Letter Explains Mitt Romney for Commencement Speaker at Liberty University

Mitt Romney at Liberty University

Every since Liberty University announced that Mitt Romney was going to be the Commencement Speaker (see also the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the CBS News, and even the POLITICO) for this year’s graduation class [some] people have been in an uproar (so says the Daily Kos anyway, the people I know had no problem with it at all). Most of the uproar comes in the form of the fact that Romney is a Mormon, and doesn’t align with Liberty’s theological vision, which is correct, he is, and he doesn’t.

Yesterday, the Office of the Chancellor, or Jerry Falwell, Jr. addressed concerns with the statements below. I guess at some level an explanation was needed, but the one presented below is a great example why this is no different than any other speaker Liberty has had in the past. I for one am glad that they have such a wide variety of speakers at Liberty. I’m sure there are those who can shred the theological explanation below, but it’s good enough for me, and it goes beyond just the criticism of having a Mormon speak at graduation, the letter explains why Liberty’s mission statement, to train Champions for Christ, includes welcoming Mitt Romney, regardless of his faith or politics.

Dear Students,

My office has received hundreds of messages from students and 2012 graduates who are thrilled and honored that the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States will be our Commencement speaker. Some graduates have also inquired about Liberty’s policies regarding the doctrinal beliefs of graduation speakers. These same questions seem to surface every spring and I am writing you in response to those inquiries.

First of all, it is important to remember that Liberty actually has two Commencement speakers each year. Long ago, most universities ceased their practice of including a Baccalaureate service during their Commencement weekend, but we have insisted on keeping this service as a demonstration of our Christian commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

This year our Baccalaureate speaker is Luis Palau. Dr. Palau is an evangelist who has preached the Gospel to a billion people. Palau is often considered second only to Billy Graham in his influence for the Gospel, and, as is our tradition, he will be clearly delivering the Gospel at Baccalaureate.

For twenty-five years Liberty has traditionally had leaders from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment speak during the Commencement ceremony on Saturday. Most of these leaders have not traditionally shared Liberty’s doctrinal convictions. In the last few years, our Commencement speakers have included an evangelical filmmaker (Randall Wallace), a Mormon commentator (Glenn Beck), a Jewish economist (Ben Stein), an evangelical actor and athlete (Chuck Norris), an evangelical – now Catholic – politician (Newt Gingrich), a Catholic commentator (Sean Hannity), a Southern Baptist senator (John McCain), and an Episcopalian chief of staff to President Bush (Karl Rove). In all, at least 20 of Liberty’s 38 Commencement speakers have fit in this category.

My father’s vision for Liberty University was both a theological and a cultural vision. Theologically, it was to found the world’s preeminent Christian university where every faculty member professed faith in Jesus Christ, agreed with our doctrinal statement, and sought to fulfill the Great Commission and live the Great Commandment. Culturally, it was to found a university that held in high regard our nation’s founding principles of limited government, the free enterprise system, and individual liberty. Liberty’s tradition has been to focus on the first part of this vision during the Friday night ceremony and the second part on Saturday morning.

Liberty’s commitment to an annual Baccalaureate service has ensured that we have never held a Commencement that did not include a strong gospel message from an evangelical leader.

I am sure that members of the Liberty University community will treat Gov. Romney with the respect he deserves, regardless of whether they agree with his religious or political beliefs.

When my father traveled the nation speaking at many secular universities, he was often met with boos and hisses by those who held different theological beliefs than he. I am so proud that Liberty students have gained a reputation for treating those whose beliefs are different than their own in a Christ-like manner. You have shown respect to speakers as divergent from Liberty’s worldview as Ted Kennedy, Bob Beckel, and Tim Kaine.

Gov. Romney is a man who has excelled in business, governed a state, and even managed the Olympic games. He has been faithfully married to his wife, Ann, for 43 years, and they have 5 sons and 16 grandchildren. Gov. Romney is a leader of global significance, who might eventually be the leader of the free world, and we are honored that he accepted our invitation.

An invitation to speak at Commencement is not an ad-hoc endorsement of a presidential candidate or even of that particular speaker’s religious or political views. The ultimate purpose of having a prominent Commencement speaker is not to promote the speaker or his views but rather to inspire and challenge the graduates and showcase Liberty and its mission.

My prayer is that having the presumptive Republican nominee as our speaker will cause many who have never heard of Liberty to take notice of what Liberty is doing to train a generation of Champions for Christ. Perhaps, many of them will consider a Christian education over the secular alternative.

Sincerely,

Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President

That explanation won’t cut it for some, but for many, no explanation would suffice at all.

