More Cult Headlines

Chuck Colson focused on Presidential politics and whether or not Christians could vote for a Mormon in a recent episode of Breakpoint

You can read his editorial on the subject at The Christian Post.

A response entitled “Why is Chuck Colson Sweeping Mormonism Under the Rug?” appeared on the National Catholic Register.

And Pastor Mark Driscoll wrote a long blog article on his take “Is Mormonism a Cult?

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97 thoughts on “More Cult Headlines

  1. Mark Driscoll made some of the usual factual errors, some with variations. It is apparent that his ignorance of Mormonism makes his opnion an uniformed one. I am going to post a comment on his blog pointing out to him some of his errors. No doubt I am wasting my time. It never seems to occur to these Protestant minsters that maybe they are not experts on Mormonism and that, before they write lengthy opinion pieces on Mormonism, they might want to get some fact-checking by a Mormon. Is there some requirement that, in order to go to seminary and get licensed as a hireling clergyman, you have to have a head like a rock?

  2. I’ll give Driscoll credit for clearly defining what he means by “cult.” By the definition he uses, of course the LDS church is a cult. Driscoll also makes clear, in a way that Jimmy Akin does not, that when he’s talking about “Christianity” he’s talking about what he considers “orthodox Christianity.”

    But I’ll take the credit away for his explanation of LDS doctrine, which he seriously distorts and seems to base on everything except the LDS canon of scripture.

    The irony of it all is that in some senses of the word Driscoll probably has as much of a cultlike following as Thomas S. Monson does.

  3. I will tell you what worries me about Romney and this election. I am not really worried about the “cult” issue with Romney this time around. Romney must appear likeable to the majority of American voters in order to get elected. I once read an opinion piece that compared Romney to “the boss who fired you.” He really is so put together. He needs to convince voters that he is compassionate, and that he is someone they can relate to. In an odd and sad way, Bill Clinton gained a bit of sympathy with some Americans over the Monica Lewinsky affair because it made him seem more human. I’m not saying that this was a good thing, and it is said that Bill Clinton has/had an amazing ability to relate to individual people to begin with. But this is my worry about Romney: he has got to convince people that he cares, and is someone they can relate to.

  4. Lisa, that’s more or less my objection to Romney as well. It’s not that he’s a Mormon, but that he is a textbook example of a particular, common kind of executive Mormon business douche. I’ve met enough stake presidency second counselors who were exactly like him that I know I don’t want anything to do with the guy, including, but not limited to, as president of my country.

    I’d rather have Rick Perry, and that’s saying something, because I think Rick Perry would be terrible.

  5. In looking at the question, “Is Christianity about being a ‘good Christian’?, the biblical and orthodox answer is a resounding, “No.”

    This perspective, in my estimation, is the #1 problem with modern American Christianity.

  6. but he defines “good Christian” with the common cultural definition. I agree that Christianity isn’t about being “nice and moral”. It’s about being a disciple.

  7. For sure, Tim. And to be fair, he does add this:

    The Christian is not a Christian because he or she is good or even like Christ, but because he or she is in Christ. Out of this comes good works (Ephesians 2:10), but it is not our good works that make us Christian, it is Jesus’ work on the cross (1 John 1:5-7).

    But what he said wasn’t, “Do good works make us a Christian?” — in which case you’d probably get a similar response from both Mormons and traditional Christians. What he asked was, “Is Christianity ABOUT being a good Christian?” And I’d say yes. I mean, it’s sure not about being a bad Christian. 😉

  8. Kullervo, I just had an interesting exchange with my atheist brother-in-law over that point. He asserted that religion is disconnected from culture and that this is one of its biggest liabilities. I replied that religion is culture and shapes it dramatically.

  9. Kullervo, if you think I was separating Christianity from culture, I think you missed my point. I of course don’t think Christianity is distinct from culture. I think the American cultural definition of “good Christian” is distinct from the Biblical definition.

  10. Aside from what Eric, Murdock, and Katie L said, there is something conspicuously missing in Pastor Mark Driscoll’s article. He doesn’t say, “I prayed and fasted and the Lord spoke to me about this or that.” He’s not being led by the Spirit of God—at least not in his judgment of the LDS. Christians are those who are following the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit is Jesus in us. We don’t normally see our Lord Jesus in bodily form as the first 12 apostles did, so we follow him by following his presence in us.

  11. Katie:

    I think your brother-in-law does not know what “culture” means.

    Tim:

    No, sorry I was unclear! I was referring to things Mark Driscoll said.

  12. Question for the evangelical who would pass over a Mormon from consideration based on religion? If being saved by right belief is independent of whether you are a good person with good judgement, why does it even come into play whether the candidate is of a saving faith? History tells us that there are plenty of knuckleheads amongst the orthodox. Is there even evidence of any correlation between good theology and good government?

  13. Cal did you pray and fast before deciding that Mark Driscoll was not being led by the Spirit of God? Or are you just assuming that anyone who disagrees with your viewpoint, by definition, is not being led by the Spirit of God? How is that any different than what Driscoll is doing to the Mormons?

  14. “Cal did you pray and fast before deciding that Mark Driscoll was not being led by the Spirit of God?”

    In effect, yes. About 24 years ago I picked up a book on cults which I had bought while at Oral Roberts University—you know, that university that you falsely claimed teaches philosophy 🙂 —and began reading a chapter on Mormonism.
    My discernment had been strengthened in the years leading up to this moment by my devotion to Bible reading and prayer and sometimes fasting. When I began to read the chapter I was immediately aware that there wasn’t much anointing on it, i.e., I could tell that the words didn’t carry much of the presence of God on them as the words of the Bible do, for example.

    I debated with my inner impression about whether I should read the chapter knowing that the Holy Spirit didn’t care much for it. I remember asking the Lord—or at least throwing the question in the air, “How am I going to know whether the Mormon Church is Christian if I can’t read this?” The thought came, “If you want to know what Mormons believe, ask the Mormons.”

    Looking back at that thought now, I have no doubt that it was the Holy Spirit talking to me. In any case, the thought led to a personal search for firsthand knowledge of Mormonism during which time I gauged what was going on in my heart, that is, the reborn portion of my spirit, the part where the guiding Spirit of God was. . . . It’s a long story. (I eventually did read the chapter in that book on cults, a chapter that grossly misrepresented the LDS. [Even charismatic universities can be wrong.])

    (Don’t be surprised if I don’t respond to your next comment—I’m going to be busy during the next 5 days or more.)

    Have a nice day, Tim.

  15. So in other words, you are just assuming that anyone who disagrees with your viewpoint, by definition, is not being led by the Spirit of God. Like Tim said.

  16. I’m not going to have a lot of positive things to say about 25 year old books written by Evangelicals on the subject of Mormonism either. But I didn’t ask you about Mormonism. I asked you about Mark Driscoll.

