Three evangelical approaches to Mormonism

Christopher Carroll Smith of Mild-Mannered Musings has posted three excellent interviews with different evangelical figures in the Utah area on how they approach Mormons. Since this is a subject which interests most of the participants here, and since I think we have evangelicals currently participating who hold to approaches all across this spectrum, I thought I’d direct everyone’s attention to them:

Interview with Pastor Dean Jackson, “Peacemaker in Provo”

Interview with Pastor Greg Johnson of Standing Together

Interview with Mike Stahura of SLC Calvary Chapel

(UPDATE: Chris has pulled the interviews with Greg Johnson and Mike Stahura; see the comments on the Greg Johnson interview for details. It doesn’t look like the interview with Greg will be edited and re-posted, but the interview with Mike Stahura might.)

Chris also has some follow-up thoughts to these three interviews here. As you’ll see from my comments on those articles, Dean Jackson was my pastor when I lived in Provo and Greg Johnson was the leader of the evangelical Christian Bible study on the BYU campus for my first semester there, so I’ve worked with those two men.

I’m leaving the comments open here, but I want to make it clear that I don’t want to poach discussion from Chris’s blog; any relevant comments on the interviews themselves should go there. What I do want to discuss here is the fact that there’s serious disagreement between evangelicals concerning these three approaches. Chris quotes Mike Stahura’s opinion that other evangelicals are watering down their messages and being “overly tolerant or respectful.” I myself related a story on the interview with Greg concerning how Dean asked me not to attend a Standing Together outreach event because of his disagreements with Greg’s approach. And it’s fair enough that those of us who take the more “liberal” approach to reaching Mormons are critical of our “conservative” counterparts and feel that their approach is often unnecessarily rude and unloving.

So my question is, to what extent is there room to live and let live?

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This entry was posted in Evangelical, Evangelicalism, missions by Bridget Jack Jeffries. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bridget Jack Jeffries

Bridget Jack Jeffries is a human resources professional living in Chicago. She holds a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and an MA in American religious history from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two. You can read more of her writings at www.Weighted-Glory.com.

104 thoughts on “Three evangelical approaches to Mormonism

  1. Thanks for the link, Jack, and don’t worry about poaching discussion. I don’t mind spreading the comment-wealth a bit. 😉

  2. So long as it’s okay with you, Chris. I just wanted to follow good blogging ethics.

    I see that Kaimi went ahead and linked to you from T&S. Hope you enjoyed the traffic boost. 😉

  3. If you’ve got 10 million people (or whatever the number is) trying to evangelize Mormons, it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be disagreement about how to approach us.

    For my part, the second I sense someone is being rude or hostile, my brain pretty much shuts off to all productive discussion. I think Blomberg made some excellent points in his address “What Would Jesus Say to a Mormon?”

    Specifically, he points out that “when Jesus is speaking to the one outside his community, when Paul is trying to win those not in his churches to the faith, we find a very gentle, a very wooing spirit.”

    I think Jesus’s example is particularly apt. His ministry was filled with statements like “Come follow me” and “Come and see.” He reserved his harshness for apostate Jewish leadership (potentially why some justify a harsh approach to Mormons – we are “apostate” Christians).

    When I sense that a Christian really wants to talk about the issues then I’ll sit and talk all day long. I’ve definitely done so online. However, what may be most irritating to me is when EV’s make accusations to which there are some pretty good answers and I provide some of those answers, and they respond by essentially saying “I don’t want to talk about that.” Well then why the hell did you bring it up? I don’t care if you brought it up to make a different point, it doesn’t give you a free pass to blow off my response to your criticisms.

    (Tim, I’m still interested in your response to my question.)

  4. Oh great . . . and because I am a Baptist preacher, Pastor Mike would place me completely off the spectrum.

    Yeah, a Calvary Chapel preacher always needs someone to the right of him so that he feels balanced in his ministry.

    (Laughing on this Sunday night)

    And I suppose that Pastor Dean would find those to the left of him.

    But as we all know – one man’s balance is another man’s compromise.

    As preachers of the I-15 corridor, we had all better get back to studying our Bibles. We are still on the first page for laying a true, solid, biblical foundation in S.E. Idaho and Utah.

  5. BJM, I just can’t “live and let live”.

    The truth of God and His gospel is at stake in all of our words and actions.

    Passion for the truth of God and His Gospel to others is #1. Let the chips fall where they may.

    Someday, I will not stand before a judgment seat of internet bloggers.

  6. I don’t think Mike is a pastor. He teaches Calvary Chapel’s Mormonism class, but I don’t know that he has any pastoral credentials or duties.

  7. Tom ~ I hear you. On a related note, the most frustrating thing for me in any dialogue situation is when someone approaches me with zero interest in what I actually think on a topic and only wants to get me talking about it so they can create a window to push their dogma. Evangelicals do it all the time, but sometimes, so do Mormons. There was a scene in the book Gentile Girl by Carol Avery Forseth (about a Baptist student at BYU in the early 70s) which illustrated that:

    All the girls listened intently to the program. When it ended, one said, “I didn’t even know there were Baptists here. I’m surprised they let you have a Baptist Student Union.” She looked hard at me.

    “Well, we’re a campus club like any other, even though we’re small. The administration doesn’t mind. We don’t cause any trouble.”

    Another girl spoke up. “What do Baptists believe, anyway?”

    “To begin with, we believe the Bible. Our doctrines come from the Bible. It is our only authority.”

    The first girl interrupted. “We believe the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is correctly translated,” she parroted from the LDS Articles of Faith.

    “Yes, I know,” I said. “We also believe that man is by nature sinful and separated from God and can only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.”

    She interrupted again. “We believe that man shall become like God by perfect obedience to the commandments.”

    “Yes, I know.” I had learned by now that this type of conversation was fruitless. I calmly added, “I need to leave now, if you’ll excuse me. Thank you for allowing me to watch the program.”

    I knew the girls would continue the discussion without me. They weren’t listening to me. They only wanted to tell me “what Mormons believe.”

    Her dialogue is cartoonish, but I know that in my time at BYU I ran into my share of people who weren’t really interested in what I thought and just wanted to tell me what they believed. I certainly see my share of evangelicals doing it. (Oh, and that scene is from the 1989 version of the book entitled Faith Under Fire, p. 75; it was re-written and re-published in 2002 as Gentile Girl, but I can’t find my copy of that right now.)

    Of this much I’m certain: however we may differ on Mormons and soteriology, failure to interact with what the Latter-day Saints we are speaking with actually tell us will always be the wrong approach.

    Todd ~ And I suppose that Pastor Dean would find those to the left of him.

    Does having sex with a Mormon put me left of Pastor Dean?

    Kidding aside, I’d actually probably characterize my approach as eclectic and pulling from both Dean and Greg’s methods.

    BJM, I just can’t “live and let live”.

    So, do you think there’s only one right way to reach out to Mormons then, Todd? And if not, when does an approach become “wrong”?

  8. God uses all kinds of personalities, BJM. But our missiological approaches become wrong when we are either sacrificing or diminishing God’s love or God’s truth concerning His Gospel. Our single passion for the Lord Jesus Christ is the one passion that safeguards us from all our other inward passions that seek to destroy us. For the sake of the gospel, We ought to continually separate ourselved unto God, which in turn separates us both from the moralistic worldliness of the religious right and the pagan worldliness of the religious left.

    On a specific note, we have interfaith marriages connected with our church family. I care much about both partners, and I would step in the way of any seeking to sever these marriages. But I would not knowingly marry those of different faiths. Future generations are greatly impacted by this.

