Scripture and the News

The Glenn Beck Rally - Divine Destiny or Evangelical Scandal?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Evangelical leaders lined up to heap "wood, hay, and stubble" on the foundation of Christ. What about you & your church?

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Once again, Evangelical leaders are lining up to heap "wood, hay, and stubble" on the foundation of Jesus Christ. What about you and your church?

Beck's "Black Regiment"

On August 28, 2010, in one of the most massive public demonstrations in American history, a huge crowd - by some estimates nearly half a million people - gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington for talk-show host Glenn Beck's "Restore Honor in America" rally. Joining Beck on the platform were over 240 male and female clergy belonging to the ecumenical ministerial group he has formed, the "Black-Robed Regiment".

The term "Black-Robed Regiment" is a reference to clergymen of the Revolutionary War era, who were said to form an additional "regiment" of the Continental Army as they spurred revolutionary fervor from their pulpits.

As Beck told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly after the rally, the group on the memorial steps consisted of "240 pastors, priests, rabbis and imams on stage [who] all locked arms saying the principles of America need to be taught from the pulpit." Beck said that even atheists are welcome to be involved in the movement, because they know how to "self-regulate" in the same way that Christians and Jews follow the Ten Commandments.1

According to published news reports, among those who have enlisted in Beck's "Black-Robed Regiment" are Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr.; former Focus on the Family president James Dobson; Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; rabbi and management consultant David Lapin; television star and columnist Chuck Norris; mega-church pastor John Hagee; a number of Roman Catholic priests; and even some Muslim imams.

Beck hosted a pre-rally "Divine Destiny" event featuring members of the "regiment" in the concert hall of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Rabbi Lapin, steeped in his Christ-denying legalism, spoke at the event without a microphone because he believes that Jews are not supposed to turn on electricity on the Sabbath.2

Beck said, "These men and women here don't agree on fundamentals. They don't agree on everything that every church teaches. What they do agree on is that God is the answer."3

Echoing the spiritually bankrupt Moral-Majority philosophy of his late father, Jerry Falwell, Jr. said this: "Glenn Beck's Mormon faith is irrelevant. People of all faiths, all races and all creeds spoke and attended the event. Nobody was there to endorse anyone else's faith..."4

Yet Another Evangelical Scandal

In an article published in response, Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousiville, disagrees - and so should every true believer in Christ. I don't agree with everything Dr. Moore said, and it must be noted that the Southern Baptist Convention and its schools have been, and continue to be, a breeding ground for the serious departures from Scripture that plague postmodern Evangelicalism - the very problems of which Dr. Moore speaks. But in this particular article, he makes some excellent points:

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they've heard the gospel, right there in the nation's capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America's Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America's Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

If you'd told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it's not. It's from this week's headlines. And it is a scandal.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn't the problem. He's an entrepreneur, he's brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I'm quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. [Editor's note: I could not disagree more. A minster of the Gospel who enters into such an unequal yoke prostitutes his Divine calling. - pme] What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the "Tea Party" or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.

It's taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. [Editor's note: How good Schaeffer's influence has been is highly debatable. - pme] In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined "revival" and "turning America back to God" that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.

...We've tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political "conservatism" and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American "Christianity" has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.

Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That's why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don't like to talk about sin. That's why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements. [Editor's note: How many of these "superstars" are actually Christians is highly questionable. "By their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). - pme]

Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12-20). As long as the Serpent's voice is heard, "You shall not surely die," the powers are comfortable.

This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn't mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn't worried about "revival" or "getting back to God." What he opposes [is] the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.

We used to sing that old gospel song, "I will cling to [the] old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown." The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.

Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. [Editor's note: Why must "tradition" be offered as an authority alongside Scripture? - pme] An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any "revival" that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a "revival" of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).

The answer to this scandal isn't a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest... The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.

Dr. Moore's last sentence needs to be rewritten - more Biblically. The answer does not "include" local churches that preach the one true Gospel and instruct the saints in sound doctrine. Our Lord Jesus Christ declares that this is the answer. There is no other. He has commissioned His church to do these two things, and nothing else. Anything else builds "wood, hay, and stubble" on the foundation of Jesus Christ, rather than adorning it with "gold, silver, and precious stones."

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness"; and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."

Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come - all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 3:10-4:2)

What About You and Your Church?

Are you personally, and is your church, proclaiming the fact that Christ alone is the object of saving faith; that saving faith is believing "the word of the truth of the Gospel" (Colossians 1:5)? We must be proclaiming the fact that saving faith produces a changed life, just as surely as day follows night. Is your own life, and the life of your church as a body of believers, demonstrating that fact? If there isn't that kind of spiritual fruit, God's Word tells us that we have reason to question whether there is in fact spiritual life.

We must be proclaiming that the Gospel is the answer to every problem, every challenge, every evil - in the lives of individuals, in the life of the church as a body, and in the life of the nation. Jesus Christ is the only hope for this world. Politics cannot save this world. Economics cannot save this world. Social action cannot change the nature of this world. Jesus told us that this world and its system are passing away. Our only hope is to be prepared for the world to come. And the only way to be prepared for the world to come is to be cleansed of your sins by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today a lot of Christians are getting that backwards. Christians are trying to change the culture without proclaiming and standing upon the only thing that can change the culture - and that is what happens when people come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their changed lives exert a positive influence on those around them. You can't have the effect without the cause. You can't have changed lives, you can't have a changed church, you can't have a changed nation, unless the truth of the Gospel is fully and accurately proclaimed, unless people receive Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit, and their lives and their thinking are changed by the power of God's Word illuminated by His Spirit.

Today many Christians are busy in the kind of political and social activity that tries to bring about the fruit of the Spirit without the saving work of the Spirit. It is the Gospel, the Gospel alone, that changes everything.


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References:

 

1. "Beck Reflects on His 'Restoring Honor' Rally", transcript of "The O-Reilly Factor" telecast of August 30, 2010, as viewed at http://www.foxnews.com/
on-air/oreilly/transcript/beck-reflects-his-039restoring-honor039-rally-sharpton-offers-his-take-event
2. Matthew Boyle, "Glen Beck's 'Divine Destinty' Event Focuses on Faith", The Daily Caller, August 28, 2010, as viewed at http://dailycaller.com/2010/08/28/
glenn-becks-divine-destiny-event-focuses-on-faith/

3. Ibid.

4. Adelle M. Banks, "Beck Wants to Lead, But Will Evangelicals Follow?", Religion News Service, August 31, 2010, as viewed at http://www.religionnews.com/index.php?/rnstext/
beck_wants_to_lead_but_will_evangelicals_follow/

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