Glenn Beck at Liberty University

As many of you have heard by now, Glenn Beck spoke at Liberty University last week (watch above, read here and here). He spoke at the final convocation meeting of the semester and delivered a rousing address invoking God and the Bible as the foundation for personal redemption and civic freedom. It was clearly not a secular address. It was a sermon that called for Liberty students to expect “miracles” and to witness “the awesome power of Jesus Christ and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Beck’s sermon invoked unity between his own faith and Liberty’s and downplayed differences. At one point during the message (14:37), Beck said this:

I share your faith. I am from a different denomination, and a denomination quite honestly that I’m sure can make many people at Liberty uncomfortable. I am a Mormon, but I share your faith in the atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Beck also claimed to be worshiping the same God as the evangelical students assembled in the room. He said, “God is our God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

But there weren’t merely expressions of solidarity. Beck also invoked distinctive aspects of the Mormon faith. He told an emotional story about the “martyrdom” of Joseph Smith and how Smith stands as an example of how to “trust in the Lord” in the face of persecution. Joseph Smith is of course the great false teacher that founded Mormonism. Beck also mentioned the Grand Council. In Mormon theology, the Grand Council consists of gods over other planets who convened a meeting before the world began and decided who the savior of planet Earth would be. This teaching—along with Mormonism’s other well-known errors—is not merely outside the mainstream of Christianity. It is outside of Christianity.

Some will say that Beck’s error is mitigated by the setting of his sermon. This was, after all, a convocation meeting and not a chapel service. And Liberty intends for its convocation meeting to include a broad range of speakers from a variety of perspectives. In other words, the setting is more like Mars Hill and less like a church.

Nevertheless, that distinction seems like a facile one in this case. A quick look at Liberty’s convocation schedule reveals that the regular expectation for this meeting is Christian preaching. Yes, there is an occasional politician or public figure included. But even then, they tend to come from a Christian background and are not the type who would be advancing tenets of a non-Christian religions such as Mormonism. But even if we grant a distinction between convocation and a chapel service, we must question the wisdom of giving any platform to a false teacher without alerting students that they are in fact about to hear from a false teacher. Beck sermonized as if he were a Christian just like the Liberty students—just from a different denomination.

I don’t know why an evangelical school like Liberty would invite someone like Beck to deliver a message like he gave. I have had lots of friends from Liberty over the years. In the church where I serve now, we have had lots of Liberty graduates as members and one as a fellow pastor. I have friends who now work and teach at Liberty University. I know for a fact that none of them would recognize Glenn Beck’s faith as Christian. Liberty has always been a stalwart evangelical institution. So that is why Beck’s appearance last week is so perplexing.

I am viewing this as an outsider. Without a word of clarification from the university, I think Beck’s appearance in this context leaves one of two impressions:

1. That Mormonism is a Christian denomination with no essential theological differences from other evangelical denominations. Or,

2. That even though Mormonism is not a Christian denomination, Liberty’s agreement with Beck politically is more important than Liberty’s Christian distinctives. Political solidarity trumps Christian truth.

I hope neither of these impressions is correct. But without a clear word from the university, what’s to stop people from coming to either of those two conclusions?

50 Responses to Glenn Beck at Liberty University

  1. Colby Garman May 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    From what I can tell, you and I share a high level of agreement Theologically and Ecclesiologically. I am a LU Undergrad Religion Alum. For what it is worth I think reality is probably an adjusted version of your second impression. I think in the context of convo they are not attempting to establish their distinctiveness, and want to have someone of Beck’s politics give an address. Admittedly that is fraught with its own problems, but I thought I would offer my perspective as a former student.

  2. bobbistowellbrown May 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Excellent post. I hope Christians will be aware that Glen Beck is a Mormon. Some are not aware of it.

  3. Chris Coppenbarger May 1, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Liberty U is appearing to be hypocritical here on several fronts, as well. There was the recent flap over Benny Hinn hawking a Bible correspondence program that was once associated with Liberty, and people supposing that Liberty had entered into some agreement with Hinn, to which Liberty responded that they had not, nor would they. This is the second time that Beck has spoken at Liberty. Mitt Romney has also spoken there, as have any number of controversial speakers. However, to my knowledge, none of them have offered what can be construed as “sermons” until now. I listened to Beck’s speech the other day and was appalled at what I heard at a Christian university. I have degrees from two different Bible colleges/universities and we never had such the type of speaker as that. Michael Brown (of Brownsville Revival fame) once spoke at Toccoa Falls, but got cut off at the end by the President at the time. That said, Beck has been promoting himself as a Christian lately, and that’s troublesome. We cannot accept Mormonism nor those that promote it as valid. The same goes for Mormon politicians, regardless of how much we may agree with their views.

