The Caller on The Line Wants to Know if He’s a Christian

In a discussion on the on-going controversy over Richard Mouw’s 2004 apology at the Mormon Tabernacle, a fellow Evangelical asked me to comment on a passage from Richard Mouw’s book “Talking with Mormons”.

“My assistant came into my office to tell me that a caller wanted to talk with me: “He says he’s a Mormon and he wants to ask you a question about his personal faith. Should I tell him you’re too busy?” Then she quickly added: “He seems quite nice, and he says he isn’t calling to argue with you about anything:”

I decided to take the call. The person on the line asked whether he could briefly tell me about his spiritual journey. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear his story, but my assistant was right: he did seem quite nice. He had been raised in a mainline Protestant church, he told me, and during his youth he had never felt challenged to make any serious commitment to Christianity. As a student at a university – one of the most distinguished ones academically – his roommate for all four years was a Mormon. “He was very bright, and very committed to his faith;” the caller reported. “It was the first time I encountered someone who was serious about his religious convictions and who was also interesting to argue with:” In his senior year my caller himself joined the Latter-day Saints. “That was ten years ago;” he said. “Lately, though, I’ve had some questions. I’ve read about your dialogue with some of our LDS scholars, and I’d like you to tell me whether you think I’m a Christian:’ I told him that I’d have to ask him some questions, and I’d need some honest answers from him. He agreed. Here’s the gist of our exchange: “How many gods are there?” I asked. “Well, there is one Godhead, made up of three divine Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:’ he responded. “Will you ever become a god like them?” “Oh no. I hope I’m becoming more Christ-like, but only the three Persons of Godhead are worthy of worship. More like God – yes. To be a god – no way!” “What is the basis for your salvation? Do you earn it by your good works?”

“No, my good works can’t save me. I’m saved by grace, through the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. My good works – those I perform in gratitude to what He has done for me:” I gave him my assessment. “I can’t judge your heart, but I can say something about your answers to my questions. If someone else had called me out of the blue, telling me that he was a Methodist or a Presbyterian, and asked me whether I thought he was a true Christian, and if he had given those same answers that you’ve given, I would say, `Yes, those are good Christian answers: So, I have to say to you that I think you’ve answered some important questions in a very Christian way.” He then pushed me a step further. “Well, I really do believe what I said to you. So – do you think I should leave Mormonism if that is what I believe?” I paused before answering. Then I told him I’d recommend that he stay in the LDS church. “But keep saying those things;’ I urged. `And if the Mormon leaders ever tell you that you can’t give those answers to the basic questions, then I’d recommend that you leave Mormonism'”

(Richard J. Mouw. Talking with the Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals (Kindle Locations 385-404). Kindle Edition)
Setting cynicism and experiences in which I’ve had Mormons tell me the answers they think I want to hear aside I’m willing to take the Mormon in this story for his word.  I believe he was being sincere and that he’d give those same answers to his Bishop and have the courage to express his convictions in a Priesthood meeting or while delivering a talk in Sacrament meeting.  I have to agree with Mouw that any individual who gave me the same answers would more than likely qualify as a “Christian” in my theological orthodoxy rubric.  I’m more than willing to concede that such individuals exist within the LDS church.

It should be noted, with significance, that Dr. Mouw considers these to be correct answers to properly designate a person as a “true Christian.” Responses outside of the scope of these answers would deem the caller to be “not-a-true-Christian” in Dr. Mouw’s understanding.

There is only one more question I wish Dr. Mouw would have asked his caller; “What do you think of Joseph Smith? Was he a true prophet and inspired by God when he claimed to be.”  I don’t know that a “yes” or “no” answer would necessarily change my initial evaluation for baseline orthodoxy, but his answer to this question would be very telling.

I think the most controversial segment of the passage is Dr. Mouw’s response to the question “do you think I should leave Mormonism if that is what I believe?”  I think this is where Dr. Mouw and I may depart.  I’d have several other questions for the caller on this topic such as “Are you thinking of leaving?”, “What motivates you to stay?”, “In your experience do correlated church teachings agree with you?”  While I’m comfortable with the idea that individual Mormons might have orthodox views I do not think the LDS church teaches or conforms to this same orthodoxy.

I think the LDS church would be a difficult place to remain with this set of beliefs.  I could not do it. I would more than likely be called in to the Bishop’s office for proclaiming and defending these notions with tenacity. Additionally, I would expect such a believer to be able to identify and reject false prophets. I do not believe a true Christian can follow a false prophet in the long term. I can’t imagine a man identifying Joseph Smith as a false prophet to be warmly embraced or comfortably situated in the LDS church.

There might be personal situations in which such a man may need to maintain some affiliation with the LDS church for some time (Attending on occasion without identifying as a Mormon is a reasonable compromise in my mind). I have sympathy for people in those situations and do not envy their need to make those decisions.  But I would most definitely encourage such people to seek spiritual encouragement outside of the LDS church.  I think that the pursuit of Jesus free from the encumbrances  and distractions of a false prophet is ultimately worth any and all personal sacrifice that may need to be made.

The loss of a job, a marriage, friendships, and family relationships all pale in comparison to the fruit of knowing Jesus in spirit and truth.

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124 thoughts on “The Caller on The Line Wants to Know if He’s a Christian

  1. Tim, I think you stumble a bit when you try to add your fourth criteria of rejecting Joseph Smith’s prophetic status.

    How does confidence in Joseph Smith relate to the fundamentals of Christian belief in your mind? I don’t think you really fleshed this out. Richard Mouw was pretty cautious in keeping his requirements to the bare essentials of Christian belief. Why do you feel this additional criteria is so vital?

    The impression I get right now is that your objection is purely aesthetic. You don’t want Joseph Smith included because you had a strong personal reaction to him as “icky.”

    That’s not exactly a strong criteria for ruling people non-Christian Tim. Especially when I just shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t think he’s that ‘icky.'”

  2. I think you underestimate my evaluation of Joseph Smith as being merely “icky”. I think he taught damnable heresies (namely that a man might become a god) and additionally was one of the most spiritually abusive and corrupt religious characters of the 19th Century. I don’t by any means think his excesses got away from him in his personal life. I think he was driven by them and injuriously pulled thousands of people into them in the name of God.

    Look at any New Testament teaching of false prophets; can false prophets be tolerated in an authentic believers life?

  3. No, my good works can’t save me. I’m saved by grace, through the atoning work of Christ on the Cross.

    So the caller in this story is using Protestant language to express Protestant theology and he’s an X-Protestant who had spent a decade in the LDS church. This seems like a “relapse” from an LDS perspective and a “reaffiliation” from a Protestant perspective. A Mormon cannot divide works from grace like that and have a one dimensional view of salvation.

    It really comes down to the usual issues about staying in a church you no longer believe in. This isn’t theological at all.

    ______

    Tim —

    No one who is using this language has not rejected Joseph Smith in part or in full. He would have pressed that button too if Mouw has asked.

  4. Look at any New Testament teaching of false prophets; can false prophets be tolerated in an authentic believers life?

    Why is tolerating a false prophet any different than any other “bad habit” or sin still engaged in by all true believers, including pride, believing in modalism, anger, etc. etc.

    This is especially true when God left the Bible so ambiguous as to allow all kinds of inconsistent theologies and beliefs.

  5. Tim you appear to have hardened in your stances a bit since I was last active on this blog.

    The idea of man becoming god isn’t a “damnable heresy.” It’s in the New Testament. And you know full well it isn’t as cut-and-dried as you are making it out to be.

    And I don’t see that he was all that abusive relatively at all. Certainly not “one of the most abusive and corrupt.” Mere hyperbole.

  6. “The wheat and the weeds grow together.”

    I would have told him that I can’t know if he’s a Christian, or not. But that we give all who profess Christ as Savior, the benefit of the doubt. Including ourselves.

    We Lutherans types default to our Baptisms and the promises that God made to us there. We return to that Baptism, daily. Our assurance come to us totally extra now. From outside of ourselves and anything that we think, do, feel, or say.

  7. The caller said:

    No, my good works can’t save me. I’m saved by grace, through the atoning work of Christ on the Cross.

    To which CD-Host opined:

    A Mormon cannot divide works from grace like that and have a one dimensional view of salvation.

    I wouldn’t call that a “one-dimensional view,” but neither is it contrary to LDS teaching. You might want to check out the BYU devotional I wrote about earlier, in which Brad Wilcox said:

    They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”

    I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully — yes!”