    Did you or did you not pray and fast before pronouncing judgment that Mark Driscoll is not led by the Spirit of God? OR are you just assuming that based on the fact that he disagrees with you?

  17. Christians are those who are following the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).

    Weak.. there’s many guys in jail claiming “God made me do it”. You’ll have to do better than that Cal. Sorry.

  18. He says Christians are those who are following the Spirit of God, not those who say they are following the Spirit of God.

    How do you define Christianity, MIchael?

  19. I stand corrected. Then the follow up question is “How does one discern it was the Spirit of God” ?

    After all, if I say the Spirit of God made me do this, but it wasn’t truly the Spirit of God, how do you know ?

    And I’ve given my definition before.. we’re no strangers, although I have been gone for quite a while. I’ll add it as a section to my blog.

  20. My point is, almost any definition of “Christian” runs into the same problem. Do they accept Jesus as their personal savior or do they only say they do? Do they affirm the creeds of traditional Christianity or do they only say they do? Ad nauseum.

    I don’t really care what your definition of Christianity is. It still has the same problem.

    There’s no “follow-up” question because Cal is talking about a definition for Christianity that can ultimately only be judged by God. God knows whether a person is really led by the Holy Spirit or not, no matter what the person says. I can’t know if the person is truly led by the Holy Spirit, but it’s not really my opinion on the question that matters to Cal.

  21. Isn’t there a difference between the definition of “Christianity” and “Christian” ? I can affirm the creeds of Traditional or Orthodox Christianity as a true and accurate definition or summary of Traditional or Orthodox Christianity and not be a Christian And besides if you don’t care, why ask 😉

    And fundamentally, you may remember that I agree that only God knows who’s truly a Christian. Not sure whether my opinion matters either. He just pointed me to his definition here since I asked on the other thread. I just find it a weak definition.

  22. Isn’t there a difference between the definition of “Christianity” and “Christian” ?

    Sure. And Cal is clearly defining the latter. If God only knows who is truly Christian, how is Cal’s definition (which is based on something only God can know) weak?

  23. “The LDS is either Christian or it’s not. My view is that it’s a cultish Christian denomination.

    (Cal in the other thread>

    I asked for his definition of Christian.

    Christians are those who are following the Spirit of God

    So… anyone following the Spirit of God is Christian. So why call the LDScultish Christian if the definition of Christian is anyone following the Spirit of God ?

    If you want to call LDS cultish Christian, it infers you deem it different from Christian. His definition does not help resolve that difference. Hence I called it weak.

  24. You’re conflating Christianity and Christian, which is hilarious because you yourself just drew the distinction.

    Cal may be fumbling his words, but I think what he means when he says “My view is that it’s a cultish Christian denomination,” is that Mormonism is cultish Christianity. Which is a separate, though probably related in Cal’s eyes, issue from whether Mormons themselves are led by the Holy spirit, i.e., Christians.

    Cal does not agree with a creedal/historic definition of Christianity. He seems to be pretty consistently asserting that Christianity is just the aggregation of Christians. And Mormons are Holy-Spirit-led and therefore Christians, and therefore, in addition to any other adjectives you may use to describe it (e.g., “cultish”), Mormonism is “Christianity.”

    I’m not saying Cal’s conclusion is unproblematic (it really provides no way to obectively classify churches or denominations as “Christianity,” and from a descriptive/outside point of view, that’s untenable) or that I agree with his definitions. But his reasoning is not incoherent, given his premises. And it’s not undermined in the least by murderers who say God told them to.

  25. Glad I could amuse you by conflating the two. I should indeed have pointed out at the beginning that I didn’t ask for a definition of Christians but a definition of Christian as an adjective to denomination and more specifically what makes one a cultish denomination.

    That being said, even if you are correct in your inference that Cal “seems to be pretty consistently asserting that Christianity is just the aggregation of Christians.” The definition for Christians remains weak. And I do believe it is undermined by my example.

    Logically one could reason that
    A: If Christians are those people walking with the Spirit of God and
    B: Christianity is the aggregation of those people
    Then
    C: Someone who claims to have murdered by instruction of the Spirit of God is part of Christianity.

    And that for me is weak and problematic. But hey… it doesn’t matter what I think or what you think. Although these discussions always help frame thoughts.

  26. Christianity is the worship of a Peruvian deer tick named Walter who will eat your brain if you do not make him a giant igloo out of frozen mello yello. Furthermore, Walter will sap your body of its vital fluids if you do not practice polygamy during leap years.

    I faster and prayed about this, therefore you can’t deny it.

  27. Logically one could reason that
    A: If Christians are those people walking with the Spirit of God and
    B: Christianity is the aggregation of those people
    Then
    C: Someone who claims to have murdered by instruction of the Spirit of God is part of Christianity.

    That does not follow at all. Your Premise A defines Christians as “those people walking with the spirit of God,” not those people claiming to act on the instructions of the Spirit of God.

    A. All unipeds have one leg, and
    B. John claims to have one leg, and therefore
    C. John is a uniped.

    This does not follow for the same reason as yours does not follow. Claiming to have one leg is not the same thing as in fact having one leg any more than claiming to be instructed by the Holy spirit is in fact the same thing as being instructed the Holy Spirit.

    Cal’s logic is fine; yours is atrocious.

  28. I wouldn’t be that strong to call it atrocious. Back to my original question, and I’ll rephrase it.

    I would like to ask Cal to elaborate on the expression

    My view is that it’s [LDS] a cultish Christian denomination.

    Especially since on his website he mentions that

    These Mormons are not members of an unchristian cult.

    From these two comments I deduce that in his opinion LDS is not a “unchristian cult”, but it is a “cultish christian denomination”. I’d like to get clarity from Cal on that.

    With all respect, no matter how much I debate you Kullervo, it’s not going to get me any closer to getting an answer from Cal on the distinction between the two.

  29. Tim

    I did not pray or fast before writing this comment, but I did do a bit of reading on the Internet.

    By now, most everyone knows that Jeffress said publicly that Catholicism is “satanic” and “derived from a Babylonian mystery cult.” If you have not seen the video, I think that it might still be up on the website of People for the American Way. Now, I know very little about either Protestantism or Catholicism, but my reaction was an unqualified “huh?”

    1. Do you agree with Jeffress about Catholicism? If not, why not? BTW Do you know what Joseph Smith said about branches and trees?

    After reading his nutty blog post about Mormonism, I read some about Mark Driscoll on Seattle area news websites. It seems that Driscoll is quite a character. He blogs that yoga is “demonic” and that: “If you sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.” And lest we think that Driscoll is anything less than mainstream Evangelical in this regard, it turns out that his view of yoga as demonic is shared by one of your great intellectual lights Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. My reaction was an emphatic “what the . . . ?”

    2. Do you agree with that yoga is demonic? If not, why not?

    Driscoll also blogged that, if a wife “let’s herself go”, which I assume means get fat, then it is her own fault if her husband cheats on her. Sheeesh. No comment.

