Category Archives: news

Liberty University and Benny Hinn: A Match Made in Confusion

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 4.20.27 PM (2)Today the announcement that Liberty University was partnering with Benny Hinn Ministries hit the interwebs. The relationship seemed official. The course material bears the name “Liberty University.” There is even a mock diploma with the name and apparent official seal of LU. The provost of Liberty is in the video with Hinn and a prominent Liberty donor endorsing the partnership. There have been past internet grumblings of associations between late Liberty founder, Jerry Falwell, and Hinn but we all know how hyperbolic the internet can be.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 3.21.09 PMMany (most?) evangelicals would consider Hinn’s theology and ministry practices to be clearly aberrant. Sproul has argued that heresy is a fair description of Hinn’s teachings (not too mention his lavish lifestyle and spending). Especially those associated with the more conservative strains of American Evangelicalism (e.g., Liberty University) have been quick to denounce the word-faith theology and pseudo-miraculous claims of Hinn. So any such partnership would immediately cause shock.

Within minutes of the announcement there were affirmations and denials of such a partnership. Liberty issued a statement:

Liberty University is not partnering with Benny Hinn.  Liberty transferred the operations of Liberty Home Bible Institute, a non-accredited biblical studies certificate program, to Mr. Dan Reber a number of years ago.  It is our understanding that LHBI’s new operators are working with Benny Hinn but LHBI is no longer operated by Liberty University.  Mr. Reber was granted certain licensing rights to use Liberty’s name because the Liberty name was deeply imbedded in LHBI course materials.  He was also required to obtain permission from Liberty University for any changes in marketing of the courses and Liberty University is investigating to determine whether this new marketing approach violates the terms of its agreement with Mr. Reber.”

The statement echoes the problem with the partnership. Liberty does not want to be connected to Hinn. Liberty definitely needs to investigate. Yet, while Liberty claims LHBI is no longer operated by the university, their website implies something different. Not only is LHBI on the website, it boasts that an LHBI degree is transferrable toward an LU degree. Further, the current Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Liberty University Provost is seen in the video endorsing this partnership.

So what hath Lynchburg to do with Hinn? In my opinion: too much.

There is no place for LU or its subsidiary institutions, much less its prominent faculty to sacrifice Biblical fidelity and sound Christian theology at the altar of a pragmatic partnership with a theologically and ethically suspect televangelist.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 4.19.59 PM*Besides, we all know that Hinn is really from the dark side.


Famous “Christians” and Their Famous Sins

I recently read the allegations regarding Eddie Long, Atlanta-area mega pastor.  These allegations regarding sexual immorality are saddening though not much surprises me anymore.  Long has been under investigation in the past for financial impropriety.

I am not interested in humiliating or insulting Long nor am I making a judgment regarding his innocence or guilt.  However, I recently came across a thread on Facebook regarding this topic and wanted to provide a little bit of Biblical guidance.  Read for yourself what some were saying:

I agree that we should examine ourselves and be slow to judge.  God is the ultimate judge.  However, this idea that we are NEVER to judge or never to make moral statements regarding the sin of other Christians is ridiculous (and unbiblical).  Judgment is an integral part of being a Christian and being part of a faith community.  Think about Paul, he spoke very clearly about how to deal with immorality within a church (see 1 Corinthians 5)!  We are called to judge the Christian within the church!  Furthermore, we must banish any nonsense that the “pastor” is God’s anointed and is beyond judgment.  As a pastor, I pray that my brothers and sisters (my coworkers in the gospel) will be firm in holding me accountable.

Some More Glenn Beck Discussion

Glenn Beck is a regular topic of discussion on this blog (see here and here).  My reservations about Beck are numerous (both political, ideological, historical, and theological).  Recently, Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally has gained much attention.  Some have lauded Beck for showing courage to stand for America’s “founding values” and others have cautioned evangelicals to be careful with whom they partner (at this point the essay by Russell Moore is genuinely helpful).  Not only has Moore weighed in but Doug Wilson and Scot McKnight have offered some commentary on the situation.

One denominational side note that I found disappointing was the alliance of Richard Land (president of  SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) with Beck as part of his multi-faith “black-robed regiment.”

Outside of Moore, Robert Parham has proven to be the most helpful.  He not only provides insightful commentary about the dangers of civil religion and generic, theistic alliances, he does so with ample quotations from the actual event in question (“Restoring Honor” on August 28, 2010).

