Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 1

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Mormon blogger Greg Trimble recently wrote a blog article that has picked up a decent amount of social media buzz entitled “51 Questions That Might Lead You to Mormonism“. Running through his post it became quite clear to me that after 7 years of blogging about Mormonism and Evangelicalism I’ve discussed almost every single one of these in one form or another. I felt like Horsack from “Welcome Back Kotter”. It’s quite possible that I’ve actually written something about every one of these questions on this very blog. In the tradition of marathon runners and novelist throughout history, I’m going to do something that’s going to take a lot of time; I’m going to answer all 51 questions. That’s my pledge to you.

I’m going to break up my answers into multiple posts and I’m not quite sure if there will be 5 posts, 10 posts, or something in between. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to ask 51 questions than it is to answer 51 questions. Most people would just turn his post around on him and ask 51 questions that might lead you out of Mormonism. I learned a long time ago that that sort of thing is not my job. Other people have taken it on and I’ve found it doesn’t really line up with my goals in this space. My job is to dialogue with Mormons about the shape of our respective faiths and to clear the air of misconceptions and errant assumptions.

Before I begin I feel the need to discuss Greg’s list as a whole and give a little bit of context to the answers I’m going to provide. First off, Trimble’s list is quite frequently known as the “shotgun approach”. Rhetorically it’s a bit like bringing a bucket to a water balloon fight. It provides the emotional satisfaction of getting someone else wet even if 90% of the water falls on the ground. At that ratio, I think it’s fair to say that at least 5 of my responses are not going to be all that satisfying. They for sure won’t overcome a person’s decision to follow a personal spiritual experience in the face of other considerations.

Second, I’m not aiming to convert anyone (at least not in these responses). I just want to show that traditional Christians have given a full hearing to Mormonism and have thought about all of these issues. I haven’t rejected Mormonism for a lack of consideration.

Third, I noticed that these questions presume a basic understanding of Christianity and an active desire to pursue faith in the Christian God. It seems Mormons are still convinced that their strongest evangelistic strategies are aimed at Christians. As the saying goes, Mormonism has left Protestantism but it can’t leave it alone. Some might say this is mostly just a list of “anti-Protestant” questions. As Mormons more and more express a desire to be recognized as “Christian, just like all of you” I hope to see it mature past sheep stealing. I should expect to see more effort on reaching out to people who are ignorant about Jesus rather than reaching out to people who are ignorant about Joseph Smith.

Fourth, I’m not going to write up 1500 word responses to every question. Nobody wants to read that and I certainly don’t want to provide it. BORING! I’m going to try to be as pithy as possible and provide links to other resources with more information when appropriate. As I said earlier, it could be that I’ve already written a blog post or provided some form of comment on every single one of these questions. Also, I’m going to try to mix in some humor for my own sake if no one else’s. This shouldn’t be viewed as an effort to disrespect Greg Trimble or the Mormons faith. I’m just trying to keep things interesting because I could barely force myself to read all 51 questions. I can’t imagine anyone being interested in all 51 answers.

Now that I’ve told you how terrible this is going to be, let’s get started. . .

1. There are 50,000+ Christian denominations. Why are they not one church? (Eph 4:5)

Trimble, you ignorant sack of rhinoceros puss. The only thing more obvious than your lack of education is the foul stench that surrounds you. Just kidding! That’s not how this is going to go.

You’ve started off with a bang. If I were Catholic, Orthodox and one of the many restoration sects I’d say “THERE IS”. Unfortunately Mormonism isn’t at all immune from this question. If Joseph Smith restored God’s one true church, why are there over 100 different Mormon sects? (Have you ever walked around Independence, Missouri?) The answer for Mormons is similar to the answer for Traditional Christians. There are as many reasons for all the different sects as there are sects.

The Protestant answer is that there is only one church. Jesus set up a spiritual community of true believers that are united by the Holy Spirit rather than a earthly organizational structure with accounting practices and human resource policies. His Kingdom is not of this world. The diversity of churches allows for different expressions of worship, devotional practice and theological emphasis. It’s absurd to think that African Christians should culturally practice their faith in the same was as Russian Christians. If God thinks there should be many variations of orchids, he must love the diversity of believers as well. Despite the MANY differences between traditional sects we are surprisingly united on the essentials. We’d probably have fewer sects if renegade frontiersman weren’t so inclined to call themselves prophets.