    And

    By complying [with what Jesus has asked of us], we are not paying the demands of justice — not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His.

    That sounds to me an awful lot like what CD-Host said Mormons can’t believe! And here it is being preached at BYU.

    As to the caller’s comment that he’ll never be a god, he’s correct according to LDS teaching if by that he means becoming a supreme being or supplanting our Heavenly Father (which is what the caller was probably assuming Muow meant by the question). But, to be clear, the Church does indeed teach that we will become gods, and I (like Seth R.) fully believe that’s a Biblical teaching.

    Tim said:

    I can’t imagine a man identifying Joseph Smith as a false prophet to be warmly embraced or comfortably situated in the LDS church.

    Of course, you’re correct in saying that. But I’ve openly stated that I believe Joseph Smith was a flawed prophet and not received any blowback as a result. A prophet he was, but infallible he wasn’t.

  8. A liberal Christian on a message board I’ve been debating on (whose opinions I don’t much care for), is fond of calling Paul as “false apostle, misogynistic, hateful, bigoted, psychopath, preaching the false doctrine of sadistic blood sacrifice.”

    Should he consider Evangelicals “non-Christian” for having Paul as the founder of their religion?

  9. I think the LDS church would be a difficult place to remain with this set of beliefs. I could not do it.

    Tim, have you ever heard a Mormon express belief in polytheism? I have never. For me, the LDS insistence on being considered monotheistic is proof enough that the Godhead model really is intended to be viewed as one God in three persons.

    Have you ever heard a Mormon express that the sacrifice of Jesus is inconsequential for the salvation of God’s children? I have never. Sure, the language is not Protestant, but ultimately, Jesus is necessary – any Mormon would admit that.

    Have you ever heard a Mormon express that they will some day become equal to or greater than God. Frankly, I’m saddened and surprised that this assumption is still made by anyone. If you actually talk to LDS people about their view and worship of God, this would never come up.

    If you’re looking for controversial aspects of Mormonism, there are better places to go. In other words, if you talk to Mormons who have left the Church, I don’t think they’ll cite any of these at the top of the list.

  10. Eric —

    3 paragraphs down from the part you quoted

    “Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”

    And that’s what I mean by not holding a one dimensional view of salvation. Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected / immortality. This is just a property of the connection between body and spirit.

    Conditional or individual salvation which is grace plus obedience which is to gain eventual entry into the Celestial Kingdom though usually as a ministering servant. And full salvation which is grace plus obedience plus the restored gospel, the priesthood, and the sealing power, the ministering of angels, the working of miracles, the prevalence of gifts of the spirit; which is exaltation.

    So in sense (1) you are saved by grace, in sense (2) you are saved by faith plus work (like a Catholic) and in sense (3) you are saved by Jesus through his instrument the church (again not too different from the Catholic view). Mormons have 3 senses in which they use the term salvation and Evangelicals have only one.

    The BYU devotional is denying and refuting the Protestant doctrine of salvation.

  11. Tim, have you ever heard a Mormon express belief in polytheism?

    I should have said, mainstream Mormon – since you were addressing participation in the LDS Church – not nec. Mormonism in the broad sense.

  12. CD,

    I am having difficulty understanding the similarity between the Utah LDS and the Roman Catholic views on Salvation. Trent anathematised the position of overcoming original sin without baptism or the remission of sins without the Eucharist.

    The debate between Rome and Geneva was impartation vs imputation and justification being compounded with sanctification vs justification being distinguished from sanctification. Any good Tridentine Roman Catholic would have answered Mouw’s question much the same way his Mormon caller did because it doesn’t address the real disagreement.

    That is the problem with Solas, TULIPS, and fundamentals as a form of theology or as a profession of faith. They rarely address the real distinctions and create a caricature of theology.

  13. CD-Host said

    This seems like a “relapse” from an LDS perspective and a “reaffiliation” from a Protestant perspective.

    I think you’re right. I doubt a “born-in-covenant” Mormon would find the path the speak to Mouw like this.

    Seth said:

    The idea of man becoming god isn’t a “damnable heresy.” It’s in the New Testament. And you know full well it isn’t as cut-and-dried as you are making it out to be.

    Isaiah 44:6 – “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

    Isaiah 44:8 – “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

    Isaiah 43:10 – “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

    Every passage in the New Testament is held in the context of the Old Testament.

  14. Gundek —

    Let me try two answers.

    1) I think there is a continuum on the faith / works issue. What is the basis for your salvation? Do you earn it by your good works?”
    (Oversimplifying a bit) the causal relationship is different in Protestantism and Catholicism. I think we’ve agreed on this previously:

    Catholic position that
    faith + works -> justification.

    Rather than Luther’s:
    faith -> justification + works

    A Catholic cannot agree with sola fide. Faith comes from God but for a Catholic you play an active role in your justification. Which is also the Mormon position when justification is transitioned to exaltation. I think Mormons go a bit further than Catholics, frequently crossing over into Pelagianism.

    2) In particular in terms of the effectuality of the church both Catholics and Mormons believe in a sacramental theology. The way God’s grace is administered is through the sacraments (which Mormons call “ordinances” even though they mean sacraments). When we get to exaltation:

    For Catholics, “For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained.”
    While for Mormons it from the priesthoods, the temple… and other later revelations that one is exalted. Those rites are genuine effectual, baptism has genuine supernatural effect it does more than get someone wet.

    So in short my position is that on the Catholic / Protestant axis they do disagree on 4 of the 5 solas. And it my position that one use Catholic / Protestant disagreements to draw an analogy for the Mormon / Protestant disagreements (though they are often far less subtle).

  15. Eric said:

    As to the caller’s comment that he’ll never be a god, he’s correct according to LDS teaching if by that he means becoming a supreme being or supplanting our Heavenly Father (which is what the caller was probably assuming Muow meant by the question). But, to be clear, the Church does indeed teach that we will become gods, and I (like Seth R.) fully believe that’s a Biblical teaching.

    The standard “we’ll never be equal to Heavenly Father” response doesn’t by any means assuage orthodox concerns about Joseph Smith’s teachings. Saying you’re a lesser god is still an attack on monotheism. Saying you’re a lesser god is still an expression of polytheism or henotheism. This is the bad fruit of Mormonism, an acceptance of all the secondary forms and ideas of Christianity but a rejection of it’s most fundamental teaching about who God is and man’s relationship to him.

    Of course, you’re correct in saying that. But I’ve openly stated that I believe Joseph Smith was a flawed prophet and not received any blowback as a result. A prophet he was, but infallible he wasn’t.

    Saying he was a flawed prophet is a standard Mormon response that avoids the real issues. Certainly if he lost his temper or was terrible with money he would be a flawed prophet just as Abraham was a flawed prophet for bearing Esau. The question is, when he was speaking as a prophet did he represent God accurately? When he told girls their families would end up in hell if they didn’t marry him, was he a true prophet with flaws or a false prophet misusing his title? Was he righteously taking other men’s wives as his own? Is that really what God wanted? Did he bear God’s name in truth?

    I don’t suspect anyone to have any problem with anyone ever saying that Joseph was flawed. All men were flawed. Of course you’ve never received blowback for saying that. That’s the vague escape hatch for questions on Joseph Smith’s character. Can you tell us; which of his prophecies were fallible and should be rejected? Would you be willing to clearly identify places where Joseph misused his prophetic mantle in a Mormon setting? Do you mean something more by “flawed” than “no man is perfect?”

  16. Jared said

    Why is tolerating a false prophet any different than any other “bad habit” or sin still engaged in by all true believers, including pride, believing in modalism, anger, etc. etc.

    I wouldn’t say it’s any different necessarily. A new believer might be sleeping with her boyfriend, but in time I expect her to understand her folly and repent from it. If she continued to willfully commit that sin, in time I would question the “true” nature of her faith.

    I think the analogy holds with false prophets. I know people who’ve come to faith under name-it-claim-it teachers and with maturity rejected those teachings. I think the same can be expected for false teachers who teach things in clear contradiction to sound teaching.

    There’s this meme here that the Bible is unclear about some of this stuff, but I don’t think that it is. If you remove the additional scriptures and teachings of Joseph Smith, it’s plain to see that the vast majority of the Christian world doesn’t wrestle with the same heresies that Mormons do.

