It Has Finally Been Resolved — Sort of

“Are Mormons Christian?”

A question that has plagued this inter-faith dialogue for as long as Mormonism has existed.  As Kullervo points out in his most excellent guest post it is difficult to reach agreement on the issue because Mormons and Evangelicals are talking about different things.

Kullervo’s excellent post prompted an equally excellent response from Eric.  Instead of debating this ad naseum and talking past each other, we both should strive to reframe the questions as:

“Does the LDS church teach a saving faith?”

I’m confident that Evangelicals and Mormons will still not agree on the answer, but they will at least be talking about the same thing.  Spread the word and let’s finally get everyone to sling mud and hurl insults at one another on the same page! 😉

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20 thoughts on “It Has Finally Been Resolved — Sort of

  1. Not to be a stick in the mud—especially since I like where Eric was headed with that re-phrase—but isn’t this question just as problematic because it invites differing definitions of “saved/saving”?

  2. I suspect it would probably save a lot of endless arguments and offenses. Not agreeing on the answer doesn’t seem to be a problem in the debate. I suspect most people are fine with the concept of not being considered “saved” by someone of another faith. It has much, much less baggage than arbitrarily being denied one’s Christianity.

  3. I had the same thoughts, Brian. I don’t want to rain on the parade, but I’ve had all sorts of problems discussing things with Latter-day Saints which concerned the word “saved.” A Mormon who can’t divorce herself from the saved=will be resurrected definition would probably have a hard time seeing the significance of the question.

    However, it’s still a better option than the “Are Mormons Christian/Is Mormonism Christian?” trainwreck.

  4. In general, we could all agree to begin our conversations by defining how we use terms, and invite others to do the same.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what the conversation if it’s still being approached with the “I’m the only one using the ‘right’ words the ‘right’ way and God damns everyone else.” Or if people are approaching the conversation with, “I’m going to show these apostate Mormons/Evangelicals where they’re wrong.” It’d be better if these conversations were, “this is my viewpoint and I’m just trying to make myself be understood.”

  5. Hmm…I kind of feel like I was asking something similar to Tim a while ago on the other post when I said,

    “Now perhaps I am assuming more about your own position on this matter than is warranted, but I personally would like to know your significant reasons (or the significant reasons of other conservative Evangelicals who frequent this forum) as for why LDS Christians are not Christians, and for you (or them) to coherently show how, from within your (their) conservative protestant viewpoint, such reasons truly demonstrate that LDS Christians do not have genuine saving Christian faith.

    TYD

  6. Jared, I’m glad you asked because I was going to ask the same thing. What does “saved” mean? How do I know if I’m saved?

  7. As an alternative, look at the clear understanding Evs and LDS can reach in regard to creatio ex nihilo. Because we all understand what the term means, we can have productive discussions about who believes what and what are the implications. It’s a useful tool because the argument doesn’t get bogged down in accusation/defense.

    The key is to find terms that we all agree on. Psychochemiker suggests an alternative which is good in theory—set up definitions at the start of the conversation—but I don’t think it works in practice:

    1) it’s really difficult to create definitions that effectively encompass the topic; e.g., imagine an Evangelical defining “saved”; would she think to distinguish between “saved” and “exalted” for the sake of her Mormon audience?

    2) I find that a lot of people simply ignore the definitions of others. Go to any thread about the Trinity for examples of how difficult it is to get Mormons to discuss “person” from an Ev p.o.v.

    I think Eric’s question could be re-rephrased to use terms that we all understand—though I’m not sure what those terms would be. Also, it would probably require lengthening the question considerably, so it would lose its punchiness (which I actually think is important).

  8. For the purposes of this discussion, wouldn’t the most useful definition of “saved” mean being able to inherit heaven in the next life? For LDS, we’d probably be talking about the CK.

  9. BrianJ.
    One of the reasons I don’t think it is working in practice is because of the manner that people go about their “conversations.” They aren’t conversations where one gets to define themselves best (a la Blomberg/Robinson), but rather where one member of the conversation goes after the other with some sharp pointed weapon (a la Scorpions). While I admit I may just be too naive for internet conversation, I’m suggesting that what we really gotta do, if we want these conversations to be more than mere mental (and persuasive) gymnastics is for all sides to take a serious paradigm shift.

    Imagine a conversation when the Evangelical didn’t feel like he had to “go after Mormonism” and the Mormon who didn’t feel like “she had to defend it”. But rather, each side trying to define themselves the best, and the other side asking true, genuine questions, and being willing to re-consider their own preconceived notions.

  10. I agree with your point, but are you saying that Blomberg/Robinson did not go after each other in How Wide the Divide? I thought Blomberg was often on the attack and Robinson often on the defense (but admittedly I skimmed it).

    fwiw: The very best inter-faith conversations I have ever had were when I was defending the Evangelical viewpoint.

  11. I think if you compare a couple of blogs and recent “conversations” with Blomberg, there’s no comparison. Even McDermott’s accusations come off a lot less offensive than those who say they’re just saving/loving Mormons. There was certainly room for improvement in Blombergs work, but it was ground-breaking. I don’t expect perfection at the first go. Once we get a majority of Evangelicals to Blomberg’s level of fairness, then we’ll work on the second mile.

    What it really comes down to, is we don’t know the other as well as we think. We should be very, very, slow to judgement about that. We should worry about our own community first, and not being misunderstood next, before we go about claiming boundary maintenance on something that doesn’t belong to us.

  12. I also have a question regarding the purpose of the debate/discussion. There are a couple of purposes I can think of;

    1. So evangelicals can understand Mormons better so really see how they believe in Jesus, and thus try to see the Mormon faith in the right perspective vis-a-vis their own faith. Sure EVs think Mormonism is wrong, but I think they mainly fail at consistently and accurately explaining why it is wrong (compared to the vast acceptable deviations in belief among the “saved”)

    2. So Mormons can do the same.

    3. To attempt to convince Mormons their faith is not Biblical

    4. To attempt to convince Evangelicals that the Mormon faith is biblical.

    I see the first two purposes more profitable than the last.

  13. I personally think points 3 and 4 are tactics by those weak in their own faith. They have to ignore the reality of the situation because they’re afraid it will weaken their own position. It is the opposite of having an open mind, it is dogmatism. It is the anti-enlightenment.

  14. psychochemiker: thanks for explaining your point about Blomberg. Makes sense.

    Jared: my own reasons don’t line up up with any that you stated. That said, I don’t begrudge anyone who participates here for any of the reasons you listed; I can see how any one or combination of them could be productive (and honest).

  15. Brian,

    My own reasons for participation are much more base than any I listed, I just do it to pass the time, mainly because I don’t have a playstation.

  16. Jared, I have a playstation, but it’s a PS-2. So. . . .that’s where I’m at.

    I hear the “why would we even have this conversation?” complaint. The thing is, if you’re a Mormon and you meet an Evangelical; it’s more than likely that you’re going to be having the conversation. So at the very least be equipped enough to phrase the conversation in a way that you’re both talking about the same thing.

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