Witherington: Mormons are not Evangelicals

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington recently posted an article on why Mormonism is not Christianity. Witherington agrees with my assertion that there may be Christian Mormons but Mormonism is not the same as Christianity. He takes his cues from an address by Robert Millett.

Mormon apologist Bill Hamblin responded to Witherington’s article and Rob Bowman has provided a response to Hamblin’s response. I think Bowman and Hamblin both correctly point out that Witherington should have titled his post “Why Mormons are not Evangelicals”.

Perhaps my favorite part of Witherington’s article is the section entitled “THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS POST.” Just the forethought to jump to conclusions about what kind of bad responses he would get makes me laugh.

Update: Jack posted a very thorough treatment of the subject here.

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156 thoughts on “Witherington: Mormons are not Evangelicals

  1. In response to Witherington: Since the Father, Son & Holy Spirit are one God, if you serve the Father, Son & Holy Spirit you are serving one God; therefore, the LDS serves one God.
    It’s amazing how the devil twists people’s minds.

  2. I’m impressed that Bill Hamblin took the care to so accurately represent the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of deification. With such precision who could argue with his point.

  3. I found it interesting how none of Witherington’s “Things you should not say in response” list items responded in any way shape or form to the most common counters that LDS apologetics offer against his assertions.

    Seems to indicate he’s either ignorant of LDS apologetics on the issue, or he thought his only audience for the article was other Evangelicals.

  4. I think like most evangelicals Witherington isn’t overly interested in LDS apologetics. I’ve found that somebody must have had or has some form of contact with the Mormonism to be interested enough to read LDS apologetic. The closest most people come to Mormonism is the TV news or passing the missionaries on their bicycles.

  5. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Bowman’s article and feeling a little put upon by all the question-begging going on in his article about what the “Biblical” position is (I’ll give you a hint – “biblical” means “whatever Rob Bowman believes”).

  6. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Bowman’s article and feeling a little put upon by all the question-begging going on in his article about what the “Biblical” position is (I’ll give you a hint – “biblical” means “whatever Rob Bowman believes”).

    Amen, brother.

  7. I responded on Ben’s blog

    ____

    About a year ago I wrote a defense for yes case Mormonism as Hermetic Christianity. I think it reasonable to consider Mormonism as a Christian like religion.

    I have two main objections to your position. (1) I think far too many of your points are arguments that Mormons aren’t evangelicals. Lots of Christian sects (a majority?) deny sola fide. Lots of Christian sects deny inerrancy, heck the majority of Christians would deny Protestants even have the right canon much less an inerrant bible. So I think those criteria don’t belong in this essay.

    (2) Your stronger objection is the fuzzy line between creator and creation in which I think you may be oversimplifying Mormon doctrine a bit to try and present it in a more negative light. Most Mormons would deny that God the Father is human in a biological. “As man now is, God once was” is not the same as saying God the Father is human. I had chicken tonight for dinner. I am going to spend the evening and tomorrow deconstructing that chicken protein into amino acids and then recombining those amino acids to form human proteins. That does not imply that I believe there is no distinction between human and chicken proteins nor that there is no distinction between humans and chickens.

  8. gundek,

    I can’t see that your claim about Hamblin and deificaiton is accurate. As one who is Orthodox and having read just about every single work he refers to, I can’t see that his claim is true. If he’d read Russell’s work for example he’d see that there are many views in antiquity as to “deification.” The LDS no more believe the patristic and Orthodox view of deification than the Orthodox believe in the deification of Apollo and his worshippers.

  9. Witherington’s point on Mormon soteriology and deification was a bit more sophisticated than Hamblin’s response indicates. Witherington could have afforded to supply some more clarity on the matter, but still, he does not merely say, “Mormons believe in deification and all deification is bad, mmmkay?” Rather, he cuts quickly to the main thing that sets Mormon deification apart from any other form of Christian deification, i.e. the disagreement over Creator/creature distinctions. Deification in Mormonism is different from deification in any other Christian tradition or thinker (Greek Orthodoxy, Calvin, Luther, Jonathan Edwards, C. S. Lewis, Wesleyanism, Anglicanism, etc.) because Mormons approach the question of who God is from a very different paradigm, enabling deification in Mormonism to proceed to dramatically different conclusions. Certainly there are points of similarity worthy of dialogue, but a pretentious bibliography on Greek Orthodox theosis really misses the point of what Witherington wrote.

    I will have a fuller response up at WWE tomorrow (today? the 30th).

  10. Perry,

    Tim is correct, my comment was an attempt at sacasm. Being charitable, I assume Mr. Hamblin neglected to consult his bibliography on deification.

  11. Kullervo asked, “are you saying that you think Mormons are Christians?”

    Where in the heck did you get that idea?

    Tim said, “There’s no way Cal think Mormons are Christians or that Mormonism is the same thing as Christianity.”

    Up to your sly “take-‘em-out-of-context” ways again, uh, Tim? To imply that I think Mormonism is the same thing as Christianity is to imply that I agree with everything they teach. . . . But I’ll let it go, it’s not worth troubling myself with. Love ya anyway, Tim. :-)

  12. Wait, What!?!?! I’m seriously shocked. You don’t believe that Mormonism is Christianity? If not, you have be representing your position really poorly. Further, to say that you only think a faith is Christian when you “agree with everything they teach” is even more exclusive than my position.

  13. I think Bowman and Hamblin both correctly point out that Witherington should have titled his post “Why Mormons are not Evangelicals”.

    Seriously Tim? This is huge.

    Bowman, however, breaks with this premise repeatedly.

  14. Seriously. If you’re going to put inerrancy on your list, you’re not just going to disqualify Mormons, you’re going to disqualify a lot of Evangelicals.

  15. I think the problems with Jack’s article are very similar to the problems in Ben’s a tendency to focus on Christianity as defined by evangelicals. That tree, that starts her article is a tree of Christianity as seen through an evangelical lens. The divisions with Catholicism which are huge play a minor role, the branches within Protestantism that happened over nationality or ecclesiology are downplayed and mostly it becomes a history of Evangelicals with a successor theme: Judaism became Catholicism became Evangelical Christianity.

    A much more accurate tree when discussing Mormonism would have Lutheranism giving rise to Pietism which gives rise to Wesleyan theology on one side and Swedenborgism is the other. Mormonism then becomes a descendent of both of these branches while Evangelicals a descendent of Wesleyan and Baptist separatists. And this is the problem I always have in these discussions. Evangelicals have this imaginary version of Christian history and then try and argue from within that pretend history the place of Mormonism in Christianity.

    The rest of Jack’s article, the 3 senses I agree with; but it this fake history that leads to the 3 senses. I can see someone arguing that Mormonism combines a bunch offbeat Christian theologies in new ways and further has some of its own distinctives and that’s just too many steps away from the mainstream. But to not list those offbeat Christian sects is just biasing the conversation.

  16. One problem with fitting Mormonism within such a tree is that Mormons will generally deny that Joseph Smith was truly influenced by anything. Swedenborg, Masonry, Methodism, Sylvester Graham, etc. Protestants also seem to put the “blame” for creating Mormonism squarely on Joseph Smith.

  17. I think it is tough to put any of the 19th century restorationist Christian NRMs on the tree, because they generally did not clearly split from an existing denomination. Rather, they were put together by their founders from a lot of different influences.

  18. @Jared I hadn’t know about Graham, interesting point! Anyway. I understand that Mormons are going to contend that Joseph Smith discovered magic plates and any similarities, regardless of how strong to early 19th century American culture are coincidental and shouldn’t be taken as signs of origins. But, I can’t see any reason Evangelicals should assume that’s true. But Evangelicals don’t have any good reason to deny the existence of these other movements. Since they don’t buy the magic plates story why create an alternative Joseph Smith created this religion x-nihilo story?

  19. Tim, I’m not understanding what you’re saying.
    By the way, did you find anything illogical about the logic of my opening statement (the first comment after your post)? If you can’t find anything wrong with it, nobody can, and it must have come from God.
    Gotta go watch Clint Eastwood and Mitt Romney on Fox. . . . .

  20. I said that the tree chart I presented came from my own denomination’s Web site, and gave it as a representative example of such charts. I didn’t say it was the tree to end all trees when it comes to diagrams of Christian history. I’m well aware that members of other Christian traditions would draw it quite differently. Since the goal of WWE is to combine diverse perspectives on and approaches to Mormonism, I don’t try to “bracket” my evangelical perspective in my posts there.

    (BTW, who here is surprised that CD-Host’s first response to a post by me after months of not interacting with me consists of attacking the “fake history” of evangelicals? Not me…)

  21. BTW, who here is surprised that CD-Host’s first response to a post by me after months of not interacting me consists of attacking the “fake history” of evangelicals? Not me…

    I’m also not surprised that he wants to replace “fake history” with dumb history. Methodists most certainly come out of the Anglican tradition, not a Lutheran pietist tradition. Sure, Wesley interacted with Moravian Pietists for around two years…then he decided to break with them and continue preaching for the next 50 years as an Anglican priest.

    Also, no definition of “Evangelical” would restrict the movement to descending from Wesleyan and Baptist separatists. The only “imaginary version of Christian history” on display here is CD-Host’s.

  22. I am at a loss to understand CD Host’s objections to Ms Jacks blog post. The purpose of the post appeared to me to be an explanation of ways people can use the term “christian”, not an historical analysis of the theological roots of American evangelicalism or Mormonism. Honestly, addressing the disputed origins of Mormonism, either hermetic or revivalist, would have only distracted from the thesis and created more controversy.

  23. I count Rob Bowman as a good friend of mine as we’ve known each other for some time and we live in the same town. I’m having lunch with him on Tuesday in fact. And we have danced around this “are Mormons Christian?” more than I want to recount.

    May I paste here an exchange we just had on Witherington’s article on facebook…”Rob, I never answered your primary question above which needs an answer when you said; “What is it you think you as an individual, or Mormons collectively, lose if evangelicals say that Mormonism is not Christianity? What harm are evangelicals doing to you (singular or plural) when they make such statements? If such statements are taken in context, you already know that what they are expressing is a theological point. Evangelicals who say that Mormonism is not Christianity are not saying that Mormons are bad people, or that Mormonism is a criminal organization, or anything of that sort. So why do you find this so bothersome?”

    Well, Rob, if my definition were given preference over yours, how would you feel if I published credible, lauded, accepted works saying that YOU were not a Christian?? As a follower of Jesus Christ, you’re telling me you wouldn’t find that offensive? The best answer I’ve seen on this is given by Robert Millet whom I’ll quote here without needing my commentary: “I am not bothered very much when I am speaking with religious scholars or ministers and they suggest that Mormons are not Christians; they are generally speaking theologically or historically. Because Mormons do not hold to or accept as spiritually binding the decisions and formulations of the post-New Testament church councils (Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus), and because we believe in an expanded canon of scripture, they do not consider us to be a part of “orthodox” Christianity. They are correct. On the other hand, when the man on the street or the woman in the pew hears the words “Mormons are not Christian,” what do they make of it? Do they think it means that Mormons do not accept the divinity of Jesus, do not accept the message and witness of the New Testament, do not believe that Jesus suffered and died for our sins, do not believe that He rose from the dead into glorious immortality? If they were to draw any of those conclusions, they would be incorrect and thereby misunderstand, misperceive and thereafter misrepresent the faith and beliefs held by their Latter-day Saint friends.”