  17. Tim —

    I can’t imagine a man identifying Joseph Smith as a false prophet to be warmly embraced or comfortably situated in the LDS church.

    Thinking about your post a bit more… I know from my experience the LDS church (in so far as they have doctrine) considers belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon a hard requirement for membership. One can have different opinions to some extent but if you firmly deny that there ever were real historical Nephites, Lamanites, Jaredites and Mulekites even if you affirm Joseph Smith’s spiritual prophecies they are unwilling to baptize.

    And that friendly view of Joseph Smith falls short of “false prophet” in the way you mean it.

  18. Christian said:

    Tim, have you ever heard a (mainstream) Mormon express belief in polytheism?

    Yes, I just heard Seth and Eric affirm that men may become gods in these very comments. I assume we count Lorenzo Snow and Joseph Smith as mainstream Mormons as well. I’ve read their words which clearly teach that there is more than one God.

    Mormons won’t typically embrace the term “polytheistic” but they happily exalt every notion associated with it. It’s a rhetorical rejection and nothing more.

    I don’t deny that there are Mormons that, like you, believe there is one God in three persons. But that doesn’t by any means appear to be the clear teaching of the church, it’s leaders or the bulk of its believers.

  19. . If you remove the additional scriptures and teachings of Joseph Smith, it’s plain to see that the vast majority of the Christian world doesn’t wrestle with the same heresies that Mormons do.

    Remember the modern rebirth of Hermetic Christianity has around the year 1000 in European Monasteries. The Christian world does wrestle with these same heresies, cyclically. In particular in America many of the ideas of Joseph Smith that evangelicals consider totally beyond the pale were quite popular in mainstream and slightly offbeat church from the 1820s till WWI. If you read writers from the turn of the last century they consider Spiritualism which during Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s lifetimes was Christian Spiritualism to be a major branch of Christianity (assuming they considered it Christian at all). While Brigham Young was still leading the church the idea, even among mainstream Christians that Cora Scott was the greatest Christian preacher of their time was common, and President Lincoln was participating in Christian Spiritualism.

    Cora Scoot would argue the best source we have about Jesus’ will is not trying to lawyer it out from the New Testament but to rather directly put the question to those righteous already with him in heaven. Today Mormons are roundly criticized for believing their own revelations are worth more than a bucket spit. When Mormonism was forming those ideas were common among American Christians.

    I think its fair to say that the points on which Mormonism diverges from Protestantism aren’t particular popular now. In the 19th century when Magisterial Protestantism collapsed your sect emerged victorious and took its place. But lets not confuse that with it having been the only sect.

  20. The role of personal revelation and dreams is not the same as the idea that men are gods in embryo.

  21. The problem I have CD is that you have convoluted theological claims and oversimplifying each tradition to the point they are no longer recognizable.

    Rome believes that the righteousness of Christ is infused by the sacraments, in particular baptism and the Eucharist. I have not seen anything even closely resembling this in Salt Lakes theology.

    For Rome justification is ontological (an actual change takes place) while for Luther or Calvin justification is forensic (a declaration). In Rome sanctification is included in justification. For Luther or Calvin sanctification is distinct from Justification but certainly part of a believers salvation.

    You point out…

    “For Catholics, “For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained.” While for Mormons it from the priesthoods, the temple… and other later revelations that one is exalted. Those rites are genuine effectual, baptism has genuine supernatural effect it does more than get someone wet.”

    Of Course a protestant would say very similar things in the broad since, outside the catholic church there is no “ordinary possibility of salvation”; there is efficacy in the sacraments, “in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.” Protestants may place more emphasis on the spiritual reality of the sacraments than the LDS but a claim that the waters of baptism are meant to only get you wet is a misrepresentations.

    My point is that the Solas are a polemic against Rome, this is a debate with Rome not Salt Lake. Mouw asked if salvation was based on works or Christ. That isn’t even Sola fide (justification by faith alone). That question and answer rejects the very Protestant belief in works being part of our sanctification.

    Salt Lake may disagree with all 5 of the Solas, but not for the same reason Rome does.

  22. The problem I have CD is that you have convoluted theological claims and oversimplifying each tradition to the point they are no longer recognizable.

    Remember the point here was that the guy on the phone with Muow sounded like a Protestant not a Mormon. That was the context, that Mormons believe X and Protestants believe Y. The secondary context is that the X vs. Y debate is similar to the Y vs. Z debate between Catholics and Mormons. I never claimed that Rome and Mormons are in perfect agreement on these issues.

    Rome believes that the righteousness of Christ is infused by the sacraments, in particular baptism and the Eucharist. I have not seen anything even closely resembling this in Salt Lakes theology.

    I have. I had a long discussion with several Mormons about sacramental theology. And they more or less believe what Catholics believe. Originally (after word substitution) they seemed to be preaching Donatist theology, but when I pushed they pretty much ended up close enough to the Catholic position.

    As for you believing anything remotely like Catholics. Simple question.

    Alvin runs a church. Beth and Carol both attend and in all respects are equal in their faith. Alvin hates Carol. So every time when he’s passing out the Lord’s Supper he does a little sleight of hand and changes the blessed cracker for one that is unblessed. Week after week, year after year. What spiritual effect does this have on Carol as distinguished from Beth?

    I think you and Tim (to pick someone who openly has rejected sacramental theology, in the baptism thread, no halfway position) are both going to say absolutely there is no difference between Carol and Beth. While the Mormon and the Catholic will both indicate that this will cause spiritual damage to Carol. She may be able to overcome that spiritual damage, but the cracker is actually effectual.

    So no I have no problem saying you fundamentally at your core disagree on the most important aspects of sacramental theology; and the Mormons fundamentally agree. You can disagree with me on that. But that is what I’m saying. No I don’t think the water of baptism does anything more for a Protestant than get them wet. Because it is the faith originating from grace not the water nor the rite that has any supernatural impact. It is the faith to obey the command, not the command itself that provides justification. Replace the rite with an entirely different rite and for the Protestant and nothing happens.

    Mouw asked if salvation was based on works or Christ. That isn’t even Sola fide (justification by faith alone). That question and answer rejects the very Protestant belief in works being part of our sanctification.

    That’s a different issue of free grace vs. lordship salvation which are both Protestant. It doesn’t help to conflate PCA theology with all of Protestantism. The caller gave a culturally Protestant answer and not a culturally Mormon answer like “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”. I agree Mormons go further on this spectrum than Catholics, but I do believe it is a spectrum. That being said on this issue I think the modern Catholic church is closer to modern Lutherans and Reformed than Catholics are to Mormons. I’m not sure however that the middle ages Catholic church wasn’t closer to Mormons.

  23. Let me be clear. My point is not that Mormons are further from Rome or closer to Rome than a Protestant.

    First Mouw’s question concerning work/grace was pointless. A Roman Catholic, a Mormon, and a Protestant can all say they are that they are “saved by grace, through the atoning work of Christ on the Cross” and mean three completely different things. Without refinement nobody can know what the person means. Read Trent.

    Second the disagreement a Protestant has with Salt Lake is different than the disagreement with Rome and vise versa. Your analogies break down, not because the difference you point out between Protestants and Rome don’t exist but because they are not the same differences Protestants have with Salt Lake.

    As far as I know Donatism is one of the few areas that all Protestants, Roman Catholics and Mormons all agree. Donatism concerns the efficacy of an ordinance administered by an unrighteous person not the promised effect of a sacrament. I am unaware that the LDS claim that the promised effect of any of their ordinances is the “infused righteousness of Christ.”

    Correct me if I am wrong but Mormons take a memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper (quite Baptist not very Lutheran, Reformed, or Roman Catholic); they see it as a renewal of their baptismal covenants, so I don’t see how your example would apply to them. Ask a Mormon if a priesthood blessing administered with unconsecrated oil would still be effective if both the priesthood holder and the recipient were faithful in all of their covenants. I think they would say that unconsecrated oil would have no effect. I am willing to be corrected.

  24. Yes Tim – and none of us – Joseph Smith included claim we’ll ever get equal status with God, surpass him, or stand equal with him on our own.

    So we are in perfect compliance with the Isaiah passages you quoted.

    Tim, I know you’ve heard this all before. It kind of mildly disturbs me that you are suddenly acting like the arguments don’t exist or never happened.

