Musings on Repentance 1: Glen Beck’s Call for Awakening versus Biblical Repentance

Glen Beck has made the news because of a speech he gave on the Washington Mall on 8/28/2010 which was an Anniversary date of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech.  The speech was part of a rally hosted by Glen Beck that when by the title of Restoring Honor.  The speech made the news because Glen called for the nation to return to God.  The speech garnered varied reactions ranging from unqualified support, skepticism, or criticism. Many Christians were alarmed that such a call came from a person known to be a member of a Latter Day Saints (Mormon) congregation.  Some have spoken with Glen Beck and have come away convinced he understands and embraces the idea of atonement.  Well, given all the reactions this writer decided to listen to the speech and having done so have found it to be quite disturbing.  Yes, Glen Beck calls for an Awakening and a turning to God by acts of faith, hope, and Charity. He spent time pointing at the need for firm reliance on divine providence as written in founding father documents. However, his call for Awakening does not match the Biblical view of awakening or repentance. Let’s examine a bit closer what he stands for as indicated in his speech. You may want to take the time to view the speech for your self before you read the further commentary in this article. The speech can be found at: http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/45013/.

In listening the speech there were four concepts espoused by Glen Beck that do not correspond to Biblical principles or Biblical repentance.  Glen Beck did use some words that have an element of truth, but the truth he spoke simply served as a means of accepting the other content of his message as true.  There are four key message elements of his speech that are in direct contrast to Biblical repentance and awakening. 

The first element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that Glen Beck emphasized the importance of self-determination. He opened the speech with a comment “One man can change the world.” “It is you.”  He made frequent references to Moses and his staff.  He encouraged people over and over to “pick up the stick.” Meaning get involved in the efforts to alter the course of the nation. He used the metaphor even of Egypt and slavery to make his point. However, the slavery he refers to is not being involved in political action and having restrains to self-determination.  True, he does reference seeking God and acting in faith, hope, and charity. Yet, it is all for the building up of self.  He even alluded to his being a broken man and having made changes. Yet, he points to political actions to “set people free.” 

The second element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that while he hearkens to engaging in prayer and engaging in firm reliance on divine providence, he emphasizes the importance of “America.”  He clearly espouses the concept of America as a “special nation.”  He referred to the documents from the founding fathers of the country as being “American Scripture.”  He indicated that if “America” does not change the course it is on, then there will be no one to step in when the “world” is in trouble. In essence, he elevates “America” to a savior of the world status.  This is elevating the country of the United States to an unhealthy level and looking for human element to saving the world.  The perspective of the Christian faith is that nothing will be made right until Jesus returns and everything will continue to get worse.

Another disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech was the frequent references to “looking within.” He made comments such as we need to “strengthen our spirits” and we need to explore “inner space.”  The need for such “inner exploration” is not part and parcel to the Christian concept of awakening and repentance but rather calls to finding what you are sure of and finding some form of spiritual guidance for inner strengthening.  And while it was not directly said, it suggests pointing to some inner element of “the divine.” For Glen Beck made constant references of to humility. He even declared God as King, yet he frequently focused on self effort.  Even his push for “faith, hope, and charity” really seem inclined to being found in looking within in and choices made.  Yes,  Glen Beck did proclaim that we need to look to God and look to love, yet the direction he pointed folks to look was within.

The last disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech  is that  what he pointed to is everyone needs to know what they believe. He indicated that belief is important, he stated truth was important but only as elements of self.  In terms of truth, a person needs to be truthful and have no lies in your life.  He proclaimed  “truth shall set you free” but the determiner of truth is self and what you believe. He emphasized that what was important were the “universal principles” of the varied faiths, not absolute truth.  His embracing nebulous universal truths was highlighted even by his action as he called for a “Black Robe Brigade” of people of varied “faiths” that were standing for advocating political answers with a human moral base centered on universal principles.  This is not by any shape turning to submission to a Holy God and Jesus who is “THE WAY,” rather it is being actively involved and engaged in solutions of this world to change moral behavior and political focus. It is quite different that biblical awakening and repentance.

At the core, Biblical repentance is not turning to self or elevating self with the aim of some political world changing purpose. Biblical repentance is turning away from self-effort and following God’s ways. Yes, that involves loving God and others. Yes, it involves turning to Jesus as King.  But it is something that is not about elevation of self or society but simply doing what is right before God and turning away from that which is self.  The Bible is filled with evidence of what repentance looks like.  The story of the Prodigal son is one example.  It is a coming to an end of self and turning to God.  True repentance will result in a turning to Jesus.  The attitude seen in Biblical repentance is shown in James 4:6-9 (ESV) “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”   There really is stark contrast.  Look at Zacchaeus for a Biblical example of repentance. He was crooked, greedy man. He met Jesus and he changed his life to the point of even returning more than he stole.  He was called and he followed. Biblical repentance involves two actions, a turning from self and turning to God.  It is leaving the old way for a new.

