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Guess what the #1 book is at (at time of writing)?

It’s George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

The exhaustively researched book is the culmination of 15 years of research from George Washington’s writings, journals, manuscripts, letters, and testimony from others--showing that Washington was not an unbeliever or a deist but rather a low-church Anglican with genuine faith.

Glenn Beck recently had Dr. Lillback on his program, and apparently that boosted the sales.

This is a side note, but for those looking for some analysis of Beck’s statement that “social justice” is a code for Marxism in churches, this whole post by Al Mohler is worth reading. Here’s an excerpt:

To assert that a call for social justice is reason for faithful Christians to flee their churches is nonsense, given the Bible's overwhelming affirmation that justice is one of God's own foremost concerns.

But, there is more going on here. Glenn Beck's statements lacked nuance, fair consideration, and context. It was reckless to use a national media platform to rail against social justice in such a manner, leaving Beck with little defense against a tidal wave of biblical mandates.

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36 thoughts on “The Faith of George Washington”

  1. Donny says:

    Did I miss the part where they actually discussed Dr. Lillback’s book? I heard them discuss “Christianity and Liberalism” and social justice, but not “Sacred Fire.” Thanks for posting this.

  2. Richard says:

    I’m a little sceptical about his “genuine faith.” A devout Mason who made it a point of not taking the Lord’s Supper each time it was given at his church?

  3. donsands says:

    15 years of research. That’s definitely cool. I will be getting this book.

    Glen Beck is a wild man. But I like him. I would have liked to hear more about Washington, and his book.

  4. Debbie says:

    The confusing part of the whole thing is that Glenn Beck is a Mormon. Does he believe that being a Mormon is the same thing as being a Christian?

    1. Richard says:

      The answer to the question is “yes.” Glenn Beck very much believes he is a Christian.

  5. Alex Kirk says:

    This video was terrifying. Beck says we have to get back to ‘correct principles’ and then says he doesn’t care what God you worship… ? Then they chat for 5 min on the way liberals try to replace the Gospel with social justice and jargon… it isn’t the Gospel, we need to get back to the Gospel, they say. If I am going to pick between false Gospels I would take Social Justice over Individualism any day of the week… this is so insidious because they set themselves up as being against the insidious ones and against the enemies of the Gospel, but I can’t find the cross of Christ anywhere in their individualistic, anti-gov., worldview. Plus do they realize how much of a wedge they are driving between themselves and liberals? We have to reject this.

    By inviting Glen Beck to speak at Liberty appears like they are saying we want hard-line conservatism over the Gospel.

    Plus the term Social Justice isn’t in the Bible, implication-we can reject it!? Neither is ‘Trinity’. This is profoundly sad and misleading, ignorant scholarship. Not arguing for the social gospel of the late 1800s early 1900s I think that was a total distortion as well, but this is evil too. Do not believe them.

    1. Richard says:

      Well, Dr. Lillback did get a good plug in for J. Gresham Machen and gave a brief description of the difference between Christianity and liberalism. But that got overwhelmed in some of the other rhetoric.

      1. Alex Kirk says:

        Too true, I agreed with what he said in substance… it was right on. It just sounded very complicit with all that Beck was saying and the framing of the whole discussion… pity.

  6. Bruce Evans says:

    For readers who have an interest in this topic, CanonWired has just posted a free download of an excellent talk Dr. Lillback gave entitled God & General Washington. It is available at

  7. I can’t imagine the pressure of sitting in that room on national television with a four year old book that went from 500,000 to number one on amazon overnight, and knowing the only reason is the mormon, who happens to be a great guy, sitting across from you. It would be difficult not to be co-opted in that setting. Seeing that segment makes one very grateful for the many faithful appearances of John MacArthur on national television.

  8. Bruce Russell says:

    Good Grief, everyone knows that actual “Social Justice” would look a different from what our Marx influenced state religion and liberal Christendom has in mind. It would start with individual accountability up and down the economic food chain. Very few pastors seem inclined or qualified to tackle this one.

  9. Scott Barber says:

    Thanks so much for this update and the link to Mohler’s post. I really needed it because I have gotten several calls about this today since evidently Glenn Beck encouraged folks to call their pastor. Thanks again for helping stay in the loop.

