Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Yes, Jesus Hates.

Right-wing political commentator, Glenn Beck said some things on his podcast recently which highlight a widespread theological confusion. If you are interested in hearing for yourself, you can find the link here. The podcast in question is dated 5/20/14 and the relevant section begins at approximately the eleven minute mark.

For sake of background, Beck is a Mormon and was recently invited to Liberty University, a conservative Baptist institution, to give the "commencement address" to graduating students. In the speech he spoke of Mormonism as if it were simply another Christian denomination and praised Mormonism's founding "prophet" Joseph Smith as a martyr who died for his beliefs; the inconvenient fact that Smith, unlike any Christian martyr I'm aware of, died with a gun in his hand and shooting back was not mentioned.

As you might imagine, an orthodox Christian institution inviting a Mormon to give such a speech has been greatly controversial and a large number of people have criticised Liberty for this action. Beck, in his podcast, declares that Liberty is being "smeared" by "so-called Christians". Now Beck doesn't cite any examples so, for all I know, there may well be critics out there who are guilty of making their criticism in a way that could legitimately called "smearing". Having said that, all the criticism of Liberty that I've seen has been reasonable and on point with no lies or ad hominines involved.

In my opinion, if you are going to claim that you or someone associated with you is being smeared, you ought to provide an example of such a smear and explain why it's a smear. Absent such examples, the claim that one is being smeared looks to me like an attempt to poison the well of meaningful debate by suggesting that any criticisms of one's position is a "smear."

Beck goes on to declare he can't find anywhere in the Bible where Jesus hates or encourages His followers to hate nor can he find anywhere where Jesus is not "embracing people". This really depends what you mean. No, Jesus never hates people and He always stands ready to embrace the repentant. He does, however, hate ideas, especially ideas which falsely profess to be Christian. I'd recommend Mr. Beck might want to try reading chapters two and three of the Book of Revelations. These chapters contain letters which Jesus personally dictates to seven churches in Asia Minor (roughly modern day turkey). Of particular interest might be 2:6 where Jesus, after scolding the Church of Ephesus for various sins commends them that " hate the works of the Nicolations, which I also hate." He will later criticise another Church for having in their midst, some who hold to the teachings of the Nicolations. The rest of this sections contains a number of warning, from Jesus, to the various Churches warning against the toleration of heretics and false teachers and also contains warnings of what Jesus will do those false teachers should they fail to repent.

Beck goes on to reveal his ignorance by declaring that he can't find where Jesus says "you shall know them by their fruits." Had he bothered to use Google it would have taken him only a few seconds to find the answer: Matt. 7:16.

At the end of this discussion, Beck declares that he would happily send his children to Liberty University, despite his differences with them because Liberty would give them a deep knowledge of God. I'd love to see Beck questioned on this by someone who knows what they are talking about. That Joseph Smith, whom Beck declares a prophet and martyr, in the "King Follett Discourse", declared it to be a "first principle of the Gospel" that God was not always God but was once a human who became divine through obedience to the God of His planet. Liberty, by contrast and for all its faults, still remains committed to the biblical principle that God has eternally been God. I fail to see how anyone could believe Smith was a prophet and also think that committed monotheists can give someone a deep knowledge of God. But, then, I'm one of those weird Thomist types who thinks truth about God matters.

P.S. I first heard about Beck's comments on the most recent edition of James White's webcast "The Dividing Line". White makes a number of worthwhile criticisms of both Beck and Liberty. You can find the DL episode here, with the relevant section beginning at about the twenty-five minute mark. 

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