Friday, September 10, 2010

Have we traded the Gospel for American Prosperity?

Glenn Beck has burst onto the scene of the American right with a religious fervor not rivaled by any of his fellow talk radio or television hosts. He is talented, funny, witty, and smart. He is often a well-informed and passionate voice for many conservative issues. His popular show continues to surge to record numbers. His audience is demonstrably the most committed audience in conservative talk, as evidenced by the enormous turn out at his latest event in Washington DC.

Glenn Beck is also a Mormon. He is not afraid to speak of his Mormon testimony, his belief in who Mormons call Heavenly Father, or his desire to see America return to God. Lately his television shows have been riddled with discussions about God and the need for America to have a revival of sorts. He has spoken to great extent on the need for a Third Great Awakening in America; seemingly positioning himself as one of its leaders.

The First Great Awakening provided much of the religious and moral backbone for the American Revolution and subsequent founding of our country. The Second Great Awakening accomplished the same for the Civil War. Both of these great awakenings occurred as a result of gospel preaching and a deep passion for the Bible in the church. Glenn Beck seems to believe we need a Third Great Awakening in order to launch a war on political progressives and reclaim our country for God-fearing, liberty-loving, constitution-keeping, small-government capitalists. I would argue that on this note Glenn Beck is correct. I agree with De Tocqueville, Montesquieu, and others that unless the people of a nation are a moral people who self-govern their passions, the hope of liberty will fall to the tyranny of big government. I believe the only way this kind of self-governing of passions will occur is if we have a great Christian awakening in America.

However, I am also deeply concerned about Glenn Beck’s call for a Third Great Awakening. I am not primarily concerned with Glenn Beck. I am primarily concerned with the Evangelicals who are passionately looking to his leadership for this kind of revival. I am uneasy about the compromise I see taking place within evangelicalism. Evangelicals seem to be trading the gospel of the free grace of God in Jesus Christ, for the gospel of American prosperity. We have become so eager to advance an agenda of just laws for the good of our neighbors that we are beginning to compromise where it is not needed.

Historically, evangelicals have been called such because of their commitment to the “evangel,” or the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we have always had our in-house debates and disagreements, we thoroughly agreed that there were doctrinal parameters for defining the house. Positively defined, our core belief was that the Trinitarian God of the Old and New Testaments sent forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins on the cross, to rise from the dead, and to give the gift of new life and the Holy Spirit to all who believe. We believed the Bible was our sole authority and salvation was through faith alone in Jesus alone. Negatively defined, we were not Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or any of the cults of Protestantism; Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Apostolic.

It seems we are increasingly abandoning those core doctrines for a different set of core doctrines! When a man who believes in a completely different God calls us to a Third Great Awakening and we come running down the aisle clamoring for that great day, I wonder if we haven’t traded our core doctrine of the “evangel” for the core doctrine of “American prosperity.” When our evangelical leaders come together and link arms with a Mormon broadcaster and pray to “God” alongside him, I become increasingly convinced we have set our hope on the wrong kingdom.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not concerned specifically about Glenn Beck, or the Mormon church. I am thankful for the work they did in fighting to keep marriage between a man and a woman. I am thankful for the Roman Catholic church’s efforts to save the lives of unborn babies. I am not arguing against fighting for just causes alongside anyone who wants to join the fight. Rather, my concern is with evangelicals who are redefining the “evangel” to something less than the Gospel we have historically held to in an effort to reclaim America.

As a minister of the Gospel, and a citizen of the kingdom of God, I would love to see a Third Great Awakening in America. I long for and pray for that day. Yet, I believe that awakening must be thoroughly tied to the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the Bible and professed among historic evangelicals. I do not believe that awakening can be or should be led by a Mormon. I do not believe it is irresponsible to fight alongside Glenn Beck for just causes. I do believe it is irresponsible, and even idolatrous, to link arms in prayer with him and pretend we worship the same God or preach the same gospel.


Paula said...

Amen! Good post. We miss you all so much.
Paula Usrey

Amazing Gracie said...

Chad, this is something that has troubled us, too. The Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Man are to be kept separate. We "render unto Caesar..." but I do not believe that politics have any place in the church. If my pastor starting addressing for whom I should vote instead of proclaiming the gospel, then I would find another church!
I love Glenn Beck - but as a political commentator, NOT as a Christian. We are praying that God will call Glenn unto Himself and draw him into true belief. Now, wouldn't that be great?
(This was in the press after you posted this, but a new study says that atheists and agnostics know more about world religions than those who follow them. It saddens me that "Christians" can be so ignorant in their knowledge.)