A tempest in an herbal teapot is brewing over a sermon preached by Dr. Robert Jeffress last month. On September 30th Dr. Jeffress told his congregation at First Baptist Church of Dallas,
“Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult.”
The Deseret News article said Mr. Romney’s LDS membership has
“come under fire again — this time by a prominent Dallas minister who told his congregation Romney is not a Christian.
“The newspaper story published Thursday [in the Dallas Morning News] said some members of the pastor’s large audience began to applaud as he continued his discussion of Romney’s faith as part of a talk titled ‘The Power of a Positive Purpose.’
“‘What really distresses me is some of my ministerial friends and even leaders in our convention are saying, “Oh, well, he talks about Jesus, we talk about Jesus. What’s the big deal?” It is a big deal if anybody names another way to be saved except through Jesus Christ,’ the pastor said.”
As most readers of Mormon Coffee know, considering context is always important. Unfortunately, neither of the two newspaper articles placed Dr. Jeffress’ statements in context. Subsequently, though it should come as no surprise, his remarks are being widely misconstrued.
Dr. Jeffress was preaching on Philippians chapter 1 where Paul wrote about the different motives people had for “preaching Christ.” Some motives were good, some were bad. But for Paul,
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)
Dr. Jeffress thought it important that his congregation understand what Paul meant by that, so he spent a few minutes explaining. He showed how important Paul considered the truth when it came to the Gospel message (Galatians 1:8). Therefore, Paul was not suggesting that the theology of what people said didn’t matter as long as they spoke the name of Christ (as a cursory reading might suggest). By way of illustration Dr. Jeffress made the remarks about Mitt Romney. Since he cannot know Mr. Romney’s heart, the pastor should have limited his comments to Mormonism, but his point was that Gospel truth is a non-negotiable essential.
Dr. Jeffress said,
“There are not many ways to God, there is only one way to God, and it’s through His Son, Jesus Christ.”
At this point in the sermon the congregation erupted in applause. The implication in Deseret News was that people applauded Dr. Jeffress’ continuing discussion of Mr. Romney’s faith. But that’s not so. The congregation actually applauded the Gospel message and the pastor’s call to stand firm for the truth.
Dr. Jeffress went on to explain that Christians often differ on some “finer points of theology,”
“but we must be united in the belief that faith in Christ alone is what saves.”
So, in Philippians, Paul is not saying he rejoices when people preach a false gospel, but that he rejoices when the true Gospel is preached, even if the motive of the preacher is impure.
Dr. Jeffress’ discussion of Mitt Romney and Mormonism lasted for one minute and sixteen seconds. He did not disparage Mitt Romney as a person nor as a politician; his remarks were wholly based on theological concerns. Many people who read the newspaper articles are up in arms over Dr. Jeffress’ comments. If only they would put it in context by listening to the entire sermon. Then we would really have something interesting talk about.