Fox News host Glenn Beck muddled biblical references with fragments of America history, recreating a pottage of civil religion that says America has a divine destiny and claiming that a national revival is beginning…

Beck said, “We can disagree on politics.  We can disagree on so much.  These men and women don’t agree on fundamentals.  They don’t agree on everything that every church teaches.  What they do agree on is that God is the answer.

It is insightful to note that the definitions of god provided by these various clerics are so broad that god is probably not even a sufficiently meaningful category.  Whose God?

No amount of Bible reading, sermons masquerading as prayers and Christian hymns can cover up Beck’s civil religion that slides back and forth between the Bible and nationalism, between authentic faith and patriotic religion.

He treats the “American scripture”—such as the Gettysburg Address—as if it bears the same revelatory weight as Christian Scripture.

What is important to Beck is belief in God—God generically—not a specific understanding of God revealed in the Biblical witness, but God who appears in nature and from which one draws universal truths.

Not surprisingly, Beck only uses the Bible to point toward the idea of a God-generic…

Why is Glenn Beck Restoring (Christian) Honor?

I have seen a lot of discussion about Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28 (we’ll save the debate over the appropriateness of such an event at the Lincoln Memorial on such a significant date for another time).

One of my good friends mentioned how moving it was to see thousands of people singing Amazing Grace.  I could tell she was shocked when I responded with caution and skepticism rather than whole-hearted affirmation.

The more I have examined this event the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than an ecumenical, atheological, universalitic form of the often seen idolatry of patriotism.  While some well-intentioned evangelicals may have been involved in this event, Beck presented nothing more than a moralistic, patriotic call to everything but the Biblical gospel.  I heard no mention of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus or the call of Christians to love their enemies and sacrifice their preferences for the sake of the gospel.  It is no surprise that Beck, a self-identified Mormon, would miss the mark on the gospel.

For many undiscerning evangelicals Beck’s morality, Biblical references, and theistic language is enough to convince them He is on God’s team.  Unfortunately, as his Mormon theology and alliance with clerics of various faiths demonstrates Beck is not a believer in the Trinitarian articulation of the Christian God.  One can support Beck’s politics but be very wary when he begins using theistic language about “returning America to God.”  Whose God?

The best and most well-reasoned response I have read is by Dr. Russell Moore.  Everyone should read his measured response (some lengthy excerpts are included below):

Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads.  We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it.  There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship.  The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death.  The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt.  Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah…

Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him.  An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world.  Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 John 4:1-3)…

It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic.  Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel.  He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it.  Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.

And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.

Islamophobia and the Gospel: Thoughts on the Ground Zero “Mosque”

The Issue

Months ago I was asked to blog about a proposed mosque (actually it is an Islamic Community Center) being built at “Ground Zero” (more precisely it is being built two blocks from “Ground Zero”).  At the time I felt it was a lose-lose proposition and my feelings haven’t changed.  I do, however, feel obligated to clear up some common logical missteps that are being circulated around the “interweb.”  This story combines many emotive factors: race, religion, and war.  There is an explosive mix of misinformation, anger, xenophobia, nationalism, and religious fervor.  The scars of 9/11 run deep in the lives of many Americans.  However, the recent “War on Terror” has, among other things, produced a caricature of Muslims in the mind of the everyday American.  I am very sensitive to the feelings of those effected by 9/11.  Nevertheless, “feelings” are not a proper form of argument in a discussion on religious liberty.  Many Americans have unfairly designated Muslims as terrorists in post-9/11 America.  As a Christian it is important to be calm and fair while discussing the building of a “mosque” at “Ground Zero.”  There is no room in Christianity for “Islamophobia” or dishonest caricature.  A Christian response to Islam should be centered on the gospel (e.g., graceful and honest) while generously embracing religious liberty.

Improper Categorization

It is dangerous to categorize religious groups as homogeneous entities.  In many ways there is no one form of “Hinduism” or “Buddhism” or “Islam.”  While various sects share overlapping beliefs they often exhibit more diversity than unity.  Even in Christianity it is difficult to categorize modern day Christians as a unified group.  While I think the standard of Christianity is the Bible, the diversity of self-proclaimed Christians stretches the meaning of the word infinitely thin.  I bristle at the thought of being identified with the likes of Ted Haggard, Benny Hinn, Fred Phelps, or any number of infamous “Christian” personalities (in my opinion these self-identified “Christians” are some of the least likely persons I know to actually be followers of Christ).  These are only the famous examples; countless people claim to be “Christian” but deny the basic teachings of Jesus in their lifestyle.