    3. Do you agree with Driscoll on this one? If not, why not?

    I grew up in south Louisiana, and I am middle-aged, so when I think of Evangelical preachers, I think of Jimmy Swaggart. These guys Jeffress and Driscoll sound like more of the same.

    4. Why does Evangelicalism have all these characters like Jeffress, Driscoll and Swaggart?

    5. Evangelicals and Catholics both have seminaries to turn out professional clergymen. Generally speaking, Catholic priests seem to be somewhat intelligent, educated and sane. Why can’t Evangelical seminaries produce similar results?

    6. Do you believe that Halloween is Satan’s high holy day or that reading Harry Potter books will put your kids on the highway to hell? What does your preacher think?

    7. What do you think of the following, just as idea for improvement?

    “He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. . . . But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.” 2 Nephi 26:29, 31.

    Murdock

  30. After listening again to Jeffress’ careful distinction between theological cults and sociological cults — after all, he never meant that Mormons are weird, crazy or evil — I had a thought.

    Would not the first Christians, led by Jesus in person, be a sociological cult?

  31. Let’s stay on point Murdock.

    I actually respect that Jeffress and, essentially, Driscoll make it clear that , accroding to definitions applied to Mormons, Catholicism is outside orthodox Christiany as well. This, of course, is not a distinction usually spoken of by American Protestants, for a number of reasons (ie. they would be laughed at).

  32. Murdock — I don’t think it’s fair to take the worst of what evangelicalism has to offer and suggest that that’s typical. For what it’s worth, most evangelical seminary graduates I’ve met are actually intelligent, reasonable human beings. Yes, at the extremes you’ll find those who think, for example, that Catholicism is satanic, but that hasn’t been typical of the evangelicals I’ve known.

    Murdock said:

    What do you think of the following, just as idea for improvement? “… But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.”

    Are you suggesting it’s wrong to get paid for doing church work? The LDS church has thousands of people that it employs directly or indirectly (such as through church-owned businesses). And we have a paid clergy as well. We’re just not as open about it as most evangelicals are.

    Would not the first Christians, led by Jesus in person, be a sociological cult?

    In some sense, of course, and a theological one as well.

  33. If you are going to be a Protestant you ought to know what you are protesting. There are theological difference between Rome and Protestant denominations. Does this mean people need to identify Rome as satanic? I ask again, “to what end?” How does calling Rome satanic help? Is this a method of evangelism? Why not lay out a clear argument theological for for a protest against Rome. Can’t someone say “we have fundamental theological differences with this group (insert positions you disagree with) that form the basis of our system of doctrine, practice, and understanding of the nature of God.” Or is that to hard?

    I disagree with Chuck Colson’s advice that Exodus 18 speaks to the Christians role in a democracy and I find his definition of Godly as, “men of good moral standing and character” inadequate. This doesn’t mean I feel compelled to call him satanic. It does show that Colson is perfectly happy to use Mormon political power to meat his ends despite excluding them from the Manhattan Declaration. I can make that argument without calling names.

    This isn’t some theological or dogmatic high ground forcing people to call Rome satanic or Mormonism a cult. Defending fundamental doctrinal differences by using this type of language makes your position look extreme and impossible to defend. You can be polite without compromising your beliefs.

  34. There were definitely early Christians who were setting Christianity up to be a theological cult of Judaism. They were known as the Judaizers and the book of Galatians is an attack on their position. When Christians decided that their faith was something altogether different than Judaism it evolved from a theological cult to its own religion.

    Every major religion has its own theological cults. — Sects that deny one of the major tenets of the religion but still claim to be a part of the parent religion.

    As far as Driscoll and Jeffress, I didn’t link to their comments because they necessarily represent my views. I linked to them because they are prominent Evangelicals who represent a large number of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism is quite diverse on a huge number of issues, not limited to misogyny, Halloween, Mormons and Catholicism. There isn’t a single Evangelical who represents Evangelicalism on even these 4 issues much less the great many things Evangelicals disagree about. Thomas Monson doesn’t even represent the diversity of opinion on those topics in Mormonism, so it would be difficult to hold any Evangelical to that standard.

    If you’re just curious what I happen to think.
    1) No. Because he’s wrong
    2) Stretching and breathing, no. Metaphysical yoga, yes.
    3) No. That’s misogynistic.
    4) For the same reason Mormonism has characters like Brigham Young, Bruce McConkie and Boyd Packer. Confident men with strong statements attract attention. Joseph Smith wasn’t really regarded as an intellect by outsiders.
    5) Everyone I personally know who has graduated from Seminary is intelligent and thoughtful.
    6) No. No.
    7) I think it’s great if you can get it to work, I’ve known quite a few amateur pastors. But it has some serious liabilities because of a lack of serious discipline and training it can lead to heresy, spiritual abuse and a mishandling of serious pastoral problems. Paid clergy doesn’t necessarily guarantee these problems won’t occur but it can help because with payment comes an expectation of professionalism. The LDS church agrees that with a certain level of service it becomes impractical not to pay someone full-time for their efforts.

  35. This isn’t some theological or dogmatic high ground forcing people to call Rome satanic or Mormonism a cult. Defending fundamental doctrinal differences by using this type of language makes your position look extreme and impossible to defend. You can be polite without compromising your beliefs.

    LOVE THIS.

  36. Tim, Don’t you think a lot of the hissy fits would go away if Evangelicals qualified their definitions more? How are Protestant claims on the “Christian” label any different from Eric Shuster misleading people with studychristianity.com?

  37. Yes. I can’t think of a better example of demon worship than Hinduism. This is the way Christians have historically viewed the worship of other gods. I believe that you are worshiping and having an experience with something real, but it’s not a god.

    CJ, yes, I think people should qualify their definitions more. But it’s kind of the point to NOT qualify your definition if you’re out to demonize someone with a label.

  38. Yes. I can’t think of a better example of demon worship than Hinduism. This is the way Christians have historically viewed the worship of other gods. I believe that you are worshiping and having an experience with something real, but it’s not a god.

    BS. Why didn’t Paul say anything to that effect on Mars Hill then?

  39. There are theological terms to describe dogmas and practices that are outside of accepted boundaries. Error, heresy, idolatry etc. Are the LDS offered when the Protestant says their doctrine of God is a heresy? No more than i am offended by the Counsel of Trent. At least with Trent everyone must acknowledge that Rome clearly understand the issues they called anathema.

  40. Eric and Tim

    Eric wrote this:

    “Would not the first Christians, led by Jesus in person, be a sociological cult?”
    “In some sense, of course, and a theological one as well.”

    Tim wrote this:

    “There were definitely early Christians who were setting Christianity up to be a theological cult of Judaism. They were known as the Judaizers and the book of Galatians is an attack on their position. When Christians decided that their faith was something altogether different than Judaism it evolved from a theological cult to its own religion.”

    “Every major religion has its own theological cults. — Sects that deny one of the major tenets of the religion but still claim to be a part of the parent religion.”

