OK, let’s start by my acknowledging this truth: in general, I like and agree with Glenn Beck.  Does he say some outrageous things?  Yes.  Do I agree with all of his pronouncements?  Heavens, no.  But in general, I agree with a significant portion of the things he says…but when he starts talking about his faith and this quest God has him on, well, I get mighty antsy.  Glenn, you see, is a Mormon.

But David Barton, an evangelical Christian and founder/president of an organization named WallBuilders, has appeared with Glenn on a number of occasions, not only on Glenn’s TV program, but at rallies, etc.  And some Christians have (rightly) questioned Barton as to this association, just as I questioned the decision of Liberty University (my alma mater) to have Beck as graduation speaker.  Now comes Barton’s apologetic, which I’ve reproduced in its entirety below.  Instead of my commenting on it—other than to say that it is an underwhelming mishmash of red herrings, misappropriation of Scripture, misappropriation of history, and blending of the spiritual with the political to a frightening degree (not that I want to bias you, dear reader…ahem)—I’ll let you read it and point out the many fallacies Barton’s argument contains.  I’m frankly astonished, to tell you the truth…

By Their Fruits
by David Barton/WallBuilders on Monday, 16 August 2010 at 18:49
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Dav…01762193194695

For all those who have asked, thanks for your inquiry and for expressing your concerns about Glenn and his faith. Allow me to address those concerns first by offering some general principles that I find helpful, and then by listing some specific facts that also influence my position.

Concerning the first area, human nature frequently causes us to jump to quick (and often wrong) conclusions based on stereotypes; there is an unfortunate propensity to judge based on what is generally perceived about a particular group rather than on what we specifically know about the individuals in that group.

Jesus provided excellent guidance to help overcome this tendency:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit….Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. MATTHEW 7:16-20
“Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” LUKE 9:49-50
Whoever is not against us is for us. MARK 9:40

What simple messages are contained in these three verses?
Judge a tree based on the type of fruit it produces, not the label that it bears. For example, if a tree is labeled as an apple tree but keeps producing oranges, which is more important: the label or the fruits? Obviously, the fruits.
Don’t impede the efforts of others if they are not attacking and trying to injure us, even if those individuals are not part of our particular religious circle.

If someone is not actively fighting against us, then consider him an ally, not an enemy.

Let me now make specific application of these verses. In recent months, I have appeared numerous times on Glenn’s program to talk about historical and political issues, particularly as related to faith and Biblical values. On those programs, I have had repeated opportunity to inform Americans about (as our WallBuilders’ motto declares) “America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage.” I have also participated in several major arena rallies with Glenn.

As a result of these appearances, I have received numerous letters and calls from concerned Christians, some of whom respectfully inquire as to why I would appear with a Mormon, while others directly attack me for doing so. As far as I can tell, most of these concerns stem from judging Glenn based by the label of “Mormon” rather than by the fruits he produces.

For example, no one has yet been to point to any instance where Glenn has attacked or undermined Christ or Christianity on any of his programs. To the contrary, on repeated occasions it has been quite the opposite. (Recall his specific programs on individual salvation, atonement, and redemption through Christ.) Nevertheless, some of his critics refuse to take Glenn at his self-evident words but instead attempt to read into them some secret and hidden meaning, thereby judging him not by his fruits or words but rather by some conspiratorial and unseen meaning they seek to impute to him.

For Christians concerned about Glenn’s faith, I would ask the following questions:

What fruit do you see produced by Glenn? Good or bad? If you judged Glenn only by the fruits he has produced, would you still hold concerns over his faith?

If you did not know Glenn was a Mormon, how would you describe his religious beliefs?

Is God using Glenn to help recover our national strength and health, both politically and spiritually? If so, why would God be using him?
Does Glenn stir and provoke us to good works? (Hebrews 10:24)
Does he bring to light the hidden things of darkness? (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Does he talk openly about atonement, redemption, and individual salvation through Christ? (I can definitely answer this in the affirmative, for I have seen him do so on numerous occasions not only on his program but also in the rallies where I have personally participated with him.)

Christians concerned about Glenn’s faith should judge the tree by its fruits, not its labels. After all, Nancy Pelosi and Bill Clinton openly call themselves Christians, as do Evangelical Christian ministers such as Jim Wallis and Joel Hunter. Although these individuals have the right labels, they have the wrong fruits; yet many Christians have a more visceral reaction to Glenn than to Pelosi, Clinton, or Wallis. This is wrong; it is not Biblical.