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/traditional-christianity-latter-day-saints

  24. So… your problem with Evangelicals saying Mormons are not Christian is (1) you find it offensive and (2) it hurts the Mormon Church’s proselytization efforts.

  25. Garth I’m fine with Millet’s statement. Would you agree that President Hinckley was wrong to say that there are no Mormon Fundamentalist?

  26. Kullervo–was your comment addressed to me? I know the order of who responds in the flow, doesn’t always correlate to the preceding comment, but I didn’t mention proselytizing efforts, so just asking for clarity.

    Tim–can you provide the quote for context please? I’m not familiar with that comment. Was he referring to break off groups like Jeffers not being LDS? Or did he mean there are no subsets of fundamentalists “within” the Church proper? Not following the link to Mormons claiming they’re Christian with what an unaffiliated group does.

  27. What Millet’s statement is getting at, obviously, is that words’ meanings can vary depending on the context and the audience. So if some evangelical pastor speaking to his flock wants to say that we LDS aren’t Christian, I’m not particularly offended because the context of the remarks indicates primarily a theological disagreement. But the same comment made to the general public probably would be construed with a different meaning, one that doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

    If I were asked for advice, I’d tell the evangelical apologists to call us heretics rather than non-Christians, as that would mean more or less the same thing to most audiences. It would also save bloggers and commenters a lot of typing.

    As to the use of “Mormon” to persons or entities outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I care more about clarity than I do about setting denominational boundaries for the word “Mormon.” I think that the meaning of “fundamentalist Mormon” as referring to the polygamous sects is reasonably clear to most educated audiences, so I don’t really object to the term. I wouldn’t use the term “Mormon” without qualification to refer to anything other than the CoJCoLDS, however, just as in most contexts I wouldn’t use “Presbyterian” without qualification to refer to an entity other than the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), even though technically the term could apply to a fair number of smaller, often conservative churches as well as the large mainline denomination. That’s a matter of clarity rather than boundary-setting.

  28. Kullervo, I think you misunderstood Millet’s comments about the “man on the street or the woman in the pew”, as if he’s wringing his hands for harming LDS evangelism if they misperceive that Mormons are “not Christian.” Millet’s point is about truth and accuracy. I presume you agree that all people want to be correctly understood in this world. Don’t you?

    Eric makes a valid point that to orthodoxy, Mormons are technically “heretics”. Which kind of makes me chuckle because that was also the charge that got Jesus crucified in the first place! Lots of good Christians were burned at the stake for the same charge. The word has lost its strength, since frankly, heretics in history usually in hind-sight turned out to be the good guys. About the only religion that still uses the term these days are the radical Muslims. And we all know how that’s turning out for their reputation. This is why it’s just easier for guys like Witherington to just stick to Mormons being non-Christian and therefore worthy of disenfranchisement. Cult is the preferred word for this mind set, (though I don’t fault Witherington in this case as he didn’t use that word), but others do, because Jonestown, and Branch Davidians, and Hale-Bopp Suiciders are so deliciously nuts that it only requires a quick brush stroke to do the deed. I think Christ would not spend much time with labels, or classifications. His criteria was simply “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    I just can’t believe that God is so incompetent as to damn 95% of his children, many through lack of opportunity on earth. Not every Mormon OR Evangelical will get that big picture, but though I’m not a universalist, I am a believer that God is far more powerful to save than we give Him credit for. Especially when we waste effort grappling with labels and name-calling.

  29. BTW, I’m not so sure Witherington is really worth worrying about from the LDS perspective. Nothing he says is “new”. In fact, he actually gets wrong several of his points, which Hamblin does correctly point out. So just how “bright” is Witherington suppose to be in evangelical circles? I’d never heard of him before this. So maybe he’s amazing to evangelicals, but I honestly didn’t see anything that hasn’t been trotted out for the past 180 years on this topic For example, I laughed when I noted one of Witherington’s observations showing an alleged lack of Christianity among the Mormons was this rather inane observation; “…they are not Christians, though they often present themselves as such, for example, calling their meeting places churches sometimes (but notice— no crosses to be found on top, or worn either.)” Seriously? Does anyone here really think that is a brilliant, or even new, observation? That would eliminate the apostles and most of the early Christians too, who typically used the sign of a fish, not a cross. Mormons aren’t vampires. They’re not averse to the cross. It was just already taken and our identification did not want to adopt the “Christendom” symbol of the crusades, or catholic heritage, since we clearly do not claim affiliation with historical Christendom. That is not a valid indictment of Mormon Christology. My point is, why is Witherington’s opinion, mundane, trite at times, and unoriginal, even worthy of debate? It seems like twice chewed cabbage to me.

  30. Eric,

    Presbyterian is a form of church government. It isn’t a matter of boundaries to say that Jane Spahr (PC(USA)) is just as much a Presbyterian as G.I. Williamson (OPC) because they both belong to denominations with a Presbyterian form of government. Which is quite different than saying, “There is no such thing as a “Mormon Fundamentalist.” It is a contradiction to use the two words together.”

    Following Hinkley lead there shouldn’t be any complaint if someone says “There is no such thing as a “non-Nicene Christianity.” It is a contradiction.”

  31. I wouldn’t use the term “Mormon” without qualification to refer to anything other than the CoJCoLDS, however, just as in most contexts I wouldn’t use “Presbyterian” without qualification to refer to an entity other than the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), even though technically the term could apply to a fair number of smaller, often conservative churches as well as the large mainline denomination.

    In the case of Presbyterians, I think you would be making a mistake, and I suspect that even PC(USA) Presbyterians would tell you so.

  32. David —

    The Methodists distinctives came out of the pietist tradition. The denomination itself came from Anglicans and Congregationalists in America because there were no pietist congregations. Ideas do pass between groups. Under a policy of only looking at what groups people came out of an failing to acknowledge their shifts in opinion: would label Dick Cheney, an American Neo-Conservatives as part of the New York Trotskyite movement.

    Wesleyan Christianity, the holiness movement was a distinctive that influenced the entire American religious landscape. Nothing similar happened to Anglican churches in other countries.

  33. @Gundek —

    I was pretty clear in my post that I agreed with Jack’s 3 senses of the way the word Christian is used. I wasn’t disputing her observation that those are the 3 senses.

  34. Kullervo, I think you misunderstood Millet’s comments about the “man on the street or the woman in the pew”, as if he’s wringing his hands for harming LDS evangelism if they misperceive that Mormons are “not Christian.” Millet’s point is about truth and accuracy. I presume you agree that all people want to be correctly understood in this world. Don’t you?

    Garth, I think that wringing their hands for harming LDS evangelism if people misperceive that Mormons are ‘not Christian’ is precisely what underlies Mormons’ unreasonable obsession with being “correctly understood in this world.” Including Millet.

  35. Sure, you were clear that the problem with Jack’s article was he focus on Christianity as defined by evangelicals and despite the fake history that leads to the 3 senses you agreed with them.

    I still think the simplified Christian family tree was tangential to the thesis and could have been replaced by any number of diagrams, even yours. I also think that on a topic as divisive as “are Mormons christian”, pointing out the relativistic, pietistic, or hermetic origins of Mormonism would have only served to side track the conversation. The family tree was only an illustration and besides the point.

  36. @Tim, thanks for the reference and I assumed it was something like that. Now that I read it, I recall hearing that address live. Hinckley’s point is of course correct, since in the paragraph preceding he talks about break off groups, who are not Mormon, practicing polygamy separate and apart from any connection to the Mormon (read LDS) Church. Absolutely correct. There are no Mormon fundamentalists. As the President of the Mormon Church, Hinckley is making the distinction correctly, as those folks have no affiliation with the LDS church. There are non-Mormon fundamentalists of course. One could put them under the umbrella of break-offs from the restorational movement begun by J.S., but by definition, they can’t be LDS, if they’ve never been baptized by the LDS church. Not sure I see where you’re going but I appreciate the reference.

    @Kullervo– you can extrapolate lots of ripple effects to the “non-Christian” moniker hung on Mormons, but you can’t say that’s what Millet was saying. Clearly he was not. If you’re now broadening the discussion to include your own opinion about the cascading effect on proselytizing efforts, that’s fine. In fact, I agree that painting someone in a negative way, will surely have negative consequences on others perceptions. But that’s not what Millet was saying. That’s not what I was saying. We’re talking honesty and accuracy, not salesmanship! So your flawed summary of my comment about not liking to be called a non-Christian being 50% because it is offensive, and 50% because it hurts our proselytizing efforts, wasn’t even inferred in my quote or my comments. My actual argument is that it is 50% offensive, and 50% inaccurate. (You got the offensive part right.) I agree with Millet that if someone explained they were only talking in the historical or creedal sense, I’d have no problem in that narrow context. But the unwashed masses don’t know what that means, so calling someone “non-Christian” when you really mean “non-traditional Christian” or “non-orthodox-Christian” or “non-creedal-Christian” is akin to a slap in the face. Tim’s link above from Hinckley actually says; “Are we Christians? Of course we are Christians. We believe in Christ. We worship Christ. We take upon ourselves in solemn covenant His holy name. The Church to which we belong carries His name. He is our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer through whom came the great Atonement with salvation and eternal life.” And in the same talk, Hinckley also covers the creed issue thusly; ““We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (A of F 1:1). This first article of faith epitomizes our doctrine. We do not accept the Athanasian Creed. We do not accept the Nicene Creed, nor any other creed based on tradition and the conclusions of men.” I think that’s the correct, honest, and fair definition that satisfies both the LDS and the traditionalists. We are in the same kingdom, but perhaps not in the same phylum or class. The kingdom is “worshipers of Jesus Christ.” Witherington is trying to ignore the highest rung of taxonomic hierarchy (so to speak) and say Mormons are not Trinitarians so they can’t be Christians at all! That’s down at least a rung or more on the classification ladder. Were Arius or Origen Christians? Of course. Even called “Church Fathers.” Just because Athanasius eventually won the creedal debate, rebuking the losers with anathema, cannot make them “non-Christian”. The same rule, to be fair, should apply to Mormons in my opinion.

  37. pointing out the relativistic, pietistic, or hermetic origins of Mormonism would have only served to side track the conversation.

    And I think it is the main point. The Mormonism shares theology and influences with borderline Christianish sects that go back centuries.

    The LDS is Christian in the same way that Unitarians are Christian (though a bit more distant). The questions one asks in both cases are similar. I grew up in Philadelphia and the issue of whether Quakers are Christian was a live debate. I don’t know if you are familiar with Quakers but I’d say that Mormons are at least as Christian as Quakers and the vast majority of Philadelphians agree their cities founding religion is Christian even though it rejects virtually every line of the major creeds.

  38. I’m quite convinced that a large number of Evangelical Protestants deliberately use the line “Mormons aren’t Christians” with full intent to mislead the man-on-the-street into thinking Mormons don’t believe in Jesus.

    When you call them on it – they’ll SAY they’re just making a theological point about Nicea or some bullcrap like that. But the reality is that they are deliberately trying to mislead. You’d better believe this is EXACTLY how the crowd over at CARM operates. I’m pretty sure Bowman is fully aware of the misleading he is doing too (although he strikes me as a conscientious enough fellow to try and fool himself into actually believing he’s only making a technical “theological” point).