    Which leads Murdock to ask this:

    Does not this mean that Protestantism is a cult? Catholicism is Christianity and then, with the Reformation, Protestantism claimed to be Christianity. So Protestantism claims to be the same religion, Christianity, but denies at least one major tenet of Catholicism. The tenet of which I am thinking is the Miracle of Transubstantiation, because it is the only doctrinal difference I know of between Protestantism and Catholicism, and I understand that it is important in some way.
    I am not asking about this as a matter of academic interest. There are only two churches and I could care less about the differences among the apostate sects. I just want to know whether it is correct to say that Protestantism is a theological cult, so that we can throw that into the faces of Jeffress and Driscoll and their ilk. Based upon what you two (especially Tim) have written, there seems to be a Protestant cult but, before I start spreading that around the Internet, I wanted to be sure that I am not off base.

    Murdock

  41. Tim wrote:

    “Thomas Monson doesn’t even represent the diversity of opinion on those topics in Mormonism.”

    Murdock asks:

    Really? I was not aware of this. In fact, I was not aware that what President Monson says (as Prophet) is just an expression of opinion. Are you sure that you are not confused and thinking of Catholics and the Pope? Or is there a new doctrine of “Cafeteria Mormonism” that has not yet made it to my Ward?

  42. Transubstantiation, though important to Catholics is not a major tenet of the faith. It’s a minor one. If some Catholic sect started saying that Mary is part of the Godhead, that would be a Catholic cult. If a group just said that Mary wasn’t a Virgin, they would not be a cult.

  43. “Transubstantiation, though important to Catholics is not a major tenet of the faith. It’s a minor one.”

    I always thougt transubstantiation was the miracle of the mass and central to Rome’s sacramental theology.

  44. Murdock, Tim’s not going to give you ammunition, lest you turn the gun on him.

    You are on to something though. Luther and the reformers were absolutely cultists by the definition Driscoll and many others describe. Of course, the tables turned in early America – where you might as well be Jewish or African – than Catholic. Essentially it’s ONLY about power and who gets to set the terms.

  45. Eric wrote:

    “Murdock — I don’t think it’s fair to take the worst of what evangelicalism has to offer and suggest that that’s typical.”

    Tim wrote:

    “As far as Driscoll and Jeffress, I didn’t link to their comments because they necessarily represent my views. I linked to them because they are prominent Evangelicals who represent a large number of Evangelicals.”

    Murdock observes:

    The Dallas Morning News says that Jeffress’ church has 10,000 members.

    Wikipedia says that 7,500 people attend weekly Driscoll’s church in Seattle.

    Murdock asks:

    Eric, in light of Tim’s explanation as to why he linked to Driscoll and Jeffries, their huge congregational followings, their substantial internet presence, and the slew of books they have published and have listed on their websites, how can you argue that Driscoll and Jeffress are not typical of evangelicalism? I was at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC, and I am sure that Jeffress did not get asked to introduce Perry because he is “atypical” of Evangelicalism. Isn’t it apparent that you are at least somewhat incorrect to say that Jeffress and Driscoll are the “worst” of what Evangelicalism has to offer? Don’t the facts show that Jeffress and Driscoll, who both seem to be of modest intelligence, ignorant and nutty, are in fact fairly representative of Evangelicalism? If not, why have they become the public face of Evangelicalism? Might not it be that the actual facts are that intelligent, educated and well-adjusted people are less likely to be attracted to Evangelicalism? Tim, as you wrote that Jeffress and Driscoll are “prominent Evangelicals who represent a large number of Evangelicals”, don’t you think that I am on the right track about this?

  46. Tim wrote:

    “Transubstantiation, though important to Catholics is not a major tenet of the faith. It’s a minor one. If some Catholic sect started saying that Mary is part of the Godhead, that would be a Catholic cult. If a group just said that Mary wasn’t a Virgin, they would not be a cult.”

    Murdock Responds:

    Tim, thank you for responding at all but, as I said, the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism do not matter to me. What I want to know is – using your definition of a cult as a group that rejects a major tenet of a religion, but claims to continue to be a part of that religion – why is not Protestantism a cult? If Protestantism rejected any major tenet of Catholicism, then Protestantism MUST be a cult. If Protestantism does not reject any major tenet of Catholicism, then why did Protestants and Catholics fight the Thirty Years War, which killed on-quarter of the population of Germany?

    Based upon your definition of cult, and the fact of the Reformation, there seem to be only four possibilities:

    1. Protestantism is a cult.

    2. Catholicism is a cult.

    3. Protestantism is not Christianity

    4. Catholicism is not Christianity

    So, Tim, which of the four is it?

    Lastly Tim, with respect to Christian J’s comment: “Murdock, Tim’s not going to give you ammunition, lest you turn the gun on him.” Don’t go chicken on me Tim. I don’t want you to hand me ammo so that I can turn the gun on you. I want you to hand me ammo so I can blow the heads off of Jeffress, Driscoll and the others like them.

  47. Couldn’t it be that they are both Christian and Christian in-fighting led to war?

    Protestants are for SURE a break off sect from Catholicism. But Catholicism wasn’t and isn’t the only from of Christianity. Protestant hold to the fundamentals of Christianity while rejecting the particulars of Catholicism. Protestants would be a cult if we called ourselves “Catholic” but we don’t.

    If you want ammo against Jeffress and Driscoll, I suggest you look to them. They seem to provide enough on their own.

  48. Tim wrote:

    “Joseph Smith wasn’t really regarded as an intellect by outsiders.”

    Murdock responds:

    Tim, whether you are being ironic or not, what you write is, of course, an understatement. Joseph Smith was an agricultural laborer with a bad reputation and virtually no formal education. I don’t know that he was really regarded as an intellect by insiders either. Thus, for example, he could not possibly have written the Book of Mormon. Harold Bloom, in his fascinating book The American Religion, points out that Joseph Smith was “an indifferent writer.” However, Joseph was a Prophet of God, so his intellect is not all that relevant. You follow me?

  49. Tim wrote:

    “Protestants are for SURE a break off sect from Catholicism. But Catholicism wasn’t and isn’t the only from of Christianity. Protestant hold to the fundamentals of Christianity while rejecting the particulars of Catholicism.”

    Murdock responds:

    Now we are getting somewhere. Let’s take this apart and look at the pieces and see their relevancy to the “cult” question.

    1. “But Catholicism wasn’t and isn’t the only from of Christianity.” Aha. There is more than one form of Christianity.

    2. “Protestants are for SURE a break off sect from Catholicism.” OK, not a cult, a sect.

    3. “Protestants hold to the fundamentals of Christianity while rejecting the particulars of Catholicism.” Gotcha. Sounds like the difference between a “cult” and a “denomination/sect” is “fundamentals” versus “particulars” and what we need to do is figure out what are the “fundamentals” versus the “particulars.”