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Is True Christianity Represented on CNN, Discovery, and History Channel?

CNN Belief Blog

Can we really know the true meaning of Christianity today? The answer of course, is an emphatic yes, of course we can, but the answer always seems to change depending on who you ask. Our culture is filled with blogs and news articles like the CNN “Belief Blog” and the Washington Post “On Faith” section, which constantly adjust the meaning of Christianity to suit their own needs, mostly to be politically correct. Make no mistake, these are secular institutions, writing for a single collective purpose and goal in mind, to make a monetary profit. These are businesses, and in business to make money (nothing wrong with that).

These news blogs ask good theological questions like Are Mormons Christians?, because they are hot-button topics, but they often give politically correct answers, ones rarely correct to true Christianity. The Mormon question is a great example, where the press wants to find some way for Christianity to accept Mormons as Christians. If they knew the differences between Christianity and what the Mormon’s say they believe, they would understand why this is just never going to happen (see a good article A Comparison Between Christian Doctrine and Mormon Doctrine). To a learned Christian, Mormons will never be considered “Christians,” even if the Mormon’s say they are, and that is just one small hot topic today of thousands.

I love the Discovery Channel series “Who is Jesus,” and the History Channel’s The Shroud of Turin, but taking serious Christian spiritual or doctrinal advise from these places would be like determining the true meaning of Christianity via the Discovery Channel and History Channel. Sadly, I’m guessing this is where many people in our culture today decide what true Christianity is and isn’t.

The truth of Christianity of course is only found from Scripture, period. If that’s so can a true biblical view also be presented to our culture by means of a secular for-profit company? I think Charles Schultz was one of the first to try and answer that question in our current day when he had Linus read from the book of Luke. After reading another blog post this morning asking “Can we really know the true meaning of Christianity today?”, it made me think… how quickly could you/we/me answer the question? Would the answer come from our deep seeded bias’ we all carry, or would it be a Biblical answer?

There are almost countless ways to answer that question in truth, but here are two quick ways to explain the true and real meaning of Christianity. It’s simple… we make it complex.

  • John 13:35 Jesus says :: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (something also expanded on by Paul in Romans 12:9-21)
  • Romans 10:9-10 Paul says: That is the outpouring of our decision for Christ… “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved”

Those are just two quick ways to answer that question, there are many more.

The Unexpected Journey: Conversations with People Who Turned From Other Beliefs to Jesus :: Review

I am still trying to catch up on my book reviews on my website. The Unexpected Journey is a book I read a while back but hadn’t had the chance to review yet. If you are at all involved in other world religions as they compare to Christianity this book is worth exploring. Overall this is not a book that is going to tell you the ins and outs of every world religion but it does cover the experiences of individuals who converted to Christianity from Islam, a Satanist, Jehovah’s Witness, New Age, Agnostic, Atheist, to Hinduism and more. There are of course many books on other world religions that are more explanatory in nature, but this one still serves a purpose in Christian evangelism.

Below is an excerpt from my full review which can be found in my writing section or the pdf can be found Book Critique of The Unexpected Journey: Conversations with People Who Turned From Other Beliefs to Jesus by Thomas Rainer. In light of world events it is always important to understand other world religions. The violence over the Quran burning in Afghanistan right now is a great example (see also Does Freedom Mean Allowing Idiots to Burn the Quran?).

Content Summary of The Unexpected Journey

In The Unexpected Journey, Rainer walks his readers though a methodical approach to exploring other world religions outside of Christianity and how to reach those people for Christ.  The journey takes Rainer and his wife to many different states to interview twelve different people.  These people were once believers in a religion other than Christianity, who turned to Christianity, and have continued to grow, through various trials, for their new faith in Christ.  Each different encounter or interview is written in its own chapter in the form of a journal entry discussion on how each person made the conversion.  Some background details on each particular world religion are included and, each chapter ends with questions relating to how Christians can reach people still believing in various other world religions.

Rainer starts off on this journey of interviews with Mormonism and Rauni’s story.  Rauni and her family were deeply engaged in the Mormon church by the time they moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, coming with years of experience in the Mormon church.  After a closer examination of the teachings of Mormonism and the bible, Rauni’s decision was to leave the church and turn to nothing after feelings of mis-trust in all forms of religion and a harsh treatment from her former faith.  Eventually Rauni made the decision to turn to Christ and she and her family, still today, live near Salt Lake City, the heart of the Mormon Church, with the unique ability to talk to others struggling with similar issues.