  25. Tim, this is just a really, really careless sort of argument you’re making here.

    Polytheism is the WORSHIP of multiple divine beings.

    Mormons worship God the Father, and none else.

    End of story, we aren’t polytheists, and I’m just surprised you’re even trying to get away with simplistic distortions like this.

  26. Seth,

    Please do not take this as a trap or a rhetorical device to make jabs agianst you. These are honest questions.

    Is Jesus Equal with God the Father?

    Is the Holy Spirit Equal with the God the Father?

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

  27. Only in a participatory sense Gundeck. They derive power from God the Father.

    Just as Jesus himself alludes to in the four Gospels.

  28. Yes Tim – and none of us – Joseph Smith included claim we’ll ever get equal status with God, surpass him, or stand equal with him on our own.

    This seems like a total non-sequitur concerning the Isaiah passages when the question is asked “how many gods have ever or will ever exist?” It’s like if I asked my daughter if she hit her sister and she said “not with my right hand.”

    I acknowledge that Mormons are henotheistic. Yes you only worship one God. I agree. But you also believe that more than one god exists. Henotheism is a subset of polytheism not monotheism. You worship only one god as some Hindus only worship Brahma.

    According to Isaiah how many gods exist? According to Joseph Smith how many gods exists?

    The passion to hold on to words but redefine them is sometimes baffling. What’s so important about being defined as monotheistic? Joseph Smith taught it to be a false idea. By all means reject it.

    Eric, I’m curious, would you call yourself monotheistic? Would you say Mormonism is monotheistic?

  29. According to Isaiah – he DOESN’T SAY how many gods exist Tim.

    He only says that God the Father has status above them all.

    You’re practicing eisegesis here.

  30. And I don’t see adequate evidence that Joseph “stole” anyone’s wife. Especially since he didn’t seem to equate the temple sealing ceremony with consummated American marriage in the first place.

  31. Gundeck, you pray in the name of Christ to the Father, and the Spirit witnesses the truth of it. Just like the New Testament says.

  32. “before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.”

    {shakes head in disbelief}

  33. Seth,

    Thanks for the straight answer although I think you would understand I believe the NT is pretty clear in the opposite direction.

    I think of the Orthodox Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” Not from the new testament of course but a sign of repentance and supplication uniquely Incorporated in a confession of Faith.

  34. Thank-you, Eric, for eloquently reaffirming that the LDS teaches grace.

    You said, “As to the caller’s comment that he’ll never be a god, he’s correct according to LDS teaching IF by that he means becoming a supreme being or supplanting our Heavenly Father (which is what the caller was probably assuming Muow meant by the question).”

    Tell me if I’m wrong, Tim, but if I remember correctly, you weren’t willing to admit that Mormons who expect to be gods, expect to forever continue under the lordship of the Father & the Son.

    ————-
    I have a question for Eric or Tim or anyone: With the fact in mind that faithful Mormons expect to be under Jesus’ lordship forever, what’s the difference between what evangelicals teach about reigning with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12) in the eternal age and what the LDS teaches about it?
    According to my knowledge, the differences are that the LDS teaches that one has to accept the Mormon version of the gospel, be baptized by Mormon authorities, have hands laid on him or her by Mormon authorities for the Holy Ghost, and marry eternally. Evangelicals such as I, say one doesn’t have to do any of that to reign with Christ.

    The similarities are that both require faith in Jesus, enduring in the faith till the end of one’s life, and learning to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. (I got a lot of my info from “Gospel Principles,” p. 277 and following.)

  35. Tim asked me:

    I’m curious, would you call yourself monotheistic? Would you say Mormonism is monotheistic?

    The short answer is that I’d consider myself (and Mormonism) monotheistic in the same way that St. Paul was monotheistic. I’d also say I have pretty much agreed with Seth’s comments on the question.

    I’ll give you the long answer and answers to other questions when I have time. But it might be a while; I have a busy weekend ahead.

  36. Tim, the only thing I’m shaking my head about is the thought that you haven’t encountered the counterarguments to your use of Isaiah 43:10.

    It’s not a statement of general theology, but rather a declaration of Jehovah’s superiority over the other local gods being worshiped in the area – which verses 11-13 make clear. It’s simply a practical commandment to recognize only Jehovah as Israel’s God. It doesn’t in any way shape or form preclude the existence of other divine beings.

  37. Also, in the Psalms, Yahweh is often called the “god of gods,” a term that presupposes the existence of other Gods. Henotheism was alive and well during much of the Old Testament.

  38. “Henotheism was alive and well during much of the Old Testament.”

    It certainly was. Of course Israel and Judah were both punished severely for it.

  39. I am generally perplexed by the Mormon use of the OT to support the idea of a plurality of gods. If you want to look to the Psalms to support the actual existence of many gods by all means, the Old Testament writers acknowledge Adrammelech, Anammelech, Ashima, Ashtoreth, Baal, Baal-berith, Baal-peor, Baalim, Bel, Chemosh, Dagon, Milcom, Molech, Nebo, Nergal, Nibhaz, Nisroch, Rimmon, Succoth-benoth, Tammuz, Tartak etc. These are the other gods in the context of the OT not a vague concept of other beings like God or in some form of cooperation with God.

  40. It doesn’t matter how many gods you think there are, it only matters that you love the right God (1 Cor. 8:3) and put him first.
    First Corinthians 8:4-13 is the documentation for that. In those verses, Paul speaks to believers who know there is only one God (the Father) and one Lord (Jesus) and tells them to be considerate of brothers who imagine that idols are real. The key word here is “brothers.” Not once, but three times, Paul refers to those who do not know there is only one God, as brothers.

    In case you want to make sure I’m telling the truth, I’ll put the vv. below. God bless. . . .

    1 Corinthians 8:4-13 (NIV1984)

    4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

    7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

    9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

  41. I understand your difficulty Cal, unfortunately in its context Paul is worried about creating a stumbling block for the weak by who have not overcome a belief in multiple Gods, not about the acceptability of the belief in multiple gods. Paul does not commend, approve, or condone the belief in multiple Gods. He writes against it, “there is but one God…” In fact he is so worried about “conscience of the weak” and causing them to fall into idolatry he commands the Corinthian church to refrain from a practice that holds no significance, eating meat sacrificed to idols, in order to protect the weak.

    The teaching of the Lord is quite clear on this subject (Mark 12:28-34).

  42. I am generally perplexed by the Mormon use of the OT to support the idea of a plurality of gods.

    Joseph Smith wasn’t looking at the OT he was carefully focused on the early chapters on Genesis and the word choices there. Remember he was studying Kabbalah, where you look at individual words, phrases and verses and draw meaning not just from the positive statements i.e what the bible says, but also from the negative: if word X was chosen over word Y what does that choice tell us. If there is a list of 5 things there are 32 possible orders those can appear in. Which one of those 32 was chosen and the 31 not chosen tell us something.

    There is no question when you read Genesis in Hebrew in any sort of fair way there are strong evidence that early Judaism was Henotheistic. Christian authors see these as well:
    Mark Smith’s The Early History of God (Harper & Row, 1990) and The Triumph of Elohim, ed. Diana V. Edelman (Eerdmans, 1995). David Penchansky’s Twilight of the Gods: Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible (Westminster John Knox, 2005).

    For my $.02. The OT has multiple contradictory theologies even within books and stories. It appears the traditional stories that formed the basis for the OT had theologies that were older / different than the theologies when the OT itself was being written. So the Yahweh character is an inconsistent mixture of a classic volcano war god to a tribal deity to finally a creator god. Identifying him with other God’s like El, even though the work itself does this, only makes this more confusing. The OT authors seem to be transitioning from “I am the only God you will worship” henotheism to “I am the only God” even though the stories themselves seem older.

    In the NT the Yahweh / God the father character is the creator high God and is identified with the God of Israel. But polytheistic practices like angel worship are still part of folk culture. Also, Greek theologically issues with the nature of the interface between creator and creation are now part of Hellenistic Judaism and infuse the text. So for example the Logos becomes a full blown lesser god.

    I think Mormonism, especially early Mormonism offers a far greater hope in dealing honestly with the bible than normative Christianity. Mormons already assert that bible is translated incorrect and thus can completely break with the normative tradition of considering the bible to be monotheistic.

  43. I’m sure you have a point. I readily acknowledge that there are plenty of gods in the OT. The polemic against all of these gods would make it foolish to deny that. That same constant polemic against the various god is exactly why I am perplexed that Mormons use it as proof for their existence.

