Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons

Our friend charismatic protestant friend Cal has taken a position– beleaguered by most non-Mormons here–that Mormons are Christians.  Although no longer a believer, I thought I would try to clearly lay out the argument for Cal’s position aimed at Protestants.

For purposes of the discussion, I am assuming the truth of the Five Solae, the Nicene Creed, and the and the Bible.

I propose that these three premises are true:

1. Jesus prayed for and sought as a goal before God the unity of those that believe in him through the testimony of his disciples, i.e. the New Testament. (John 17: 20-23:

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

2. The New Testament does not make orthodox theology a qualification for inclusion in unity. Jesus was not limiting fellowship or unity to the orthodox.  He is talking about orthodoxy or unity of creed or belief–Jesus established no creed, distilled his message and rarely made it explicit. He warns against false teachers, but Jesus put the focus on distinguishing false teachers based on their fruits– i.e. you will know them by their behavior and effects on the church not (necessarily) their theological errors. 

3.  Mormons believe that the text of the New Testament is the truth.  

Given these premises, my conclusion is that Protestants should embrace Mormons as part of the group that they are challenged by Jesus to be unified with, and seek to come to complete unity.

Notice that I am assuming what Protestant’s believe is orthodoxy to be correct but the strength of the argument holds on a practical and ethical level.  But there is no orthodoxy regarding how unity can and should be achieved. That is an open question.  I suggest that even if the path to reaching unity is unclear– efforts toward unity will lead–ultimately–to a greater prevalence of salvation and faith in Jesus more effectively than efforts toward disunity–which are, generally, the order of the day.  

The Problem With Orthodoxy

It’s been said that Evangelicals are most concerned with orthodoxy (right doctrine) and Mormons are most concerned with orthopraxy (right practice). There are many Biblical reasons to hold strong to sound teaching and to defend good doctrine. But a place I see that the quest for orthodoxy can cause problems is when the bar for orthodoxy gets pushed past essential and core doctrine and well into issues that we are uncertain and unclear about.

A great example of this in the Evangelical world concerns pre-millenial, pre-tribulationism. This is the idea that Christ will return before his 1,000 year reign on earth. Before that happens there will be a 7 year tribulation, where the Anti-Christ will rule the world under one government and the earth will be under great torment. Before any of this begins, God will rapture all true believers and rescue them from this destructive time in human history. This view is most popularly expressed by the “Left Behind” series of books (totally off topic but a terrible excuse for literature and an embarrassment to Evangelical artistic efforts).

There are a great many Evangelicals who agree with the interpretation of the Bible’s description of the end times. I think there are many good reasons to believe this theological position is true and accurate. But there’s also plenty of reasons to conclude that this understanding may be missing the mark. My greater concern is not the belief in pre-tribulationalism, but the utter devotion to it. There are many people who are simply OBSESSED with figuring out how current events fit into the plot of Revelation. There has not been a time in my life when I haven’t heard some one guessing at which of the latest political leaders is the Anti-Christ or which of America’s enemies is the great whore described in Revelation 17.

I have some real concerns when Evangelicals make pre-tribulationalism any sort of benchmark for orthodoxy. I’ve seen too many people switch churches over the issue and far too many missionaries and full time ministers forced to change organizations because they don’t feel they can hold to pre-tribulationalism any longer and the organization is forced to choose their doctrinal statement over their people. This should not be a central and defining issue.

  • First off, this view point has only been around for about 100 years. In the scope of Christian history its a minority position. In one discussion, as I was pointing out the problems with this view, I heard some people say “well I’m just going to hold the normal view that everyone else holds.” Most Christians have not held a view anything like modern pre-tribulationalism.
  • Second, there is WAAAAY too much about the Book of Revelation that we don’t understand, that should be the first thing we say about that book.
  • Third, no where in the Bible does it explicitly express that the rapture will take place before the tribulation. A rapture is definitely stated, but we have no idea when it will happen.
  • Fourth, we shouldn’t take any meaning or understanding out of the Book of Revelation that 1st Century Christians didn’t understand. It was written specifically to them, not to us. We just get to learn from what was said to them. If anybody should be more clueless about “what it all means” it should be us, not them. A decent reading of Roman history will show that much of the book would seem quite familiar to the 1st Century persecuted church.
  • Fifth and most importantly, if we become too dogmatic about how and when Christ will return we run the risk of making the same mistake the Jews made in the 1st Century. We position ourselves to miss Christ because he doesn’t come the way we think he should return.


unchristian-kinnaman “Christianity has an image problem.”

