Liberty University invited Mormon Glenn Beck to preach to its students at its compulsory convocation last week, handing out $10 fines to residential students who didn’t have a suitable excuse for not attending.
The Beck sermon continues a worrying trend that signals Liberty’s rapid retreat from Christian orthodoxy to an unapologetic embrace of false religions and heretics, starting with self-proclaimed messiah Rev. Moon in the 1990s, to Benny Hinn and the Mormon church today. Though it still markets itself as a Christian university, its definition as to what passes as Christian is not one shared by most of the churches that send their young people there for an education.
We’ve covered Liberty’s affiliation with the Moonie cult and Benny Hinn on this blog before, and Beck’s heretical sermon last week suggests that the toleration of false teachers like Moon and Hinn weren’t aberrations. Foisting heresy on students is becoming Liberty’s signature.
Liberty hosts convocation events throughout the year to which students are compelled to attend. Although it’s not part of the chapel program, most speakers are Christians, and most use the event to preach. Clayton King and Steven Furtick are regular convocation speakers.
Because convocation is not technically reserved for Christian speakers, it occasionally hosts cultural and political leaders. For example, this semester it invited Michael Reagan (son of Ronald), and Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the producers of the “Son of God” television series. The alarming feature of last week’s message is that Beck did not appear as a political or cultural leader; instead, he used his time to preach a message full of theological assertions that were unchallenged by the university, and which received a standing ovation from Jerry Falwell at the end of the event. Liberty’s website boasted of the event’s success, again without providing any disclaimer from or correction to Beck’s deceptive and antichristian teaching. In fact, the Liberty account of the sermon simply repeats Beck’s deceptions, apparently unaware and unconcerned that Liberty is being used as a tool to promote a false religion.
At the beginning of the convocation meeting, Jerry Falwell introduced Beck in glowing terms, welcoming him as a friend of the university and reminding students that he had also been a commencement speaker. No mention of his Mormon faith was made, so he appeared to be joining Falwell on stage as a Christian brother. During his sermon, Beck did acknowledge his Mormon identity, though asserted that he was a Christian just like Falwell and everybody else, except he was from a different denomination.
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’m a Mormon, but I share your faith in the atonement of the savior, Jesus Christ. In my faith, we have a guy who gave his life for what he believed in. You don’t have to believe it; I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you, “What is it that you believe? Are you willing to give your life?”
Not only does Beck attach his false religion to Christianity, he holds a false prophet up as an example for Liberty students to emulate.
As a Mormon, Beck is not some casual adherent; the church and the need to spread its message consumes his life. He opened with a tearful confession that he doesn’t spend every possible moment studying his church’s teachings. Among other historical artifacts on display during the presentation, he displayed the pocket watch that Joseph Smith surrendered immediately before his death. One would imagine such an artifact would be rare and highly valued among his co-religionists, and you’d expect to see it in a museum, not a preacher’s pocket. Beck often alluded to his own prophetic calling by God, considering it an honor to be in God’s service as a leader in his church. To be able to take his Mormon theology and preach to what he identified as “the biggest collection of Christian youth meeting in America today” is a privilege that Beck surely takes seriously. (The self-conscious references to being a national religious leader echoed Rev. Moon’s charge to Liberty’s current provost, Ron Godwin, to take the Moonie cultist message to the evangelical world.)
Beck’s sermon and Liberty’s unwitting acceptance of it constitute an excellent case study in how false teachers infiltrate the church. False teachers never appear wearing horns and announcing that they are dangerous wolves. Instead, they look and sound like they’re preaching God’s truth, injecting their deceptions at the edges when nobody is looking, or manipulating language to lull the audience into agreeing to statements that carry secondary, false meanings. Beck was a master at it, and Liberty appears to have no idea what hit them. Here’s how Beck got to teach his false religion to thousands of students at America’s largest Christian university.
At first blush, Beck appears to be a devotee of Scripture, and he even quoted passages from the Old and New Testaments. The giveaway was his refusal to refer to Scripture as a singular noun, always referring to Scriptures. You can hear it throughout the sermon, but let’s just look at two quotes that Liberty itself thought excellent enough to repeat in its press release (again, without any hint that they know what Beck is doing):
“The times are changing, and if we are going to rebuild our nation and keep people free, then we have to look at the source,” Beck said, holding up a Bible. “You have to know what the blueprint is. And the blueprint for freedom … is the Scriptures.”
“Man is free because of the Scriptures.”
The reason that Beck uses the plural form is that the 66 books of the Christian Bible are only one part of four sacred texts that comprise Mormonism’s “Scriptures.” One of those books, the Book of Mormon, was discovered and interpreted by Joseph Smith and tells the story of Jesus’ ministry to North America. Even though Beck believes the Book of Mormon is just as sacred as the Bible, he was smart enough not to use any references from it in his sermon, making it appear that his references to “Scriptures” were to the Christian Bible.