  39. I can’t speak for CARM but Nicaea is the basic catholic creed with 1.8 billion adherents. As a document it signifies the basis for a unity that probably won’t be realized until the parousia. If there is going to be true ecumenism it will start at Nicaea.

  40. No one uses Nicaea as the cutoff for Christianity, orthodox Christianity fine. But Christianity at all? That would exclude Uriah Smith. That would exclude Oneness Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. It would mean we’ve had 6 non Christian presidents minimum: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and William Howard Taft and Richard Nixon.

  41. I don’t know if you are familiar with Quakers but I’d say that Mormons are at least as Christian as Quakers and the vast majority of Philadelphians agree their cities founding religion is Christian even though it rejects virtually every line of the major creeds.

    CD-Host: There’s more than one kind of Quaker.

    I’m quite convinced that a large number of Evangelical Protestants deliberately use the line “Mormons aren’t Christians” with full intent to mislead the man-on-the-street into thinking Mormons don’t believe in Jesus.

    When you call them on it – they’ll SAY they’re just making a theological point about Nicea or some bullcrap like that. But the reality is that they are deliberately trying to mislead. You’d better believe this is EXACTLY how the crowd over at CARM operates. I’m pretty sure Bowman is fully aware of the misleading he is doing too (although he strikes me as a conscientious enough fellow to try and fool himself into actually believing he’s only making a technical “theological” point).

    Seth: These are not mutually exclusive. It is important to Evagelical Protestants to stress that, theologically, Mormons are not “Christian,” because people’s salvation is at stake. If Mormons (1) aggressively proselytize other Christians and (2) do not teach a saving faith, but (3) try to downplay their differences, then Mormons are dangerous and insidious.

    I’m not sure why this seems so perpetually hard for Mormons to wrap their heads around. For Evangelicals, calling Mormons “Christian” means giving a theological endorsement to a road to hell.

    @Kullervo– you can extrapolate lots of ripple effects to the “non-Christian” moniker hung on Mormons, but you can’t say that’s what Millet was saying.

    Garth: I didn’t say that’s what Millet is saying. I said it’s why he is saying it.

    PS what do the scriptures say about getting offended?

  42. CD-Host said:

    No one uses Nicaea as the cutoff for Christianity, orthodox Christianity fine. But Christianity at all? … That would exclude Oneness Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    In fairness to someone, the evangelical/fundamentalists who say Mormons aren’t Christian generally say the same thing about Oneness Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some even say the same thing about Catholics.

  43. @Eric —

    I agree. Evangelicals aren’t uniquely obnoxious to Mormons conflating their own opinion with objective public reality. Generally though in those other cases they do try to make sure to create theological context.

    Catholics don’t believe in justification, so they aren’t Christian.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the apostle’s creed, so they aren’t Christian.

    If they did something similar with Mormons it would be hard for Mormons objections to be legitimate. With Mormons it is mostly a flat assertion, “Mormons aren’t Christian” the way they would speak of a Muslim (who incidentally also believe that Jesus Christ is the messiah so the Mormon definition is a bit too loose). James White’s “Mormons deny the most fundamental assertions of Christianity” is IMHO fair in a way that “Mormons aren’t Christians” is iffy.

    I would agree that Mormons are further away from Evangelicals than either of those 3 groups. But in any case I was objecting to the Nicaea definition. What’s the claim that Uriah Smith was a Hindu leader, that he was preaching Animism?

  44. Interesting that for the beginning of ecumenism Gundeck, you picked Nicea and not the Bible.

    Nicea: 325 A.D.

    27th Festal letter of Athanasius of Alexandria, first written list of the current NT canon: 367 A.D.

    Third synod of Carthage which ratified the New Testament canon: 397 A.D.

    Historically, Nicea precedes the canon. Also, the NT canon was chosen partly because it reflected orthodox belief.

  45. Seth,

    I understand Nicaea to be a confession of the church reflecting what the Bible says on the very basic question, “But who do you say that I am?” It seems to be solid ground to start any discussion.

  46. CD,

    Millard Fillmore aside, I wasn’t aware a president needed to be christian? I thought it was pretty much accepted that the Adams’, Jefferson, Washington and a host of other founding fathers were not Christian.

    I’m not using Nicaea as the cutoff for Christianity, exactly the opposite it is an entrance. True ecumenism can only exist where the differences are not denied. The World Counil of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals have both proven that. I lean more to Charles Hodge’s letter to Pius IX than theology by Hallmark card.

    I understand why Witherington wrote what he wrote. I would rather people wrote why certain doctrines like the Trinity matter than Mormons aren’t Christians, but few people ask me. When I read his post I thought items 1, 2, 3, and 1/2 of 4 are all catholic doctrines and he should have stopped with that. Or better yet, picked a single doctrine and played it out beyond just the surface level.

    I’m not excluding anyone. I don’t run around yelling “Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses” aren’t Christians. To what end? Stop all conversation? Ensure that no Mormon ever listens to anything I have to say? I am perfectly willing to say there probably isn’t one doctrine out of 100 that we agree on and leave it at that.

  47. I think its pretty clear that the “Mormons aren’t Christians” and “Mormons ARE Christians” discussion is a PR struggle for those uninitiated in Mormonism. Sure there are valid points on both sides but the reasons for making the points stems from trying to control the appearance of LDS church and people in the eyes of potential converts to Mormonism.

    Mormons know they are Christians. Theologically educated Evangelicals know that Mormons are heretical. The people both groups care about are those that are open to hearing the Mormon message and accepting Mormon faith as a legitimate path to God.

  48. Jesus said, “Whom do men say that I am?”

    And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”

    And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”

    Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.”

    And Jesus answering, said, “What?”

  49. @ Kullervo–I think you’re projecting your possible cynicism. That is NOT why Millet said it. I think if you read the whole article (linked earlier) you would notice his only motive is fairness, logic and accuracy. And even if your allegation were true, surely the opposite motive coming from Evangelicals to disrupt LDS proselyting, (as Seth described accurately several comments above), is one of THEIR primary motivations to playing the “Christian-labeling” game. It seems convenient that you stretch to see a primarily pro-PR motive to the Mormons to want to be called Christians, –without ascribing an anti-PR motive to the traditionalists who want them excluded. At least be consistent, if you must see boogeymen in the motivation for this issue.

  50. (1) Typing something in all caps doesn’t make it more convincing.

    (2) Of course Evangelicals are trying to disrupt Mormon proselytization. As I said in the same comment you are responding to, “It is important to Evagelical Protestants to stress that, theologically, Mormons are not ‘Christian,’ because people’s salvation is at stake. If Mormons (1) aggressively proselytize other Christians and (2) do not teach a saving faith, but (3) try to downplay their differences, then Mormons are dangerous and insidious.” From an Evangelical point of view.

  51. @ Jared. Mormons would call themselves (insist actually) devoutly Christian, even if there was not a single person on the face of the earth to convert. They would hardly vacillate on their demand for that entitlement if suddenly no “gentiles” were around to impress. May I invite you to simply consider if you think the Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans or Catholics etc., would take to being called non-christians in some alternate universe–solely so they could advance a PR motive. I think you academically sum up well the jaundiced view of Mormon detractors–as if Mormons “really” only want the title as a PR gimmick. But anyone who is Mormon knows how cynical and condescending (and false) that plays in any Mormons ears.

    Seth–love it. Made me chuckle.

  52. Yes Seth, there is only one God eternally existing in three persons, and the Lord Jesus, the only Son of God was incarnate and made man for our salvation according to the scripture.

    But we don’t agree on any of this.

  53. So Kullervo–in your view then are Mormons Christian? I thought you were saying that Mormons only want the title, to avoid being offended and to proselyte. (Not because they actually believe they are Christian, but more as a ruse, seeking inclusion.) Yet, you seem to be saying that traditional Christians only have good motivations to deny them the title, because Mormons are dangerous and insidious in their evangelical eyes. It sounded like therefore you were dismissing Mormon demands, while ennobling the evangelical demands. Where do you fall on the issue?

  54. Garth, if you really want to know why most evangelicals dismiss Mormonism as not Christian, I’ll let you in on the secret. It is easier than learning your doctrine.

    Every time an evangelical tries to interact with a Mormon they are told they are misrepresenting their theology, or that is only speculation, that’s not official doctrine, the prophet wasn’t a prophet at that exact moment when you speculate he may have said that, we don’t teach that, that’s not in the canon, etc. It’s easy enough to just throw up your hands and say Mormon’s aren’t Christians.

    Of course Kullervo is probably on to something when you take into account your active sheep stealing campaign.

  55. Gundek, I hear you and that point is not without merit, Especially when pastors feel their Mormon converts are losing salvation! I get that. But you must admit our doctrines on Christ are hardly in the category of confusion you describe. Frustration on some of our diverse tangential doctrines–(similar to doctrines of many of my evangelical friends too)–should not give license to claim equivocation on what the Mormons claim for the Godhead and Christ. That Godhead concept and Christ as unique Savior are pretty universal among all Mormons. No confusion there that I’m aware of. (Try finding consensus on “free will” vs “sovereign will” in a room full of diverse Christians some time!) The umbrella of just alleging nominal “Christianity” is not as complicated IMHO as you portray.

  56. ?? How so? I’ve honestly not heard any allegation from a credible source, that the Mormons view of Christ are at all confused. Not agreeing with their view, does not make their view muddled.

  57. Is Jesus Equal with God the Father?

    Is the Holy Spirit Equal with the God the Father?

    Are Jesus and the Holy Spirit both equally worthy of worship with God the Father?

  58. I didn’t say Mormons want the title of “Christian” as a matter of PR. I said that the reason Mormons care so much about whether Evangelicals call them Christian or not is a matter of PR.

    You said the stuff about being offended. Hey, what do the scriptures say about being offended?

  59. Gundek; Your word “equal” needs defining, since a husband and wife are not “equal” if you mean “same”, yet ideally they are equal if you mean “united.” Of one purpose–that one would do what the other would do. But if I presume you use “equal” to mean “same” the answers in Mormonism have always been No, No, Yes. If by equal you mean are they all divine beings with perfection, the answer is Yes, Yes, Yes. It’s not our answer that varies but only the context of your question. The Mormons, from the first vision forward have always taught that there is a 3-member, distinct Godhead, in which the Son does the will of His Father, with the Holy Ghost as the testifier, guide and comforter. Their roles are not literally “equal” as they are not the same being. A Godhead theology does not require the “equal doctrine” required by the Trinity theology. The Mormons have long ago resolved that concept of God to our understanding, so those questions are not confusing to Mormons. But more importantly, those are the same questions between Arius and Athanasius and yet both of them were “Christians.” The question actually remains more unresolved in born-again theology, due to the subordinist language of Christ in the NT, than in LDS theology. This is why it remains termed a mystery in traditional Christianity. It is never termed a mystery in LDS theology.

  60. @ Kullervo:–I suspect this is not the verse you intended me to quote about offences but it seems to apply:

    Luke 17:1-10
    King James Version (KJV)
    1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

    2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

  61. What you have just described are 3 gods that are equal in type. You have in a way come down on the side of Arius and the Platonist’s.

    I don’t know what you mean by “born-again theology” but the question is not unresolved in Trinitarian theology.

  62. Garth said

    Now that I read it, I recall hearing that address live. Hinckley’s point is of course correct, since in the paragraph preceding he talks about break off groups, who are not Mormon, practicing polygamy separate and apart from any connection to the Mormon (read LDS) Church. Absolutely correct. There are no Mormon fundamentalists.

