Evangelical Scholar Troubled by Theological Ambiguity at Beck Rally
In the days following Glenn Beck's highly publicized rally in Washington, D.C., conservative Christians have come out expressing their concern not over the increasingly popular broadcaster, but over the apparent confusion among Christ followers.
"There is something very strange going on here. I don't understand the disconnect on the part of Christians," said Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Americans from across the country converged on the National Mall on Saturday for the "Restoring Honor" rally led by Fox News commentator Beck. Reports indicate that the event drew anywhere from 87,000 to 500,000 people. Beck, a Mormon, was joined by a diverse group of religious leaders – including evangelical Christians – as he called on America to turn back to God.
Mohler, one of the nation's pre-eminent evangelical theologians, found that Beck's rally cries were resonating with many Christians.
"What concerned me about that event on the mall was not so much Glenn Beck and the politicians in the program; it was the picture of those religious leaders standing together," he said Tuesday on The Janet Mefferd Show.
During Saturday's three-hour event, over 200 religious leaders stood behind Beck, linking arms at certain points. Dr. Richard Land, a well-known Southern Baptist, and Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Maryland were among the conservative Christians standing there.
While Land does not agree with Beck's theology, he told National Public Radio that the event was about a deep concern of Americans that the country has taken "a fundamentally wrong turn and is headed in the wrong direction."
Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, Calif., who was also at the event, said the rally was about extolling virtue and honoring God.
And the event was evangelical in tone, he said in a commentary on CNN.
"Despite the pre-rally discussions of Beck's Mormonism, the rally's litany of evangelical speakers gave it the Jesus-centeredness of a Billy Graham Crusade. All theological references were clearly evangelical and biblically based," Garlow wrote.
After observing the rally, Mohler came away with a different take and a big concern.
"The bottom line is ... we've been used and we've allowed ourselves to be used at times by politicians and others who co-opted God talk," he said Tuesday on The Janet Mefferd Show.
"We (conservative Christians in America) … have just assumed that because they were using our language, they were talking about the same Gospel or talking about the same understanding of God or talking about the same theological structure and that's just not true," he stressed.
Mohler doesn't disagree on uniting with others on common concerns and moral convictions.
But he underscored the need to "distinguish that from standing together in the faith."
"One of the healthiest things that can happen among conservative Christians is the ability to recognize, to discern the difference between civil religion and authentic Christianity," he explained.
The conservative theologian said he and many other believers agree with Beck on many of his political views. He also expressed appreciation for how Beck identifies "many really horrible and very dangerous liberal ideas."
But "[j]ust to debunk liberal ideas does not give you then the authority to be taken at your word ... to be speaking truth when then you talk about the Gospel," he cautioned.
"We just have to be mature Christians [and say] 'let's look at the Scripture. Let's look at what is being said here. We have a problem."
Continuing, Mohler outlined the fact that Mormons hold to a very different understanding of God than that of Christian theism.
"We're talking about very different deities here," he said. "And I think many Christians just have no idea as they were watching that event."
"How many American Christians who are watching that (rally) and resonating with the call for spiritual revival know that the man who is up there speaking, using words about Gospel and God and all the rest, believes that there was a male and a female deity, that the Godhead is a reproductive pair, that eventually we will be divine ourselves if indeed we follow the path of righteousness?" Mohler added.
Since January, Beck has been working on the themes of faith, hope and charity. He said his aim is to restore history, honor, and "our faith" in the country.
The popular commentator has discussed the Gospel of Jesus Christ repeatedly on his television program, even using evangelical language such as atonement through the shed blood of Christ.
But Mohler commented, "That's bizarre language for a Mormon to be using in this light and to have evangelical Christians affirm that he's talking about the same Gospel we are ... it's the same language but it's not the same Gospel."
What both Mohler and Mefferd believe is happening is spiritual rallying on vague terms.
"When we see some of the talk that has come out of the rally and some of the people associated with the rally, all about God, God, God, I just have really strongly felt that it needs to be a very precise definition when we bring God into the discussion on anything," radio host Mefferd stated.
Mohler described the scenario as having all the cards on the table but turned over so that the faces are not seen.
"You're having the language, but you're not having the definitions here," he noted.
"It really is not so much a concern politically, it's a concern theologically. If we are Christians, we have to understand the name of God is not just some kind of generic noun we can throw around."
While Mohler recognized that some Christians would be irritated listening to his take on Beck and the rally, the theologian hopes they'll be irritated enough to go and look at Scripture.
Amid the theological ambiguity and confusion, Mohler reminded Christians that a revival or spiritual renewal cannot happen without a heart that has known salvation through Jesus Christ.
"You can't have spiritual renewal where biblically speaking there's spiritual deadness," he said. "The reality is we can't biblically believe that they really know the one true and living God unless they know Him through Jesus Christ, our Lord."