Falwell and Lillback Make Common Cause with Glenn Beck

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Wayne Wilson's picture

I caught a couple of these Glenn Beck shows with Lillback and Falwell, and began to feel increasingly uneasy. Beck did say openly he was a Mormon, and acknowledged that the other men would have different theological views than his, but then much time was spent speaking of God as Someone they had in common. Lillback and Falwell did not seem interested in presenting the Gospel, though Falwell repeatedly promoted Liberty University. The two men failed to distinguished in any way the true God from the odd Mormon deity, or simply the common "god" of American civil religion. I am aware they were not there to evangelize Beck, or put down his faith, and perhaps they said more to him behind the scenes, but what is being presented is a vague form of civil religion, and only loosely is the word Christian used.

I tend to agree with Beck politically (although I think he is simplistic and just sort of finding his way in the world of political ideas), and I am not opposed to civic virtue generally based on Christian principles, but to see two influential Evangelicals sit quietly while the uniqueness of the Gospel is gently set aside disturbs me. I think they should have been clearer about the content of the Gospel they believe. Franklin Graham would have.

On the Social Justice matter, Al Mohler's comments were helpful.

http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/03/15/glenn-beck-social-justice-and-the...

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, the article at CT really had me conflicted. You have some very good conclusions poorly argued (the parable of the talents is in no way an endorsement of capitalism by Jesus!), and you have some appropriately negative attitudes toward "social justice," but pretty murky rhetoric on what the real problem w/"social justice" is.
It's all got me itching big time to write a few articles on Scripture and conservative political philosophy... and a bit of history on where "social justice" came from (hint: it is not unrelated to "social gospel").

Then you have these Bible believing guys mixing it up w/Beck who does not "get" the gospel at all.
I caught a segment of Beck's radio show a few weeks ago where they were reading some peace about differences of opinion between neo-conservatives and paleo-conservatives. Beck actually had no idea what a paleo conservative even is. He said so and laughed and laughed like the idea was ridiculous. And this is where many are going to learn about conservatism! It's a sad situation when people have to figure out conservatism from a guy who apparently knows nothing about its history before the 1950's!
I was pretty bummed to hear that segment. I expected better from Beck. But it's not too late. He just needs to do some reading outside the news stuff... history... Bolingbroke, Burke, Adam Smith, Kirk, etc.
Sorry for the rant. Gets me steamed up.

JobK's picture

It is wrong for theological liberals to cloak the their politics in Christianity, but it is perfectly fine for theological conservatives to? It is good for Falwell - who ran a Republican voter drive at his college and attempted to ban a student Democratic Party organization from campus - but not for Wallis? Oh yeah, and "the gospel is for individual salvation only" ... why did the WESTMINSTER SEMINARY Lillback just IGNORE limited atonement, corporate solidarity and covenant theology? For political purposes maybe? A limited version of the Anabaptist position on aversion to politics is looking better and better all the time.

"He cited the parable of the talents as evidence that Jesus valued the free market and capitalism." Maybe Falwell picked that one up from the Word of Faith/prosperity preachers that he encountered when he was on TBN not long ago ... are we going to hear him start repeating the "Jesus Christ was rich" canard from that crowd too?

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
It is wrong for theological liberals to cloak the their politics in Christianity, but it is perfectly fine for theological conservatives to?

I'm not for either side doing any "cloaking." But the fact is that one's theology directly relates to how he views human problems, both individual and societal. And our theology profoundly impacts how we view what governments can/cannot or should/should not do about societal problems. So there is no true separating of political approach from theology, even if the "theology" is agnosticism or atheism (these are still beliefs about God). So really, public dialog about politics would greatly improve if everyone would openly acknowledge that the questions that concern politics are inherently religious questions (and if more people understood what religious ideas are behind them).

So while many of us (including me) believe passionately in the separation of church and state, we're well down the path to political confusion if we believe we can separate religion from political thought. Impossible. It would be like trying to separate chemistry from the study of medicine. You can do medicine w/o a grasp of chemistry, but would be superficial at best and at times quite dangerous.

To a degree, Fallwell, Lillback and co. have correctly identified "social justice" as being rooted in a theology. But from the sound bites and such it doesn't sound like they are fully aware of what theology, or what sort of theology answers it. I'd like to see them talk more about some of the more foundational ideas... What are human beings really like? What are societies like? What can governments do about human nature and the nature of human societies? These questions can easily get mired in technical talk and obscure references to philosophers and so forth, but they don't have to. They are pretty basic questions and simplified answers can be part of the public dialog... and need to be, because of how they invariably shape policy.

JobK's picture

Political confusion may indeed be a regrettable state of affairs, as the Bible makes it clear that government can effectively restrain evil. (However, the fact that Paul, Peter and Isaiah wrote texts relevant to civil government when the government in question were pagan imperial monarchies - Rome in the case of Paul and Peter, and Isaiah referred to Cyrus as "God's servant - should not be forgotten. Neither should Martin Luther's statement that he preferred the rule of a wise Muslim - wise Turk more literally - to that of a foolish Christian, or that Luther made this statements not long after Europe had spent centuries warring with Muslims.) And I agree, that America seems to be heading down the path of political (as well as economic and social) confusion.