    Here is how I would do it: The fundamentals are things such as faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The particulars are things such as the Trinity, which is not mentioned in the New Testament and was not taught for centuries after the time of Christ, or a closed canon which, ironically enough, is a notion without any genuine support in the Bible itself.

    So why do Protestants and Catholics call each other “denominations” (and you, Tim, are the first non-Mormon I have ever heard refer to Protestantism as a “sect”) but call Mormonism a “cult” or, to put it slightly differently in form without altering the substance, why do Protestants and Catholics classify various differences as “fundamentals” and other differences as “particulars” so as to make Protestantism and Catholicism different “denominations” that differ only on “particulars” but make Mormonism a “cult” which differs on the “fundamentals”? Why? Fear. Have you ever read or even read a review of Terryl L. Givens’ book “The Viper on the Hearth”? You call us a “cult” because you are afraid of us. And you should be afraid of us. What you believe will end. I gather that you are a young man. But, one day you will die. And when you die, one of your Mormon grandchildren will perform a baptism for the dead for you.

  50. Murdock,

    I don’t know why people call Mormons a Cult, I am not going to claim some form of divine revelation on the hearts of others. For some I am sure that it is a hold over from the days prior to some of the more spectacular “destructive cult” incidents and the stigmatization of the word. In this case I think that are using an older definition of “cult” meaning any group claiming to be christian that rejects and teaches against the catholic creeds. In this case I have seen it used a term to dismiss heterodoxy without needing to go into details.

    Some people think that you need to speak frankly and boldly against heterodox beliefs, the more shocking the language used in speaking out the better. They don’t mean to imply that the LDS are Branch Davidians, they just believe that shocking language will create the best emotional response.

    Some people are motivated by fear. A liberal friend of mine from the mainline was over for a beer and he is particularly concerned with the demonstrations of LDS political power in California.

    Then , I think there are just special people in every group that have to take things just a little to far and bring it all on themselves.

  51. Murdock asked me:

    Eric, in light of Tim’s explanation as to why he linked to Driscoll and Jeffries, their huge congregational followings, their substantial internet presence, and the slew of books they have published and have listed on their websites, how can you argue that Driscoll and Jeffress are not typical of evangelicalism?

    I certainly agree that the kind of talk we hear from Driscoll and Jeffress represents a significant number of evangelicals, especially in the more fundamentalist wing of evangelicalism (although Driscoll wouldn’t be considered a fundamentalist). And I suspect that this sort of viewpoint is more common in the South, where evangelicals may be less accommodating to nonevangelicals (just as Utah Mormons may be more insular than their counterparts elsewhere).

    And I certainly acknowledge, that all things being equal, most evangelicals would prefer to vote for “one of their own” if given the opportunity, just as Mitt Romney has received strong support from Mormons (even though most Mormons have no problem voting for an evangelical).

    But I stand by my statement.

    I’ll give you three reasons:

    1) My observations. That may not mean much to you, but I am quite familiar with evangelicalism, having grown up in it and even receiving a degree from an evangelical university. I also am a news junkie who is quite interested in both religious and political issues as well as matters of general culture. Based on that alone, I’m comfortable saying on this issue — whether Christians are in effect flirting with the devil if they vote for a non-Christian who supports and lives strong moral values — that Driscoll and Jeffress are outliers.

    2) The views of evangelical leaders. The group representing mainstream evangelicalism, the National Association of Evangelicals, consistently calls on believers to to become involved in civic life, but has never (as far as I’ve been able to find) called on them to support only Christians running for office. Similarly, Christianity Today, which represents the mainstream of evangelicalism as much as any publication, has consistently carried articles suggesting that while evangelicals may prefer voting for orthodox Christians, they should not exclude others who support Christian values. Also, quite a few evangelical leaders far more prominent than Driscoll or Jeffress have either endorsed Romney or indicated they wouldn’t rule out voting for him.

    3 The reaction to Jeffress’ comments. In the days after Jeffress made his comments, numerous news outlets interviewed local pastors and various evangelical leaders. They were almost unanimous in saying that while they don’t believe Mormonism is a true religion that Jeffress went too far and/or wasn’t helpful to the political dialogue.

  52. Tim said:

    Evangelicalism is quite diverse on a huge number of issues, not limited to misogyny, Halloween, Mormons and Catholicism. There isn’t a single Evangelical who represents Evangelicalism on even these 4 issues much less the great many things Evangelicals disagree about. Thomas Monson doesn’t even represent the diversity of opinion on those topics in Mormonism, so it would be difficult to hold any Evangelical to that standard.

    To which Murdock responded:

    Really? I was not aware of this. In fact, I was not aware that what President Monson says (as Prophet) is just an expression of opinion. Are you sure that you are not confused and thinking of Catholics and the Pope?

    Tim was absolutely correct. There are many, many issues that President Monson has never commented on as prophet, and he doesn’t seem to think that his role as prophet is to settle major issues of disagreement within the Church. If you want to see how much diversity there is in the Church, check out the “I’m a Mormon” campaign sometime.

    Murdock said:

    Don’t the facts show that Jeffress and Driscoll, who both seem to be of modest intelligence, ignorant and nutty, are in fact fairly representative of Evangelicalism? If not, why have they become the public face of Evangelicalism?

    I’m not sure they are the public face of evangelicalism. But I’d point out that politically incorrect viewpoints are more likely to get attention. If Jeffress had simply told the media that he believed Rick Perry to be a better candidate, we wouldn’t be discussing him today.

    Also:

    Might not it be that the actual facts are that intelligent, educated and well-adjusted people are less likely to be attracted to Evangelicalism?

    I’ve been trying hard to come up with a polite answer to the question. I’ve given up.

  53. Tim asked, “Did you or did you not pray and fast before pronouncing judgment that Mark Driscoll is not led by the Spirit of God? OR are you just assuming that based on the fact that he disagrees with you?”

    I can only say Mark Driscoll is not led by the Spirit of God in his judgment of the Mormon Church.

  54. Tim said, “Transubstantiation, though important to Catholics is not a major tenet of the faith. It’s a minor one.”

    To which Gundek said, “I always thought transubstantiation was the miracle of the mass and central to Rome’s sacramental theology.”

    I think Gundek is right.

  55. Murdock,

    Yes it’s particularly important that we come to some sort of conclusion about what the essential doctrines of Christianity really are. You and Emperor Constatine are like minded. Unfortunately for you the issue was decided over 1600 years ago, the vote wasn’t even close and they didn’t invite you.

    The Trinity was by no means introduced at the Council of Nicea. It was well understood and well accepted long before then. It just wasn’t formalized until then and the Biblical canon you use wasn’t formalized much before then either. In both cases Christians were too busy being eaten by lions to really has these things out. It’s always been peculiar to me that Mormons are happy to accept the ancient Near Eastern texts these men landed on but not the basics of the faith they came to consensus on.

