Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Mormonism Christian?

Every issue of First Things presents interesting material. Some of it is made immediately available online, but to read all of each issue you need to subscribe. Ten issues online cost only $30. This month, the free article is an exchange between a Mormon and an Evangelical about "Is Mormonism Christian?"

Bruce Porter, the Mormon, concludes:
Are Mormons Christian? By self-definition and self-identity, unquestionably so. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that it is a Christian-faith denomination, a body of believers who worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and who witness that salvation is possible only by his atoning blood and grace. By the simple dictionary definition of a Christian as one who believes in or worships Jesus Christ, the case is compelling. To the title Christian a critic of Mormonism may add any modifiers he deems appropriate—unorthodox, heretical, non-Nicene, different—but blanket assertions that we are not Christian are a poor substitute for informed argument and dialogue.
Gerald McDermott ends his response:
In sum, then, Mormon beliefs diverge widely from historic Christian orthodoxy. The Book of Mormon, which is Mormonism’s principal source for its claim to new revelation and a new prophet, lacks credibility. And the Jesus proclaimed by Joseph Smith and his followers is different in significant ways from the Jesus of the New Testament: Smith’s Jesus is a God distinct from God the Father; he was once merely a man and not God; he is of the same species as human beings; and his being and acts are limited by coeternal matter and laws.

The intent of this essay is not to say that individual Mormons will be barred from sitting with Abraham and the saints at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We are saved by a merciful Trinity, not by our theology. But the distinguished scholar of Mormonism Jan Shipps was only partly right when she wrote that Mormonism is a departure from the existing Christian tradition as much as early Christianity was a departure from Judaism. For if Christianity is a shoot grafted onto the olive tree of Judaism, Mormonism as it stands cannot be successfully grafted onto either.
The whole article, well worth reading if you care about the issue, is here.

FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life

1 comment:

  1. I think this is a question that is best looked at from a historical perspective. I'll state up front that I am LDS (i.e. Mormon).

    The LDS church teaches, and I believe, that man can be saved only in and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. "Mormons aren't Christians" accusations often contain an argument that we don't believe in the "same" Jesus as orthodox Christianity, so let's look at that a moment.

    The Jesus I believe in was born into this earth of a Virgin named Mary approximately 200 years ago in Bethlehem. The Jesus I believe in ministered the last three years or so of His life throughout the regions of Jerusalem and Galilee. During this ministry, He healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, gave sight to blind, and revived the dead. He forgave sinners while rebuking their sins. He taught a doctrine of love, forgiveness, and compassion. At the end of His life he suffered both in Gethsemane as well as on a wood cross at Calvary. Three days after His death, He rose from the dead, showing Himself to Mary, the Apostles, and others.

    Do I believe I am Christian? Unequivocally I do. Through a historical lens I would hope all would agree that we believe in the same Jesus as the orthodox Christian world. We do believe things *about* Him that people consider unorthodox, but we do believe that He is our Savior and that we can not make it back to God by any other way. If that's not Christian... ?

    God bless.


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