  9. Actually on further consideration, I think the biggest showstopper for me is someone who refuses to acknowledge that I have been born again through accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior and asking Him to take away my sins. The one thing of which I am certain above all else is that my sins have been washed away by the blood of my Savior. He has transformed me into something much better than I ever could have become on my own. And He continues to show me how I can become infinitely better than I am now. I seek above all else to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m not perfect in that endeavor by any means, but my number one aspiration in life is to emulate His perfect example.

    I’m more than willing to listen to reasons why you think some of my beliefs about Christ are incorrect, but if you refuse to accept that I have been born again, the conversation is over.

  10. Todd ~ But our missiological approaches become wrong when we are either sacrificing or diminishing God’s love or God’s truth concerning His Gospel.

    I agree with you, Todd, but this still doesn’t really tell us anything about what the correct approach is. I’m pretty sure that each of the three men interviewed would say that he’s doing his best to present both God’s love and the truth of God’s gospel to the fullest. So if it’s only a matter of doing our best in those areas, then I think there’s quite a bit of room to live and let live.

    As far as interfaith marriage goes, maybe I should make it clear that I don’t recommend LDS-evangelical interfaith marriage; I’m not telling evangelicals to go out and marry Mormons, or vice-versa. What I am doing is talking about how to make it work, because I believe this is an area where both evangelical and LDS leaders are failing their members by merely saying “Don’t do it” and offering little advice on how to make it work once it’s done.

  11. Jack (or any other EV who cares to respond),

    Dean Jackson mentions that sometimes he is uncomfortable with the evangelical and Pentecostal labels, yet his congregation is Assembly of God, correct?

    He said that most Mormons would consider their top adversaries to be Southern Baptists. Todd joked that as a Baptist preacher he is off the spectrum. (maybe it wasn’t a joke?)

    Here’s my big question – what defines an “evangelical Christian?” Are Southern Baptists evangelical Christians? Are Baptists in general not considered evangelicals? What about Episcopalians? Methodists? Christian Fundamentalists? I knew a congregation called “Calvary Chapel” in Bangor, ME who were heavily active in meeting us LDS missionaries on the streets and bashing dialoguing with us. We just called them “born again Christians.” Are they evangelicals? I’m so confused.

  12. Tom ~ I’m more than willing to listen to reasons why you think some of my beliefs about Christ are incorrect, but if you refuse to accept that I have been born again, the conversation is over.

    I’m not sure that’s a wise approach, Tom. I think that’d be like me telling Mormons, “If you refuse to acknowledge that I’ve been baptized into Christ and baptized by fire, this conversation is over.” I’d be in a lot of trouble if I said that because I’ve never met a Mormon who has acknowledged that maybe my baptism was valid before God and I really do have the gift of the Holy Spirit. I’ve met Mormons who can acknowledge that my baptism was a sincere gesture before God and that the influence of the Holy Spirit outside of the church can be just as strong as the influence of the gift of the Holy Spirit inside the church, but I’ve never even met a Mormon who would accept the possibility that my baptism was good.

    You can try to ask evangelicals to keep an open mind on your status before God, but I think that’s as generous as you’re going to get. If you demand that the evangelical acknowledge you as saved before dialoguing, it will defeat the main purpose in dialogue as a lot of evangelicals see it.

  13. Tom ~ I think Blomberg’s explanation of evangelicalism is worth quoting:

    Virtually all who call themselves Evangelicals disassociate themselves from two other categories of professing Christians: (1) the theologically liberal members of virtually every major Protestant denomination and (2) the fundamentalists, more separatistic or sectarian conservatives who tend to reject or sectarian conservatives who tend to reject interdenominational or interreligious cooperation and dialogue. These very conservative Protestants continue to apply the term fundamentalist to themselves despite its almost uniformly pejorative use by the media and despite its history of attachment to quasi-sectarian groups that have separated from other professing Christians in the aftermath of the “fundamentalist-modernist” controversy of the 1920s. Fundamentalists are particularly strong in America’s so-called Bible Belt, especially in the Deep South and in various kinds of Baptist churches.

    A tiny handful of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and converts to those branches of Christendom employ the adjective Evangelical as well. But other Evangelicals are skeptical of the possibility of being both fully biblical in doctrine and members in good standing of Catholic or Orthodox communions. Thus the term Evangelical includes theologically conservative Lutherans (most notably the Missouri Synod), Presbyterians (especially the Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church) and many other Reformed Christians, Baptists (many Southern Baptists and almost all of the Conservative Baptists and Baptist General Conference), Free Methodist groups, the Disciples’ Renewal Movement within the Disciples of Christ, most Pentecostals, a large number of African-American churches of all denominations, the Evangelical Free Church, the Bible-church movement, many Nazarenes, a fair number of Mennonites, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, some (primarily charismatic) Episcopalians, and a large number of independent churches, as well as other individuals and informal fellowships within otherwise more liberal churches and denominations. (How Wide the Divide? p. 28-29)

    A lot of evangelicals identify themselves as “born again Christians,” but so do some fundamentalists. All evangelicals do believe in being born again, but I tend to shun the label “born again Christian” because (for me) it evokes the image of the more fundamentalist crowd, which I am definitely not a part of.

  14. BJM, I can’t encourage a regenerated, justified saint in the Mormon culture to treasure and grow in and declare freely the fundamentals of God and His Gospel with integrity and good conscience while situating himself or herself yet within the active service of Mormonism. I believe when one experiences the grace of God’s salvation, the allegiance to the LDS Church and LDS Prophet and LDS Apostles is broken. Do you believe this as well?

    I can’t love and respect the fundamentals of Mormonism as portrayed by today’s LDS Prophet and Apostles and at the same time love and respect and defend the fundamentals preached by the Lord Jesus Christ and the biblical apostles.

    If the LDS Prophet and Apostles repent of following the direction and beliefs of Joseph Smith, that would change everything. And yet . . . if this happened, would there still be a Mormon culture worth saving?

  15. And one more thought, when I think of some of today’s independent Baptist fundamentalists in America, I think of some pastors who are strong KJV only, strong against alcohol, strong on door-to-door evangelistic work, and strong on Sunday dress, etc. and etc. and etc.

    And when I think of Mormonism in the heartland, I think of moralistic fundamentalism with the twin emphasis on externals and doing. It is a worldliness with the name of Jesus Christ stamped right over the top of it.

    Is this the kind of environment where a Christian should be encouraged to stay and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?

  16. Jack,

    Good point. I suppose it would be as difficult for you to convince me that my being born again is invalid as it would be for me to convince you that your baptism is invalid (albeit sincere).

    I guess I’m willing to acknowledge that there’s a chance I’m wrong, or that in some weird way we are both right. I guess I don’t respond well to the rigidity from non-Mormons. I think we should all do what we feel God directs us to do. If you are doing that, and I believe you are, then what can I say more? I know you’ve honestly considered the Book of Mormon. What God tells you is between you and Him. Not my business. But I have met many non-Mormons who feel like it’s their job to interpret my personal experiences with God. Bad idea. (there are many Mormons who are probably guilty of this in the opposite direction, and I probably was one of them at one time)

    Before anyone jumps on the “we’re both right” statement, I mean this in the sense that we are both following what God wants us to do. It is possible that God wants me to be a Mormon and Jack to be evangelical, in which case we are both “right” for following what God told us to do.

  17. Todd,

    Is this the kind of environment where a Christian should be encouraged to stay and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?

    After being born again, how am I to spend the rest of my life? The answer I have come to over and over again is to walk the path of discipleship – to DO what the Savior would DO. So I think an emphasis on “doing” is OK as long as it is taught and understood in the context of Christ’s grace. Mormons haven’t always been very good at doing this. And I think it’s because historically we haven’t understood grace very well. My hope is that we are growing in this area and coming to a true understanding of grace – not just in written doctrine but in our everyday lives.