    I can understand your suspicion of the Trinity and understand why you don’t think Mormonism should be judged on that doctrine, but Christianity has always been a monotheistic faith. Mormonism can in no way be described as monotheistic. Mormonism on it’s face is a different religion than Christianity because it rejects the very idea that there is only one God.

    I think I made a minor misstatement. Protestantism would be better regarded as a branch rather than a sect. If Mormonism were monotheistic it would probably be classified as a fourth branch of Christianity.

    I don’t call you a theological cult any more. I think you’re apostates. You departed from good doctrine decades ago. If you are dissatisfied with my description I have to ask, why do you call my church apostate? We agree, there is something fundamental separating us.

    You call us a “cult” because you are afraid of us. And you should be afraid of us.

    There is indeed a lot of fear of Mormonism. But for me, the more I study it, the less I fear it. The church’s growth rate is barely above its birth rate. The activity rate is abysmal, the tithing rate is even worse. Quietly church leaders recognize that the disaffection rate might be comparable to the Kirkland Banking crisis. The information age has not been kind to Joseph Smith or his legacy. Those who do remain and deal with the church’s history honestly don’t create a rhetoric that would satisfy an investigator or inspire evangelism, they merely retain the members they currently have. Based on the church’s current theological trajectory, if my grandchildren do become Mormons it’s likely their beliefs won’t be all that different than those of the Nazarene church I grew up in.

  56. Tim said:

    Mormonism can in no way be described as monotheistic.

    Although I would apply the label “monotheistic” to Mormonism, I’m not going to argue the point. The statement is kind of like the flip side of conceding that Mormons are monotheistic but don’t believe in the full divinity of Christ. At essence, the matters of monotheism and divinity relate to definition.

    While I would state that Mormonism is monotheistic, I would also say this: Mormonism is not monotheistic in the same way that traditional Christianity is monotheistic. But neither is traditional Christianity monotheistic in the same way that Judaism and Islam are monotheistic. To get to something approaching that kind of monotheism, you need to look at oneness Pentecostalism or the modalistic sects — and by most measures of traditional Christianity, they’re heretics.

    (In case you can’t tell, I’m agreeing with you that there are fundamental differences between the two belief systems when it comes to the nature of God. I’m just not using your words to say so.)

    Tim also said to Mormons:

    I think you’re apostates.

    Fair enough.

    Tim also said:

    The church’s growth rate is barely above its birth rate. The activity rate is abysmal, the tithing rate is even worse. Quietly church leaders recognize that the disaffection rate might be comparable to the Kirkland Banking crisis.

    That may be an exaggeration, I don’t know. But while I hope I’m wrong, I expect to see the Church seriously struggling in the years ahead. Just as evangelical Christianity is “catching up” with where mainline Christianity was a few years ago in terms of attrition among young adults and struggling for relevance in an increasingly secular world, Mormonism very well could soon catch up with where evangelicalism is today. I find that saddening.

    Finally, Tim said:

    Based on the church’s current theological trajectory, if my grandchildren do become Mormons it’s likely their beliefs won’t be all that different than those of the Nazarene church I grew up in.

    I don’t see any question that our emphasis on the Book of Mormon in the last half-century is causing us to downplay some of the traditional teachings that were never canonized. As to where things will end up by the time you have adult grandchildren, who knows? Without some dramatic revelation that would change things, I could imagine three or four likely scenarios (including the one you predict), none of which I’d particularly welcome.

    Just as intriguing to me is the question, what will U.S. evangelicalism be like in the same time period? If I were to judge by its current trajectory, I see evangelicalism following much the same path that mainline Protestantism has followed. And, seriously, despite my disagreements with evangelicalism, I hope I’m wrong.

  57. Just as intriguing to me is the question, what will U.S. evangelicalism be like in the same time period? If I were to judge by its current trajectory, I see evangelicalism following much the same path that mainline Protestantism has followed.

    I see you agree with the late Internet Monk. Although I’d like to say otherwise, I think the statistics largely back him up.

    I think that Mormonism is marching in lock stop with evangelicals on this one. I think the LDS church is playing the same game with numbers as is the SBC. That is, numbers are propped up to paint a rosier picture than reality otherwise dictates. Within a generation, neither organization will be able to continue to do so as attrition will simply make it obvious that the numbers are facades. The LDS church has already collapsed in Europe. Next on the chopping block will be south of the border as the massive numbers of “members” die and are not replaced by anyone. I think US/Canada will follow at about the same time as the members there die and are increasingly not replace by their children, and certainly not by any converts. The LDS church will remain strong along the I-15 corridor for a while longer.

  58. “Mormonism can in no way be described as monotheistic.”

    I’ll add to Eric. Ask a Muslim or a Jew Tim, if Trinitarianism = Monotheism. It boggles the mind how you’re able to think that you’re closer to them than you are to Mormonism’s Godhead.

  59. Ask a Muslim or a Jew Tim, if Trinitarianism = Monotheism.

    I’m also not claiming to be a Muslim or a Jew. If I were claiming to be a Jew, I’m sure they’d get over it when I carefully titled my church “The Church of God”. That’s the kind of rhetoric that can’t be argued with.

    Mormonism is better described as henotheistic. Christian belief might be closer to the Mormon idea of Godhead, but the Mormon description of what gods are like does not begin or end with its definition of ” the godhead”. The Mormon universe is much bigger than the godhead. Mormons worship one god but by no means believe that there IS only one god.

  60. Good point Tim. Trinitarianism is monotheistic in the same way that cows are reptiles. The make-up and behavior of the animal is irrelevant – as long as I ACCEPT the cow as a reptile (over and over again for hundreds of years).

  61. CJ, If you want to tell me that Mormonism really teaches social-trinitarianism; I’m reluctantly willing to have the discussion.

    But the minute you start talking about multitudes of gods, a heavenly-mother, a god that finds himself in a pre-existing universe, a created being that becomes “God” or a godly priesthood order that God progresses in; the shape of your entire universe is different than Islam, Judaism or Christianity.

    The Christian reptile has three heads and that’s immensely weird to Jews and Muslims. But just because it’s spotted does not make it a cow.

  62. Tim, here is something from yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune:

    I’m no longer Mormon, but I laughed when I read Nicholas Athens’ criticism of David Fisher’s statement that Mormons are “just a different kind of Christian,” for Athens’ argument proved Fisher’s point (“LDS non-Christian,” Forum, Oct. 19).
    Athens argued that Mormonism’s exotic theology makes it not Christian, specifically not “historical, orthodox biblical Christianity” — exactly Fisher’s point: that Mormonism is an attempt to reclaim early Christianity before the compromising councils settled early Christian theological wars with the creeds.
    When one has to put modifiers such as “historical, orthodox” before Christian, that’s a big clue that there are other kinds of Christians (non-historical, non-orthodox).