    • rpavich May 1, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      What do you mean “we cannot accept those that promote (Mormonism) as valid and that the same goes for politicians”

      While I agree that if a talk show host or politician talks about “Christian” or “Biblical” things, and they are part of a cult, we should correct them or of course, they shouldn’t be speaking at our churches and schools, are you saying that membership in a non-Christian faith disqualifies them from any role in our lives like congressman, president or talk show host?

      • Ian Shaw May 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

        Perhaps Chris meant it in reference to voting for them, as they will agree with Christians when it comes to social issues, compared to say non-conservative candidate who is pro-abortion, etc.

      • Chris Coppenbarger May 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

        The problem is that when Glenn Beck speaks of being Christian, he is calling Mormonism as another denomination. Back when Mitt Romney was running for President the first time, the same type of language was being used, and many Christians started debating about Mormon churches and them being very “evangelical.” Beck has changed his language to try to be accepted by the Christian community. That’s not acceptable unless he accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He says he does, but I ask, “which Jesus?” The Mormon Jesus is not the Biblical Jesus. As for politicians and their religious views, I do believe that personal faith should play into how one votes. I will never accept the “lesser of two evils” argument. I did not and refused to vote for Mitt Romney in the last election, and both his politics and his faith played into my decision. If Beck were to run, I would not vote for him, unless a lot changed in him to compel me to vote for him. Beck is clearly a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to those who claim evangelical Christianity. Liberty’s silence on Beck’s “sermon” is deafening.

        • rpavich May 1, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

          I guess that didn’t clear it up for me.

          Are you agreeing that we shouldn’t give them a forum to espouse their religious views but it’s acceptable that they can be employed.

          • Chris Coppenbarger May 1, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

            I’m not sure what you’re unclear about. My point is that we need to more carefully think about who we vote for.

            • rpavich May 1, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

              I’m unclear because you seem to be saying that non-Christians cannot hold office or hold jobs.

              • Chris Coppenbarger May 1, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

                No, that’s not what I was saying, at all. I’m saying that we need to more carefully vote, basically.

                • rpavich May 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

                  That’s what’s confusing me.
                  When I vote carefully vs not carefully, what am I doing?

                  Not voting for a non-Christian?

                  This makes no sense.

        • Ian Shaw May 1, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

          Bam. For the win.

  4. Ian Shaw May 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    I’ve always said that being a evangelical Christian does not make you a republican, but the streams have been crossed (to quote Harold Ramis) and things got to a point where they shouldn’t be.

    I guess I question what Liberty was thinking as there are major theological differences between mormonism and orthodox Christianity.

    Anything that adds to the finished works of Christ or contrary to scripture, isn’t Christian.

  5. Ian Shaw May 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Denny, I understand the question, but with only ever taking 2 religion classes at a christian liberal arts college, I know point 1 is wrong….

    Point 2 is spot. You saw that in 2012 election with many loud Christians telling others to vote for Romney, even though he’s not Christian, but he’s on the same page as us on social issues. It was a lesser of 2 evils argument.

  6. Jennifer McSparin (@mcjennn) May 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    I agree. If he had been invited to speak on something like his career or something clearly secular in nature, I wouldn’t have an issue. But preach a sermon? Disturbing.

  7. Ian Shaw May 1, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Why would BYU invite Al Mohler to come out and speak on social/cultural issues and the need for solidarity even though there are vast differences in theology (and Mohler made that clear from the start of his speech).

    His line of “I don’t believe we’ll go to heaven together, but I believe we’ll go to jail together”. Wouldn’t that be a picture perfect example of your point 2, Denny?

  8. Ken Temple May 1, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Click on my name and you will see some good videos by James White on Mormonism and links to good books on Mormonism. Point # 2 seems to be the right analysis of Liberty and the root of it all. Liberty seems to put social and polticial conservatism first, the gospel and Biblical orthodoxy secondary to it. It’s the same kind of “moral majority” type thinking.