    Do you posit that my attempts to follow Jesus are just worldliness? That’s a pretty severe charge. But I’ll think long and hard about it if that’s what you actually mean.

  18. Tom, when it comes to a lot of things, I try not to be rigid. Believe me. My mind constantly works in the shades of gray. It can be seen often in how I communicate.

    But Jesus and the apostles did teach the fundamentals of Christianity. And no matter how we all feel about this or that, it will not change those fundamental laws about the nature of God and His Gospel.

  19. It is a severe charge. But I preach it to myself, too, Tom. My sinful nature is not prone to head down the direction of homosexuality, alcholism, drugs, etc. No, I needed to be redeemed from an altogether different hellish worldliness. And I need this gracious deliverance every day.

  20. Todd,

    I think you’re writing on this blog demosntrates that you are not rigid, although many I have met in RL have been.

    But Jesus and the apostles did teach the fundamentals of Christianity. And no matter how we all feel about this or that, it will not change those fundamental laws about the nature of God and His Gospel.

    I think we can agree on that. And that is why I think we should continue to evangelize one another. If one of our faiths is “wrong” and the other “right” then eventually God will lead the sincere out of one faith and into the other. And it will probably happen through evangelism. Just a guess, though. 🙂

    I’d be interested in your answer to my question about worldliness.

  21. I’ve never even met a Mormon who would accept the possibility that my baptism was good.

    Jack, I accept the possibility that your baptism was good. But I’m a bit different, so maybe I don’t count. 🙂

    I believe when one experiences the grace of God’s salvation, the allegiance to the LDS Church and LDS Prophet and LDS Apostles is broken.

    Todd, you don’t think it’s even possible for God to call someone to remain in Mormonism?

  22. Actually, Jack, I do see one difference –

    I don’t know of any doctrine taught by evangelical Christianity that says that I can’t be truly born again as a member of the LDS Church. So the difficult task an EV has in talking to me is either

    1) Convincing me my being born again is invalid
    2) Convincing me that although I have been born again, I must leave the LDS Church.

  23. And yet also asked to be sincere and respectful in one’s allegiance to the LDS authorities? No, Katie. I don’t.

    The gospel of Jesus Christ radically changed everything, shattering the apostle Paul’s allegiances to his previous religious authorities. There were new authorities now in his life. And I don’t think Paul would have labelled himself a born-again or evangelical Judaizer. And he openly rebuked those Christians who appeared to favor so called Christian Judaizers.

  24. Todd ~ The gospel of Jesus Christ radically changed everything, shattering the apostle Paul’s allegiances to his previous religious authorities.

    Ah, but Todd, would you say the same thing for Peter? The Bible seems to indicate that Peter only gradually realized that Judaism isn’t a requirement for Christianity. Was he not saved while he was preaching circumcision as a requirement for salvation?

    Besides, even though Paul was radically changed, he still openly identified himself as a Jew (maybe a Christian Jew?) and attended and taught in Jewish synagogues. Seems to me like the disaffiliation from Judaism was a gradual thing for many Christians, not a radical one.

    I have to take my daughter out for a date. I will answer your earlier questions in greater detail when I get back.

  25. Todd Said: “I believe when one experiences the grace of God’s salvation, the allegiance to the LDS Church and LDS Prophet and LDS Apostles is broken. ”

    What allegiance can stay intact? Family? country? clan? team?

  26. For the record, I think Blomberg tries to make too hard a distinction between evangelicals and fundamentalists. There are many people who fit the classic definition of fundamentalism, but who identify themselves as evangelicals. Even though the term may originally have been intended to exclude them, they have been more or less absorbed into it in popular usage.

  27. I would agree that one’s allegiance is ultimately to God, so if there is a conflict between one’s ecclesiastical leaders and God, God wins. But I guess I don’t see why, even from your paradigm Todd, God can’t work in and through Mormons.

  28. Katie, its because we believe in a different God. Their God doesn’t work through people who believe in our God. Its a matter of protocol.

  29. Katie L,

    I hope you will excuse my interrupting your question to Tom but from a Reformed perspective our faith grows by use of the ordained means of grace the Word, properly preached, and the sacraments, properly administered. God has promised us that he will work through these means for our sanctification. Sanctification is more than just our outside appearances and what we do but also our understanding of Gods works in recreating the redeemed sinner. It is vital to the building of a saving faith that the regenerated make every use of God’s ordained means. Paul tells us over and over that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

  30. I will now derail this topic slightly to remind everyone that 2008 Niblet Award voting is going on right now. I have nominations for “Nicest Evil Villain” and “Best New Blog,” and everyone needs to go freep them.

    Aaron and Chris and Todd have also been nominated for “Nicest Evil Villain,” but I don’t think they stand a chance. /flex

  31. BJM, Peter needed Paul’s rebuke.

    And are you deriving in application the possibility of Christian Mormons from Christian Jews . . . Wait a minute. Are Mormons ethnic Jews? Are the Gentiles really outnumbered in Ammon, Idaho? 🙂

    Also, I like Paul’s synagogue preaching. Passionate. Courageous. Gospel-Centered. Christ-centered. He didn’t care about the synagogue peer review or taper his messages for more invites. He had a single eye for the truth of Jesus Christ. And he knew he would be hated. But new churches all over the region were birthed.

    Jared, Paul did speak of allegiances to family and civil leaders. If President Barack Obama was my ecclesiastical authority, I would be having major problems.

    Katie, like Joseph I can submit to a Pharoah like Joseph. I can submit to a Babylonian monarch like Daniel in the areas where I am not disobeying God. And God works through both Pharoahs and Babylonian kings (who were worshipped as gods). But I can not submit to a false religious leader who exclusively carries this position of authority – I separate from them in my faith and love to God. Separatism is a long rich vein within the historical Christian church. Look at our American forefathers.

    Chris, thanks for highlighting this. Paleoevangelicalism. Historical fundamentalism. Therein lies my passion.

    And Tim, Barna’s definition does not quite arrive at this big Idea of authentic reformation Christianity.

  32. God has promised us that he will work through these means for our sanctification.

    My question was if it’s possible for God to work in and through Mormons. To clarify, you’re saying here that the answer is no?

    Paul tells us over and over that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

    Are you saying here that a Mormon is incapable of preaching the word of Christ?

    But I can not submit to a false religious leader who exclusively carries this position of authority.

    Todd, say person rejects such exclusive authority claims. What then?

    I have nominations for “Nicest Evil Villain” and “Best New Blog,” and everyone needs to go freep them.

    I voted for you, Jack. 😉

  33. What I mean, Katie, is one who is acting solely as a religious authority and not as a ruling authority for the country, too.

    I don’t think that President Monson is claiming to speak as an authority for the United States of America, and I don’t think he is claiming to be the only authority for the LDS Church.

    But he is the top man – living authority here on this earth – for the one recognized LDS Church worldwide. For Christians to encourage other Christians to be under his priesthood authority and prophetic utterance is to me both unbelievable and unbiblical.

  34. One thing to note . . . LDS do piggyback on a core Baptist distinctive:

    Separation of Church and State

    (Though some evangelicals did quite worry about Mitt Romney)

  35. Yes, the roots of the Radicals.

    Calvin would see me as even more radical than Gundeck, way out from the shoreline but still tethered to the dock.

    But Joseph Smith? He cut all the ropes to the shoreline. And in 2009, his ship is a streamlined ocean liner. But I am not going to encourage people to stay on this almost 200 year-old ship.