  10. This is not in any way to take away from the numerous Biblical mandates to take of others, nor is an endorsement of Glen Beck – I don’t go to Mormons for insight as a matter of course. But he is right about the fact that the term social justice has a long tradition within Marxist circles and thus when one reads anything out of the Frankfurt school or the liberation thinkers you will see that language constantly, In that sense it has a definition that is very much at odds with the Biblical idea of concern for those in need. Think Jesus with a red bandana sporting a AK47 here, compared with Christians who start orphanages, etc. Very big differences. The problem is that our new little marxist friends the postmoderns – have infected the church through the vehicle of the emergent crowd and the term is now in vogue. Here is what makes this even more confusing – much like missional and meditation – social justice now seems to mean whatever you want it to mean. Definitions abound like daisies. So fighting for gay marriage is now a righteous cause on a par with taking care of the widow and orphan. Isaiah 5:20 tells us something is wrong – Woe to those who put sweet for sour…
    You get the idea. Again I don’t have much use for Beck – but he has read about the Frankfurt school and is right about the trajectory of the term. Now if he would only apply the same type of analytical thinking to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young!
    pray for him.

    1. Lisa Milliken says:

      Bill, I am a practicalist and a moderate centrist independent.
      I did not vote for Barack Obama, nor would I have for Hillary Clinton.
      A limited degree of “Big Government” social entitlements and social welfare programs will always be a necessity because it is grossly naive to believe that private charity and faith-based charitable giving alone would be sufficient to serve our country’s legitimate social needs. (By “legitimate” I mean people in need of financial and/or health care assistance or retirement assistance through no fault of their own.)
      WHY today’s Tea Party/libertarian-conservatives are so angry is not only the unprecedented levels of political patronage-style spending but COMPASSION FATIGUE. Americans see crime and social-cultural dysfunctions through the roof and endless generations of underclass individuals failing to make a serious effort to thrive and be responsible persons and have come to the conclusion that charity-through-government doe not work and makes the problems of intractible poverty and cultural breakdown WORSE and not better!
      So why, then, am I still arguing in FAVOR OF government involvement in social programs and entitlements?
      Because WITHOUT them, we would have an even worse disaster on our hands because private and religious efforts would be too insufficient and inconsistent to address the need. And the practical consequences of massive, unmet, basic human needs and the complications to civil order they would produce would likely burden the country far more so than conservative “welfare abolitionists” anticipate.
      It is hard to prove the negative — that if the opposite of an inadequate status quo was in effect, outcomes would be even worse.
      I do agree to a substantial extent, though, with conservatives in that all existing efforts at “government charity” have been abysmally ineffective at eliminating serial poverty AND have produced negative, unintended consequences. Add to this the left’s hatred of traditional Judeo-Christian American values of self-restraint, self-discipline, hard work, individual responsibility whenever possible, wholesome culture, generosity towards fellow Americans and others, and the willingness to voluntarily (without gov’t coercion)subjugate individual wants and passions to a deity-based moral doctrine and we DO have a major mess on our hands! I find myself having to agree with conservatives that our domestic dysfunctions can be straightened out only by REINTRODUCING the traditional moral-ethical virtues back into culture and government, including the public schools, and fully accepting the idea that help from our government must be limited in scope and degree.
      NO MORE radical-progressive fantasizing that ever-increasing “nanny” government involvement in people’s lives will alleviate all social ills (it doesn’t), serve the dictates of social justice (these “dictates” are dangerous because they are so unrealistic/unattainable and require a high level of oppressive gov’t coercion and taxes), and cleanse America of its state of perpetual shame in the world (our basic political framework is STILL the freest and most effectively protective of individual civil rights because it is based on the assertion that only God, not government or humankind, grants persons their rights).
      People on the left and right need to come to their senses, practice ideological self-control, and move towards the moderate center. America’s needs and best interests will not be served by ideological extremes on either side, something that Obama and the progressivized Democrats AND the Tea Party & Republican new ultra-right refuse to face.

  11. D Graves says:

    I only saw part of the clip. However, I think that what is missing in the discussion of social justice and the use of the prophets, is CONTEXT. In Leviticus 19 and 25 for example, there is a mandate for provision for the poor that gives them guaranteed work, not provision. In the prophets, one finds declamations against the nobles who have taken away the safety net of the Jubilee, Manumission of Debt slaves, and restoration of the family’s plot. I would commend Jeremiah 34 as a half hearted attempt at genuflecting at repentance by the nobles, not to social justice, but to the Law of God. When the acts are shown for a lie, the doom pronounced against them of releasing (d’ror) the sword, is the very language of release (d’ror) of the slaves to their family plots. That is biblical ‘social justice’ not a government mandate for wealth redistribution.