    But here’s the deal Garth. There are Fundamentalist and polygamists and a host of other break-off groups that consider themselves to be both “Mormon” and “LDS” though they are not members of Hinckley’s church. Though Hinckley says that there is no such thing as a “Mormon Fundamentalist” they still exist. They even have the audacity to build non-existent churches with the acronynm LDS outside their non-existent doors. They have as much claim to the term “Mormon” as you do. If they’re CofC they might have more of a claim to the term than you do.

    Hinckley’s point is correct in the same respect that Witherington’s point is correct. They are both talking inside of their own sect. They are letting others who agree with them on some key issues know why some people are outside their group. Those “outsiders” agree that they are outside the group, but protest the definition of a word of identity that excludes them.

    It’s very simple. If Hinckley is “correct” about the term “Mormon”, then Witherington is “correct” about the term “Christian”.
    —————————————————————————————————

    The Mormons, from the first vision forward have always taught that there is a 3-member, distinct Godhead,

    Well, not exactly. Since the 4th (maybe 3rd) version of the First Vision. But definitely not the first two. If you contend that it’s been since the first First Vision, you still have to contend with the (formerly canonized) Lectures on Faith and the Book of Mormon which both contradict that idea.

  63. I think the question “is Jesus equal with the Father?” represents the sort of zero-sum, more-for-me-means-less-for-you sort of thinking that is so objectionable about Nicene theology – and, I might add, completely at odds with the generosity and openness of God the Father.

    As if such a question even matters.

  64. Tim: Hinckley never said that there weren’t fundamentalist groups who derive from the restorational movement. There are dozens at least. He has spoken about them several times, so he’s not denying their presence, only their subordination under the official LDS Church, as if affiliated. That’s why I said; “As the President of the Mormon Church, Hinckley is making the distinction correctly, as those folks have no affiliation with the LDS church. There are non-Mormon fundamentalists of course. One could put them under the umbrella of break-offs from the restorational movement begun by J.S., but by definition, they can’t be LDS, if they’ve never been baptized by the LDS church.” Therefore, the taxonomy top-rung name I’m using is “restorational movement” to clarify that these are not actually COJCOLDS . You however, are using the term Mormon as the kingdom name, in top-rung classification hierarchy. I don’t think that’s how Hinckley was answering the question. But if you choose to define “Mormon” as the kingdom classification, instead of “restorational movement”, I have no problem with that. That is not the context Hinckley was using as I read his quote, and I thought we were talking about how he answered the question. The parallel would be Protestants and Catholics are both “Christian” churches. Christian would be the top kingdom classification. Not the individual denominations of Catholic or Protestant. So you would never say that Protestants ARE Catholics, even though they broke off from them. They are both separate sub-classes under “Christian”

    You and I are just starting at different rungs when you opine; “Hinckley’s point is correct in the same respect that Witherington’s point is correct.” I see your point if you put the word “Mormon” as the top rung, yes that would be true and if nothing is above “Mormon” as the kingdom name then you’d be right. I was putting Mormon on the second rung, and therefore the dozens of fundamentalist groups also appended off the top rung of “restorational churches.” Hickley would have to answer for his own mindset when he answered that question, if he were around. But I think the context shows he wasn’t denying there are fundamentalist groups, just not in affiliation under his own churches control. So in that context Witherington’s point is not like Hinckley’s.

    You may misremember the 1st vision texts. 8 of the nine all state there were two personages. Only the first (1832) only uses the term “And I saw the Lord”–without saying if it was only Jesus. ( http://eldenwatson.net/harmony.htm#33 ) The other very very early texts you refer to were resolved by J.S., their author, under his own hand and direction in the very earliest phase of the restorations naissance. That’s what a restoration is for and to demand that a movement be born full grown, when even J.S. himself was clear that the principles were being revealed gradually and line upon line, is not a claim the Mormons make. I agree there was on-going development, as exemplified as late as 1844, by the King Follett Discourse, but the fundamental concept of the Godhead has been around virtually since Joseph Smith’s earliest claims. I’ll grant a couple years of crystalization if you insist but that’s true with historical Christianity over it’s first 500 to 800 years, since their debates of defining their terms took many centuries, ending with the various creeds after much wrangling. Church theology is evolving even today–in all churches–but the fundamentals on the Christology of the Mormons has been the same almost from the inception. The Lectures on faith series in 1835 was what we’d call today a “Priesthood manual”, and was a group effort, written by multiple folks, so they’re interesting to reflect their early understandings, but never claimed as a fully developed doctrinal treatise or revelation.

  65. So its okay for Hinckley to say that the FLDS Church is not Mormon, but it is not okay for Tim to say that the LDS Church is not Christian.

  66. Seth R.,

    You wrote:

    “I’m about 2/3 of the way through Bowman’s article and feeling a little put upon by all the question-begging going on in his article about what the ‘Biblical’ position is (I’ll give you a hint – ‘biblical’ means ‘whatever Rob Bowman believes’).”

    I’m open to constructive criticism, but in this instance I must say that your complaint is unfair. Even though the piece is simply a blog article on a rather broad topic, not a biblical exegesis paper, my article discusses interpretive issues concerning some of the biblical texts that Bill Hamblin cited in his article. It was Hamblin who cited texts and simply assumed that they supported his claim. Thus, I devoted a paragraph to the issue of anthropomorphisms in the Bible, which Hamblin asserted are “quite clear” about God the Father having a body; another paragraph to Mark 10:17-22, which Hamblin cited without explanation as proof that Jesus taught a works-religion view of salvation; and another paragraph to John 17:20-23, which Hamblin dogmatically asserted teaches the essence of the Mormon doctrine of deification “however one wants to interpret this passage.” I also cited numerous biblical texts in support of the conclusion that LDS doctrine teaches error concerning the person of Jesus Christ. You are free to disagree with my views of these many biblical passages, but it is simply a misrepresentation to claim that my article engages in “question-begging” as to what the biblical position is. That criticism would apply much more fairly to Hamblin’s article.

  67. Seth,

    You wrote:

    I’m quite convinced that a large number of Evangelical Protestants deliberately use the line ‘Mormons aren’t Christians’ with full intent to mislead the man-on-the-street into thinking Mormons don’t believe in Jesus…. I’m pretty sure Bowman is fully aware of the misleading he is doing too (although he strikes me as a conscientious enough fellow to try and fool himself into actually believing he’s only making a technical ‘theological’ point).”

    I’ve been on the record repeatedly and consistently on this issue, Seth. I don’t ever use the line “Mormons aren’t Christians” in that unqualified way. Instead, I distinguish different uses or definitions of the term “Christian” in order to clarify the issues dividing Mormons from orthodox Christians and/or evangelical Christians. My position is that Mormonism, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, the Unification Church, and many other such groups that all consider themselves Christian, is a heretical form of Christianity. Jack’s article cited above treats the subject much in the same way that I do (as she explicitly acknowledges). I also make it clear that Mormons accept some important truths about Jesus (most notably his death on the cross and literal bodily resurrection from the dead) even while they also teach some heretical errors about Jesus (e.g., that he is one of billions of spirit children of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother; that as a man he is the literal son of Heavenly Father in the flesh; and that Christians should not pray to Jesus). Thus, it is simply false that I try to mislead people “into thinking that Mormons don’t believe in Jesus.”

    In short, your claim that I am knowingly misleading people about Mormonism is as false as it is offensive.

  68. It’s very simple. If Hinckley is “correct” about the term “Mormon”, then Witherington is “correct” about the term “Christian”.

    Hinckley is explicitly seeking to publicly distance the Church from other similar groups while underscoring that it is the only legitimate instance of Mormonism. Given the context of his comments Hinckley’s definition of “Mormon” is clear, i.e. the religion founded through Joseph Smith with authority to act in the name of God. It’s an explicit effort to co-opt the term to differentiate the Church from its rivals. It was a political statement, not an exercise in taxonomy. He is saying that “fundamentalists are not Mormons because they are false and Mormonism is true”.

    This is a different than what Witherington is doing. He proposes a public definition of “Christianity” and then attempts to explain why Mormonism does not fit it. He disclaims prejudice (something that Hinckley does not and cannot). He approaches the question as a sort of academic, unlike Hinckley. The strength of his argument depends on the strength and support-ability of his definition.

    You can attack Witherington by pointing out that his definition of Christianity fails by his own academic criteria of a good definition. Hinckley is not subject to that sort of attack.

  69. Seth,

    You simply misunderstand the issues being reconciled at Nicaea. The issue is not the generosity of the Father, the problem is the divine majesty of the Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Son and the Spirit are either truly, eternally, God or they are not. This is a matter of nature, not rank. If the Son and the Spirit are eternally equal with the Father it would be idolatrous to deny it. If the Son and the Spirit are equally and eternally worthy of our worship it would be sinful to be negligent in that worship.

  70. Garth Said:

    Mormons would call themselves (insist actually) devoutly Christian, even if there was not a single person on the face of the earth to convert. They would hardly vacillate on their demand for that entitlement if suddenly no “gentiles” were around to impress. May I invite you to simply consider if you think the Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans or Catholics etc., would take to being called non-christians in some alternate universe–solely so they could advance a PR motive.

    My point was that there is no debate about whether Mormons are Christians within the church. I don’t think any group necessarily has any “right” to be called what they want to be called by those outside the Church. If someone’s religion dictates that you are not Christian because you don’t believe in the Trinity then it would be offensive to THEM that you insist on being called a Christian. In this context, it is strange to be offended when people denounce you as non-Christian.

    Thus, your insistence on being referred to as “Christian” by non-Mormons or offense for being called a non-Christian is wholly based on the public opinion associated with the term and your wish that those who do not have strong religious views on the subject acknowledge that Mormonism should naturally be associated with the other religions that enjoy the benefits of the label.

  71. Rob —

    You are free to disagree with my views of these many biblical passages, but it is simply a misrepresentation to claim that my article engages in “question-begging” as to what the biblical position is.

    I’m not Seth and I’m not Mormon but yes I think you are seriously question begging in your article.

    Lets just take a few sentences (bracketing not in original):

    Redefining the “nature” of God’s “oneness” does not eliminate the real difference between the [1 historic], [2 biblical] understanding of God and the Mormon doctrine. [3 The Bible never describes the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three Gods]; Mormonism does. [4 In the Bible, the three divine persons exist co-eternally] [5 as the one transcendent Creator God] [6 distinct from his finite, temporal creation]

    First off historic without qualification is nonsense. Joseph Smith’s understanding of the nature of God by tying Elohim to a council of deities and Yahweh to a tribal deity is far more likely to be historic than the view of your sect. The evidence is rather clear that even if we limit ourselves to the history of Christianity ideas in Mormon theology like adoptionism predated orthodox trinitarianism. Now using the term “historic” (point 1) by itself wouldn’t be so problematic if you didn’t tie it to “biblical” (point 2) because that is precisely the question at hand. Your assertion that the historic mainstream Christian view and the biblical are the same. And that is precisely the point of Christian restoration that your sect’s theological traditions contradict the bible.

    As for (3), I suspect quite a few Arians would disagree with you In fact the entire 19th century Arian movement, which influenced Mormonism was driven by working through the original texts in the original languages. It is precisely because the bibles does describe Jesus / the Logos as a distinct God or a subordinate deity in so many places that the Arian movement took off. Trinitarians have had to argue that despite the frequent Arian language the theological implications of Arianism contradict broader themes about the nature of divinity and thus….

