Some people believe in God. Others believe in believing in God. There is a vast difference between these two. Those who fail to see the difference are setting themselves up for trouble. When people talk about God, we cannot assume that they have the God of Scripture in mind. We must be discerning.
Whenever someone says that we should “return to God” or “pray to God” – we need to ask a few questions first. Such urging may sound good, but it may not be good. This generic kind of “God talk”, that we often hear at July 4th celebrations, can be particularly misleading. Some feel strongly that any kind of call or urging of our nation back to God will lead us in the right way politically. In the process, though, it may lead us down the wrong path theologically.
Are we really so passionate about political victories that we’re willing to gain them by theological compromise? The doctrine of God is a supremely important issue. Evangelicals who make a molehill out of this mountain are being deceived.
Consider, for instance, the recent “Restoring Honor” gathering in Washington, D.C….
…TV celebrity and radio personality Glenn Beck rallied together a seismic number of pro-country and pro-God supporters at the national Mall. There, Beck held a near revival-like gathering in hopes of bringing American out of “darkness into light.” He spoke passionately about renewing the spiritual life of our nation through prayer and by returning to God. Many in the news have even begun calling Beck America’s new Christian conservative movement leader. Herein lies a problem. Glenn Beck may be a leader. He may also be a conservative. But as you likely know, Beck is not a Christian. He is a Mormon.
Granted, Beck’s “return to God” message is consistent with his Mormon beliefs. He is preaching what he practices. We should celebrate the freedom of Mormons, Muslims, Christians and Jews to promote their religious convictions. The concern, here, is not with Glenn Beck’s message. What is alarming are the hoards of evangelicals who are now giddy with excitement after embracing Beck’s “God-talk” as something consistent with biblical Christianity; when it is anything but! Mormonism may sound, on the surface, like an innocent cousin to mainstream, orthodox Christianity, but it is an aberrant cult with distorted doctrines that deny even the most essential aspects of the nature of God.
Here is a quick rundown of the Mormon doctrine of God:
The list could go on and on. As you can see, then, the issue here is not a political one. It is a theological one.
Whenever we talk about God, we need to be precise. “God” is not a generic noun that we have the luxury of tossing around for political expediency. By definition, this is using the name of God in vain (Exodus 20:7) When Glenn Beck nebulously says that we need to “return to God” – someone needs to ask, “Which God do we return to?” Because, clearly, he is not thinking about the God of Scripture.
Now, if he is calling for a Mormon revival, he is free to do that; but evangelicals must not join this cause. Just because we have common political ground does not mean that we have common spiritual ground. The end result, is evangelicals who are content with embracing deism as the new Christianity.
This is not the first mistaken attempt to do this. The Jewish people tried this before. About such people Paul writes,
“They have a zeal for God….” (Romans 10:2)
Let’s stop there. Granted, belief in God is essential to the Christian faith. Hebrews 11:6 states that
“he who comes to God must believe that He is…”
But, deism is not the finish line of faith, it is merely the starting line. Deism is not the gospel. It is a prerequisite for belief in the gospel. So, then, what is missing? Paul continues,
“They have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”
“God-knowledge” is not enough. What we need is Christ-knowledge.
Romans 10 continues, “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own (e.g. sterilizing national laws and leadership???), they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” Where does this God-given righteousness come from? Verse 4 tell us,
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
You cannot embrace God apart from embracing Christ. To chant, “In God We Trust” as part of our patriotic duty is not the same thing as “confessing with your mouth Jesus as Lord.” (Rom 10:9) John 5:23 makes it clear,
“He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
There is no justification by deism. Justification comes by grace through faith in Christ alone.
In popular culture, deism may be the new Christianity, but it is not true Christianity. The church needs to be on her guard. More specifically, Christians may have many issues in common with Mormons but the nature of God is not one.
When it comes to the sanctity of life and marriage, Christians and Mormons can (and should) vote together. On these issues and more, we should stand shoulder to shoulder with them. However, when we are talking about God, we cannot (and should not) say “Amen” together.
As Russell Moore said this week, “It would be a tragedy to get the right President, the right Congress, but the wrong God.” That is a trade-off, however, that some seem all too eager to make.
For more on this, I recommend Russell Moore’s article, “God, the Gospel, and Glen Beck” at www.russellmoore.com