mormons are christians, too, right? :: glenn beck might be right… and wrong

November 16, 2010

Glenn Beck drives people nuts.

Love him or hate him, most likely you’ve got an opinion.  He doesn’t produce fence-sitters.  That fence is POINTY, baby.  You’re going to fall on one side or the other pretty quickly if you spend any time listening to his show or watching him on the telivizzle.

And believe it or not, the rest of this post will have nothing to do with politics.  So you can exhale.

At the end of August I posted “glenn beck: the new voice of evangelical christianity” as a follow-up to his non-political/spiritual revival pro-America rally on the national mall on August 28, 2010.  My main point was to say that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with Glenn’s religious rhetoric, because he’s a Mormon, and therefore means something very different when he claims to be “listening to the voice of God” or leading us to “do the will of God.”  We believe in and follow different Gods, me and Mr. Beck.  Therefore, I urged my fellow evangelicals to listen if you must, but exercise discernment… it’s dangerous ground.

The post generated some good discussion at the time, but I just received a new comment today, and it was a good challenge.

The gist was this:I’m confused.  You seem to often call for unity between churches.  Mormons believe Jesus is the Son of God, too, right?  How come we shouldn’t listen to Glenn Beck, then?  Should we not listen just because he’s a Mormon?”

Fair question.  Here was my response:

I understand your confusion. Let me clarify a few things…

First, Im not saying no one should listen to Glenn Beck simply because he is a Mormon. I love to listen to Dennis Prager, for example, and he’s Jewish. There is wisdom to be found in all kinds of people, and truth is truth… meaning, if I say the sky looks blue, and The Pope says the sky looks blue, and Christopher Hitchens says the sky looks blue… we are all saying something true. Our philosophy or religious affiliation doesn’t make it any LESS true when Chris the atheist says it. Right? So, Glenn Beck’s Mormonism, per se, doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from my listening list.

What I am uncomfortable with – and that’s putting it mildly – is Glenn Beck’s increasingly bold “spiritual leader” talk.  He throws around phrases that indicate he believes he is doing the “will of the Lord,” and that he speaks for God and is encouraging people to do His will.  He SAYS the name Jesus, but his belief is very different than mine.  My caution is to listen critically, and be very careful not to confuse his Mormon “word from the Lord” with the authority of the ACTUAL Word of God, given to us in the Bible.

Now, to briefly clarify the difference between my calls to the church for unity around the core doctrines of the Christian faith, and my stiff-arming of Mormonism, it is important for you to understand that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a cult. It is NOT in any way a branch of the Christian church, like Baptists or Lutherans or Methodists. Nope. Mormons are often wonderful people, productive citizens, kind to their neighbors, and raising good kids in strong families. I’m not saying they are “bad” people – any more than you and I are sinful people – in the way that EVERY soul on the planet is born corrupted by sin. But they tend to be “good people” all the same. Even so, Mormonism is a false religion that diverges from Christianity in several KEY ways.

Christian core doctrine has remained grounded in the Word of God and been basically unchanging for 2000+ years. Cults change their core doctrine often – when it becomes necessary to do so. There have been about 4,000 changes to the Book of Mormon since it was first published in 1830, and some BIG ones to boot. They have changed their stance on Polygamy, for one. And they now support the religious equality of African Americans, which required a huge change in their doctrinal positions.

Mormonism is poly-theistic (many gods) and Christianity is monotheistic (ONE God). They believe God the Father was once a man who *progressed* to God-hood. We believe God is the unchanging “I AM.” They believe the Trinity is actually three separate gods… we believe in the three-in-ONE. They also believe that we, as humans, can progress to God-hood status. This is the FIRST LIE from the Garden of Eden, when the serpent told Eve, “You can be like God…” All of the sin of the world followed that lie and it’s line of reasoning. It is the CORE poison of the human soul.

Mormons believe Jesus is the child of God the Father and a heavenly Mother, and that he was born incomplete and had to *progress* to God-hood status in the spiritual realm. They deny the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ unchanging nature as God and His condescension and virgin birth are foundation truths Christianity is built upon. While Mormons DO believe that Jesus is God’s only Son, their understanding of what that means and the very nature of God and Jesus as our Savior is a mess – and dangerous, theologically.

Mormon’s see Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden as a noble act, enabling man to become mortal – a key step forward in the process of attaining deity status. They believe that Jesus atonement basically grants everyone salvation and immortality, whether we believe in Him or not. There are many, many other important differences, as well.