  44. Gundek —

    Mormons believe there are lots of God in which Elohim is just one and the only God for them. If you accept a “god of the bible” is part of a pantheon at least in some senses, but is the only God to be worshipped how is that any different?

  45. Yes Gundeck, just like how Elijah had the representatives of Asherah killed along with the priests of Baal.

    Oh wait…

    Actually he didn’t do that.

    The Israelites were punished for idolatry – not henotheism.

  46. Seth

    Elijah confronted Ahab for following Baal the god of his wife and not the Lord. “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God follow him; but if Baal then follow him.” Sounds like henotheism to me.

    If want to get technical it was the failure to live according to the covenant they made with God Israel in trouble. Following false gods and worshiping their idols was only one of the problems, but it seems reasonable to place the belief in many false gods and the worship of one (henotheism) in the same category as all worship of false gods.

  47. CD,

    I don’t accept the God of the Bible is part of a pantheon of gods. I understand references to other gods in both the OT and NT to be a polemic against their very existence not simply their inferiority.

  48. I’ve read through the discussion thread but I’m still curious . . .
    Mormons, how would you answer Mr. Muow’s questions?

    Once again they are:
    1) How many Gods are there?
    2) Will you ever become a god like them?
    3) What is the basis for your salvation, do you earn it by your good works?

    Thank you.

  49. Hi gundek,

    You said, “Unfortunately in its context Paul is worried about creating a stumbling block for the weak . . . who have not overcome a belief in multiple Gods, not about the acceptability of the belief in multiple gods. Paul does not commend, approve, or condone the belief in multiple Gods.”

    That’s right.
    I’m not suggesting that Paul commends the belief in the existence of multiple gods. I’m only saying that the belief in the existence of multiple gods is not a sin so terrible that no one can possibly be a brother in Christ while holding to such a misconception. Paul indicates (1 Cor. 8:11-13) that there were brothers in Christ during his time that thought of idols as real. Do you see what I’m saying?

  50. I agree with what I think CD-Host is saying, and that is that if you are only serving one God, what difference would it make if you imagine that there are other real gods?

    Furthermore, the instructions of the Father and the Son are always exactly the same. Therefore, where’s the problem in serving both of them at the same time as two gods? There will be no conflict. There will be no double-mindedness.

  51. Well Cal I agree that there is no doctrinal error that we cannot be forgiven, but I would assume that repentance not insistence would be evident. I also think the Bible in general and the LORD Jesus quite specifically teach against belief in more than one god.

    I didn’t write Deut 4:39, Mark 12:28-34 or the many passages that insist there is one God. These aren’t choices I get to make and I am not trying to reason my way around the claim of one God being important. I am certainly not trying to find a loophole for a person to insist there is more than one god and that they have faith only in Jesus. That is like saying “I love Jesus but when he says there is only one God he was totally wrong.” You are going to have to take that one on by yourself. You ask me what difference it makes? Don’t you think God has the right to make this claim and insist on it? It has been defined as the “most important” commandment.

  52. I don’t accept the God of the Bible is part of a pantheon of gods. I understand references to other gods in both the OT and NT to be a polemic against their very existence not simply their inferiority.

    Which is the classic Christian position. The problem then is OT, is in its choice of language quite often inconsistent with this viewpoint. Which is what I addressed above. Joseph Smith preached on this. And when he preached on it he was able to be far more faithful to the text than someone who argues that the literally thousands of references to God as a plurality can be ignored.

    In fact frankly I think the term “God” should be tossed if we are going to use the OT. Far better to retain what the bible actually says. Elohim = Sons of El, Yahweh is one of the sons of El…

  53. The “Higher, or Upper Wisdom” of the six, over which stands the seventh Sephirah (Jehovah Elohim in Daath), created the Heaven and the Earth.

    That’s the Zohar’s more literal translation of the usual “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. They see it as a explicit plurality. Unless you want to argue that Jewish scholarship is defective, Joseph Smith was not off base in his treatment. The Christian treatment is the one that depends on ignoring the text not the Mormon.

  54. Gundeck, it only seems that way if you smuggle in outside assumptions.

    Saying follow Jehovah is not an ontological statement precluding the existence of other divine beings.

  55. Seth,

    Christ didn’t say “follow Jehovah” was the most important commandment. He said the most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

  56. Fred — I’d be happy to answer your questions (although it won’t be right away as I still have Tim’s questions to answer) if you tell me what you mean by “Gods,” “god,” “like” and “salvation.”

  57. Eric —

    Nicely done.

    Gundek —

    Does the authors of the Zohar lack an understanding of Hebrew grammar? That was your claim that Joseph Smith’s analysis was based on lack of language understanding. Yet the Zohar’s interpretation of the grammar was the same as Smiths.

  58. I assume the authors of the Jewish mystical text Zohar were quite versed in Hebrew grammar (as well as Aramaic). That doesn’t make it Jewish scholarship. When you look at the absolute monotheism of Jewish practitioners of Kabbalah, the disputed etymology Elohim, and the use of plurals in Hebrew grammar a person would be forced to question the validity of your interpretation.

  59. My interpretation was different than the Kaballah one. You originally had questioned the grammar not the interpretation.

    I wouldn’t use “absolute monotheism” for kabbalistic jews. When it comes to strict monotheism: Islam yes, Judaism kinda, Christianity nope. Anyway, Wikipedia does a fairly good job of covering Sephirot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot Smith made use of Kabbalah regularly. He didn’t make use of history of religions which is where my interpretation came from.

  60. The grammar is quite simple, you pointed out the “literally thousands of references to God as a plurality”. Had someone checked a Hebrew grammar they would know that not only does the noun needs to be plural to signify a plural of quantity, but the verb and the adverb need to be plural as well otherwise it is a plural of quality.

  61. Seth, I get the context of Isaiah. I don’t think you’re understanding the trump card in the argument. The nation of Israel doesn’t just worship one god because he’s their god, they worship him because he’s the only God. The others don’t even exist. (though I’m not entirely surprised to see a Mormon arguing that they were punished for their mode of worship rather than the false ideas that motivated idol worship).

  62. Cal said

    Tell me if I’m wrong, Tim, but if I remember correctly, you weren’t willing to admit that Mormons who expect to be gods, expect to forever continue under the lordship of the Father & the Son.

    You’re wrong. =) If you can direct me to a comment that may have given you that idea I’d be willing to retract it or clear up any portion that might have confused you.

  63. Tim, that’s simply eisegesis speaking. You’re trying to read Isaiah in the light of the philosophical demands that your religion holds. But those philosophical demands were not present to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Moses and even Elijah.

    It was more than sufficient for those men that God was the only one worthy of worship and supreme among all other-worldly beings. When Moses challenged the Gods of Pharaoh, he didn’t claim they didn’t exist – he simply claimed that his God was greater than them all.

  64. Tim, I stand corrected.

    Gundek said, “Well Cal I agree that there is no doctrinal error that we cannot be forgiven [for], but I would assume that repentance not insistence would be evident. I also think the Bible in general and the LORD Jesus quite specifically teach against belief in more than one god.

    Gundek continues: “I didn’t write Deut 4:39, Mark 12:28-34 or the many passages that insist there is one God. These aren’t choices I get to make and I am not trying to reason my way around the claim of one God being important. I am certainly not trying to find a loophole for a person to insist there is more than one god and that they have faith only in Jesus. That is like saying ‘I love Jesus but when he says there is only one God he was totally wrong.’ You are going to have to take that one on by yourself. You ask me what difference it makes? Don’t you think God has the right to make this claim and insist on it? It has been defined as the ‘most important’ commandment.”

    God certainly has the right to claim he is the only God. I’m not questioning that.

    I’m just saying that if someone serves the one true God through Jesus Christ, that’s enough for entering the kingdom of God during this life. Deut. 4:39 doesn’t comment on the importance of its truth. It doesn’t say that if you believe there are other living gods in existence, you will be cut off from the community of Israel. I don’t think there’s a verse that says that. If you can find one, I would very much like to see it, and will gladly admit my mistake.

    What’s more, Mark 12:28-34 is not just about the Lord being one—it’s also about loving the Lord. That’s why it’s the most important commandment. If you don’t LOVE the only God, you are indeed up a creek without a paddle.