  12. Stephen says:

    Hopefully the show will get some of Beck’s viewers to read Christianity and Liberalism, though what Machen meant by those terms is much different from what Beck means.

    1. Richard says:

      Stephen–you’re right in your hope. Would that “Christianity and Liberalism” were no. 1 on the Amazon list!

  13. Brad Leake says:

    Commenters Bruce Russell and Bill Honsberger have it exactly correct.

    I can’t find one mention of the context of Mr. Beck’s statement about social justice. He is responding directly to the “Reverend” Jim Wallis. Beck’s comments are not only correct, they are critically important. Why spend the ink attacking Beck rather than Wallis? Why are we surprised or even disappointed that Beck is not advocating the Gospel? He’s a Mormon; an open Mormon.

    We should not peddle in ignorance regarding Mr. Beck’s comments or the role he is playing in this debate. He is sounding the warning cry about Jim Wallis and his legions of postmodern liberal “Christians” who are using the term “social justice” to advocate socialism/Marxism (the early church gave all they had to those who were in need, therefore the government should take from those who have and give to those who refuse to work, etc.), embrace homosexuality, and tolerate abortion. They feel it is moral to steal from workers and hand out resources to non workers. This is immoral and certainly does not represent what Jesus stood for.

    Jim Wallis has done tremendous damage across this country, and Glenn Beck is right to sound the alarm. If your church is embracing the Wallis form of “social justice,” then you should RUN. It is just the latest form of evil; pro-Marxism, pro-homosexuality, and pro-abortion EVIL.

    Also, just b/c Glenn Beck is a Mormon doesn’t mean he is automatically wrong about social justice and the church. Don’t expect Beck to accurately articulate Christian doctrine…b/c he’s simply not a Christian. He is, however, on to something very important: Jim Wallis and his brand of “Christianity” represent a serious danger to this country.

    Too many churches are falling prey to Jim Wallis and his big-government religion. I’m grateful that Glenn Beck is standing up to him. It is to the shame of the Christian community that it has taken a Mormon to sound the alarm about Jim Wallis; someone who claims to be one of us.

    May we continue to pray for Glenn’s eyes to be opened to the truth of who Christ is, and may we join him in his fight to stop Jim Wallis. We should never act like its ok he’s a Mormon and that we’re all the same, etc. The gospel MUST be priority #1 in EVERYTHING we do.

    We do not have to attack Glenn over this Jim Wallis thing, b/c he is right and he is doing the job that we should have been doing a long time ago. How disappointing to see the tone that Dr. Mohler takes towards Mr. Beck. Why do we expect him to sound like a Christian? Why do we expect him to put the Gospel first? He’s a Mormon. And, separately, he’s right about a serious problem facing America and the Christian church.

    Jim Wallis is destroying church after church after church, and the only national figure who will oppose him is a Mormon. Then this blog takes to attacking Glenn Beck rather than “Reverend” Wallis? If we who are reformed will not even stand up against the cancer that is the new Marxist “social justice” theology, then who will?

    1. Lisa M. says:

      I had a college roommate who was a Mormon, and she said Mormons definitely ARE practicing Christians. The church’s full, accurate name is The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints.
      The (King James) Bible is the core scripture of the church and is supplemented by three additional, shorter scriptural works that complement and clarify, but do not contradict, the Bible.
      I wish other Christians would get their facts straight.

      1. John Rickard says:

        Lisa, saying something does not make it right?
        Please check the meaning of their teachings!

        A couple of examples:
        . God was once a man! Not true.
        . Jesus and Satan our brothers; which means Jesus is not God in the flesh! Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit are “ONE”!
        .Mormans can become god’s! Not true!

        To be a Christian and born again, one must repent of their sins (turn from your ways to God’s ways) (just check the ten commandments to see if you have sinned against God’s Holy Laws)and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross…alone…with nothing added!

        A good source to check out to see if you are soundly saved is

        Christian’s are to love and pray for anyone who needs Christ; including Mormans.

  14. Eric Landry says:

    Darryl Hart reviewed Sacred Fire for Modern Reformation here:

  15. J says:

    The episode was a good one last night. I am surprised that Beck has not dug into Mormonism more and found the false gospel that it is. We can only hope that he continutes to surround himself by solid, orthodox Christians. The man is or appears genuine in his pursuit of truth…may the Lord open his eyes to the glorious grace found in Christ. May we be thankful that God even uses unbelievers to expose the wolves in our churches. Should we not pursue truth in every aspect of our lives? Is not all truth, God’s truth? I like what RC Sproul said…
    “I hold to the classical Christian view of the relationship between general revelation and special revelation, and the thesis that no truth of any kind can be discovered apart from God’s revelation. With Augustine, Aquinas, and all of orthodox Christianity, I believe that all truth is God’s truth.”