This stuff is important. Mormons market themselves as another Christian option. But it is not at all Christian. We have no reason, of course, to treat Mormons with disrespect, OR to disregard everything they say simply because of the religion. However, I WILL disregard anything they say with “the authority of the Lord” behind it. Glenn Beck’s Jesus is NOT my Jesus. Therefore, when He speaks about the “will of God,” I know he’s not listening to the same voice of God that I am. Therefore… I turn him off.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

19 responses to mormons are christians, too, right? :: glenn beck might be right… and wrong

  1. Fair post Josh. I am a sick twisted freak (Glenn Beck fan) and have listened to him since or just before his radio show officially went national, right after the Sept 11 attacks. I am also a subscriber to his website, an Insider Extremist – so I get all kinds of extra content, including Beck University. I give all that to fully disclose that I am a Beck fan, more so the radio show as I never have time to watch the tv show (even thought I DVR it every day)
    That said – I am an evangelical Christian. But as I told my (very) Baptist friend last week, I am not looking to Glenn Beck for spiritual guidance – I do enjoy his political view point, his common sense approach to things and he is pretty funny. I am not saying that Glenn is the prophet of The Lord, but even Balam delivered a word from The Lord, after some encouragement from his method of transportation. Yet despite him being a reluctant prophet he lost his life when Israel attacked.
    I really believe that God, the one true God, could be using Glenn Beck to deliver a timely and urgent message to America. Heck I also believe there is a bunch of stuff that the true Christian Church could learn from the Mormans (close family, kindness, witnessing, charity, etc.) But I do agree with you – when it comes to their teachings about Christ and their own eternal destiny they are simply repeating the original lie from deceiver.

    • Hey Mike! Thanks for commenting. Yes, it is possible that Beck’s core message in many ways may actually be a message America needs to hear. He can be very funny – and very abrasive. I have very mixed feelings about the guy. That said, I can’t let his “will of God” talk float without some kind of response. It does seem that many in the evangelical church have made the Mormon connection here and are at least listening with their ears and eyes open to the spiritual overtones. That’s all I ask.

      Also, I’ve gotta say I have been impressed with the Mormon “church” in their ability to market Mormonism as “guy next door Christianity.” They are better marketers, it seems to me, that evangelicals most of the time. At some point, with Beck’s prominence and the continuing presence of Mitt Romney on the political landscape, evangelicals need to make the differences clear. For the safeguarding of the true gospel message.

      Salvation by GRACE alone through FAITH alone in JESUS alone, as recorded in the WORD alone. I know… I’m showing my Lutheran roots again. 🙂

      God bless you and the family, Mike. Thanks again.

  2. Good stuff Josh, however my head is spinning! I feel like I just got a Cliff notes version of Mormonism. Do you recommend a good book on the difference between Christianity and Mormonism? I always thought Mormons were defined as Christians. I need to educate myself more as I live in a very dense mormon community with close friends who are Mormon. My daughter needs a strong, loving understanding of the difference too. She regularly asks what the difference is. Thanks for another awesome post Josh!

    • Hey Heidi. Sorry for the rapid fire bullet points there. I just wanted to make it VERY clear that Christianity and Mormonism are mutually exclusive. You are either one or the other. Can’t be both.

      I’m not sure of a specific resource that only deals with the differences between Mormons and Christians, although I’m sure you can find them somewhere. But I can do two things to help you.

      1) I’ll send you some note I have condensed that were actually taken from the ESV Study Bible – which is EXCELLENT. That can be an even better “cliffs notes” resource for you, with Bible verses included. Watch your email…

      2) I do have a book to recommend. Check out “Christianity on the Offense” by Dan Story. It covers several cults and other world religions – not just Mormonism. But it is written in clear, conversational language – not too intense. And it builds a strong case for understanding what is really TRUE, and how our post-modern culture often tells us that truth is all relative… what’s true for YOU may not be true for ME. This could really help, considering where you live, and it would be a great foundation for some good talks with your daughter. See what you think.

      Thanks for reading and checking in Heidi. God bless you and your girl. 🙂 I think you guys will both be a much needed LIGHT to your neighbors and Mormon friends.

  3. I like the rapid fire bullet points and the cliff note approach. If Mrs. Sharp knew that my book reports in 9th grade were from cliff notes I may not have passed English! Reading wasn’t a priority back then. Anyway, the notes and book reference sound perfect. I have made a few attempts to read about Mormonism but found the resources too be very biased on one side or the other. Factual information lined up with scripture is what I need. I truly want to be a light to my neighbors – I love them dearly. Just don’t know where to begin. Thanks Josh. You’re awesome!

  4. Thanks Josh, that was very insightful. I will confess to also being a Glenn Beck fan, but for his political philosophy of limited government, not because of his spiritual beliefs. The only point I would make is don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater…Beck has some great political points, even if you disagree with his religious message.

  5. Great post Josh. Very informative. I will admit to being a Glenn Beck fan as well, but because of his political beliefs of getting government off our backs. I never thought of him as a spiritual leader in anyway. The only point I would make is that I hope your readers don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You’ve made some great points about his religious beliefs, but I still think that Beck has some great points about our political environment.