  36. >>Uh, that would be an anabaptist distinctive.

    Depends on who you’re including under the Anabaptist umbrella. In Jan Mathijs’ proto-Mormon “Anabaptist” community, there was no such separation. 😉

    Church-state separation was long a Baptist distinctive, too, ever since the Baptists were an oppressed minority under the Test and Corporation acts in Anglican Britain. After all, it’s no accident that Thomas Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation” comment appeared in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, to reassure them that the USA would not go the way of the motherland. Only in the twentieth century did a large number of Baptists begin to really betray their roots and advocate an evangelical takeover of America.

  37. Katie L,

    No, I do not think the Mormon Church preaches the word of Christ on a host of issues. This starts with first vision as reported in the standard works of the Church and continues to today.

    Can God work through the Mormon Church? God can do anything that he wills, but he has promised to work in His Church by the ordained means, Word and Sacrament. This is a sincere promise to the adopted Children of God and we would be remiss not to avail ourselves of this gift.

  38. Todd ~ I believe when one experiences the grace of God’s salvation, the allegiance to the LDS Church and LDS Prophet and LDS Apostles is broken. Do you believe this as well?

    No, I don’t, and here’s why. Evangelicals are a house divided on so many issues: Method of and requirements for baptism, how human freedom and God’s sovereignty effect salvation, whether we should ordain women, whether spiritual gifts exist in our present age, and quite a few others. When these differences are pointed out, the usual response that we give is, “Those things aren’t salvific” or “those differences aren’t significant.” In other words, we don’t think God cares enough about these issues that our position on them is likely to effect our eternal salvation. Okay, fair enough.

    But then we tell the Mormons, “Guys, if you truly accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit is going to regenerate your mind and heart so that you no longer accept the LDS leaders as prophets, and if you refuse to denounce the LDS leaders, you probably aren’t saved.” Well, that’s funny. We expect the Spirit to regenerate Mormons on their flaws, but apparently the Spirit is completely incapable of regenerating us into the correct positions on the issues I just listed. Sounds like we’re refusing to hold ourselves to the same standards we demand from Mormons. I could just as well say:

    I believe when one experiences the grace of God’s salvation, the allegiance to the fallen patriarchal nature of this world is broken.

    I believe when one experiences the grace of God’s salvation, God’s true desire for baptism is made manifest.

    I believe when one experiences the grace of God’s salvation, the Spirit will convict her of the miraculous nature of spiritual gifts.

    And on and on, and so I set myself up to judge evangelicals in the same way we seem to judge Mormons. Personally, I’d rather just preach the truth on all of these issues and leave the judgment out of it.

    As to what I expect from a “born again” Mormon, generally I expect one of two things: (1) that the person eventually leaves the church, or (2) that the person begins to see the problems with LDS theology, soteriology and doctrine and begins looking for ways to improve the church from within. Mormons who continue to unquestionably accept everything the church teaches are the ones who concern me. If you like, I can explain from the Bible why I think (2) is acceptable to God, but this post is running long and I have to move on to other things.

    And for the record, I have never encouraged someone to join the LDS church or encouraged someone who was doubting to stay in it. I’m not entirely adverse to the possibility that God would do one of those things, but me? Not a chance.

    He didn’t care about the synagogue peer review or taper his messages for more invites.

    Todd, if you write things like this to imply that people like me take the approach we do because of some kind of theological populism, let me please ask, don’t. Disagree with my methods all you want, but it’s hurtful to have my motivations questioned. I may disagree with you on some things, but I will never doubt that you are passionately and sincerely convicted by the Holy Spirit on this matter, and all I’m asking is for the same benefit of the doubt.

    And for the record, I’ve drawn plenty of hate because of my message… from other evangelicals (!). But if you need some reassurance that I’m pissing off Mormons as well, it seems that Adam Greenwood doesn’t like me very much.

    Anyways, thanks for having this conversation with me, Todd. I appreciate learning more about your perspective, even if we disagree.

  39. Todd, BJM also doesn’t have a good relationship with Jettboy, but then again, neither do I.

    I just place Todd @ Jettboy on the same step of loving character. Ouch.

  40. hmmm . . . “improve the church”?

    For problems, I have to throw in every doctrine in systematic theology, including ecclesiology: how the LDS Church is built from the foundation all the way to the superstructure.

    But to BJM and to the rest: thanks for listening, too.

  41. Jack: Well said. Very well said.

    You and I disagree on many points of doctrine, but I think we both belong to the Church of What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander.

  42. Jack: As a Mormon, I enjoy your approach to discussions on Evangelicalism and Mormonism. I’ve had plenty of folks yell at me when I attend the Easter Pageant in Mesa, Arizona or the Book of Mormon Pageant in Palmyra, New York, or semi-annual Conference in Salt Lake City. That approach does not work. It tends to raise my ire and makes me think my patience is being tested. Personally I would like to be friends with all, even those who disagree with me. I love the hymn that quotes Jesus: “As I have loved you, love one another.”

  43. I love the hymn that quotes Jesus: “As I have loved you, love one another.”

    I think love is totally overrated. Yuck. 😉

  44. Hey, did anyone else notice that there are new WordPress smileys? They’re “bubblier.”

    No, I do not think the Mormon Church preaches the word of Christ on a host of issues.

    I understand that you don’t believe that. Just as I understand that Todd rejects that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet for the whole earth.

    I guess what I’m getting at is if the two of you see any possibility that God could want a Mormon who rejects the “false” (as you see them) aspects of the church to remain in Mormonism?

  45. Katie L,

    I think to stay in the Mormon Church would be to rob oneself of Gods ordained means of grace and His promised way of building up the faith and the sanctification of the faithful. I don’t think this means the regenerate will or would leave immediately but eventually, in time, they will depart. I know that this would be a painful and possibly a drawn out experience for that person but a necessary one in my opinion.

    I think it questionable that a person could reject a host of Mormon doctrines and then come to an understanding of the gospel by remaining inside the Church. BJM points out that evangelicals disagree on a host of issues and posits that a Mormon may remain in the Mormon Church to improve it from the inside. I don’t question her motives but, as someone who takes a high view of importance of the Word and sacraments in the sanctification of the believer I find that position unsupportable.

  46. Gundeck,
    And in like manner, we could say we think that to stay out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to rob oneself of God’s ordained means of grace and His promised way of building up the faith and the sanctification of the faithful.

    But how helpful a statement is that?

  47. gundek, Todd: what Jack has implicitly challenged you to do, which you haven’t yet, is identify differences that are “significant enough” to warrant your total disapproval of Mormonism. She specifically brings up one issue that is insignificant to her: allegiance to LDS leaders as prophets. She asserts that there are major differences between Evangelical churches that aren’t significant enough to you; would you (and this question includes you, Jack) expand that to other Christian denominations as well? If so, which? i.e., which churches other than your own would you be comfortable seeing someone stay in?

    (This part no longer directed to Jack) Every church you include on that list draws a wider and wider circle of what’s not significant enough until eventually you either stop widening the circle (and we see where your dividing line is) or you (accidentally?) include Mormonism.

    (And forgive me if I’m just a little suspicious that if and when you attempt that excercise you will have chosen ex ante that Mormonism cannot be included.)

  48. Tom asked:

    Here’s my big question – what defines an “evangelical Christian?”

    To which BJM responded:

    I think Blomberg’s explanation of evangelicalism is worth quoting:

    And Tim also referred to another authority:

    I like Barna’s definition of Evangelical

    Some discussion on fundamentalism ensured.