(Incidentally, a recent poll on American religious affiliations and beliefs [1] shows that Mormons are more pro-life and pro-traditional sexuality than Evangelicals: 70% of Mormons oppose abortion but only 61% of Bible-believing Evangelicals do so; and 68% of Mormons believe that homosexuality should be discouraged in society but only 64% of Bible-believing Evangelicals believe this. Furthermore, in the 2008 vote on the California Marriage Amendment, it was Mormons and not the Evangelicals who gave most of the money and workers needed to protect marriage in that state.
In fact, polling affirms that if the marriage issue had been left only to Evangelicals, the marriage amendment would have failed. We Evangelicals definitely need to get our own house in order.)

Recall the incident in Acts 10 where God shattered the thinking and paradigm of the Apostles by manifesting himself to and through Cornelius. In the Apostles’ thinking, this was definitely not supposed to happen, for Cornelius was part of the wrong group. Nonetheless, God moved through Cornelius, making clear that His blessing was upon him.

Significantly, that Cornelius passage from the book of Acts became the basis for one of the most famous sermons in the remarkable American revival called the First Great Awakening (1730-1770). That sermon, known as the “Father Abraham” sermon, was delivered repeatedly by the Rev. George Whitefield over all parts of America.

The text of that sermon was recorded by John Adams (who was among the eighty percent of Americans who physically heard Whitefield preach a sermon during the Great Awakening [2] ). About that sermon, Adams recounted to Thomas Jefferson:

He [Whitefield] began: “Father Abraham,” with his hands and eyes gracefully directed to the heavens (as I have more than once seen him): “Father Abraham, whom have you there with you? Have you Catholics?” “No.” “Have you Protestants?” “No.” “Have you Churchmen?” “No.” “Have you Dissenters?” “No.” “Have you Presbyterians?” “No.” “Quakers?” “No.” “Anabaptists?” “No.” “Whom have you there? Are you alone?” “No.” “My brethren, you have the answer to all these questions in the words of my next text: ‘He who feareth God and worketh righteousness, shall be accepted of Him'” [Acts 10:35]. [3] God help us all to forget having names and to become Christians in deed and in truth. [4]

Whitefield’s “Father Abraham” sermon based on the Cornelius incident had a profound effect on Americans. In fact, the message of that sermon was directly put into practice on September 6, 1774, when a seemingly innocuous motion was proffered to open America’s first Congress with prayer. [5] Surprisingly, that apparently harmless request met unexpectedly stiff resistance – resistance by some of the most devout Christians among the delegates. As explained by John Adams:

It was opposed by Mr. [John] Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments – some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists – that we could not join in the same act of worship. [6]

It was devout Christian Samuel Adams who broke through the religious objections when he “arose and said he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue.” [7] Significantly, Samuel Adams (an ardent Congregationalist – a Puritan) supported having a clergyman from the Church of England (a denomination literally hated by Adams’ Congregationalists) deliver the original opening prayer in Congress. What Adams required was that the prayer be from a “gentleman of piety and virtue,” thus recognizing Jesus’ teachings in Luke 9:49-50, Mark 9:40, and Matthew 7:16-20.

Glenn fits well into both of those historic parameters, and hopefully, so, too, will those American Christians who might disagree with his label but find nothing to fault among his fruits.

In conclusion, I have been with Glenn in numerous settings; I have watched him up close and can heartily endorse both his public and his private life. I have witnessed his tender heart, his love for God, and his passion to keep God in America. Glenn and I have prayed together on numerous occasions; he has sought God for specific guidance on numerous situations and I have personally not only seen God answer him but have also seen Glenn completely change his plans after feeling the Lord was leading him to move in a different direction or address a different subject. I judge Glenn by his fruits, not by his labels, and I am honored to call Glenn not only an ally and a fellow warrior (and a General) in the culture war, but especially to call him a good friend.

God bless!
David Barton

Update: Russell Moore has an excellent piece on this aberration that David Barton embraces; click here.

9 responses »

  1. jen says:

    That’s quite disturbing.

  2. Laurie says:

    Good article by Russell Moore. I agree that Glenn Beck himself is not the problem, rather it is David’s claim that we are stereotyping and labeling Glenn’s beliefs instead of focusing on the “fruit” he produces.