2. If the Bible has obvious contradictions, then how can it be viewed as the final and infallible word of God by Christians? (Acts 9:7, Acts 22:9)

I think you confused the words infallibility (no errors in teachings) with inerrancy (no errors). The concept of inerrancy has always applied to the original manuscripts not to errors in translation or transcription. In addition, Inerrancy only arose as a theological concept in response to Modernism about 100 years ago. Many Christians hold to Infallibility rather than Inerrancy. It’s likely that the term will lose popularity as a theological concept as Western culture moves away from Modernism to Post-Modernism (and beyond).

Whether Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 offer a contradiction is a debate for another time.

3. Does the Bible say anywhere in it that there will not be any more prophets or any additional scriptures?

No. Next question.

4. There are various letters from Paul and others that were not included in the Bible. Who gets to decide what goes into the Bible and what gets left out?

The early Christians councils determined what is included in the Bible with a number of criteria including, content, date written and the author’s relational proximity to Jesus and the 12 disciples. It could be that we might discover Paul’s lost letters and decide they fit the criteria used on the rest of the books of the New Testament. It could also be that those letters were more personal in nature and didn’t have much application outside their original audience and weren’t preserved for a reason.

We follow the pattern of the canon out of deference to the wisdom of the Christians who came before us. In principle I am personally open to the idea of an “open canon” but the criteria for expanding the canon would exclude anything written outside of the First Century.

It should be pointed out that while Mormons have added to the list of scriptures, they seem quite content with the Biblical canon. Whatever authority went into forming the Old Testament and New Testament seems to be sufficient for Mormons as LDS have always accepted those two collections.

5. Did we live as pre mortal spirits before we came to earth? (Jer 1:5, Job 38:7)

Mormons aren’t the only ones to presume a pre-mortal existence. Christians have debated the idea long before Joseph Smith. The concept may have some merit but I am not persuaded. Jeremiah 1:5 can just as easily apply to God’s knowledge of the future as a pre-mortal spirit. Job 38:7 is most probably a reference to angels rather than pre-mortal humans. It should be noted that God is telling Job that he was NOT there when God laid the corners of the Earth. So at the very least the passage is saying that Job did not have a pre-mortal spirit.

I personally don’t see any harm from a Christian believing in pre-mortal spirits. If it floats your boat to existence have fun.


It looks like the next string of questions are all related to the Trinity and should be kept together and this post is getting too long. So keep your eyes out for Part 2.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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73 thoughts on “Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 1

  1. This is helpful, thanks Tim! Kullervo and I were talking recently about inerrancy/infallibility. I would add that not all Christians hold to that construct of reading scripture at all–for example, the ELCA, which is the denomination I am joining, thinks of scripture as the “living address” that breaks into our lives and demands transformation:

    “Luther taught that the Bible is like [the] manger because the Scriptures hold Christ, the Living Word, God’s address to us. The manger was ‘human.’ If it were made of wood, no doubt some boards were crooked and some nails were bent. Nevertheless, it held the divine Word for the world. The Bible, likewise, is ‘human.’ Yet it is ‘divine’ because the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, holds the living Christ who, as the Scriptures are read and proclaimed, lives as God’s address to us.

    “The Holy Spirit opens our ears to hear. We believe the Living Word and illusions are shattered, old ways are rejected, new life is born, enemies are reconciled, a family is created and disciples heed the call….FOLLOW ME.

    “We confess that the Holy Spirit opens our ears to hear the Living Word of God, the ‘address’ which breaks into our lives shattering old ways of selfishness and illusion and creating in us a new way of obedient trust. This is the Lutheran way of hearing.”

    (This is from BAPTIZED, WE LIVE, a little booklet my seminary pastor recommended to me, by Daniel Erlander.)

  2. Katie L: I like that view of scripture. I tend to think that the whole argument over inerrancy/infallibility is missing the point of what the Scriptures do for us.

    Bro. Trimble: If you’re going to prooftext the Bible, at least make sure that the selected text supports your argument. Doing otherwise, as you did with Job and in at least two other instances, makes things too easy for Tim.

    Tim: I’m glad you’re spending time answering these questions. Although I’m supposedly on the same “side” as Bro. Trimble, I find that most of his questions assume ignorance on behalf of the reader, and most of them involve some sort of begging the question. I guess I’m not particularly fond of this sort of “apologetics.” Most of the questions you could just turn around and ask him the same thing, e.g.: If we have modern-day prophets and apostles because the Bible is riddled with contradictions or missing major parts, what are we supposed to do when the prophets and apostles contradict each other?

  3. Tim said, “My job is to dialogue with Mormons about the shape of our respective faiths and to clear the air of misconceptions and errant assumptions.”

    I like that.

    I also think Tim’s answer to “Did we live as pre mortal spirits before we came to earth?” was perfect.