Glen Beck offers ways to arrange the world and life to best accommodate desires. It is holding on own life in a way, it is far different from the self-surrender of scripture.  There is a verse passage in Ephesians that really sums up the difference between what Glen Beck is promoting and the Biblical view.

Ephesians 5:6-17 (ESV) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  

 This passage  exposes those  appear  to proclaim a turning to God yet really are elevating self.  The passage also commands to have nothing to do with those who are deceptive.   For there is always really two ways, the way of God and the way of the world.  There is Godly sorrow and repentance that leads to salvation as those who lose their life will gain it. Then there is the way of the world, the works of flesh, the elevation of self that has no life and leads to death and destruction.  One is real, one is but illusion.  Glen Beck’s call is to that of illusion leading to death. There is no life there.

Cultural News Commentary: On Jimmy Carter disassociating with Southern Baptists

Back on July 12th, 2009 in a Guardian Observer article Jimmy Carter announced severing ties with the Southern Baptist denomination related to the unwillingness to ordain women. Now the point of this commentary is really not to get into the ins and outs of the place of women within the church. Rather, it is to take a look at what Jimmy Carter said in this article in the name of Christianity. However, it is worth outlining some initial thoughts on women in the church. There is much misunderstood and poorly applied within the various aspects of the corporate church. Many folks take and interpret scripture in accordance with their own views on male female relationships. It takes a much more thorough examination of male and female relating to grasp the intent. The lack of allowing woman in authority by corporate church is not about discriminating or devaluing women, rather it is following God’s design and elements that reflect things God intends us to learn. Now with those initial thoughts expressed this commentary will move on to examining the areas of concern with Jimmy Carter’s statements.

The first concern is that Jimmy Carter and the company he keeps, known as “the Elders,” basically are attempting to set forth what they consider to be the proper morality for the world. In his article Jimmy Carter referenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration was declared by the United Nations back in 1948 (the year Israel became a nation.) It seems that the Jimmy Carter and the Elders are all about seeking to give voice to those UN declarations. Now that declaration and Jimmy Carter’s comments are taking that declaration and the underlying concepts and setting it is the standard of right and wrong. It is a declaration of rights and as such it is about stating that of which all of us are globally entitled. Anything that appears to deviate and appear to violate these declare rights are considered immoral and not benefiting the global community. Now the reader may state that those declarations are good and worth pursuing. However, that misses the point. This is humanity setting a declaration that all should abide. It is what comes first in the minds of Jimmy Carter and the elders. For Jimmy Carter the Holy Bible is viewed in relation to how it relates to these declared entitlements.     

Now not only do we have humanity declaring what are universal entitlements that shape universal morality but an overall view of humanity and religion. Jimmy Carter, the Elders, and the United Nations are about the agenda of Universality. Jimmy Carter’s statements are filled with concepts that embrace a multi-faith view that essentially express that what is important are the core elements found in each faith and view. This concept espouses the view that what one believes doesn’t matter and that all faiths are but a shadow and reflection of a mysterious whole. So, they point to the universal areas of agreement. This is displayed in Jimmy Carter’s following statement: “This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.” This has absolutely no founding in the Bible or in Christianity. It is found simply on the way and wisdom of the world.

Ultimately the main concern is that Jimmy Carter expresses this view or morality and a universal religious viewpoint in the name of Christianity. He even throws out the name of Billy Graham in order to try and give strength to his support. However, the views of Jimmy Carter and the Elders are not surprising. They are expressing views they think will offer solutions to the ills of society. They are all about building the community of mankind. The community of mankind is the Kingdom of the World which stands in opposition to the Kingdom of God. Yes, there are good concerns that the likes of Jimmy Carter, the Elders, and the United Nation advocate. One needs to be aware that these things that appear to be good concerns with meaningful political answers are faulty and limited. These matters will have the appearance of wisdom and hope. Many people will agree with the find sounding principles espoused but they are all fool’s gold. It looks good but ultimately worthless.

Ultimately for this writer in reflecting the words of Jimmy Carter, the works of the Elders, the agenda of the United Nations the reality of Joshua 24:15 is all too clear. The verse reads “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (NIV)” We each have two paths to choose from and only two paths. The path of the Kingdom of the World with temporary solutions to long lasting problems that are either rooted in or resulting from the sins of humanity or the path of the Kingdom of God which gives an eternal answer to the root of the problems that plague the world. So do you serve humanity or serve God?