  63. Tim, I was just having the same thought. We are both Christian. (Elder McConkie “Mormonism is Christianity and Christianity is Mormonism” just turned over in his grave.) Either you apostasized with the creeds, and you are Apostate Christians, or we apostosized by rejecting them, and we are Apostate Christians. In light of the dictionary definition of “apostacy” that you gave in your post about that, the term “heretical” might be better than “apostate”, but James E. Talmadge did not write “The Great Heresy.” The “historical” label is not legitimate either way. If one dates “historical” to about 70 C.E., then Mormons are historical and, if one dates “historical” to 325 C.E., the you are historical. Similarly, the word “orthodox” is useless.It simply means differing from one’s own view or differing to some particular degree from one’s own view. If one wanted a neutral terminology, one might refer to Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians as “creedal Christians” and Mormons as “non-creedal Christians”, but to Evangelicals, who think that they are entitled to define “Christian” other than in terms of whether one is a follower of Jesus Christ, anything other than defamation is lack of faith. The Southern Baptist Convention has every right to define “Southern Baptist”, but Jesus Christ was not a Southern Baptist.

  64. Murdock:
    I really need some help here and am serious.

    Why is this so important to the LDS ?

    A couple of analogies perhaps can explain why I wonder about this.
    1) The definition of an American is accepted by many as being “Those that are citizens of the United States by either birth or naturalization.” Or one would say that if you can’t carry a US passport, you’re not an American. In addition, Merriam – Webster gives three definitions for “American” (Subj. not Adj.): 1) an American Indian of North America or South America, 2) a native or inhabitant of North America or South America and 3) citizen of the United States.
    Based on this, when we use the word an American, we tend to think about definition #3.
    Now take those that live here and have lived here for a while. Let’s say permanent residents (aka green card holders). Purely technically based on the second definition in M-W, they could be called Americans since they are “inhabitants of North America”. However I think we would all agree that if the legal residents here start making a fuss about calling themselves “American” , the citizens would object and say that only they are true Americans. It’s not because you live here that you are an American. Right, wrong or indifferent, it’s what most of us would agree with. The green card holders can jump up and down, they can call themselves Americans, can call themselves “resident” Americans or “green card” Americans or any other adjective of your choice, but it wouldn’t stand a chance. In essence, the majority and vernacular will decided what we accept as definition of a true American

    2) Or take Muslims. They have a notion and interpretation of Christ which is so vastly different from what Christianity believes to be the person of Christ, that they don’t call themselves Christian. They call us heretics, which in your last post you seem to prefer to apostate as well. So why would the LDS members not decide to stick with the monniker “Mormon” ? Nothing wrong with that and it would resolve this dispute rather quickly. “I am a Mormon. Here’s what I believe about Jesus Christ. Those that call themselves Christians are heretics because they have the wrong interpretation of Jesus Christ. Only Mormons have the right interpretation.” Much like the Messianic Jews don’t call themselves Christian, however they do believe that Christ had a salvific work as being the Jewish Messiah.

    Just trying to understand why the LDS Church couldn’t take that approach and why the emphasis on the label “Christian” is so important.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  65. The reason why Mormons want to be referred to as Christians is simply because they believe they are the only true and living church on the earth with which Christ is pleased. They believe they take on the name of “Christian” when they are baptised. Thus the term itself is integral to their belief. Mormons don’t believe that other churches are truly christian, even though there are true believers in Christ amongst the members. “Christian” is what Mormons call themselves pursuant to their religion. Although they believe that other “Christians” are apostate, they rarely (if ever) take the stance that others should not rightfully use that name in public discourse.

    The better question is, why is it so important to Protestants or Catholics to deny Mormons this moniker?

  66. Why do Mormons go out of their way to make sure polygamists aren’t called “Mormons”?

    The power of identity.

  67. The funny thing about polygamy is that this is one case where making a “theological” distinction actually might clarify something. The FLDS are obviously practicing/social polygamists. Since the LDS church still holds D&C 132 to be canonical, LDS might be called “theological” polygamists, i.e. they believe in the theology, but not necessarily the practice.

  68. Right, it’s an argument over who are the “true” Christians by two groups who consider themselves such. However, from a outside, secular perspective I think both the Protestant Cults and Mormon Cults look equally “Christian” by any commonsense definition and it seems a reasonable title for both.

  69. the Fight over titles in a political context has a lot to do with the public prestige or popular opinion of those under the title. What you call yourself is indicative of who you are pandering to.
    Right-Wing reactionaries want to be called “Conservative”
    Left wing “liberals” want to be called “Progressives”
    Republican presidential candidates have to be seen as true “Conservatives”
    LDS want to be the only Mormons so they don’t get lumped in with the “fundamantalists”
    Evangelical probably want to single out wacko fundamentalists as outside their tent.
    etc. etc.

    Every candidate wants to be seen as “Christian” or at least “Judeo-Christian” (even the atheists) so they can get elected.

    Is Mormonism at least properly considered “Judeo-Christian” to Protestants?

  70. Is Mormonism at least properly considered “Judeo-Christian” to Protestants?

    The three most common answers I have seen from Protestants are (not necessarily in order of popularity):

    1) Yes, Mormons are Christians, therefore Judeo-Christian
    2) Maybe. Mormons are the 4th Abrahamic faith after Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I assume most people think it closer to Judaism and Christianity, rather than Islam, thus more Judeo-Christian.
    3) No. Mormons believe in many gods (and don’t even try for monotheism ala the Trinity), therefore they are polytheists and pagan.

  71. Jared C said:

    However, from a outside, secular perspective I think both the Protestant Cults and Mormon Cults look equally “Christian” by any commonsense definition and it seems a reasonable title for both.

    Certainly the main dictionary meaning of “Christian” would include Mormons.

    Since the brouhaha over Romney surfaced, I’ve heard several of my co-workers — none LDS or regularly attending evangelical — say that the claim Mormons are non-Christian makes no sense. (When I told one of my co-workers said that one of the main reasons for the claim has to do with different views of the Trinity, his response was that that seems pedantic. And one of my friends, a practicing Catholic, said: “They even have Jesus Christ in the church’s name.” I laughed and told her that’s something a Mormon would argue.)

    In other words, in most of our society, the statement that the Mormon church isn’t Christian just isn’t going to fly.

    In any case, I’m happy to mostly stay out of the “Are Mormons Christian?” debate. My position is this: Give me your definition, and I’ll give you the answer.

  72. However, from a outside, secular perspective I think both the Protestant Cults and Mormon Cults look equally “Christian” by any commonsense definition and it seems a reasonable title for both.

    Analogy: However, from an outside, non-American perspective, I think both the “citizens” and “residents” look equally “American” by any commonsense definition and it seems a reasonable title for both.

  73. “American” is generally considered to connote U.S. nationality,which has defined rules, even amongst other North and South American nations. If you ask a resident alien of the US if they are American they will likely say “no”. So, the analogy isn’t quite parallel. “Christian” is generally applied by un-interested non-Christians to all Christ-center sects.