  9. Madison Ruppert May 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    This might be acceptable if they prefaced it with some kind of disclaimer warning the students that Glenn Beck follows a false prophet and that he may promote the false teachings of Mormonism during his speech. Unfortunately, it seems they did not do that.

    In my humble opinion, it is incredibly dangerous (and unacceptable) for an institution like LU to say silent while the blasphemous doctrines of the “Grand Council” and the “martyrdom” of Joseph Smith are proclaimed during an official school event. If Beck got up there and remained tight-lipped about his Mormon beliefs then perhaps the conversation would be different. Personally, I don’t think that any evangelical institution should be giving a platform for someone to promote polytheism and a false prophet.

  10. Suzanne McCarthy May 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Surely the eternal subordination of women, featured at your most recent conference, is a shared belief. 😉

    • Ian Shaw May 2, 2014 at 8:11 am #

      Thanks for staying on topic…..

  11. Kellie Monroe May 1, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    I completely agree you, Denny. If I were paying tuition for my student to go to Liberty, I’d be very unhappy that they gave Beck this podium to preach. Some of their convocation speakers leave me wondering what in the world LU was thinking.

  12. Mike Miller May 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    As a LU grad, this is not a surprise. He spoke in 2010. The administration seemed to be at a different page then the faculty. Jerry Jr. Is more political with than His dad. This has been happening since I was there.

  13. Gus Nelson May 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

    Glenn Beck is an exceedingly dangerous false prophet from whom Christians should best steer clear. I was absolutely thrilled when he left (got fired from?) Fox News so my wife stopped watching him. While he does have some insight on political matters from time to time, his constant efforts to mainstream Mormonism as just another Christian denomination should make all Christians exceedingly uncomfortable. I agree with Denny that without some clear disclaimer, Liberty U is setting a poor example, at best. As an educational institution, I can understand why they might bring him in to speak, but as an institution with a supposedly Christian worldview, a bit more discretion would have been the better part of valor.

  14. James Bradshaw May 1, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    So now that you all seem to agree that all Mormons are on a fast track to Hell … can you clarify who else belongs in the “heterodox” camp?

    What about Pentecostals? Catholics? Eastern or Russian Orthodox? Word of Faith followers? What about those snake handlers that were on that tv show? Seventh Day Adventists? What about Jehovah’s Witnesses? Can you be a 2-point Calvinist and go to Heaven?

    All of these folks believe in Jesus, and I keep hearing that one simply needs to have faith in Christ in order to be saved. Then comes the commercial. In addition to “having faith” in Christ, one must (apparently) intellectually agree (or not agree) with a whole menu of items that varies depending on who you ask.

    This is all astonishing given the fact that the majority of self-professed Christians have not even read the Bible in its entirety or established who (or what) defines orthodoxy.

    What I think you are really doing is aligning yourselves with a particular theological camp based on your own personal sentiments and insisting that anyone who doesn’t agree is going to burn.

    That’s just nuts.

    • Jesse Watkins May 1, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

      James this is not a smart-alec comment. Do you know what Mormons teach about the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and the finished work of the Cross? They are all in stark difference to any Penecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, etc that you have mentioned. These all share secondary differences about theology but Mormons are a first level difference in denying core doctrines. I don’t disagree that many Christians haven’t read the entire Bible, but the things they believe and preach from scripture are inherently different than what the Mormon Church has fabricated with their extra books.

    • Michael Lynch May 2, 2014 at 6:50 am #

      Yeah, James. As Jesse is saying, you sound really ignorant of Mormonism. But you often sound ignorant of biblical understanding, so I’m not surprised.

    • Ian Shaw May 2, 2014 at 8:15 am #

      James, I would urge to read what Mormon doctrine teaches about God, and it will clearly contradict the God of the Bible and what scriptures reveal to use about God and his nature.

      So when you say that all those believe in Jesus, at least to the Mormon front, they do not believe in the same Jesus of the Bible.

      • Chris Coppenbarger May 2, 2014 at 8:19 am #

        Mormon doctrine says that Jesus was Lucifer’s brother and that he became a god and everyone who believes in Mormon doctrine also become gods (at least men do anyways) and get to rule their own planets. They also elevate the Book of Mormon above the Bible as latter revelation, despite the many contradictions between the two books. Mormons believe in a completely different Jesus than the one in the Bible.

        • Ian Shaw May 2, 2014 at 10:20 am #

          Agreed Chris. Mormon doctrine contradicts much of scripture, on God, the nature of the Trinity, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation and the Bible.

