Billy Graham, BGEA, and the Mormons

From CT which has a short piece up about the BGEA’s decision, after Billy Graham met with Mitt Romney, to remove Mormons from their site as a cult.

Ken Barun, the BGEA’s chief of staff, confirmed the removal on Tuesday.

“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

Comments:

1. This is precisely what has not been done; BGEA has politicized theology by removing it.

2. The point of the previous accusation that Mormonism is a cult is because it denies the gospel; now BGEA has backed off that gospel claim.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://teampyro.blogspot.com Frank Turk

    waitaminit — Dr. McKnight! You’re willing to call Mormons non-Christians?!

    WOW!

  • Phineus

    Wow, I’m surprised that BGEA would do this. You’re exactly right, BGEA has politicized this by removing.

    @Frank: can’t answer for Dr. McKnight, but Mormonism is definitely not orthodox Christianity. Who do they say Jesus is? Mormonism claims He is the brother of Lucifer – and thus of the same essence and a created being, not Creator.

    Therefore, if Mormons worship a different Christ (of a completely different essence) then they are non-Christian even if they do have the name “Jesus Christ” in the name of their church.

  • http://krishk.com krish

    really sad about this – watching from the other side of the pond – am praying for my evangelical brothers and sisters to find a way to not let the gospel become a dispensable political bargaining chip and to be a prophetic and graceful voice to government.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    Cult has several meanings. It has an academic meaning. And it has a pejorative cultural meaning. Culturally it is not a cult (Jim Jones style personality cult.) Academically it is a cult according to a sociology of religions definition. But that is not what BGEA means by cult. They are not an academic organization speaking to academics.

    What they are is an evangelistic organization that should stay out of politics. The problem in my mind is Billy Graham taking a political position. But there is no reason that BGEA needs to use the word cult. Are mormons non-Christian absolutely. But that is a different issue.

  • Trav

    Mormonism is Christianity without being Orthodox Christianity.

  • Tom

    Generally I prefer to keep a conversation open and work toward dialog. Seems like a good step

  • http://withallmymind.net Dan D.

    I completely agree with your comment #1, Scot. This move is obviously politically motivated. Does anyone really think they would have done this if the Republican challenger for President wasn’t a Mormon? If they really didn’t want to politicize this, they would have left the statement as is, in my opinion. After all, one can agree with someone’s politics and think their theology is totally nuts (and vice versa)!

  • DRL

    Okay. That makes it official. The world has gone insane!

    Thanks, Scott, for you’re thoughts on this. You are right on!

  • AHH

    The word “cult” is probably not helpful in such discussions.

    But it is not clear from a quick read of the aritcle what exactly they did:
    A) Did they remove the word “cult” but still list Mormonism along with Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. as non-Christian religions? That would be fine with me.
    B) Did they remove the whole article, so that Mormonism and these other religions are not mentioned at all on the website? Not unreasonable.
    C) Did they specifically remove Mormonism while leaving all the others on the list still labeled as “cults”? That would be selling one’s theological soul for the sake of Republican politics and I would hope other Christians would call the BGEA on it if that is the case.

  • Jeremy

    I agree with Scot. This looks more like an attempt to remove a barrier to some people voting FOR Romney rather than any attempt to remain above the political fray. BGEA is taking a clear position in support of Romney by essentially saying Mormonism as orthodox. Coupled with this, it’s an actual endorsement: “I hope millions of Americans will join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms.”

    That said, I think individual Mormons can be authentic followers of Christ, even if I think their religion is false. I’ve met a bunch of orthodox Christians that I thought had far worse theology.

  • barb

    I’m pretty disappointed that Billy Graham would tip his hand before the election. I thought he was willing to provide pastoral support to whoever was elected. I hope he is not declaring that he believes that the LDS is part of the Christian church. I did see a ticker run across the tv screen last week that Romney was meeting with Billy Graham. I was worried about what that might mean

  • http://www.mindfuljustice.com Jim

    For the evangelical right and Graham, power/access/influence has always been more important than truth. Confirmed again today!

  • Jeremy

    AHH – The whole page is gone. The media is implying that BGEA is saying Mormonism is not a cult, which doesn’t appear to actually be true. They describe cults in other places in such a way as to point towards Mormonism, but it still seems odd to me that they’d do this. There’s not really any other way to take this other than a political move. Neutrality would be leaving things as is, especially considering the whole Mormon thing hasn’t really been a super hot topic (at least not here in hyper-conservative, religious Arizona). Sad coming from the man who so publicly regretted Nixon, but not surprising from his son.

