Archive for May 2012

Liberty University Here We Come

May 1, 2012

By Steve Matthews

For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:7)

If a Mormon takes the White House, what does it mean for evangelicals?  A while back I commented on this very issue, and one of my points was that should Mormon Mitt Romney – or John Huntsman who was in the race at the time – become president, Mormonism would go mainstream. Historically, evangelicals have been good on the issue of Mormonism, correctly pointing out that it is not Christianity.  But with the prestige of the presidency standing behind it, evangelicals would face tremendous pressure to drop their opposition and embrace Mormons as fellow believers.  Well, as it turns out, I was wrong in what I said.  The process already appears to be well under way, and all this without the Republican establishment having finished the job of foisting its Mormon golden boy on the rest of the country.

In an open letter to Jerry Falwell Jr., Chancellor of Liberty University, Erskine Seminary professor John Makujina* sharply criticizes the school –  an institution founded by Baptist Jerry Falwell in the 1970s “with a vision to train Champions for Christ as a world class university” – for extending an invitation to Mitt Romney to speak at its upcoming commencement.  Makujina writes,

“I was deeply disturbed at the news that Liberty University (LU) has invited Gov. Mitt Romney as their commencement speaker.  I do not quite know what would motivate a university with high Christian ideas and a commitment to the fundamentals of the faith to ask a Mormon to speak at commencement.  I fear, however, that Liberty’s dedication to the RNC and to the success of the conservative movement has trumped its allegiance to sound doctrine and the Gospel.” (italics added)

And that’s just it, isn’t it?  Far too many Christians, especially far too many high-profile Christians, rather than letting the Bible guide their political beliefs and actions, have allowed themselves to become Republican dupes, who can be counted on to support whatever nonsense the RNC happens to be pushing at the moment,  even to the point of willfully betraying the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These days, ordinary Christians often are much sounder in their thinking than church officers, and this principle seems to apply in the case of LU’s students compared with the leaders of the school  The announcement of Romney as commencement speaker kicked off a wave of criticism from students on the school’s Facebook page.  But LU’s response to all this seemed more like the spin we have come to expect from political operatives embarrassed by some public relations gaffe than the words and actions of Christian leaders interested in the spiritual growth and well being of their students.  As CNN reports,

In a statement from Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., the school says that the complaints have significantly died down and that many of those complaining ‘had no affiliation with the university.’

Translating this into non-PR, we can interpret Falwell’s remarks to mean, “Move along, folks, nothing to see here.  The narrow minded Bible thumpers have repented and come to see things from a more mature perspective.  And those internet flamers?  They were in no way affiliated with our dignified institution.  We never knew them.”

So is everything just lovely now in Lynchburg?  Hardly.  The CNN report continues,

After last week’s announcement, hundreds of comments were registered under the announcement on Liberty’s Facebook page.  While some were supportive of the decision to invite Romney, a number of respondents were angered and posted their frustration to Facebook.

As of Monday morning, the announcement was deleted from the page, along with all the comments.

Complaints died down because they took the ability to complain down from the website,’ said Janet Loeffler, a 53-year old freshman at Liberty who takes classes online.  Loeffler was a frequent poster to the Facebook page.” (emphasis added)

It seems that the spirit of authoritarianism is alive and well at LU, if not the Spirit of Christ.  Get on board or shut your mouth is their motto.  Now to be fair, LU states that students have other channels for registering their complaints, and I don’t doubt that this is the case, but by deleting the Facebook post together will all the comments, the school has gone into cover up mode.  How dare those freshmen speak up!

Tony Perkins also works to smooth over the dissent with his remark that he sees the Romney invitation as an opportunity.  This is certainly true, but whether it is a good opportunity is another matter entirely.  CNN quotes him saying,

” ‘ As Christians we can disagree strongly but we show respect and I think they will show respect for Mitt Romney,’ Perkins said on CNN’s Starting Point Monday morning.

‘They may not warmly applaud him and may continue to express differences and clearly there are differences theologically between Mormons and Christians, but here’s an opportunity for Mitt Romney to talk about what he has in common with evangelicals and that is on the value issues.’ “

To Perkins credit, he manages to distinguish between Mormons and Christians, but what’s this business about Romney and Evangelicals having common values.  Which values does Perkins have in mind? In his essay The Sin of Signing Ecumenical Declarations, John Robbins pointed out,

Christianity does not have a single proposition in common with systems of unbelieving thought [this includes Mormonism].  That is the philosophical lesson that must be drawn from the many Biblical statements and injunctions about purity, separation, sanctification and holiness.  Those terms do not apply, in some pietistic fashion, merely to one’s behavior, they apply even more strictly to one’s ideas and thoughts, ideas are not neutral, nor are they common to various systems of thought.  Ideas are to be ‘taken captive to the obedience of Christ.’

If Christianity and Mormonism have no propositions in common, they can have no values in common, however one may define that term.  Take, for example, the popular subject of family values.  Generally speaking, when people state that they support family values they mean they believe in traditional marriage and child rearing.  But because Mormons do not get their ideas on family values from Scripture alone, they must have a different idea of what this term means than do Christians.  Any agreement between the two parties on family values would be merely verbal in nature, that is to say Mormons and Christians may both use the term “family values”, but they attach different meanings to it.  When Christians and Mormons talk about family values, they are not talking about the same thing.  (more…)

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