    I tend to think of fundamentalism as a subset of evangelicalism, although it’s probably more accurate to say that there’s a spectrum of conservative Protestantism (although it is possible for non-Protestants to have some evangelical characteristics) with barely evangelical at one end (as you might find within some mainline denominations) and hard-core fundamentalism at the other end. The dividing line between evangelical and fundamentalist is necessarily a fuzzy one. Beliefs that they hold in common include the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus, that Jesus performed miracles, the physical resurrection of Jesus and a belief in a Second Coming.

    That said, some of the characteristics that divide fundamentalists and evangelicals are (in no particular order): 1) Fundamentalists are likely to place an emphasis on biblical literalism as well as inerrancy in matters of non-faith issues such as history and science. 2) As a result, fundamentalists are more likely to believe in a literal six-day creation and a young Earth. 3) While evangelicals are leery of extreme ecumenism (and any suggestion, for example, that Hinduism may be true), fundamentalists may be wary of ecumenical efforts even with nonfundamentalist Christians. 4) Fundamentalists are more likely to reject contemporary music and attire than are evangelicals. 5 )Some but no means all fundamentalists take a “King James only” approach to the Bible; very few if any evangelicals do. 6) Fundamentalists are more likely to emphasize hell. 7) Evangelicals are more likely to find value (even though they may have disagreements) with scholarly approaches to the Bible. 8 ) As a result, fundamentalists are more likely to take the position that the books of Moses were written by Moses, for example, or to believe that the Gospels were written within a few years of the Resurrection. 9) Evangelicals are more willing to see a human role in the inspiration of the Bible; a fundamentalist may come close to believing that the actual words were dictated by God to the authors. 10) Fundamentalists are more likely to emphasize doctrinal purity. 11) As a result, fundamentalists are likely to be more strongly critical of, among many other things, Mormonism, Catholicism, Adventism and anything that smacks of modernism. 12) Although evangelicals are divided on issues such as women’s ordination, fundamentalists would be likelier to attribute such trends to the work of Satan than evangelicals might. 11) While some fundamentalists take a strong hands-off approach to civil matters, others would back a theocratic approach to government. 12) In terms of the original post, fundamentalists are likelier to take a strident “anti-Mormon” approach than evangelicals are.

    I suspect that many of the people you waving placards or garments outside General Conference would be fundamentalists rather than evangelicals.

    One of the interesting things about Mormonism is that it has some characteristics of fundamentalism, some characteristics of evangelicalism, some characteristics of Catholicism and some characteristics of liberal/mainline Protestantism. We are indeed an interesting bunch.

  49. Awesome point, Kullervo. So whenever I get into a religious discussion I can just ask to see the other guy’s playlist so I’ll know where he’s coming from.

    Jack, RE: your last comment:

    That’s what I was trying to say here.

    It’s not so much that I require that ev’s acknowledge that I’m saved, it’s that they acknowledge that it’s possible, and that for whatever reason I have chosen to remain Mormon. I am willing to discuss reasons I should or shouldn’t leave Mormonism if I truly have been born again. But they also must realize that I believe God can call people to be Mormon and others evangelical and He’ll sort out the details later, whether in this life or the next.

    I suppose I’d also be willing to have a discussion about whether I’ve truly been born again, but it’s so subjective that I don’t see how it would be productive.

  50. I think Jack is playing both sides of the coin in describing what she thinks a true disciple of Christ would do if they found themselves in the LDS church. She expects them to leave or fight for change. But Mormonism does not allow a space for those who think and teach that Joseph Smith or Thomas Monson are false prophets. So it’s an invitation out of Mormonism as well. As Jack envisions this hypothetical, they wouldn’t stay in the church very long. There’s no place in Mormonism to kick against the pricks.

    Katie, There are maybe 12-15 people (tops) that I think God would call to remain in the LDS church if they became a true disciple of Jesus. #1 on that list is Thomas Monson and the rest of the list is filled out by the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. No one else has the authority to actually make the changes necessary to bring Mormonism into orthodoxy. If a person truly wants to be discipled, they aren’t going to be stretched and grown into the right kind of disciple while actively staying in Mormonism. They won’t be surrounded by other believers who can encourage and support them. While Mormon, they will be taught to be Mormon.

    Brian, I think a good dividing line is the Nicene Creed. I’m comfortable with anyone who chooses a church that can claim the teachings of that creed (whether they reject creeds or not). I certainly would have disagreements with them but I recognize what’s foundational and what is a question not fully answered in the Bible.

    I have disagreements with both Jack and Todd’s denominations. But I recognize the wiggle room left in the Bible over issues we disagree over. The disagreements I have with Mormonism don’t come from the Bible, they come from other Mormon scriptures and then are read back into the Bible. From a plain reading of the Bible you wouldn’t get a progression of gods or anything like the Snow couplet.

  51. I acknowledge that some in Mormonism may be saved, but they aren’t disciples. They’re just saved. A true disciple can’t follow a false prophet (likewise a true disciple can’t reject true prophets).

  52. PC – well said.

    Todd – I am still thinking about your comment about worldliness. In your opinion, is my approach worldly, and how would you counsel me to alter my approach? Remember that I specifically stated that any emphasis on DONG must be within the context of Christ’s GRACE. (Where’s GERMIT these days, anyway?)

    What if I DO need to be saved from a path of homesexuality, pornography, and/or alcoholism? Does this change how I should approach salvation? I would need to be redeemed from those vices as well as the “different hellish worldliness” you describe.

  53. BrianJ ~ She specifically brings up one issue that is insignificant to her: allegiance to LDS leaders as prophets.

    I don’t know if it’s correct to say that this issue isn’t “significant” to me; it is. So are all of the divisions between evangelicals that I just listed, and I guess that if we’re scaling importance of differences, I would rank continued allegiance to LDS prophets as a more serious error.

    What I question is whether or not these issues are salvific. What I think is unsupportable from the Bible is the notion that the issues I listed are not salvific, but the errors of Mormons are. I think the exact same logic (and often the same biblical passages) that are used to condemn Mormons for their errors can be used to condemn evangelicals for the disagreements I listed. In fact, the more hyperactive, fundamentalist members of these camps do just that. I can show you some great articles by Calvinists arguing that Arminians believe in a different gospel and a different Jesus and we ought to be careful because even Satan can masquerade as an angel of light, but they’re here to speak the truth in love. Sound familiar?

    Kullervo ~ Please don’t forget the Christian punk and ska. You’ll break my heart.

    Tim ~ Have you read the story of my evangelical Mormon professor?

  54. And Tim we could easily say that a true disciple can’t belong to a false religion.

    But we don’t say that because we believe that God can have reasons for people, even true disciples, to be members of other churches. Again, He will work out the details whether in this life of the next. What is most important is that they are true disciples.

  55. Moreover, Tim, why should I believe that YOUR version of discipleship is the true one? And not Jack’s?

  56. This distinction between discipleship and salvation is really a new idea to me, and I haven’t given it much thought. I’ve always been more concerned with the allegation that Mormons aren’t saved; most people who say “Mormons aren’t disciples of Christ!” would mean just that.

    I’ll have to think about it.

  57. Tim, thanks for your response about the Nicene Creed—should I assume you accept churches on both sides of the Filoque? While obviously I disagree with the particulars of the Nicene Creed, I can still appreciate that as a reasonable, consistent approach.

    btw, any chances of you answering the question I asked on the other thread? I’m finding it relevant to this discussion now as well….

  58. Brian, I am pushed for time so my future interaction is limited today and for a spell. But let me say this: first I like to start with theology proper with fellow Christians all over the spectrum. Are we seeing together on the triune nature of God and attributes? Of course this brings into the discussion bibliology. On this, how much do my Catholic and Orthodox friends agree with me on this – theology proper and bibliology? So then we go into soteriology. This then becomes the heart issue.