    Barb, one thing I’ll give Billy Graham is that he’s met with them all, including Obama. He’s been pretty equal opportunity in this case.

  • http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/node/35 John W. Morehead

    I appreciate the discussion and concern among evangelicals as a result of these recent events. Aside from these specifics in terms of politics, it might be worth considering what a growing number of evangelicals have put forward in terms of Mormonism, and that is that it is best understood as a religious culture, not a cult. This perspective may be found in the Lausanne issue group of 2004 meeting to discuss the new religions, and as such it is argued for in the issue group paper released by the group (available here:www.lausanne.org/docs/2004forum/LOP45_IG16.pdf). In addition, this has set forth in the book Encountering New Religious Movements (Kregel Academic, 2004) (http://www.amazon.com/Encountering-New-Religious-Movements-Evangelical/dp/0825428939/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350430814&sr=8-1&keywords=encountering+new+religious+movements) which won a Christianity Today Book of the Year Award in the category of Missions/Global Affairs. The basic idea behind this is also applied to new or minority religions in general. By adopting ideas from missiology, the notion is that moving away from a pejorative concept and label like “cult” will help generate greater understanding of the religion and those who practice it, and will also remove unnecessary obstacles to the communication of the gospel message. Perhaps such ideas could be communicated to both Billy and Franklin Graham in the hopes of shaping their conceptions of Mormonism, as well as Islam, and by extension help transform evangelicalism in its relationship to the new religions and world religions.

  • Chris White

    While a strong right-leaning orthodox evangelical like Douglas Groothuis is supporting the Romney ticket it is because of his strong distaste for the Obama policies. But as far as what the orthodox evangelical church has held as essential doctrines of the faith, the Mormon religion holds positions which are detrimental to understanding the mission or Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They hold what Paul calls “another gospel” in Galatians 1 and we who hold to what has been considered the evangelical orthodox position should present this reality anytime the issue is brought up–with meekness and courage, humility and boldness, clarity and charity.

    How this effects the vote you cast is a totally different thing with a myriad of factors to be considered.

    It does sadden me if the BGEA has compromised on this crucial aspect of doctrine/theology.

  • NateW

    I say that not one of us actually believes what we think we believe anyway, so rather than damning our Mormon neighbors lets remember that each serves his own master and will be judged in accordance with their fruit. To love unconditionally those who’s beliefs differ from ours (an to thus manifest the grace of Christ before the world) is our calling. Why be concerned so much with publicly disowning those who also hope to follow Christ as they know Him?

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    I have asked every Elder that has come to my home if Mormonism is polytheistic and they have all said yes. I don’t know how you make Christianity Polytheistic when the Creeds so clearly argue against that.

  • Mark Farmer

    Fascinating contrast with Franklin Graham’s calling out Rob Bell last year as a false teacher and a heretic. http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=fCOkGDUgij8&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DfCOkGDUgij8

  • Rick

    According to the article: “The features of a cult, according to website, are acceptance of revelations outside the Bible, a belief in salvation through good works and unorthodox doctrines on the Trinity.”

    To cover that up, so as it apparently help a candidate, is very disturbing.

    Mark #18-

    What is Franklin’s role with the BGEA?

  • Kel

    I would rather the BGEA had said, “Mormonism is a cult, but we think Romney is the better candidate.” That way, they could have endorsed Romney (obviously their goal) without compromising their theological stance.

  • Mark Farmer

    Rick @19 – In these photos of the Romney visit, there is a third person present. FG. He is the President and CEO of the BGEA. http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=8983

  • Rick

    Mark-

    Thanks. Very disappointing.

  • Neal

    The recent meeting between Romney and the Grahams was a shameful exploitation of a 93-year-old man with many well-publicized health problems. It’s not surprising that Romney would do this, as he has shown repeatedly that he will say and do anything to get elected. However, the removal of the information on Mormonism as a cult from the BGEA website was a clear betrayal of the gospel. Franklin Graham has sold his soul for a mess of GOP pottage. He also is, in my opinion, guilty of elder abuse.

  • http://twitter.com/benbrandenburg Ben

    Is it possible that good things happens through ugly political means?

    Listen, it’s probably best to let Mormons describe their own theology and beliefs as Richard Mouw suggests (one would be surprised I think). By removing the the 1970ish cult tag from Mormonism, groups like the BGEA can actually engage Mormon groups in a constructive manner.

