Not everyone struggles with doubt… and that in many ways can be a good thing.
But for people who think they have absolute certainty in their faith, it is very tempting to pounce on others who ask questions. All sorts of unintended consequences can then happen. For folks who go on and ask questions anyway, there are times where it can get them into trouble. Just ask Rachel Held Evans.
Sadly, the problem is, if left unchecked, doubt can lead people down a road that takes them to places far away from faith in the God of the Bible. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it, the problem with the human condition is not simply that humankind is sick. The problem is that we are in rebellion against God. Unfortunately, runaway doubt leaves us with no one but ourselves to look to, and it merely imprisons us in our own rebellion.
This being the case, it is understandable why so many Christians wish to discourage doubt completely. Just have faith. Just have faith. But I would contend that this is wrong-headed. Sometimes doubt can be a good thing, too. Just ask “Doubting Thomas” (John 20:24-29).
Here is what I mean: Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus, but the Lord did not immediately rebuke him. Instead, He invited Thomas to put his finger into the nailed scarred hands. The resurrected Jesus had a real, physical body. He was not some spirit without a body. The Bible preserves this story for us as further evidence for the truth of Christ’s bodily resurrection.
However, sometimes faith can be presented in a way that looks good at first, looks solid, but upon closer examination, it is built on the wrong foundation. There are more than a few of us humans who do recognize our rebellion from God, and so we run to God, in the arms of faith. But the “faith” we cling to with such certainty is itself confused, the terminology gets all muddled, and the knowledge of truth suffers. We think we are being obedient, but that obedience fails to measure up to the plumb line of God’s Word.
Indeed, doubt can easily misdirect us. But a misdirected faith can also take us in the wrong direction. If our faith is not firmly planted in the truth, we can easily persuade ourselves that what we believe is true is consistent with the Jesus of the Bible, when in fact, we are only confused as to the object of our faith. Here is a good recent example of what I am talking about.
Mormon Theology and the Plumb Line of God’s Truth
Liberty University has perhaps the largest evangelical Christian program of higher education in the world, boasting over 100,000 students, including those online. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the founder, Jerry Falwell, had a vision that Liberty University would become a fundamentalist version of Catholic Notre Dame. It would be the greatest bastion for Bible truth in higher education in the whole world. Faith would be paramount at Liberty and triumph over doubt.
So I was rather puzzled that Liberty invited the popular conservative political commentator, Glenn Beck, to give the recent university convocation address.
Glenn Beck is a very outspoken person. I do not see him as the type of person who is given over to doubt very much. He is indeed a man of faith. But who or what is the object of his faith?
Glenn Beck is a confident member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). As a Mormon, the doctrine taught in Beck’s faith community has historically been considered by evangelical Christians, the type of people who would send their children to Liberty University to get a good Christian education, as a dangerous form of false teaching. Some attitudes appear to be changing.
If you ever tried to investigate Mormonism, you can see why there is suspicion… and confusion as well. I actually forced myself to listen to the entire Book of Mormon in audiobook form last year. Let me tell you, there is good reason why Mark Twain considered the book to be “chloroform in print.” It was an exhausting experience. If I ever hear the phrase “and it came to pass” one more time, I think I will go insane.
Yet without going into too much detail, I soon learned that for the most part the theology in the Book of Mormon is not too terribly bad. For example, I was surprised to discover that the Book of Mormon condemns polygamy (Jacob 1:15). Go figure. Actually, a large chunk of the book is simply a set of direct quotations taken from the 1769 (or later) printing of the King James Bible, complete with the printing errors preserved in Smith’s revelation, according to historian Grant Palmer. This is partly why Mormon beliefs sound so appealing, and why more and more traditional Christians are now trying to defend Mormon views. Why knock such faith? Mormon people are pro-America, pro-family and pro-God. On the surface, the Mormon message actually sounds pretty good.
However…. once you go further into the later scriptural documents, like the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, as well as the 19th century sermons from prominent Mormon teachers, it gets really complex to say the least, if not just plain bizarre… yeah, like the whole polygamy thing (Doctrine and Covenants 132:61-62). And then there is the problem of all of that added history, from the record of Jewish presence in the ancestry of Native Americans, including the anachronistic elephants and horses living among them in the days before Columbus, to the famous First Vision experience(s?) of Joseph Smith (these are websites run by Mormons that I am linking to, by the way). Keeping track of all of the nuances of Mormon beliefs is a lot more complicated than the 66 books of the Christian Bible. Yes, you do get Jesus Christ with Mormonism, but with a whole lot of other things added on top.
Glenn Beck and Faith in the Heart of Conservative, Evangelical Christianity
So, why did such a prominent Bible-based institution like Liberty University invite a Mormon to speak at their convocation? Perhaps it was simply a respectful exercise in dialoguing with different points of view, as Glen Beck himself maintains. Nevertheless, a controversy over the meaning of “faith” has followed. What did Glenn Beck say at Liberty?
