The NY Times and Religious Controversy

The New York Times recently ran an Opinion piece titled “I’m a Mormon, Not a Christian”. The piece has a few praise-worthy sentiments and is a fun piece of writing but seemed to me mostly just an exercise is poking everyone in the nose.

This response at Patheos summed up most of my feeilngs about the NY Times article. If Romney weren’t running for President and if the author didn’t have an axe to grind against Christianity it’s doubtful the NY Times would have run this piece. If you’re going to slam Christians for believing in the Trinity, at least describe the orthodox understanding of it rather than The Book of Mormon understanding.

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30 thoughts on “The NY Times and Religious Controversy

  1. I’ve said it before – in all fairness to the author -

    Evangelicals have no one to blame but themselves for this misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. They are the ones primarily to blame for the Mormon belief that the Trinity = modalism. Because that is exactly how they have REPEATEDLY portrayed and sold the doctrine to Mormons.

    You can’t blame us too much for taking conservative Evangelicals at their word on what the Trinity means to them.

  2. That said – I think the last paragraph of the article demonstrates rather nicely why sarcasm doesn’t usually serve well as PR.

  3. Three questions…

    First, was this an oblique move to push voters away from Romney? I mean since Romney seems to be doing so well with American evangelicals is Dr. Mason trying to help him out a little?

    Second, why do Mormons quote Fosdick (who denied the deity of Christ) so often? It seems odd to affirm the divinity of Jesus and look to someone who denied it for support.

    Third, Seth, What evangelical have you heard describe the Trinity as “Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit”?

    I didn’t think the Richard Land quote was presented in context.

  4. I think the original opinion piece is sloppy at best and banal at worst. Why publish it? Because its inflammatory? I guess I’m just not sure what makes this particular opinion piece worthy of publication in one of the nation’s premiere newspapers.

    Few things make me vomit more than the “Christianity is persecuted” canard, but can you imagine an opinion piece being published with the following sentence, with any other religion filled in the blank? “Being a ____________________ so often involves such boorish and meanspirited behavior that I marvel that any of my . . . colleagues are so eager to join the fold.”

  5. “Third, Seth, What evangelical have you heard describe the Trinity as ‘Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit’?”

    I can’t speak for Seth, but I can speak for myself. The most common explanations I’ve heard, by Evangelicals, to explain the Trinity are as follows:
    “It is like an egg. There is a shell, a yolk, and a white. They are all an egg. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
    “It is like water. Water can exist as liquid (water), solid (ice), or gas (steam). They are all water, but there are three different ways it exists, just like God, Spirit, and Son are three different manifestations of the same God.”

    Concerning the article itself, I read it and hoped that people would realise that the author does not speak for Mormonism.

  6. Every evangelical who ever explained the trinity to me as a teenager appeared to me to be explaining Modalism. It may be a failure to communicate what is a pretty subtle difference, or it may be that a lot of lay Evangelicals turn out to have a Modalist understanding of the Trinity after all.

  7. I’m with you. I’ve seen persecuted people, and they bear no resemblance to American Christians.

    I guess I am saying, while it is nonsense to call it “persecution,” American society does appear to me to have a cultural identity problem. Its getting otuside the focus of this post, but I think that pluralism as a normative value is like a kind of cultural sickness.

  8. I agree that Evangelicals use modalistic illustrations to explain the Trinity, but I think it’s rare for them to say something like “Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit”.

  9. It doesn’t really bother me that the author got the Trinity wrong – he’s a Mormon! For anyone interested in a good understanding of the Triune God I would refer them to the Athanasian Creed – it can be read here:

    http://bookofconcord.org/creeds.php

    It’s the third creed down. God in his glory and beauty – incomprehensible, yet deeply personal.

  10. Tim, what else does calling them the same “essence” mean then?

    And why do Evangelicals jump all over us when we say we believe in a distinct Father, Son and Spirit?

    What else are we supposed to conclude from all that?

  11. 4five,

    If it’s all “incomprehensible” then we can hardly be faulted for explaining it wrong, can we?

  12. “If it’s all “incomprehensible” then we can hardly be faulted for explaining it wrong, can we?”

    Our inability to explain something completely doesn’t give licence to misrepresent. If you aren’t quite up to explaining the Trinity to the level of the Webster’s dictionary you may want to not publish in the NY Times.

  13. Our inability to explain something completely doesn’t give licence to misrepresent. If you aren’t quite up to explaining the Trinity to the level of the Webster’s dictionary you may want to not publish in the NY Times.

    If an author is not quite up to explaining the Trinity to the level of Webster’s dictionary the NY Times should really not qwant to publish that author’s opinion piece.

  14. Ok, the author was wrong explaining the Trinity.

    And ok, his last comment about American christians was bitter (but I can assure you that, at least from the point of view of an Italian Catholic , different Protestant groups seem always being fighting against each other).

    BUT, I TOTALLY agree with the spirit of the NY Times article.

    Only, I think of a different conclusion:

    The Church wont end up simply trying to “join” Christianity.
    Unfortunately I’m afraid its getting less and less Mormon and more and more Protestant…

    It will become a second Community of Christ (RLDS Church)…

  15. Sorry, I wanted to write “The Church wont end up simply STOPPING to try to “join” Christianity.”

  16. What evangelical have you heard describe the Trinity as “Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit”?

    I have heard evangelical preachers describe the Trinity in these terms.

    I also agree with Tim and Kullervo.

    The editorial seems a pointless novelty to the NY Times, whose editorial staff doesn’t seem to care for either fervent Mormons or Protestants and doesn’t mind letting a Mormon get his kicks in on the Protestant Majority while looking like a jerk at the same time.

  17. It seems like my reaction to the article is similar to what many others have had. It was unnecessarily uncharitable as well as factually incorrect.

    My observation about the common analogies evangelicals (the people who go to church, not the pastors) use to describe the Trinity is the same as Alex’s. While the water/steam/ice analogy (more common than the egg analogy) isn’t exactly the same as saying that Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit, it’s awfully close, and it’s a reasonable inference to make.

    I’d also point out that some of the well-known televangelists are modalists, and I have heard them say that Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit are all the same. I wouldn’t expect your typical Mormon to realize that some Pentecostals are evangelicals while others are heretics from an evangelical perspective.

  18. The premise of the article is interesting and a welcome change from the now tedious discussions of Mormonism’s Christian-ness. Too bad the execution sucked.

  19. I agree, the execution sucked.

    You’d expect this level from a rant from someone like me on a blog – not from a NY Times Op Ed.

  20. Ah! it all makes sense now, I have always thought your writing smacked of the liberal media establishment that controls the outcome of presidential elections.

  21. Yep. Now that my secret is out, I plan on switching to cut-and-paste from the New York Post, just to confuse my readers.

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