    There’s a difference between believing in only one God in the sense of surrendering to only one, and believing that only one living god exists. That’s a vitally important distinction.

    God bless you. Have a nice Sunday, my man.

  65. Seth I’m not opposed to the concept of continuing revelation. I’m sure there are things Isaiah understood about God that Jehu never pondered. Just as I’m sure Isaiah didn’t understand the concept of a triune God.

    My philosophical understanding of God partly rests on passages like this. They are conformed to these scriptures. Just as yours are conformed to latter-day teachings.

  66. Cal, do you think Paul was content to have these weaker brothers remain in the sin of their false ideas? What was his attitude toward those who boastfully and unrepentantly remained in the folly? How were the brothers supposes to treat someone in their midst who would not repent?

  67. Cal,

    Gen 6 is the covenant renewal and restatement of the law between Israel and the LORD prior to the entry into the promised land. The basis of our covenantal relationship with God is found in the declaration “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” While I agree that there is much more to the covenantal relationship with God than a confession that he is the only God, It seems an odd way to show your love and service for God by denying his revelation or questioning its importance.

    I just don’t see this as an either or situation. The LORD has told us that he is one and the love of the LORD includes this confession. This confession address and exclaims who it is that we love; he is our LORD and he is one. We would never tell our wives we love them by calling them another name or describe them as someone they are not?

    The LORD has commanded that we love him (heart and soul, in totality). In Mark Jesus also teaches that loving our neighbor as ourselves is the second great commandment, associating these two commands together (love of God and Neighbor). Commentators point out that by so closely associating love of God and love of Neighbor Jesus is implicitly telling is that we show our love for the one God of the Bible by loving his creation, remembering that all humanity is made in God’s image, deserving of our love for this reason alone.

    Jesus makes a point of grouping the commands to confession of who God is, with the command to love God, and the command to love our neighbor. This makes me ask can we truly love our neighbor or our God while we are denying who our God is?

  68. CD-Host said:

    Mormons have 3 senses in which they use the term salvation and Evangelicals have only one.

    According to one of our apostles we actually have six senses of salvation! Have You Been Saved? So there!

    Out of curiosity, I ask for your opinion: What is the evangelical definition of salvation?

    Also:

    The BYU devotional is denying and refuting the Protestant doctrine of salvation.

    I don’t think the talk really had anything to do with Protestantism one way or the other. What it was doing, I believe, is denying and refuting a common belief in LDS circles that God’s grace isn’t efficacious until we do the work first.

    Tim said:

    Saying you’re a lesser god is still an attack on monotheism.

    It may be an attack on a traditional definition of monotheism, but that doesn’t make it an attack on Biblical monotheism. I think both Mormons and traditional Christians have become pretty good at reading their own theological presuppositions into the text.

    I’m not sure how useful the “-theism” labels are when applied to Mormonism. It’s certainly functionally monotheistic. Henotheistic? The term is usually applied to religions where there’s a pantheon of gods, and it doesn’t work with that meaning. But I could see that label working in some ways (although I’ve never heard a Mormon use the term to explain his/her religion); it’s certainly more appropriate than “polytheistic.” I wouldn’t have a problem with the “tritheistic” label, but since the three Persons of the Godhead function fully as one, I’d still say that monotheism is a better fit, partly because there’s no question that we’re an Abrahamic religion. Basically, I’m not hung up on these labels.

    Tim also responded to me:

    I don’t suspect anyone to have any problem with anyone ever saying that Joseph was flawed. All men were flawed. Of course you’ve never received blowback for saying that. That’s the vague escape hatch for questions on Joseph Smith’s character. Can you tell us; which of his prophecies were fallible and should be rejected? Would you be willing to clearly identify places where Joseph misused his prophetic mantle in a Mormon setting? Do you mean something more by “flawed” than “no man is perfect?”

    I’m not prepared to give a full accounting for the life of Joseph Smith, nor am I prepared to dissect all he has said to attempt to discern when he was speaking as a prophet and when he wasn’t.

    I am prepared to say, however, that the LDS church institutionally has failed to deal with Smith’s imperfections; indeed, we have often made out to be far better of a person than he was. We may be in the process of attempting to paint a more accurate picture; I hope so.

    Part of the problem with going into much detail with the most questionable aspects of his life is that the historical record isn’t clear. There is room in that record to see Smith as a “normally” flawed human; there is also room to see him as a scoundrel. I’ll be the first to admit that I have to some extent chosen to believe the former, because of his role in founding a church and a theology that has inspired me; others, for whatever reason, have chosen to believe the latter. He was a complex figure, one about whom there is little objective historical consensus.

    I would be willing to concede that it’s difficult if not impossible to fully defend the way he went about implementing plural marriage (at the very least, he lied to Emma). And I suspect that when Smith received the revelation on unrighteous dominion, the warning was directed to Smith at least as much as anyone else. Without knowing more about what God actually told Smith and what he actually did (most of the most serious allegations come from untrustworthy sources), I’m not sure what else I can say. But if he had a fatal flaw, he wasn’t the first of God’s chosen leaders to have one.

    As to Smith’s prophecies, I suppose my response is that there’s a reason that not everything Smith said was canonized. Even some things he said fairly often — such as the Garden of Eden being located in Missouri (which I do not accept as a literal fact) — were never accepted as revelation in any formal manner. The same goes for some of his theological pronouncements and speculations, some of which contradict each other. I assume that if Smith said something that wasn’t canonized it doesn’t matter much what I think about it.

  69. Honestly, what’s the difference between saying you’re a God and saying you’re an angel – other than rhetoric?

  70. Seth, I’ll leave it with you to start calling your Heavenly Father an angel instead of God. Tell me how it goes.

    For what it’s worth, orthodox Christians do not believe that we will become angels when we die. We are something different, we will be resurrected humans with physical bodies. Angels are spirits.

  71. Yes, I just heard Seth and Eric affirm that men may become gods in these very comments. I assume we count Lorenzo Snow and Joseph Smith as mainstream Mormons as well. I’ve read their words which clearly teach that there is more than one God.

    Tim, are you saying that mainstream Mormons teach that they will one day be equal to God? Can you nail that down for me as a correlated manual teaching in 2012? I don’t think you can deride the the slippery “internet” Mormon on the one hand – then treat him as mainstream with the other. Also, JS and Lorenzo Snow haven’t been mainstream for decades.

  72. That’s a completely irrelevant counter Tim – because I no more consider what I will ever possibly be to be on equal status with God the Father. No more than you consider the Angel Gabriel to be on equal status with God the Father.

  73. Out of curiosity, I ask for your opinion: What is the evangelical definition of salvation?

    My opinion of the evangelical definition is that “Salvation(n) is being saved from the righteous judgment of God upon the sinner.” They tend to see it as a one time supernatural event causing a person in the future to go to heaven.

    Effectually evangelicals tend to understand that is being saved from God the Father by Jesus. But of course if you express it this way they strongly object without being able to point to any differences in substance. So if I really want to give my definition that’s what I’d assert.

    The other big area of ambiguity is that while they view it as a one time supernatural event they believe this event somehow correlates with behavioral change and thus is characterized by a life righteousness (or at least an attempt to live such a live) and eventual sanctification. Which gets into the whole area that my block addresses. Because actual behavior and what’s supposed to happen don’t match up.

  74. Christian said

    Tim, are you saying that mainstream Mormons teach that they will one day be equal to God?

    on the off chance you’re not trolling me, every one please listen; I am NOT saying Mormons think they will be equal to Heavenly Father.

    Mormons quite clearly think that men might become gods though always behind the “pace” of Heavenly Father.

    Also, JS and Lorenzo Snow haven’t been mainstream for decades.

    I wouldn’t disagree with you but that’s not the attitude in 95% of priesthood quorums.

  75. Seth said

    I no more consider what I will ever possibly be to be on equal status with God the Father. No more than you consider the Angel Gabriel to be on equal status with God the Father.

    Our fundamental difference is that orthodox Christians don’t believe God, angels or men to be of the same spiritual “species”. We believe there is only one God and no other like Him. “Equal status” is an irrelevant concern.

  76. Tim, I think that’s a rather irrelevant philosophical distinction. Unless what you are REALLY trying to defend here is the creation ex nihilo paradigm and nothing to do with our actual practical relationship with God.

    And where did you get the 95% figure?

