This past Sunday, Reverend Robert Jeffress interviewed Sean Hannity at his church to promote the new movie Let There Be Light, which stars Kevin Sorbo as an atheist who becomes a Christian after a near-death, I-went-to-Heaven-and-back experience. The film seems like an uplifting, albeit theologically inaccurate, positive movie that is attempting to promote faith in God and prove God’s existence. Are there going to be theological issues with the film? Of course! Most Christian movies have issues as they are watered down to appeal to a wide audience. Here’s the trailer for the movie:
As soon as this was announced, I started getting messages and tweets asking for me to comment on this event. The claim was being made that if I have an issue with James White’s Interfaith Dialogue with a Muslim Imam, then I better have a problem with this “IFD” or else I’m not being consistent. I wanted to take a moment to deal with this.
It is important to remember that truth matters, and I want us to deal with reality, not straw man arguments. So I wanted to take the time to deal with what was actually said. You can watch the entire interview here for context:
Now, before I deal with some of the content of this interview, I want to make an important point. This was not an IFD. This was an interview to promote a movie. Should church services be used to market movies? I would argue, no. Was this an interfaith dialogue? I would also argue, no.
An Interfaith Dialogue is when two opposing religious leaders come together to discuss their disagreements and agreements in order to find some sort of common ground, even if it is a superficial common ground of “understanding.” In this instance, it wasn’t a Catholic and a Protestant coming together to discuss their differences and similarities. It was an interview to promote a faith-based movie. So let’s be sure that we aren't comparing apples to oranges here.
Now, onto the content of the interview. Here’s a few excerpts that I wanted to share with you:
Robert Jeffress: “I know you to be a strong Christian. You don’t cram it down people’s throats on the air, but you’re an unashamed follower of Jesus Christ.”
Sean Hannity: “I was raised Roman Catholic… I’m more born-again Christian, is how I view myself now.”
So, to start off, Sean Hannity makes it clear that he does not consider himself a Roman Catholic anymore. He calls himself a born-again Christian. Now, in this interview I did not see any understanding from Mr Hanity of what the Gospel actually is. I did not see an understanding of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins, and placing our faith in Him for our salvation. I saw a misguided understanding of his “Faith Journey," as he called it, and simply trying to be a better person through listening to his “inner voice.” Hannity stated, “The more I listen to the inner voice, the happier I am.”
To show further Mr Hannity’s separation from Catholicism, he stated, “I did go to a seminary. And the Catholic Church has a fascinating study, foundational belief on how the church was formed, and I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I think they got it wrong.” So, again, we see a man who understands that the Catholic Church got it wrong in regards to the foundation of the Catholic Church and the establishment of the Pope. These are all encouraging signs that he understands that the Catholic Church is not biblical.
I want us to take the time to acknowledge that we don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. Historically, Mr Hannity has been a strong supporter of the Catholic Church. However, it is encouraging to see him begin to separate himself from the church and identify as a born-again Christian. Now, I’m not so sure that he understands what it means to be a born-again Christian, but we can pray that he continues to study God’s Word and place his faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, if he hasn’t yet.
It is also encouraging that he is reading his Bible. I pray that God uses this to help him to understand the Gospel. Remember, "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
Now, onto the confusion.
Reverend Jeffress made the following statement: “Sean, one of the things I hear you say often, you say ‘I’m a sinner saved by grace.’ And, in fact, that’s all of us who knows Christ as Savior. Now people want to say, Are Catholics going to be in heaven. Are Baptists going to be in heaven? Nobody goes to heaven in a group. We go one by one based on our relationship to Christ. And I’m grateful that I’m going to see you in heaven because you’re a born-again believer.”
Now, this statement is both a true statement, as well as a false statement. First, the truth:
It is true that we receive salvation not by association, but through individually placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. So in that sense, the Reverend was correct. Just because you go to a Christian Church doesn't mean that you are going to Heaven.
However, at the same time, it is important to state that if someone believes the theological beliefs of the Catholic Church, it is virtually impossible for them to be saved because of the warped understanding of how to receive salvation. There is only one way to Heaven, and that is through the Gospel. If anything is added to the Gospel, it is no longer the Gospel. The Catholic Church teaches salvation is earned through faith plus works. That is no longer the Gospel.
So, in closing, was this interview an interfaith dialogue? Clearly, not. Should Reverend Jeffress have interviewed Sean Hannity in church to promote his movie? Clearly, not.
However, let’s make our response more Gospel-focused. Should we take the time to clarify and correct some of these statements? Yes. However, we should also pray for Sean Hannity, and come alongside him in an encouraging way in the hopes that if he hasn’t truly placed his faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ, that God would open his eyes and save him.
Let’s remember the Gospel:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts 3:19
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28
I pray that Sean Hannity, if he hasn’t already, will place his faith in Jesus Christ and receive eternal life. That is my prayer for each and every person, as well.