  4. I don’t see any clear difference between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9—in the NIV, anyway. In Acts 9:7 they heard a sound but did not see anyone; in Acts 22:9 they saw a light but did not understand the voice. So, they heard a sound but did not understand it, and they saw a light but not a person. No problem there.

  5. Tim, if Kullervo could hear you say Word of Faith people are orthodox, I think that would unnerve him.
    I liked your answer to #3 as well.

    Nice to see Katie & Eric again.

  6. It wouldn’t bother me if the two passages in Acts contradicted each other, but they don’t. This is simply one of those cases where the King James Version probably got it wrong (as did the Joseph Smith Translation, for whatever that’s worth).

  7. These 51 questions seem to focus on extraneous details as an attempt to avoid addressing actual theological presuppositions.

    For instance, is infallibility or contradiction in the Bible really the issue or is it the authority and role of the Bible in Protestant churches the issue?

  8. You seriously rock. Thanks for doing this. Can’t wait for part 3. I’m a busy mom with 6 kids8 and under and felt so overwhelmed to reply to this now too when I was sent it. Then God gave me the bright idea to search if some incredible person already had. You , my friend, are him 🙂
    Bless you

  9. In addition, Inerrancy only arose as a theological concept in response to Modernism about 100 years ago.

    Just like the Trinity wasn’t invented until Nicaea and Justification by faith alone was invented by the reformers.

    Seriously, the term “inerrancy” was brought to bear in the Warfield era as a response to liberalism, but the concept has been evident throughout church history. Augustine spelled it out unambiguously. Jesus implied it strongly.

    The fact that the doctrine had to be spelled out about a hundred years ago is not because it wasn;t invented until then, but because that’s when serious challenges from inside the church began. As is the case with many of our most important doctrines, it was formulated and clarified in response to heretical challenges.

  10. There are various letters from Paul and others that were not included in the Bible. Who gets to decide what goes into the Bible and what gets left out?

    It’s also important to note that there are not extant letters from Paul (or even attributed to Paul with any kind of remote plausibility) that have been considered as scripture and rejected, which is sort of what Trimble is implying here.

    But I think the real answer here is that the word of God is the word of God, regardless of whether we (or anyone else) recognizes it as such. The notion that a human authority could canonize or de-canonize any part of God’s word and thereby actually change it’s character as God’s word and whether or not it is binding on believers is absolutely ridiculous (not to mention weirdly legalistic).

    If the church (no matter what authority the church claimed to act on God’s behalf) were to, for example, purportedly de-canonize First Corinthians, believers would not be relieved from the obligation to heed it or excused for neglecting it. But the church and believers would be in sin.

    This is more important in discussion with Mormons than it might appear at first glance, because it cuts right to the issue of what the church’s authority actually is.

  11. Mormons aren’t the only ones to presume a pre-mortal existence. Christians have debated the idea long before Joseph Smith. The concept may have some merit but I am not persuaded. Jeremiah 1:5 can just as easily apply to God’s knowledge of the future as a pre-mortal spirit. Job 38:7 is most probably a reference to angels rather than pre-mortal humans.

    I think that you are being overly generous to Mormons on this one, Tim, but I’m curious–can you cite a bona fide debate on this issue? It seems sort of obvious to me that verses like Jeremiah 1:5 referred to God’s foreknowledge and/or providential decrees, and I was under the impression that the church has been pretty consistent about that.

  12. Those are all good points.

    I heard JP Moreland give a lecture in college on the creation of the soul (his primary expertise). He described a view that souls existed in pre-mortality waiting for bodies. It wasn’t his view and clearly not all that popular because few of heard of it.

  13. Katie, I love your Bible as ‘manger’ metaphor for understanding how the Bible relates to the Word of God.

  14. Katie, so in other words you can look past the truly challenging parts of the Bible in order to hear God’s true word–which is conveniently consistent with the aspirational values of educated, white, 21st century liberal America?

  15. Appreciate your efforts in addressing these “nuisance questions” that have floated around for quite some time. Just a comment on your response to #5 (pre-mortal spirits); it seems a bit generous to the Bible’s allowance of such a teaching. There are several passages which, at first blush anyway, appear to challenge the notion of a pre-mortal existence (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:46). Nevertheless, the primary issue with the Mormon teaching about pre-mortality is that it gives a false sense of entitlement–that we are naturally-born children of God (as opposed to adopted through faith, which is the only way the Bible speaks of us as being his children). In addition, in Mormon thinking, only worthy spirits get to receive a body, and it also introduces the hopelessly racist notion that less worthy spirits only get to inhabit darker-skinned bodies. So I would disagree that there’s no harm in believing in the pre-mortality, at least as Mormonism teaches it, as the implications are very contrary to biblical, orthodox teaching.