  16. More Burke, Less Beck says:

    “Perceiving then that they [the miraculously fed mob] were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (Jn. 6.15).

    Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus is not impressed with party politics, idealogues, zealots or guys who make 30 million a year stirring up the mob?

    1. more jesus, less beck says:

      yes, it is truly comforting. Thank you Jesus and come, Lord, come!

  17. James says:

    Does anybody know of a good review of “George Washinton’s: Sacred Fire”?

    1. Richard says:

      James–I would take a look at D.G. Hart’s review in Modern Reformation, listed above.

  18. Reg Schofield says:

    If a Christian is not interested in social justice then he or she better take a close look in the mirror.Yes it is not the social justice of Marx or what liberal churches promote but if one can read the scriptures and not see that God is concerned for the poor,the orphan,the widow,the oppressed , the hungry then you have huge blinders on. When I think of how true Christians worked this out biblically I think of William Wilburforce , Charles Haddon Spurgeon in England . Jesus commanded that we love our neighbor , Paul tells us we are our not our won but that we should be doing good works and James makes it clear your faith is useless if you do not respond to need around you but say well more or less take care of yourself.

    Glenn Beck is whats wrong with extreme conservatism.He is reactionary and as far as I’m concerned , is a self promoting voice that loves , himself. I agree completely with Dr.Mohler who has been a sane voice concerning the balance between the gospel and social justice. If you have encountered the living Christ and been transformed you will have a biblically framed mind concerning justice and mercy.

    1. Brad Leake says:

      Sir, what a shame it is that you so misrepresent Mr. Beck’s position. God is indeed concerned for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the oppresses, and the hungry. God also condemns stealing. The CHURCH is called on to meet the needs of the needy, not the government. The government should not steal from those who work and give to the needy. That is not admirable or moral, and it is NOT what the Bible prescribes as the way we should take care of the poor.

      Your accusation that those of us who are fighting the modern, Marxist clamor for government-run “social justice” have “blinders on” is insulting and makes me sad. If you believe that the 2010 version of government-run “social justice” is what the Bible calls us to, then I humbly submit that you need to reexamine your views.

      What have you done, sir, to oppose Jim Wallis and his legions of postmodern “Christians” who are taking over more and more churches with a message of support for government theft, support of homosexuality, and apathy regarding abortion? If Christians would stand up, Glenn Beck wouldn’t need to. It is because of our silence, ignorance, and apathy that Mr. Beck is having to speak out for us.

      What part of Mr. Beck’s opposition to Jim Wallis do you consider “extreme conservatism?”

      As far as him being “reactionary,” should all of us not react to the evil being spread by Jim Wallis? What have you done to react to it? If your position is that we should not react to it, what should our response be?

      And to say that Mr. Beck’s motives are inherently non-God-honoring is…correct. HE’S A MORMON. Please stop acting like he claims to be a Southern Baptist or something and therefore we should hold him to that standard. HE’S A MORMON. Does that make everything he says inaccurate? Absolutely not.

      I see zero concern for Mr. Beck’s soul in your post, and that makes me sad. Your call for mercy has seemingly not been extended to Mr. Beck.

  19. Tom says:

    The concern about Glenn Beck’s comments about “social justice” make no mention of the caveat that Beck usually makes talking about this concept. Usually when Beck talk’s about the term “social justice” he makes clear that the Bible does talk about justice, but it is “equal justice”. Some might be mistaken that the terms are interchangeable, but they aren’t. Beck’s “equal justice” is more akin to Biblical justice than the “social justice” that is used as a political tool, usually by those on the left, as a way of circumventing liberty and free will to enforce a political agenda.

  20. Tim says:

    The best comment I’ve heard about this book (back when it was first published): “When I’m dead, I only hope it won’t take 1200 pages to prove I was a Christian.”

  21. James says:

    I just wanted to respond to the poster who said GW was a mason and didn’t partake of the Lord’s Supper. Dr Lillback’s book goes to length to rebut this incorrect belief about Washington. He was a politician and subject to slander of his opponents, just like any of tehm today. His book is meticulously footnoted, hence the need to read Sacred Fire…

  22. Phil Spigel says:

    This book was not ready for it’s instant popularity – it’s now up to a one month backorder on Amazon. I went ahead and got in line while I could…

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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