political speech. He presented a Mormon sermon.
Let’s be clear. Mormonism is not a denomination under the umbrella of Christianity. Mormon theology teaches that God used to be a man on another planet, and even now has a physical body. Mormons also teach that we can become gods. The Mormon Church teaches that Jesus and Satan are brothers, and that Jesus is the product of God the Father’s sexual relationship with Mary. I trust this is enough information to convince you of my point that Mormonism is not within the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.
I recently sent an email to Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. and Vice President of Communications Johnnie Moore asking for further comment and clarification. I have posted the text of that email in its entirety on my personal blog. Ten days after sending the initial email I still had not heard back. Therefore, I sent an additional email. The text of that email can also be found on my personal blog.
I hope that these letters demonstrate a few things: 1) why I am concerned about this situation, 2) my love first for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and second for Liberty University, and 3) a way to express concern and sharp disagreement in a way that is honoring to Christ.
I eventually did receive a response from VP Moore. The response is very similar to that posted by Jonathan Merritt, and can be found below.
First, I must apologize for my delayed reply to you. We just emerged from an unbelievable graduation weekend at Liberty. We had more than 34,000 people in attendance and we celebrated the graduation of more than 17,000 students. It was quite the celebration, and it consumed my time entirely until this very morning.
Secondly, I would like to thank you for expressing your concern. Liberty takes concerns like yours extremely seriously, and that’s why I’m writing to personally address your concerns.
You should know that Liberty University’s Convocation is not a church service.
We have explained over the decades repeatedly that convocation is an opportunity for students to hear from people of all faiths and from all walks of life. Liberty has also made it clear repeatedly that it does not endorse any statements made by any convocation speaker.
By contrast, our faculty are all required to profess Liberty’s statement of faith and to affirm our doctrinal statement. Our students are all required to take many credit hours of theology and Bible courses, regardless of their major. Our students have no question about what Liberty’s doctrinal statement is. It is posted publicly for all to see. Our doctrinal statement is our public statement on Mormonism. It is the same statement that Liberty was founded upon and it will never change.
College is about learning. How can you defend what you believe if you don’t understand what others believe? I believe our students are stronger in their faith because of our convocation speaker series and the wide diversity of views that they have been privileged to hear in person over the last few decades.
The president of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, Jr. actually spoke to this during his remarks at our 41st annual commencement exercises this weekend. You can watch those remarks here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_Uz82ZHAHg
By the way, many conservative evangelical leaders who are closer to Beck than me have told me that they believe Beck has had a born again experience recently. I do not know his heart but our audience knows that he was speaking only for himself and expressing his personal opinions and beliefs, not those of Liberty University or even of Mormonism generally. As Jerry Falwell, Sr., our founder, often used to say about speakers at Liberty who had different views than him, Liberty students are smart enough to eat the fish and spit out the bones! I believe that’s as true today as it was in his day.
Thank you for your deep love for, and concern for, our institution. I hope this at least helps to explain our position – and it’s a longstanding position – on guest speakers in Convocation.
I found Moore’s email to be gracious and kind. His love for Liberty and her mission is evident. I don’t question any of those things. I heard Moore preach many times while I was a student at Liberty. He loves Liberty University. He loves the students. He desires to see God do a great work in and through Liberty. I am not calling any of that into question.
However, I must question the wisdom of some of the things he says and doesn’t say in his response.
He does not address the reality that Beck’s message was very different from that given by other secular convocation speakers.
Beck preached a Mormon sermon. There is no other way to put it. He stood up and said that he came prepared to say one thing, and God instructed him in his hotel room to say something else. I stand before my congregation each week and claim to speak for God. When I do, I call that preaching. I attempt to unpack the truth of God for the people of God from the Word of God.
Beck spoke of Joseph Smith as a Christian martyr. He spoke of the “Grand Councils” which is a Mormon heresy. He said that we should “Live in such a way that you can demand miracles. Expect miracles. Call down miracles.” This too is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. We do not demand anything of God. He spoke of the atonement, but as you know, Mormons have a very different view of the atonement than Christians.
Moore said in his email that convocation is not a chapel service. I hear what he is saying, but it is doublespeak. Liberty has had men I respect like John MacArthur, John Piper, David Platt, Jerry Vines, Ronnie Floyd and others stand on the stage in convocation and preach. They have a time of singing worship songs at the beginning of each convocation service. If Beck was not preaching, what about these other men? Are you going to tell them that they were not preaching either?
It is not hard to see why this would be viewed as a blurring of the lines. It is not hard to see why this is troubling to those who believe that Mormonism is well outside of Christian orthodoxy.
Why is it so hard for Johnnie Moore and Jerry Falwell Jr. to say that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination?