The next journey takes Rainer and his wife to Chicago to meet with a former Orthodox Jew named Steve Barack.  After a brief explanation of the Jewish faith in comparison to that of Christianity, Rainer tracks Barack’s story through the twists and turns that would eventually bring him to an Assembly of God church and on to a faith in Jesus.  As Rainer explains from the interview, Barack learned the possibilities of becoming a Jewish Christian, a believer in Christ who is still able to maintain his Jewish heritage.

As Rainer continues his journey and the interviews he is next taken to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City to meet Dr. Ravi, a once karma deficient Hindu, who would take a long journey to belief in Christ.  His conversion, much like many Rainer interviewed, came at a huge cost to himself and his family.  As is Rainer’s familiar pattern by this point, the author examines Hinduism in a brief form and then ends with a short discussion on how other Christians can reach those in the Hindu religion.

In the next several interviews Rainer travels to several other states, and even conducts one meeting in his hometown of Louisville, KY.  Rainer and his wife speak to Mrs. Jones, from Pennsylvania, who claims to have been an Atheist.  Mrs. Jones took the unexpected route and goes from believing in nothing or no higher power to faith in Christ, to becoming an effective apologist.  Rainer points out that, as Jones explains, “What I really needed was a Christian who had the guts to tell me that I wasn’t the marvelous and upstanding person I considered myself to be.” (Rainer 2005, 74)

Rainer goes on to explain a little about the Atheist worldview and shows why it is so difficult for an average Christian to reach an Atheist.  As the author explains, Jones points out that she and many of her Atheist friends knew scripture far better than their Christian counterparts, but the one thing they could not counter was the love some Christians showed her.

The next several interviews that Rainer conducts are with worldviews that do not have the highest number of followers globally, but are still important for the Christian witness to understand.  Rainer and his wife went to West Virginia to speak with a Jehovah’s Witness, Paul, who like the others went into his religion with a full effort to promote the Jehovah’s Witness worldview and eventually came to a miraculous discussion for Christ.  Paul’s cost of leaving the Jehovah’s was costly as well and Rainer tells such a touching story of how Paul’s life was changed by Christ.

Next, Rainer evaluates the interviews from those with such wide-ranging worldviews as an Agnostic, a former witch, a Buddhist, New Age, a Satanist, and a compelling story from Dr. Townsend, a former believer in Unitarianism.  As is the case with all the interviews, each interviewee comes to know Christ as their savoir through incredible circumstances and although these are some of the less followed religions, they are still worthy of note to a Christian who believes everyone should be given the story of Christianity.

One of the last interviews Rainer conducted and wrote about was a conversion of a Black Muslim to that of Traditional Islam and then to Christianity.  This particular interview is perhaps the most noteworthy one out of all the interviews conducted.  Muslims, and the overall worldview that is Islam, empowers a huge number of people in the world and this religion is more dominant in our day, in 2010, than perhaps it was even at the time the author wrote The Unexpected Journey.  Because this religion is so dominant in parts of the world, and encompasses so many people, it is an important interview to conduct.

The journey for Mumin Muhammad started from hate as he rose through the ranks of the Muslim faith culminating in a personal trial that would cost him his friends, his family, and his job.  As Rainer points out with this interview, it is so difficult for a Christian to reach those of the Muslim faith, but Mumin shows God can and does work among all peoples.

Evaluation of The Unexpected Journey

Rainer’s The Unexpected Journey takes on a complicated task of interviewing several people and trying to glean from these people the best way for Christians to reach out to others who believe in religions other than Christianity.  Rainer pulled together what had to be an enormous amount of information and found a format and method to share this collective information in a journalistic style.  Not only is this extremely helpful in the finished product for his readers, but it allows the reader to compartmentalize each chapter and find ways to place themselves into the stories being told.  This format lends itself well to readers, from seminary students, to the casual interested layperson of the church, who takes an interest in reaching others for Christ.

As Rainer walks through each chapter he humbly addresses the presuppositions that are common among many Southern Baptists and fundamental Christians.  This is an important aspect of each interview and the book in general.  As Christians form their opinions on how to live out their own faith they often create stereotypes of other religions and people.  Rainer speaks to the heart of this issue by coming out with his own stereotypes in the text and addresses them with the person being interviewed.

A more puzzling aspect of The Unexpected Journey was the particular religions Rainer chose to include in the book.  The author briefly touches on these issues but does not make any real indication as to how these were chosen to be included.  This would not normally be of concern to the reader except that the premise of the text is to follow a journey of someone who left a religion and moved to faith in Christ.  Some of the religions, which all took up at least one full chapter in the book, were very small in comparison to those practicing other religions worldwide, and some perhaps may not even be considered religions to many Christians.  This is a minor point for the effectiveness of the overall text, as all the people the author did interview had changed lives for Christ, no matter where they came from.