You might want to view the following YouTube video below of the convocation address to find out. Glenn Beck made the following statement:
“I share your faith. I am from a different denomination. And a denomination that I’m sure can make many people at Liberty uncomfortable—I’m a Mormon—but I share your faith in the atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.” (14:38-15:04, emphasis mine)
If that statement does not make you at least scratch your head, then I would suggest that you need a little dosage of doubt to balance against such a statement of unwavering faith. At the next point in his speech (15:05-18:02), Glenn Beck related part of the story of the death of Joseph Smith, complete with a valuable relic in hand, Joseph Smith’s pocket watch. Beck told the crowd that days before Joseph Smith was “martyred” that he wrote to his followers to “put down your guns, no matter what happens, and trust in the Lord.” This is an interesting anecdote. If someone could find a credible source for this, I would like to know. But for Beck, this incident is truly inspiring, and it helps to sustain his faith.
The problem is that Mr. Beck neglects to tell the rest of the story. According to official Mormon history records, someone smuggled a gun into the Carthage jail where Joseph Smith shot and killed two men before being himself killed. How does this story square with Joseph Smith being a “martyr” for the faith, and promoting non-violence?
Mmmm…. You might want to fact check what Glenn Beck presented in his speech with the evidence presented by the Mormonism Research Ministry.
Many evangelical Christians would agree that a lot of what Glenn Beck says in his address is commendable. Furthermore, as I have argued here before on Veracity, Mormonism is indeed undergoing massive change. But I am not sure exactly where Glenn Beck is in the middle of this seismic shift within the LDS movement. What I do know is that just because someone claims to have faith in God does not mean we should uncritically accept everything being said without considering the evidence. We need to go back to the plumb line of God’s Word in the Bible (Detailed evidence on Mormonism, both biblical and historical, can be readily found towards the end of my previous blog post on this topic). In your evaluation of the evidence, what do you think? Is Glenn Beck on solid ground, or is he confused?
Encouraging Others in Their Faith with “Creative” History Lessons?
This is not the first time Glenn Beck has said some remarkable things. Even when it comes to some of the non-Mormon historical rhetoric in his speech, he can be… let us say… rather creative? For example, earlier in the speech (10:04), Glenn Beck made the claim that the Nazis sent some people to concentration camps and made them wear purple triangles because they were “Bible scholars.” Beck’s lesson for Liberty’s students is that the Nazis persecuted people for studying the Bible. Anything worth something that we should be investing in, like studying the Bible, may cost you your very life. It is an inspiring message.
However, any informed understanding shows that in the 1930’s, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany referred to themselves as Bibelforscher , “bible students” or “bible researchers.” The “bible student” terminology goes back to the origins of the Jehovah’s Witnesses founded by Charles Taze Russell in the late 19th century. The term “Jehovah’s Witness” was only a then recent term introduced to describe the movement starting in 1931 in the United States. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were the ones imprisoned with purple triangles because they refused to salute Hitler, not necessarily or strictly because they studied the Bible. Their faith forbids them from offering pledges of allegiance, which is true in the United States as well. Somehow I do not think that Beck is urging Liberty students not to salute the flag of the United States. Nor is he encouraging young people at Liberty to become Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, what is the faith orientation behind Beck’s … er… “creative” weaving of the historical narrative?
The irony is that Glenn Beck urged his audience to have spiritual discernment (20:01-20:40). I agree with that statement, but I am not convinced that Mr. Beck and I are talking about the same “discernment.”
I have my doubts. And I think that is a good thing.
The point is this: If left to run amok, doubt can easily misdirect us away from Jesus, and this is true. But we must also realize that faith, if left to run amok, can easily misdirect us into some wrong understandings of that faith. Faith and doubt are not necessarily enemies. We need a healthy balance of both faith and doubt if we really want to know the truth in the light of Scripture.
Are you short on time and just need some tips on how to best talk with some of your Mormon friends, or need some ideas on what to say when a Mormon evangelist comes knocking on your door this summer? Then read these selections from apologist Michael Licona’s short book, Behold, I Stand At The Door And Knock, or just download the book in PDF form from his RisenJesus.com website. Mike has written an easy-to-follow set of brief essays introducing the high points of Mormon beliefs and history… and… oh, yeah,… he is a Liberty University graduate to boot!
May 24th, 2014 at 9:00 pm
Great post. On the surface Mormons seem a lot like Christians but when you delve into what they really teach It cannot be further from Chritianity.
May 24th, 2014 at 9:51 pm
Thanks, David, for the comment and shout-out on your blog.
There is a type of “neo-orthodox” movement within Mormonism to try to redefine itself in a way to make it more compatible with evangelical Christian faith, but I am not too sure if it will be successful in the long run. It is kind of like putting a square peg into a round hole. There are just so many problems with the history alone involving Joseph Smith himself that I have serious doubts that it will ever fit.