  16. I understand pwlit’s concerns about the Mormon concept of pre-mortality. But those concerns are not necessarily wedded to all concepts of pre-mortality. Just as spousal abuse is not necessarily wedded to marriage.

  17. Concerns aside, I think you’re granting too much legitimacy to the Mormon position by making it sound more widely-accepted by Evangelicals and other orthodox Christians (both now and throughout history) than it is. It’s not even controversial, because it’s a position that is effectively held by nobody.

  18. I know some Mormons find value from “parallels” in theological ideas, but when the roots of these ideas are compaired thet generally show more discontinity than similarity.

    Traducianism and creationism are historic Christian theories of the origin of the soul. Creationism holds to the preexisting soul without the need for Mormonism’s unique creation narrative. Acknowledging that some historic orthodox thinkers believed in a preexistent soul while maintaining the creator/creature distinction doesn’t really create a parallel to Mormon theology.

  19. Katie, so in other words you can look past the truly challenging parts of the Bible in order to hear God’s true word–which is conveniently consistent with the aspirational values of educated, white, 21st century liberal America?

    Nope. 🙂

  20. I’m new at this, so be gentle with me. But my understanding of the Lutheran position (even a more “progressive” mainline denomination like the ELCA) is explicitly that you CAN’T just cast aside parts of the Bible that you don’t want, but you must wrestle with them and let that wrestle affect you deeply as part of your relationship with God. It goes along with how the word is integrated with the liturgy, but I am still so new to this way of looking at things that I haven’t connected all the pieces yet.

  21. Like, at my church we’ve had a couple of sermons this year already about how we can’t just cast aside parts of the Bible that we don’t like, and kind of calling out the idea that God is a white liberal yuppie who likes Priuses and canvas grocery bags.

  22. Katie, I don’t mean to be un-gentle, and I’m sorry for coming across that way.

    My point is, once you disaggregate God’s Word from God’s words the way your pamphlet described, you invariably set the two at odds. The pamphlet postulates a Word that exists independently from the actual words of the Bible–but how is that Word discerned, if not through scripture? It may not be specifically “Priuses and canvas grocery bags” in your case, but it is inevitable that you are going to wind up setting something else other than God’s actual word as the measuring-stick against which you judge God’s word.

  23. I don’t think so. I think the idea is that scripture is both fully human and fully divine, like Christ. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and.

  24. pwlit,
    Thanks for calling my attention to 1 Cor. 15:46. As you insinuated, though, it’s not conclusive. Preexistence is not Paul’s topic.

    You said, “The primary issue with the Mormon teaching about pre-mortality is that it gives a false sense of entitlement–that we are naturally-born children of God (as opposed to adopted through faith, which is the only way the Bible speaks of us as being his children).”

    You may be right. I’d like to hear Katie or Eric’s response. However, I find Latter-day Saints fairly insistent—not counting those at this forum—that I join their church and receive the Holy Spirit in spite of their belief that I’m already a child of God.

    Another detail: In Acts 17:28-29 Paul refers to all humans as “God’s offspring.” In context, this refers to the fact that he created us all; nonetheless, it constitutes one place where Scripture calls all humans, in effect, his children.

    Have a blessed evening.

  25. PS, I don’t think you were being ungentle, I am just so recently on this path that I don’t have all the language and concepts down yet. And of course you are very smart and much better read than I, at least on classical Christian theology, so I get a little nervous. 🙂
    Now that I’m not in class, I’ll try to engage more fully, to the best of my current understanding.
    My point is, once you disaggregate God’s Word from God’s words the way your pamphlet described, you invariably set the two at odds.
    What I think the approach outlined in my pamphlet is trying to do is move the discussion away from a formula that looks like this on the one hand:
    God dictates the Bible –> Human reason interprets the Bible –> We get true propositions that must be obeyed
    or this on the other:
    Humans write the Bible –>Human reason interprets–>We get true propositions that must be obeyed
    This framework instead says that truth is not about abstract propositions, but is actually living and breathing inside us by shattering our paradigms and making us new creatures.
    The pamphlet postulates a Word that exists independently from the actual words of the Bible–but how is that Word discerned, if not through scripture?
    Isn’t *Christ* the Word? And God breaks into our lives in a million different ways, transforming our hearts and lives. I think God is discerned experientially (which is why experiencing scripture is so important).
    It may not be specifically “Priuses and canvas grocery bags” in your case, but it is inevitable that you are going to wind up setting something else other than God’s actual word as the measuring-stick against which you judge God’s word.
    This, I think, is probably sadly true. And it’s also probably inevitable for all Christians, limited and fallen as we are.

