Conservative, "Christian Sounding," and Truly Christian are not the same
I have long been concerned about the tendency for Bible believing Christians to confuse conservativism and speaking “Christian language” with a true relationship and walk with Jesus Christ. I addressed this several years ago in my article "Conservative, Liberal or Christian?" So I really resonated with Justin Taylor’s blog, part of which I’ve placed below. I’ve been quoting from Justin’s blog recently, and with good reason—it’s so often right on target. Consider carefully his words.
Andrée Seu’s Tragic Mistake on the Gospel of Glenn Beck
Not to exaggerate, but reading Andrée Seu’s latest article felt a bit like a punch in the gut. She is one of my favorite writers at World Magazine. She writes with skill, grace, wisdom, and spiritual insight.
But now she is saying that she is convinced Glenn Beck is “a new creation in Christ,” even though he is a practicing and believing Mormon.
It’s tragic that she would believe this, write this, and that World would publish it.
A few short thoughts in response.
First, we should recognize that Andrée Seu’s conclusion is a temptation that is common to all (1 Cor. 10:13a). It is easy to hear passion and mistake it for true spiritual zeal. It is easy to be moved by talk of having faith in Jesus, without asking who the person understands Jesus to be.
Even the great J. Gresham Machen—who became a stalwart warrior against modernistic liberalism—was initially captivated by his systematic theology teacher at Marburg, Wilhelm Herrmann. Machen wrote to his parents in 1905:
The first time that I heard Herrmann may almost be described as an epoch in my life. Such an overpowering personality I think I almost never before encountered—overpowering in the sincerity of religious devotion. . .
My chief feeling with reference to him is already one of the deepest reverence. . . . I have been thrown all into confusion by what he says—so much deeper is his devotion to Christ than anything I have known in myself during the past few years. . . . Herrmann affirms very little of that which I have been accustomed to regard as essential to Christianity; yet there is no doubt in my mind but that he is a Christian, and a Christian of a peculiarly earnest type. He is a Christian not because he follows Christ as a moral teacher; but because his trust in Christ is (practically, if anything even more truly than theoretically) unbounded. . . .
This attraction to passionate commitment even with Bible-denying theology can be hard to combat, but we must resist it at all costs (as Machen learned to do).
Secondly, more than ever we need to be clear that Mormonism is fundamentally incompatible with biblical Christianity—starting with the most basic building block that Christians are Trinitarian monotheists (one God in three persons) and Mormons are polytheists (more than one god). It is a religion founded by a false prophet.
For brief reviews on the differences, see the FAQ I pulled together from the ESV Study Bible, as well as this similar summary comparison. I have been helped in the past by reading Reasoning from the Scriptures with Mormons, by Ron Rhodes (who wrote the ESVSB essay).
Third, we simply cannot assume the gospel. Several pastors and theologians have been beating this drum for a while now, but it needs to get louder. Is there any better demonstration of this than Ms. Seu’s line, “I can say without hesitation that I have not heard the essentials of the gospel more clearly and boldly in any church than on his program.” Despite what mainline evangelicalism has taught for years, the gospel is not “I trusted in Jesus and he changed my life.” Two things (at minimum) on this topic: (1) Listen to D.A. Carson’s talk, “What Is the Gospel?“, then (2) Read Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel?
Finally, we have to have a grid for thinking through degrees of error, damnable beliefs, essential beliefs, etc. I’ve been helped here by Michael Wittmer’s excellent book, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough.
Justin’s blog goes on, and the rest is worth reading, too.