    (4) The bible is rather vague about eternal coexistence. This is why dynamic monarchianism / adoptionism was a rather dominant theology throughout the 2nd century. And certainly the battles over Monophysitism and Nestorianism show that the bible is rather vague about the eternal coexistence.

    (5) I don’t need to mention the theologies which were full biblical which held the creator and the Father were distinct beings.

    (6) the bible is rather vague on how distinct the creator is from his creation particularly in time. Our host, a fully orthodox seminary trained minister, disputed with my contention that God exists outside and independently of time on this very blog.

    So no. Those positions aren’t definitively biblical and claiming they are is asserting one of the very points in dispute between Evangelicals and Mormons. What those positions are are just the positions of your sect, and represent the majority / Christian orthodoxy. They have been widely disputed by Christian groups for the last 2000 years. And one of those groups in the last 200 are Mormons.

    Certain things are unique to Mormons like baptismal regeneration with credo-baptism. But then again certain things are likely unique to your Protestant sect.

  72. Gundek —

    I wasn’t advocating denying differences. Even though I believe Mormonism is Christian, I certainly can understand how people can deny it. Heck I wrote a 3 part piece on how Mormons are Christians addressing these points. And to do it, I had to tie them in with groups Mormons would despise to be associated with to find anyone remotely close their theology, those groups were all pretty marginal, and on most issues Mormons are still even less orthodox.

    To give you a counter example on a bad day I’d have trouble considering trinitarians to be monotheists and only I’d include Muslims, Jews and Unitarians. The primary reason that I’d even consider trinitarianism to be monotheism is self identification. And I don’t think that when I call Trinitarians monotheists I’m denying differences; rather I’m respecting the theological statements or the trinitarian faith. I certainly think that denying differences would be to blithely grouping trinitarianism in with openly polytheistic faiths.

    But as I said. Forget Mormons they are a complex case. Jehovah’s Witnesses are clear cut. I can understand you considering them heretics but I can’t understand you considering them non-Christian. That, in the monotheism analogy would be like a Muslim excluding Jews.

  73. Jared C…so then, in my alternate universe scenario, where we pretend the majority Mormons get to define who is Christian (excluding Trinitarians, and only including Godheadians), then you accept that Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans or Catholics etc., would accept their lot, of being called “non-christians” without objection? Not only must they accept it from others, but academically you allege it would be “strange to be offended when people denounce you as non-Christian.” Isn’t that the mirror image you’re asking me to take seriously? Or, that if they unenlightendly objected, it would only because they seek a PR motive?

  74. Or, that if they unenlightendly objected, it would only because they seek a PR motive?

    YES.

    Garth, my point is that it is a political statement made to influence public opinion, not to settle any real academic question. Its not a real debate, its not really open question amongst the devout. Traditional Christians will never accept the theology of the Mormon church as anything like their own and Mormons who believe the Book of Mormon will deny that Traditional Christian Churches are anything but spawn of the Whore of all the Earth.I think the best Mormons are going to get is that some TCs will believe that God will save Mormons in spite of their blatant heresy.

    The political battle over the “Christian” name is going to continue as long as theological differences matter to one side or the other. The REASON people engage in the discussion is that converts and souls are on the line, and PR matters. It strikes me as naive to think any differently on the subject.

    As a pure academic question it’s almost like the debate over whether Pluto is a planet. Its a simple question of making an arbitrary cutoff and then consistently applying the rule. However because of the political consequences, its much more like the definition of marriage.

    As far as taking offense, I still contend that its silly in the academic discussion context. When somebody says “by my definition you are not Christian” the only reasonable basis to be offended is if, in fact, fit their definition and the statement is an unfounded attack. Even then, if Christ considers you Christian why should it offend you in the least what other people think? Being offended is simply a way to emotionally hijack the discussion and make it less a reasonable discussion. Your offense, essentially proves the general point that the debate is about PR. Offense is directly related to the public relations consequences of an inclusive or exclusive definition.

    I do understand why it would bug you that other Christian churches preach that Mormons aren’t christian, i just think its strange to think that it the debate is not primarily about PR.

  75. Anymore, what bothers me about the public debate is the attempt to describe it as anything other than a matter of public relations. The Christian scriptures simply leave too much room for massively different interpretations to make anything other than an essentially arbitrary cutoff as to what is “Christianity” on a public level.

  76. Gundeck I fail to see any difference between your concept of “nature” and “rank.” I’m aware you don’t view God on a continuum far away from us mortals. I’m aware you view him as a fundamentally different KIND of being.

    And it doesn’t make a jot of difference for what I was talking about. I see the Nicene anxiety about making sure no one else ever shares God’s status as exactly the sort of zero-sum thinking I was decrying. As if he could be diminished by others being in that status. The entire premise is one of a zero-sum equation – whether you acknowledge it as such or not.

    I’ve always said that Calvin’s big theological blunder was that he was so obsessed with making God powerful that he forgot to make him loving. But in fairness to Calvin, the sin isn’t his alone, but Nicea’s as well. The “Nicene’s” were so intent on making God unique and powerful that they neglected to make him relevant to humanity.

  77. Rob, if that is how you have been describing Mormonism, I will update my perception of your arguments accordingly and withdraw the accusations.

    However, I would seriously question whether the majority of your audience is catching the fine distinctions you are dealing in.

  78. Even then, if Christ considers you Christian why should it offend you in the least what other people think?

    This leads to the heart of the problem for most Mormons I know. Since most Evangelical arguments on the question appeal to the finer details of tradition and orthodoxy, I’m convinced that people still don’t understand why Mormons get so pissy by being called non-Christians. Its certainly not because they want to be part of the club. Its certainly not so they can blend in. Most Mormons I know are proud of the distinct doctrines and ideas that JS introduced.

    When Mormons hear that they’re not Christian, it cuts at their personal relationship with Jesus. It basically sounds like, “I know you say you know Him and have felt his redeeming power in your life. I know you say that he is the core of your faith, but I call BS. I know you sing his praises each week, partake of emblems that signify his great sacrifice of blood and flesh and rejoice during those special times at Christmas and Easter, but I call BS. I don’t believe you or I think you’re delusional/deceived.”

    Its not that different from a father with two sons from different mothers. The older telling the younger, that he doesn’t love the “real” version of their father. I get the power play – Mormons do it to other Mormons and Traditional Christians have been doing for many many years. You want to protect your blood line, your heritage. But don’t act surprised when Mormons get a little touchy by your dismissal of their real, tangible love for Jesus and his power to save them.

  79. When Mormons hear that they’re not Christian, it cuts at their personal relationship with Jesus.

    CJ, you are one of the only Mormons I have ever heard of as saying they have a personal relationship with Jesus. I doubt this is even on the average Mormon’s radar.

    It basically sounds like, “I know you say you know Him and have felt his redeeming power in your life.

    Again, I can’t recall ever hearing this said out loud at an LDS church. Mormons are much more comfortable talking about the power of the Book of Mormon, the temple, or the priesthood. When pressed, I’m sure most would say that Jesus is in there somewhere, but the power is felt through these other things. Also, most Mormons are much more comfortable telling their stories through some rubric of obedience, rather than through a rubric of redemption.

    I know you say that he is the core of your faith, but I call BS. I know you sing his praises each week,

    Do Mormons sing praises to Jesus each week? I know the sacrament hymn is Jesus-y, but beyond that there is no guarantee that the rest of the songs will be. In my experience, the hymns that really move Mormons tend not to be focused on Jesus. I don’t view this as a bad thing, I don’t think every song sung has to be nothing but Jesus praise, but I don’t think it supports your assertion.

    partake of emblems that signify his great sacrifice of blood and flesh

    The sacrament is the least emphasized of any of the ordinances in the LDS church. Temple ordinances are treated with great weight and reverence. But in my experience sacrament really isn’t all that important to the average Mormon.

    and rejoice during those special times at Christmas and Easter, but I call BS.

    And I’m going to call BS on this. Christmas and Easter services at LDS churches suck, and there’s no way to sugar coat that. 3 or 4 years ago they used Easter Sunday to install a new Bishop in my wife’s ward, replete with nothing but blubbering testimonies about the importance of priesthood leadership. Granted this was a particularly egregious example of Easter meeting suckage, but I think this tells you everything you need to know about how important Easter is to Mormons. I can’t even imagine a Christian church ever contemplating making Easter about anything other than Jesus and his resurrection.

  80. David, I may be taking the best of what I know of Mormon’s views/beliefs/relationship with Jesus and you may be taking the worst. I’ve certainly seen both sides. I’m well aware of the ways in which Mormons omit Jesus from their religious spiritual experiences. I take great pain in it. So, I’m the first persons to see when this occurs. But, please consider updating your view of things based on the experience of others (mine). Maybe we just run in different circles, but Jesus is very much a part of my own faith community experience and has been in many others throughout the US.

    Also, about the hymns – EVERY sacrament hymn is about Jesus. And I think “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” and “I Believe in Christ” are the loudest hymns I regularly hear in church. Again, maybe I’m in an alternate universe.

    Also, if local Mormons omit Jesus, its not for a lack of leadership – just check out General Conference.

  81. Also, David – what reason do you give for the Mormon outrage over the non-Christian label. Because the responses I hear usually – “But he’s the focus of everything we do” or “We look to him for how to live our every day lives.” These of course are the completely wrong things to say if you want to convince an Evangelical, but they speak to why Mormons care about it.

  82. Christian J,

    I agree that people are going to get “pissy” when they feel mis-labeled, judged and misrepresented, but the core of the “Are Mormons Christian” debate is about theology, not about devotion or practice. If Mormons misunderstand that, and take a theological argument as a personal challenge to their devotion to their religion then they are being too touchy. If they are ignorant of this, then they are being too reflexively defensive and should try to understand the opposing position. Even as I left the Church it riled me when people argued that Mormon’s aren’t Christian. But when the debate is kept at a theological level I have no problem at all.

    Indeed, isn’t being mis-labeled or openly attacked because you believe in the correct understanding of Jesus and his plan a blessing? (See Matthew 5:11: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”) I think that the focus on what others call you is [dare I say?] un-biblical, the true test of your Christianity has nothing to do with a label or theology. (Matthew 7:16.) Having the label of “Christian” without actually displaying Christianity is vacant pride.

    I still don’t like the sort of criticism’s David is raising i.e. “you guys don’t really like Jesus like us real Christian’s do?”, which i don’t think is fair and ignorant. Expecting Mormons to be Evangelicals is silly, and thinking that they don’t follow Jesus’ teachings is equally silly. Mormons have deep spiritual connections with God, they put him at the center of their lives, Jesus is the vehicle for that, not the central focus, but that is appropriate given their beliefs about Jesus. When I was a Mormon Jesus was not the center of my faith, Heavenly Father was, and I felt that that is exactly how Jesus would have wanted it. Jesus didn’t speak of himself and always emphasized the Father over himself.

  83. Jared, Absolutely Mormons misunderstand the argument and I get more frustrated with LDS rebuttals than anything else. But, since Evangelicals are the aggressors (better term?) in this case, I expect a clarification to be essential to any thoughtful argument. Like, “You’re not Christians, but let me be clear that I’m not questioning your faith or devotion – like you repeatedly claim I am.” When you place a well known yet multi-dimensional label on someone and don’t take the time to realize that they take it very differently than you do – then refuse to clarify…..well, its no wonder we’re all still banging our heads against the wall.