    If you scan all the authors of the series, The Fundamentals, though there is a wide range of denominations, they stand as a united front on the Bible’s trustworthiness, God, and His gospel. Half of the things that Eric mentions are off the map of what concerns me most.

    ——-

    If I was within the Mormon church, I would want to go straight to the top Authorities on these very heart issues.

    Though I am not within the Church, these Authorities rule the religious thinking and religious culture of where I live. So this is maybe perhaps where I as a radical rebel should start and spend more time. 🙂

  59. Jack: “I don’t know if it’s correct to say that this issue isn’t “significant” to me…. What I question is whether or not these issues are salvific.”

    I didn’t mean to say otherwise. I was just making the dichotomy: “significant enough” and “not significant enough.” If you said a difference was “not salvific” then I placed it in the “not significant enough” category; i.e., I was using the terms “not salvific” and “not significant enough” synonymously.

  60. Tim: also, do you draw the circle just at the Nicene Creed, or do you further restrict based on subsequent ecumenical councils? Why or why not?

  61. Jack, for far too long (and really just in the last century) Evangelicals have been concerned with “being saved”. This sells the Gospel short and puts the emphasis on salvation rather than discipleship. Salvation is an important step to discipleship but it is not the end game. We’re called to be disciples rather than saved.

    If you haven’t read it yet, I HIGHLY recommend that you read “The Divine Conspiracy” Stop all your blogging until you’ve read it.

    Brian, I think the Nicene Creed is enough. It was developed because every heretic could agree to the Apostle’s Creed and it further clarified some important issues.

  62. How on earth can anyone accept the Nicene creed who claims to be Sola Scriptura?
    How on earth can anyone say, “All’s you need is da Bible,” and in the same breath say, “You also need to believe this outcome of a non-authoritative council”
    Why does that council have any canonical authority?
    Why don’t you admit it has canonical authority if you’re using it to judge orthodoxy?
    Why did the council suddenly become non-authoritative when going to other creeds?

    So many questions, so few answers.

  63. Tim, Todd, and other pushers of any Catholic creed.

    I’ve started a discussion using Gerald McDermott’s contributions to claiming Christ.

    He, as an Evangelical, says, “Of course Evangelicals use more than creedsl.” But at least he admits that. What I have a problem parsing, is when I hear Evangelicals say “I only use the bible” and then condemn Mormons for not believing the creeds.

    His writing, at least, should be worth reading here.

    http://psychochemiker.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/sola-scriptura/

  64. I use the creed as a tool. If it didn’t exist, I would use the same concepts expressed in it as a measuring device. It’s a concise way of stating the core doctrines taught in the Bible, nothing more.

    “Sola Scriptura” doesn’t mean the only thing I ever pick up or teach from is the Bible. It means it’s the only thing with scriptural authority.

  65. psychochemiker: I also see no inconsistency in Tim’s use of the creed and his position of sola scriptura. He even stated very clearly that a church could reject the creed per se and still be Christian so long as they accept the doctrines found in the creed. The creeds are, for most people, just a shorthand.

    Tim: I’ll drop the question for now, but some day I would like to know why you think only the first council is “mandatory.” Also, maybe you could do a post on this discipleship/saved distinction?

  66. Ok Tim,
    But how can you use a test for Biblical orthodoxy that isn’t found explicitly within the text itself?

    I’m more than OK with you all interpreting the biblical verses to mean what the Nicean creed teaches. I’m OK with you using it as a tool to express your interpretation of the biblical verses.

    What I’m not OK with, is anyone stating that one must understand the Bible (and the nature of God) as the creed explicitly states it.

    Most scholars today recognize that the creed was not what the authors meant when they wrote their portions of the Bible. Paul certainly wasn’t Nicean. Scholars still talk about forgiving Paul for not understanding the nicean understanding of God. So why can’t we get the pastors to understand that Nicea is only 1 possible way of interpreting the biblical data? If they would recognize that there are other ways, and that the Bible doesn’t authoritatively expound Nicean dogma, then we could have good conversations.

  67. Tim

    for far too long (and really just in the last century) Evangelicals have been concerned with “being saved”. This sells the Gospel short and puts the emphasis on salvation rather than discipleship. Salvation is an important step to discipleship but it is not the end game. We’re called to be disciples rather than saved.

    It’s refreshing to hear you say this. Many Mormons are puzzled or even upset that their Christian friends are so fixated on “being saved” (and trying to ‘save” us), when the Savior Himself spent very little time on the topic. The gospels are much more about discipleship.

    I’m glad we can agree on the importance of discipleship, even if we differ in our definitions of what it means to be a true disciple.

  68. psychochemiker: “What I’m not OK with, is anyone stating that one must understand the Bible (and the nature of God) as the creed explicitly states it.”

    I just see Tim saying that the correct understanding of the Bible is as stated by the Creed. What’s wrong with that?

  69. BrianJ,

    You want to know what is “”significant enough” to warrant your total disapproval of Mormonism”? I would start with the rejection of the Trinity, the institution of a priesthood (I would include allegiance to LDS leaders as prophets in the category of priesthood) and temple worship, belief in a great apostasy after the deaths of the apostles and the denial of the ecumenical creeds as abominations.

  70. Brian, I think Tim’s statement to you should be your answer.

    “The nicean creed is the dividing line”
    “Any church that claims the teachings of that creed is acceptable to Christianity”

    Then add to that Tim’s explanation of why:

    “It was developed because every heretic could agree to the Apostle’s Creed and it further clarified some important issues.”

    That is: It doesn’t matter that the Bible left enough wiggle room to set the doctrine correctly, we must now rely on this post Biblical creed, because, not only was the Bible not good enough, the Apostles creed wasn’t good enough either.

    Quite frankly,
    You can’t claim biblical completeness and ineranncy at the same time you use a post-biblical creed to canonize how the Biblical data MUST fit together.

    The moment one must subscribe to a post biblical creed in order to be defined as “christian” is the moment Christian loses all historical meaning. It no longer means, one who has faith in Christ, but one who is in line with a creed that didn’t exist until 400 years after Christ.

  71. gundek: Thanks. Is it all of those together, or would any one of them alone be egregious enough? I assume the later.

    And can you clarify “denial of the ecumenical creeds as abominations”? I assume that you’re okay with churches that reject the Creeds as creeds but still accept the doctrines taught therein.

    And one more: without getting too specific, what aspect of temple worship do you find so problematic? The idea of a separate place for worship, the teachings that go on inside, and/or the belief that the covenants made are essential?

  72. psychochemiker: I think you’re misreading Tim’s argument. In your own words (i.e., without quoting Tim), can you just answer this question:

    What is wrong with saying that “Document X lays out the correct understanding of Doctrine Y as found in the Bible”?

  73. psychochemiker

    You asked “How on earth can anyone accept the Nicene creed who claims to be Sola Scriptura?” And a very good question it is, especialy when you see how distorted and misrepresented this historic doctrine has become. What some evangelicals posit is not Sola Scriptura but an aberration of “solo” scriptura. The Protestant and Lutheran Reformers never denied the the ecumincal Creeds but they affirmed that all authority has to be tested against the Bible by the Church.

    Under the historic form of sola scriptura the Church continues to have authority “guided by the Scripture” and not “apostolic traditions”, unwritten and outside of the canon, and the magisterium (the Roman Churches claim to be able to dictate doctrine and teaching). The creeds and confessions have authority but could be changed if they were proven not to be Biblical (opposed to Rome that holds conciliar decisions to be dogma and binding). Scripture is interpreted “in and by the Church” not by each individual. If someone disagrees with a creed or confession they are to bring it to the councils of the Church for examination by the Church. Finally historically sola scriptura professes that the Bible is the sole source canonical binding revelation on the Church.