  77. I think that’s a rather irrelevant philosophical distinction.

    and this is where we part company. I think that descriptions on the nature and character of God are the heart of each and every religion. All other ideas and practices pour forth out of what you deem to be irrelevant. Ideas have consequences and these are our most important ideas. They have a profound impact on even the most pragmatic elements of our spirituality.

    It seems obtuse to confine this to a philosophical equation when Gundek and I have both pointed out plainly spoken verses which influence all of our other philosophies.

    And where did you get the 95% figure?

    I pulled it out of my @$$. What would you say the percentage of Priests are that consider Joseph Smith to be a mainstream Mormon? Almost every one thinks they represent the mainstream and almost every thinks that Joseph Smith agrees with them.

  78. I think that descriptions on the nature and character of God are the heart of each and every religion.

    Okay, Tim, on the one hand, you are correct in pointing out that what Seth calls “a rather irrelevant philosophical distinction” is actually of fundamental importance within your own religious tradition. The creator/created distinction and the relationship between creator and created is unquestionably at the very heart of 20th century evangelical discourse. So Seth is dead wrong when he calls it irrelevant: from your perspective, it is the most important thing.

    But you are also dead wrong because you are guilty of the exact same thing: by insisting that the fundamental question of your religion is must be the fundamental question of all religions, you fail to understand other religions on their own terms, and therefore you fail to understand other religions. Attempting to describe other religions in the terms of evangelical Christianity will always lead to a grossly distorted description. And it’s pretty much the definition of begging the question: of course no other religion will do as good of a job at answering the central questions of evangelical Christianity as evangelical Christianity does. Other religions have different central questions (PS, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but evangelical Christianity does a terrible job of answering the central questions of other religions).

    I am sensitive to the fact that you are trying to engage in not just description but evaluation and in order to evaluate something, you have to have normative criteria to measure it against. In order to evaluate a religion from a religious point of view, some amount of question-begging is honestly unavoidable.

  79. And it’s pretty much the definition of begging the question: of course no other religion will do as good of a job at answering the central questions of evangelical Christianity as evangelical Christianity does. Other religions have different central questions (PS, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but evangelical Christianity does a terrible job of answering the central questions of other religions).

    I agree with you to some extent. I see many Christians dismiss other religions because they don’t have an atonement narrative, a description of sin or an understanding of the creator/created dichotomy, etc. They reject other religions for being not-Christian. My rejection of Mormonism as “not Christian” is different than my dismissal of Seth’s charge that I’m focusing on irrelevant philosophical minutiae. Other religions may describe God differently than I do, but I think at the heart of understanding any faith is the task of understanding how it defines deity. Sociology is interesting but Theology matters in understanding any faith.

  80. Kullervo, I already alluded to how I think Tim’s distinction is actually extremely fundamental to his religion. Creation ex nihilo.

    You can pretty much view the entire span of classical Christian apologetics as an attempt to shore up the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and its logical conclusions. So I’m well aware of the anthill we Mormons are kicking over.

    But it has absolutely nothing to do with monotheism, or respect and reverence for God – except in the realms of rhetorical opportunism.

    Tim, it would only be obtuse if I didn’t feel I had already answered and taken your scripture citations out of the picture on this question.

  81. Tim, I’ll withdraw the query about the 95% because it was misguided in light of the points I really wanted to make.

    One thing I would like to point out is that it’s far from clear Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow were proposing equal status with God the Father either.

  82. I am inclined to agree that the question of the nature of God is present most (all?) clear cases of “religion,” and as such we can meaningfully say that the question is, in a general sense, a key or fundamental religious question.

    I will go further and say that you can meaningfully examine other religions in terms of how they address the question of the nature of God and try to assess how it impacts their other teachings and practices, and you can even meaningfully evaluate another religions based on the effects of their concept of God. Yes, you’re evaluating them from an evangelical perspective, but I think as a believing evangelical that you are pretty much obligated to do so. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

    But I do think you walk an awfully fine line along the edge of the “IT IS NOT EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY SO IT IS BAD” chasm. That chasm is not really interesting: we already know you think that every religion that’s not evangelical Christianity is worse than evangelical Christianity. You’re an evangelical Christian.

    What I am unambiguously objecting to is the apparent insistence that for all religions (or even most) the question of the nature of God is the most important question, and the one from which everything else flows. That’s imposing an evangelical framework where it doesn’t belong, and that’s what’s gonna distort other religions. I see this in creator/created discourse all the time and it is super tedious–it’s only a tiny bit more sophisticated than the guy who says WELL IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD, WHAT STOPS YOU FROM JUST MURDERING AND RAPING EVERYONE.

    Saying “How a religion talks about the nature of God plays a major role in how that religion’s believers relate to God. Because one’s relationship with God is the most important thing from a Christian perspective, this question is fundamental in evaluating other religions: to the extent that a religion’s concept of God impacts a believer’s relationship to God, a religion’s concept of God may make the difference between salvation and damnation.” is in my opinion, not at all problematic. On the other hand, making a list of the terrible logical and social consequences of believing the wrong thing about creator/created is probably just going to make you look ridiculous (coughcoughMarkDriscollcoughcough) because you’re just probably going to be wrong.

  83. But it has absolutely nothing to do with monotheism, or respect and reverence for God – except in the realms of rhetorical opportunism.

    I disagree, for the reasons I spelled out above: how a religion talks about the nature of God plays a major role in how that religion’s believers relate to God. Because humanity’s relationship with God is the most important thing from an evangelical Christian perspective, this question is fundamental in evaluating other religions: to the extent that a religion’s concept of God impacts a believer’s relationship to God, that religion’s concept of God may make the difference between salvation and damnation.

  84. One thing I would like to point out is that it’s far from clear Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow were proposing equal status with God the Father either.

    I will argue in agreement with you.

  85. CD-Host, I think you are oversimplifying a lot of different ideas about soteriology and atonement.

    Well there isn’t a unified evangelical answer on all of those, so yes. But none of them make any sense. Though I can’t really blame Protestants entirely for that, Western Rite Catholicism make more but still not enough sense on the sin, righteousness, atonement stuff either.

    The problems with the Mormon doctrine come more along the lines of why the keys would be so important. But at least it doesn’t contradict itself.

  86. I am extremely skeptical about whether you know enough about Christian theories of “sin, righteousness, atonement stuff” to categorically say that they make no sense. Maybe they just don’t make sense to you.

  87. I am extremely skeptical about whether you know enough about Christian theories of “sin, righteousness, atonement stuff” to categorically say that they make no sense. Maybe they just don’t make sense to you.

    Feel free to be skeptical. I’m satisfied that in a few decades I have yet to hear anyone provide a sensible explanation. And you can feel free to believe that’s because I’m a total f***ing idiot without a brain cell in my head. I’m not defending myself. Not up for it. Not interested.

  88. Summer Squash Casserole Recipe—oops, that’s not what I intended to paste here! (Uh, oh. I think I just gave Kullervo something to run with!)

    Gundek, let me respond to your questions with questions: Do you still sin? If so, how can you claim to love God? If God is totally good, why would you sin against him? When you sin against him, aren’t you denying that his word can always be trusted? Aren’t you denying his faithfulness? How can you blaspheme God by denying his faithfulness with your actions and claim at the same time that you love him?

    You answer those questions, and then I’ll answer your questions using your answers.

  89. Kullervo, according to Canon 3, subdivision (a) of the Canons of Conduct for Denizens of ldstalk.wordspresss.com, one may only use the term when directed at the first person. As most can attest, when you use the term it is mainly directed at others.

  90. Cal,

    I am always in awe of your ability to judge the state of a mans heart and soul. You must be quite pleased to have such a gift.

    Let me give you give you one bit of advice. Don’t use my grave sins and blasphemies to justify yourself. It is much better to rest on the righteousness of Christ.

  91. Tim said, “Cal, do you think Paul was content to have these weaker brothers remain in the sin of their false ideas? What was his attitude toward those who boastfully and unrepentantly remained in the folly? How were the brothers supposes to treat someone in their midst who would not repent?”

    It depends on the seriousness of the sin in question. Based on 1 Cor. 8, Paul’s attitude toward the brothers in Christ who still thought of idols as real was one of considerateness. Would he correct them at the right time? I think so.

    However, we’re off the point. The question at hand is: Do we have a right to condemn to non-Christian status those whose knowledge of God falls short?