    • buddyglass May 2, 2014 at 8:57 am #

      The idea that Mormonism is outside the bounds of Christianity isn’t something the Y.R.R. folks came up with. If distortions of the truth fall along a spectrum, Mormonism is pretty far out there. It’s not really the same as, say, the continuationist/cessationist issue.

    • chris rheinherren May 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      Amen.

  15. Esther O'Reilly May 2, 2014 at 12:36 am #

    Joseph Smith was martyred? Uh… well, if you count waiting on his mini-army to show up and bust him out of jail, only to realize that oh shoot, it’s a lynch mob instead and die climbing out the window with a pepper-box pistol in his hand as martyrdom… then yeah, totally!!

  16. Ian Shaw May 2, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Don’t even start me on the gold plates, the plagiarism of the King James Bible or the claimed accounts that have been debunked by historians.

    I love them, but they should seek what scriptures say about who Jesus really is and draw them to repent.

    • Esther O'Reilly May 2, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      I know right? When people say “Well aren’t you just picking and choosing what religion to believe, how about the claims of Mormonism huh, huh?” I’m like “Well, let’s see, how much time do you have?”

  17. Raymond Schwedhelm May 2, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Elevate Jesus for only He is worthy of praise and adoration. Be careful of the seductive sizzle the world offers to ensnare. Put on the full armor of God. Feed on His Word for nourishment and strength. Seek Him with all of your heart. Be strong and courageous. Stand firm, for throughout life you will be subjected to the same age-old question: “Has God indeed said?”

  18. Robert I Masters May 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Denny,

    1).I noticed you did not respond to Ian Shaw and his comment concerning Al Mohler at BYU.
    Why was that okay and this not okay in your view?

    2)Is it not possible that Glenn Beck is on a Journey to Grace?

    3) Is it not possible the whole Mormon cult is being transformed by the Gospel of Grace ie Ravi Zacharius,Albert Mohler and others.

    40).What in the world is wrong with co-belligerence.

    • Daryl Little. May 2, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      Robert,

      If I may:

      1. Mohler made it crystal clear from the outset of his message that he and the Mormons disagreed on all the most important questions and that he knew that they would not be in heaven. Beck did precisely the opposite. Mohler was calculated for clarity, Beck was calculated to deceive.

      2. Is it possible? Maybe, in God’s providence He will save Glenn Beck, but your question is pretty close, indeed almost identical, to asking why not have Saul of Tarsus preach to the Christians in their meetings, before the Damascus Road. You could ask that “journey” question of anyone. Besides, where does the Bible ever talk about people being on a journey to faith?

      3. No, it’s not possible. I say that because if the Mormon church leaders we to be saved, they would, like any new believer, leave their sinful life behind and find a bible-believing church in which they could be instructed and led like every new believer needs.

      4. Nothing is wrong with co-belligerence so long as everyone is clear about what they are doing there. But Beck’s message had nothing to do with co-belligerence, it was all about “We Christians, you and I, need to trust God and follow His word.” And that coming from a guy who doesn’t believe in Jesus, nor the gospel, nor the truth.

      • Robert I Masters May 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

        Daryl.

        1). Whats your point.So one believes in a false God and the other in the true God.
        You dont believe that 100 percent of the students at that convocation already
        knew that fact.

        2).I am glad that you and I agree on the God could providentially save Glenn Beck.
        It seemed to me that was happening represented by his tears and his decision
        to switch his speech at the last minute.
        You know law to the proud …grace to the humble.
        Lastly I did not say journey to faith. I believe faith is a gift. But understanding
        true grace is often a longer process. You disagree?

        I even heard Phil Johnson say that in his testimony about coming to understand
        the Doctrines of Grace.

        3)Yes I agree but history does have examples of that happening…aka
        Armstrongism

        4)”But Beck’s message had nothing to do with co-belligerence” Frankly we will have to disagree here. In my opinion it was all about freedom of religion and civil liberties. So why are you making it about the Gospel. Those pictures from the concentration camp did you see those at all?

  19. James Bradshaw May 2, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Ian writes: “Mormon doctrine contradicts much of scripture, on God, the nature of the Trinity, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation and the Bible.”

    So? You act as if Christ administers a pass/fail theology exam upon one’s death, one which requires exhaustive knowledge of every esoteric piece of doctrine produced by the Synod of Dort.