  26. What I think the approach outlined in my pamphlet is trying to do is move the discussion away from a formula that looks like this on the one hand:
    God dictates the Bible –> Human reason interprets the Bible –> We get true propositions that must be obeyed
    or this on the other:
    Humans write the Bible –>Human reason interprets–>We get true propositions that must be obeyed
    This framework instead says that truth is not about abstract propositions, but is actually living and breathing inside us by shattering our paradigms and making us new creatures.

    That’s what we call a straw man argument.

  27. Okay, lay out your epistemology as it relates to the Bible so that I’m not over simplifying.

  28. … as opposed to adopted through faith, which is the only way the Bible speaks of us as being his children

    As Cal mentioned, in Acts, Paul refers to us as God’s offspring. The Greek word there is genos, the source of English words such as “gene” and “genetics.” Paul’s words suggest that we are the same type of creatures as God is.

    … Mormon thinking … introduces the hopelessly racist notion that less worthy spirits only get to inhabit darker-skinned bodies.

    That is not Mormon doctrine. Period.

    I think the idea is that scripture is both fully human and fully divine, like Christ. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and.

    Amen!

    It’s common in Mormonism and other types of Christianity to view the scriptures as a set of propositional truths that must be accepted. I don’t see it that way, although I do believe that what scriptures we have we have been given for a purpose. One reason can be, as Katie said, to force us to wrestle with the text. I don’t see how she was setting up a straw man.

  29. First off, Trimble’s list is quite frequently known as the “shotgun approach”.

    Some might say this is mostly just a list of “anti-Protestant” questions.

    The irony in all of this is that Trimble is using a format that anti-Mormons use all.the.time and Tim is responding exactly how a Mormon apologist would on the FAIR website.

  30. Tim is responding exactly how a Mormon apologist would on the FAIR website.

    Hey! no need for personal attacks.

  31. Cal

    “I don’t see any clear difference between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9—in the NIV, anyway.”

    This statement really only makes the question broader. If different translations say different things than what translation is correct, or at least the most accurate? In comparing many translations I find that the vast majority show a contradiction between these verses, with one saying the men heard the voice and the other saying they didn’t.

    PWLIT

    “the primary issue with the Mormon teaching about pre-mortality is that it gives a false sense of entitlement”

    i don’t know who you have been talking to, but the doctrine does not give any sense of entitlement that I can see. Like Cal said, we still believe one must have faith and follow Christ. Any sense of entitlement should be destroyed be the realization that Satan was also a pre-existent spirit child of God, and look what happened to him.
    The doctrine of pre-existence does not entitle us to anything. What it does is show us our potential; it shows us who we are and what we can become. It doesn’t entitle us to anything.

    “as opposed to adopted through faith, which is the only way the Bible speaks of us as being his children”

    This is a matter of interpretation. I could give close to a dozen verses where we are referred to as the children of God where adoption is not even hinted at.

  32. Kullervo said:

    If the church (no matter what authority the church claimed to act on God’s behalf) were to, for example, purportedly de-canonize First Corinthians, believers would not be relieved from the obligation to heed it or excused for neglecting it. But the church and believers would be in sin.

    Where does this obligation come from?

  33. “But I think the real answer here is that the word of God is the word of God, regardless of whether we (or anyone else) recognizes it as such. The notion that a human authority could canonize or de-canonize any part of God’s word and thereby actually change it’s character as God’s word and whether or not it is binding on believers is absolutely ridiculous (not to mention weirdly legalistic).”

    K, I see your position. I just don’t know how can sweep the pre-Reformation Bible under the rug so easily, which Christians held as the word of God for many centuries. I also don’t believe that you’re unaware of the historical evidence we have of varying canons well into the middle ages.

    Ultimately, humans do the dirty work of declaring a text as God’s word. That’s just how the sausage is made. By God’s grace, we hopefully get it right.

  34. The comparison of Protestants and the 10’s of thousands of Bible based churches that left the Catholic church to the 100’s of sects that some how affiliate a name or some derivation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not an accurate comparison. We claim no invisible mysterious union of “true believers” with any of those sects. These are referred to as apostate groups as would be protestants to the Catholics.

    The apologetic invention of an invisible body of “true believers” is simply one way devised to cope with the lack of unity and the division that exists in mainstream Christian philosophy and Bible scholarship. Disagreement not diversity drives the multiplication of Bible based churches. Mormons are as diverse as the world we live in yet united in the faith and guidance of the Holy Ghost and covenants we make with God under priesthood authority and all belong to one church.