  74. BrianJ,

    I’ll try to answer your questions in order…

    Any one of these doctrines would fall outside the Church.

    By “denial of the ecumenical creeds as abominations” I am referring specifically to Joseph Smiths first vision as laid out in JS-H 1:19. I am more concerned with the beliefs and teaching of the doctrine outlined in the creeds than in a form of subscription. Although I do beleive it is important for ordained pastors, elders, and deacons to subscribe to the confessions of their denomination as a protection for laity.

    I beleive that the only forms of worship ordained for the Church in the New Testament are the reading of Scripture, preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments, singing of psalms and songs, and prayer. The institution of temple worship requirements would be an act that binds the conscience contrary to the authority of the Church.

  75. What is wrong with saying that “Document X lays out the correct understanding of Doctrine Y as found in the Bible”?

    Brian,
    My problem is that Document X is really one possible way of parsing Doctrine Y as found in the Bible. I have no problem if they think it is the correct way of analyzing the statements found in the Bible, but it is not the only “Biblical” way of reading Doctrine Y. If they think they are right, fine. But unless the Bible says X, we should only say the Bible teaches Y, as the Bible clearly doesn’t teach X (or better yet, the bible doesn’t clearly teach X).

    If the Biblical authors didn’t care enough to write Y as clearly as the authors of X did 400 years later, why should anyone claim that it is a Christian necessity. That’s a definition of Christianity that excludes everyone before X was written.

  76. psycho,

    You’re holding me to an view of the Nicene Creed I’m not promoting. I merely used it as a short hand (lazy) way to answer Brian’s question. I could have restated every teaching stated in the Creed but that would have taken awhile. So I pointed to something that has already done the work for me in a more careful way than I could have accomplished.

    I believe that the Nicene Creed clarifies the teachings of the Bible that there isn’t wiggle room on. Nobody has to pledge allegiance to it. Nobody has to sign it. Nobody has to die in protection of it. It is a good way to find which churches and schools are promoting the essential, orthodox teachings of Christianity.

    Whether the Nicene Creed exist or not, these are the teachings which clarifies to me which Christians I am in communion with.

  77. gundek: thanks again.

    psychochemiker: I’m becoming more convinced that you disagree with Tim just because you disagree with the Nicene Creed and not because you disagree with his use of it. The Nicene Creed, to Tim, is just a list. That’s all. In Tim’s view, every Christian from the very beginning has always believed in the things that were listed in the Creeds and would have even if the Creeds had never been written. It’s like the Articles of Faith are to us: a list. Now, if you find a Mormon who says he rejects the AoF, aren’t you going to be a bit suspicious of his Mormoness?

    “My problem is that Document X is really one possible way of parsing Doctrine Y as found in the Bible.” True. Some may interpret the Bible to say that Jesus was an ordinary prophet, or merely a gifted teacher, or an alien spider from Neptune, or whatever—but I’d say they were wrong. It’s still okay to say that others are wrong, isn’t it?

    “I have no problem if they think it is the correct way of analyzing the statements found in the Bible, but it is not the only “Biblical” way of reading Doctrine Y.” You’ve stripped “Biblical” of its meaning here. Nobody uses “Biblical” to mean “something that could somehow be construed from the Bible.” The purpose of the word is to connote accurate understanding, not any number of remotely possible readings.

    “If the Biblical authors didn’t care enough to write Y as clearly as the authors of X did 400 years later, why should anyone claim that it is a Christian necessity.” Because they think Paul thought he was being clear 2000 years ago and didn’t realize that people years later wouldn’t appreciate the context of his words and therefore would disagree on their meaning. We even see Paul clarifying things in subsequent letters, so this act of clarifying meaning is…well, biblical.

  78. Brian and Tim
    I’ve written about Nicea elsewhere, and there I show I only disagree with 10% of the total text.

    Tim, I understand that you may want an easy way of determining like minded. I, however, am opposed to the assumptions that go into it. Let me respond more to Brian, and then I’ll come back to you, Tim.

    It’s like the Articles of Faith are to us: a list. Now, if you find a Mormon who says he rejects the AoF, aren’t you going to be a bit suspicious of his Mormoness?

    Not quite, Brian. The Articles of Faith have been canonized. Therefore, in the LDS faith, they actually HAVE normative value, while the Nicean creed shouldn’t. So someone who doesn’t adhere to a canonized portion of the LDS scripture (like the articles of faith) has much more of a reason to have their ‘orthodoxy’ questioned than someone who doesn’t hold to the Nicean creed.

    Some may interpret the Bible to say that Jesus was an ordinary prophet, or merely a gifted teacher, or an alien spider from Neptune, or whatever—but I’d say they were wrong. It’s still okay to say that others are wrong, isn’t it?

    There’s no way to extract spider from Neptune from the Bible for Jesus. And I think you make orthodox doctrine look absurd if you compare it directly to such silliness.

    You’ve stripped “Biblical” of its meaning here. Nobody uses “Biblical” to mean “something that could somehow be construed from the Bible.” The purpose of the word is to connote accurate understanding, not any number of remotely possible readings.

    The problem I have with that, Brian, is that by Evangelical theology, there is NO mortal person who can say the “accurate understanding of any biblical test.” Pastors, scholars, individuals, all have varying interpretations, and none of them are authorized to say, “By God’s authority, this verse means this, this is the Biblical meaning.” Yet they do, and they contradict each other, and make no sense collectively. In reality, the only thing anyone has, the pastor, the scholar, the individual, is an opinion. And as I shouldn’t have to teach my fellow Christians…democracy doesn’t define truth, popularity doesn’t define what’s right. Some here may be willing to bow to the conscience of the the majority of Nicea, but I know that that’s not how truth is defined. I think, Brian, you’re conflating the term “biblical” with traditional. That’s a bad assumption. Just because many people have believed the traditional beliefs doesn’t mean they are right, nor biblical.

    The “Biblical” belief, is that DIRECTLY found in the Bible. Thus, believing Jesus is “The way, the truth, and the Life” is biblical, whereas, saying “Jesus is the same ontological being as the Father” is not biblical. And yet, this is what congruence to the Nicean creed entails. Thus, when Tim considers whether someone is orthodox by judging if they believe the trinity, they aren’t judging by biblicity, but rather, by the post-biblical tradition that is Nicea.

    Because they think Paul thought he was being clear 2000 years ago and didn’t realize that people years later wouldn’t appreciate the context of his words and therefore would disagree on their meaning.

    That may be, but what gives the men who lived 400 years after Paul the authority to authoritatively declare what Paul meant. I mean, in modern times, we don’t trust a second person declaring what another person meant. In a court of law, you can testify to what another person said. Historians don’t trust students to extricate what their teachers meant. I have no problem if they think Paul’s words were errant and incomplete and needed to be corrected by later theologians. I just find it inconsistent with their view that the bible is inerrant, complete, and doesn’t need to be corrected or enhanced by later theologians.

    We even see Paul clarifying things in subsequent letters, so this act of clarifying meaning is…well, biblical.

    Clarifying is biblical, when it’s done by a prophet or an apostle. By the Evangelical admission, the men at Nicea held no apostolic nor prophetic authority. Are you trying to imply that Evangelicals view Nicea as just as authoritative as Paul. Quite frankly, I’d welcome Paul’s additions. In fact, I’d accept every word that procedes out of the mouth of God through His prophet. But a council void of authority, no thanks.