    Do you really suppose that upon the death of a Mormon says, “Well, yes, you prayed to me and attempted to live a good and holy life, but because you have these crazy ideas in your head about my nature, sorry pal, into the Lake of Fire you go!”?

    It seems that many Christians elevate the Bible above Christ Himself.

    • Ian Shaw May 2, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

      James, if you hold to the authority of scripture, something cannot be two things at the same time. It can either be one or the other. Not both.

      Orthodox Christian doctrine and Mormon doctrine are not the same thing. Mormon doctrine teaches:
      1.God came from another planet
      2.God is a man with a body of flesh and bones
      3.There is a mother goddess
      4.God and his goddess wife are married
      5.You can become gods

      Those are just a few basic simple teachings of Mormon doctrine. Clearly not what orthodox Christianity believes.

      If you say you believe in Jesus, but not the Jesus revealed to us in scripture, which jesus are you worshipping? A false jesus, a jesus of your own invention? That’s idolatry. I know it’s hard to grasp for some people, but you can get the name right, and the god wrong.

      I urge those who are mormon to look at the differences between the book of mormon and the Bible.

  20. Robert I masters May 2, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Daryl

    Sorry point number 3 should not say …Yes I agree

  21. James Bradshaw May 2, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    “If you say you believe in Jesus, but not the Jesus revealed to us in scripture, which jesus are you worshipping? A false jesus, a jesus of your own invention? ”

    Isn’t the faculty of imagination very much a part of every believer’s spiritual life? We pray to a God we can neither see nor hear. We think we “feel” promptings from Him. Even devout believers anthropomorphize Him to a degree (probably thanks to the cultural influence of Michelangelo’s renderings of Him as an old man on a cloud). Televangelists insist He’s “angry” about this or that. From the very terse Gospels, theologians can extract very complicated and philosophical ideas of the nature of God and the character of Christ, none of which are *explicitly* stated in Scripture, and they all state with this the same certitude as if they were describing their own mothers.

    Look, I’m no fan of Mormonism. I just don’t think that if Christ exists, He’s going to condemn all people who may have some goofy ideas about His origins or character. Do you?

    • Brian Gaskin May 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

      1 Cor. 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality. So it would seem Idolaters do not get into heaven.

      1 John 4 Also talks about guys that had crazy ideas about the incarnation of Christ. I pretty sure John doesn’t think they are going to heaven.

      1 John 4: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

      4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

      • James Bradshaw May 5, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

        As I said, Brian, if salvation hinges upon passing a theology exam, perhaps you should provide an exhaustive list of what one must believe and not believe about Christ to make it past the gatekeepers of orthodoxy standing at the gates of Heaven.

        Is it all multiple choice or are there essay questions as well?

  22. Tad Caldwell May 5, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    I wrote about this on my blog as well. I am a Liberty Alum, and highly disappointed that the administration has not come out and made a statement distancing themselves from Mormonism. I am calling Liberty students, faculty, staff, alumn, donors and parents to write emails to Jerry Falwell Jr concerning this issue.

  23. Jason Roiz May 9, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    I’m a Mormon. Yes, we believe: 1) God, our God, created worlds without number 2) God’s plural (Jesus, Holy Ghost, his children that become just like him and inherit all that he has. God has a bigger family than we know)

    As Mormon’s, we have no other God’s over us and this earth except the same three you do. The God’s plural referred to in our scriptures are children of God, our brothers and sisters, under the same God, the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob, Jesus, and evangelical’s.

    • Ian Shaw May 9, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

      Jason, thank you for your candor. I guess I have a few questions to your post.

      Mormon doctrine teaches Jesus DID NOT pay for all sins. That is clear in Doctrines of Salvation by Joesph F Smith vol 1. page 135.

      That is a clear contradiction to the Bible where is states Jesus DID pay for all sins. 1 John 2:2 and 1 Peter 2:24. Can you tell me which one is correct?

      God used to be a man on another planet, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 613-614; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333). Doesn’t this fly against Psalm 90:2 and Isaiah 57:15?

      Also, mormon doctrine teaches that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, Page 163). This contradicts the Bible as well, doesn’t it?

      Mormon doctrine also teaches there are many gods (Mormon Doctrine page 163). This is clearly contradicted by Isiaiah 43:11, 44:6, 8 and 45:5.. Could you reconcile these to me?

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