    If the Kingdom of God isn’t on the earth and directed by the Savior through prophets it won’t do us much good as humans. In so called mainstream theology it would seem the kingdom and holy spirit are whatever the preacher wants them to be.

  35. Charlie, I’m curious, what do you suppose is driving the many divisions that create the Mormon “apostate” groups? If you think that Catholics consider all Protestants to be apostates I’m not clear on how the Mormon church is released from the comparison.

  36. Where there is a religious organization people will join it and some will leave it. I doesn’t matter if it is a false church of men or the true church of God. Comparing the Catholic Church to the Mormon Church and their protesters isn’t really what the question is about. The theology of Catholic church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are completely different yet each maintains its identity in the sea of change. Protestant/Evangelical churches have many more schisms and factions than the Catholic church or the Mormon church. That is where the continued expansion of Bible based denominations is occurring.

    John 6:66 ¶From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

  37. The theology of Catholic church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are completely different

    So is the Catholic church correct (by its own standards) in its stance that the LDS church is not a Christian church?

    If the LDS church can rightly say that polygamous groups are not Mormon, by the same standard, I don’t see why the Catholic church can’t say the LDS church is not Christian.

  38. Tim

    “If the LDS church can rightly say that polygamous groups are not Mormon, by the same standard, I don’t see why the Catholic church can’t say the LDS church is not Christian.”

    The difference here is that the LDS are only declaring these groups not to be a part of a single denomination of Christianity, while the Catholics, and most others, are claiming that the LDS aren’t even part of the same family of religions.
    The problem is that most people who want to say that the LDS aren’t Christians really mean that we are not their brand of Christian. This argument only works if one constantly narrows the definition of the term Christian. I am not Baptist, or Evangelical, or Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox; I wouldn’t even consider myself a protestant. But none of that means I am not Christian.

    I am in a class on the History of Western Christianity and I liked what my professor said on this point. To him the LDS are Christians that don’t follow the Orthodox faith.
    In the class we have studied the ancient heresies, and I found it interesting that even though the men that believed in them were declared Heretics and exiled from the Roman Empire, no one ever once questioned whether they were Christian or not. The Arians were not seen as not being Christian, but as Christians who believed in false doctrine. The same is true of all the other heresies.
    It is only in recent decades that people have tried to claim that having false beliefs put one outside of Christianity.

  39. shematwater, it’s a distinction without a difference. What the early orthodox Christians meant by “heretic” and what we now mean by “non-Christian” are effectively the same thing.

  40. A heretical Christian–assuming we are talking the degree of heresy taught within Mormonism–is exactly the same amount of saved as a non-Christian.

  41. Kullervo

    There is a huge difference. You may not see one in terms of eternal salvation, and I really don’t care. That isn’t the reason for our objections, and that played absolutely no role in the early churches attitude towards the Heretics. They may have had the same salvation as a non-Christian, but they were still Christian. Why? Because they taught Christ and believed in Christ. There was no other qualification for being called a Christian.

    As I said, your argument only works if you alter the definition of the term Christian. You have now given the term the definition of “One who is saved.” That makes the word Christian a useless word that should not be used, but should be replaced with Saved.

  42. I am in a class on the History of Western Christianity and I liked what my professor said on this point. To him the LDS are Christians that don’t follow the Orthodox faith.

    I think this illustrates the point I was going after. Many Mormons want to define “Mormon” tightly and define “Christian” loosely. When the fact is, every justification for a loose definition of “Christian” applies to the word “Mormon” as well. You can just declare polygamist to be “apostate groups” as a means of rejecting the splintering that has happened inside Mormonism without ALSO allowing the Catholic church to declare the LDS church to be an “apostate group”.

    Christians who don’t follow orthodoxy are apostates. Just as Mormons who don’t follow Mormon orthodoxy are apostates.

  43. That isn’t the reason for our objections, and that played absolutely no role in the early churches attitude towards the Heretics. They may have had the same salvation as a non-Christian, but they were still Christian.

    This played no played absolutely no role in the early churches attitude towards the Heretics because it was completely irrelevant to the early church. The kind of “Christian” you’re talking about was not a classification that was even interesting to them, except inasmuch as it made the heretics worse (wolves in sheep’s clothing and all).

    As I said, your argument only works if you alter the definition of the term Christian. You have now given the term the definition of “One who is saved.” That makes the word Christian a useless word that should not be used, but should be replaced with Saved.

    I hate to break it to you, but that’s just how language happens. Words have multiple, overlapping meanings all the time. Synonyms exist, with different (and useful) connotations and senses of meaning. Usage changes. Hate the anxiety this appears to cause you but them’s the breaks.