Beck often referred to the atoning power of Jesus, which had helped change his life into what it is today. For example, early in the sermon he said,
Are you taking your life, are you taking your scriptures as seriously as you should? I will tell you that I was a man that was lost and hopeless. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I couldn’t hold my sobriety until the atoning power of Jesus Christ. [applause]
The idea of atonement comes up elsewhere in the sermon, but never the cross. For Beck and other Mormons, Jesus performed his atoning work primarily in the garden of Gethsemane when he sweat blood. In other words, the cross and the death and resurrection of Jesus weren’t necessary for his atoning work, though Mormons will include the cross as part of the atoning process that began in the garden. It wasn’t Jesus death that makes us right with God, it was his work of suffering, which, though it did happen while he was still alive on the cross, mainly happened in the garden.
Atonement is an important theological term, though Beck gets away with using it in front of a Christian audience who probably have no idea that he actually denies the Christian atonement taught in evangelical churches for millennia. As Indigo Montoya pointed out in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Beck asks Liberty’s students to find their God-given purpose because God “brought us all here for a reason.” He wanted students to see that they had a higher purpose, and that Liberty could help them reach it.
You didn’t come down for a job…. You need an education from Liberty University because of your only true job, the purpose you were sent here for: to magnify Him. To bring Him to others. To do what it is that you’re supposed to do. To preserve liberty, the liberty of all mankind.
Note the language of transportation – brought us, come down – rather than the language of creation. This, too, is consistent with Mormon theology that we, with God, are eternal beings who lived with God before he sent us to earth. Because our time here, according to Mormon teaching, is a test, we don’t remember our previous life with God. We pass God’s test if we figure out the reason we were sent here in the first place.
What we do while on earth is of utmost importance to the Mormon god. Beck tells Liberty’s students that they need to figure out their reason for being here. He also appropriates the language of Joshua to ask the audience to “choose who you will be,” not whom you will serve. This is not a slip of the tongue. Our identity and works determine whether we pass the test of life’s struggle, and our performance determines what level of heaven we go back to.
In a sermon to other Mormons, the head president of the church explained how works matter.
I have been thinking recently about choices and their consequences. It has been said that the gate of history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. The choices we make determine our destiny….
We all know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for the path we follow in this life surely leads to the path we will follow in the next.
The Mormon articles of faith also make it clear that it is works that save us, not Christ alone.
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. [emphasis added]
This Mormon explanation of their beliefs shows the relationship between Jesus’ atoning work on the cross (not death and resurrection) and our obligation to obey and strive for good works:
We know that in the Garden of Gethsemane, the weight of our sins caused Him to feel such agony that He bled from every pore (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-17).
Later, as He hung upon the cross, Jesus again felt the weight of our sins even as He willingly suffered painful death by one of the most cruel methods ever known. Jesus the Christ, page 462 states, “It seems, that in addition to the fearful suffering incident to crucifixion, the agony of Gethsemane had recurred, intensified beyond human power to endure. In that bitterest hour the dying Christ was alone, alone in most terrible reality.”…
Jesus Christ did what only He could do in atoning for our sins. To make His Atonement fully effective in our individual lives, we must have faith in Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized and confirmed by one having authority, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, obey God’s commandments, receive sacred ordinances, and strive to become like Him. As we do these things through His Atonement, we can return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father forever. [emphasis added]
Joseph Smith taught that we “are justified of faith and works, through grace.” This is not the gospel, so it’s not Christian. Paul clearly condemned such teaching as false and antichristian.
If someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough….
And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Cor 11:4, 12-15)
“Put up with it readily enough” could describe Liberty, except that they not only put up with it, they invited and promoted it.
Appropriating Jesus’ Name
Although Beck repeatedly refers to Jesus, he does not believe in the Christian Jesus, and, therefore, the Christian God. Mormons reject the Trinity and the eternal existence of Christ. They also reject monotheism, believing that we can all become gods.
Appallingly then, Beck misappropriates the language of orthodox Christian belief (mixed with a touch of Benny Hinn) to inspire students to ask God for miracles:
What is it that you truly believe? …Too many of us are worshipping the god of the Constitution. Not the Constitution, but God. God is our God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God peace, of comfort, of miracles. Expect miracles in your lifetime. Live in such a way that you can demand miracles. Expect miracles. Call down miracles. And then when they happen, pronounce them. Declare them. Never be shy, no matter how small or how big, don’t explain it away. That is the awesome power of Jesus Christ and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. [applause]
He finished the sermon by saying, “I leave you this message in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Glenn Beck was invited to a Christian university and was able to preach to thousands of its students as if he were a brother in Christ, when in fact he is a wolf and a false teacher. If Liberty’s administrators knew it, they did not warn their students of Beck’s apostasy, and in so doing flatly ignored Paul’s instructions on how to treat such teachers.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:6-8)
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,… flee these things. (1 Tim 6:3, 11)
Liberty’s appalling lack of discernment, especially when it promises parents that it will train their children in the Christian faith, would be surprising if we didn’t know its history and tolerance for false teachers like Moon and Hinn. You’d think Beck’s error would be obvious and that his name would be quickly stricken from Liberty’s convocation invitation lists. Why it wasn’t was perhaps revealed by Beck himself on his radio show:
When I die, if I have anything left I will be leaving a large sum of money to Liberty University because these guys are truly remarkable.
Well, OK then. For a growing university, the promise of a large donation covers a multitude of sins.