    But stepping back it would be hard to argue that a Canadian is not in some very literal sense an “American”. It depends on how you are using the term. I think most Trinitarians use Christian to mean “the followers of the true religion Jesus established”. With that definition debates seems more like a civil war rather than a argument over terminology. It’s probably more similar to Confederates vs. Unionists both considering themselves Americans. Or perhaps pre-civil war blacks considering themselves “American” even though their citizenship was denied. . . . . or even WWII German Jews who considered themselves German even when they were “officially” de-patriated.

    [You see how I equated Trinitarians with Nazis . . . in only three moves! 🙂 ]

  74. Now we’re getting there… that would solve it too 😉

    I think Tim’s hitting on the head in that it’s a matter of identity.

    “Christian” is generally applied by un-interested non-Christians to all Christ-center sects.

    “American” is generally applied by un-interested non-Americans to all America-living weirdos.
    I think the 300 million or so “citizen” Americans would create a storm if 2.5 million or so “residents” would insist on being called “American” even if it were by a bunch of people on the other side of the pond. The numbers somewhat equate to 2 billion members of Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox denominations vs. members of LDS. Doesn’t matter who calls you that way from the outside. As a secularist, you couldn’t care less. But as a member of either party, all of a sudden it becomes a matter of identity. You’re not a jew just because you live in Israel. That would solve a whole of a lot of problems out there too if it were that easy 😉

  75. I am saying the 4 billion outside the fray don’t care or would reasonably consider both “Christian”

    Lots of those in the fray don’t care, mainly because they couldn’t tell the theological difference or why it matters so much.

    Those that really care, well, actually care about how the term Christian is used in public discourse.

    Based on the numbers and political position. . . in some ways a really good parallel would be the same-sex marriage debate.

    Some hetero people don’t care, some seem to really really care and think that same sex marriage degrades the sanctity of “real” marriage, others embrace the fact that others can have a marriage different from theirs. Gays are also divided in their level of care.

  76. Also, the fact that the question “Is Mitt Romney a Christian?” is different than “Are Mormons Christians?” tells something about the nature of the debate.

  77. Here is the complete text of a newspaper article by Daniel Peterson. He is a Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, so I guess Jeffress, Driscoll and the like are sending him to Hell TWICE! If Tim thinks that posting someone else’s article, rather than my own words, is cluttering uo his blog, I apologize but I thought that, but the point of the article so closely parallels Tim’s own recent conversion to the fact that Mormons are “Christians-with-an-adjective” that I thought it was worth it. In Tim’s case the adjective is “apostate.” Dr.Peterson has said elsewhere that he does not mind being called a “heretical Christian”, so he and Tim might be close to soulmates of a sort. Dr.Peterson is too reasonable for my taste but he is more representative of Mormons than am I BTW Now that I have Tim’s arm caught in the mangle, I am going to pull him all the way in. Later though. Article text follows:

    The charge that Latter-day Saints aren’t Christians often rests on fairly obvious fallacies of equivocation.

    Such fallacies occur when an essential term is used twice (or more) in an argument, but in shifting senses.

    One popular illustration of the fallacy was supplied by the late Irving Copi: “Criminal actions are illegal, and all murder trials are criminal actions; thus, all murder trials are illegal.” Obviously, the term “criminal actions” is used with two different meanings, and the argument is bogus.

    My favorite specimen, though, is this one, in which “all the world” is used equivocally:

    I love you.

    Therefore, I am a lover.

    All the world loves a lover.

    You are all the world to me.

    Therefore, you love me.

    How do those claiming that Mormons aren’t Christians often commit a fallacy of equivocation? A common argument runs this way:

    Mormons aren’t Christians. Why? Because Mormons differ dramatically from the Christian mainstream, rejecting major doctrines (for example, the Nicene Trinity) that developed in the centuries after Christ.

    Critics often accuse us of deceptively claiming to be traditional Christians, and puzzled outsiders sometimes ask why we claim to be Christians while rejecting certain doctrines and traditional creeds.

    But we don’t claim to be mainstream Christians, and these objections conflate or confuse “mainstream Christianity” or “traditional Christianity” or “historical Christian orthodoxy” with “Christianity” as a whole. They mistakenly assume that “Christianity” and “mainstream Christianity” are synonyms.

    Obviously, the two are related. But they aren’t the same — just as “box” and “cardboard box” aren’t synonymous. (There are, after all, wooden, glass, metal, stone, plastic, and other kinds of boxes.) A cardboard box is a type of “box,” but a person who doesn’t want a cardboard box isn’t necessarily rejecting boxes altogether. Likewise, a squirrel is a species within the larger class of mammals, and Catholicism and Methodism are species or types of Christianity. There are many types of mammal besides squirrels, many types of Christian beyond Catholics and Methodists.

    After endorsing Rick Perry at the “Values Voter Summit” earlier in October, Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress defended his denunciation of Mormonism with a pretty typical specimen of equivocating language: Mitt Romney, he said, is “not a Christian” because he “doesn’t embrace historical Christianity.”

    His denunciation presumes, falsely, that “Christianity” and “historical Christianity” (the Christianity defined at Nicea and other councils) are synonymous, and that to reject the latter entails rejecting the former, too.

    However, although they overlap, “historical Christianity” and “Christianity” are distinct concepts, just as palms, firs, flowering plums, and apple trees are both similar and different. Palm trees still share “treeness” with apple trees, and, for that matter, with trees generally. They differ merely in secondary traits.

    We Latter-day Saints cheerfully acknowledge — indeed, we proclaim — that our faith isn’t part of the traditional Christian mainstream. After all, if it were mainstream there would have been no need for the Restoration or the mission of Joseph Smith.

    At the same time, we also strongly affirm our Christianity, our faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God and Redeemer who offers humans their only hope of salvation.

    These two positions — our insistence that we’re Christians and our simultaneous denial that we’re members of the Christian mainstream — aren’t mutually contradictory, because they affirm and deny different things.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which some call the Mormon church — declares itself a restoration of New Testament Christianity, distinct from all other types of Christianity but still very strongly asserting the deity and atoning mission of Jesus of Nazareth. While it isn’t a branch of the main trunk of creedal Christendom, its roots — like those of that main trunk — emerge undeniably from the soil of early Christianity.

    Others certainly dispute the Mormon self-understanding, but there can be no dispute that believing Mormons hold it, and that they place all their hope for eternal life in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

    That Mormonism is neither Catholic, Orthodox nor Protestant; that Mormons hold distinctive beliefs; that we don’t share some of the doctrines of other Christians — these are surely matters of secondary importance when discussing whether or not Mormonism is Christian.

    Joseph Smith’s declaration cannot be recalled too frequently in this context: “The fundamental principles of our religion,” he said, “are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

  78. You could also liken the debate to a discussion of whether O’douls is truly “beer” even though it is missing the active ingredient, rather than simply a “non-alcoholic malt-beverage.”

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