  79. Pingback: Another method of Evangelicals « Psychochemiker's Blog

  80. Brian, thanks for having my back. If I haven’t already returned the favor in promoting a reasonable understanding of your viewpoint, I will.

    Psycho, I don’t know why I’m bothering but. . . .

    I will be the first to admit that the word “Trinity” can be found no where in the Bible. The term is extra-biblical. It’s a way of synthesizing ALL that we see in the Bible about the nature of God. If you want to say all there is to say about that issue in a reduced structure you have to start creating theological definitions that cannot be found in one verse of the Bible. There are many many other examples like this. Mormons do it just as much as Evangelicals. It doesn’t mean those definitions are not Biblical. (for example, give me a comprehensive definition of sin based on one verse)

    There are two approaches to the Bible. 1) You can have your mind made up about an issue and then go to the Bible looking for support to your viewpoint. The Bible can support just about anything with this method including alien Jesus from Neptune. 2) You look at what the Bible has to say first and then you decide what to feel about an issue. This is what Evangelicals mean when we say something is “Biblical”. It doesn’t mean that we’re quoting a Bible verse.

  81. Tim,
    I appreciate you bothering to write. 🙂

    It’s a way of synthesizing ALL that we see in the Bible about the nature of God.

    And I’m OK with that. I just hope you’re not dogmatic with your personal synthesis of the data.

    Isn’t James 4:17 a fairly good definition of sin?

  82. psychochemiker: So are you saying Tim was being dogmatic or not? Is that what this is all about? Because if it is then…well, it’s worth pointing out that you seem pretty dogmatic in your opposition to Tim’s use of the Nicene Creed.

    “I, however, am opposed to the assumptions that go into it.”

    What assumptions?

    “‘It’s like the Articles of Faith…’ Not quite, Brian.”

    That’s the difference between “like” and “exactly like.” Or should I have used percentages? “It shares 68% identity with the AoF….” Or perhaps more precision: “It’s like the AoF in 1842-1880, before they were canonized.” Or whatever. Either way, it can be said that the AoF is a list of beliefs extracted from scripture and that the Nicene Creed is a list of beliefs extracted from scripture.

    “And I think you make orthodox doctrine look absurd if you compare it directly to such silliness.”

    Well, to be fair I was trying to make your arguments look silly, not orthodox doctrine.

    “The problem I have with that, Brian, is that by Evangelical theology, there is NO mortal person who can say the “accurate understanding of any biblical test.””

    So you’re mad at Tim because, when answering my question about his beliefs (i.e., “opinions”), he said that from his standpoint (i.e., “opinion”) a person would have to accept the doctrines found in the NC?

    “…but I know that that’s not how truth is defined.”

    Is that a fact, or just your opinion? ‘Cause I wouldn’t want anyone on this blog to start laying out their personal opinions as though they were facts.

    “I think, Brian, you’re conflating the term “biblical” with traditional.”

    Nope.

    “The “Biblical” belief, is that DIRECTLY found in the Bible. Thus, believing Jesus is “The way, the truth, and the Life” is biblical,”

    But even that requires interpretation or it’s utterly meaningless! Using your definition, the only thing that can be considered “biblical” is a direct quote of the Bible—nothing more. (And in that case, I’m appalled that you would stray so far from the text as to use English words since that language is certainly not biblical.) Seriously, in that sense “biblical” is meaningless, but no one but you uses it that way.

    “…what gives the men who lived 400 years after Paul the authority to authoritatively declare what Paul meant.”

    Where did Tim do this?

    “I just find it inconsistent with their view that the bible is inerrant, complete, and doesn’t need to be corrected or enhanced by later theologians.”

    Well good, then you agree with Tim and approve of his use of the Creed and all this argument was you attacking Tim for something someone else may have done.

    “Are you trying to imply that Evangelicals view Nicea as just as authoritative as Paul.”

    No. I was refuting your idea that everything Paul ever wrote was clear enough and later readers should need no assisted explanation or interpretation. To quote:

    If the Biblical authors didn’t care enough to write Y as clearly as the authors of X did 400 years later, why should anyone claim that it is a Christian necessity.

    In fact there are some churches that mandate acceptance of the Creeds, but Tim’s is not one. Let’s quote Tim, with a little emphasis:

    I believe that the Nicene Creed clarifies the teachings of the Bible that there isn’t wiggle room on. Nobody has to pledge allegiance to it.

    “In fact, I’d accept every word that procedes out of the mouth of God through His prophet.”

    Ahh, but would you perfectly understand those words? I sure hope so, because as soon as anyone tried to help you work out the meaning of the prophet’s words you’d jump all over them for lacking authority.

  83. Tim: “Brian, thanks for having my back. If I haven’t already returned the favor in promoting a reasonable understanding of your viewpoint, I will.”

    No prob. And thanks.

  84. Jack,

    I went to the link you posted and 2 of the interviews have been removed…… I would have liked to have read them.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  85. Gloria, I can still mouse over them and read them in the preview pop up, if that helps at all. They were quite interesting.

  86. It looks like Chris pulled the interviews with Greg Johnson and Mike Stahura because Greg complained of inaccuracies in the interview (see the comments). I’m sure Chris meant no harm by it.

    I don’t think the interview with Greg Johnson will be coming back, but it looks like Chris is going to check with Mike Stahura to verify the accuracy of that interview and maybe post an updated version.

    There actually is a way to access the old interview pages though; I don’t know that Chris can fix that, but I don’t want to share how to get to them in public since Chris doesn’t want them to be read and most people are probably ignorant of it. I’ll tell you in private, Chris.

  87. Ah, Jack, you had to go and be all cryptic about it, ruining my geeky fun in telling everyone how they could find the old pages.

    Yes, there is a fairly obvious way to read Chris’s original posts in their entirety. And no, there’s probably nothing anyone can do about it since a 3rd party is now hosting the content, at least temporarily.

  88. Greg is a diplomat who bridges two sides that often don’t particularly care to be bridged. In that endeavor he has to be tremendously careful in the things he says. It’s not a task that lends itself to casual interviews posted on the Internet, especially when the interviewer neglects (as I did) to verify with him that it is acceptable for publication before posting. Greg didn’t even realize the interview was posted, and so was caught off guard by complaints from a number of people who were offended by some comments therein that seemed (IMO unintentionally) to imply they were anti-Mormons.

    If it was a simple matter of inaccuracies in the details of my report, I think that Greg would have been fine with correcting it and reposting it. But some of the content should not have been shared because it referred to confidential meetings, and most of the rest would have required systematic revision that would have eliminated the casual feel that makes interviews so interesting in the first place. It would have had to read like a press release, because that’s really the only format suited to the needs of a diplomatic organization. A press release enables the organization to have rigorous control over its message. An interview does not.

    Which is unfortunate, really, because Greg’s a great guy and a fantastic conversationalist with all kinds of interesting stories to tell.

    Mike Stahura agreed by phone to look over the text of his interview for me and I emailed it to him some time ago, but I’ve not heard back. He may just not have had time to get around to it.

  89. Which is unfortunate, really, because Greg’s a great guy and a fantastic conversationalist with all kinds of interesting stories to tell.

    Yes… did he tell you about the weekend he spent with Harrison Ford?

    It’s too bad that there was a misunderstanding on the interview; I thought it was fascinating. It’s probably at least partially my fault that word got around so quickly for getting your blog all that attention through the T&S sideblog.

    I hope Mike Stahura gets back to you soon.

  90. Pingback: What “Being Biblical” means to Mormons vs Evangelicals « I Love Gellies

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