    The problem here lies in the leadership crisis at BGEA. Franklin, what with his championing of Donald Trump, clearly did not heed his father’s warnings about muddling the gospel with political involvement. But can we expect organizations like BGEA to continue to thrive after the founder has long since retired? These things happen in the evangelical tradition. Organizations rise and fall. Perhaps its time to look for new organizations to champion.

  • Luke Allison

    This is yet another reason why I want nothing to do with that whole “branch” of Christianity.

  • Ron Spross

    Once upon a time I dismissed arguments from religious skeptics when they asserted that Christian theological statements were driven by the politics of the first centuries rather than, say, the Holy Spirit. The thoroughgoing identification of agendas of the political right wing and “evangelicals” in the United States demonstrates that this is not a crazy idea, but is instead very plausible.

  • RDH

    I don’t understand your complaints. The BGEA has become more inclusive, which I thought was what most of the folks who frequent The Jesus Creed blog wanted…. My head is spinning. I thought we were all trying to eliminate labels and accept people for their actions and deeds rather than their beliefs. Gandhi is in heaven and so are all the good Mormons and anyone else who does good work that shows love for other people. Love wins.

  • LukeB

    We haven’t had a non-Christian president since some of the earliest presidents like Jefferson — strange to me that Billy Graham doesn’t seem to care about that very much. It is a tension that I’ve seen a lot in our society, including myself — that we tend to feel a stronger fellowship with people of similar education and culture than with fellow Christians who we may disagree with on many things. That concerns me. My picture of Graham is this ecumenical, globally transcendent figure that was some above the fray –that is probably an idealized view.

  • Shane

    Scot you hit the nail on the head. The issue is not what constitutes a cult or whether an LDS member could be a good president. The issue is that a major evangelic organization has whitewashed its own clearly stated convictions for political purposes. And any time Christians allow politics to drive their convictions, Christ is not Lord – Caesar is.

  • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve K.

    Scot, the October 2012 issue of Decision Magazine (the organizational publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) features an article by Franklin Graham titled “Why Evangelicals Can Vote for a Mormon.” There is a political agenda behind all of these recent moves and statements issued (in Billy Graham’s name) from the BGEA, and I would argue it is Franklin Graham’s political agenda, not Billy’s.

  • http://ricardodiazdesign.com/ Ricardo

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In this season of politics I don’t know what is worse a mormon as president or someone that wants to be accepted by all. I think that Billy Graham made a wrong move on this part and I wonder how long after the election they will reinstate them on the list.

    I think we should all be loving towards one another but never compromise our beliefs. There is only one way and that is through Jesus.

  • http://www.randybuist.com Randy Buist

    A few years back Billy stated that his biggest mistake was to get too close to Republican power. Obviously the lure to power is strong in his son…. this sounds like a remaking of the Star Wars trilogy.

  • Sad ME

    This has greatly saddened me. I too believe that this is a great compromise and will be used to “divide and conquer” true faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God. Any “religion” that follows a false prophet, and in this case it is Joseph Smith, is suspect and needs to look at the Bible. As for the BGEA, this is a step down for them. I am shocked that the organization would come out like this. It will divide Christians and be divisive to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It shows me that Christian organizations are deteriorating greatly. That being said, I know that God is in control and my vote is for Him.

  • Greg Drummond

    If “cult” is too strong and pejorative for the Mormons, perhaps we should use the old word “Heretic”? From my understanding the heresy of Arianism (which was condemned in 325AD at the Council of Nicaea) fits nicely into Mormon Christology.

  • Patrick

    Greg,

    That’s how I view them. Heretics more like Arian with some additional “goofy” views. I still think they are in the Body of Christ as Peter was at the great confession. I seriously doubt that day Peter had much a clue what Jesus was. He simply grasped He was that special “ONE” to be sent to Israel in the OT traditions.

    The rest came with time as it did us when we’re first believers.

  • Mike M

    This is priceless. Just as Christianity and Islam are Jewish heresies, Mormonism is a Christian heresy. As a pre-credal Christian, I am fascinated by the make-shift recent religions that force Protestantism out of its Reformation slumber and into the logical conclusions that stalled after the Augsburg Confessions. Personally, I don’t like the Jesus of Mormonism but some of the nicest, most generous people I know are Mormons. Maybe we should rely less on mythology (eg Trinitarianism; Jesus & Lucifer his brother} and more on the fruits of God’s spirit.


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