  84. Jared,

    Why do you say stuff like this:

    I still don’t like the sort of criticisms David is raising i.e. “you guys don’t really like Jesus like us real Christians do?”

    but then basically agree with what I am saying when you say this:

    When I was a Mormon Jesus was not the center of my faith, Heavenly Father was, and I felt that that is exactly how Jesus would have wanted it.

    My examples were merely illustrative of the phenomenon you described.

  85. I don’t like any sort of political arguments that rely on caricatures, intentional misrepresentation, personal attacks or ignorance. At its worst, this is what the “Mormons aren’t Christians” position is about.

    I think the fact that Mormons don’t claim that other groups are not true Christians is also indicative of the nature of the debate.

    Mormon doctrine is absolutely clear that other churches are spawned by the devil, their corruption lies in the theology and the creeds that other Christians hold dear. However, Mormons constantly de-emphasize these doctrines, for political/PR reasons. The Mormon mission is not to defend the faith, but spread it. Negative attacks don’t help that.

    Contempt and intentional misrepresentation and personal attacks from the non-Mormon side shows that those making such attacks are less interested in convincing/converting Mormons than discrediting them.

    You don’t see the overt attacks from Evangelicals like Tim, who are generally interested in influencing and converting Mormons, rather than protecting his group from them.
    .

  86. David- Your point, in response to Christian, was “you may be appropriately focused on Christ but most other Mormons are not”

    My counter-point is that you are holding Mormons to a protestant standard, which doesn’t make sense when Mormons don’t believe the same ways as protestants and the bible certainly leaves room for the sort of emphasis Mormons place on Jesus as a person.

  87. Kullervo has a well thought out argument there, but its mostly based on assumptions that he doesn’t seem able to prove and born out of a premise that Mormons don’t know what the hell they’re talking about – so conditioned by their place in society that they can’t be trusted even to evaluate and express their own true thoughts and feelings. I don’t doubt that you and him feel that way, but it sort of ends the discussion doesn’t it? Why say even one word to such a mindless drone?

    For example, take a peek at the linked page. Scroll down and read the comments from individual people. Most all of them mention the sacrifice and death of Jesus. Most all of them express a love and adoration for him as the Son of God and Savior of the world. I’m not referring you to this to prove that these responses should be sufficient for an Evangelical to call Mormons Christian (def. not), but to point out what living breathing LDS say when asked the question. According to Kullervo’s thesis, they’re all delusional.

    http://mormon.org/faq/belief-in-jesus-christ?gclid=CPjUsMfNobICFUGo4AodMCQA6A

  88. Also, it should always go without saying with me that – yes – Mormons are generally ignorant when it comes to Protestantism, so on that point Kullervo is spot on.

  89. My counter-point is that you are holding Mormons to a protestant standard, which doesn’t make sense when Mormons don’t believe the same ways as protestants and the bible certainly leaves room for the sort of emphasis Mormons place on Jesus as a person.

    I’m not holding Mormons to any standard, protestant or otherwise. In fact, if every Mormon got up tomorrow and decide to become Catholic, I’d rejoice.

  90. Kullervo has a well thought out argument there, but its mostly based on assumptions that he doesn’t seem able to prove and born out of a premise that Mormons don’t know what the hell they’re talking about – so conditioned by their place in society that they can’t be trusted even to evaluate and express their own true thoughts and feelings.

    Be more specific, please. What are the unprovable assumptions i am making? Where do you derive my premise that Mormons “don’t know what the hell they’re talking about?” What did I say that indicates that Mormons “can’t be trusted even to evaluate and express their own true thoughts and feelings?”

    For example, take a peek at the linked page. Scroll down and read the comments from individual people. Most all of them mention the sacrifice and death of Jesus. Most all of them express a love and adoration for him as the Son of God and Savior of the world. I’m not referring you to this to prove that these responses should be sufficient for an Evangelical to call Mormons Christian (def. not), but to point out what living breathing LDS say when asked the question. According to Kullervo’s thesis, they’re all delusional.

    What? How? How does my thesis–that Mormons and Evangelicals are talking about different things when they talk about whether or not Mormonism is “Christian”–have anything at all to do with Mormon professions of faith in Jesus Christ? That simply has nothing to do with anything I said in my post.

  91. Christian – this may not be Kullervo’s position, but I would suggest that far less than 1% of Mormons understand the critical theological difference’s between Mormon Christian beliefs and traditional Christian beliefs. So in my view, most Mormons do not know what they hell they are talking about.

    I have never heard what I would characterize as a fair discussion of the magnitude, importance and consequences of the differences in any context outside of a few sites on the internet. Such a discussion is entirely absent in “official” church meetings and teaching materials.

  92. My position is that, when discussing the question of “Are Mormons Christian” (not “Do Mormons believe in Jesus”) merely that both sides are talking about something different, and feel like big things are at stake.

    Mormons definitely believe different things about Jesus than Evangelicals do, but that’s not the issue, because nobody is assering otherwise. Certainly not Mormons.

  93. but I would suggest that far less than 1% of Mormons understand the critical theological difference’s between Mormon Christian beliefs and traditional Christian beliefs.

    Do you really think that’s true? For example if I gave a multiple choice test with traditional Christian beliefs and Mormon beliefs do you really think only 1% would be able to mark (e = evangelical Christianity, m= Mormonism, n= neither):

    1) Scripture consists of:
    a) 39 books in the old testament and 27 in the new testament
    b) 5 books written by Moses with an additional 34 in a limited position
    c) 39 books in the old testament and 27 in the new testament, 15 books in the book of mormon, 138 doctrines and covenants the 5 books of the Pearl of the Great Price
    d) 114 Suras

    2) God is:
    a) A unique uncreated being distinct from his creation
    b) A product of the universe who has advanced to his current station
    c) A concept of perfection and unity from which all else is derived
    d) The sum total of all matter and energy in the universe

    etc.. Of course they would get the differences. Mormons in statistical measures of doctrinal knowledge do better than the average evangelical on knowledge of evangelical Christianity: placing just behind Atheists, Agnostics and Jews.

  94. The “different things about Jesus” is different from the “not Christian” argument. The “different Jesus” is just an Evangelical polemic.

  95. Mormons object to a simply “non-Christian” label otherwise they would just declare themselves a different religion and there wouldn’t be this controversy. I think getting into the discussion of the motivation leaves out the obvious:

    Evangelicals can certainly label Mormons non-Christians
    and Mormons can certainly label Evangelicals lying bigots.

    And in some sense those are both accurate descriptions with reasonable arguments behind them. On the other hand in human relations you want to move beyond negative characterizations that people reject. Nigger derived from negro is a possible way of describing someone’s with lots of melanin, its just rude and so it isn’t done. It is not some hard deep impenetrable questiona about why African-Americans shouldn’t be called niggers, and it is not some hard deep impenetrable question about why Evangelicals should look for a theological classification that Mormons wouldn’t object to.

    For example most Mormons wouldn’t object to (I suspect):
    “a highly non-orthodox form of Christianity”
    “a religion based on the teaching of Jesus Christ that falls outside normative Christian belief”.
    “an extreme form of Christian restorationism”

    A group like together for the gospel could sit down with the LDS church and find mutually acceptable language in 20 minutes.

  96. Do you really think that’s true? For example if I gave a multiple choice test with traditional Christian beliefs and Mormon beliefs do you really think only 1% would be able to mark (e = evangelical Christianity, m= Mormonism, n= neither):

    Well, its hard to say. Obviously I have no studies so I am ready to stand corrected, and my estimate may be a bit extreme. However, even those Mormons who understand the issues and differences will often minimize them. So I might qualify the judgment to say that that even knowledgeable Mormons don’t grasp the emotional and spiritual consequences associated with believing differently. (I didn’t until I looked objectively at the traditional theology.) And these are at the heart of why the theological debate matters.

    I do think the second question would puzzle most Mormons.

  97. Jared–I couldn’t help but notice that you only chose to initially address really the last part of my question, (about PR motivation) and mostly skirted the real core of my comment, about would Evangelicals, Baptists, etc. placidly allow the alternate universe to disenfranchise them of being Christians. I think you did an end run at first, because the answer is so obvious. But I will let you off the hook by your later comment when you said; “I agree that people are going to get “pissy” when they feel mis-labeled, judged and misrepresented, but the core of the “Are Mormons Christian” debate is about theology, not about devotion or practice. If Mormons misunderstand that, and take a theological argument as a personal challenge to their devotion to their religion then they are being too touchy.” If they’re not seeing the historical divide between Mormons and orthodox, you’d be correct. I’ve said from the start when I agreed with Millet that theologians using only the creedal definition in academic circles are on solid ground. But that’s not the best definition or order of hierarchy from a “logical” standpoint. And, I suspect you wouldn’t feel so apathetic to charge Evangelical were just being pissy in my alternate universe hypothesis. You would expect them to squeal like stuck pigs if the tables were reversed, and have every right to do so. And I’d agree.

    Claiming Christ as your savior has nothing to do with PR, and that is a very cynical conclusion. As I said before, if there was not a single “gentile” to convert, and not a soul to impress, ANY worshiper of Jesus Christ would still demand on pure principle, their right to be called a Christian. For you or others to continually state that only the historical perspective of Christian is allowed, as if Eric and Seth’s valid points about how that actually plays in the common man and woman’s ear, is naive in my opinion. But I think your “strange and unusual form of Christianity” we have traditionally accepted under the acknowledgment that God’s people are always “a peculiar people.” So I can’t fault your logic there.

  98. Nobody is saying the PR motivates a Mormon to claim Christ as their savior. I am saying PR motivates a Mormon to claim that Mormonism is Christian.

  99. Also, CDHost’s last entry nailed it. Totally agree, with no problem whatsoever with “distinctions” rather than “disenfranchising”. In fact, the LDS have no desire to be aligned with historical, medieval Christian heritage. I could go with “non-traditional Christian” or “restorational-based Christians.” (Not sure I’d go for the “extreme” moniker you suggested, since Mormons are so ultra-conservative, tame and mild-mannered, that would suggest more of the Westboro Baptist ilk.) But you’re on the right track!

  100. Kullervo–I get what your saying. Your ideology is not unclear. I just disagree. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that there is no single-word alternative. You’ll note even in our attempts here to find a compromise, all suggestions are multiple word “definitions”–not titles! Find me any single word alternative that would suffice, or stop insisting “Christian” can’t be used. We’re not “Josephites”, “Brighamites”, “Utahites” “Nauvooites”–all of which would be wrong but maybe at least have some restorational history. Yet since we don’t worship Joseph, Brigham, Utah, or Nauvoo, we come right back to no alternative. Eloheimites?? Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

  101. Seth,

    I’ll be honest with you I am at a loss to see how the equality of the Son and the Holy Spirit with the Father affect the generosity or love of the Father. Does this mean if the Son is not equal with the Father, the Father was more loving by insisting on his superiority? Does the Father’s love increase by disparity and inequality? Dose it make the Father more generous to deny the Holy Spirit honor, glory and worship?

    Trying to understand how this creates a zero sum game, I am wondering how denying the equality of the Son and the Spirit with the Father creates a balance? Who is deprived of anything if the Son and the Spirit are equal with the Father?