    In Rom. 14:1-4 Paul is likely addressing the same type of situation he addressed in 1 Cor. 8. Here’s what he says there:

    Romans 14:1-4 (NIV1984):
    1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    Pray about it, Tim. God is well able to speak to you. =)

  92. Summer Squash Casserole Recipe—oops, that’s not what I intended to paste here! (Uh, oh. I think I just gave Kullervo something to run with!)

    …what?

  93. I thought you were going to have fun coming up with some kind of joke about it.
    Remember the bazaar?
    Anyway, I thought it was funny when I accidentally pasted a recipe here.

  94. Howdy again y’all! Just a quick reminder, I’m still curious . . .
    Mormons, how would you answer Mr. Muow’s questions?

    Once again they are:
    1) How many Gods are there?
    2) Will you ever become a god like them?
    3) What is the basis for your salvation, do you earn it by your good works?

    Thank you.

  95. I’m not sure what you are looking for. Assume they answered:

    1) Are there where? Its an incomplete sentence. Its an eternal progression of chain. Depending on how you count anywhere from 1 to an unknowably large number.

    2) If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, just like our Heavenly Father. Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give his children.

    3) Wisdom, perfection and special blessings. None are entirely without work or entirely the result of just work. We like Catholics reject 4 of the 5 solas.

    Then what? Where do you go from there?

  96. CD-Host, it sure seems like you want desperately to be able to say that Mormonism is just like Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

    This makes me think of (1) the special relationship between Mormonism and Judaism (which, by the way, exists only in the wishfully-thinking minds of Mormons), and (2) a disastrous discussion I had once as a Mormon in undergrad with a Muslim acquaintance about how similar our faiths were (PS, all of the “similarities” I insisted on were laughably irrelevant to him in light of the differences on matters that he considered non-negotiably fundamental to Islam).

    I wonder how the average Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christian feels like their faith compares to Mormonism.

  97. fredwanson:

    1. There is one God in the universe. But God may consist of more than one being.

    2. I believe that we are invited in the Bible to participate in the divine nature of God. Which would certainly in some sense make us “like God”

    3. Salvation is not earned in any sense. Justification – forgiveness – is a free gift in Christ. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Ghost in our lives, and requires us to accept its influence in order for it to work. But it is through Christ and the Holy Spirit that this work is done. Our only role is to embrace it.

  98. First off you were rude hell earlier in this thread. You crossed the line as far as debate.

    it sure seems like you want desperately to be able to say that Mormonism is just like Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

    I’ve never said that. I have said that many areas in which Mormonism disagrees with Protestantism it is in agreement with Catholicism. I’ve also said that in many areas where Mormonism is in disagreement with Protestantism those disagreements are like the Protestant / Catholic disagreements but taken further. And finally I’ve also indicated that on some areas of disagreement it is a good metaphor.

    There are certainly doctrines of Mormonism which both Catholics and Protestants equally reject the Mormon position, for example the trinity.

    I wonder how the average Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christian feels like their faith compares to Mormonism.

    They consider mainstream Protestants to be violent schismatics preaching heresy, evangelicals to have formed a lay ministry which is only barely Christian, and Mormons to not be validly baptized at all. That is the Mormon church is not Christian at all it merely uses Christian language and symbolism.

    Catholics have never reacted negatively to non Christian religions that have Catholic aspects. While the Catholic church represents the fullness of truth other churches and other religions may have parts of the truth. Catholics would welcome any area where Mormons rejected Protestant heresy and replaced it with Catholic truth in full or in part.

    And finally, if we are going to discuss Catholicism (western rite) on its own terms, then it doesn’t matter a flip what the average members feels. The magisterium hands down doctrine in these areas and the relationship with Mormonism has been decided.

  99. And finally, if we are going to discuss Catholicism (western rite) on its own terms, then it doesn’t matter a flip what the average members feels. The magisterium hands down doctrine in these areas and the relationship with Mormonism has been decided.

    If we are going to discuss Catholicism (western rite) in descriptive, anthropological/socio-cultural terms, then it certainly matters a flip what the average member feels. And it also matters what the Magisterium has handed down, and the relationship between the two.

  100. First off you were rude hell earlier in this thread. You crossed the line as far as debate.

    But I didn’t use swear words.

  101. “They consider mainstream Protestants to be violent schismatics preaching heresy, evangelicals to have formed a lay ministry which is only barely Christian…”

    How is one a violent schismatic and barely Christian? Besides the Magisterium infallibly embraces Protestants as separated brothers. So we have that going for us.

  102. How is one a violent schismatic and barely Christian?

    Two different groups. Children of the magisterial reformation vs. children of the radical reformation. Catholic dialogue with baptists is of a very different nature than Catholic dialogue with Lutherans.

    _______
    @kullervo
    f we are going to discuss Catholicism (western rite) in descriptive, anthropological/socio-cultural terms, then it certainly matters a flip what the average member feels.

    Obviously Catholics are pretty diverse. But if yu go for the majority, then you are looking at one of the most religious tolerant groups in America. They tend to disbelieve their church’s claim to having a unique faith and tend to view most churches positively. In particular with Mormons they believe evangelical attacks on Mormonism to be no different in kind than Evangelical attacks on Catholicism.

    In other words they kinds of people who would embrace discussion of similarities and believe that even where there are apparent differences there are often underlying similarities.

  103. The question is not about tolerance. Its whether RC and OE Christians would agree with the constant positive comparisons to Mormonism. I suspect they would just see more differences.

  104. @gundek —

    We are getting in Protestant vs. Catholic rather than Evangelical vs. Mormon. Vatican II changed the tone and changed day to day practice, no question. But not that much changed at the level of doctrine. The Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded as necessary for salvation. And ultimately there are two ways you can reject that:

    a) Believe that some other church or churches are the instruments of salvation.
    b) Believe that Jesus doesn’t found churches and no church is the instrument of salvation.

    Or to put this another way is there is a meaningful distinction between heresy and schism? I’d argue for your church, the PCA, while you would pay lip service to their being a deep distinction you would be unable to maintain it. Take a minute or two and think about that one if you don’t see the problem. Tim (just to pick an example), I doubt would much care that there is no meaningful distinction in his theology since his theology doesn’t require such a distinction.

    Protestants are moving from (a) to (b) overtime. And the Catholic church is aware of that. They also believe that once you reject the notion that there is any possibility of an earthly uniquely sanctioned church your heresy has reached the point you are no longer fully capable of committing schism.

    From a Catholic perspective since Mormons to accept the importance of earthly institutions were they Christians they would be schismatics and heretics. But in their case the heresy runs so deep as to invalidate their baptism and thus they aren’t Christians at all, and thus not schismatics.

    A more recent example is the situation bubbling to the service with the nuns. Right now (for a conservative Catholic) they are mostly all disobedient. Some may be heretical and this is the root of the disobedience. And while they are contemplating schism they are still in communion with the Catholic church for now.

  105. Most lay Catholics that I’ve encountered online have been of the opinion that Mormons are Christians. They’ve been rather puzzled as to why we wouldn’t be considered so, and I’ve had to explain it to them.

    After the explanation, they’re usually like “oh, I see… well, I still think you’re Christian anyway.”

  106. But Seth, that’s a tangent. I didn’t ask CD-Host whether Catholics or EO thought Mormons were Christian. It’s no skin off a Catholic’s back to say Mormons are Christian because the same things are not at stake as they are for a Protestant. It’s not enough to just be a “Christian”; you have to be Catholic.

    The question I asked CD-Host is why he seems so intent on favorably comparing Mormons to RCs and EOs, and whether RCs or EOs would in return attach any weight to the similarities CD-Host points out, or whether they would even think the similarities existed.

  107. Yes, I brought it up as a tangent in the first place.

    I figure you and CD-Host can work out the central premise of your dispute without my assistance.

  108. Tim: I have been looking for a contact link, you have none. I have a request regarding one of the comments on your blog site. How can I contact you? Since we have to enter our email address, which is said remains as private, contact me please. It is important.

  109. @CD-Host and SethR
    Thank you for your answers

    And I apologize for the delay in responding – for some reasons my WordPress notifications for this thread aren’t working!

    Never-the-less, I do appreciate your responses.

    And for anyone who’s interested I also got some interesting answers (and a bit of snark – which is typical for the site) to the same query on Answerbag.com: http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2771069

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