  44. Tim

    Sorry. I didn’t finish my earlier post.

    The term Mormon is most commonly used to refer to the church that is based in Salt Lake and currently headed by President Monson. For most people, if you use the term Mormon that is the group they will assume you are talking about. Because of this assumption the definition for Mormon is already narrow in the eyes of the culture we live in.
    Now, if you want to define Mormon as any group tracing its origin back to Joseph Smith than I will concede your point. But such a definition is useful only in discussions as this when it is properly clarified. For general discussion the assumed definition should be the one used to avoid confusion. (After the mess in Texas a few year ago I found myself clarifying this very point almost daily with people who were assuming the polygamists were of the same church because people were calling them Mormons.)

    With the word Christian the assumed definition for most of society is very broad. It encompasses hundreds of denominations and is a general term to refer to all religions tracing their origin back to Christ and his apostles.
    Again, you want to define Christian by a set of standard beliefs, that is fine, and under such a definition I would concede we are not what you are defining. However, such a definition is again only useful in a discussion where it has been sufficiently clarified. In general discussion the assumed definition should be used to avoid confusion. (You know how many people think we don’t believe in Christ at all, or that we never read the Bible because they are told we are not Christians?)

    Kullervo

    I understand perfectly well that meanings change and the use of words change, but that change is gradual and has a purpose. In the case you have presented, if the change continues as you desire it to than either the term Christian or the term Salvation would drop out of common use, and eventually disappear altogether.
    That is, of course, if the general population adopted the new definition and usage. Other wise the change is what will disappear as a localized and temporary aberration in the language that later historians will look at with curiosity and base 300 page papers on the motivations behind the attempt to effect the change in question.

    As of right now, the common usage and definition of the word Christian is not the one you are advocating, and thus your usage only causes confusion and misunderstanding.

  45. “Many Mormons want to define “Mormon” tightly and define “Christian” loosely. When the fact is, every justification for a loose definition of “Christian” applies to the word “Mormon” as well.”

    Tim, this is a key point that all “Brighamites”/Utah based Mormons need to wrap their head around. It would help them understand the point of view of traditional Christians, which, is not as mean spirited as is often portrayed. BUT – your argument has a few flaws that make LDS incredulity more understandable.

    The size of the group of people who want to be included as “Christians” is enormous, with 100’s of splinter groups and 1000’s of variations. This also makes it one of the most debated terms in all the world and throughout history. And who gets to declare orthodoxy has not always been the same. The “Christian” label is likely the most ubiquitous distinction in the world (rivaling “Muslim”). Whole nations of people in Europe would call themselves Christians as a birth right.

    The Mormon world is a grain of sand. And, BTW, not all of these splinter groups want to even be called “Mormon”. Most of them are about as large as my city blog in Brooklyn.

    By definition, “Mormon” really is a tighter term. “Christian” is, as I said, not at all.

  46. With 2 billion people claiming the word “christian” I think the comparison is pretty apt in relation to the number of people claiming the word “Mormon”.

  47. The rate of Apostate-Mormons-to-Mormons is probably the same as Mormons-to-Christians.

    Mormons make up 1.3333% of all Christians. 1.333% of 15 million Mormons would be ~200,000. Between all the polygamist groups, restoration branches and independent polygamist I think you could easily come up with 200,000 people. If you take the actual activity rate of 5 million Mormons I would only need to find 66,000 apostate Mormons.

  48. Tim, that all makes sense, if you accept all 2 billion as Christians.

    I’m pointing out that within the 2 billion, there are big question marks about who’s in or not. Not from me, but from among the 2 billion.

  49. “The problem is that most people who want to say that the LDS aren’t Christians really mean that we are not their brand of Christian.”

    Except that the question about LDS and Christianity is moot until the LDS recognize one Baptism. All ecumenical dialog must start there.

    My prediction is that the many of American evangelicalism will embrace the LDS as soon as the LDS embrace one Baptism and move away from the One True Church©.

  50. Gundek

    We do recognize one baptism; it just happens to be our baptism, because we believe that we are the only church that has the proper authority from God to perform that ordinance.

  51. Yeah, that’s the opposite of what gundek meant, and you knew it. If you claim to believe the same thing but you just define it to mean something completely different, the word for that is “lying.”

  52. Shematwater,

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, you have made my point brilliantly. Your right any idea of ecumenism simply cannot exist within that theology.

  53. This is what I don’t get: if there is a priesthood of all believers, why wouldn’t Evangelicals accept the LDS Baptism even if the LDS claim that it is the only true baptism? Does a believer’s opinion of the baptism of another affect the meaning of a believer’s baptism?