They will be better off if they just jettison the whole Joseph Smith thing, but if they do that, what’s the point of having a distinct Mormon movement? Unfortunately, the remarkable popularity of folks like Glenn Beck among evangelical Christians only delays the inevitable.
May 24th, 2014 at 9:02 pm
Reblogged this on Reasons For The Hope Blog and commented:
Another great post from Veracity
May 26th, 2014 at 2:34 am
Thank you Clarke for you honesty, it is only in recognizing our weaknesses and asking for them to be overcome as the father did in the Scripture below , can Jesus help us, He tells us we don’t have because we don’t ask and believe.
Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
I did the same as this father and Jesus gave me a strong faith after I had come to heart repentance, He showed me I needed to seek, ask and knock.
Mormonisim like all false teaching offers false hope, it sounds good but what they propagate is not confirmed in Scripture, but regardless of how Satan tries to deceive God’s redeemed Children, He will not have the Victory, God will.
My Sister in Law was a Mormon from childhood, she is now a Christian, Ron Baptized her, and than her family rejected her. We have had long talks, to sum up, she said Mormons have no real freedom in Christ Jesus and no genuine Love, only carnal and like with all Cults I have found this to be True, man made rules and regulations based on fear and where there is fear, there is no Godly Love.
1John 4:16-19 And we have known and believed the Love that God hath to us. God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our Love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in Love; but perfect Love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in Love. We Love Him, because He first Loved us.
We need to know God’s Truth to be able to live it and than share it and we can’t without The Holy Spirit and God’s wisdom, not the worlds fleshy wisdom, or we won’t understand, it will be foolishness to us – 1Corinthians2:9-16
Luke 11:13…. how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?
Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
James 1:5-6 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Christian Love from both of us – Anne.
May 26th, 2014 at 9:32 am
Thanks for dropping by again.
I am not sure you are seeing the point that I am seeking to make in my post. Perhaps things are different in Australia as they are here now, but the problem we are increasingly facing here in the U.S. is a blurring of the lines between Mormon faith and historical, evangelical Christian belief. Sure, you can still find cases where Mormons are very closed in their contact with others, but here you have a situation where a prominent Mormon, Glenn Beck, is effectively endorsing an evangelical Christian institution, to the point where he would want to send his children to attend the school. Furthermore, places like Liberty University are become increasingly more tolerant of Mormonism. I can not imagine a situation like this twenty years ago.
This is quite different than the case of your sister-in-law’s Mormon family rejecting her because she was baptized as a Christian.
When I hear Mormons quote the same Scripture passages that you quote to support their belief system, it makes me wonder. Does this mean that Mormonism is indeed changing and Mormons are becoming more open to the Bible alone and less beholden to Joseph Smith? It is possible, but my point is that I have my doubts.
In other words, simply quoting Scripture is fine, but we must test how that Scripture is being used in order to make sure it is not getting twisted. To put it another way, we are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. There is evidence to support genuine faith, as “Doubting Thomas” himself learned. Otherwise, without the appropriate evidence such faith is merely wishful thinking.
Thanks again for your feedback,
Blessings to you in Christ,
May 26th, 2014 at 11:38 am
Hi Clark as we are told in Scripture, faith without works is dead but it is knowing what those works are that is important and there not about the carnal flesh, this we put to death.
I have had a lot of contact both with Cults and Atheists, over many years, and X Cult members too both Mormons and J.W witnesses, sadly because of deception when I was young I was an Atheist in my head not my heart or I wouldn’t be writing this now. I understand a lot about deception even be Christians who propagate it without realizing they are.
God showed me that some of both Cults and Atheists will be saved and some will be lost. I have also spoken to f both these groups in America on the Internet and they are no different then the ones in Australia, what may seem like a coming together is not, it’s deception they believe they have the Truth, not us.
We also remember just because someone says Lord, Lord does not show they are saved, as you know Jesus tells us clearly in Scripture what a saved person is like and it is all about Love but not forced carnal Love but God’s Love that comes from the heart, our words but also our actions will show our Salvation.
Without the Holy Spirit no one can understand the Scriptures because they only see the words not the Spirit in them- (1Corinthians2:9-16)
May 29th, 2014 at 10:58 pm
This also makes me think of how many Christians endorsed Romney in the last election. It really bothered me. Many Christsins did not see my point.
June 18th, 2014 at 2:43 pm
Warren Throckmorton at Grove City College figured out Beck’s odd reference to Joseph Smith’s watch and Smith’s “martyrdom.”
Talk about creative manipulation with the facts. Complete ad-hoc stretching of historical events across multiple years to give a completely different story to support the “martyrdom,” refuted by the LDS’s own literature. This is just terrible! But does anyone really care??
November 30th, 2021 at 11:00 am
Here is a Mormon apologist’s take on the murder of Joseph Smith by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. Was he a “martyr” as claimed by this video, or was he killed by a mob who were angry that Smith was seducing teenage girls?