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Strange bedfellows

GIVE ME LIBERTY: Hinn. (Juan Soliz/Pacific Coast News/Newscom)

YouTube/The Blaze

Beck speaking at Liberty.

Religion

Strange bedfellows

Liberty University alliance with controversial Benny Hinn and Mormon Glenn Beck raises questions

Liberty University in April stirred controversy with seemingly endorsed appearances by Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck and the world’s most famous “faith healer” Benny Hinn.

The main page at BennyHinn.org featured a video showing Hinn holding up a framed Liberty University diploma and asking, “How would you like your name to be on a diploma that says Liberty University?” 

Appearing on the video with Hinn and long-time Liberty donor Dan Reber is Ron Godwin, Liberty University’s senior vice president for academic affairs. The text announced that Hinn and the Liberty University Institute of Biblical Studies in Lynchburg, Va., were forming “a powerful, worldwide ministry connection.” Reber’s company markets the Institute. 

Liberty alumni quickly complained about the apparent alliance with Hinn, the subject of widespread criticism from evangelicals: Challies.com on April 23 called him “a dangerous deceiver, a fraud and charlatan who enriches himself at the expense of countless others.” Liberty quickly posted on the school website a series of clarifications about licensing and usage issues, and had its lawyers issue a “cease and desist” request to Hinn’s ministry. 

Soon the video, taken down, resided only on YouTube, and Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. issued a statement saying Godwin would no longer be involved in special projects, and would “focus solely on Liberty’s academic programs in his role as Provost.” Other statements on Liberty’s site emphasized that “Liberty is not partnering with Benny Hinn.”

But school administrators stirred the waters again with the April 25 appearance of Beck, a Mormon, who spoke of the “atoning work of Christ” in his life but also laced his convocation appearance with Mormon theology—at one point declaring that “nobody in the Grand Council” chose to come to earth from heaven in order to be an accountant or make T-shirts for a living. Beck also announced a $50,000 donation from his charity, Mercury One, to Liberty.

Alumni and other critics have noted that Liberty’s response to the Hinn video fiasco and others was merely to clarify the legal problems with it, and not to distance the university from Hinn’s theology. But David Corry, general counsel and spokesman for Liberty, told me that Liberty “has attempted to focus on the legal issues and not engage publicly on all the other issues that could be debated amongst Christians, as those type disputes tend to be self-destructive.”

Two bloggers, James Duncan and Liberty grad Matthew Grant McDaniel, posted quotations from cult leader Sun Myung Moon that seem to paint Godwin as a disciple of his in the early ’90s, when Godwin worked for Moon’s newspaper, The Washington Times. But Godwin told me he only worked at the Times and with “hundreds of other professionals at the paper. … I was never a member of Moon’s church, nor was I ever a spokesperson for Moon himself. Moon often made claims about various nonchurch employees at the paper that were totally false.”

—Dave Swavely is a Pennsylvania pastor and novelist

Comments

  • JDub75's picture
    JDub75
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:20 pm

    I believe the key operating term at the beginning of this article is, "seemingly endorsed appearances" and for that reason, I agree with CarinGeorgia. I find there is a distinction between "guilty by association" and "endorsing false teaching". Maybe Liberty University needs to clarify its stance when its position is put into question, and maybe folks need to remember that we don't achieve a lasting orthodoxy by cloistering ourselves. In any case, this is the United States of America where we affirm that everyone in this country is free to worship according to their conscience. And in my book, this is the greatest influence for reaffirming orthodoxy. In the end, truth sets us free.

  • CarlnGeorgia
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:20 pm

    With the current trend of liberal arts universities "disinviting" speakers or speakers disinviting themselves (i.e. - Condi Rice @ Rutgers, IMF Head Legarde @ Smiths), I find it refreshing that it is Liberty University who indeed demonstrates tolerance and challenges their students to critical thinking.  If Chrisitians are going to impact the culture for Christ, it would be prudent to realize sooner rather than later that the real world is made up of a lot of differing worldviews which must be challenged with the message of Christ. 

  • Loren
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:20 pm

    I respect Glenn Beck for a number of things, but his false-Christian cultic theology is not one of them. And Rod Godwin being a follower of Sun Myung Loon isn't any more screwed up than aligning oneself with a thieving manipulative charlatan like Benny Hinn. Here's hoping that students will realize they are being fed to wolves when they are subjected to these kinds of false teachers, and leave Liberty University altogether.

  • Richard H's picture
    Richard H
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:20 pm

    Strange bedfellows, indeed!