  54. Jared, because Mormons are not within that priesthood of believers.

    Does a believer’s opinion of the baptism of another affect the meaning of a believer’s baptism? I am not sure what you mean here, but I think how we view other baptisms is a reflection of our own belief system. However, we don’t get the meaning of our baptism through other baptisms. Rather, how we view our baptism affects how we view the other baptisms.

    So, I think baptism is a very important event in the life of a believer, but I also think that nothing magical happens upon baptism. I think a baptism in a Baptist church is just as valuable as a baptism in a Lutheran or Catholic church. I think the purpose is the same whether sprinkled with water or dunked in an ocean. The purpose is to publicly declare one’s belief in Christ. It is not an entrance into anything or a key to further benefits. One is just as saved with baptism as he or she is without.

    As I understand Mormon baptism, it is much more than that. It is required for membership in the church and to forgive past sins. Mormons think only their baptism is sufficient because they are the only ones with the authority to correctly baptize. So, baptism in Mormonism is not just a public declaration of faith. It is the first key one must obtain to move up the Mormon ladder. Without it, a person is not a member of the “one true church” and cannot get very far in heaven, which is why Mormons baptize for the dead.

    So, baptism takes on very different connotations between our faiths, and I cannot accept Mormon baptism as Christian.

  55. Ecumenicism is great. And the temporal stakes of death and carnage are thankfully far behind us. But when I read prominent Catholics today, I see that accepting Protestant baptism is primarily just a much friendlier way of herding them back to Catholicism. And even the most Rome friendly Protestants, only accept Catholics into brotherhood as a way to turn them away from Marianism and the rest.

    Its simply the rhetoric of modern pluralism. Its a facade. When you corner serious believers, the eternal stakes are just the same.

  56. Kullervo

    It is not lying to use a little sarcasm to point out a badly worded statement. I know exactly what Gundeck meant, but what he said and what I said are in perfect agreement with each other. The intended meaning may be different, but that is something different.

    Gundeck

    You are right that we do not allow for ecumenism in our religion, and I don’t think the Bible or Christ allows for it either. There is only one baptism, not twenty different baptisms that we simply accept as having the same effect. There is but one.

    Slowcowboy

    Just to clarify, the first key is faith, and the second is repentance. Baptism is third.

  57. I know exactly what Gundeck meant, but what he said and what I said are in perfect agreement with each other. The intended meaning may be different, but that is something different.

    “The intended meaning may be different” is the opposite of “what he said and what I said are in perfect agreement with each other.”

  58. Slowcowboy

    Equal but not the same. Faith must come before works can do anything for us.

    Kullervo

    No it isn’t. That is one of the wonderful things about language, and why there arises so many confusions in discussions.
    Gundeck said that we need to recognize one baptism. He never said what baptism we should recognize, only that we should recognize one. Now, his intended meaning was to say that we should recognize that all Christian denominations have the same baptism, and thus there is only one baptism. That is not what he said however, and to many people his intended meaning would have been lost because of the actual meaning of the words used.

    My purpose in my comment was to point out the very real possibility of such a confusion, and I did so through the use of sarcasm. That is not lying.

  59. Jared,

    The priesthood of all believers is less about authority than it is about relationship. As a universal doctrine of the Church, priesthood of all believers teaches that communion with God, through the Spirit and in the Son is distinct from and does not require ordination to an office or priesthood.

    Protestants would see the authority to Baptize as given to the Church itself and administered with ministerial authority of Pastors who have been called to serve the Church by word and sacrament. So from a Protestant perspective a schismatic institution, being outside the Church cannot rightfully administer the sacraments. So even before you examine any other doctrines the stark claim of One True Church© and rejection of baptism is practically an unbridgeable schism.

  60. Christian,

    I recognize the distinction between accepting baptism and full communion, and I am not glossing over the very real differences held within various traditions, but to think this is simply the rhetoric of modern pluralism is historically wrong. Dialog between churches is as old as Paul whereas the idea of One True Church© comes much latter.

    The acceptance of one baptism is not new, the Church rejected the Donatist’s claim that baptism was invalidated by apostasy, the Roman Church accepted the baptisms of the East during the Great Schism, Protestants accepted Roman baptism during the height of reformational conflict.

  61. Gundek,

    Just so I have it straight, the doctrine is: A universal church has the authority to administer ordinances like baptism and only those acting under the institutional authority of that church can baptize. AND this authority to baptize is not the same thing as the priesthood of all believers.

    Is that right?

  62. Yes, the historic understanding of the priesthood of all believers is not related to the authority of the Church to baptize.

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