But perhaps as a consequence of my relative youth and naivete, I prefer political confusion to the theological confusion as represented by Beck, Lillback, and Falwell in this specific instance, and in a larger context things like the Manhattan Declaration and the "family values" movement. It is politically-motivated theological confusion that played a large role in why two leading evangelicals feel that it is appropriate to cause Christians living in a materialistic, self-centered culture to stumble over the meaning and application of James 2:12-16, Matthew 25:32-46 and Matthew 25:14-30 just so they can find common political cause with a fellow who believes that God is a space alien who progressed to godhood, that Jesus Christ and Satan are brothers, and that Jesus Christ is the result of carnal relations between God and Mary.

Beck, Lillback and Falwell didn't care about promoting a proper Biblical theology that answers the errors of social justice theology and liberation theology. How could they, when Beck explicitly rejects the Bible in the first place? "What are human beings really like? What are societies like? What can governments do about human nature and the nature of human societies?" How are you going to have that discussion with a Mormon who rejects original sin and adheres himself to a works-based religion who believes that the individual can be reformed (saved) through pouring himself into religion, family, education and commerce? One who believes that the best government or society is one that is heavily influenced by the Mormon Church and Joseph Smith's teachings? The distance between Mormonism and the "social gospel" of about 150 years ago (before the religious left adopted Marxism, identity politics and counterculture) really isn't that far. Falwell and Lillback know this (or they should know it!) but are ignoring it for political purposes.

A theological debate between whether a limited government or a vast government is better at restraining evil should happen. Conservative Christians perhaps would argue that precisely because of man's nature, limited government is best because a vast government would either generally fail at its objectives or do more harm than good and become a cause of evil itself. Liberal Christians (meaning Bible-believers with left of center politics on some issues) may argue that a large government is needed precisely because of man's fallen nature (i.e. to prevent the wealthy from becoming too powerful and to protect vulnerable members of the population). And both groups of Christians can argue how best to pursue politics when dealing with a larger society that rejects original sin and everything else that the Bible has to say. But that isn't what Falwell and Lillback were doing in their agreement-fest with Beck.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Paul J. Scharf's picture

First, a couple of caveats -- I am not one of those rich fundamentalists who has a satellite dish, and do not regularly watch Beck on FNC Wink . From what I have seen of him, I would probably not spend a lot of time watching him even if I had the opportunity to do so.

I also have no connections to Lillback -- who has left his dispensational heritage for covenant theology -- or Falwell, per se.

I am just wondering, however, if we are being a little hard on Falwell and Lillback here. Does being a Christian or an administrator of a Christian educational institution mean that someone cannot go on a TV news show? Is one obligated to correct the host's theological position if he does accept such an invitation? That standard would seem quite unrealistic.

Falwell and Lillback are not engaging in an evangelistic campaign with Beck. They are appearing on a news program on a secular network as experts on history, education and culture. Since the discussion relates to these items, the fact that they did not have the opportunity to present the gospel, while unfortunate, is not to be unexpected. I have even seen John MacArthur give similar types of interviews where he did not get the opportunity to focus on the gospel. Would we rather that he not give the interview?

Also, Job seems like he is wanting more than an interview with Glenn Beck can reasonably yield -- like maybe a graduate class on poli sci from a Biblical theologian H:)

I think we sometimes take these things out of context when we try to view them under a fundamentalist microscope. Take it for what it is worth -- don't try to pick the fly specks out of the pepper Cool

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I wouldn't put the matter as passionately as JobK does, but for it's not about appearing on the show but more abut the subject matter... if you're going to bring up theology at all, then it has to be handled properly. And I really do think it should be brought up because, as I said, political questions are inherently religious questions. But if you're with a guy like Beck on TV and he talks about the gospel... well, if it were me, I'd feel a strong obligation to make it clear that I do not share Glenn Beck's "gospel," though I may share some of his moral philosophy. It's just a really, really tricky act to pull off being an evangelical leader and being involved with him at all. So I do sympathize with them on that score.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I guess the distinction I would make is that Falwell and Lillback are not appearing with Beck because he is a Mormon, but because he is a talk show host.
Also, they are guests on his program. It is not a debate, an academic forum or a religious forum.
Working in the news business myself, I interview all kinds of people and help them tell their stories.
Does, for instance, a Roman Catholic person I might interview have a moral obligation to "correct" my theology? That seems to me to be more than is necessary, expected or even possible.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Paul, I can see that angle. Beck's a little different because he freely expresses a great deal of opinion and doesn't hesitate to venture into theology on the radio (and I assume on TV, though I've never seen him there), even though he knows very little about it. So he's one of these "fusion of entertainment and journalism" guys who offers a product that is intentionally strongly personality-driven.
But I can see cutting Falwell and Lillbeck a bit more slack on the "We're just getting interviewed here" angle.