Glenn Beck – A Modern Day Josephus?

There is a book I didn’t know about until recently entitled: Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity The book, published in 2004 by Nancy Pearcey, uses a new buzzword, “The Cultural Mandate,” that has replaced “Dominionism.” It describes more accurately what “Dominionists” are talking about. Simply, the Great Commission includes culture.

So how do I view Glenn Beck? I love him. He’s by far the best commentator at Fox News. I realize that he’s a Mormon. What is wrong with that? Here’s what I wrote about that in Why Creeds and Confessions?

Mormonism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, founded by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young) — Believes the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly; they also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. They accept the divinity of Jesus, but also the divinity of all “latter day saints” (i.e. Mormons). Jesus was the first of many “sons of God” who can be recognized as “manifestations of the Divine.” The true identity of Jesus Christ is not the Father God, but the father of spirits who have taken bodies upon this earth; He is one of them. He is the Son just as all “latter day saints” are sons or daughters of Elohim.

On the atonement, Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that those who commit them will be beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these “grievous offenses” are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse men from their sins even if they repent. Therefore, their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, on their own behalf.

On the conditions for salvation, Mormonism teaches that through the Atonement of Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, all mankind may be saved.

The sad truth is that Glenn Beck, a heretic on the divinity of Jesus, has the Cultural Mandate correct while most evangelical Protestants are in error. Glenn Beck’s mind is uncluttered by many of the popular yet false evangelical presuppositions.

Richard Land, a director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, commented on the irony, “I’ve been stunned. This guy’s on secular radio and television, but his shows sound like you’re listening to the Trinity Broadcasting Network, only it’s more orthodox and there’s no appeal for money.”

In fact, Beck has returned to a more classical Puritanism in his view of culture than most modern day American Christians are able to accept. If God used Baalam’s ass to prophesy to an errant man, he can certainly use a man with a flawed Christology. Here we find a Mormon invoking the name of the Great Awakening preacher George Whitefield. Further, he correctly links the greatest revival in our history to the American War for Independence.

Beck is not the first heretic among the friends of George Whitefield. Benjamin Franklin, an avowed deist, was a great admirer of Whitefield in the 1700s. One of the richest men in America, Benjamin Franklin built Whitefield a “preaching house” in Philadelphia, which gave the evangelist a pulpit outside the Anglican churches that had his preaching. This “preaching house” later became the first building for the University of Pennsylvania. It is therefore not wrong for some of the evangelists and pastors who stood with Beck to have accepted this preaching platform.

It is possible that rather than trust the evangelical church to rightly scripture, God is using people who are already divided from the church to provoke us. This will ultimately serve to cut the dead weight from the church.

We see that pattern in scripture.

  1. God’s people get delivered out of bondage.
  2. They prosper.
  3. They get in trouble due to disobedience.
  4. God raises up His enemies to judge His people.
  5. God’s people go into bondage.
  6. The unrighteous among God’s people perish.
  7. The righteous are delivered.
  8. God judges His enemies.


This brings to mind the old Arab proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The problem here is that evangelical Christians who reject the Cultural Mandate are their own worse enemies. Most of the evangelical church is instead wrapped up in pietistic, monastic exercises calling that “revival.” In fact, they have become enemies of true revival.

Glenn Beck is an anomaly because of his understanding of the Great Awakening. His call for a “Third Great Awakening” includes the “Black Robed Regiment,” which is the name King George gave the American clergy. He saw the Congregationalist and Presbyterian Churches as behind the revolution, just as the Scottish Presbyterians had revolted against his father. While few Christians have even heard of George Whitefield, the Mormon Glenn Beck recently devoted an hour-long program to examine why the Trans-Atlantic English evangelist was even more important to American independence than Benjamin Franklin. To most evangelicals, calls for revival and even another Great Awakening is merely a tool to fill their churches. To Glenn Beck a Third Great Awakening must first emphasize the Cultural Mandate.

A Modern Day Josephus?

Beck is similar to the false Christs who appeared in Jerusalem to warn the Jews about idolatry in the 40 years prior to the destruction of the city in 70 A.D. The Jewish historian Josephus in his book, Wars of the Jews, has compiled some fascinating accounts of these false prophets as well as the providentially ordained earthquakes, natural calamities and wars which occurred around the time of the siege of Jerusalem (67-70).