    • Hey Jake – thanks again for the follow through here. I agree with you that Beck has some important insight into the role of government, the political landscape, and the exceptionalism of America. I agree to the extent that I think he has important ideas. I just don’t like the religious overtones of his message sometimes, and I want evangelicals to understand his religious affiliation before they follow him blindly based on his idea of God’s will for America. It gets a little creepy for me.

      Thanks again for your good feedback, man. It made this post possible, and I’ve been in a lot of good discussion here and FaceBook and in real life, too. Take care and God bless!

  6. I’ve always wondered how many Evangelicals would embrace Beck if he spouted the same political views but if he were Muslim. Muslims are about as “close” to being Christians as Mormons are, yet I doubt he’d draw as big a crowd to a rally where he proclaims that US needs to “return to Allah.”

    And that’s where we lead ourselves down the slippery slope. Even as we profess that our country should turn back to God and that our laws should reflect good Biblical values, we fall short in being able to agree on what they are. Sometimes we can’t even agree on a translation! How many denominations are there? How many splits are still happening over what would seem like “basic” issues? How many debates have raged on in this blog and hundreds of others over political issues that seem like “slam dunk theology” from both sides of the debate? So who do we put “in charge” of the theocratic America? Who will return us to God? Pat Robertson? Rob Bell? John Piper? Rick Warren? Glenn Beck? Joel Osteen? Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky? Ervin Stutzman? Louis Farrakhan?

    • Dan – thoughtful comment. You show wisdom, I think. This is why I’m all in favor of a religion-friendly country, with freedom to gather and worship as we please, but NOT any kind of a “Christian Nation.” We cannot become theocratic because of the denominational differences and religious differences throughout the country – it will never work until Jesus Himself is the ruler and on His throne when He comes back. Until that day… NOPE.

      Now having said that, I don’t think we’re in ANY danger of moving towards a theocracy in any sense that has teeth. If anything, our government has grown more and more hostile to religion, and Christianity specifically. How do I excuse political leaders offering a “God bless America,” or even invoking God’s name in a time of National crisis, for example? Our country was founded upon Judeo-Christian values. God is in our roots. We don’t force people to believe, but neither should we deny our heritage.

      Anyway, that long, tangled, complicated list of personalities you listed at the end of your comment all havce one thing in common: They’re broken sinners. Me, too. So I don’t trust their spiritual guidance for our country. Let the politicians lead, from principles that define their life. But let the PASTORS be our spiritual leaders, guiding congregations to the truth.

      I wish Glenn Beck would stick a little closer to the socio-economic-political realm and keep out of the “spiritual leader” role. And yet, I’m grateful for his freedom of speech. It’s the same freedom allowing me to write here without fear. Grateful to God for America.

      Thanks Dan. Good challenge and good thoughts. God bless.

  7. You’ve provoked some thoughtful dialogue Brother Skogerboe.
    Many significant potato grower/leaders are Idaho LDS and refuse a glass of wine at dinner but I have never confronted them on theology but have shared my love of Christ and faith; where should I go from here in the “making disciples” deal?

    • Justin! Great to hear from you here! Thanks for reading. I don’t have an easy answer for your Idaho potato farming LDS friends, but I am believing more and more that the BEST way to do evangelism, outside of public preaching of the Word, is through established relationships. Religion and faith is such a personal topic, I think sometimes you have to invest in the relationship for awhile before someone will be ready for a discussion about Jesus.

      But you know what? The Bible does say to be ready “in season and out of season,” and it also says we should “always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us,” right? So, I’d say KEEP IT UP, man! Show people the hope you have and the radiant faith that I see in you. Be quick to bring up Jesus’ name, and bold in your faith – fueled and strengthened by the JOY you have in then assurance of your salvation. And then pray for opportunities. And then SPEAK when the Holy Spirit prompts you.

      And be sure to throw in a few good natured jabs about the superior quality of Red River Valley spuds… just to keep it real. 🙂

      Love you Justin. God bless you and your family. Hope to see you soon!

  8. Ack. Could hardly get past the first part of the blog because Glenn Beck makes me grate my teeth. Glad I did though, because I agreed wholeheartedly with your conclusions. 🙂

    And, as a side note: theocracy is bad. 🙂

  9. Josh. Thanks for this post. As a student at NWC, I just finished writing a paper concerning Mormonism and my response to their false teaching. For any and all who are interested in seeing the difference between those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and folks who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus I recommend Dr. Ron Carlson’s video/lecture “Mormonism: Christian or Cult?” The 82 minutes I spent watching this were insanely helpful and heartfelt. (Carlson also has a great teaching concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses)

    • You’re welcome Tim. Thanks for the feedback. Thanks for the heads up on Dr. Carlson’s video, as well. I’m a proud alumnus of NWC, too. God bless you and your studies. 🙂

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