Perhaps concentrating on the largest or major religions of the world, which encompass the largest number of people, could have been beneficial.  It would have allowed a deeper understanding of each story and world religion.  Where many Christians will probably come into contact with a Muslim or someone practicing Islam, few may come into contact with a Satanist or New Age believer.  While the information was interesting, it probably didn’t cover a large enough group of people.  While the information is useful in a select number of situations it probably does not provide enough information for the reader to be able to be an evangelistic witness to those people groups.

Overall, The Unexpected Journey presented a journey, not only for those people interviewed in each chapter, but Rainer also took the reader through a journey to better understand many different worldviews and how to reach each of those people for Christ.  The organization of the text was easy to understand for readers of all levels, and the author presented his findings in a way that could easily be taken from the book and brought into real life situations.

The Pop-Culture Glenn Beck Religion and Theology

Linus in his great wisdom instructs Lucy well, sound theology is a great comfort to the mind, but I wonder how that would be written in the 21st century. I try to read a small dose of poetry every day in my quest to understand this complex and powerful form of literature, and this one, “Theology” by Paul Laurence Dunbar was so funny, sad, and true, I had to share it today. Some days it seems there is such a Christianity culture shift going on in our country that Christians themselves are trying to re-write what it means to be a Christian.

The New Hipster Christian

Each generation sort of does this and re-defines how they see the Church and tries to make it their own, which is fine, better to revive and revitalize the church than leave it all together (which many young people have done too). The danger is when we re-write the Gospel message to meet our pop-culture needs, and turn Christianity into our own personal Jesus (as Depeche Mode put it about a decade ago). Christian theology isn’t something a generation can choose to define, it was defined for us, by Jesus himself.

A recent article in Christianity Today by Brett McCracken entitled “Hipster Faith” (also from his book Hipster Christianity) put it so well. This pretty much nails it.

It’s [hipster Christianity] a world where things like the Left Behind book and film series, Jesus fish, and door-to-door evangelism are relevant only as a source of irony or nostalgia. It’s a world where Braveheart youth-pastor analogies are anathema, where everyone agrees that they wish Pat Robertson “weren’t one of us” and shares a collective distaste for the art for Thomas Kinkade. The latest incarnation of a decades-long collision of “cool” and “Christianity” is in large part a rebellion against the very subculture that birthed it.

It’s a rebellion against old-school evangelicalism and its fuddy-duddy legalism, apathy about the arts, and pitiful lack of concern for social justice. It’s about a rebellion against George W. Bush-style Christianity: American flags in chruches, the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and evagelical leaders who get too involved in conservative politics, such as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.

They prefer to call themselves “Christ-followers” rather than “Christians.” They cringe at the thought of an altar call, and the prospect of passing out tracts gives them nightmares.

Nothing is inherently wrong there except I do find that the “hipster Christians” do not give anyone the respect they deserve, like the aforementioned Dobson and Falwell, but I don’t see them giving due respect to hardly any of their “elders” per-say. They may disagree with the method (I always hated the thought of door-to-door myself) but much of their theology is very sound. We all far pray to our own culture, it is just part of being alive. You can follow me and my exploits around on Twitter just like you can McCracken, but where do we get our theology today.

Theology, Get it Wherever You Like

So they/we get theology from CCM (Christian Contemporary Music), and the pop-trends of the day. The latest craze that includes us older generations with Glenn Beck (see Beck Wants to Lead, But Will Evangelicals Follow? and a great article by Dr. Russell Moore God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck, and for another look, And Glenn Beck Shall Lead Them). Beck calls for a return to God, and then on Chris Wallace’s program (see video) Beck made it quite clear that he totally understands the Gospel message, and the differences between the LDS Church (Mormon Church) and Christianity. Sometimes it seems that the only ones who can’t see the difference, and there are plenty of differences, are us Christians.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

I guess the question is, who are we looking to for our theological base and teaching, Beck? I don’t want to just pick on Beck, I like his show. While he is a super pop-culture-talking-head and has many good points, should we really be taking our theology from Beck? He would probably even say that’s not a good idea. Luckily, Christians today can go right to the source and skip all the middle men. The unchanging God of Abraham is still there for us. We are the ones who change, not Him.

I was going to post the poem, “Theology” by Paul Laurence Dunbar here as well but this post is too long already, so look for it in the next post shortly.