I don’t care if you call it a cult, false religion, or fringe group outside Christian orthodoxy. I am not asking for Liberty to give Mormonism a label concerning what it is. I am asking them to state plainly what it is not. Jerry Falwell Jr. refused to do that in an interview with CNN.
Now, Johnnie Moore says, “Our students have no question about what Liberty’s doctrinal statement is. It is posted publicly for all to see. Our doctrinal statement is our public statement on Mormonism. It is the same statement that Liberty was founded upon and it will never change.”
Please interpret that doctrinal statement for me. Is Mormonism a Christian denomination as Beck claimed, or is it the heretical fringe group that the Christian church has recognized it as since its founding? I am getting mixed messages, and I am asking you to clear them up for me. Are you willing to do so?
The end of Moore’s email leaves me questioning Liberty’s position, “By the way, many conservative evangelical leaders who are closer to Beck than me have told me that they believe Beck has had a born again experience recently. I do not know his heart but our audience knows that he was speaking only for himself and expressing his personal opinions and beliefs, not those of Liberty University or even of Mormonism generally.”
Has Beck rejected Mormonism? Has Beck forsaken the teaching of his church? As demonstrated in my first post, Mormonism teaches things about man, God, and the atonement that are antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What if Beck were a Muslim? Could he have a “born again experience” while still clinging to Islam? Absolutely not. Neither can one follow Jesus and continue to cling to the false god and savior espoused in Mormonism.
I am not questioning the intellect of your students; I am questioning the wisdom of allowing a false teacher to preach on the stage of Liberty University.
Moore wrote, “As Jerry Falwell, Sr., our founder, often used to say about speakers at Liberty who had different views than him, Liberty students are smart enough to eat the fish and spit out the bones! I believe that’s as true today as it was in his day.”
This statement is irrelevant. I believe that the people in my congregation are just as smart as the students at Liberty University, yet I do not welcome heretics into my pulpit and trust my people to “eat the fish and spit out the bones.”
I don’t really know what Jerry Falwell Sr. would have done in the same situation. Neither do I care. I had a lot of respect for Jerry Falwell Sr. I didn’t always agree with him, but I appreciate the things he accomplished for the kingdom of God. This isn’t about what Jerry Falwell Sr. would have done. This is about doing what is right.
The student body at Liberty University is very diverse. It is made up of people from all over the world, people from lots of different backgrounds, and yes, people from different faiths. Do you really trust those who are not indwelt by the Spirit of God to discern truth from error with regard to Mormonism and Christianity? I don’t. Even Christians who are indwelt by the Spirit can be led astray by false teaching. That is why the Apostle Paul used such strong language when referring to false teaching.
Let’s be clear. Mormonism is a false religion, and Glenn Beck is a false teacher. I have a responsibility in my church to protect God’s flock from false teaching. I will stand before God one day and give an account for my stewardship of that responsibility. While leading a university and choosing convocation speakers is not even close to the same thing as pastoring a church, the leaders of Liberty University have a responsibility to protect sound doctrine as well.
You want to be the world’s largest evangelical university? Fasten your belt and accept the responsibility that goes along with that label. You are not irrelevant. Christians and the world are watching you. What will they think about Mormonism based on what they see at Liberty University?
Beck has since caught wind of the fact that many were not happy with his appearance at Liberty. He responded on his radio program recently. He said, “I encourage you to join me, join others of multiple faiths, never asking anyone to change their faith, asking you to strengthen your faith. Whatever it is, unless it’s telling kill people, burn their books, shut them up, torture them, imprison them, kill them.” He goes on to say, “If your faith says learn about love, learn about goodness, learn about the power of faith, learn about the miracles of God, don’t trust in the arm of flesh, but trust in the Spirit, I’d love to meet you.”
The religious pluralism of Beck’s quotes above is antithetical to the Christian gospel. The Christian gospel is both inclusive and exclusive. It is inclusive in the sense that anyone who repents of their sin and places their faith in Jesus Christ will be saved. It is exclusive in the sense that only those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus Christ will be saved. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).
While I am not going to waste my time forming Moral Majority coalitions in hope that this country can be turned around through the political system, I am also not going to waste my time railing against those who do. That is not what this is about. Glenn Beck preached a Mormon sermon from the stage of Liberty University. Nothing was said to the students before or after he did so. No public statement has been issued by the University since. And when questioned about it, Liberty responded with fluff that fails to address the heart of the matter.
Mormonism is not Christianity. The gospel of Christ is at stake. May we all be faithful to “guard the good deposit” that has been entrusted to us, the good news of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sin He offers to all who repent of their sin and believe on the Lord Jesus (2 Tim. 1:14). Will you heed this call, Liberty University? Will you do so for the sake of your students’ souls? Will you do so for the sake of the souls of those who may be led astray by this false teaching in convocation? Will you do so for the sake of Glenn Beck’s eternal soul? Please, I plead with you. Do the right thing.