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Posted by on Aug 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Richard Land vs. Russell Moore: Southern Baptist Ethicists Differ On Glenn Beck

Over the weekend thousands flooded the Mall in D.C. to experience Glenn Beck’s Divine Destiny and Restoring Honor rally.  I tuned in for most of the event which one could describe as a sort of interfaith, patriotic prayer meeting that wanted to be a revival.  Lowest common-denominator American religion at its finest.

In the Southern Baptist world, there has been a bit of backlash to Glenn Beck’s evangelistic style.

Russell Moore, Dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote a blistering critique of evangelical involvement in Beck’s shindig titled God, the Gospel and Glenn Beck. A really well-written, powerful article from Moore:

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.

…It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. 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.

Other Southern Baptists expressed agreement with Moore.  Denny Burk, Dean of Boyce College at Southern Seminary, wrote on his blog:

Moore is rightly scathing in his rebuke of evangelicals who would confuse genuine revival with Mormon-American-pie-populist politics. That’s exactly what was on display this weekend at Beck’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

Nathan Finn, Professor of Church History at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on his blog One Baptist Perspective:

Perhaps you’ve heard that Glenn Beck is the newly annointed leader of American evangelicals….Lots of Christians seem unconcerned by this, while others are aghast that a Mormon with small government political convictions has so successfully bamboozled socially conservative evangelicals.

Others siding with Moore include Joe Carter of First Thoughts and North Carolina pastor Tim Rogers of SBC Today.  Interestingly, Baptist Press – the “news” agency of the Southern Baptist Convention – has not posted a single article about Beck.

Meanwhile, Richard Land – the SBC’s chief ethicist and head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission – has (not surprisingly) been singing a different tune about Beck.  Here is Land who attended the Restoring Honor rally on Saturday at the invitation of Beck:

I’ve been stunned….This guy’s on secular radio and television but his shows sound like you’re listening to the Trinity Broadcasting Network, only it’s more orthodox and there’s no appeal for money…and today he sounded like Billy Graham.

“I think he’s moving – I think he’s a person in spiritual motion and has been,” Land said.  “He has said as much to us,” Land said, referring to fellow pastors. “That he has moved in the direction of being more spiritual, more concerned with cultural issues and seeing that politics isn’t the answer.”

Yet today, Land ceased cheerleading and seemed to “amend” – to quote Beck – his comments from Saturday during an interview for NPR’s All Things Considered.  Land conceded that Mormonism is “not a Christian faith” and that Mormonism is not an “orthodox Christian faith, with a small o.”  Land concluded:

I think perhaps the most charitable way for an evangelical Christian to look at Mormonism is to look at Mormonism as the fourth Abrahamic faith.

I have a hunch that many Southern Baptists would cringe a bit at Land’s characterization of Mormonism as the fourth Abrahamic faith.

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  1. The SBC messengers would look far less stupid if they would stop calling for Driscoll’s head and the head of everyone in the SBC who has shook his hand and start demanding the end of Richard Land and the ERLC.

  2. The good thing about academia is that even if an institution is taken over by 6000 year earthers, even if a cadre of Conservative Resurgence lieutenants are hired onto the faculty, they are usually smart people some of whom eventually start thinking.

    Mormonism the fourth Abrahamic faith? How about just one example of the many aberrant American restorationist movements of the nineteenth century.

  3. What I get from this is that evangelical leaders are cautious about Glenn Beck, some even warning the flock not to be ‘bamboozled.’

    Many welcome the call to trust God over government and turn to faith. but they don’t see Beck, or his Mormonism, as trusted guides to lasting truth.

    That seems appropriate.

  4. I saw that article about Beck and gay marriage from BP. I was a little surprised that they have chosen not cover last weekend’s events since at least Land was there.

  5. BDW: Visit Religion today and read carefully the grand piece by Rutgers Andrew Murphy and the lesser though worthwhile piece by Posner. Posner’s piece is noteworthy because it spotlights Russ Moore,puts him in wider circles for academics to scrutinize outside the world of Baylor and Mercer; and the Murphy piece you should take straight to Barry Hankins.

  6. The SBC messengers would look far less stupid if they would stop calling for Driscoll’s head and the head of everyone in the SBC who has shook his hand and start demanding the end of Richard Land and the ERLC.

    Yes, because that’s the Biblical way of handling things.

  7. @bossmanham

    I’d say it is. On the one hand we’ve got a megachurch pastor known for church planting and reformed theology and on the other a hack ethicist trying to get the SBC to marry the state and make babies. I fail to see why we’re trying to crucify the first guy, but blow millions of dollars on a guy who undermines the baptist distinctive of separation between church and state. Pruning is a biblical concept, but we’ve got the pruners cutting the wrong vine.

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