  102. Garth said:

    Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that there is no single-word alternative.

    I have an alternative — Mormon

    As a fourth Abrahamic religion I think it’s descriptive and appropriate.

    Christians and Muslims don’t demand that Jews use a word to describe us that accommodates our roots in Judaism. We recognize that once you begin to understand our religion, the roots become apparent.

  103. Eric,

    That’s an issue isn’t it? Complementarians subordination vs. egalitarians modalism makes your head spin and the sooner it is rooted out the better. I think the best single sentence on this entire debate was written by Robert Letham, “…relations in the Trinity are not to be understood in terms of human relations, let alone those existing in a fallen world.”

  104. You would expect them to squeal like stuck pigs if the tables were reversed, and have every right to do so. And I’d agree.

    They would squeal like stuck pigs, and for the same reason Mormons do, public relations and political consequences.

  105. Garth said For you or others to continually state that only the historical perspective of Christian is allowed, as if Eric and Seth’s valid points about how that actually plays in the common man and woman’s ear, is naive in my opinion.

    You are missing my point (deliberately?)
    I unequivocally believe that Mormons are Christians by most reasonable common definitions (as does almost every Mormon) I actually believe that almost every Mormon should be considered saved by the common Evangelical criteria for salvation.

    I think I agree with you that, in most cases, non-Mormons are using the debate as an attempt to cast Mormonism in a bad light, not make a theological distinction. Where you and I seem to disagree is that Mormons engage in the debate for very similar political reasons. i.e. to look better in the eyes of non-believers, not to fully set forth their position on what is or is not “true” Christianity.

  106. @Jared —

    So I might qualify the judgment to say that that even knowledgeable Mormons don’t grasp the emotional and spiritual consequences associated with believing differently.

    That I agree with. Mormons come from a much more theologically open faith. At least so far. The haven’t really been challenged from within seriously. Back in the 1990s I understand there was a move towards open worship of Holy Mother. I wonder how Mormons and the LDS leadership would react to a Mormon journal that openly advocated religious doctrines like the worship of Holy Mother.

  107. They would most likely excommunicate the leaders of such a movement if they did not bow to pressure from the leadership to stop. They may do it more tactfully than they did in the 90s. . . A good Mormon does not openly criticize leadership, even when they are wrong.

  108. You’ll note even in our attempts here to find a compromise, all suggestions are multiple word “definitions”–not titles! Find me any single word alternative that would suffice, or stop insisting “Christian” can’t be used. We’re not “Josephites”, “Brighamites”, “Utahites” “Nauvooites”–all of which would be wrong but maybe at least have some restorational history. Yet since we don’t worship Joseph, Brigham, Utah, or Nauvoo, we come right back to no alternative. Eloheimites?? Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

    You completely misunderstand where I am coming from if you think I am even remotely interested in coming up with mutually acceptable defined terms. The point is not coming up with acceptable defined terms. That’s not how language works. As you yourself have conceded, when Mormons and Evangelicals argue about whether Mormons are “Christian,” they both mean “Christian” in a different sense. That’s jsut how language works in the real world. A single word can often have multiple, sometimes contradictory, sometimes overlapping meanings, depending on the context. And it’s worse when we are talking about a word for a construct rather than a word for a thing. Invented categories like “Christian” always have tough calls and blurry boundaries. That’s reality.

    Rather than Quixotically try to answer the inherently problematic question of whether Mormons are Christian or not, I would much rather see Mormons and Evangelicals understand where each other are coming from.

  109. Jared said

    Where you and I seem to disagree is that Mormons engage in the debate for very similar political reasons. i.e. to look better in the eyes of non-believers, not to fully set forth their position on what is or is not “true” Christianity.

    To help explain Jared’s point, When Evangelicals say that “so and so isn’t a Christian” what they mean is “so and so isn’t saved.” So would you say Mormons define a person as “saved” in the same way as Evangelicals?

    http://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/it-has-finally-been-resolved-sort-of/

  110. Contrary to the obections in that thread, I think talking about whether Mormonism is a saving faith is likely to be much more strightforward. While Mormons and Evangalicals use the word “saved” to mean different things, it’s pretty concrete and specific in both cases and any misunderstanding can be quickly disposed of.

  111. @Jared —

    They would most likely excommunicate the leaders of such a movement if they did not bow to pressure from the leadership to stop. They may do it more tactfully than they did in the 90s. . . A good Mormon does not openly criticize leadership, even when they are wrong.

    6 excommunications and it ended. That isn’t a real challenge to leadership. The membership essentially backed the leadership.

    So in our hypothetic take that same situation and assume that they do the 6 excommunication and the movement continues. Margaret Toscano never backed down so assume that instead of being semi-repentant like Maxine Hanks, was in real life they are more like Toscano and attack the leadership’s BS excommunication. Make it even more dramatic, like what Luther did when he called a public meeting and burned his excommunication in public. Assume that 10,000 Mormons continued to follow her even after the excommunication. That would be a fair test case of a challenge from within.

    The question would be what they do then. I suspect given the open tradition they work towards a settlement and reconciliation. Once they realize the membership doesn’t have their back I don’t think they push towards either mass excommunications or schism.

  112. To help explain Jared’s point, When Evangelicals say that “so and so isn’t a Christian” what they mean is “so and so isn’t saved.” So would you say Mormons define a person as “saved” in the same way as Evangelicals?

    Tim I don’t think there would be the same kinds of objection to “Mormonism is a form of Christianity that teaches a false gospel and is not a saving faith”. That’s clearly separating out the taxonomy (Mormonism is a Christianity) from the theology (whether this particular type of Christianity is saving in the speaker’s opinion). The issue is the claim of evangelicals to be able to speak for all Christianity.

  113. @Tim– but wouldn’t that require that we worship Mormon? We already accept the denominational nickname. Can’t we do wear both? (Like Lutherans accept Luther, but are also Christian.) Pretty please, pretty please?

    I hope your comment isn’t accurate that “When Evangelicals say that “so and so isn’t a Christian” what they mean is “so and so isn’t saved.” Do they really mean that? Ouch, as that would seem pretty harsh if you’re right. I’d be nervous to start judging those who attempt to be Christians, even if they’re not apparently succeeding. I’m glad I’m not the judge on that dividing line between heaven and hell. The self-aggrandizement of the Pharisees brought Christ to rebuke them saying that the harlots, publicans and sinners would enter heaven before them. Piety, as a yardstick, can become a cudgel. Mormons do it too as it’s human nature to measure people by your standard, not Gods.

  114. gundeck,

    I’ve had a long day and I’ve got a head-cold, so I may not be exactly lucid.

    But I feel like even worrying about whether Jesus is equal with God, or not equal with God betrays a few worries about the universe proceeding from a zero-sum paradigm.

    Where there is only so much glory to go around out there in the universe, and if God shares any of it – it means less for him. So obviously God is the only one who can have this status – because if anyone else were invited in to have it, God would be somehow diminished.

    Now – I’m barely coherent at the moment, so if you have no idea what I’m talking about, feel free to shout out.

    G’night.

  115. Garth said

    I hope your comment isn’t accurate that “When Evangelicals say that “so and so isn’t a Christian” what they mean is “so and so isn’t saved.” Do they really mean that?

    It’s really no different than when Mormons says “so and so isn’t a member.” Evangelicals feel there are some clear boundary lines that define who is “saved”. They don’t presume to be the ultimate judge, but they can’t ignore what seems clear.

  116. @CDThe issue is the claim of evangelicals to be able to speak for all Christianity.

    The irony is that, Mormons seem to be want to be accepted in a larger community which their doctrine calls corrupt and spawned from the devil.

    Evangelicals seem to want to police a community to which their doctrine establishes no real authority to police, and one which they are a disruptive influence in their own right.

  117. Jared:

    I think we’re talking past each other. I perceive you don’t yet catch the LDS motivation (nor the very simple logic of the issue) perhaps when you say; “The irony is that, Mormons seem to want to be accepted in a larger community which their doctrine calls corrupt and spawned from the devil.”

    I’ve mentioned, per my understanding at least, “In fact, the LDS have no desire to be aligned with historical, medieval Christian heritage.” For some reason, it seems that we can’t get past the idea that the actual pedigree chart we see goes like this;

    Worshipers of Jesus Christ
    I
    (Insert Denomination Name Here eg-Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, etc.)

    The Witherington flow chart however simply puts any non-creedal group off on the margin WITHOUT placing Jesus Christ in their “up-line”, and even renames the top rung and replaces it with:

    Trinitarian Worshipers of Jesus Christ Cults
    I I
    (Catholic (grudingly), Protestant, etc.) (Mormons, and anyone who isn’t “us”

    Frankly, if it offends evangelicals to have Catholics or Mormons directly touching their flow line, they could even do it like this: (though note I can’t draw angled arrows when typing, and the denominational lines and order are just as an example.)

    Worshipers of Jesus Christ
    I I I I I
    Catholic Protestant Eastern Orthodox Mormon JW

    Of course you could parse out each little branch, off each parent denomination and add in little sub groups etc. But the point is, Mormons have never claimed it is necessary that we derive FROM your line. Creedal theology is not our daddy, but Christ is, so to speak. You are correct that the LDS reject much of the post-apostolic, > 300ish AD heritage, because of the gradual apostasy doctrine which Mormons hold. But the real point I think you’re dismissing is what goes on BEFORE the Catholic hegemony, i.e. the TOP rung. And it is not Athanasius, or Nicea, or Catholicism, or Protestantism. I had a strong anti-friend once say that he couldn’t understand why Mormons wanted to claim to be “us”–by which he meant “Evangelical Christian”. The fact that he couldn’t even fathom that “he” was not at the top of the food chain –since that honor goes to Jesus Christ (with the Catholics 1500 years older than his evangelical claim too)– is similar to how you’re saying that Mormons want to be accepted into a “larger community”, which we actually reject historically. You’re right that Mormons do not claim a historical link to “Christendom” after circa 300 AD, nor do we feel we need to, since we do claim a historical link to Peter, Paul, James, and Jesus Christ. That comes above you, not below you. Mormons therefore claim to be part of the larger community which PRECEDED you. It is the Christianity, above you that we seek to claim as our heritage. And the correct term for that is “Christian”. We allow you to claim it too. And, the LDS would love the fellowship with our evangelical and catholic cousins, as we claim the same parentage. Not the same descendancy.

    Final thought–Since evangelicals dismiss much of the Catholic reign as a bastardization of the real teachings of Christ, you also accept an apostasy. You view the reformation as a major reversal and renaissance from the apostasy that had corrupted the church of Christ. Mostly only Catholics deny an apostasy. So you can only argue the degree of apostasy, as your only difference with our doctrine. You think a reformation sufficed. Mormons think a restoration was required. But to claim that evangelical theology is the top rung of the pedigree chart would pretend that the 1500 years before Martin Luther don’t really count. Mormons don’t claim a need therefore that the “Christian” community descends through you or Trinitarian compromises. They don’t want to claim much to do with the dark ages of Christendom. If you remove worship of Christ from the top, you err. If you put the historical creeds above Christ, you err. Mormons may be the black sheep of the family in evangelical and catholic eyes, but it’s still the same family at the first generation of worshipers of Jesus Christ. I know some have said this, in other ways, but when you make statements that you can’t understand why we want to be included in “the larger community”, but then define that as only being the 2nd tier in the pedigree chart, it is clear you may be missing the point of what’s above you, as it comes across to me.