If you study Josephus’ history, the “false Christs” were also telling the Jews to repent. Not everything they said was wrong, but they didn’t recognize the true Christ who had already come and delivered this warning. If you understand Matthew 24 correctly, it is not primarily a prophecy about the “end-times,” but an explanation to first century Christians about the coming destruction of the Temple by Roman armies, which occurred in 70 A.D. Jesus includes a warning that “those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”

In fact, a wrong interpretation of Matthew 24, is one of the reasons why the evangelical church has neglected the cultural mandate. For example, a church might neglect the opportunity to help close a local abortion clinic if they are too busy with seminars teaching their members “How to Survive in the End-Times.”

But to return to my analogy, I include Josephus among the false Christs that Jesus warned about in Matthew 24. Josephus was essentially correct, although almost certainly unconverted. He understood that John the Baptist, Jesus and James were true prophets sent to warn the Jews about their own corruption. However, the Jews couldn’t accept Josephus’ heresy that the Roman conquerer Vespasian was the Messiah sent to deliver them. So they barricaded the city walls and resisted. If they had heard the words of Jesus, they would have fled to the mountains. So in part, Josephus was right. Vespasian was sent by God. But he was not the Messiah. He was sent to judge Jerusalem.

Many Christians won’t take Glenn Beck’s call for a Third Great Awakening seriously because he is a Mormon. Over the last 50 years we had Francis Schaeffer, R.J. Rushdoony, D. James Kennedy and many other brilliant evangelical minds tell us that we are in rough shape because the church has neglected the Cultural Mandate. We wouldn’t listen. Now Beck might be our Josephus. He is right because he understands history is “His story.” But that is as far as it goes. Like Josephus, the first century commentator on current events, Glenn Beck is going to have many of the details correct, but he is wrong about some central theological issues.

When Beck invokes the name George Whitefield, the Great Awakening and the Black Robed Regiment, he is correct. But we’d do better to listen to Whitefield himself. If we follow some of the civil and religious leaders that Beck sees as the anointed ones (think: Mitt Romney in 2012) we are in as much trouble as those who accept Jeremiah Wright’s and Louis Farrakhan’s message about Obama being sent by God.

Soon we may even hear the “uber-liberals” (as Beck calls them) invoking the First Great Awakening evangelists, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley (as Hillary Rodham Clinton already does) in their prayer meetings. Clinton said earlier this year:

I grew up in the Methodist Church. On both sides of my father’s family, the Rodhams and the Joneses, they came from mining towns. And they claimed, going back many years, to have actually been converted by John and Charles Wesley … And of course, John Wesley had this simple rule which I carry around with me as I travel: Do all the good you can by all the means you can in all the ways you can in all the places you can at all the times you can to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

Unlike Clinton and Beck, George Whitefield and John Wesley preached that one of the signs of judgment on a nation is that He would begin to give us “unconverted ministers.”

An unconverted minister, though he could speak with the tongues of men and angels, will be but as a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal to those whose senses are exercised to discern spiritual things. Ministers that are unconverted, may talk and declaim of Christ, and prove from books that he is the Son of God; but they cannot preach with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power, unless they preach from experience, and have had a proof of his divinity, by a work of grace wrought upon their own souls. God forgive those, who lay hands on an unconverted man, knowing that he is such: I would not do it for a thousand worlds, Lord Jesus, keep thy own faithful servants pure, and let them not be partakers of other men’s sins! (The Selected Sermons of George Whitefield).

Hillary Clinton apparently believes that the way to salvation is to “do good” (whatever “good” means to her) and Glenn Beck recently said on his TV show, “I believe with all my heart that people are good deep down inside themselves. All they need is a push in the right direction.”

We would do much better if we didn’t listen to what Clinton and Beck say about the message of Great Awakening, but we would read Wesley and Whitefield themselves! In fact, I offer the following “recovery” plan for those who would really seek a Third Great Awakening.

First, avoid the trash that is churned out by the modern evangelical pulp mills! Once this faulty paradigm is demolished, you should begin to build a new foundation for your faith by studying the creeds of the early Church. Then graduate to the more exhaustive and theologically comprehensive confessions of the Reformation period. (I have included a list of these confessions at the end of chapter six for further study.)

You should then read some select writings of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and the Puritans. With an understanding of confessional orthodoxy, you will see more clearly that these giants of the faith were theologically grounded in the creeds and confessions. Then read some of the sermons and writings of great modern Christian leaders such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Charles Hodge.

I hope that by the study of these timeless, immutable truths, you will strengthen your resolve to press into God in prayer and study of Scripture in order to know Jesus Christ in a fuller, more intimate way.

1 Comment

Awesome Jay, I hope you are right!

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