Treat Others as You Want to Be Treated

If I am unwilling to allow unbelievers (i.e., non-Christians) to define me by the actions of other Christians, then I must be willing to allow Muslims a voice in their self-identity.  Surely some Muslims have used Islam as a means to justify war against others.  Does the Quran encourage violence?  That is a debate outside of our purview and I would caution my Christian friends to remember the often violent stories in the Hebrew Bible before hastily condemning the Quran.  Many Muslims (if not most Muslims) insist that Islamic fundamentalists and Islamic terrorists do not represent the whole of Islam.  If my “Christianity” is different than that of Fred Phelps then I must allow Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (the project’s lead architect) to distance his faith from that of Osama Bin Laden. The August 16, 2010 issue of Time Magazine did a good job explaining the irony of a moderate Muslim (i.e., Rauf) being categorized with Islamic Terrorists:

The project’s critics range from those who believe Islam was the malevolent force that brought down the towers to opportunistic politicians.  Ironically, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, the project’s main movers, are precisely the kind of Muslim leaders conservative commentators should welcome: modernists who condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda.  Rauf is a Sufi, Islam’s most mystical and accomodating branch, yet he finds himself accused of extremist leanings.  This browbeating of a moderate Muslim empowers the al-Qaeda narrative that the West loathes everything about Islam.  As New York Mayor Mike Bloombergs said, caving to Park 51’s critics “would be to hand a victory to the terrorists.”  Rauf and Khan hope their project will promote greater interfaith dialogue.  The furor underlines how much it is needed.

Newt Gingrich and several other public figures have tried to compare America with Saudi Arabia.  “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia” said Gingrich.  The silliness of this statement is astounding. First, Saudi Arabia is governed by Sharia law which is based, ostensibly, on the Quran and the teachings of Islam.  It would make sense that a country like this would be exclusive in their allowance or disallowance of other religions.  However, Saudi Arabia (though central to Islam because of the holy city of Mecca and other such religious sites) is not the sole representative of the international Muslim community.  In any case, America is founded on religious freedom.  I expect America to have a higher standard than most countries in regard to issues of religious freedom (for a humorous look at this issue you can turn to the always hilarious Daily Show).

America and the False Pretense of Freedom

Some of the most fervently patriotic people I know are opposed to a Mosque being built at “Ground Zero.”  Apparently, all of the talk about America as the “land of freedom” is a lie.  For those who are interested, freedom means that people can do things that upset you as long as it does not break any laws or endanger the lives of others.  As long as a group can finance a building and it fits into the zoning restrictions of a particular locale then they are permitted to build.  If we do not allow Muslims to build religious buildings where they desire then the American ideal of freedom is a charade.  You cannot say we live in a free country and then deny a significant group of people the right to build a religious building.  If a Muslim group wants to build a community center in New York City, they can!  I do not want any group of people telling me where I can or cannot build a Christian community center, therefore I cannot oppose Muslims building a mosque.  Just as free speech applies to idiots who say things that I do not like, freedom allows a Muslim group to build a community center near “Ground Zero” (despite the perceived insensitivity of those in charge of this project).

A Note to My Christian Readers

It is easy for Christians to be so consumed with special interest causes that they miss the plot of the gospel.  Christianity is not at war with Islam (despite the way some Muslims may feel toward Christians and vice versa).  There is no room in Christianity for hatred toward another religion, race, or people group.  Further, Christians cannot use dishonest representation to make a point.  Christians should be the first to embrace Muslims around the nation, showing them hospitality, love, and genuine care.  In the process there might be an opportunity to model the gospel that was demonstrated by the scandalous (e.g., Luke 7:36-50) love of Jesus that breaks through social barriers (John 4:1-42; Galatians 3:28).  Jesus died for me, a sinful, rebellious, angry person; I was spiritually opposed to God (Romans 8:5-8).  I was, in some sense, spiritually at war with God.  Yet Christ found me in a dead and decaying state and graciously gave me new life (Ephesians 2:1-10).  I didn’t deserve the love of God.  Therefore, I do not love Muslims because they “deserve” it or because they have been particularly kind to me.  I love them because Christ first loved me (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14).  I love them because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian I am glad that the myth of Christian America is quickly crumbling.  People are no longer able to substitute heritage and tradition for genuine faith.  In the process of spreading the gospel to the nations, the nations have started to come to America.  I no longer have to travel to the Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, or any of the myriad of Muslim majority nations to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ with a follower of Islam.  Instead, Muslims are in my community.  Rather than opposing their traditions and customs I embrace their culture and seek to honestly and lovingly expose them with the beauty of the true and living God.