    First off, I don’t think anyone would argue that generally speaking, Mormons are moral people; but that’s not the point. The point is that Mormonism is a cult; the differences between Mormonism and Christianity are huge, and should not be trivialized by using words like “stereotyping” and “labels” – those differences are the reason why we reject the Book of Mormon as scripture, their prophets as true prophets of God, and why we do not fellowship as brothers in Christ – their concept of Christ is heretical.

    When Mormons come to my door and I tell them I’m a Christian, they immediately tell me they are, too. When I say I believe the Bible, they say they do, too. They do their best to establish common ground, and the undiscerning Christian might let down their guard and be receptive to what they’ve come to say, which is that their prophet Joseph Smith was given “another testimony of Jesus Christ” – the Book of Mormon, which is more correct than the Bible. If you keep listening, you’ll hear how the Christian churches have got it wrong but God has sent the truth thru Mormon prophets.

    Since their doctrines contradict the clear teachings of scripture, we must recognize that their prophets are false – this isn’t stereotyping and labeling, the Bible commands us to test all things and hold on to that which is good. There are many people who live fairly moral lives even though they have false beliefs, and even though we live among them, work with them, and even agree with them on many issues, we never forget that light has no fellowship with darkness.

  3. TJ says:

    Byron, I’m not quite sure what point you are trying to make here. Are you suggesting that David Barton has been somehow deceieved (along with potentially countless others) by Glenn Beck into embracing the teachings of Mormonism alongside those of traditional, orthodox, biblical Christianity?

    • Byron says:

      No, not that he’s been deceived into personally accepting them, but deceived by considering Beck’s actions to constitute “good fruit” when Beck is a practicing Mormon (and by definition cannot produce “good fruit”, if our faith is true and Mormonism false, as I believe). Barton’s apologetic for Beck is borderline appalling.

  4. Kay Sterling says:

    David Barton is easily corrupted by his thirst for political power. Wonderful Christian conservatives in Texas have been “labeled” by David Barton as “trial lawyers” or some such other slur in order to further his own political agenda; this tactic is in direct contradiction to his own apologetic in defense of Glen Beck. It is amazing to see his duplicity in yet another quest for more power. Those few discerning Christians who have seen through David Barton are not at all surprised by this.

  5. TJ says:

    @ Kay: I’m unaware of David’s political aspirations. For which public offices has he run?

  6. Kathy R says:

    I’m disturbed by the new trendy occupation of David Barton bashing. And deeply disturbed by your fear of “blending of the spiritual with the political to a frightening degree”. You think Obama et al. aren’t doing that?

    • Byron says:

      Kathy, to answer your questions:
      – I don’t disagree that Obama et al are doing that. That’s not my concern, though; my concern, in keeping with the scriptural admonition that “judgment must begin at the house of God”, is when professing Christians go off the path in such a public way (by the way, you might agree with me that I’m not particularly convinced by the president’s profession of faith). Yes, it happens on both sides of the aisle, and with regard to politicians of various “religious stripes”, but that doesn’t make it right.

      – Further, you chose to comment on my two-year-old post regarding Barton’s defense of Glenn Beck (rather than Barton’s current problems). I’m curious: you’re disturbed by what you call “bashing”, but with what in that post do you disagree? Granting that no one can know the heart of another, can we not agree that Mormonism lies outside Christian orthodoxy, that it constitutes a false religion, and that those who adhere to its teachings with regard to salvation cannot be meaningfully considered to be Christian? I’m interested in your specific problem(s) with that reasoning.

      – Finally, with regard to the current issues relative to Barton, I have posted little on my blog, but more extensively on Facebook; that said, I did post, nearly a year ago, here, and then more recently here. I sincerely hope that you are not numbered among those I describe in the latter post, because what disturbs me is those who blindly defend David Barton–or anyone, for that matter–irrespective of the truth. It is pretty clear that David Barton is a well-read man who at many points offers a corrective to some on the left who would rewrite American history to scrub it clean of Christian influence. It is also pretty clear–and the facts are out there in abundance–that in his commendable zeal, Mr. Barton has overplayed his hand by playing fast-and-loose with some of the facts, and instead of facing directly the many points at which he’s been called to account, has employed a policy of subterfuge, ad hominem attacks, and siccing attack dogs to come to his defense. So long as he continues in this vein, instead of humbly answering his critics, he undermines his credibility as an authority, which I find sad–and disturbing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s