What if I told you that the top perception of Christians among those in Generation X and Mosaics was that we are first off, anti-homosexual, then hypocritical, judgmental, sheltered, too political and only interested in people if they’re going to convert. Would you be surprised? hurt? offended? Or does that sound about right?

It seems to be a far cry from Jesus’ prayer for us that we be known for our love. How come that’s not at the top of the list, followed by trustworthy, accepting, caring, loyal and gracious? Isn’t that what we want to be known for. . .

Almost exactly 15 years ago I met my first college roommate. I had traveled to California on my own with 2 suitcases and nothing more. I arrived in my dorm room before my roommate and sat in a very empty room. Several hours later Dave Kinnaman arrived with a cargo van full of stuff and a small army made up of his family to carry it all in. Dave’s memory is that I looked overwhelmed by all the stuff he was bringing into the room. I think my thoughts were somewhere along the lines of “oh good he’s got a stereo and a word processor.” Little did I know that one of my eventual lifelong friends was entering that room along with all of that stuff.

Dave and I stayed close throughout college and roomed again our senior year as we shared an apartment with 2 other guys. We have many memories of a number of antics that can’t be shared in a public blog. We served as groomsmen in each other’s weddings and welcomed each other’s children into our worlds. Since college we with a number of other friends have at times been in daily email contact as we’ve shared our takes on the latest in the sports world or felt the need to get any inane thought off of our chests. We’ve also prayed for one another and confided together as we have experienced the many up and down hills life has to offer.

For these reasons I am extremely excited that Dave has published his first book. “unChristian” Since college Dave has worked at The Barna Research Group and has now worked his way up to earn the title President. So he’s earned the right to be heard and in fact without knowing his name many Christians have been listening to what he has to say for quite some time. I’m also excited because I think it’s a message the Christian world needs to hear.

We are not presenting ourselves or Jesus to the world the way we would want to. As readers of this blog know, this is something I’m quite concerned about in regards to what Mormons think of mainstream Christians and something I am working to counteract. With startling sociological research Dave shows us just how off the mark our message has become to all younger Americans. What I really enjoy about the book is that he’s found a way to not condemn or criticize Christians for this turn in perception. But instead he simply states the facts and then leaves it the reader to question “is this what we want?” and more importantly “is this what Jesus wants?” He also does a skillful job of not encouraging us to water down our message or give up those things that are important to us.

Calvary Chapel is a Cult

Have you seen all of these Calvary Chapels pop up all over the place? I live in Southern California and they are everywhere. Calvary Chapel is a total cult.

They believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and in the importance of expositional teaching. They believe in pre-millenialism AND in a pre-tribulational rapture. They’ve got their own bible college that’s not even accredited and I think they teach all of their pastors to sound exactly like their founder, Chuck Smith. Cult, cult, cult!

Okay, my spoof is over. I don’t actually think that Calvary Chapel is a cult. But if you actually go to a Calvary Chapel and you read my “accusations” against it you probably thought “yeah, so? how does that make us a cult? I’m glad we believe those things and I’m going to stick up for them against a jerk like you.”

This is exactly how Mormons feel when we lead with the cult accusation. There may be excellent reasons why the LDS church qualifies as a cult of Christianity BUT if that’s where we start with them, they have no reason to believe that we actually want to befriend them and have true concern for them. Instead we’re telling them we want to combat them and tell them all the reasons we think they are wrong (and perhaps that is exactly what some want to do). But if we do that we should expect them to fight back. In my experience, picking fights is about one of the worst ways to change minds and one of the best ways to solidify people against your point of view.

Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.