As a Christian I am confident that the only hope for everyone is the gospel of Jesus.  The solution is not legislation, picketing, name-calling, or fighting but the power of the gospel demonstrated through the honest, sacrificial love of Christians to all people.  A love that is willing to endure insult, abuse, injury, and death for the sake of the gospel.

Why Would Anyone Listen to Ted Haggard?

To answer my own question — if the show is more important than the man then Ted Haggard is as good as any other preacher.

If things such as integrity, orthodoxy, or humility are important to you then you will find pastoral leadership somewhere else.

In either case, Haggard has been in the news recently after he started a new church in Colorado.  Rather than humbly attempting to repair his family and his life he has stepped back into the irresistable limelight with the help of clever marketing and a PR image-makeover.

Where is the sorrow for his hypocrisy and adultery? Well, in Mr. Haggard’s own words he “over-repented.”  That’s right he “over-repented” for preaching against homosexuality and other immoral actions all while visiting a gay-male prostitute and sharing various illegal drugs with said prostitute.

Can any of us ever “over-repent?”  If you think you can “over-repent” then you have never repented enough.

Haggard feels he is now more an “everyman” because he understands sin and cusses.  You know you are a slimeball when you give cussing a bad name.

Benny Hinn and Paula White…

Jim West has pointed me to a National Enquirer article which links prosperity gospel huckster and TBN pseudo-miracle working heretic (Benny Hinn) with the overtly hypocritical and unapologetic divorceé (Paula White) in a “romantic relationship.”

I’m sure you are shocked that a televangelist might behave this way (allegedly).

If this proves to be true, I agree with Jim West that their offspring would most certainly be the antichrist.

Christian Authors and Mexican Drug Cartels

Apparently John Eldredge’s book, Wild at Heart, is being used by some Mexican drug cartel’s to indoctrinate their members and motivate them for their dastardly exploits.  It is a sad indictment when your writings can be used for gang warfare or pseudo-religious motivation.  Such is the result when one focuses on false machismo rather than the Bible.

I think Eldredge’s intention’s were well-meaning but misguided.  When perused this book (it required little more than a quick read) I felt it emphasized personal adventure and following one’s own “desires.”  Wild at Heart never gave a clear definition of the gospel or what it means to be a man of God.  If one’s presuppositions were to live a life of service to God, then this book might encourage you to risk your life for the cause of Christ but, if you are not a believer, this book might facilitate a pursuit of false masculinity that is accomplished by violence.

William and Mary Gets a New Mascot

I recently received my William & Mary alumni magazine in the mail.  On the cover was a full spread devoted to our new mascot, the Griffin.  I must admit, I had mixed feelings about a new mascot.  I am hesitant about change but have started to warm up to the Griffin.  There are some good things about the Griffin as a mascot choice:

1.  It’s better than no mascot at all.

2.  It’s better than a giant booger mascot with a tri-cornered hat (good riddins Colonel Ebirt).  Besides, when has it ever been cool or clever to spell your name backwards?

3.  It’s better than some of the other proposed options (e.g., a pug).

4.  It demonstrates some thoughtfulness (lion + eagle pays homage to Britain and the United States).

5.  The only consistent mascot that W&M has ever had was an Indian (which has been absent for decades).  If the NCAA won’t let us even have feathers in our logo, there’s no chance to have a caricatured Indian mascot on the sidelines.  I’m just thankful we have good enough lawyers to save our name as the W&M Tribe.

In the true spirit of W&M nerdiness, the Alumni magazine profiled the history of W&M mascots and nicknames.  Some poor undergrad history student was probably forced to dig through the archives of Swem library to write this stunning exposé.

Now we join the list of schools who have a mascot with no connection to their name (e.g., The University of Alabama Crimson Tide, mascot = Big Al the elephant).  Oh well, nice job on the mascot search W&M.  If it doesn’t work out, we can try again in a few years.

“Hark upon the gale.”