According to Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Liberty University’s doctrinal statement does not define Mormonism as a cult. In 2012, when students protested the school’s invitation to Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to speak at commencement, Falwell told CNN,
Liberty has no official position on Mormonism. Our statement does not define Mormonism as a cult. There are hundreds of professors here and I’m sure you could find someone like the professor who authored that course that you just mentioned. I’m sure there are some that believe it is a cult. That’s not part of our doctrinal position and not our official position. (HT: Apprising)
This partly explains why Glenn Beck was given a platform to preach his church’s doctrine to a captive audience of Liberty students last week, who were fined if they didn’t attend Beck’s sermon. Let’s take Falwell’s statement line by line.
“Liberty has no official position on Mormonism.”
Why not? Liberty has an official position, at least as expressed in its marketing, that it is a Christian school – the largest in the world, as Falwell often reminds us. If you dare to define yourself as Christian, you logically create a set of Not Christian colleges that you are not a member of. In what set (Christian or Not Christian) does Liberty place Brigham Young University?
“Our statement does not define Mormonism as a cult.”
It does, actually, which means that Jerry Falwell either doesn’t know the statement, or just choses to ignore it. Here’s some of what Liberty’s Doctrinal Statement declares:
- We affirm our belief in one God
- [God] who exists eternally in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are one in essence but distinct in person and function.
- Human beings were directly created
- We affirm that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, though written by men, was supernaturally inspired by God so that all its words are the written true revelation of God.
- [Jesus] died on the cross in full substitution and payment for the sins of all.
- We affirm that each person can be saved only through the work of Jesus Christ, through repentance of sin and by faith alone in Him as Savior.
- We affirm that a church is a local assembly of baptized believers, under the discipline of the Word of God and the lordship of Christ.
- We affirm that the return of Christ for all believers is imminent.
By contrast, the Mormons believe the following:
- There are three main gods, and many other gods
- Jesus was born to the father and his wife, so is not eternal
- Humans are eternal beings, sent down from heaven to earth
- The Bible is only partial revelation, and is inferior to the Book of Mormon
- Jesus’ suffering before the cross atoned for our sins
- Jesus’ atonement makes it possible for us to be saved by works
- The Christian church is apostate and has fallen away from the faith
- Believers return to Christ, not Christ to believers.
Liberty’s statement defines Mormonism as a cult from its very first sentence (“We affirm our belief in one God”).
“There are hundreds of professors here and I’m sure you could find someone like the professor who authored that course that you just mentioned.”
The course that CNN had mentioned was an apologetics course that used a textbook that unambiguously declared that Mormonism was a cult. Falwell here suggests that he has no knowledge, nor any interest in knowing, the fundamental Christian beliefs of the very professors who are teaching courses in Christian belief.
If your chancellor doesn’t know or care if your professors know the difference between Christian and Not Christian, how can you continue to identify yourself as a Christian institution with any confidence?
“I’m sure there are some that believe it is a cult.”
Great. He should promote one of them to be Liberty’s new provost, and another to be its campus pastor.
More seriously, if he is aware that a subset of Liberty’s faculty and students (it was students who were protesting the Romney invitation) think Mormonism is a cult, why didn’t Liberty make a special exemption so these people could stay away from Beck’s sermon last week? If “some” Liberty people do believe that Mormonism is a cult, they probably also take seriously Paul’s command to flee false teachers. It’s a travesty that Liberty knows of their objections, yet forces them to participate in a display of solidarity with a spiritual wolf anyway.
“That’s not part of our doctrinal position and not our official position.”
In case we missed it the first time, he repeats the denial that Liberty’s doctrine includes Mormonism as a Christian denomination.
This is, along with all the other amazing stuff coming out of Liberty recently, just astonishing. Not only is Falwell the chancellor of “the world’s largest Christian university,” he’s the son and namesake of one of America’s most celebrated Christian preachers. What a tragedy that he so publicly denies the Christian faith when put under a little bit of public and political pressure.
Was Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign so fragile and so important that the leader of one of the world’s most influential Christian educational institutions couldn’t articulate basic Christian doctrine?