  118. BTW, the formatting above was removed, but the little down lines “I” had spaces to give separation. Any spaces I placed to separate groups got zapped. Sorry if it looks confusing, but…such is the god of formatting.

  119. Garth,
    Luther was a reformer – he started nothing new. The idea that the Lutheran reformation somehow stands in contrast to the first 1500 years of the Church is completely off-base. The first 1500 years don’t count? Lutherans would never claim such a ridiculous thing. Sure, some radical reformers and restorationist movements such as Mormonism cut themselves off from the historic Church, but not Luther (and it’s Mormons who say the first 1800 years don’t count!). He never wanted to separate from the Church, but rather as the name “Reformation” indicates, brought reform. The Church in every age needs reform, and one can hardly count the medieval Church as a static representation of the Church before then. Lutherans fully embrace the historic Church and believe that Luther simply re-iterated the historic catholic doctrine. That’s the simple messsage of Luther – he invented nothing – but rather focused the Church back on Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
    Here is an interesting blog that shows support for the historicity of Lutheran doctrine:

    http://lutherancatholicity.blogspot.com/

  120. I agree. Luther reformed the apostate church. I was only pointing out the fact that a reformation would not be necessary, if there wasn’t an apostasy first. The degree and resolution of that falling away is where we differ, not on the corruption itself. Mormons just claim he didn’t go far enough because Luther had no better answer for the trinity than Athanasius. Therefore, looking to the “real” start of Christianity allows the LDS to go right to Christ as their foundation, not the historical battles that would come 1500 years later, or even 300 years AD.

    TheLDS view that Luther maintained too many of the same apostate doctrines which had been the problem in the first place is what gives them their link to claiming real Christianity for themselves in the first place. So I don’t care how one views Luther’s “historicity”. Whether Luther was right or wrong to perpetuate parts of Catholicism is incidental to what came before Catholicism. It’s still a debate AFTER the foundational 1st rung of Christ and the apostles. Christ still came before. However one sees Luther, or any of the noble reformers, it is the fact that they could not cleanse the errors via only a reformation which is the very heart of the LDS argument of their right to claim a pure and direct lineage to Christ himself as their originator. That is the very fact which gives Mormons their claim to the title “Christian” in the first place as the 1st event of causation was Christ, not the dominoes which fell hundreds of years later. I’m not trying to parse out how deep the apostasy went, since it’s immaterial to what came before the apostasy which triggered the reformation.

    Luther’s holding to core Catholic doctrines. which he left in tact, is still only a 2nd tier argument, maybe once removed as they broke away from Rome. However one sees Luther and the reformation, is not germane to the argument that the “Christianity” issue for the Mormons claim comes before all that– before Rome,– before Nicea, –before Luther. Escaping the historical claims of all that and jumping over that dark period to the original first tier of Christ himself and the apostles it exactly why the LDS claim could care less about all that stuff in the middle. In that sense you’re right that the Mormons do say the first 1800 years “don’t count” as to claiming valid Christianity. It of course counts greatly in the sense that truths and salvation remained the goal with glimmers of facts among the nuggets of corruption. It counts for your right to also claim a heritage of Christianity. It doesn’t diminish the good Catholic and Protestant efforts, but the LDS claim is not contingent on who was the least wrong in the middle ages. It’s sorta like Paul egging on the Saducees and Pharisees to squable about the resurrection while he stands there knowing the real authority now resides in Christianity, not with who is the least wrong among the Jews of his day.

    The title of “Christian” over arches all the squabbles over which end to open the egg from. LDS claim of being Christian, focuses on the chicken that laid the egg. And, if Christ actually appeared to the boy J.S., one can hardly claim the LDS wring their hands over whether they can also show a linkage to human beings squabbling in the middle ages over who is the least wrong, Please note, I’m not expecting non-Mormons to buy any of the Mormon claims. But the issue is do the Mormon claims provide a logical entitlement to claim themselves as Christians? My answer is…duh. Not because our claim has to be universally accepted by our detractors, but because the claim makes its own linkage to Christ, in his proper position on the first rung of descendancy. The Catholics can’t prove an actual authority to Peter either, but their doctrine asserting that authority establishes their right to what derives from it, from a logical perspective.

  121. Garth, how many gods/goddesses exist in all possible universes?

    If you can’t say “one” then you are outside the higher level of the pedigree chart that is labeled “monotheism”.

    Mormonism is like a vine that twists through the branches of Judaism and Christianity but has different roots.

    FWIW I don’t think Luther encountered an apostate church. I think most evangelicals would reject that description. We’d use the term corrupt.

  122. @ Tim. If you insist that no one can deviate from the Judaic doctrine of monotheism, then you’ve also disqualified any church which claims the Trinity. Even Jesus Christ is not Christian by that definition of how the Jews define God before Christianity began. The Jews crucified Christ over that very point, that he deviated from the shema by claiming to be co-equal to God himself. That is not the monotheism of the Jews. They would argue that Trinitarianism is a deviation from what the Old Testament teaches and is therefore heretical and extra-biblical (Torah).

    Your point that the Mormons claim to potentially answer a question that Christians don’t even ask (the origin of God), is a good point. But it’s not central to if Mormons worship Jesus Christ, or view only one God for all of Gods creation. (I can believe America has one president, without being offended that France has one of their own too.) Mormons don’t believe it diminishes God because there could be more than one in unrelated existence. The Bible doesn’t address that concept, so your point that J.S. has some extra-biblical teachings is true. I don’t see that as a disqualifier of whether we worship Jesus Christ as Christians. Your question raises far deeper theology than we’ll tackle here.

  123. There was no apostacy in Martin Luther’s day. You cannot “reform” apostacy – in order to have a Reformation – there needs to be a Church to bring reformation to. That’s the entire point – Luther was not inventing anything, he was standing with historic Christian doctrine against the errors that had come into the Church.

  124. Garth – It was the Vicar General of the Augustinian order in Germany who told Luther to focus on Christ when he was stuggling with grace. Johannes Von Staupitz was Luther’s Father Confessor and is credited with helping Luther to see that eternal life with God is given as a gift through Christ crucified. The Church existed in medieval Europe giving out God’s good gifts of forgiveness and eternal life, but it’s message had been clouded with error and heresy. Luther, along with many others, brought reform.

  125. 4fivesolas: But, if Luther reformed a fundamentally corrupt theology (as the LDS view it), does it matter what you call it? I agree that he did not change the Catholic core of Protestantism. That fact actually is the raison d’etre for the restoration claim of the Mormons. I think we’re quibbling over at what point does a falling away become an apostasy vs. just massive falsehoods. The number of dead Christians and beheaded, burned, and banished people on both sides of resolving that issue in the middle ages suggest a bit more than just a little house-cleaning to me. If it wasn’t a revolutionary purge, I’m not sure what one would look like then.

    But yes, the core doctrine of Trinity, and a few others escaped essentially unchanged. But almost every other core doctrine (Popes, transubstantiation, confession, celibacy, Priesthood, monastic orders, last rites, saints, rosary and penance, papal infallibility, and the other list of 95 items nailed to the door, would seem a little hard to view as not rising to a level of defining pretty severe apostasy, whether you call it that or not. A total apostasy is not needed. No one claims that the Bible ceased to exist, or the words and teachings of Christ were lost. A total absence of Christianity is not required, but yes–the reformation is just “apostasy light”. But our theologies are very similar in my opinion as to the corruption and fall of the primitive church. Only our resolution of the corruption differs.

  126. Also, The Catholic church was NOT reformed by Luther. It still exists. So when you state; “You cannot “reform” apostacy – in order to have a Reformation – there needs to be a Church to bring reformation to.” How was reformation brought TO the Catholic Church? The Christian movement did not “reform” the Jews. You could say that Luther “revolted”, “rebelled”, “rejected”. But he did not “reform.”

  127. Garth – The history of the Church can be sufficiently known today to realize that there was never a time when the gospel, once delivered to the saints, did not endure on the earth as Christ said it would. I am not quibbling over anything – I am stating that it is factual that the Church has always had a remnant on the earth. Read through the Scriptures, God often works with a believing remnant – as God said to Elijah there are 7000 that have not bowed their knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). I believe the Church can reliably theologically trace it’s roots back to the Apostles. St. Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of the St. John the Apostle. Polycarp – friend of Ignatius, was possibly also a disciple of St. John the Apostle. In addition to their testimonies, the Church has the testimony of God that the Church would not fail – and His testimony stands true when all else fail. The theology is not fundamentally corrupt. While men are fundamentally corrupt and are born sinful as you have pointed out – they often kill each other by beheading, burning, turning to violence to settle matters (as we continue to do today – we’re still bearing the fallen nature inherited from Adam).

    As for not reforming the Roman Church – where did all the Reformation Christians come from? They were Roman Catholic, and retained the core of the gospel. So yes, the Reformation did reform the Church.

    There was no complete apostasy – there is no need for a restoration.

  128. I can respect your opinion. The LDS actually call it usually the “great apostasy”–not a complete apostasy. There was never a complete apostasy as you are right that Christ’s light could never be fully expunged, though I believe that John prophesied that the “dragon” would chase the church and new born saints into the wilderness and reigned on the earth for many years. (Rev 12) Mormons also take literally Daniel 2 where the stone cut from the mountain without hands that will fill the earth doesn’t arise until the last days (the toes of the statue), whereas the other epochs of Daniels time-line already included the Roman church, reformation, etc., with the stone not appearing till modern times. But…while the LDS side has a reason for their beliefs, I certainly grant that so do historically-based Christians. We’ll just agree that we see it differently and I can understand your point of view which is also a satisfying interpretation. If I were raised in your faith tradition, I’m sure I would see it your way as well, and I admit my tradition undoubtedly leads me to favor my conclusions.

  129. Garth, One last thing – I don’t know if you realize the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper. It’s not transubstantiation – in that we don’t precisely define beyond the testimony of Scripture the exact nature of the presence of Jesus body and blood in the Sacrament, but we believe that He is indeed physically present – based on the testimony of Scripture:

    http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/mosynod/web/sup-01.html#sup-1c

    We also practice Confession and Absolution – although there is no penance, Christ has already done the work for our absolution. The pastor’s proclamation of forgiveness is as sure as if Christ Himself had absolved your sins. That’s powerful:

    http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/mosynod/web/sup-02.html#sup-2c

    The most important aspect of the Reformation is Christ at the center – the crucifixion as the center of Christian worship – in both Word and Sacrament. The good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins is to be proclaimed – we all need to hear the gospel and receive the Lord’s forgiveness, it’s not a one time thing, although we are assured that Christ is holding us and sustaining us in the faith.

    I converted to the Lutheran Christian faith – and I appreciate that the Lutheran reformers did not abandon the historic practices of the Church which are found in Scripture, even when those ideas don’t fit our modern rationalist enlightenment views. How can the waters of baptism do so much? How can bread and wine be body and blood? How? Based on the firm promises of God given to us in Scripture. I feel if more Christians became grounded in the historic Christian faith and theology they would not be persuaded by Mormon missionaries coming and talking about a great apostasy and the need for modern day prophets.

  130. Tim why don’t you just throw in the towel and admit that you are “fascinated” with LDS people simply because your mission in life is to discredit them?

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